Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

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John Saunders
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Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by John Saunders » Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:38 pm

Whilst browsing the net, I came upon this photo of the chess room at St Bride's which might interest those members of the forum who, like me, are well into their (anec)dotage...

Image

The page where I found it indicates that the photo was taken in 1931, but it could just as easily have been 1981 since the room looked much the same then. I think the bookcase housed the book collection of a chess problem society (the TR Dawson collection?).

County matches and London League games were played there so it was in constant use. The room (a windowless attic space) was permanently set up for chess. It was grimy and dingy but, perversely, I always enjoyed playing there. I suppose it was the sense of history. Or possibly the narcotic effect of all the cigarette smoke.
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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by Richard Thursby » Wed Aug 12, 2015 10:33 pm

"There were thirty boards, but only ten women competitors."

Any thirty board match these days (apart from all-female matches) that could boast ten female competitors would be considered doing rather well.

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:32 pm

John Saunders wrote:The page where I found it indicates that the photo was taken in 1931, but it could just as easily have been 1981 since the room looked much the same then.
One or two of the chess clocks look suspiciously like BH Wood's converted alarm clock design, which might date it to rather later. I'm trying to picture the clocks in the 1970s, I have an idea they were Gardes, but I could be wrong. As well as London League, St Brides was used as a neutral venue for county matches.

One period detail which dates it as not the 1970s is the vast number of hats, along with coats on the far wall.

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by John Saunders » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:06 am

I don't think those are BHW's old double alarm clocks, though similar in appearance. The ones in the photo have more ornate Roman numeral face markings. I think the date the website is probably about right. I have a couple of photos of St Brides from 1981 which show a mixture of clocks - a couple of the big, old wooden case variety, plus some of the small dark-brown bakelite ones (1950s/60?) and the similar size and design of 1970s/80s light brown plastic ones, which are themselves fairly similar to the residual analogue ones still widely used today. No Gardes or BHW models in evidence. The sets in 1981 were a mixture of wood and plastic.
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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by John Saunders » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:41 am

Photo rubric wrote:Southern Counties Chess Championships played in London - 8-February-1931

Middlesex and Kent met at the St Bride's Institute, London, in a match for the Southern Counties Chess Championship. There were thirty boards, but only ten women competitors.
It occurred to me that the photo was quite specific about the date - see above. But 8 Feb 1931 was a Sunday - would they have played a match on a Sunday in that era? I'm not sure.

But I had a look in BCM and the March 1931 issue, page 106, reported a 32-board match at St Brides on [Saturday] 7 February 1931 between Middlesex and Kent, so it pretty much has to be that one. BCM gives all the names of the players, too. I counted five females amongst the 64 players. Anyone fancy their chances of recognising somebody? I drew a blank. I suspect we are looking at the lower boards of the match (we can see a board number 22), but not the bottom three (all occupied by women players). Maybe that is Mrs Stevenson in the hat... just a guess.
BCM, March 1931, p106 wrote:Middlesex had more difficulty in disposing of Kent in their match at St. Bride [sic] on February 7th [1931], in fact it was the best score made by Kent against this county, on the first sixteen boards, since 1912. The full score, all counting for the championship, is as follows :—

Code: Select all

	MIDDLESEX.		KENT.	
1	R. C. Griffith	1	J. C. Waterman	0
2	W. Winter	½	H. H. Cole	½
3	E. G. Sergeant	½	R. C. Noel Johnson	½
4	H. Saunders	0	W. Skillicorn	1
5	A. Wykeham-George	1	F. W. Chambers	0
6	W. H. Watts	0	E. A. Coad-Pryor	1
7	P. I. Wyndham	½	C. H. Lorch	½
8	C. W. Hopper	0	B. W. Hamilton	1
9	W. H. Regan	0	W. M. Brooke	1
10	A. E. Mercer	0	H. Storr-Best	1
11	J. M. Holford	0	J. M. Lingard	1
12	P. W. Sergeant	½	H. R. Edge 	½
13	W. Jones	1	E. L. Nickels	0
14	C. A. S. Damant	1	G. Hanson 	0
15	S. H. Crockett	1	E. B. Puckridge	0
16	G. S. Fisher	1	R. H. S. Stevenson	0
17	J. du Mont (sub.)	1	W. H. Law 	0
18	J. W. Morling	1	H. Vine	0
19	A. G. Kershaw	1	Mrs. Stevenson	0
20	T. I. Casswell	0	J. C. Thompson	1
21	A. T. Stow		½	J. P. Goodfellow	½
22	H. Israel	1	H. R. Lorch	0
23	A. J. Field	½	P. Sullivan 	½
24	E. M. Jellie	1	J. Stuart Hodgson 	0
25	E. Billen	0	C. V. Podger	1
26	Mrs. Holloway	½	F. J. Dennis	½
27	W. S. Wallis	½	C. H. Taylor	½
28	A. C. Sutton	1	Dr. Wechsler	0
29	Dr. O. Wardman	½	W. J. C. Burges	½
30	R. G. Armstrong	1	Miss M. Andrews	0
31	G. P. Kitchener	1	Miss H. Cole	0
32	P. B. Botcherby	1	Miss K. Austin	0
		19½		12½

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by John Saunders » Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:07 am

Another photo from the same match, with a man standing over two young women playing (probably two of the lower boards in a staged photo, is my guess).

http://www.scienceandsociety.co.uk/resu ... 1&itemx=30

I recognise the man as Harold Meek, Middlesex match captain. His photo also appears here on Britbase, second photo down...

This Science and Society site has a number of other interesting chess photos if you search. This one features Abram Bernfield, who older London players will remember, and the event depicted tallies with a London Junior event reported in the BCM in Feb 1931, pps 70-71, if anyone wants to look it up.
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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:42 am

" This one features Abram Bernfield"

He wouldn't have liked the ban on smoking at the board these days...

In the picture of the match in the first post, a couple of the clocks were old even then!

Great find, John.

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by Barry Sandercock » Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:41 am

I was interested to see the photo, as it was in that room I played my first county match for Middlesex in Sept. 1946. On another occasion I still remember my surprise at stalemating an opponent when I had a winning position and his king was in the centre of the board, in that same room. I also remember the rickety staircase to get up to that room. My Middlesex opponent was a mister H.J.Stedman. Doubt if he is around now ! I still have the score sheet. (It was board 44 and I won the game.)

Yes, nice find, John.

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by IM Jack Rudd » Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:55 am

Ah, so that's who Harold Meek was. (WECU's county teams play for the Harold Meek Cup, but up to now I hadn't a clue who it was named after.)

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by John Upham » Thu Aug 13, 2015 11:53 am

Quoting Edward Winter:
"The above photograph is of Harold Meek, reproduced from page 4 of the British Chess Federation’s Year Book 1938-1945 (Leeds, 1946).

From D.J. Morgan’s obituary of Meek on pages 13-14 of the January 1955 BCM:

‘It was his proud boast to have started, in 1929, the world’s first daily chess column, in the London Evening Standard; later he transferred to the London Evening News, a column which he edited till the end.’

Whereas Meek’s entry in the 1987 edition of Jeremy Gaige’s Chess Personalia recorded that he was born in 1865 in Gloucestershire, the privately-circulated 1994 edition gave 13 October 1885, in Westbury on Severn (Gloucestershire). That latter date matches the statement on the inside back-cover of the December 1954 BCM that Meek died at the age of 69.

On the subject of the British Chess Federation Year-Book we add that pages 217-235 of the 1953-54 edition had an article which is a valuable aid to research: ‘The British Chess Federation – Fifty Years in Retrospect’ by D.J. Morgan."
See http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/winter31.html for a photograph from the BCF Yearbook.
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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by Gordon Cadden » Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:09 pm

Like many old players, I climbed the staircase to the dark and gloomy room. The bookcase housed the collection of the British Chess Problem Society, which held their meetings at St. Brides. That 1931 photograph is fascinating. My eyes focused on the vast array of Trilby Hats. Then we have a wonderful display of chess clocks; not a BH Wood tin clock in sight. Chess boards and pieces made of wood. At least half of the Middlesex Team were members of the Hampstead Club, with the doyen of the club, Richard Clewin Griffiths, on top board.
Fascinating to see A.J. Bernfield as a healthy schoolboy. A stalwart member of the Metropolitan club, I remember him with a cigarette permanently attached to his lips, coughing his lungs out. Surprisingly, he played a reasonable game.

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by Reg Clucas » Thu Aug 13, 2015 4:57 pm

I was a member of Metropolitan Chess Club for about 18 months in the mid 70s, and the club met there two nights a week, Mondays and Thursdays if I remember rightly. It was convenient for me as I worked a short distance away. The sets certainly look familiar. Wooden boards with a raised edge, and pieces of varying sizes, all varnished. Some of the clocks also look familiar.

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by Andrew Stone » Thu Aug 13, 2015 5:11 pm

Fine win from my Great-Grandfather on board 24 no doubt! Given I play about board 5 or 6 for Middlesex now it might look as if I am better than him. I am far from convinced though- far more people turned out in those days for county chess and I would definately struggle to make board 24 of a full strength Middlesex team these days. Anyway my Streatham captain Martin Smith did an excellent article on him if anyone was interested http://streathambrixtonchess.blogspot.c ... mould.html

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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by John Saunders » Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:03 pm

Very nice article by Martin Smith - thanks for linking to it, Andrew. How I envy you having a chess-playing great-grandfather (and that lovely chess set)!

I suspect you are being a trifle modest about your likely board number were you to take a Tardis back to St Bride's in 1931, however. It just so happens I have a couple of game scores of the then Middlesex board five, namely Arthur Philip Hereford Wykeham-George (1871-1937), who used the name 'Philip Hereford' when he translated Nimzowitsch's My System in the Bell edition which most of us grew up with. The following is a game from much earlier, when he was in his mid-20s, but he didn't strike me as a particularly strong player based on the games I've seen. I suppose he might have improved by the age of 60 (though, from bitter personal experience, this is not the normal trajectory for one's chess-playing capabilities).

Here's one of his games...



I'm prepared to cut the players some slack over their lack of sophistication in the opening (they didn't enjoy the vast riches of information we do today) but it was still not a great game by either player, if truth be told. The black knight tango at the end (Nc6-a7-c8-b6) wouldn't have impressed the judges on Strictly, would it?
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Re: Photo of St Bride's, former London chess venue

Post by soheil_hooshdaran » Fri Aug 14, 2015 1:39 pm

John Saunders wrote: Image
The page where I found it indicates that the photo was taken in 1931, but it could just as easily have been 1981 since the room looked much the same then
But the clock's are very old sir.

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