Black Country Bugle

White queen to Black Country

Renowned female chess champion, tragically killed in WWII, played against 21 men simultaneo­usly at Walsall chess club

- By PHIL JONES Bugle correspond­ent

THE 2020 Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit has led to an upsurge of interest in the game of Chess.

In the years before the Second World War, the greatest female player in the world was Vera Menchik. Of local interest is the fact she made an appearance in the Black Country as a guest of Walsall Kipping Chess Club. The event, dated as May 22, 1943, was covered by a reporter from the Walsall Observer:

“Visit of the world’s lady chess champion. At their meeting on Saturday evening, members of the Kipping Chess Club expressed through their President great pleasure in welcoming the Mayor Mrs Mcshane and Miss Vera Menchik, the lady chess champion of the world.

“The Mayor said she was thrilled to meet a lady so famous in the realms of chess and noted with particular enjoyment that the happy faces of players around her bore no resemblanc­e to a cartoon she had seen recently in which a spider had woven a web between the noses of two dreary chess contestant­s “Miss Menchik thanked the Mayor and President for their cordial reception and then gave a clever simultaneo­us display in which twenty-one players participat­ed. “Mr R. Burton, Mr T.G. Farrell, Mr C. Manton, Mr P. Manton, and Mr J. Woodhouse had the great fortune to win, and F.G. Addenbrook­e, Mr S.D. Mangan, Mr N. Matchett and Mr A.E. Parsons drew with the champion. “Dr M. Dynski-klein, Mr B.H. Wood and Mr R. Spitz (from the London Chess Club) were among the guests”

The Kipping Chess Club was founded in 1942. President was Mr Cyril Stanley Kipping, who was the inspiratio­nal headmaster of Wednesbury Boys’ High School (see Bugle 1377, January 16, 2019). The founder was Mr A.E. Parsons who became Club Secretary. Team captain was T.G.A. Farrell, and the treasurer Mr Charles Manton. Club steward was Noel Matchett.

There were four vice-presidents, being top British players. One of these was Baruch H. Wood, who published a monthly magazine Chess from an address in Sutton Coldfield.

In the absence of a war-time chess league, matches were held against local clubs at Stafford, Birmingham, and Tipton. There were also ‘derby’ matches against the older establishe­d Walsall Chess Club. Meetings were held at two venues from September to March. Monday evenings were at the St John’s Ambulance Assembly

Room in Bradford Street, Walsall, and Thursday evenings at Wednesbury Boys’ High School. The Dora Café in Walsall was also a known venue.

With the ‘endgame’ of the war in Europe well under way, another invitation from the Kipping Club was accepted. One Monday evening in February 1945, the Club hosted a visit from one of the World’s greatest players. Mr Jacques Mieses took on 26 club players in a simultaneo­us display. Nine players achieved a draw against the Master, including Messrs G. Farrell, H. Appenzelle­r and R. Leicester, but Mr Mieses returned to London undefeated from his Walsall visit. The Walsall Observer again covered the event, noting the many spectators present. One of these was Cannock Chase Chess Club player Howard Jones, father of this writer.

Born in Leipzig, Jacques Mieses marked his

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 ?? ?? Vera Menchik and (inset) Wednesbury headmaster Cyril Kipping
Vera Menchik and (inset) Wednesbury headmaster Cyril Kipping

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