Random Posts

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bletchley Park and Chess Players

     Reader Alistair mentioned chess players at Bletchley Park during WW2. This is a fascinating subject especially if you play chess and are a history buff! I was first informed of this interesting connection a few years back by some of the British players at Chessworld when I was playing there.
     I have read Gordon Welchman's The Hut Six Story: Breaking the Enigma Codes and found it quite interesting as some of the players are mentioned. Gordon was in charge of this group which included famous players: C.H.O'D. Alexander, Stuart Milner-Barry and James M. Aitken. It was also closely associated with Hut 8 which was headed by Alan Turing and also Harry Golombek.  Golombek played chess against Alan Turing in quiet moments at Bletchley Park, giving the computer pioneer a queen and still winning.

Another good book is Station X: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park:

Some additional reading:
Bill Wall Article at Chessdotcom
The Telegraph has a nice article HERE. C.H.O'D. Alexander is mentioned.
Roy Stevenson article about the Museum
Mathemeticians and Chess Players Who Cracked the Enigma Code  
 Bio of C.H.O'D. Alexander at St. Andrews  
Visit Bletchley Park 

Kingscrusher has a 47-1/2 minute Youtube video featuring games by some of the players: Bletchley Park Chess Codebreakers

Some book excerpts from Google:
Colossus: The secrets of Bletchley Park's code-breaking computers by B. Jack Copeland and The Bletchley Park Codebreakers By Michael Smith


  1. C, H, O'D Alexander seems to have clearly been the strongest of all the Bletchley Park chess players. He also enjoyed a fair amount of success in the international arena, with wins over Pachman, Szabo, Bronstein, and Botvinnik and becoming an IM. I have read that Alexander's day job was the only thing that prevented him from becoming a grandmaster. After the war, Alexander stayed on for 20 years as the head of cryptoanalysis for British Intelligence. As such, he was in possession of an enormous amount of top secret information. So he was not allowed to accept invitations to tournaments behind the iron curtain where there was a danger that he might be abducted or subjected to some kind of blackmail scheme. This greatly reduced his opportunities to cross swords with the best players

  2. I came across the following tidbit about Alexander taken from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography which says that at the time of his death Alexander was worth £15,722 which in today's dollars equals about $111,272.