Kenneth John Bloodworth.
b. 25th June 1914
Ken’s line of the Bloodworth family originated in the small village of Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire, on the western edge of the Cotswolds, between Stroud and the M5. The Bloodworths had lived and worked in Leonard Stanley for most of the 19th century, which was noted for its woollen industry, and there are Bloodworths on the village War Memorial. Ken’s Grandfather Bloodworth moved to nearby Cheltenham where he came to own a bakery shop at 306, High Street. His main claim to fame was that he invented and patented a nutritious drink that he called “Cheltine Foods”. It was successful and he eventually sold the patent, the purchasers changing the name to “Ovaltine”.
He had three children from a first marriage, and three sons from a second, Archibald Frank, Stanley and Vernon.
Archibald Frank Bloodworth was born on 8th July 1890 and married Elsie Vera Channon on 18th August 1913. Ken was their first-born and a brother, Richard, followed. It was Ken’s maternal grandfather, Henry Channon, who introduced the young Ken to the game, although nothing much came of it at that stage.
Ken at the Boy Scouts’ World Jamboree, Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, 1929
In 1924, the family moved to London and Ken later attended Hampton Grammar School, and he returned to the game in his final year there. In 1934, aged 20 he joined the Royal Navy, and with time on his hands on board ship, started to take the game more seriously, winning his ship’s championship in 1938, on H.M.S. Nelson.
It was here that he got his first taste of teaching. One day his captain summoned him to his cabin and explained that they had on board a very capable stoker who was not academically inclined and unable to pass even the lowest grade of exam that he needed to get promotion. The captain thought Ken would be the ideal person to take him on. Ken demurred at first, but soon changed his mind when the captain explained that it came with the rank of Acting Schoolmaster and an extra 1/6d (7½ p) per day. The stoker passed the exam, was promoted and another seed was sown in Ken’s mind.
His main job was to ensure ships were properly provisioned and this became increasingly important, especially as, with the outbreak of war, new ships were being built and launched at a great rate. One ship he was involved with preparing for sea, was suddenly handed over to the Polish Navy by the Government. As the boat prepared to go to sea for the first time, the small team Ken was with were expected to move on to the next ship, but by this time, Ken had got friendly with the Polish crew, mainly through the language of chess – there were a number of good players among the Poles and they really sharpened up Ken’s game – so he elected to stay on the O R P Krakowiak, where he remained for the duration of the war. The ship to which Ken was expected to move was duly completed and launched, but was bombed on its maiden voyage and Ken’s former colleagues were all killed. Chess can thus be said to have saved Ken’s life.
(below): Ken in Naval Uniform.
He picked up all the usual wartime medals for his actions in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and North African theatres of war, but was also awarded the Krzyz Walecznych by the Polish government, instituted in 1920 for acts of great valour and courage in battle, the equivalent of France’s Croix de Guerre, and only very rarely awarded to allies.
On one occasion, the Krakowiak tied up in Plymouth for 24 hours on 1st June 1944, and on reporting to the naval stores office, Ken encountered the teenage Joyce Turner in the supplies office, where they each had to counter-sign the appropriate forms. “Hmm”, she mused, “Bloodworth – that’s a funny name”. They finished up going to a dance that night, and were married the following year (see below).
After the war he was demobbed and settled in his wife’s home town. He first became an uncertificated teacher at Montpellier School, Plymouth, before going to Leavesdon Green Training College near Watford, to train as a teacher. On qualification, he worked in a number of Plymouth primary schools, Public P. S. (1949 – 60); Honicknowle (1960 – 64); Montpellier again (1964 – 68) before returning to Honicknowle as Deputy Headteacher (1968 – 74) from where he retired.
In 1946 he joined Plymouth Chess Club, which at that time was run under the benevolent tutelage of Ron and Rowena Bruce. Later that year he entered the Hastings Congress for the first time. In 1948/9 he won the Major A Section with 7½ points, with J. Lindsay-Moodie and N. Clissold 2nd= both on 7. The following year won the Best Game prize in the Premier Reserves.
There was a schools’ chess league in post-war Plymouth, which was being run by Brian Adams, and Ken took this over in 1950. Ken was also elected secretary of the Plymouth Club in 1952, a post he held for 5 years.
In 1952 a new Headteacher was appointed at Plymouth College. This was F. W. Lockwood, who had been classics master at Golombek’s old school, Wilson’s Grammar School, and Head of the William Ellis School since 1944. He was a great promoter of junior chess, being Chairman and Treasurer of the Chess Education Society and making his school the annual venue for the London Boys’ Championship, in the days when the likes of Jonathan Penrose and Peter Clarke were first making their mark. Very soon after his arrival in Plymouth, he invited the town club to make its home there and even won one of the sections in the club’s tournaments. He thought about creating a junior tournament in Plymouth on similar lines to the one he ran in London, and talked the idea through with the club secretary, Ken. With Lockwood’s previous experience and practical support, not to mention a grant of £10 from the DCCA, Ken organised the first Devon Junior Congress at Plymouth College after Christmas 1953. That year, there were 24 entrants, local schoolboys George and John Wheeler being among the top winners. It was deemed a success and plans were made to make it an annual event. Unfortunately for Devon chess, Lockwood was suddenly taken ill and died in hospital on 19th February 1955 at the early age of 47. He could reasonably have been expected to put another 25 years’ effort into chess in Devon. It was a great loss, but fortunately, the torch he had carried had been passed on to Ken, just in time, as it turned out.
After Lockwood’s death, the Plymouth Club had to move out of the College, but the Junior Congress stayed, and under Ken’s stewardship the Devon Junior Championship went from strength to strength. Ken ran it for 27 years, until the DCCA imposed conditions on it which made it impossible to run. At its height it attracted over 200 young players. An international section was introduced which, at the time, was the only tournament of its kind in the UK. Although started on a shoestring, it later attracted Lloyd’s Bank sponsorship and young players entered from all over western Europe. At least six competitors went on to become senior champions of their countries – Germany, Netherlands, France, Ireland, England and Scotland.
By the mid-1950s he had become Devon’s Junior Chess Secretary and shortly after held the same post for the West of England. From there he was appointed as WECU Delegate to the British Chess Federation, and first came into contact with junior chess at a national level. In 1958 an England junior team was being run by W. Ritson-Morry, and by the following year Ken had also become involved. In 1960 the BCF formed a committee to run junior activities and Ken was invited to join the committee in its second year.
At that time, one of the projects that the new committee had to consider was an offer by The Times newspaper to sponsor an inter-schools chess event. Ken suggested that an age handicap should be included to account for the inevitable differences in the average ages of the teams involved, to ensure a level playing field, as it were. As is often the case, it was conceded that it might be a good idea, but that Ken should devise a draft scheme. He did so, it was adopted, and is still in use today.
In 1961, Ken succeeded as secretary of the Glorney Cup competition and remained in that office for 30 years. This tournament had been inaugurated in 1948 when the Irish Secondary Schools Council had suggested a match to be played in Dublin between six boys from Ireland and six from England, a match that England won 11½ – ½. The following year, Wales joined in and an Irish businessman, Cecil Parker Glorney, presented a challenge cup for annual competition – (see picture below). It became a regular testing ground for the teenage boy players of the four home countries.
After finding his feet in this post, Ken sought to expand its scope by inviting teams from the continent. The entry is rarely the same two years running, but to date, the Netherlands have won the cup 12 times and France twice. Also, in 1968, girls were included with the inauguration of a cup donated by Faber, the book publishers. Selection for the Glorney and Faber Cups continues to be regarded as a high point in the career of any junior, and gives them valuable experience and stand them in good stead when graduating to the senior ranks.
In August 1989 Plymouth was due to host the British Championship for the second time, and it also hosted the Glorney and Faber Cups the previous week. This would enable the juniors to stay on and participate in the bigger event. It also provided an opportunity for competing teams to recognise Ken’s unstinting work for almost three decades. To this end, he was presented with an illuminated letter from the Dutch which read….
Dear Mr. Bloodworth,
The Board of the Royal Dutch Chess Federation has decided to award you with the
Mark of Honour
For your never-ending efforts to make the Glorney and Faber a yearly success.
He was also presented with an inscribed glass goblet, bearing the legend…
Presented by the competing nations to
K. J. Bloodworth
For his promotion of the Glorney Cup
Youth Team Chess Tournament
This was, in fact, a Caithness Glass replica of the Glorney Cup itself, done on the initiative of John Glendinning, the Scottish representative, on behalf of all the competing nations.
In 1991 Ken completed three decades as secretary when the competition was held in Ghent, Belgium, his last year.
Plymouth has hosted the British Championships on three occasions – 1957, 1989 and 1992. For the first of these, Ken acted as congress secretary, as the BCF had no such official position at the time. He did everything, down to finding local accommodation for juniors, where necessary.
In September 1963, J. E. Jones, for some unknown reason, suddenly ended writing his weekly chess column in the Plymouth-based Western Morning News, and Ken was asked to take over. When he agreed, he was specially asked by the Editor to be an impartial and objective reporter of the Devon and Cornwall chess scene, something his predecessor had not always been. Ken then filed his weekly copy for the next 37 years, before handing on to another Jones in 1999. This job constituted the post of Devon’s Publicity Officer, and was the last administrative office he relinquished.
He was elected President of the Devon County Chess Association for a three year spell, from 1970 – 73, and as WECU President from 1986 – 88.
In 1980, in his capacity as former Chairman of the BCF Junior Committee, Ken flagged up the existence of a promising young primary school pupil in his home patch. The response in committee was to the effect that the boy might be a big fish in the small pond of the Far West, but it would be a very different matter if and when he met the big boys. The 8 yr old’s name was Adams – Michael Adams – and the rest is history. Ken’s early intervention enabled Adams to be provided with a top coach, Shaun Taulbut, a move organised by Leonard Barden.
In 1983 the BCF inaugurated an annual award, the President’s Award for Services to Chess to give its full title, to recognise the various contributions to the organisation of the game in Britain. Such was the esteem in which Ken was held that he was nominated in only its third year, 1985.
In his eighties, he slowed down on the administrative front, but continued to play a mean game in local congresses and competitions. He was an invaluable member of Devon’s 2nd team, and was instrumental in getting Devon to the National U-150 final, when he grabbed a spectacular last-minute win against Cambridgeshire in the semi-final at Swindon, snatching an improbable 8½ – 7½ victory from what at one point in the match seemed the jaws of death. In recognition of this, the team captain, Ian Mason, awarded him the Match Captain’s award for that season, the presentation being at the final (see below). In the subsequent final, Devon lost to Essex 9½ – 6½, but Ken managed a safe draw.
October 2007: Ken in play at the Weymouth Congress.
In 2004 he celebrated his 90th birthday with a special match, organised for him by the Plymouth Club. This comprised a team from his home club against a team consisting of senior players with whom Ken had been involved during his long career.
In October 2007, in his 94th year, he was still sprightly enough to drive himself in his new car from Plymouth to Weymouth to take part in the annual Dorset Congress (see above).
Ken and Joyce had two sons, Peter and Richard, who both took up the game in their youth. Richard played in one of the junior sections in the British Championships, but has since moved to Australia, where he, in turn, has two sons. Peter lives on the south coast and has a son and two daughters, one of whom has recently provided Ken with his first great grandchild.
Ken’s energy and commitment to the game seemed boundless. He didn’t just dabble for a short time with a range of jobs – he stuck at them for decades at a time and developed them in the process. Taking a snapshot in, for example, 1972, the year of the Fischer – Spassky match, Ken was, in no particular order, (a) President of the Devon County Chess Association (3 years). (b) weekly chess columnist of the Western Morning News (37 years); (c) Organiser of the Devon Junior Congress and Lloyd’s Bank Junior International Congress (27 years), and (d) Secretary and organiser of the Glorney Cup (30 years). There were, of course, a host of other posts either side of this. All this in addition to his playing commitments for various Plymouth and Devon teams and congresses, and not forgetting that at that time, he was still the Deputy Head of a busy Plymouth school.
It’s a wonder he had time to fit in his other interests of playing Bridge and relieving bookmakers of some of their profits.
© R. H. Jones 2010
Testimony of K. J. Bloodworth.
BCF Various BCF Yearbooks.
Sunnucks, A: The Encyclopaedia of Chess Hale 1970
Whyld, K: Chess Columns – A List Olomouc 2002