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5th Boniface Memorial 2011 Results.

Graham Mill-Wilson has kindly sent in the results of the Bank Holiday weekend’s Boniface Memorial event at the Filton Leisure Centre, Bristol.

As most will know, Steve Boniface died suddenly and unexpectedly at his Bristol home in October 2005, having spent most of his playing career in Exmouth, Devon, and Bristol. He was a serious club and county player, but had become an even more highly respected Arbiter, having been awarded his FIDE badge of honour not long before his death, and it is fitting that this event should help to recall his great contributions to westcountry chess.

Steve Boniface at the British Championship - Scarborough 2001.



Friday – Sunday 26th-28th August. 

OPEN: (20 players): 

1st      Robert S. Jones          (Wales)                                     4/5 

2nd   = Chris Beaumont         (Bristol & Clifton)                    3½/5

          David Collier                (Bristol & Clifton)

          Terence Stuttard         (Taunton) 

MAJOR: (26 players)

1ST = Andrew Borkowski      (Thornbury)                          3½/5

         Thomas Thorpe            (Patchway, Bristol)

         Brendan O’Gorman     (DHSS, London)

         Roger W Pearce          (Horfield, Bristol)

         Richard M George       (no club) 

MINOR:  (24 players)

1st       Malcolm Probert         (White Knights, Wales)           4/5 

2nd  =  Graham Strickland    (Horfield, Bristol)                 3½/5

           James Galloway         (Patchway, Bristol)

           Rhys Bennett (Junior – Wales)

           Rob Lowery                (Patchway, Bristol)

           David Woodruff          (Keynsham)

           Frank Trombley          (Cardiff) 


Monday 29th August. 

OPEN:  (24 players) 

1st =    Chris Beaumont         (Clifton, Bristol)                        5/6

           Patryk Krzyzanowski (Yeovil)

           David Buckley            (Bath) 

MINOR:  (20 players): 

1st         Aloysius Lip              (Bristol Juniors)  5/6                                         

  2nd =   Beryl Hughes             (Cardiff)                                      4½/6

            Mike Arribas-Ayllon (Cardiff) 

Paignton Congress Fast Approaching (28.08.2011.)

The 61st Paignton Congress starts on Sunday next at 2 p.m. with entries having now passed the 200 mark.

The venue - Oldway Mansion.

On-line coverage will be a little more co-ordinated this year, with Bill Frost concentrating on getting the game scores up onto his chessdevon website as soon as he can, while I shall be doing on-the-spot reports and photographs. I hope to be able to do this more quickly than ever before, using the pay-as-you-go “dongle” purchased at the weekend. If this works as planned, I should be able to get photographs of players and pairing boards onto this site within minutes of being taken (fingers crossed).

If all goes according to plan, this approach should make the event more immediately accessible to surfers.

A special effort was made last year, of course, to celebrate the event’s 60th anniversary, with an increased prize funds and extra attractions like the Michael Adams simul and a commemorative book recording the history of the event and its venue (still available from all good chess booksellers – in case of difficulty, copies may be obtained from me :: just e-mail me on )

Reinfeld, Gosling & Frome (27.08.2011.)

Fred Reinfeld (1910-1964) was a New York chess-player good enough to win his state championship twice (1931 & 1933 – both times ahead of Fine and Dake) but who later found fame as a prolific writer. He first cooperated with his friend Reuben Fine to produce books of lasting quality that added to chess knowledge, but then gravitated to producing a long series of titles for beginners. Serious collectors often scorned these as potboilers churned out in order to earn a quick buck.

In fact, they sold by the million to novice players who were looking for clear, uncomplicated advice on how to improve, and as such provided an invaluable service to the chess world. He published over 100 titles and had he not died so young would probably have produced another hundred.

In 1995, Brian Gosling, then a member of the Frome Chess Club, organised a small all-play-all tournament to give Somerset’s top juniors a chance to test their mettle against some experienced senior players. He had realised that Reinfeld had a slight westcountry connection, as many of his books were printed in Bath and some at Butler & Tanner in Frome, and that even thirty years after his death there had not been any tournament dedicated to his memory. So his tournament was called the Reinfeld Memorial.

Brian was due to play Jack Rudd, then a Cambridge undergraduate, and prepared a variation of the Ruy Lopez to play against him, which went according to plan…. up to a point.

White: B. G. Gosling. Black: J. Rudd.

Ruy Lopez – Exchange Variation. [C68]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 instead of backing off when challenged, the bishop strikes. 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0–0 5.Nxe5 is not an option because of  5…Qd4 which hands the initiative to Black. 5…Bg4 6.h3 h5 7.d3 Again, temptation must be avoided e.g. 7.hxg4 hxg4 8.Ne1 Qh4 and mate follows. 7…Bd6 8.Re1 Qf6 9.Nbd2 Ne7 10.d4 Ng6 now the bishop can be taken 11.hxg4 hxg4 12.Nh2 Rxh2 13.Qxg4! The old move was 13.Kxh2 but Black is better after Qxf2 14.Re2 exd4+ 15.e5 (Or. if 15.Kh1 mate follows thus 15…Qh4+ 16.Kg1 Qh2+ 17.Kf1 Qh1+ 18.Kf2 g3+ 19.Kf3 Qh5#) 15…Bxe5+ 16.Kh1 Qh4+ 17.Kg1 0–0–0 18.Rxe5 Rh8 19.Qe2 Qh2+ 20.Kf2 Nxe5 21.Nf1 Qh4+ 22.Ng3 13…Rh7 14.Nf3 If 14.Qf5 Qh4 15.Qh3 Qxh3 16.gxh3 Rxh3. 14…Nh4 15.Nxe5 Bxe5 16.dxe5 Qxe5 17.Bf4 Qxb2 18.Rad1 Ng6 19.Qd7+ Kf8 20.Bxc7 Qb5 21.e5 Nf4 22.Qd6+ Ke8 If 22…Kg8 23.Qd8+ Rxd8 24.Rxd8 mate.  23.Bd8 As planned, White is now all ready to mate on e7 or d8. What can Black possibly do to prevent this – or even turn the game on its head?

Black to play and win by force.

David Clive Scott – Funeral (22.08.2011.)

Relatives, friends and colleagues gathered at Exeter Crematorium for the funeral of Dave Scott this afternoon, with every seat taken and a dozen forced to stand.

It was a Humanist service taken by Alison Orchard, and the coffin arrived to the strains of  The Eagles’ Hotel California, which did not seem entirely inappropriate. There were no hymns or prayers, of course, and the cross had been removed from the chapel, but Ms. Orchard’s eulogy was frank, comprehensive and sympathetic, and just about says it all. She has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here verbatim – little more needs to be said.

“We have gathered here today in a spirit of celebration to say our goodbyes to Dave Scott. Please be seated. 

You have come here today because Dave’s life touched yours. Your presence is, therefore, a testament, in itself, to Dave but it is more than that because it also gives comfort to others: it matters that you are here. On behalf of Rob, Steve and Naomi, I would like to thank you for coming here today to let them know their sorrow is shared; a warm welcome to you all. 

More technically minded and logical than religious, Dave chose to live his life without recourse to the church. This occasion will, therefore, be secular in nature. Our simple ceremony today will be – in effect – a series of reflections and music which have significance to Dave’s life and we hope, in that way, you will feel Dave close as you say your goodbyes. My name is Alison Orchard, I am a celebrant with the British Humanist Association and it is a privilege to join you here. 

Humanists see human existence as part of one great continuum which is evident throughout all nature. For millions of years, life on earth has evolved, such that each one of us builds on lives that come before us and become the foundation for lives that come after us. Death is an essential dynamic in that process of progression, and, in that way, death is as natural as life. 

It’s natural, too, that you should feel great sadness today; grief is the price that we have to pay for loving someone and sharing their life and it’s rarely easy to say goodbye. 

But today is more difficult for you because Dave also died younger than most and had been struggling with life for the past few years; probably more than you realized because, as a person who was always smart, on the ball and hardworking until recently, his drink problem wasn’t always as evident as it might have been. Perhaps you are, therefore, bringing a mixture of complex emotions, such as regret and shock, with you which compound your sadness today and I expect you are grieving, not only for the life that was, but also for the life that might have been. 

But it’s important to remember that life is rarely perfect or tidy, we all struggle in different ways and we all cope in the best way we can. 

And now, to honour that, an extract from ‘The Journey of Life’ by Winston Churchill: 

Let us be contented with what has happened and be thankful for all that which we have been spared. Let us accept the natural order of things in which we move. Let us reconcile ourselves to the mysterious rhythm of our destinies, such as they must be in this world of space and time. Let us treasure our joys but not bewail our sorrows. The glory of light cannot exist without its shadows. Life is a whole, and good and ill must be accepted together.

The journey has been enjoyable and well worth making …… 

Let’s look Dave’s death in the face with honesty, but also with dignity and with love and understanding. In that way, I hope you will be able to say your goodbyes with the peaceful spirit that, as a proud man, he would have wished and you can celebrate all that he has left you and the world. 

Each life plays its own – small but vital and unique – part in the history of the universe and humankind. And so it was with Dave, and we can celebrate that he conducted his time on earth with such intelligence, good humour and motivation, making such a valuable contribution to our society and community. 

Here is his story. 

Born on 12th March, 1954, here in Exeter, Dave was the younger of two sons, with older brother, Alan, born to Charles and his wife, Lorna. He didn’t speak much about his childhood but we know he collected stamps as a boy and, with his brother, loved cycling. He attended Hele’s School where he particularly enjoyed Maths and the Sciences and he went on to study for his ‘A’ Levels at Exeter College. 

He grew up to be a slim young man with fair hair and he was, by all accounts, a mod with a scooter as a teenager. Dave began his career by studying for his H.N. C. in Surveying, Cartography and Planning at Brunel Technical College in 1976 and Bristol Polytechnic in 1978. He then went on to complete his postgraduate diploma in Town and Country Planning; he was best in his class and received an award for the ‘Best Performance by the first professional entrant of 1981-82′. 

Starting his career in town planning at Exeter City Council, Dave became a member of the ‘Royal Town Planning Institute’ in 1984 and so continued an impressive career, mostly working in forward planning and conservation in mid Devon, and based at Tiverton. 

Undoubtedly Dave was highly respected as a professional and he was valued as a colleague for his technical abilities as well as his dry sense of humour. In 1992 he completed his Diploma in Management Studies at Plymouth University. His boss, Jonathan Guscott, wrote to Rob, Steve and Naomi, to say: 

I worked with your father for nearly ten years and was impressed by his obvious intelligence and self deprecating good humour. 

and his colleagues in other letters and tributes have said: 

Dave was an intellectual giant who loved debate and discussion, those who worked with him appreciated his acute sense of fairness, his generous nature and his relaxed attitude.  

Dave met Maggie, settling in Exeter, eventually building a family home in Queens Rd, where Dave, like many men, did not enjoy the household chores but carried out a great deal of DIY. 

He had an eye-opening initiation into fatherhood with the birth of twin sons, Rob and Steve, and, as a hands-on father, he had to cope with one twin throwing their dinner on the floor, whilst he then bent down to pick it up the other threw their dinner on his head! They thought that was a fine game! Naomi was born to complete their family. 

The children have fond memories of their family holidays, usually camping, and have many funny stories to tell. On one holiday to France, theirs was the first car off the ferry but Dave didn’t know where to go so he drove tentatively towards the car park to get his bearings. Unfortunately, all the drivers behind him assumed he did know the way and so they all snaked several times around the car park behind him before he finally managed to find the way out! 

Another holiday was spent in Wales. It had been unusually hot for some time and they put their tent up in a hollow in the parched field. Of course it poured relentlessly the next day and they soon discovered that they had set up camp in a dried up river bed! Their tent was floating on a foot of water. 

Jonathan Guscott wrote: 

We had many talks and it was obvious to me that Dave was a proud father who loved his children deeply. 

Dave was a dedicated Dad who was involved in his children’s lives and was always there for them. He went fishing with Steve and collected stamps with Naomi. But, perhaps the most significant hobby that Dave shared with his children was that of playing chess and under his tutelage Rob was to become an international junior player. 

A sound club level player himself, Dave really came into his own as a chess coach, he adapted to each individual’s needs, explaining things at an appropriate level, and he seemed to have the knack of bringing out the best in others, especially the juniors, to nurture new talent. Not only did he begin the Isca Junior Club, which was successful and achieved a lot, he worked hard to plan and run chess tournaments in the area and ran the Devon junior U-11 team for 2 years. 

There are many people – here and not here – who have much to thank Dave for. 

Dave had many interests. Cricket was something of an obsession. He played a as spinner when he was younger but, after his own cricketing career was over, he would listen to or watch it whenever he could. He has been known to take annual leave from work whilst the Ashes were on and he would try desperately to tune into Radio 4 longwave, even if it crackled ridiculously, whilst on holiday in France. Always notorious for a sarcastic sense of humour himself, he enjoyed watching comedies like Blackadder, One Foot in the Grave and Life on Mars. He loved cooking adventurously, perhaps enjoying cooking more than eating. Woodland inspired him and he would comb the woods for mushrooms in autumn and bring them home to eat. It is fitting that his ashes will be scattered in woodland and, in time, he will become part of a place he loved in life. 

Sadly, everything and everyone we cherish passes out of our lives. Perhaps it is only when we face this truth as those we love and admire die, that we can see how precious every day life really is. 

We can take comfort that, despite a couple of very challenging years, Dave died peacefully in his bed. He is now beyond suffering and we have a sense of peace and release for him. 

And now, to end our tribute to Dave, a piece written by Robert Louis Stevenson which Rob, Steve and Naomi chose for today: 

That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it……. who never lacked appreciation for the earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had. Whose life is an inspiration and whose memory is a benediction. 


Dave, We treasure so much that you brought to this world and to our lives. Thank you.

With respect we leave you in peace and, with love, we let you go. 

Grief can and does change. However low this has made you, I hope you can turn back to life – in your own time and your own way – and embrace it to the full and enrich your own and others’ lives. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten Dave or that you aren’t missing him: it simply means that you’ve learnt, may be from Dave himself or this experience itself, that life is for living and loving, for being and doing. 

You will laugh again and, when you do, Dave will be right there with you. Through all the things he said and did, and the life you shared, Dave has become part of you and the cycle of humanity so, through your life now, he will live on.

 Our final reading says it all really: 

You can shed tears that he is gone or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him or it can be full of the love you have shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live for yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he is gone or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn back or you can do what he’d want, smile, open your eyes and love and go on

Thank you for sharing in our ceremony today. You are warmly invited to join family and friends at The Buckerell Lodge and to share more memories next. There will be a retiring collection in aid of the Devon Junior Chess Association. You can leave a donation here in memory of Dave if you wish or later, via the Funeral Directors, Exeter and District Funeral Services if you’d rather”. 

This was followed by another of Dave’s favourite tracks, the Beatles’ Let It Be, which again was quite fitting.


Boniface Memorial – Bristol (20.08.2011.)

Dave Scott of Exeter, a well-known organiser of junior chess in Devon died recently aged 57. His funeral takes place on Monday at Exeter Crematorium at 1 p.m. A little more information may be found on my website

Next weekend the Bristol Chess League are organising the 5th Steve Boniface Memorial Congress at Filton Sports Centre, details of which may be obtained from the organiser, Graham Mill-Wilson on 0779-016-7415.

The following weekend sees the start of the 61st Paignton Congress at Oldway Mansion, one of England’s most venerable events. Round 1 will start at 2 p.m. on Sunday 4th September.  Details may be obtained from the event secretary, Alan Crickmore on 01752-768206.

Last year’s joint winners of the Boniface Memorial were Bristol stalwarts Chris Beaumont and Tyson Mordue. Here is one of their games from Round 2.

White: G. Crockart. Black: C. Beaumont.

Bird’s Opening [A02]

1.f4 The invention of the 19th century master Henry E. Bird (1830 – 1908) who specialised in eccentric variations. These have the advantage of taking opponents away from well-known lines but have to be played very carefully or one can easily be hoist by one’s own petard.  Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.b3 Bg7 4.Bb2 0–0 5.e3 c5 6.c4 Nc6 7.Be2 d5 8.cxd5 Qxd5 9.Nc3 Qf5 10.Nh4? White needs to get castled and complete development before launching into attacks that have little prospect of immediate benefit. 10…Qd7 11.Na4 b6 12.Bf3 Ba6 White’s option of castling is now taken away and his king is stuck in the centre. 13.Bxc6 Qxc6 14.Qf3 Qd7 15.d4 cxd4 16.Bxd4 Rac8 17.Rd1 Qb5 18.Nc3 Qb4 19.Rc1 Rfd8 20.Kf2 Rxd4 Giving up the exchange in order to break open the centre and get at White’s king. 21.exd4 Qxd4+ 22.Ke1 Ng4! 0-1 resigns. For example after 23.Qxg4 Qe3+ 24.Kd1 Rd8+ 25.Kc2 Qxc3+ 26.Kb1 Qb2 mate. Or 23.a3 and Black has a choice of moves e.g. 23…Bf6 attacking the immobile knight or 23…Rxc3 24.Rxc3 Qxc3+ 25.Qxc3 Bxc3+ 26.Kd1 (forced) 26…Nf2+ 27.Kc2 Nxh1 28.Kxc3 etc.

In last week’s position, Trevenen finished the game with 1.Rh8+ Kf7 2.Qxg7+! Kxg7 3.R1h7 mate where the knight covers two possible flight squares for the Black king.

Here is the starter problem for this year’s national solving championship that I first gave in June. The correct solution is e5! which threatens 2.b6 mate. Black has ten possible attempts to avoid mate, but each is refuted. There were 249 entries this year and most of them will be receiving in the post the next batch of problems to solve.

White mates in 2.

Adams Retains the British Champiobship (13.08.2011.)

The British Championship title has remained in the Westcountry after Michael Adams beat Nigel Short in a dramatic 2 game play-off last Saturday, after tying on 8½ points at the end of the scheduled eleven rounds. The prizemoney was shared £6,000 each but the title could only go to one player, so a rapidplay tie-break was necessary. Adams had black in the first game which was drawn and this was the deciding game.

White: M. Adams (262). Black: N. D. Short (267).

Caro-Kann Defence. [B16]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Unusual. Nc3 is much more common, but Adams will want to put his opponent on the back foot as early as possible. 3…dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 Ruining Black’s kingside pawn structure. 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be2 e6 8.0–0 Nd7 9.c4 Having castled quickly White wastes no time in attacking White’s queenside where Black will presumably need to castle into later. 9…Qc7 10.Nh4 The knight will be safe here for a while, both defending g2 should the need arise and blocking the advance of Black’s h-pawn. 10…h5 11.h3 Bxe2 12.Qxe2 0–0–0 13.Rd1 Bd6 14.d5 White seeks to break open the centre. 14…Rde8 15.Be3 Bc5 allowing White a vital tempo in his queenside attack. 16.Bxc5 Nxc5 17.b4 Nd7 18.dxc6 Qxc6 19.c5 When time is short it is generally better to attack and be asking the questions. 19…f5 20.Rd4 Qc7 21.Rc1 Kb8 22.Nf3 Rd8 23.c6 Nf6 If 23…bxc6? 24.Rdc4 and the doubled rooks would spell serious trouble. 24.b5 Rxd4 25.Nxd4 b6 26.Qb2 Rh6 27.Nf3 Rg6 28.Ne5 Rg8 29.Rd1 Nd5 30.Nd7+ Ka8 The knight is beautifully placed on d7 but there is a greater need to eliminate Black’s knight. 31.Nf6 Nxf6 32.Qxf6 White now commands the d-file. 32…a6 33.Rd7 Qf4 34.Rd8+! 1-0. The fact that it’s check makes all the difference – not allowing Black a last hurrah. For example, 34.Qxf7? would allow Black counterplay e.g. 34…Qc1+ 35.Kh2 Qf4+ 36.g3?? would give Black a mate in 4. Anything else would probably force a draw by repetition.

So congratulations are due to Michael Adams, Cornish-born Taunton resident who thus retained the title he won at Canterbury last year.

Last week’s position by Lane was solved by 1. Rxf4! threatening 2.Rd4 mate. Black has three tries but White can deal with each one.

This position shows the end of a game from the West of England Championship in 1968 between the former champion H. V. Trevenen (Penzance) and B. A. Heath. The Cornishman was past his best by this stage in his career but was still capable of some sharp finishes. Can you spot White’s 3 move knockout combination?

Trevenen (W) to mate in 3.

Dave Scott (1953 – 2011)

Dave Scott, a familiar figure on the Devon junior chess scene for two decades, died on Thursday 4th August  at his home in Exeter at the age of 57.

Like a number of parents, he became involved in junior chess when his son Robbie, took to the game and became a leading junior, representing the England U-11 side.

Dave went on to form the Isca Junior Club, based at the John Thompson School in the St. Thomas area of Exeter, which became a force in both the Exeter & District Chess League but also the wider Devon set-up, as it included a number of other talented juniors, notably Alex Therrien.

Dave gave his time freely, as he was also a regular helper with Devon’s representative teams, assisting organisers like Tim Onions and Vic Cross, and was a Trustee of the Mallison Trust. For a time he was Manager of Devon’s U-11 team.

He is survived by his children, Rob, Naomi and Steve.

The funeral will be held at Exeter Crematorium on Monday 22nd August at 1 p.m. Donations, if wished, to the Devon Junior Chess Association, and may be sent to the Exeter & District Funeral Service (01392-433551).

Dave's legacy: Isca Juniors Robbie Scott & Alex Therrien (right) at the WECU Congress.

E. Douglas Fawcett (1866 – 1960)

Edward Douglas Fawcett. 

April 1866 – 14th April 1960  

Fawcett at the SCCU Congress, Plymouth 1903.

Quite apart from being one of the founding fathers of the Devon County Chess Association in 1901, Douglas Fawcett was a pioneer in many different areas, from colour photography, through motoring, mountaineering, aeronautics, science fiction and philosophy.

Douglas was born in Torquay, in April 1866, the son of Edward Boyd Fawcett and his wife Myra Elizabeth (nee Macdougall). Edward Boyd had been born on 10th October 1839, the son of Henry Fawcett, of Broadfields, York, when he was staying at Poona, the Victorian resort in the Himalayan foothills to which the upper echelons of the Raj regularly retired to escape the heat of an Indian summer. E. Boyd Fawcett had gone to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won a Blue for cricket, going on to play for Sussex and the Gentlemen in 21 matches between 1859 and 1863.  On leaving Cambridge, Boyd joined the Royal Cumberland Regiment and went east to help run the Empire. While out there, he met and married Myra Macdougall, the daughter of Col. Macdougall of the Bengal Army. 

When their first-born was expected, they moved back to Blighty and Edward Douglas was born in Hove, Brighton in 1866. For whatever reason, their time in the orient was cut short, as by the time a second son was born the following year, they had moved to a house in Ashbury Dale, in the parish of St. Marychurch, Torquay. Quite why this radical change in residence and career is not clear, but in the1871 census Boyd is described as a “Share Holder”, which suggests he may have come into some money which he invested on the stock market. 

The following year, a brother was born, Percy Harrison Fawcett, who later became famous as Colonel Fawcett, who, in 1925, led an expedition into the Amazonian rainforest in search of a fabled city, but was never seen again. In the absence of facts about his demise, legends quickly grew up about the man and his fate, and he was reputed to have become the model for the fictional character, Indiana Jones. However, truth often proves to be stranger than any fiction, and only recently has it been fully appreciated that Fawcett believed the earth was largely hollow and he was, in fact, looking for the lost city of Atlantis, still inhabited by Atlanteans, in caves deep beneath the surface of Brazil. 

Be all that as it may, although history has concentrated its gaze on the conundrum of Percy Fawcett, his brother Douglas is an equally flamboyant subject for study. 

In 1869 a sister Myra Evelyn was born, and Blanche Helen followed the year after. However, by 1881 the family had been living at No. 3, Barnpark Terrace, Teignmouth for several years for a third sister, Beatrice, had been born there and was already 4 years old. 

Douglas was educated locally at Newton Abbot Proprietary College before winning a Queen’s Scholarship to Westminster School, and his brother Percy followed him through both schools. 

Tragedy struck shortly after when their father died on 26th September 1884 at the age of 44, leaving a widow and five children. The 1891 census records that Myra was living at 24, Lansdowne Place, Hove, Sussex, with her three daughters, all unmarried and none with any stated occupation, Evelyn (21), Blanche (20) and Beatrice (14). The mother was listed as “living on own means”, so life could not have been terribly hard for them. However, the Kelly’s Directory for 1897 has Mrs. Fawcett as still owning the Teignmouth house in Barnpark Road, so it is not clear exactly which was her main abode.

At the same time, Douglas was living at Rutland Lodge in the Ilsham area of Torquay. He was listed as an author. In 1896, he married Miss M. B. V. Jackson. 

At this time, he was working from home on his early science fiction novels. He published a book entitled Hartmann the Anarchist and subtitled The Doom of the Great City. (Edward Arnold 1893). Although today not deemed great literature by the standards of H. G. Wells or Jules Verne, it tells the story of an anarchist who bombs London in a series of great air raids – foretelling the Blitz of the 2nd World War, and as such, predates Wells’s The Shape Of Things to Come by some forty years. He had foreseen and demonstrated the military importance of airpower a decade before the Wright brothers’ first faltering experiments. The illustrator, Fred Jane, found lasting fame as the founder of Jane’s Fighting Ships

1st edition cover.


Shortly after, he published The Secret of the Desert, or How We Crossed Arabia in the “Antelope“, probably the first fictional account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense, 20 years before the first tanks appeared in the Great War. 

His third adventure story, published by Arnold in 1894,  was called Swallowed By An Earthquake, with notable illustrations by H. C. Seppings Wright. As the title suggests the characters find themselves in an underground world, an idea genuinely held by his brother, Percy. 

After the turn of the century, his writing concentrated more on his philosophical ideas. He was an  Idealist, “whose distinctive mark is the discussion of Imagination as the fundamental reality of the  Universe” (entry in Who’s Who). He was also a Theosophist, or believer in karma and reincarnation. These books are listed in Appendix A, where it can be seen that several were weighty tomes of around 600 pages each. Their significance may be gauged from the fact that several are still in print, and 1st editions of his science fiction books are priced in the hundreds of pounds each. 

The year 1900 saw a great increase in chess activity and organisation in south Devon. A number of new clubs were formed and a parent body, the Devon County Chess Association, was set up in October 1901 to encourage and oversee inter-club competition. Compared to what had gone before, there was a sudden rush of matches and tournaments, and Fawcett was greatly involved, this being probably the busiest period of his chess career.

A new club was formed at Totnes on 2nd October 1901, with Edward Winter-Wood as President, Fawcett as Vice President and the hard-working Charles Blanshard as Secretary. The club had had its origins in the relationship between Fawcett and Blanshard who had been playing friendly games in Totnes for some time before. In addition to their love of chess, both had a love of mountaineering and life in the great outdoors, and would certainly have been on the same wavelength, swapping tales of their adventures.

The first congress to be organised was the Devon and Cornwall Tournament which was held in January 6th – 11th 1902, in Plymouth. This was not organised by the DCCA as such, but was a special one-man effort, C. T. Blanshard having done all the work. There were 14 entries, divided into 2 equal sections. Class I consisted of Rev. Henry Bremridge (Winkleigh), Charles Lambert (Exeter), Thomas Taylor (Plymouth), Rev. Arthur Baker (Teignmouth), Douglas Fawcett (Totnes), Clifford Kitchen and P. Motley.  The games went mostly to form, with Fawcett out of the prizelist (1st Lambert; 2nd Taylor; 3rd Baker).

 This was quickly followed by the D.C.C.A.’s own inaugural congress, held at the Barnfield Hall, Exeter, from 21st – 26th April 1902. The event was notable, not only for being a first, but for the presence throughout of the great American master, Harry Pillsbury, whose simultaneous, blindfold exhibitions were woven into the full week-long programme of county championships, Knockout and Lightning tournaments. Fawcett was one of ten players in the Championship Section, which finished:- 1st C. J. Lambert (Exeter) 8/9 pts. 2nd C. Tracey (Exmouth) 7½ pts. 3rd T. Taylor (Plymouth) 6 pts. 4th Rev. H. Bremridge (Winkleigh) 5½ pts. 5th= E. D. Fawcett (Totnes) & Mrs. Knapp (Exeter) 4 pts. 7th Palmer 3½ pts. 8th= C. F. Corke (Sevenoaks) & E. V. Hawkins (Exeter) 3 pts.

 On the afternoon of Thursday 4th April, Fawcett sat down with 11 others to play Pillsbury, who was on a platform, the better for all to see, sat in an armchair with his back to the play. His regular habit was to call out something like “On Boards 5 and 11 P-Q4; on all the others P-K4″. He would then call out each board number and his move, and await the reply. He won ten games and conceded a draw to A. W. Peet of Newton Abbot. By way of an encore, in the evening Pillsbury took on 17 opponents simultaneously, allowing the first five to finish to start a second game, yet still winning all 22 games. Such was his memory that he could recall every game the next day and was happy to discuss individual mistakes and combinations from memory.

 The following afternoon, Pillsbury took on 23 opponents simultaneously, including Fawcett, of which he won all but one, conceding just a draw. In the evening, Pillsbury took on 14 at chess and 5 at draughts, simultaneously and sans voir, winning them all except for one drawn game of draughts.

 Pillsbury then went on to the 10th Hastings Chess Festival which finished on 3rd May.  Fawcett met up with him again during Whit week when they both attended the 4th Kent Congress at Tunbridge Wells. Fawcett again tackled Pillsbury in a simultaneous blindfold display, and, perhaps benefiting from his experiences in Exeter, was the only one to secure a draw.

 Fawcett played in the top section, but was somewhat out of his depth as it included a number of British Championship contenders. 

4th Kent County Chess Association

Tunbridge Wells 19th – 24th May 1902 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10    
1 Loman, R. J. X 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 7 £10
2 Mueller, O 0 X ½ ½ 0 1 1 1 1 1 6   £5
3 Michell, R. P. ½ ½ X 1 0 1 0 ½ 1 1 5½   
4 Thomas G. A. ½ ½ 0 X ½ 1 1 0 1 1 5½   
5 Wainwright, G. 0 1 1 ½ X 0 1 0 1 1 5½   
6 Schories, G. 0 0 0 0 1 X 1 1 1 1 5  
7 Mortimer, J. ½ 0 1 0 0 0 X 1 ½ 1 4  
8 Serraillier, L 0 0 ½ 1 1 0 0 X 0 1 3½   
9 Fawcett, E. D. 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 X 0 1½   
10 Joyce, F. A. ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 X 1½   

 Later that year, the Southern Union, as a vote of encouragement to the new Devon association,  held their congress at Plymouth. Fawcett’s picture at the top of this article is a detail from the group photograph taken at this event, and is the only one of him so far discovered. He played in the top section and his performance was respectable. Taylor, for example, who finished well below him, was Devon Champion on many occasions. (see his biography for details).

Southern Union Congress – Plymouth 1902

1st August – 11th September

Section 2

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  
1 W. H. Gunston X 1 1 1 1 1 1 ½ 1
2 A. Emery 0 X ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1
3 J. F. Allcock 0 ½ X ½ 0 1 ½ 1 1
4 J. Mortimer 0 0 ½ X 1 1 0 1 1
5 E. D. Fawcett 0 0 1 0 X 1 1 ½ ½ 4
6 R. B. Jones 0 ½ 0 0 0 X 1 1 1
7 A. West 0 0 ½ 1 0 0 X ½ ½
8 Dr. D. Dunstan ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ X 0 2
9 T. Taylor 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 X 2

 In October 1902, Devon played  the first of many matches against Cornwall. Rather surprisingly the venue was Truro, almost as far from Devon as one could go. The result was an even bigger surprise to all concerned. 

  Cornwall  Club     Devon  Club
1 Philip Dancer Helston 0 1 Thomas Taylor Plymouth
2 Charles Masson Fox Falmouth 1 0 Henry Bowles Exeter
3 R. Davy Penzance 0 1 G. M. Frean Torquay
4 A. Mayne Falmouth 0 1 C. F. Cooper Plymouth
5 F. Harry Pascho Plymouth 1 0 E. Douglas Fawcett Totnes
6 F. H. Carlyon Truro 1 0 W. W. Rickard Plymouth
7 Stanley Y. Williams Penzance 1 0 W. H. Phillips Plymouth
8 C. E. Trethewey Truro ½ ½ W. W. Hooper Plymouth
9 C. Dowsell Wadebridge 1 0 Rev. Henry Bremridge Winkleigh
10 T. G. Mead Falmouth 1 0 Arthur Stoneman Plymouth
11 W. E. Grenfell Truro 0 1 E. Pearse Devonport
12 Dr. Butlin Camborne 1 0 Col. Bennett Plymouth
13 C. E. Harby Wadebridge ½ ½ Mrs. Rhoda Bowles Exeter
14 F. R. Pasco Truro ½ ½ Charles Blanshard Totnes
15 A. Menhennick Wadebridge 1 0 T. Whitby Devonport
16 H. Tonkin Penryn 1 0 S. Ward Plymouth
17 William Boxhall St. Austell 0 1 F. Langdon Devonport
18 Leslie Hall   1 0 Rev. H. R. Kruger Exeter
19 C. Hoadley Helston 1 0 Rev. H. D. Nicholson Plymouth
20 E. Retchford Penryn 0 1 C. W. Wood Plymouth
21 A. E. Preston St. Mawes 0 1 R. S. Nicole Exeter
22 H. Knowles Helston 1 0 E. A. Pryer Axminster
23 F. Marsh   1 0 W. H. Daw Teignmouth
24 H. T. Robinson Camborne 0 1 Rev. Moyle Devonport
25 C. Jenkin   1 0 Miss. M. Hunt  

 The 1902 – 03 season started busily. Fawcett drew on Board 5 for Devon in their  8 – 8 draw against Gloucestershire on 13th December 1902. At the start of the new year, a chess tour was arranged. Firstly, on January 9th he drew on Board 4 for Devon in a 12 – 10 defeat of Somerset.  The next day 26 Devonians travelled up to London for a match against Kent. Reinforcements pushed Fawcett down to Board 8, where he lost to H. Webb and the team by 17½ – 8½.. On Monday January 12th the team met the strong Metropolitan Club over 20 boards, losing 13 – 7.

 On 23rd January, Devon were set to play a second match over 25 boards against neighbours Cornwall, at Plymouth. Devon would have been entitled to hold the match as far from Cornwall as possible, in somewhere like Tiverton, but common sense prevailed and Plymouth, on the border of the two counties, was chosen. Having lost the first encounter by a considerable margin,  Devon were keen to avenge that defeat, and so they did, though it was a close-run thing. 

  Devon  Club     Cornwall  Club
1 Thomas Taylor Plymouth 0 1 Philip Dancer Helston
2 Henry Bowles Exeter 1 0 Charles Masson-Fox Falmouth
3 C. F. Cooper Plymouth 0 1 R. Davy Penzance
4 E. Douglas Fawcett Totnes 1 0 Dr. F. H. Carlyon Truro
5 W. W. Rickard Plymouth 1 0 Harry Pascoe Plymouth
6 A. W. Peet Newton Abbot ½ ½ Stanley Williams Penzance
7 E. Palmer   ½ ½ N. A. Prettyjohn  
8 H. Dobson   1 0 C. Dowswell Wadebridge
9 Carslake Winter-Wood Torquay 0 1 C. R. Trethewey Truro
10 G. F. Thompson   1 0 T. Mead Falmouth
11 Rev. Henry Bremridge Winkleigh 1 0 Dr. Butlin Camborne
12 Charles T. Blanshard Totnes 1 0 Roger Turner  
13 Ellison Pearse Devonport 1 0 E. Harby Wadebridge
14 Col. R. D. Bennett Plymouth 0 1 Leslie Hall  
15 T. Whitby Devonport ½ ½ A. Menhennick  
16 Mrs. Rhoda A. Bowles Exeter ½ ½ F. R. Pascoe Truro
17 Arthur Stoneman Plymouth 0 1 C. Jenkin  
18 R. S. Nicole Exeter 0 1 William Boxhall St. Austell
19 J. E. D. Moysey Totnes 1 0 W. A. Bunt  
20 Rev. T. H. Moyle Devonport 1 0 H. T. Robinson Camborne
21 H. G. Phillips   ½ ½ C. Hoadley Helston
22 W. F. Holmes   0 1 E. Retchford Penryn
23 H. J. Luxton   1 0 A. E. Preston St. Mawes
24 C. J. Meads   ½ ½ William Tangye  
25 E. Clark   0 1 E. Sedding  
      13 12    

5th  Kent County Chess Association

Canterbury 1st  – 6th  June   1903 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9    
1 Schories, G. X 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 7 £10
2 Thomas G. A. 0 X 1 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 5 £5
3 Cresswell, E. 0 0 X ½ 1 1 0 1 1  
4 Loman, R. J. 1 0 ½ X 0 1 0 1 1 4½   
5 Mortimer, J. 0 1 0 1 X 0 ½ 1 ½ 4  
6 Jones, R. F. B. 0 ½ 0 0 1 X 1 0 1 3½   
7 Finn, Kate B 0 0 1 1 ½ 0 X 0 ½ 3  
8 Taylor, T. 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 X 1 3  
9 Fawcett, E. D. 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 X 1½   

 At this time, he was spending more and more time in Switzerland, until he reached the point where he lived there permanently. He made his mark early on, when, in 1904, he drove an 8 horse power De Dion car from Chamonix, up a mule track to reach the Mer de Glace, at about 1,400 metres on the northern slopes of Mont Blanc. This was a significant milestone in the development of road transport in Switzerland and the opening-up of the high Alps to tourism. 

Fawcett's car.


Left: A 1903 De Dion car, such as Fawcett drove up a mountainside in 1904.

Glacier up which Fawcett drove his car.


Left: The Mer de Glace.

By 1921, he had made sufficient a mark in life to merit an entry in Who’s Who, which continued for 40 years. 

His address, as given in Who’s Who, was different in every edition; Chalet Sommeheim, Wenden, Bernese Oberland (1921); Villa des Alpes, St. Gingolph (1926); Villa Vincent, Montreux (1928) and  Le Verger, Clarens (1932). This gave way to him nominating a London branch of the National Provincial Bank who would forward all communications to him, wherever he happened to be living at the time. 

Conquering the Matterhorn was an annual event for Fawcett. His final ascent as a climber was in 1932 at the age of 66. It was during the middle part of the climb that he suffered a heart attack which forced him and his companion to spend the night on the mountain. Overnight, he recovered enough to complete the ascent the next morning. 

Yet that marked the end of his climbing career. Undeterred, however, he simply learned to fly so he could still be among the peaks. His experiences formed the basis of another book, From Heston to the High Alps, which contains 31 photographs of Alpine peaks taken, probably by him, from the air. (See appendix for details). The Heston referred to was Heston Aerodrome, situated adjacent to the present-day Heathrow, which was operational from 1929 to 1946, and from where Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his famous “Peace in our time” speech. 

Heston, the future Heathrow, where Fawcett learned to fly.


Left:  The control tower at Heston Aerodrome in 1930, where and when Fawcett learned to fly.  

After the war, he settled back in England. In 1947, he married Mrs. Vera Sybil Elise Dick-Cunyngham (née Pryce), the widow of George Dick-Cunyngham whom she had married in 1908. The new Mr. & Mrs. Fawcett lived at 98, Walton Street, London SW3. 

He continued with his Alpine flights until 1950. One can imagine him then, in his 80s, struggling to steady his light aircraft against the swirling updrafts among the mountain peaks, while  photographing the grandeur beneath him. Eventually, the authorities refused to renew his pilot’s licence – probably a wise decision in the circumstances. 

In his final years, he settled into a routine of entering the same congresses each year, mainly Hastings in the New Year and Paignton in September. He tended to enter sections that were too high for his declining powers, often finishing last, though it is unlikely that this worried him overmuch. 

Paignton Congress Record

He missed the first Paignton Congress in September 1951, but played in every one after that until his death.

1952: Major “A” – 2nd with 4/7 pts.

1953: Premier Reserves “C”: 7th with 2/7 pts.

1954: Prize list not published

1955: Not in prize list

1956: Not in prize list.

1957: Premier Reserves “D”: 6th with 3½/7 pts.

1958: Premier Reserves “C”: In his report for BCM, Bruce Hayden made special mention of him, saying “Of the veteran players, ninety-two year old Mr. Douglas Fawcett, of London, played some good games in the earlier rounds, and delighted everyone with his reminiscences of Pillsbury and his first game with Steinitz, which he played in 1879 (!)”.

1959: Premier Reserves “D” 1/7 pts.

Hastings Congress Record

1950: Premier Reserves “C”              10th / 10 with ½ point

1951: Major “A”                                    9th / 9 with 1 point.

1952: Major “A”                                    8th / 10 with 3 points.

1953: Premier Reserves “C”:                         10th / 10 with ½ point.

1954: Major “A”                                    8th / 10 with 2½ points.

1955: Premier Reserves P.M. Section: 5th / 9 with 4 points.

1956: Premier Reserves “E”              10th / 10 with 1 point.

1957: Premier Reserves “E”              10th / 10 with 1 point.

1958: Premier Reserves “E”              7th / 10 with 3 points.

1959: Premier Reserves “F”               9th / 10 with 3 points.

1960: Premier Reserves “F”               10th / 10 with 1½ points. 

This was his last congress – he was 94 years old and died 12 weeks later. 

Douglas Fawcett never quite scaled the heights in chess as he did with his beloved mountains – he had far too many interests and diversions to be able to devote the time necessary for that. Pioneering novelist, philosopher, pilot, sportsman, racing motorcyclist – it’s a long list. However, he certainly qualifies as a Devon chess pioneer as well. His most active period coincided with the creation of the DCCA. He played on a high board for the county and supported all their early events as long as he lived in the country. Given the many other calls on his time, this demonstrated his commitment to the game in his native county and guarantees his place in our hall of fame. 

© R. H. Jones 2010 

Appendix A. 

Bibliography of books by E. Douglas Fawcett: 

Science fiction: 

Hartmann the Anarchist or The Doom of the Great City.
An early work of science fiction/fantasy in the dystopian tradition, pre-dating but having much in keeping with both the political allegories of H. G. Wells and the global adventures of Jules Verne. Edward Arnold 1893. 

Swallowed By An Earthquake: Illustrations by H. C. Seppings Wright. Arnold 1894. 

The Secret of the Desert or How We Crossed Arabia in the “Antelope”:  Arnold 1894 probably the first fictional account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense. 

Early philosophical works

The Riddle Of The UniverseBeing An Attempt To Determine The First Principles Of Metaphysic, Considered As An Inquiry Into The Conditions And Import Of Consciousness. 456pp Edward Arnold 1893. 

The Individual And Reality; an essay touching the first principles of metaphysics & occultism. Longmans, 1909.
The World as Imagination: 664pp Macmillan 1916.

Divine ImaginingAn Essay on the First Principles of Philosophy. 276 pp 1921 Kessinger Publishing.

Later Philosophical works: 

The Zermatt Dialogues – Constituting the outlines of a philosophy of mysticism – Mainly on problems of cosmic import.  Five climbers, representing five world-views, are in the High Alps where they combine a little mountaineering with huge amounts of philosophical disputation. The author’s intention is to further the claims of his theory of Imaginism, in which the idea of ”consciring”, seems to play a crucial part.  Ten plates of Alpine photographs, several of which show mountaineers in action. 541pp Macmillan 1931. 

Oberland Dialogues: This book “offers suggestions touching the solution of a special minor riddle, that of the standing and prospects of the human ’soul’.” 542pp  Macmillan 1939.

Other works: 

From Heston to the High Alps:  This book was written to encourage amateurs to the joys of flying for pleasure. Chapters are titled How I became a pilot – On some truths of first importance to the joy-flyer -  The pilot finds his reward in the High Alps -  A visit to the Matterhorn: October 2, 1934. Looking down on Mont Blanc and the Savoy Alps: September 23, 1934. From Berne to Venice and back: October 22-23, 1934. A flight from Berne over the Matterhorn and back (“Over the Matterhorn”: A Poem): September 26, 1934, second visit. 31 photographs, mostly of mountain peaks from the air, 74pp. Macmillan 1936. 

Light Of The Universe - Being An Account of The Flight Beyond the Grave of Douglas Leslie, aviator. 152pp Sidgwick & Jackson 1957. 

Appendix B

Obituary from The Times.  18.05.1960. 

Douglas Fawcett, who died on 14th May 1960 at the age of 94, led an adventurous life both in thought and action. He was a notable mountaineer, and it was among the mountains of Switzerland, where he lived for many years, that he reflected  and wrote upon a variety of philosophical idealism that became known as “Imaginism”. 

Edward Douglas Fawcett was the elder son of of E. Boyd Fawcett, an equerry to the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) and was the brother of Colonel Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the interior of Brazil. 

He was a Queen’s Scholar at Westminster School and gave early evidence of imaginative power and precocious erudition in his first published poem, The Wrath of Ana, written at the age of 13. For fun and a bet, he surprised his Headmaster a few years later by winning a gold medal for Latin verse. But his passion for adventure dominated his youthful scholarship and from journalism he turned to science fiction. He was well ahead of H. G. Wells: his Hartmann the Anarchist (1891) described the bombing of London from the air, and his Secret of the Desert (1894) was, surely, fiction’s first account of an armoured fighting vehicle in the modern sense. 

His first marriage took him to Switzerland where he became a well-known mountaineer and pioneer skier. After showing his prowess in England as a racing motor cyclist, he made the first (and probably only) ascent of the mule track from Chamonix to the Mer de Glace in a De Dion of 8 horsepower. That was in 1904, and it opened up a new era of motor roads and tourism in Switzerland. 

Living on in Switzerland after the death of his first wife, Fawcett devoted himself to his two favourite pursuits in combination and became a mountaineer philosopher. His two major philosophical works, The Zermatt Dialogues (1934) , a cosmology, and The Oberland Dialogues (1939), a study of the soul, are in a mountain setting. The distinctive mark of Fawcett’s philosophy is the discussion of imagination as the fundamental reality of the universe, and this was clearly displayed in his Divine Imagining (1929) and epitomised in his final epic poem, Light of the Universe (1957), which he wrote at the age of 91. 

Fawcett was ever adventuring. When, at the age of 66, he was making his annual ascent of the Matterhorn, he had a heart attack, and with his companion, had to lie up in snow for the night. Next morning the two men went to the summit, but that was Fawcett’s last climb on foot. At 68, pining for the peaks, Fawcett learned to fly, and thereafter, year by year, (excluding the war years), until he was 84, he would battle with the turbulent air among the Alpine heights, flying his light aeroplane and plying his camera. When no longer allowed to renew his flying licence, Fawcett became a player in chess congresses at national level. He played his last match at Hastings a few months before he died. 

Straight-backed, six feet two inches, monocled, Douglas Fawcett combined a universality of mind with a gentle modesty. He married again in later life Mrs Vera Dick-Conyngham, daughter of Mostyn Price, and was accompanied in all he did by his artist wife, who survives him. 

© R. H. Jones  2011 All rights reserved. 


Who Was Who?         Vol. 5 1951 – 60.

Di Felice, G:                Chess Results 1901 – 1920.   McFarland 2006

BCMs                          Various years.

Gaige, J:                      Chess Personalia                   McFarland 1987

Obituaries from The Times 1951 – 1960                    Newspaper Archive Developments 1979

Denys P. Bonner (1919 – 2010)

Denys Pepperell Bonner. 

(29.09.1919   –   03.10.2009)

Working on his postal game.


Denys Bonner was most active in the post-war years, first in his home town club of Exmouth, and after his move in 1954 to Yeovil, in his adopted county of Somerset. He operated at a high level in four areas of active play, correspondence chess and both composing and solving chess problems. 

He came from two long-standing Sidmouth families. His father, Ernest Bonner, was a bank manager, firstly with the South West and London Bank and later the Westminster Bank. While working in the Sidmouth Branch of the S. W. & London Bank between 1908 – 1918, he met and married Emma Pepperell, whose father James ran a dairy business in Sidmouth Market Place which involved Emma and her sister. The Pepperells could trace their family back through Sir William Pepperell, a 17th century English settler in the New England state of Maine, though Sir William’s descendents, as loyalists,  fled back to England on the eve of the American War of Independence  in 1777.  This line can be traced right back to the Norman Conquest. 

Their first child was Kenneth Harding Bonner, but with Emma pregnant with twins, Ernest joined the Westminster Bank and was created Manager in Wandsworth, London, where Denys and his twin sister Muriel (known as Mimi within the family), were born in 1919.  About 1930, Ernest gave up his job with the bank and moved to Exmouth, where he took on the Moriglen Private Hotel in Salterton Road (below). 

The Moriglen Hotel, Exmouth, now demolished.


Denys attended a small private school, St. Martin’s in Sidmouth, and probably had much contact with his maternal grandparents, the Pepperells. On leaving school, he followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Westminster Bank. His first post was in Crowborough, Sussex, before moving to the Paignton branch. 

The teenage Bonner at the Moriglen, Salterton Road.

At the outbreak of war, brother Kenneth joined the RAF and was later killed in action. Denys himself was later called up but within weeks of leaving home developed pneumonia, was released and returned to Exmouth. After the War, Mimi became a GI bride and emigrated to the U.S. where she lived for the rest of her long life. 

In 1943 he moved from Paignton to Exmouth. It is not clear how he spent his leisure time during the decade 1933–43, but on September 18th 1943, he got his first mention in the Exmouth Chess Club’s records by attending the A.G.M. where he was immediately elected Secretary and Treasurer, on the recent death of M. Tucker, who had filled both posts since the club’s resurrection in 1929. His position at the bank would have qualified him as Treasurer, but quite how a newcomer, as he appears to have been, could be elected to two such key posts in a matter of days is unclear. There is no evidence of any chess activity on his part before his move back to Exmouth; his first problems were published from 1943 onwards, but he may have been a member of the Paignton Club during his time there. 

In February 1946 he married Betty McDonald, an expert tennis player who had won trophies at Junior Wimbledon and was equally good at Table Tennis. Denys himself was good enough at table tennis to be a Division 1 player in the local league, but Betty was better than him, eventually becoming English Ladies Over-60s Champion. They lived first in a flat in Rolle Street, Exmouth before moving to the leafy Avenues district of the town, 58, Douglas Avenue, where two daughters were born, Daphne and Penny. 

During this period in Exmouth his involvement in the world of problems increased dramatically. He subscribed to B. H. Wood’s young magazine Chess (founded 1935) and in the June 1944 issue had his first 2-mover published, even though it was incorrect. It was one of a set of six positions by different composers, and the Problem Page editor, C. S. Kipping, adds the question – “Do you see anything wrong in one of these?” It was Bonner’s that was wrong, and the errors were pointed out in a subsequent issue. Quite why Kipping published an incorrect position, instead of starting a dialogue with Bonner and putting it right before publication, is not clear. Perhaps he detected the potential talent. No more problems appeared until after his marriage to Betty, when he had positions published in August and September 1946.

In addition to the composing, he was also heavily involved in solving. In Chess, Kipping published a page of problems each month in a Ladder Competition. Interested readers were invited to send in their solutions each month and points were awarded. A list of the top 150 or so was published periodically, and at the end of the year prizes were awarded on the basis of the most points gained during the previous 12 months. In March 1943 Bonner was Runner-Up, repeating the achievement in 1946 and 1947. Then in 1948 he achieved what must have been his ambition of becoming “Champion Solver”, ahead of such luminaries as Denis Mardle and Geoff Berryman. He repeated this the following year, when Kipping was moved to observe…”Mr. Bonner is to be warmly congratulated in securing the maximum points and thus winning the Championship for the second year in succession. He had hardly done any solving until he entered our lists in 1944…. Our Champion is 29 and has other activities in the way of bridge and table tennis. He has published about 16 problems and Mrs. Bonner has published two.”  

Betty’s first problem had appeared in March 1947 together with one of Denys’s own – a possible contender for a small bit of chess history – husband and wife publishing problems on the same day. It is thought that it was unlikely to be a fix – though she never took up the game seriously, the family think that she knew enough to be able to compose a problem or two, with Denys on hand to check its soundness. 

Chess at this time also ran tournaments for postal chess, both for teams and individuals. The records are patchy at best and difficult to plough through, but their June 1945 issue records, in an individual knockout event, Bonner beating Dr. Maurice Jago, who was Cornwall’s top postal player for many years, capable of beating anyone, and also a noted problemist. This gives some indication of the level he was playing at. 

The Exmouth Club’s minutes from the early post-war years seem to be obsessed with the matter of premises and make no mention of internal tournament winners, but Bonner was probably the strongest player until the arrival around 1950 of G. T. Womack, who retired to the town and was an experienced and even stronger player. This marked the start of a minor golden period for Exmouth. Firstly, they won the Mamhead Cup that year (Devon’s Division 2 tournament), repeating the feat in 1951, 1952 and 1954. 

Mamhead Cup   DCCA  Div 2    1950

    P W D L Pts
1 Exmouth 5 4 1 0 9
2 Plymouth 5 4 0 1 8
3 Exeter 5 3 1 1 7
4 Torquay 5 2 0 3 4
5 Tavistock 5 1 0 4 2
6 Teignmouth 5 0 0 5 0

 The challenges within the Exmouth Club may not have been enough for him, as he joined Exeter as well and won their championship in the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons. To put the achievement into some sort of perspective, the winners of that competition before and after that 2 year period were D. J. P. Gray and F. E. A. Kitto respectively, who both represented England around that time. 

At the Exmouth AGM on 26th September 1953, a new venture, the creation of an Exeter & District Chess League was flagged up, and Denys Bonner was deputed to attend an exploratory meeting at the Exeter Club three days hence, to assess the interest. He was an obvious choice as he was a member of both clubs. 

At this meeting, Bonner was joined by Ted Hesse (Civil Service), Denys Gray, (a pupil at Exeter School and later to become Sir Denys) and G. R. Cottew, T. J. Maddick and S. P. Gibbons of the home club. It was clear that the will was there, so the plan was put into action and a set of rules agreed. Cottew, formerly a member of the Exmouth Club before transferring to Exeter, and clearly the driving force behind this move, was elected League President and donated a cup, the Cottew Cup. 

Two weeks later, Bonner reported to a Committee Meeting of the Exmouth Club. The rules were read out and discussed, and the five members present voted unanimously to join in. Womack was elected as Match Captain for the League Team, as Denys Bonner was due to move to Somerset before the end of the year. 

In the event, the League’s first season comprised six clubs, namely Exeter, St. Luke’s Teacher Training College, St. Loyes College for the Disabled, Exeter School, Exeter University College and the Civil Service. Exmouth had no trouble in winning the League in its first season and becoming inaugural winners of the Cottew Cup. Unfortunately for Exmouth, Bonner moved to the Yeovil branch of his bank and Womack died suddenly at the end of the season. This knocked the stuffing out of Exmouth’s 1st team, and they won no more major cups in any competition for almost 20 years. 

He moved to Somerset, where he rose within the ranks of the Westminter Bank, transferring at intervals between their branches at Yeovil (Chief Clerk), Glastonbury (Deputy Manager), Warminster (Manager) and back to Glastonbury as Manager. 

He seemed to go from strength to strength, and played a major part in Somerset county chess in a way that he had never done on the wider Devon scene. His record of county championships over a 20 year period was second to none. 

  Somerset  Individual Championship
  Champion Joint winners  
1958 D. P. Bonner    
1959 D. P. Bonner    
1961 D. P. Bonner    
1962 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage  
1963 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage  
1964 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage Rev. P. R. Kings
1966 D. P. Bonner    
1968 D. P. Bonner R. H. Northage  
1970 D. P. Bonner    
1971 D. P. Bonner    
1972 D. P. Bonner    
1973 D. P. Bonner    
1974 D. P. Bonner    
1975 D. P. Bonner    

 He was first a member of the Yeovil Club, but after leaving there joined Wells. It wasn’t long before he had established himself as Somerset’s most versatile chessplayer. By the end of the decade he had won the county championship twice and was Somerset’s No. 1 postal player. 

His problem solving and composing continued apace, becoming Chess magazine’s Solving Champion in 1957, 1958 and 1959 after which Wood stopped the competition, or Bonner would have had more successes. Instead he won the Championship of the British Chess Problem Society in 1960 and jointly in 1962. 

In 1968 he took over as Somerset team captain for a few seasons and by 1972 had become a Vice President of the county. 

Bonner in his prime.


In October 1971 Peter Clarke and his committee of six, called The Hexagon, organised the 1st Barnstaple Open, a 5 round weekend congress, a relatively new venture in its time, which attracted 70 players including Bonner. Not a large entry in number, but as regards quality, Bonner at a grade of 180 had 21 players above him. He finished with a 50% score, level with, among others, P. C. Griffiths (205) and B. H. Wood (199). It appears that the only OTB game of his that survives from his entire career is his 1st round game against committee member P. A. Jones which appeared in the congress booklet. It was a quick draw against an opponent 50 points lower-graded, played on the Friday evening after a tiring week at the bank. He probably decided that the weekend congress scene, although rapidly increasing in popularity at this time, did not fit in with his many other interests and family commitments. 

His daughters Daphne and Penny, for example, had inherited all his interests and talents. Daphne was an outstanding academic, ultimately gaining an honours degree in Maths from Cambridge and a PhD from Aberdeen. She was no blue-stocking, however, playing bridge, table tennis and chess, just like her father. Aged 16, she was the youngest player at that time ever to play Table Tennis for Somerset. But her sister, 3 years younger, soon overtook her, becoming champion of both Somerset and Wiltshire and having trials for England while still in her mid-teens. She later became British Ladies Over-40s Champion. They both played chess, too, but in this it was Daphne who was the better, twice winning the Somerset U-18 Ladies’ Championship.

Penny's wedding

 The talents continued down through the generations as the grandchildren continued the chess and table tennis tradition, with Grandad Denys helping with the coaching whenever the opportunity arose. Penny’s own son, Alex Perry, twice became National Table Tennis Champion and has 3 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals. Her daughter Lucy played for Wales in the 2006 World Championships and other son Simon won medals at the British Universities Table Tennis Championships. Daphne’s sons, Mark and Luke Russell both play, winning junior chess championships wherever they happened to be living, in Newcastle and Aberdeen, Luke becoming British U-12 Champion in 1990 at Eastbourne. 

Denys retired as Manager of the Glastonbury Nat West bank in 1979 at the age of 60. In retirement, in addition to his ongoing activities in chess, bridge and table-tennis, he converted the large wooden shed at the back of his house in Street where he had a table tennis table permanently set up, into a cattery where he and Betty cared for up to 15 stray animals at a time. He also involved himself in his passions for disarmament and the future of the railways by writing letters to local and national newspapers and his MP, all those published being meticulously pasted into a cuttings book.

 As regards chess, he gave up active play and concentrated on problems. In February 1986 he was one of only 13 contestants in the British Problem Solving Championship, held at the Grosvenor Hotel, London. By then approaching 70 yrs he didn’t stand much chance against the likes of Peter Clarke and double GM-in-waiting, Jonathan Mestel, but the experience was memorable (see below).

Bonner with Barden

Back in 1972 he had made the acquaintance of a monk at Downside Abbey School, Dom Cyprian Stockford, having played each other when the Wells Club met Downside in the Somerset League. Although they only very rarely met in person after that, they kept in touch by letter as they explored new ideas in problems, gradually extending into the more esoteric fields of Fairy Chess, in which new pieces with different powers are added to the usual armoury, and Patrol and Orphan Chess. The latter was only devised in 1971 in which an “orphan” is an unidentified piece, powerless and immobile until such time as it is attacked, whereupon it assumes the characteristics of the attacker. In Patrol Chess, devised in 1975, a piece can only capture or give check if it is protected by one of its own side.  By involving himself in these kinds of complex problems at this early stage, Denys really was pushing back the boundaries of the game itself. 

Dom Cyprian recalls Bonner’s “generosity to lesser mortals”, always appreciating and encouraging any fledgling talent whenever and wherever he came across it. They often submitted Fairy problems under both names, but Cyprian happily concedes the original ideas were generally Bonner’s. 

In 1993 the couple moved to Summerway in Whipton, Exeter to be near their daughter, Penny. Denys became involved in local politics, campaigning on behalf of the local Lib. Dem. candidate, Dr. Jonathan Underwood, another excellent chessplayer. 

In 2003, when the Exeter & District League was celebrating its 50th Anniversary, I visited him as part of some research I was doing on the history of the League. I had never met him before but knew that he’d started his chess career in Exmouth, and was keen to record his memories. Game as ever, he expressed a willingness to re-join the Exmouth Club and felt the train journey and walk in the dark at each end would be no problem, but then in his mid-80s it was more than anyone could expect of him, and it never materialised.

Betty died in 2001, but Denys stayed on in the house until he became too ill to care for himself. He died just days after his 90th birthday, which he had celebrated with all his family around him. 

By involving himself in four different aspects of the game, not even to mention his many other interests, it might be said that his talent was spread a little too thinly, and he might have achieved an even higher level if he had concentrated on just one aspect. Yet by limiting himself in any way, he would probably have lost more than he gained. No one can balance that particular equation. 

He was true chess pioneer in, first of all, leading Exmouth to early successes, and late in life working at the very frontiers of chess problem composition. 

R. H. Jones. 


Testimony of Daphne Russell & Penny Mann (daughters) and Dom Cyprian Stockford. 

Chess magazines. 

BCF Yearbooks. 

Pritchard, D. P:           Encyclopaedia of Chess Variants      Games & Puzzles Publications 1994. 

Hooper, D & Whyld K: Oxford Companion to Chess 2nd ed.                      OUP       1992  

Copyright © R. H. Jones 2010  All rights reserved.

British Championship Warms Up (06.08.2011.)

The British Championship finished in Sheffield last night and the prizegiving is being held this morning, days after going to go to press. However, after six of the scheduled eleven rounds the cream was definitely rising to the top, with Michael Adams, Nigel Short and Gawain Jones in the joint lead on 5/6 points, all three overtaking David Howell who had been the sole leader after the previous round. Surely, the winner must come from this quartet.

Here is an example of Adams’ play, taken from Round 4, where he faced an opponent with a chasm of strength and experience between them. There is no great firework display – just a quick, efficient snuffing out of any resistance.

White: C. Atako (2110). Black: M. Adams (2715).

Sicilian Defence – Closed System [B25].

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 White goes for a closed approach to the Sicilian, perhaps fearing his opponent’s attacking skills, but Adams is adept in all types of opening. 3…g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.Nf3 e5 Establishing an outpost on d4 which was Botvinnik’s recommendation. 7.0–0 Nge7 8.Nd2 A move that hints at f4 to follow, so Black gets his response in first. 8…h5 9.Nc4 Nd4 10.Ne2 Bg4 11.f3 Be6 12.Nxd4 cxd4 13.f4 Rc8 14.f5 White gambits a pawn in order to break open Black’s yet-uncastled corner. 14…gxf5 15.exf5 Nxf5 16.Be4 Ne7 17.Bxb7 the pawn is retrieved, but it is Black’s advanced pawns that look the more ominous. 17…Rc7 18.Bf3 d5 19.Na3 The knight is sidelined. 19.Nd2 would have kept the knight central but blocked in queenside pieces. 19…h4 20.g4 h3 21.Bd2 Qd7 22.Be1 0–0 23.Bb4 Rb8 24.Bxe7 Qxe7 25.Rb1 Rb6 26.Qc1 Qh4 Threatening to win the pawn and mate to follow. 27.g5 e4 0–1 White resigned, for if 28.Bd1 or 28.dxe4 dxe4 29.Bd1  …e3 will shut the queen out of the game, and mate via g5 and g2 must inevitably follow. Black’s advanced pawns were the deciding factor.

After overall entries eventually rose to about 950, and the prize money attracting most of Britain’s top active players, the event must be deemed a great success.

In last week’s game position the knight does not move but its role is key to the mate, thus, 1.Rd5+ Kh4 2.Rc4+ Kh3 3.Rh5 mate.

Recently, I was approached by a descendent of the problemist H. F. W. Lane, who had been researching his life in general but knew nothing about his chess activities. In fact, there is little to know beyond his dates (08.10.1878–08.1958) and that he was well-regarded as a composer in his day without being prolific or exceptional. This 2-mover is an example of his work.

White to Mate in 2