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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sir George Thomas

Thomas playing badminton
     George Alan Thomas was born on June 14, 1881. He inherited the title of 7th Baronet in 1918. His mother, Lady Edith Thomas (died in 1920), who taught him chess, participated and won one of the first women's tournament held in Hastings in 1895. 
     Thomas lived most of his life in London and Godalming. He never married, so the hereditary Thomas baronetcy ended on his death. Thomas was admired for his fine sportsmanship. 
     Though born in Istanbul, Turkey, Thomas grew up in a small town in England where there were no strong chess players and so he concentrated his efforts much more on tennis, badminton and hockey. Because of that Thomas said he never played in a really important tournament until 1923 and by then it was too late to do him much good. Actually, 1923 was the year he first won the British Championship though it was not his first try; that was in 1920. He won it again in 1934.
     Thomas’ prowess at tennis is less well-known than his achievements at chess and badminton, but he reached the quarterfinals of the singles and the semifinals of the men's tennis doubles at Wimbledon in 1911.
     All-in-all, he won the All-England Badminton championship 21 times. He was the founder President of the International Badminton Federation and for donating the men’s world team trophy. When he retired in the late 1920’s, men were beginning to wear shorts, women’s singles was expanding, and badminton spreading globally.
     Badminton's world men's team championships cup, equivalent to tennis' Davis Cup, is named Thomas Cup after him. He was the most successful player ever in the All England Open Badminton Championships, considered the unofficial World Badminton Championships, with 21 titles from 1906 to 1928. Four of those titles were in men's singles (consecutive titles from 1920–23), nine in men's doubles and eight in mixed doubles. He won his titles both before and after a hiatus in the competition from 1915 to 1919 due to World War I. 
     In 1934 he was co-founder of the International Badminton Federation (now Badminton World Federation), of which he was president from 1934 to 1955. Inspired by tennis' Davis Cup, first held in 1900, and football's World Cup, first held in 1930, Thomas had the idea of organizing an international competition for country teams in badminton and in 1939 he was presented the Thomas Cup, officially known as The International Badminton Championship Challenge Cup. The first tournament was originally planned for 1941-1942, but due to World War II it did not take place until 1948-1949, when ten national teams participated in the first Thomas Cup competition. Thomas was inducted into the World Badminton Hall of Fame as an Inaugural Member in 1996. 
     Also, Thomas once made a 250 mile trek across the then unmapped Mesopotamian desert on foot. 
     In chess, he was British Champion in 1923 and 1934. He shared first prize at the 1934/5 Hastings International Congress with the next world chess champion Max Euwe and leading Czech player Salo Flohr, ahead of past world champion Capablanca and the future champion Mikhail Botvinnik, whom he defeated in their individual games. For Capablanca, that was his first loss in tournament play for four years, and the first playing the white pieces for more than six years. Also in Hastings, eleven years later, Euwe would become the third world chess champion to be defeated by Thomas. 
     His lifetime scores against the world's elite were not so good though: he had minus scores against Emanuel Lasker, Capablanca (+1−5=3), Alekhine (−7=6), Bogoljubov (−5=3), Euwe (+1−9=2), Flohr (+2−9=4) and Tartakower (+3−9=10). He also fared badly against Edgar Colle (+1–9=8). 
     However, on the plus side, he had an even score against Botvinnik (+1−1), Richard Réti (+3−3=1) and Siegbert Tarrasch (+1−1=3). Against English players he had a plus score against his greatest rival Frederick Yates (+13 –11 =13). Against Vera Menchik his score was +7−8=7. 
     In 1946 Thomas was serving as President of the Chess Section of the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR which inaugurated and organized the radio match against the Soviet Union. 
     Thomas was awarded the IM title in 1950 and in 1952 became an International Arbiter. In 1950 at the age 69 he gave up competitive chess. He passed away on July 23, 1972. 
     The following is a sparkling attack by Thomas against a minor master.


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