Yorkshire Chess History



1895: Lasker at Ilkley











Made in Yorkshire



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The big chess event in 1895 was the international tournament at Hastings, where the World Champion, Emmanuel Lasker, was confronted by the talent of the New World as well as that of Europe.


In those days “health” resorts, especially the spa towns dotted about the country, were widely perceived as efficacious in reviving and stimulating good health.  Thus Lasker, who had been in poor health, had elected to visit the West Riding spa town of Ilkley, lying below Ilkley Moor, in preparation for the Hastings tournament.  The British Chess Magazine reported that “preparatory to taking part in the Hastings tournament Herr Lasker spent the greater part of July in Ilkley, Yorkshire, enjoying the beautiful scenery of Wharfedale, visiting the far-famed Bolton Abbey and other places of interest in the neighbourhood.”


Ilkley Chess Club took the opportunity to invite the world champion to give a simultaneous display to the local chess-playing fraternity, which invitation was accepted.



The event took place on Saturday 20th July 1895 in the Recreation Room of the Spa Hydro, The Grove, Ilkley, starting at 7.00 p.m.  Whether Lasker was actually resident at the Spa Hydro, is unclear.  It had opened originally as the “Grove Hydropathic Establishment” (as in Kelly's Directory of West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881), but the name was later changed to the trendier, less formal “Spa Hydro” (quite recently demolished).  It was the only establishment in Ilkley with its own spring.  Reaching other sources of the supposedly health-giving waters necessitated a climb up onto Ilkley Moor, and, of course, the donning of the all-essential hat, lest “tha catch thi death o’ cold.”


The arrangements were made mainly by George Brumfitt, honorary secretary of Ilkley Chess Club.  Spectators at the event were charged one shilling, and the sum so raised was to be donated to the Ilkley Hospital.  Lasker took on 16 opponents and play lasted nearly three hours.  Three players had to leave at 9.30 p.m. to catch the train, before they’d finished their games, namely James White (Leeds, chess column editor of the Leeds Mercury), Isaac McIntyre Brown (Leeds, editor of the British Chess Magazine) and Clifford Kitchin (Harrogate, brother of the eponym of the YCA’s C. S. Kitchin Memorial Tournament).  Of those remaining, the World Champion defeated all but one, that being Walter Gledhill who drew his game.  Lasker thus won twelve and drew one, with three games remaining unfinished.


Walter Gledhill’s game was as follows:

Emanuel Lasker – Walter Gledhill, Simultaneous Display, Ilkley, 20/07/1895

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 Qh4+ 4. Kf1 d5 5. Bxd5 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. d4 Bxf3 8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. Qxf3 Rb8 10. e5 Kd7 11. Nc3 Bb4 12. Bxf4 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Rb2 14. Bc1 Rb8 15. Qf5+ Ke8 16. Ba3 Nh6 17. Qf3 Kd7 18. Rd1 Rb6 19. Bc5 Rb2 20. h3 Rxc2 21. g3 Qg5 22. d5 Qxe5 23. dxc6+ Kc8 24. Bxa7 Rxc3 25. Qe2 Qxe2+ 26. Kxe2 Re8+ 27. Kf2 Ra3 28. Rhe1 Rxa2+ 29. Kf1 Rxe1+ 30. Rxe1 Kd8 31. Bc5 Ra6 32. Be7+ Kc8 33. Bf6 Rxc6 34. Bxg7 Nf5 35. Be5 Re6 36. Kf2 f6 37. Bf4 Rxe1 38. Kxe1 Kd7 39. Kd2 c5 40. Kd3 Ke6? 41. Kc4 Nd6+ 42. Kxc5 Nf5 43. Bb8 Ng7 44. Kd4 Kf5 45. Kd5 h5 46. Ba7 Ne6 47. Be3 Ng5 48. Bxg5 fxg5 49. Kd4 h4 50. gxh4 gxh4 normal, ½-½
(Some sources quote only the moves to White’s 38th.)


James White commented on the game in the Leeds Mercury of 27th July 1895:

There is much play in the above game that is interesting, the nature of the opening not allowing of much dullness; and it is besides a difficult gambit for both sides, as its complications are very numerous.  The third and fourth moves for Black may be reversed, but when the queen gives check at R5, it is usually followed by P to K Kt 4.  Also we fancy when Black has given up his Pawn with P to Q 4, it should be followed by B to Q 3.  The opening, however, gives a fairly even chance for both players, and is considered one of the strongest for the attack of the King’s Gambit family.  White’s 14th move was very pretty, causing Black to lose time, for he dare not execute his design of capturing the B P.  White apparently has the better game after his 15th move, and required very steady play on Black’s part to avoid defeat.  The position after White’s P reaches Q B 6 is very delicate, and there is a great amount of play in the situation requiring no mistake to be made.  After the exchange of Queens, Black is relieved somewhat, and the play following is pretty, resulting in Black’s favour.  His 40th move, however, gave up his chance to win, and we can scarcely see his object in letting the passed pawn go, unless he was under the delusion that when Kt would check at Q 3 the B would capture it.  This, of course, Herr Lasker declined to do, and nothing remains but a draw.  Still we compliment Mr. Gledhill on the result.


Leeds-born Walter Gledhill was at the time a teacher at the National School (opened in 1873, closed about 1897 and now demolished) on Back Lane, Burley-in-Wharfedale.  He played for Ilkley in the Yorkshire Chess Association’s Minor Trophy tournament, but played for Burley in other contexts such as its annual match with Ilkley.  Walter was soon to take up a post at Braithwaite School, Dacre Banks, not far from Harrogate.  From there he published in the British Chess Magazine analysis of the attack which now bears his name, i.e. the move 5. Qg4 after 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7.





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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