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Brian Gosling’s Book on John Brown – A Review.

This month’s copy of The Problemist carries a review of Brian Gosling’s recent book on John Brown by the eminent problemist, Michael McDowell. It makes interesting reading for non-specialists. Here it is in full, courtesy of Christopher Jones.


NEW BOOKS, by Michael McDowell. 

John Brown – The Forgotten Chess Composer? by Brian Gosling. Paperback, xii + 209 pp.

Troubador Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1848767-294. Price £10. 

John Brown, otherwise known as J.B. of Bridport, was one of the most important English composers from the years of the mid-19th century known as the Transition Period, when the problem separated from the game. He died from tuberculosis in 1863 at the age of 36, and a memorial volume of his work was published two years later to raise funds for his destitute family. That volume, entitled Chess Strategy, is available in e-form from Anders Thulin’s website. Why then publish a new book about Brown? 

Brian Gosling is a player from East Devon who has an interest in problems and studies. The book’s main purposes are to present the fruits of his research into Brown’s life, and to introduce players to the art of composition, a goal for which Brown’s characteristic light, inviting problems are ideal. Fifty problems are presented in the main section, with solving hints, followed by the solutions. While there are some classics, many would nowadays be regarded as ordinary, but overall they give a fair impression of what was considered a good problem in the 1850s. The author has researched both the composer and his closest relatives. 

Brown was born into a family of Methodists, his father being a bookseller. He trained as a minister, but after only two years on probation resigned and became an Anglican. After his marriage in 1860 he was employed in Kentish Town as a coal-merchant’s clerk. The reader learns much about the upheavals in the Anglican and Wesleyan churches. To place Brown the composer in his historical context, there are chapters on the Transition School, the model mate and the Bohemian School, and Howard Staunton’s column in the Illustrated London News, where over half of Brown’s output was published. There is a list of references to Brown in specific years of the ILN, and an interesting addition is the ILN review of Chess Strategy. A chapter about Bernhard Horwitz and Josef Kling makes the debatable suggestion that they were major influences on Brown’s style. Another chapter presents H. F. L. Meyer’s views on Brown, taken from his 1882 book A Complete Guide to the Game of Chess, and the reader also learns something about Meyer. For an analysis of Brown’s style by a modern composer, the author has  included John Beasley’s BCPS lecture from November 1990, which contains some problems not found in the main section. There is a useful chapter on problem terminology and an extensive bibliography. The many illustrations include the one known photograph of Brown, and columns from the ILN

My few criticisms are minor ones. There are not many original sources, some of the solutions are not as full as they could be, and a few definitions are inexact. Twice the author refers to a failed white attempt as “leading to a draw”. It seems strange to say that Loyd invented the Excelsior theme, then immediately point out that Wormald had composed an earlier example. 

Mr. Gosling has produced an interesting and very worthwhile book. The Keverel Chess website mentions that proceeds will be used to pay for repairs to Brown’s headstone at Holy Trinity Church, Bradpole.

“JB”’s Headstone Renovation Project – an Update.

My club colleague, Brian Gosling, tells me he has made a start at re-newing the headstone of “JB of Bridport”, the pioneering 19th century problem composer.

Brian has spent several years researching a book on John Brown’s life and chess work, which was published earlier this Autumn – (see covers below).

It was always Brian’s intention that any proceeds would be put towards the cost of renovating his headstone in the Churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Bradpole, and he has already made a start in the process, as witnessed by his pictures here.

East Window, Holy Trinity Church, Bradpole. JB's grave next to drainpipe.


JB's headstone close-up; inscription is mostly illegible.


Making a start.


Cover of Brian's book on "JB".


The back cover bearing details of the publication.

John Brown of Bridport Is Not Forgotten (01.10.2011).

Published this week is a book with a thoroughly westcountry pedigree. It’s a biography of a pioneering19th century problemist who worked under the nom-de-plume “J.B. of Bridport”. This was, in fact, a Wesleyan Methodist minister by the name of John Brown (1827–1863), and in a few years before he succumbed to the ravages of TB at the age of 37, broke new ground in the themes and subtleties of his compositions.

The author is Brian Gosling, a well-known westcountry player, formerly of Somerset and now residing in East Devon. Always interested in endgames studies and problems Brian became increasingly fascinated with the somewhat mysterious and little-known figure of JB and has spent several years accumulating biographical information. As well as the story of his life, the book contains 50 of his best problems with solutions and explanations.

Printed in Padstow, the book is entitled John Brown – The Forgotten Chess Composer? (pub. Troubador 209pp SB £10 ISBN 978-1848767-294).

If any proceeds accrue from his efforts, Brian will pay for repairs to Brown’s headstone, near the east window of Holy Trinity Church, Bradpole, a mile from the centre of Bridport.

Today the 12th Kerrier Cup is being held at the Truro Chess Club, a 5-round rapidplay event. Results here next week.

This miniature was played in the Grade-limited section of the recent WECU Jamboree, one of Dorset’s only two losses.

White: D. Bowley (142 – Dorset). Black: K. Paine (134 – Somerset).

Indian Defence [D30]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 h6 5.Bh4 Be7 6.e3 0–0 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.Nbd2 c5 9.Rc1 b6 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.cxd5 Nxd5 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.a3 Rac8 14.Qb1 cxd4 15.Rxc8 Rxc8 Taking Black’s e-pawn looks natural enough, but gives Black the chance to launch a telling sacrificial attack. 16.Nxd4 Nxe3 17.fxe3 Bxg2 18.Be4 18.Rg1 looks little better for after Qh4+ 19.Kd1 Qxh2. 18…Bxh1 19.Bxh1 Qh4+ 20.Kd1 Qxh2 21.Qe4 Qg1+ 22.Ke2 Nf6 23.Qb7 Rc1 24.Bf3 Re1+ 25.Kd3 Qxe3+ and one of the knights must drop. 0–1

In last week’s game ending, Michael Adams broke through with 1.Bxh7! Kxh7 (1…Rxh7 loses quickly after 2.Qxf6+ Kg8 3.Qf8+ etc.) 2.Re3 Ng6 3.Qh5 Rh8 4.Re8 Rxe8 5.Bf4+ winning the queen. There is some play left for Black but the damage is done. The game continued… 5…Kg7 6.Qh6+ Kg8 7.Bxc7 Re2 8.Rf2 Re1+ 9.Rf1 Re2 10.Rd1 Rxg2+ 11.Kf1 Rg7 12.Rd8+ Nf8 13.Bd6 Rg1+ 14.Ke2 R7g2+ 15.Kd3 Rd1+ 16.Kc3 1–0

Here is a 2-mover by J.B. of Bridport taken from Brian Gosling’s book.

White to mate in 2.