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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Henry Hookham

    Hookham (October 22, 1824 - November 24, 1898 in Christchurch, 74 years old) was a New Zealand champion in a bygone era.. He was born was born at 15 Old Bond Street in London, England which today houses a Prada store. He learned to play chess around the age of ten. 

     In 1850 he became a partner in the Hookham Library, a publisher and bookseller, and in about 1863 the library was converted into a company and he was appointed to a managerial position. He resigned after two years and in 1865 emigrated along with his wife and children to near Christchurch. He first tried his hand at farming, but after a few years he became a schoolmaster which he continued until his retirement in 1885. 
     He won the championship of the Province of Canterbury in 1870. Nine years later in 1879 the first New Zealand Chess Championship was held in Christchurch and he became New Zealand's first champion, a title which he retained the title for ten years before losing it at the establishment of the Annual Championship Congress, also held in Christchurch, at the end of 1888 and into 1889. He later won the title again at Dunedin in 1890 and was second in 1893 and third in 1895-96. He played in every Congress until the year before he died. 
     The first New Zealand Championship was held at Bellamy’s (a restaurant?) in Christchurch from 19th August to 4th September 1879. In case you're wondering why it was held at such a late year...the European settlement in New Zealand only began around 1840 with most settlers coming from England, Scotland and Ireland so it took a while for a national championship to be organized. Australia held its first championship at Adelaide in 1887 and it was common for players from both Australia and New Zealand to compete in each others championships for many years. 
     Competitors living within fifteen miles of Christchurch had to pay a five guinea entry fee (which I think would be about $70-75 in today's U.S. currency, but I could be wrong.) while for others the entry fee was waived. That may seem odd, but the purpose was to limit the number of local players. 
     The time control was 15 moves per hour and it was a double round-robin which was the first and last time that format was ever used. Another odd fact was that with only eight players (4 games per round) the event had five arbiters. The prize fund was a £80 with £50 for first, £20 for second, and £10 for third prize. The tournament resulted in a tie between Hookham and David Hay. Hookham won the single play-off game after six hours play. 
     A little more than nine years later the second championship tournament was held, also in Christchurch, over the New Year of 1888/89. There were just six players and the new champion was Arthur Morton. Hookham, who finished fourth, was the only player from the 1879 field to play again in the championship. 
     Hookham played in the first ten championships, winning a second title in the third championship in 1890 against a new crop of players. Hookham also represented New Zealand at the Adelaide Congress of 1887. His score of +2 -5 =2 was only good enough to finish tied for 7th-8th, but he did manage to hold the winner, Henry Charlick, to a draw. 
     He served as the president of the Caterbury Chess Club from its foundation until his death. An 1882 edition of the Canterbury Times ran an article describing his tenure in that position as having been on that was "characterized by ability and soundness of judgment, as well as consistent kindness to all young players who have sought for his experienced help and guidance." 

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