Saturday, December 06, 2014

County Counting: 5. In the Jellie Mould

In the previous post in this series we picked over the Surrey County Match Books (1884-1967) for unexpected players from Middlesex, one of Surrey's perennial opponents, and we spotted an E. Lasker and an H.G.Wells. Unexpected they may have been - but at least they sounded familiar, whether or not the latter was in fact the well-known author (on board 31 for Middlesex on the 24th January 1920). Lasker and Wells each appeared only once in the Match Books. 

Now let's turn our attention to a Middlesex Man who by contrast will be unfamiliar - almost certainly - to readers of this blog. And he appears almost 20 times. To find our subject we'll look again at the page where last time we discovered the unlikely H.G.Wells.

There he is. On board 16.  E.M.Jellie. He crops up in Middlesex v Surrey matches from 1910 through to 1936. But who is he, and why should we be interested? There two reasons that come to mind.

One is that he turns out to be an exemplary specimen of an ordinary decent chesser, the sort often overlooked in histories of the game. He and other enthusiasts like him, then and now, are the body-chessic upon which the chess bug spawns and beneficently multiplies. Stir E.M.Jellie together with the rest and you get the thriving chess culture that we all know: the one that germinates the few blessed enough to rise to the top.

And the second reason?

He was an ancestor of my fellow Streatham and Brixton club member, Andrew Stone, who was featured here:

Ernest Montgomery Jellie (3 December, 1866 - 29 October, 1949) was Andrew's great-grandfather.

Andrew is a regular on the top boards of S&BCC's London League First Team. It is, by happy coincidence, Andrew's birthday today: so Happy Birthday, Andrew! It was anniversary of EMJ's 3 days ago.

EMJ played for his club (Hampstead CC), and county, from just before the First World War through to the outbreak of the Second - and in the interwar period he was also a regular in domestic tournaments. He has been fairly described as a strong player; but it is also fair to say he was not a very strong player - as shown by his record in Middlesex v Surrey contests where his highest board was 11, and his score overall was 5 wins, 7 draws and 7 losses. As for tournaments: he always played in the secondary Majors and such like, in which he would often finish mid-table.

Here he is - in a not completely successful reproduction of an original photograph from 1911/12 - very much in his milieu  among his fellow players in Hampstead CC when they won the London League A and B Divisions. He would already then have been somewhere in his mid 40s.

Photo courtesy of Gordon Cadden 

Andrew, at modern-day ECF 200 plus, is surely stronger than his forebear. He, also, is a club and county regular, and tournament devotee: very much in the same mould as his Great Grand-Pa. Both stand six feet or more tall - the verticality gene has evidently come down to the later generation.

Like great-grandfather like great-grandson?
The sartorial gene on the other hand is seemingly recessive; though to be fair, in those far-off days a stiff collar and tie were de rigueur, even at the board. Where I play it would get you a warning under FIDE 11.5.

The tools of EMJ's trade have also come down through the family: here is his set, with one Knight emblazoned to distinguish it from its stable mate.

Photos by Andrew Stone 
So, he was a tournament regular between the wars, present at several British Championships, and with Margate and Hastings appearing to be his favoured venues. His tournament record - as far as we have been able to reconstruct it - is in the Appendix, and it reads as a chronicle of devotion to the game, rather than headline catching glory. Perhaps his earliest tournament successes, in the early 1930s, were the high-point: first-equal in the 1931-32 Hastings Major C, for example.

He found his way into BCM, though sadly it was his defeats that too often caught the editor's eye. The following scrap of a game is an exception, his sole win from 11 games in the Chester Open Reserves in 1934. He came last: an uncharacteristically dismal result (perhaps something was going on in his life to take his eye off the ball). The BCM of October 1934 described the game as "a curiosity with some piquance", suggesting a little guilty pleasure for the winner, if a bitter pill for the loser.

Andrew has some of EMJ's elegantly turned, autograph game scores: this win was against Olga Menchik, a well-known, and ultimately desperately unlucky, opponent. As has been often told, she tragically died, with her sister Vera, in a V1 rocket attack, in Clapham in June 1944.
It seems likely that the game was played at Hastings in 1935-6, and doesn't really show Olga at her best. And talking of the lady chessers of the time, it is rather nice to learn from Andrew that EMJ had played against Mrs Holloway as we met her in the last episode but one. In fact he also played alongside her for the Empire Chess Club, against Imperial CC in 1932 (Singapore Free Press 20 July 1932) . He won on board 4 - below Golombek, Sargeant, and Braund for Empire; more evidence of the breadth of his enthusiasm for OTB play and his chess strength in that early period.

Here is a fine bit of full-bloodied EMJ hackery - his chess style here could be summed up as "no compromise!"

The top photo showed him with the Hampstead CC players who dominated the London League in the pre-WWI years, winning Division A from 1909-10 through to 1912-3. Later they were to win it 8 times out of the 20 inter-war seasons - EMJ gets a reference in BCM, May 1927: Hampstead v North London on 6th April, board 16, 0.5 v A.Quint.

The thriving Hampstead club had an enjoyable and successful trip abroad in 1927, caught in this souvenir photo. EMJ stands characteristically tall in the front row.
From BCM September 1927
Note H.Meek and W.H.Watts - also in the Middlesex team on 24 Jan 1920 (boards 25 and 6).

This was the second such expedition organised by Hampstead CC. A year earlier, in July 1926, ten chess tourists from North London had visited Belgium and Paris combining chess and a holiday (reported in BCM September 1926 pp 407-9). EMJ was then usually on board 6 or 7 (below such as W. Winter, M.E. Goldstein, P.W.Sergeant), and was mentioned in dispatches along with Winter as undefeated with an "excellent record of 3 wins and 2 draws". After a match in Antwerp both teams "were toasted in champagne or ginger ale according to inclination, and felicitous greetings were exchanged at all the matches". EMJ, on the evidence of the game and photograph above, doesn't come over as someone likely to settle for the ginger beer option.

They played Antwerp again on the later 1927 tour, and were outgunned this time as well (the hosts had Koltanowski on board 3). The visitors were now without the likes of Winter and Sargeant, though V. Buerger (front row in the photo; he would come 2nd in the 1928 British at Tenby) gave some fire-power up top. Jellie lost on 7, but Scrimgeour  played this "bright game" (so described by BCM) on 5.

This time the tourists ventured into Germany - the first British chess team to visit since 1906 (BCM again); and they were evidently warmly welcomed everywhere. Adventures included the following on a railway station somewhere in deepest Germany when members of the party, "assured by the guard that the train was making a stop of five minutes, alighted to purchase refreshments indigenous to the Rhineland". To their horror the train moved off! But all was not lost! "A frantic race...enabled them to rejoin the rest of the party...[and] the credit of British chess..." added the BCM  "...let it be said that none of the refreshments were left behind". British chessers, let it also be said, would have expected nothing less.

The match results in the second tour were mixed, though one notable scalp was taken by V. Buerger (in Amsterdam on the return leg, the occasion of the photo above) beating Max Euwe. But there had been just enough time to take in a tournament as well, in Weisbaden. Buerger came 2nd in the main event, and Goldstein 3rd. But EMJ won the cup in the "Nebenturnier" with 5.5/7. Their tight schedule meant they had to dash for yet another train - but empty-handed this time, their hard-won prizes left behind. No matter. A detail from the British Army of Occupation went in to secure the booty for the victors.

EMJ was remembered in an obituary, in BCM in 1949, written by R.C. Griffiths (top photo: front row with cane; and board 1 for Middlesex when we first met EMJ, above, on January 24 1920). They had known each other from the early days of Hampstead CC over 35 years before, and would have played often: a game between them from the Club Championship appeared in BCM in May 1925, p244. Yet again a loss for EMJ; but it shows him once again going on to the front foot and, I dare say, enjoying himself. In spite of the result it is a fitting tribute. The BCM notes are by "J.H.B." i.e. Joseph Blackburne.

And here is Griffith's affectionate obituary notice.
"To those who knew him, the report of his death on October 29th, will bring memories of a very lovable character. He was for many years a strong playing member of the Hampstead Chess Club, and occasionally took part in the first-class sections of the various Congresses at Hastings, Margate, etc. Win or lose he was always charming, ready to congratulate his opponent if he lost, or sympathizing with him if he won. For some years he has lived in the country, and been lost to London chess. R.C.G"
Andrew says EMJ gave up competitive chess with the onset of WW2, though would still play the odd social game with the family nearby in the north west of London. He would have been well retired by now from his employment in furniture sales with Morley's of Brixton (a nice local connection for the blog). His death was registered in Willesden, and the obit's "for some years he has lived in the country" seems slightly off beam.

Thus Ernest Montgomery Jellie had, even then, long since slipped below the horizon, and is now remembered only by kith and kin. It is a great pleasure, therefore, to discover him. In a way this series is a celebration of the many chess players over the decades cut from the same cloth as EMJ - stiff collar or no - and documented by name, only, in the Match Books. They were all devoted to the game; and they animated the chess scene. They still do. Maybe you could say that they, not pawns, are the soul of chess.

This post, like the Hampstead chess tourists of 1927, has travelled rather a long way from home. We'll try and get back to Surrey next time.

Thanks to Andrew for sharing EMJ, his scores, and his set with us, and to Laura for all the scanning; also to Paul Timson for his research into EMJ's tournament record and games; and to Gordon Cadden (Match Book Vol 2: Board 3 for Monmouthshire v Surrey, 12 May 1962), archivist of Hampstead CC, for his generosity with photos and other tips.

Note 1: for the remarkable (and not just because of Andrew) Set In Stone post of 11 July 2012 in full, see here.
Note 2: in spite of the subject matter of this post, the S&B Chess Blog has no formal connection to S&B Chess Club.  

Previously in County Counting: 1 Preface2. More Isidor. 3. Striking Matches 4. Well, Well, Well.



Anonymous said...

Great stuff Martin! Thanks very much. EMJ looks to play in the style of Robin (Haldane) rather than anything like me, especialy in the Stephenson game! Thanks also for the birthday wishes. Think I will also eschew from the ginger beer option today, although my preference would be for refreshments indigeneous to the Rheinland rather than champagne!

Andrew (EMJ's Great-Grandson)

Martin Smith said...

BCM December 1923, p442, reports a 40 board simul by Alekhine at Hampstead CC: "The opposition was by far the strongest he encountered during his tour and in the circumstances his score of 30 wins, 6 draws aand 4 losses was very good. E.T.Bangert, W.Biheller, W.Eldridge and E.M.Jellie were successful against the single player...."