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John Saunders


BRITBASE - British Chess Game Archive

Tournament: London Championship • 19 games (from a possible 55, 1 part-game and 4 from preliminary knock-out competition)
Venue: London • Dates: 13-23 October 1945 • Download PGN • Last Edited: Tuesday 21 May, 2024 6:46 PM

1945 London Championship, 13-23 October 1945, Venues: Lud-Eagle CC / Holborn Town Hall

1945 London Chess Championship 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11  Total 
1 Gabriel Wood
½ 1 1 1 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 8
2 Dr Paul M List ½
0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1
3 Dr Otto Friedman 0 1
1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 7
4 Sir George Thomas 0 0 0
1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1
5 Dr James M Aitken 0 ½ 1 0
0 0 1 1 1 1
6 William L Brierley 1 0 0 ½ 1
1 0 ½ 0 1
7 Harold Brown ½ 0 0 0 1 0
½ 1 1 1 5
8 Alan F Truscott 0 ½ 1 0 0 1 ½
½ ½ 1 5
9 Alexander Distler 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½
1 1
10 Geoffrey H Diggle 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 0
½ 2
11 R E Hayley 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½


By William Winter

The Tournament organised by the Lud-Eagle Chess Club with the benison of the B.C.F. proved a great success, and the sponsors deserve the thanks of every chess player for staging the first resumption of International Chess in England since the war.

Of course, criticisms can be and were made. The Tournament started on the knock-out system which is always unsatisfactory, but under the peculiar conditions it was difficult to see how this could be avoided in view of the large number of new players who have come into being during the war; 128 competitors entered their names and some of these were optimists—one was mated in four moves. On the other hand the Tournament certainly brought to light several youngsters whose names will play a big part in British Chess in the future.

In any event it is difficult to see what other arrangements could have been made as an attempt at selections on previous records might have resulted in the exclusion of a new Capablanca.

On two points I think that criticism is justified. The admission into the Final of three Masters—Sir Geo. A. Thomas, Dr. P. M. List and Dr. J. M. Aitken—was a mistake which had the result that other well-known players did not feel justified in making the confession of inferiority implied in competing in the qualifying rounds, and the time limit, 30 moves in the first l½ hours and 10 moves in each subsequent ½ hour, was an unsatisfactory one. Too frequent time controls always result in scrappy chess. After the hurly-burly of the knock-out eight players joined the "seeded" three, G. Wood, Dr. O. Friedman, W. L. Brierley, Harold Brown, A. F. Truscott, A. Distler, G. M. Diggle [should be G. H. Diggle - JS] and R. E. Hayley.

Many well-known names, for example C. G. Butcher, L. C. J. Dewing, L. Alexander, J. Gilchrist and F. E. Kitto, fell by the wayside.

The result, a narrow victory for Wood, came as a surprise to many, but those who, like myself, are well acquainted with London Chess have well known the real strength of the former Lud-Eagle Champion which, unfortunately for chess, has only once previously been shown in a public congress.

Wood is essentially a chess thinker. He has a wide knowledge of theory, but he takes nothing for granted and is always seeking for new paths not previously explored. His positional judgment is excellent, he can see deeply into combinations and his endgame is more than adequate. In this Tournament he certainly played the best chess of all the competitors and, with a little luck, might have won by a larger margin.

List, after losing his first game, proceeded to victory after victory, and at one time seemed likely to run away with the Tournament, but weakened in the last Round. He appears to play too positionally against slightly weaker opponents with the result that in his concluding stages he was playing almost continuously in order to clear off his adjourned games.

Friedman started in splendid style by beating List and Thomas, but met with a tragedy in his third game with Truscott, when, in a won position, he blundered away his Queen. Apart from this he played sterling chess throughout and is clearly a deep positional thinker.

Sir Geo. A. Thomas lost his first two games and, though he made a partial recovery, was obviously playing below his true form. Aitken also failed to play up to his reputation, but Brierley certainly maintained the prestige of the London League and Kent County of which he has been many times champion. He was the only player to beat Wood and, but for losing an easily won game to Diggle, he would have taken a high place.

Of the non-prize winners Brown was handicapped by having to come to the Tournament straight from business, but played very interesting chess, and Truscott—a young naval telegraphist—made a most excellent first impression. He will undoubtedly be heard of again.

Distler was too impetuous and Diggle and Hayley were rather outclassed, although both will do better with more experience.

The playing conditions were excellent both at the Lud-Eagle Club and at the Holborn Town Hail, where the proceedings were opened by Group Captain Aitken, M.P., and the Mayor of Holborn.

Altogether a most inspiring beginning to the post-war era of British chess.

Round 1 (13 October 1945)
Sir G A Thomas 0-1 G Wood Ruy Lopez
Dr P M List 0-1 Dr O Friedman Catalan
Dr J M Aitken 1-0 G H Diggle Ruy Lopez
H Brown 1-0 R E Hayley Bird's
A Distler ½-½ A F Truscott Benoni's Gambit
W L Brierley bye    

Sir Geo. Thomas played the exchange variation with his favourite 5 Kt—Q B 3. Wood, however, found the correct defence and castling Q R built up a strong attack on the other wing which he carried to an elegant conclusion.

List obtained the better game, but came into time trouble.

Diggle played the unusual Alapin’s Defence Deferred. He did not get a bad opening, but weakened in a complicated middle game.

Brown obtained the ideal position in the Bird-Niemzovitch system and won by a smart King’s side attack.

Distler did not make much of the opening, but secured a winning position in the middle game. At the critical moment he overlooked an ingenious resource of the young sailor, and afterwards it was Distler who had to fight for a draw.

Round 2 (14 October 1945)
Dr O Friedman 1-0 Sir G A Thomas QGD
R E Hayley 0-1 A Distler QP
Dr P M List 1-0 H Brown Dutch
G Wood 1-0 G H Diggle Sicilian
W L Brierley 1-0 Dr J M Aitken QP
A F Truscott bye    

The best game of the day was unquestionably Brierley v. Aitken. One or two indifferent moves by Aitken in the early stages enabled the Kent player to build up a strong King’s side attack which he carried to a brilliant sacrificial conclusion.

Friedman v. Thomas was also a very interesting game, a normal Queen’s Gambit developing on far from normal lines. Friedman obtained a slight advantage out of the opening, but the game was still far from decided when Black in dire time trouble, made a blunder which cost him two pieces for a Rook.

Brown defended well against his formidable opponent for a long time, but missed a chance of forcing equalising exchanges and succumbed to a well-conducted King’s side attack.

Diggle lost a pawn by an oversight in an equal position after which his careful opponent gave him no chances.

Distler played excellently throughout, but was somewhat assisted by his opponent.

Round 3 (15 October 1945)
A F Truscott 1-0 Dr O Friedman QP (Zurich)
W L Brierley 1-0 R E Hayley QGD Slav
G H Diggle 0-1 Dr P M List Four Knights
Dr J M Aitken 1-0 A Distler Sicilian
H Brown ½-½ G Wood Bird's
Sir G A Thomas bye    

The play in this round was very erratic.

Truscott playing against a slow variation of the Zurich or Milner-Barry Defence made a wild attack and seemed to get into difficulties. His King was forced into the middle of the board where Friedman prepared a mate involving the sacrifice of the Queen. Unfortunately the mate was not there! Friedman could have won easily by simple means.

Brierley got no chance of repeating his second round brilliancy. The game proceeded on routine lines and looked very drawish when Hayley made a blunder which cost him a pawn and the game.

List played the Rubinstein Defence to the Four Knights’. His opponent did not appear familiar with it and eventually committed a positional error which enabled List to force the game with a storming advance of his King’s side pawns.

The other two games were dour positional struggles.

Aitken always held a slight advantage against an irregular variation of the Sicilian, but it is doubtful whether it would have been sufficient had not Distler injudiciously allowed an exchange of Queens which left him with a lost Rook ending.

Brown v. Wood was the most interesting game of the round. Wood, evidently prepared for his opponent’s favourite Bird’s opening, played the early stages in perfect style and secured a dominating position in the middle game. Brown held on tenaciously and Wood decided to liquidate into an ending with a pawn ahead. This proved insufficient against his opponent’s exact defence, and a draw was agreed, with Rook, Knight and two pawns remaining on either side.

Round 4 (16 October 1945)
Sir G A Thomas 1-0 R E Hayley French
G H Diggle 0-1 Dr O Friedman Sicilian
Dr J M Aitken 1-0 A F Truscott Petroff
A Distler 0-1 Dr P M List QP
H Brown 0-1 W L Brierley Sicilian
G Wood bye    

This was a disappointing round, there being far too many blunders.

Diggle got a bad opening, and faced with positional difficulties, made an unsound sacrifice.

Thomas played the Tchigorin variation 2 Qe2 against the French. This line is full of tricks and Hayley was obviously unfamiliar with it. He got a terribly cramped game and resigned in [sic] the 15th move, in view of the loss of at least a piece.

Aitken v. Truscott followed the lines of a famous pre-war Hastings game—Alekhine v. Alexander—considered to be in favour of Black. Aitken improved on Alekhine’s line, and had established a distinct advantage when Truscott lost a piece by an oversight.

Brown sacrificed a pawn in the opening. He obtained considerable attack, but his opponent’s defence was very accurate. In order to keep up the pressure, Brown had to surrender another pawn, and after a few hectic moments Brierley was able to liquidate into a Queen ending with two pawns ahead. Brown sportingly resigned on the call of time rather than take a hopeless struggle over the adjournment.

Distler v. List was a very interesting game. Distler is essentially an enterprising player and, quite undismayed by his opponent’s reputation, launched a violent attack advancing his h-pawn in the early stages. For a few moves the position seemed critical, but List’s cool defence proved sufficient, and once the danger was over he soon turned the tables by a well-conducted flank attack.

Round 5 (17 October 1945)
A F Truscott 0-1 Sir G A Thomas QGD
Dr P M List 1-0 WL Brierley QP
R E Hayley 0-1 Dr J M Aitken Nimzo-Indian
Dr O Friedman 0-1 G Wood English
A Distler 0-1 H Brown Dutch
G H Diggle bye    

The game between Truscott v. Thomas soon resulted in a position where White had Castled Queen’s side and advanced pawns on the other wing, whilst Black was attacking on the Queen’s side. Exchanges, however, brought about a Rook and pawn ending, Thomas having slightly the better position—an advantage which, with his customary patience, he converted into a win.

Brierley in a fairly level position overlooked the possibility of his opponent sacrificing by Bxh7+. The end came a few moves later.

Hayley maintained a level position for some time before losing a piece in a somewhat complicated position.

Friedman v. Wood was undoubtedly the best game of the day. As in the Truscott v. Thomas game both sides attacked on opposite wings, but in this instance Black won by a fine combination.

Distler v. Brown was a game of errors on both sides, and was adjourned with a piece ahead for Black and a clear win.

Round 6 (18 October 1945)
R E Hayley 0-1 Dr P M List Grünfeld
G Wood 1-0 A F Truscott Sicilian
W L Brierley 1-0 A Distler Sicilian
Sir G A Thomas 1-0 G H Diggle Petroff
H Brown 1-0 Dr J M Aitken Bird's
Dr O Friedman bye    

List quietly outplayed Hayley.

Truscott adopted Niemzovitch’s variation of the Sicilian Defence. Wood has a theory about this, and the result bore out his ideas, but Truscott missed several chances of a draw.

Distler adopted the same variation as against Aitken in the 3rd round, but Brierley improved on the Scottish master’s play. Distler soon got a hopelessly cramped position, and Brierley won in excellent style.

Diggle lost a pawn in the opening.

Brown played well against Aitken. He turned Bird’s opening into a Stonewall with which Aitken did not seem familiar. He left his c-pawn "en prise" one move too long, Brown captured it, held on by sterling play, and exchanged into a winning end game.

Round 7 (19 October 1945)
A F Truscott ½-½ Dr P M List QP
G H Diggle 0-1 A Distler Sicilian
H Brown 0-1 Sir G A Thomas Bird's
W L Brierley 1-0 G Wood Ruy Lopez
Dr J M Aitken 1-0 Dr O Friedman Sicilian
R E Hayley bye    

Aitken played very well in a complicated middlegame and always held a slight advantage, although it is probable that Friedman missed some drawing chances.

Truscott put up an excellent fight against his powerful antagonist and adjourned with only a slight disadvantage in a Knight and pawn ending. When the game was resumed List gradually obtained the upper hand and unaccountably missed an easy win. Truscott took full advantage of the "life" and succeeded in forcing a draw—a really excellent performance.

Wood for once in this tournament was too rash. He advanced his pawns on both sides of the board, and soon got an uncomfortable position which Brierley exploited in first-class style.

Diggle made an error which cost him two pawns.

Brown v. Thomas was a long drawn-out struggle resulting in a most interesting endgame in which both players had powerful passed pawns. Thomas just got there first after surviving some anxious moments.

Round 8 (20 October 1945)
Dr P M List 1-0 Sir G A Thomas QGD
Dr O Friedman 1-0 W L Brierley QP (Zurich)
G Wood 1-0 Dr J M Aitken QGD
R E Hayley ½-½ G H Diggle Cambridge Springs
A F Truscott ½-½ H Brown Dutch
A Distler bye    

List v. Thomas was, of course, the centre of attraction. Thomas did not play the opening with his accustomed accuracy and was always struggling against difficulties. At the adjournment List had established a distinct advantage and won shortly after resumption of play.

Friedman v. Brierley was also a hard game, in which Friedman cleverly outmanoeuvred his opponent in the late middle game. This, too, was adjourned, but Friedman came with a cut-and-dried winning combination.

Hayley v. Diggle was an uneventful draw.

Wood, recovering from his temporary loss of form, played very energetically, castling on the Queen’s side and advancing his King’s wing.

Aitken survived the onslaught, but emerged with an inferior end game, in which, moreover, he did not find the best line.

Truscott got into difficulties against Brown’s Dutch Defence, but found the correct moves in an awkward position, and a draw was a fair result of a well-fought game.

Round 9 (21 October 1945)
Dr O Friedman 1-0 R E Hayley QGA
Dr P M List ½-½ G Wood Nimzo-Indian
A F Truscott 1-0 W L Brierley QP (Zurich)
A Distler 0-1 Sir G A Thomas Nimzo-Indian
G H Diggle 0-1 H Brown Sicilian
Dr J M Aitken bye    

List v. Wood was, of course, the game of the round, as it was already apparent that the Championship lay between these two players. In a somewhat irregular opening Wood appeared to get a slight advantage, but in a time scramble he failed to find the best combination and lost a pawn. Later his position improved, and after the adjournment, although still a pawn down, he played superbly and forced a draw by a most interesting combination. This game, which was well worthy of the occasion, is given in full.

Distler made a wild attack which Thomas refuted with remorseless accuracy.

Hayley played the opening well, but lost a pawn by a blunder in the middle game.

Brierley lost a piece by a miscalculation, although he was left with a strong attack which required careful handling on Truscott’s part.

Diggle maintained equality for a long time, but was outmanoeuvred in the late middle game.

Round 10 (22 October 1945)
Sir G A Thomas ½-½ W L Brierley Sicilian
G Wood 1-0 R E Hayley QGA
Dr J M Aitken ½-½ Dr P M List Ruy Lopez
G H Diggle ½-½ A F Truscott Benoni's Counter-Gambit
A Distler 0-1 Dr O Friedman QP
H Brown bye    

Thomas v. Brierley was a remarkable game. Brierley played a slow Paulsen system of defence and Thomas appeared to have a winning King’s side attack, but his opponent found an interesting counter-attack. Eventually Thomas won a pawn and exchanged into a Rook ending with a pawn ahead. Thomas chose a line in which he sacrificed a Rook in order to force the pawn to Queen, and found himself in an ending with Queen and pawn against Rook and an advanced passed pawn which he was unable to win. Exhaustive analysis will be necessary to find whether this position is in fact a win. It does not appear in Basic Chess Endings.

Wood overwhelmed Hayley, who fell into a form of the "Greek Gift" attack.

List offered the Marshall Gambit which Aitken perhaps wisely declined. The game proceeded on steady lines and developed into an ending with Bishops of opposite colour.

Diggle lost a piece by an oversight but obtained a good attack and very nearly won, helped by one or two inferior moves by Truscott.

Distler v. Friedman was an interesting game, in which Friedman built up a clever attack with Rooks and Bishops only.

Round 11 (23 October 1945)
Sir G A Thomas 1-0 Dr J M Aitken Ruy Lopez
G Wood 1-0 A Distler QP
W L Brierley 0-1 G H Diggle Petroff
Dr O Friedman 1-0 H Brown English
R E Hayley 0-1 A F Truscott Dutch
Dr P M List bye    

Brown defended in very irregular style as his score demanded that he should play for a win. He maintained a satisfactory position for some time, but finally he made a serious mistake.

Hayley v. Truscott came down to a dead drawn King and pawn ending which Hayley lost through ignorance of the principles of the opposition.

Enormous crowds watched the vital game between Wood and Distler. The opening was not faultless on either side, but Wood gradually obtained the upper hand and won a piece. Distler countered with an ingenious attack, but Wood found all the best replies and finished the game by an elegant sacrifice of the Queen.

Brierley obtained an easily won game but rejected the opportunity of winning the exchange, and finally lost a piece by a blunder.

Thomas v. Aitken was steadily played, with Thomas always holding a slight and gradually increasing advantage.

Edward Winter's CN6761 has GH "Badmaster" Diggle's account of his experiences in this tournament, as published in the June 1976 Newsflash. And there is a photo of Diggle playing Aitken in this tournament at CN3766.

File Updated

Date Notes
24 November 2020 Uploaded here for the first time. I took the opportunity of doing this as all ten of Dr Aitken's games became available. Another nine found, plus one part-game. Also, four games from the preliminary knock-out qualifers.