Yorkshire Chess History
1919: Capablanca in Sheffield
40-board Simultaneous Display by Capablanca,
Old Banqueting Hall, Cutlers’ Hall, Sheffield,
Wednesday, 8th October, 1919,
Future world chess champion Señor José Raoul Capablanca of Cuba, described as Allied champion of the game, had given a simultaneous display in Bradford on 07/10/1919, and he followed that up with a similar display in Sheffield, at the invitation of the Sheffield & District Chess Association.
In the hall, a number of helpers, including J. H. Bruce (of the Bruce Trophy), Edward Weston (of the Weston Trophy) and F. Ogden (S&DCA Hon. Sec.) had been setting up sets and boards on two rows of tables between which Capablanca would walk about from board to board. The Sheffield and District Chess Association’s trophies had been lined up on a table at the far end.
Meanwhile some members of the organising committee met Capablanca off the train, which arrived on time into Sheffield’s Midland Station, as it was known until after the closure of Victoria Station, at 5.34. After initial greetings and introductions, Capablanca was taken to the Grand Hotel by Ernest Richards Davy (of the Davy Trophy and Davy Cup, President of the S&DCA), F. Ogden, and J. E. Shillito (reporter for the Sheffield Daily Independent).
Capablanca took a light evening meal at the hotel, and was then escorted to the Cutlers’ Hall by Mr. Davy.
The Mayor of Sheffield formally welcomed Capablanca, who in acknowledging the welcome commented on the value of chess to the young in developing mental abilities, especially those of logical reasoning.
Capablanca was opposed by the following forty players, 39 from Sheffield and District, and one from Grimsby:
Play started at about 7.00 p.m., watched by about 500 onlookers. Inevitably, Capablanca’s opponents started to lose, one after another, until the first “victory” to his opponents came about when hitherto-three-times Sheffield champion Hildreth Dudley Rockett (later to be Sheffield Champion a further three times) managed to force a drawn.
Soon after the draw was achieved, another of Capablanca’s opponents managed a win. This was not achieved by a local player but by a visitor from Grimsby, a certain J. E. Parker (perhaps related to Lionel Douglas Parker, who was also playing?).
Bill Batley apparently came close to drawing, but not close enough. Play lasted about four hours. The last two to resign were Charles Reuben Gurnhill (commemorated be the Gurnhill Trophy) and W. Driver.
After the event Capablanca obliged autograph-seekers.
The event was covered in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 09/10/1919, and the Sheffield Daily Independent of 09/10/1919. The latter contained an article, by J. E. Shillito, sub-titled “Independent” Interview with Chess Champion, though in reality it was more a description of Capablanca than coverage of an interview with him.
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann