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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Great Yarmouth 1935

Great Yarmouth street party in 1935
     Great Yarmouth in England is a seaside town located at the mouth of the River Yare. The town has been a seaside resort since 1760, and was one of the great English seaside towns of the 19th century. The discovery of oil in the North Sea in the 1960s led to a flourishing oil rig supply industry and today it services offshore natural gas rigs. More recently, the development of renewable energy sources, especially offshore wind power, has created opportunities for further growth. 
     That is now, but in 1935 it had been a major fishing port for hundreds of years, depending mainly on herring, but its fishing industry suffered a steep decline in the second half of the 20th century and has now all but disappeared. My understanding is that what we call sardines here in the U.S. are actually small herring.  Sardines are gross, stinking, nasty little boogers that smell and taste like fish and I assume herring are even worse. My dad ate lots of sardines on crackers, so we always had a cupboard full of them.  What I remember was that in the days before plastic garbage bags people just dumped household waste "as is" into a garbage can and the old sardine cans stunk! Did you know sardine cans are a hot collectors' item?

    In 1935 Great Yarmouth was also the venue for a gala chess event. It opened with the Mayor and his wife and the mayor's assistants putting on a tea for 150 guests. The mayor and the president of the BCF made speeches and there was a musical program. 
     The tournaments included the British Championship that was won by William Winter a full point ahead of Sir George Thomas. Winter suffered his only defeat at the hands of Thomas in their individual game, but Thomas lost to Harry Golombek and T.H. Tyler and so only finished second. Places 3-5 were shared by Reginald Michell, Harry Golombek and Alfred Lenton. 
     The British Ladies Championship was a runaway romp for Mrs. Edith Michell who scored one draw (against second place finisher Mrs. E. Holloway) and won ten.  In addition there was a Major Open attended by foreign players plus six lesser events.
     Reshevsky graduated from the University of Chicago in 1934 with a degree in accounting and had shared the 1934 US Open title with Reuben Fine and then began his international career in 1935 with a trip to England where he won the Great Yarmouth Major Open.  From there he went on to finish first at Margate ahead of Capablanca whom he defeated in their individual game. 
     It was at Great Yarmouth where Reshevsky joined the Vera Menchik Club although it was through bad luck. He lost on time in a position where he was a P ahead and may have been able to squeeze out a win.  
     There was also a curious incident in the Major Open when the game between Sonja Graf, then representing Germany, and her compatriot Sammi Fajarowicz was adjourned. 
     The adjourned position was recorded incorrectly in the sealed envelope and neither player noticed the mistake when the game, which ended in a draw, was resumed from the wrong position. 
     In the meantime spectators who had been examining the correct position had found a dead win for Graf.  Under the rules she could have demanded a replay from the correct position but instead, she elected to abide by the drawn result already reached. 

     Reshevsky's family came from a long line of ultra-orthodox Jews, including famous Rabbis and Reshevsky himself was always unwavering when in came to observance of Jewish Law even in his youth. His father, Jakob, had even once turned down a cameo appearance by his son in a Charlie Chaplin movie on account of the fact that Hollywood was an immoral place. After the death of his father in 1944, Reshevsky became even more devout. 
     And so during the first week of the Great Yarmouth tournament before round six Reshevsky informed the tournament committee that although he could play the game, he could not record it as required by the rules. The result was a steward (or Shabbat goy, a non-Jew who performs certain types of work which Jewish religious law prohibits a Jew from doing on the Sabbath) was provided to write down the moves and punch the clock. As it turned out, the steward probably wasn't needed; Reshevsky defeated B.H. Wood in 28 moves. 

1) Reshevsky 10.0-1.0 
2) Seitz 8.5-2.5 
3) Menchik 7.0-4.0 
4-5) Conde and Fajarowicz 6.5-4.5 
6) Klein 5.5-5.5 
7-8) Graf and B.H. Wood 5.0-6.0 
9-10) Butcher and Prins 4.0-7.0 
11) Ivanoff 2.5-8.5 
12) Kitto 1.5-9.5 

     In the following game Reshevsky scores a quick win as he did in several games at Great Yarmouth.   His opponent was the virtually unknown English player Francis Ernest Appleyard Kitto (February 3, 1915 – November 28, 1964, 49 years old). 
Frank Kitto
     Kitto was born in London, attended King's College in Cambridge, and by 1936 and 1937 he was playing first board for the college team. In 1937, in the Worcester Centenary Congress he won the Premier Reserves section and at Hastings, 1937-38, he played in the Premier Reserves and tied for 4th place causing the BCM to comment that he was a very promising player. 
     His style was described by words like hair raising, brutal and savage. In the 1938 BCF Congress he shared 1st place in the Major Open B with Dr, Seitz, ahead of Koenig and the Irish Champion, J. J. O'Hanlon. As a result of this tournament he qualified for the Premier Section of the 1939 BCF Congress.
     Owing to looming threat of war the British Championship was not at stake, but the Premier consisted of twelve players. It was a good experience for the 24-year old Kitto in spite of his poor performance. When war was declared during the penultimate round Euwe and Landau returned home immediately and so missed the last round.  For Kitto, chess and a career were put on hold when he became a bomber pilot in the RAF. 
     After the war he enjoyed considerable success in local events, often demolishing stronger players. His last appearance appears to have been in the WECU Congress in 1963. He died the following year at the early age of 49. 
     Kitto was something of an oddball...he was a stocky figure with a ruddy complexion and dark curly hair, seemed unaffected by cold weather, rarely wore socks and never an overcoat. After the war he became a psychologist who took in and looked after disturbed children. One writer described visiting Kitto's ramshackle home to find a hobo sitting in the hallway. He was famous for arriving late for club team matches so he had to rush his play, almost always had to borrow a pencil to record his games which he never kept. 


  1. When Yaakov Norowitz played in the US Championship a few years back, he faced the same dilemma: According to his Rabbi, he was allowed to play chess on the Sabbath, but forbidden to keep score. He solved the problem pretty much the same way Reshevsky did.

    Speaking of Reshevsky, I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere that while he lived a "modern orthodox" Jewish life as an adult, he became much more observant after the death of his father. Does anyone have any information about that?

  2. The Great Reshevsky: Chess Prodigy and Old Warrior by Marek Soszynski confirms the story about his father. Reshevsky was a descendant Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz (1690-1764) who was considered a genius in the Talmud, Jewish law, homiletics and thought. He (Eibshitz) was also suspected of holding Sabbatean beliefs following those of Rabbi Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) who was proclaimed to be the Messiah by some even after he became an apostate and converted to Islam in 1666. Reshevsky's son Joel is a Rabbi.

    1. I have to admit that I never expected that the name of Sabbati Zevi would pop up in a chess discussion. His story is a fascinating one, and Nobel Prize winning novelist I. B. Singer wrote a wonderful novel ("Satan in Goray") on the subject