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Ken Bloodworth (1914 – 2011)

The news of Ken Bloodworth’s sudden death at the age of 96 came to light earlier today.

Here is the wording of an obituary I’ve done for the Western Morning News which should appear in their Saturday edition.

Kenneth John Bloodworth     (25.06.1914. – 16.03.2011.) 

Ken Bloodworth, a leading national organiser of junior chess, has died suddenly at his Plymouth home at the age of 96. 

He had a distinguished career in the Royal and Polish navies, during which time he was awarded Poland’s Kryz Walecznych for great valour and courage in WWII. On June 1st 1944, his ship, the Polish vessel Krakowiak, tied up in Plymouth for 24 hours, and he had to report to the supplies office, where he encountered a teenage clerk, Joyce Turner. As he signed the requisite forms, she mused “Hmm, Bloodworth – that’s a funny name”. They married the following year. 

He settled in Plymouth, becoming a schoolteacher and working in the city’s primary schools – Public P. S. (1949 – ‘60); Honicknowle (1960 – ’64); Montpellier (1964 – ’68) before returning to Honicknowle as Deputy Head until his retirement in 1974. 

He joined Plymouth Chess Club after the war and was soon running the city’s school chess league. In 1953, he started the Devon Junior Championships, held each Christmas holiday at Plymouth College and ran this for 27 years. At its height, this attracted over 200 young players and the international section that he developed attracted players from all over Western Europe. At least six competitors went on to become senior champions of their own countries – Germany, Netherlands, France, Ireland, England and Scotland. 

By the mid-1950s he was on a small committee that ran English junior chess. When The Times newspaper offered to sponsor a national inter-school tournament, it was Ken that devised the age-handicap formula that is still used to day. 

In 1961 he became Secretary of the Glorney Cup competition, which was originally designed as a tournament between the junior players of the four home countries, but Ken expanded its scope to include national teams from Western Europe. In 1968, he got sponsorship from the publishers Faber, to run a similar tournament for the girls, the Faber Cup. In 1991, Ken completed three decades as Secretary when the competition was held in Ghent, Belgium, his last year. 

In 1963, he was asked by the Western Morning News  to succeed their then chess columnist, J. E. Jones, who was due to move north, and Ken filed his weekly copy for the next 37 years, before handing this job on in 1999 – his last administrative task in chess. 

In 1983, the British Chess Federation inaugurated an annual award, the President’s Award for Services to Chess, to recognise outstanding voluntary service. Such was the esteem in which Ken was held, that he was nominated in only its third year. He was indeed a man of boundless energy, enthusiasm and perseverance who has left a lasting mark on the chess world. 

Although he gradually relinquished his administrative posts, after several decades in each, there was little sign of him slowing down generally. He played both chess and bridge regularly and would drive himself to chess events throughout the westcountry well into his 94th year. 

His wife, Joyce, predeceased him, and he is survived by his two sons, Peter and Richard who lives in Australia.

A much fuller account of his life may be found in the biographies section.


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