John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

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Martin Crichton
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John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Martin Crichton » Sat Nov 14, 2020 11:59 am

taken from emails reported initially by John's best friend Michael Price back in May 2020..
Sent: Sat, 23 May 2020 at 21:54
Subject: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020
Sadly, Uxbridge and Greenford veteran, John Woolley passed away a couple of days ago. He had been in poor health, with a bad leg, for about six months, which included a spell in hospital just before the coronavirus broke out. He never made a full recovery and became reliant on friends doing his shopping and offering lifts to matches.

John's passions were art, films, animal welfare and, of course, chess and chess history, of which he had an extensive knowledge. He loved Russia and Stalin and hated Bobby Fischer, with equal intensity. His eccentric views were a never ending source of amusement, to many, including me. With his passing some of the colour of the chess world has faded.

He is survived by his sister, Pam Ball, who, I'm sure, would be grateful for any sympathy cards, at........

I have no idea where, or even whether there will be, a funeral service in these troubled times. Will let you know when I know.

RIP, John Harold Woolley, 1945-2020

Sent: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 at 17:19
Subject: Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

From: martin
Sent: 24 May 2020 08:55

Terrible news
A huge loss for Greenford chess club. He was a huge contributor to our results even until the last match before the lockdown where he drew with a 159 against West London.
I especially remember his result against Harrow in 2018 which won us the K.O. Tournament...we were 2.5 - 1.5 down and John's game was the last one to finish and it was not looking good , the best outcome looked like a draw (which would have meant we would have lost the match) and even that looked distant however John set a trap and his opponent walked into it and as a result we won the match on tie break!
John was the hero of Greenford in 2018.

Date: 24-05-2018, Competition: KO, Trophy: KO
Grading limit: Open, (standardplay), Colours: determined by toss
Rounds: 1, Handicap: No
Adjournment possible: No, Adjudication possible: No

Board Home player Result Away player Grading
difference (Δ)
one Steven F Coles s191A Steven F Coles had the black pieces 0-1 Anthony R Fulton s189A Anthony R Fulton s189A had the white pieces +2
two Miroslaw Walkusz s186D Miroslaw Walkusz had the white pieces 1/2-1/2 Martin Crichton s174B Martin Crichton s174B had the black pieces +12
three Nevil Chan s179A Nevil Chan had the black pieces 1-0 Leon HJ Fincham s167A Leon HJ Fincham s167A had the white pieces +12
four Asad Rahman s158F Asad Rahman had the white pieces 1-0 Michael C Price s144A Michael C Price s144A had the black pieces +14
five Jan Cobben s159B Jan Cobben had the black pieces 0-1 John H Woolley s134A John H Woolley s134A had the white pieces +25
Mean grading Home team: 174.6 Away team: 161.6 Δ = 13
match result: 2.5 — 2.5
Submitted by: Mark Fountain at: 12:47:47 on: 25-05-2018
Confirmed by: Michael Price at: 13:09:15 on: 25-05-2018
Member of "the strongest amateur chess club in London" (Cavendish)

my views are not representative of any clubs or organisations.

Richard James
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Richard James » Sat Nov 14, 2020 12:07 pm

This was very sad news: I'd known John for many years. It's players like him who make the chess world what it is. It will be poorer for his passing.

There's a fine tribute on the Hammersmith website here.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:19 pm

Oh dear, that is very sad (especially that the news doesn't always percolate outwards immediately).

I was not aware that he was that old though, it felt like he was younger. Thanks for the link to the Hammersmith tribute, Richard, with a good photo of him at the bottom. Hammersmith is where I most often came into contact with him, and played him a few times. When I captained teams against Hammersmith where he was the captain, I remember him being scrupulously correct in his conduct. My other abiding memory of him is the times I would bump into him several years in a row when he and another Hammersmith player (Sheikh Mabud) would regularly visit the London Chess Classic at Olympia (often attending for many days or even the whole event). As Carsten said, a keen mind behind the "somewhat eccentric impression".

RIP John.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:38 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:19 pm
Thanks for the link to the Hammersmith tribute, Richard, with a good photo of him at the bottom.
The name didn't mean anything, but the picture looked familiar. He had also been a regular at the August Berks & Bucks Congress in one of the lower sections. In recent years, he also made the occasional foray into the Bucks League, playing for Uxbridge.

Nick Grey
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Nick Grey » Sat Nov 14, 2020 3:54 pm

RIP, John. Sad news. I enjoyed our chats and games.

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John Clarke
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by John Clarke » Sat Nov 14, 2020 11:01 pm

I never met John, but if that photo of him (when was it taken?) is anything to go by he certainly would seem to have been a lively character.
"The chess-board is the world ..... the player on the other side is hidden from us ..... he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
(He doesn't let you resign and start again, either.)

Richard Thursby
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Richard Thursby » Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:26 pm

My overriding memory is of him as a draw specialist. Most of our games ended as such somewhere between move 20 and 30.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:11 am

"I was not aware that he was that old though, it felt like he was younger."

I got that impression too, but it is 30 years since I last played him. He was certainly a character.

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John Saunders
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by John Saunders » Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:12 am

It is nigh on 50 years since I played him. Neither of us had much appetite for the game, it being the third game on the Saturday of an Islington weekender (round 4, Islington Major, 12 December 1970 to be precise). Draw in 17 moves. Like Roger, I recognised the face. I can't remember what I had for lunch today but faces of one-time chess opponents still linger in the memory half a century later. RIP.
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Richard Bates
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Richard Bates » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:04 am

Oh that's sad news. A familiar face (and for short period in my very early teens, familiar potential opponent) through 30 years of playing league and weekend chess. As above, I wouldn't have guessed he was quite that age, but then it is one of those strange features of being a chess player (particularly when you start young?) that you form a mental picture of somebody from the start that barely changes over time. With the result that it is difficult to imagine them as ever having been much different today they when you first encountered them. And of course when you struggle to reconcile your own age with reality...

It is interesting to read in the obituary of John "muttering under his breath" at an opponent's transgression of standard chess etiquette - because the muttering is definitely something i recall and which as a young junior gave (from memory) something of an impression of him being a somewhat scary opponent. Of course unbeknownst to me it was probably because i was listening to the radio through some headphones, or eating some crisps, or tapping my feet or something, to his great annoyance whilst he just couldn't bring himself to say anything.

Richard James
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Richard James » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:10 am

I wrote an article about John a few months ago.

I hadn't posted on here at the time as I was told someone else was going to post first, but they never did. I'm grateful to Martin for starting this thread.

J T Melsom
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by J T Melsom » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:30 am


Your first paragraph is one of the most delicately phrased descriptions of eccentrics I've ever seen. Thank you.

I didn't know John but he did play against Wycombe whilst representing Uxbridge. Having read several accounts here I am starting to understand why there was a dramatic sudden and unexpected conclusion in one of his games against us.

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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by NickFaulks » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:50 am

I am dreadful with names but was immediately reminded by the photo. John was the sort of person every chess club needs ( not necessarily every team captain! ) and I know he will be greatly missed.
If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Simon Rogers
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Re: John Harold Woolley 1945-2020

Post by Simon Rogers » Thu Nov 19, 2020 12:56 pm

Thanks Martin, for reporting it. I do recognise him. I don't think I've played him. He seems to be a character.
We have lossed so many characters over the past year.
Over 100 Deaths reported.

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