More from the irrepressible Badmaster (G.H.Diggle) here:

18. Blake’s deaf ear

The Badmaster (though on principle he never draws attention to his own errors when he has not been found out) thanks Messrs John Beach and J.C.Calvert for setting him right over H.E. Atkins. As Mr. Beach adds in his most interesting letter, the old lion lived to be over 90. Another famous chess nonagenarian was the redoubtable J.H. Blake. After retiring from serious play, Blake was in his later year Secretary of the aristocratic City of London Chess Club, which flourished between the wars at the imposing address of ‘Wardrobe Court, Doctors Commons’ (between St.Pauls and Blackfriars bridge). The club was on a first floor and occupied two spacious rooms on either side of the landing, one for match play, the other more of a lounge, with a refreshment bar and many portraits of masters on the walls, like the ‘Long Room’ at Lords. Occasionally the match room was let by concession for County Matches, and ‘Beds’ sometimes played ‘Berks’ there, the former team including R.H Rushton, T.W. Sweby, the Badmaster, ‘and others’. On one occasion the clans duly gathered for the fray, but remained for a time huddled together on the landing, as no one seemed to know who had the key. Through the frosted glass on the other side we could dimly make out several eminent club Members such as R.C.J. Walker and J.M. Bee (the Chess Editor of the ‘Sunday Times’) reclining at their ease in the ‘lounge’. After a while, the ‘the people began to murmur against Moses’, and a general air of ‘Why are we waiting?’ (though no one ventured to burst into song in that hallowed spot) pervaded the assembled warriors, until finally the venerable Blake himself (having been apprised of the situation) sailed into port and opened Sesame. At this point one of our more forthright lower Boards ( a hardboiled Lutonian),  who thought Blake was the caretaker, expressed (not too inaudibly) the view that ‘Old Rip van Winkle was past his job’. ‘T.W.S’ and the badmaster exchanged glances of inexpressible horror, but luckily Blake had suddenly grown very deaf… .

Courtesy of Glynn’s Bookstore , G.H. Diggle’s Reminiscences of a Badmaster Vol I & II arrived via airmail last week. (Badmaster was a title awarded to Diggle by C.H.O’D. Alexander in a Christmas Card after Diggle lost a game in 7 moves). You can find more on O’ Donel Alexander here


I began reading it whilst keeping an eye on my daughter as she played in a nearby Kidzoona, yet another example of Japanese ingenuity, but had to stop reading pronto as I attracted far too many concerned stares from other waiting parents who perhaps wondered if I were a bit mad -I could not contain the ensuing paroxysms of hilarity!

Diggle writes satire with an abundance of both pause and panache, the likes of which I have never encountered before. He is immeasurably entertaining and has a style that is unmistakably his. Though he was not the strongest chess player of his time, I strongly suspect he is by far the most gifted writer ever to have graced the chess board in its long, long history.

Those from my home county Bedfordshire may wish to take note that Diggle once played for Bedfordshire (scroll down to 7223. for evidence ) and was acquainted with our leagues senior figures of the post-war period. Here’s an excerpt from the BM (Badmaster)

12. The BM’s finest hour

The Badmaster always regards the year 1945 as ‘his finest hour’. The war was just over -no one had been demobbed or seemed to be doing any work – plenty of chess was going on in London, and best of all there was no ‘grading’ and ‘grandmaster’ nonsense in those days, and chess impostors like the BM could put their name down for any tournament they liked. A huge ‘mixed bag’ of 128 players entered for the London championship; these were reduced by four ‘knockout’ rounds to eight; three well-known ‘seeded’ players were added, and the resulting eleven then played ‘American’ in the final. Believe it or not, the BM (through the vagaries of the draw) survived to be in the last eight; and for a glorious ten days he was in the news, competing with people like Sir George Thomas, Dr. Aitken, Dr. List, G.Wood and other experts.

The tournament was won by G.Wood (though not everyone had backed him to do so); the Badmaster came bottom of the poll (and here every forecast was right). But, as the argumentative boy in the scripture class pointed out in defence of ‘he that is least in the kingdom of heaven’ – ‘ANYHOW, HE GOT THERE!’ Moreover, to this day, the BM refuses to attribute the result to the superiority of his opponents, he lays the blame fairly and squarely, on harassment by the chess press, who frightened him out of his wits. Every round, they adopted the following horrible procedure. Headed by the bearded bohemian William Winter, they came nosing round after the first half-dozen moves to see what was cooking. Like those ungodly persecutors in the 59th psalm they ‘wandered up and down for meat.’ Then the great Winter, after glancing for an awful moment over the petrified BM’s shoulder, would instantly recoil with a hissing intake of the breathe, scribble some doomridden fragment in his notebook, and pass on to the next victim. Then the whole pack would troop off to a neighbouring bar. After they’d gone, the BM would recover his nerve and make some brilliant combination which only just lost, and which the Press ought to have been there to report to the World. But as soon as his game was in the last throws they would all come back. ‘And at evening’, to quote the psalmist once more ‘they will return, grin like a dog, and run about the city’. The experienced Winter always gazed at the ruin of the BM’s position with a lacklustre but logically satisfied eye, reminding one of Lear’s favourite limerick:-

‘There was once an old man with a beard

Who said ‘It is just as I feared!’


Diggle is to the right and at the front.

Here is the trailer for the latest documentary on chess. Certainly one to look out for.

The so-called ‘historical method’ [implies the avoidance of] imaginative excess (i.e enthusiasm) at any price.

Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse, Johns Hopkins, University Press, 1978 p. 126

In this post you can find the 1933 classic Chess in Bedfordshire (F.Dickens & G.L White: Leeds Whitehead & Miller). It’s a rare book but can be found in Bedford library. When I can free up my work schedule I will write about it in more detail as the (heavily flawed) approach by the authors, which G.L. White explains in the Foreword has a number of significant historiographical ramifications; with the exception of a brief mention on page 42, they have -believe it or not- omitted Bedfordshire’s first internationally recognized player…more on that when I can find the time, until then enjoy reading… .

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z za zb zc zd ze zf zg zh zi zj zk zl zm zn

GM Jan Gustafsson, all-round nice guy, huge fan of the Thai Open and the face of has put together an entertaining video. Enjoy.

Chess, it is argued, is partially responsible for the country falling apart in the cutting below.



Sir Robert Perks was a Baronet (colloquially known as a clinger-on), it is one of the lowest hereditary titles in the British Monarchy.

The Midland Hotel

The Midland Hotel, which became synonymous with chess in Luton during the interwar years and beyond when the colorful character J.E.D. Moysey became the owner, was a home to chess in the town as early as 1910. A match against Northampton was played there with F.Dickens representing Luton on the top board. Local players may observe that C.Staddon, uncle of Nigel Staddon (formerly of Luton, now of Bedford) can be found on the team sheet.