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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Tragic End of Arthur Reynolds

     The Queen's Gambit Declined semi-Slav, Meran, Reynolds' variation which runs 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6 9. e4 c5 10. d5 is named after the British player Arthur Reynolds. Now, you might think Reynolds was an obscure amateur laboring away in his study analyzing this opening before finally coming up with the variation that bears his name, but you'd be wrong. 
     Back in 1931 Arthur Reynolds, then 21 years old, took part in the Major Reserves section of the British championship where he finished in a respectable tie for 3rd-5th. In 1933 he was on second board for the Warwickshire team battling in the Midland Union Championship where he defeated Gerald Abrahams in the decisive game.
     Born April 30, 1910 in Solihull, England, he attended Solihull School where he was captain of both the football (soccer) and boxing teams and was on the hockey and cricket teams. Following graduation from the Solihull Grammar School he became active in local tournaments. After finishing school he was living in Birmingham where he was employed by a department store. He got married in 1935. 
     In 1936 he participated in the annual BCF Congress held in Nottingham where he played in Section B of the Major Open Tournament. This was a strong event with players like Vera Menchik, B.H. Wood, J. Cukierman, Karl Opocensky and Gerald Abrahams. This event was a big success as he tied for lst with Cukierman with 8.5 points. He defeated Opocensky, Abrahams, Watts, Collins, Mallison and Cukierman in their individual game. 
     That result earned him an invitation to play in the Hastings Premier Tournament which started on December 28, 1936 but he had to decline, presumably because the department store would not give him the time off. 
     However, in April 1937 an invitation to another international tournament arrived and this time he was able to participate; it was the Ostend Tournament of 1937 where Keres, Dunkelblum, List, Fine, Grob, Dyner, Landau, and Tartakower were playing. 
     Reynolds lost to List, Grob, Koltanowski, Landau and Keres then drew with Dunkelblum and Dyner. Then in round 8 he met one of the world's best players of the day, Reuben Fine. Reynolds, in last place, defeated Fine which caused Fine to have to share first place with Grob and Keres. The result prompted Fred Reinfeld to write in his book British Chess Masters, Past and Present, “Although Reynolds came last in his only international tournament, he demonstrated convincingly that his failure was due to a lack of experience rather than to lack of ability. At all events, he had the consolation of defeating one of the world’s great masters.” 
     In the summer of 1938 he received an invitation to play in the BCF Congress. Aitken, Alexander, Golombek, Lenton, Mallison, Milner-Barry, Parr, Sergeant, Menchik, Thomas and Tylor made it one of the strongest in many years; it was also the first time a woman took part. He got off to a bad start, +0 -4 =3, but rebounded with wins over Mallison and Vera Menchik. 
     He again played in the Congress in 1939 and his play had improved to the point that he finished fourth. It was this year that he contributed to theory of the Meran Defense by publishing an an article in Chess magazine titled Meran Defense Crack Exposed.
     Unfortunately his steady progress coincided with Hitler's emergence and Reynolds volunteered for the Royal Air Force and ended up in Singapore. When it fell to the Japanese in February of 1942, Reynolds became a POW and fell ill while in captivity. 
     In 1943 the Japanese decided to ship the sick to Java and a total of 640 men, including a number of sick Japanese were taken on board the passenger-cargo ship Suez Maru. In two holds, 422 sick British and 127 sick Dutch prisoners, including up to twenty stretcher cases, were accommodated. The Japanese patients filled the other two holds. 
     Escorted by a minesweeper, the Suez Maru set sail from Port Amboin and while entering the Java Sea it was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Bonefish commanded by Commander Tom Hogan. 
     The Bonefish was on her second patrol of the war when it intercepted the two Japanese ships. Bonefish made a submerged approach and launched four torpedoes. Two of the four struck the Suez Maru under her main mast and it went down rapidly by the stern. The minesweeper escort raced for Bonefish, but the submarine went deep and evaded the barrage of depth charges that followed. The skipper of the Bonefish had no way of knowing that the Sue Maru was carrying British and Dutch POWs. 
     As the Suez Maru started to sink water poured into the holds and hundreds drowned, but many managed to escape and swim away from the sinking ship. The Japanese mine sweeper picked up the Japanese survivors, leaving between 200 and 250 men in the water. At 2:30 in the afternoon the minesweeper, under orders from Captain Kawano, began ramming rafts and lifeboats and opened fire on the prisoners in the water with a machine gun and rifles, killing them all. Captain Kawano then departed for Jakarta. 
     Sixty-nine Japanese had died during the attack, 93 Japanese soldiers and 205 Japanese sick patients were rescued by the Japanese. Of the British and Dutch prisoners, there was reported to be one survivor, a British soldier anmed Kenneth Thomas, who was picked up twenty-four hours later by the Australian minesweeper HMAS Ballarat, but this has not been confirmed.
     Arthur Reynolds was among the British prisoners who perished that dreadful day.  Suez Maru Roll of Honor

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