Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

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John Saunders
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Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by John Saunders » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:18 pm

I have just come across the sad news that three-times British women's champion Anne Sunnucks (as she was better known - her full married name was Patricia Anne Mothersill) died on 22 November 2014, aged 87. As far as I can see this news has not been recorded on any chess website online, including her Wikipedia entry or chessgames.com. I am posting it here first as I would expect it to reach more people that remember her via the forum.

I discovered this when browsing FindMyPast.com and came upon a death record (United Kingdom Deaths 2007-2017), thus...

Mothersill Patricia Anne (year of birth) 1927 (year of death) 2014 (location) Braintree, Essex, England

The exact date of death was given as 22 November 2014.

I also found an electoral register record for her being in Meadow Park, Braintree, Essex in 2009 alongside a Richard Mothersill. This seems to be a retirement village. Incidentally, ancestry.com has the same record.

Her full maiden name was Patricia Anne Sunnucks and she married Richard C Mothersill in Bracknell, Berkshire, in 1985.

It is particularly sad that this news has taken more than four years to filter through to the chess world but perhaps none of the people she had contact with him in old age knew of her chess credentials, which were of course considerable. See her Wikipedia page for further details. It may be something to do with the fact that she was much better known in the chess world as Anne Sunnucks, marrying relatively late in life after (I think) ceasing to be an active player. I don't recall seeing her play anywhere after the early 1970s but some other members of the forum may know better.

She was well-known as the author of The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970) a copy of which I have in my library. It's a very useful work which I have consulted frequently.

The fact that Anne has died meant that it was also possible to discover an online record for her in the 1939 census (records for living people are redacted). This revealed that she had been a boarder at Wycombe Abbey School in 1939.

R.I.P.
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:33 pm

John Saunders wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:18 pm
I don't recall seeing her play anywhere after the early 1970s but some other members of the forum may know better.
I played her at Marlow in 1974 in the Bucks & Berks and at the Basingstoke Spring Bank Holiday Congress in both 1978 and 1979.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:04 pm

IIRC she was (as with CHO'D Alexander back in the day) not allowed to play in the USSR due to a "politically sensitive" occupation.

(in this case it was a Candidates Tournament I think)
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:09 pm

Matt Mackenzie wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:04 pm
IIRC she was (as with CHO'D Alexander back in the day) not allowed to play in the USSR due to a "politically sensitive" occupation.
Wasn't she in the Army? "Major" Sunnucks.

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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by John Townsend » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:15 pm

I am sad to hear of her passing. I had a draw against her in the 1974 Berkshire Championship. She had a chess shop in Crowthorne, Berkshire for a time.

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John Clarke
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by John Clarke » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:30 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:09 pm
Wasn't she in the Army? "Major" Sunnucks.
Yes - a major (no quote marks necessary) in the WRAC. According to Wikipedia she was both Army and Combined Services champion in 1968.

BTW, Chessgames has opted to use her married name for her entry, despite being far better known in the chess world under her maiden one. Damn silly, I call it.
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Ihor Lewyk » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:47 am

Anne lived in Menston near Leeds and Bradford in the early to mid eighties. I managed to get her to play a couple of seasons for Bradford in the Woodhouse cup. I will try to check my old records to find out exactly when she played.

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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by John Saunders » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:44 pm

This tallies with what appears on online genealogy websites. According to the electoral register Anne and her husband Richard C Mothersill lived in Ilkley, Yorkshire, around 2004, then appear in Hassocks, Sussex, around 2008, and then move to Braintree, Essex, around 2010.

Following what I posted here yesterday, chessgames.com have now updated her page to show her date of death. I myself have updated Wikipedia to show date of death and refer to her place of education.

Incidentally, I think (though I can't be certain) that her widower died in 2016. If I have found the right person, Anne would have had several step-children. Apologies in advance if that proves to be wrong.
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Graham Borrowdale » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:50 pm

She a had quite a large house in Sandhurst/Crowthorne, which was host to Berkshire county matches on more than one occasion, probably in the late 1970s. I think there were books and equipment for sale, which might be the shop John refers to.
Very sad that ex-players can get cut off from the chess community.

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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:57 pm

It is good that the information has been publicised, even at this late date. Are there any efforts to keep track of others who are relatively famous (in chess terms) who may have died or who are no longer in touch with other chess players? Are there other cases of chess players from the past where death years are not known? It would be good to get this news into print somewhere as well (there is an obvious place where John may already have plans to mention it, but maybe other publications would be interested in carrying a piece on this?). Would the ECF be interested in publishing this news, and helping to find out more?

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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by John Townsend » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:39 pm

Graham Borrowdale wrote:
She a had quite a large house in Sandhurst/Crowthorne, which was host to Berkshire county matches on more than one occasion, probably in the late 1970s. I think there were books and equipment for sale, which might be the shop John refers to.
I played for Berkshire from about 1969, but I don't recall her home having been the venue for county matches. I would be happy to be proved wrong about that and would welcome information about any occasions when Berkshire played there. Perhaps Graham is thinking of Camberley Chess Club rather than the county.

Chess supplies were sold at a shop which was part of a parade of shops close to Crowthorne railway station.

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John Saunders
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by John Saunders » Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:20 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:57 pm
It is good that the information has been publicised, even at this late date. Are there any efforts to keep track of others who are relatively famous (in chess terms) who may have died or who are no longer in touch with other chess players? Are there other cases of chess players from the past where death years are not known? It would be good to get this news into print somewhere as well (there is an obvious place where John may already have plans to mention it, but maybe other publications would be interested in carrying a piece on this?). Would the ECF be interested in publishing this news, and helping to find out more?
I think the task of keeping track of people who drop out of chess and eventually pass away is left to those of us who take an interest in such things - me and a few others, some of whom post here. It's not easy and I'm not sure I can think of a foolproof, one-size-fits-all method for the federation to be able to do this as a matter of course. In the case of Anne Sunnucks, her use of a middle name by which she was generally known and under which she published books, plus a late-in-life marriage, complicated matters. For example, the 2012 ECF Yearbook referred to her as "Capt. P. A. Sunnucks" in its list of British women's champions on page 39 but as "Anne Mothersill" in its list of British FIDE title-holders on page 37. Unless you were in the know, you wouldn't have a clue that these are one and the same person. (This was one of the reasons why some of us here collaborated a few years ago on a project to discover at least one forename for as many British championship title-holders as we could and document this online in relevant places.)

I suppose another factor resulting in deaths going unnoticed is that younger generations may be unaware that a given player was regarded as a notable figure in their time. Before Jana Malypetrova married Bill Hartston and came to live in the UK in 1970, there were perhaps half a dozen leading names in British women's chess of about the same status. Anne Sunnucks was definitely one of that group, and as such her name would have been familiar to anyone who took an interest in competition chess or subscribed to a magazine at that time. Anyone who has taken up chess since that time might be less aware of that, particularly since she seems not to have been in contact with the chess community for a couple of decades at least.

As to who else of significance may have died and whose death may not have reached us... one doesn't like to speculate as it might result in a very-much-alive person responding by using the time-honoured phrase that their "death had been much exaggerated". I can't think of anyone offhand. Going back further in time, I remember there have been some difficult cases where people simply disappeared and a death date became hard to find. One was RF Green who wrote a much-reprinted book simply called 'Chess' and was editor of BCM between 1888 and 1893. Only after much combing through genealogical records did I discover that he had died abroad in 1925. More recently, 1964 British Champion Michael Haygarth was also very hard to to track down while he was still alive. Interested in a possible interview with him, I found he was living in France and even found a phone number which I thought must have been his. I tried ringing but nobody answered. That was a few years before he died (by which time he had returned to England). News of his death in 2016 took around two years to reach the UK chess community.

As I suggested in my first post on this thread, this forum serves very well as a sort of news agency and disseminates information of interest to the UK chess community. I imagine the ECF will pick it up from here, possibly via Stewart Reuben who reads these pages and I think passes on info that requires action from the federation.
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by John Upham » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:43 pm

Anne Sunnucks lived at 28, Brackendale Close in Camberley before moving to Yorkshire with her husband Richard C Mothersill.

She ran from her home a business called BMS Chess Supplies where the M was for Mothersill and the S for Sunnucks. JDP knows what the B was for : I've forgotten.

In around 1972 (I wonder why?) she made her home available as the meeting venue for rebirth of Camberley Chess Club which had become moribund.
Camberley played at 28, Brackendale Close until around 1982. Without this kind and generous offer we may have never re-established ourselves.

She had a rather large front and rear garden which included a huge garden chess set : no idea if it is still there.

She sold life assurance policies for Abbey LIfe (I bought one aged 16 much to chagrin of my father!) as did other chess players including Nigel Povah.

Anne was coached by IM Imre König

I knew her as Major but previously she was Captain Sunnucks.

She was a member of the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC).

For photographs she gave her address as Berners Hotel, Berners Street, London, W1.

Very generously Anne provided a gratis lift for myself and Mark A Johnstone to Chester 1979.

See https://camberleychess.co.uk/history/ for a photo of where BMS Chess Supplies was located.

In the picture below Anne is seated on the left.

1024px-Sunnucks1962.jpg
1024px-Sunnucks1962.jpg (245.12 KiB) Viewed 1103 times
Last edited by John Upham on Tue Mar 05, 2019 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Graham Borrowdale
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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Graham Borrowdale » Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:17 pm

Thanks John - that would be the house I remember playing at, although the address was no 28 - I have an old BMS score book and some score sheets, which have details about venue for hire etc. I doubt whether the outdoor chess set is still there- according to rightmove no 28 is now flats.
It was definitely a county match or two, I never visited Camberley Chess Club. Perhaps it was an occasional venue. I never recorded the venue on my score sheets in those days so I can't say exactly when.

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Re: Anne Sunnucks/Mothersill (1927-2014)

Post by Ian Thompson » Mon Mar 04, 2019 9:14 pm

John Upham wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:43 pm
Camberley played at 48, Brackendale Close until around 1982.
It was definitely no later than 1982. When I joined the club at the start of the 1982/83 season the venue was a community centre somewhere in central Camberley. After that, contrary to what it says in the club history, the venue changed to Owlsmoor Community Centre. I'm pretty sure that was for the 1983/84 season. I think the club remained there for 2 or 3 years. The club had definitely moved to Frimley Baptist Church Hall by the start of the 1986/87 season.

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