Yorkshire Chess History
Charles Reuben Gurnhill
Charlie Gurnhill aged about 36
“Charlie” Gurnhill was a Sheffield chess-player who, in his day, was one of Sheffield’s strongest players as well as one of Yorkshire’s stronger players. He was born at Attercliffe in 1891, receiving the name Charles Reuben Gurnhill, his middle name being quoted in various contemporary documents.
He was born on 1st March 1891, just in time to be included in the 1891 census taken on 5th April. At that time, his family lived at 29 Charlton Street, Attercliffe, which in broader terms fell within Brightside Bierlow. This was presumably the address where Charlie was born. Charlton Street was a non-thoroughfare off Hawke Street, near its junction with Upwell Street and Brightside Lane. The site has long since been cleared and replaced by factory premises. It is the sort of road which didn’t get listed in directories of the day as the inhabitants were at the bottom of the economic spectrum, and not regarded as appropriate subject matter for such a publication.
Charlie’s father was Martin Paterson Gurnhill, who had been born 1838 at Blyton, Lincolnshire, about 4 miles NE of Gainsborough. (The middle name is difficult to verify.) Martin’s parents were agricultural labourer John Gurnhill and his wife Mary Gurnhill. Martin was in fact the second son to bear that name. The first Martin had been baptised 24th July 1834, at Blyton, but had died 7th June 1836, when not quite two years of age.
By 1861 a Blyton-born Martin Gurnhill, age 22, was living at 17 Talbot Street, Rotherham with wife Emma Gurnhill, who had been born 1835/36 at Heaton, Lincolnshire.
Relevant records from the 1871 and 1881 censuses are elusive.
By 1891, a Blyton-born Martin P. Gurnhill had a wife called Emily, who was born 1836/37 at West Melton, near Wath-upon Dearne. It appears, therefore, that Emma had died, and Martin had remarried.
In 1891, besides one-month-old Charlie, the couple had two other children; these were Edith Ann Gurnhill, baptised 28th July 1886, at Carbrook, very near Charlton Street, and Matilda Gurnhill, born 1888/89 at a location recorded as “Templebury, N.K.” as the county. The “N.K.” probably meant “Not Known”. A reasonably safe guess was that Matilda was in fact born at Templeborough, further toward Rotherham from Carbrook. The family therefore seems to have moved around the Templeborough/Carbrook/Brightside industrial area from 1886 to 1890.
The two parents seem rather old to have been raising such young children. The 1901 census seems to imply that the children’s mother, Emily, had died at some time from 1891 to 1901. By then the family had moved to 7 Knowsley Place, off Bland Street, New Grimesthorpe (now simply Grimesthorpe), still close to Charlton Street, but on the other side of Brightside Lane. Bland Street still exists, or part of it, though Knowsley Place has disappeared beneath more-modern development.
In 1901, the father, Martin P. Gurnhill, was still described as a general labourer, but had his 69-year-old sister, Ellen White, living with him as a domestic housekeeper, and presumably as surrogate mother (more like grandmother) to the two remaining children. Edith was no longer at home. She may have died, or may have been in service, as by then she’d be fourteen years old. Thus ten-year-old Charlie was living with a sixty-two-year-old father, a sixty-nine-year-old aunt in loco matris, and thirteen-year-old sister Matilda. There was also a sixty-six-year-old boarder, a general labourer called James Wilcocks, who had been born 1824/25 at Southwell, Nottinghamshire.
At the same time, there were living in Attercliffe other Gurnhills born in the area, around Gainsborough, straddling the River Trent which thereabouts forms the boundary between Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. It seems quite likely Martin P. Gurnhill was tangibly related to these other Gurnhills in Attercliffe.
Charlie’s obviously poor origins will have meant his education was probably limited, yet in time he managed to “improve” himself to the extent of acquiring a clerical job, rather than the labouring job which had been his father’s lot.
By 1911, 20-year-old Charlie was living as a boarder at 54, Kirby Road, Darnall, the home of coal-pit labourer John Thomas Nicklin, his wife Jessie, son John, and adopted son Charles Beresford. The unmarried Charlie was described as a student. Sheffield University was founded in 1905. Was Charlie an early student of Sheffield University?
In time Charlie got his call-up papers and was duly enlisted with the Yorkshire and Lancashire regiment on 26th January 1916 as a private, registration number 22361. He was recorded in the enrolment documentation as an unmarried commercial clerk, aged twenty-four years and 10 months, resident at 54 Kirby Road, Sheffield. Another Charles Gurnhill, of 30 Heeley Green, enlisted 8th January 1915. The two are not to be confused.
Charlie survived the war, remaining a private. He received the Victory Medal and British Medal, as did his namesake. He returned to his native Sheffield.
Start of Chess Career
Quite when and where Charlie took up chess may have been lost to posterity. Nevertheless, it was before the First World War that he entered the records of formal competitive chess.
He played for Sharrow in the 1911-12 Davy Trophy competition, of which Sharrow were the winners. At that stage he was typically on one of the lower boards.
He was one of those who played in Capablanca’s 1919 simultaneous display in Sheffield.
One of his earliest appearances representing Yorkshire was in the team which defeated Lancashire in 1921. Yorkshire’s top two boards were F. D. Yates and H. E. Atkins. Charlie was on board 23, playing A. R. B. Thomas, who fifty years later was playing in the same Devon county team as the present writer.
He again played against Capablanca in the latter’s 1922 simultaneous display in Rotherham. He also played in the 1924 simultaneous display by Geza Maroczy in Sheffield.
One of his early successes was winning the Kitchin Memorial correspondence tournament.
Events he participated in, early on in his chess career, included:
1922 BCF Congress, London;
1923 BCF Congress, Portsmouth/Southsea;
1924 BCF Congress, Southport;
1925 BCF Congress, Stratford-on-Avon;
1926 BCF Congress, Edinburgh;
1927 London (no British Championship, as such, that year).
In 1922 he played in the Minor Open Tournament of the British Chess Federation Congress in London, scoring five out of eleven. G. Barron of Hull came 3rd-4th equal with 6½.
At the 1924 BCF Congress at Southport, Charlie played in Section A of the First Class Amateur Tournament, winning it with 10 out of 11. Two of Charlie’s games from Southport:
BCF Congress, Southport, 1924, Southport
First Class Amateur Tournament, Section A
White: Gurnhill, CR (Sheffield), Black: Thomas, HJM (Dundee)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 Be7 10. Nbd2 O-O 11. Bc2 f5 12. exf6 ep Nxf6 13. Nb3 Bg4 14. Qd3 Bxf3 15. Qxf3 Ne5 16. Qh3 Nf7 17. Nd4 Qd6 18. Ne6 Rfc8 19. Bf4 Qb6 20. Rae1 Bd6 21. Bg5 Nxg5 22. Nxg5 Re8 23. Bxh7+ Kf8 24. Bg6 Rxe1 25. Rxe1 Ne4 26. Qf5+ Nf6 27. Nh7+ Kg8 28. Nxf6+ gxf6 29. Qe6+ Kg7 30. Qf7+ Kh6 31. Qh7+ Kg5 32. Qh5+ Kf4 33. g3+ mate, 1-0 [YT&S, 18/10/1924]
BCF Congress, Southport, 1924, Southport
First Class Amateur Tournament, Section A
White: Thomas, WR (Liverpool), Black: Gurnhill, CR (Sheffield)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 Nxe4 8. O-O Bxc3 9. d5 Ne5 10. bxc3 Nxc4 11. Qd4 f5 12. Qxc4 d6 13. Nd4 O-O 14. f3 Nc5 15. Ba3 b6 16. Bxc5 bxc5 17. Nc6 Qf6 18. Rb1 Re8 19. Re1 Bd7 20. Rxe8+ Rxe8 21. Nxa7 Qg5 22. Nb5 Qd2 23. Nxc7 Re2 24. Qh4 Rxg2+ 25. Kh1 Rg5 26. Rg1 h6 27. Rxg5 hxg5 28. Qg3 Qc1+ 29. Kg2 Qb2+ 30. Qf2 Qxc3 31. Qe2 Qe5 32. Qxe5 dxe5 33. Ne6 Bxe6 34. dxe6 c4 35. Kf2 c3 36. Ke2 g4 37. fxg4 f4 38. a4 f3+ 39. Kxf3 c2 40. a5 c1=Q 41. Ke4 Qc4+ 42. Kxe5 Kf8 White resigned, 1-0 [YT&S, 29/11/1924]
Batley described this as played in the Major Open, Section A. (Same thing?)
In the Yorkshire-Surrey match played on 11th October 1924, at St. Bride’s Institute, London. Charlie played on board 8 against W. E. Allnutt, losing on adjudication. Surrey won 10-6.
The Woodhouse season kicked off on 18th October 1924 with Sheffield at home to Huddersfield. Charlie was on board 4, below G. W. Moses, E. Dale, and W. H. Sparke. He beat H. A. Cadman. Sheffield won 7-3. He had yet to work his way to the top of the board order. He missed the next three or more matches.
Charlie first won the Yorkshire Championship in 1924-25 (completed in 1924). Although there had been a formal Yorkshire Championship since 1886, there had originally been no trophy, seemingly, since 1890, when the Fattorini Trophy had been won outright. Charlie was the first recipient of The Yorkshire Chess Association Championship Trophy (which is a silver trophy bearing a Sheffield assay mark for 1923) after he won the championship a second time in 1925-26 (completed in 1925). The trophy was presented to Charlie in 1925, inscribed with the years 1924 and 1925 to reflect both his wins to date. He won again in 1947-48, and then again, for the last time, in 1949-50. The following are two of Charlie’s games from the 1924(-25) Yorkshire Championship.
Yorkshire Championship 1924(-25), round 4.
White: Schofield, F (Leeds), Black: Gurnhill, CR (Sheffield)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. Re1 Nc5 7. Bxc6 dxc6 8. Nxe5 Be7 9. d4 Ne6 10. c3 O-O 11. Be3 f6 12. Nf3 f5 13. Qe2 Bd6 14. Ne5 Bxe5 15. dxe5 f4 16. Bc1 f3 17. gxf3 Ng5 18. Bxg5 Qxg5+ 19. Kh1 Be6 20. Nd2 Rad8 21. Rad1 Bd5 22. c4 Be6 23. Rg1 Qh5 24. Qe3 Rf5 25. Rde1 Rdf8 26. b3 Rf4 27. Rg3 Rh4 28. Nf1 h6 29. Kg1 Rd8 30. Qc5 Rd7 31. Re4 Rxe4 32. fxe4 Bh3 33. Qe3 Bxf1 34. Kxf1 Qxh2 35. Qf3 Rf7 36. Qe3 Rd7 37. Qf3 Rf7 38. Qe3 Qh1+ 39. Rg1 Qh5 40. Qd2 Qh3+ 41. Ke1 Rd7 42. Qc1 Qf3 43. Qb1 Rd4 44. Qc2 Rxe4+ 45. Kf1 Qh3+ 46. Rg2 Rg4 47. White resigned, 1-0 [YT&S, 15/11/1924]
Yorkshire Championship 1924(-25), final
White: Gurnhill, CR (Sheffield), Black: Griffith, EF (Rotherham)
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Bd3 b6 6. O-O Bb7 7. Bg5 h6 8. Nc3 Qd8 9. Bh4 Bd6 10. Ne5 a6 11. Qe2 g5 12. Bg3 Nbd7 13. Rad1 h5 14. Rfe1 Qe7 15. h4 Rg8 16. hxg5 Rxg5 17. Ne4 Nxe4 18. Bxe4 Bxe4 19. Qxe4 Rc8 20. Bh4 Rg4 21. Qxg4 hxg4 22. Bxe7 Bxe5 23. dxe5 Kxe7 24. Rd4 Rg8 25. Ree4 Rg5 26. Rxg4 Rxe5 27. Rge4 Rb5 28. b4 c5 29. a4 Rxb4 30. Rxb4 cxb4 31. Rxb4 a5 32. Rd4 e5 33. Re4 f5 34. Rh4 Ke6 35. Kf1 e4 36. Ke2 Ke5 37. Rh6 Nf6 38. g3 Nd5 39. Kd2 Kd4 40. Rc6 e3+ 41. fxe3+ Nxe3 42. c3+ Kd5 43. Rg6 Nc4+ 44. Kc2 Kc5 45. Rg5 Kd6 46. Kd3 Ne5+ 47. Ke3 Ke6 48. Rg8 Nc4+ 49. Kd4 Nb2 50. Rg6+ Kf7 51. Rxb6 Nxa4 52. Rb5 Kg6 53. Kc4 Kg5 54. Kb3 Nxc3 55. Kxc3 and wins, 1-0 [YT&S, 20/12/1924]
One of his earlier games to become widely published was one he lost as Black to Eugene Alexandrovich Znosko-Borovsky, the Russian-born master who resided in Paris from 1920. This game is widely recorded as played at Stratford-on-Avon in 1924. This date looks like an error repeatedly copied from one writer to the next. At the British Chess Championships held at Stratford-on-Avon Town Hall from 17th August to 29th August 1925 (not 1924), Znosko-Borovsky was an entrant in the Major Open section. This will be where our Charlie encountered him. The game went:
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 10.Nbd2 O-O 11.Qe2 Nc5 12.Nd4 Nxd4 13.cxd4 Nxb3 14.Nxb3 Qd7 15.Be3 f5 16.f4 c5 17.Nxc5 Bxc5 18.dxc5 d4 19.Rfd1 Bc4 20.Qd2 Qf7 21. Qxd4 Bxa2 22.Qd6 Qb3 (probably a miscalculation, unless Charlie was intentionally planning to sacrifice the bishop for some compensatory passed pawns) 23.Qd3 Qxb2 (the point of no return) 24.Bd4 (winning the bishop) Qb3 25.Qd2 Rfd8 26.Qxa2 Qxa2 27. Rxa2 a5 28.Rad2 a4 29.e6 Ra6 30.Be5 Rxd2 31.Rxd2 Rxe6 32.Rd8+ Kf7 33.Ra8 g5 34.g3 gxf4 35.gxf4 Rg6+ 36.Kh1 Ke6 37.c6 and Black resigned.
A more successful effort of Charlie’s at Stratford was the following:
British Chess Federation, Stratford-on-Avon, 1925, Major Open
White: Gurnhill, CR (Hemsworth), Black: Watts, WH (London)
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Be3 Qc7 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. O-O Nc6 8. Nd2 d5 9. c3 Ne5 10. Bf4 Bd6 11. Bxe5 Bxe5 12. N4f3 Bf4 13. Re1 O-O 14. e5 Ng4 15. h3 Nxe5 16. Nxe5 Bxe5 17. Bxh7+ Kxh7 18. Qh5+ Kg8 19. Rxe5 f6 20. Re3 e5 21. Nf3 Be6 22. Nh4 Bf7 23. Qg4 Rfe8 24. Rg3 Be6 25. Qh5(a) Bf7 26. Qh6 Be6 27. Qxf6 e4(b) 28. Qg5 Rf8 29. Ng6 Rf6 30. Qh5 Rc8 31. Qh8+ and Black resigns (c).
Note by Batley:
(a) Threatening 26.Ng6.
(b) Threatening 28... Qxg3.
(c) If 31... Kf7, then 32. Ne5+ Ke7 33. Rxg7+ Bf7 34. Qh5 and wins.
Incidentally, the British Championship was won that year by Leicester-born Henry Ernest Atkins, who by then had been teaching in Huddersfield for many years, and so counted as a Yorkshireman. Second was Frederick Dewhurst Yates of Leeds. Eleventh out of twelve was Sheffielder G W Moses.
A later appearance, representing Yorkshire, against Middlesex, on 12th December 1925, saw him playing much higher in the team. Yorkshire was weakened by the absence of F. D. Yates and perhaps others, and Charlie was consequently playing on board two, below H. E. Atkins, and lost to E. G. Sergeant. The match result was Middlesex 6½, Yorkshire 5½, Middlesex winning the County Championship that season.
He won the Sheffield Championship (Bruce Trophy) in 1927-28, but didn’t win it again until after World War II, probably due mainly to not entering it. He won the first two Sheffield Championships after the post-war resumption of formal Sheffield chess competitions, those of 1944-45 and 1945-46. His next and final win in the Sheffield Championship was in 1948-49, when he defeated the late S&DCA Vice-President H. Clark in the final.
He played on board 9 in the counties final match Yorkshire v. Surrey, on 14/12/1929, beating T. H. Robertson. Surrey won 6½-5½. Sheffield had provided 5 of Yorkshire’s 12 players.
He played board 1 for Yorkshire in the 1929-30 Counties’ Correspondence Championship, against F. J. H. Elwell of Hampshire.
He played on board 9 in the Yorkshire-Cheshire match played on 18/01/1930 at the Gambit Cafe, Leeds, losing on adjudication to F. Osborn.
He played in Sheffield chess, on and off, over many decades, but by no means dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the local chess scene. In the 1930s he was a member of West End, along with another of Sheffield’s top players, A. Y. Green, who later became better known when living in London during the post-war era. The two were West End’s strongest members, yet they featured rarely in local or county league matches in 1933-34. One has to assume the two preferred to allow others a chance of competitive chess in the Davy Trophy (Sheffield league’s first division). Green appeared for West End in less than a handful of Davy matches, and Gurnhill in none at all! Nevertheless, when Davy winners, Button Lane, played The Rest of the league in a post-season eleven-board friendly, both Green and Gurnhill turned out to assist in a 10-1 defeat of Button Lane by The Rest. A shard of honour was salvaged for Button Lane by their top board, W. C. Evans (Colin Evans who in later years played for Rotherham), whom creditably defeated A. Y. Green. The rest of “The Rest” won; Charlie, on board three, beat Button Lane’s W. Coates.
The situation was similar as regards matches in the Woodhouse Cup (the top Yorkshire inter-town competition). A. Y. Green didn’t play at all for Sheffield that season, and Charlie played in only two of Sheffield’s eight matches, playing top board in away matches against Leeds and Bradford. For the other matches it was left to W. C. Evans to play top board for Sheffield. Sheffield finished last of the five teams in the West section of the Woodhouse Cup. Leeds beat Hull in the East-West play-off, so winning the Woodhouse Cup for the season.
The pair were similarly conspicuous by their absence from that season’s line-ups for the Sheffield Championship, Yorkshire Championship, and inter-county competitions. Yorkshire had defaulted to Northumberland in the Northern Counties knock-out, being unable to raise a team, so played no formal county matches that season, though they played a friendly versus Lancashire, at Sheffield’s Gambit Cafe, on 3rd March 1834. Neither Green nor Gurnhill turned out for Yorkshire, though the Gambit Cafe was West End’s home venue! They might have been working, of course.
For the season 1934-35, somebody seems to have been on a recruitment drive, as we find both Green and Gurnhill entering the Yorkshire Chess Association’s Kitchen Memorial correspondence chess tournament, and the Yorkshire Championship in which Sheffield provided seven of the twenty-eight entrants. The Yorkshire Championship had had only 12 entrants in 1932-33 and 10 in 1933-34.
In the first round of the Yorkshire Championship, A. Y. Green beat C. R. Gurnhill, and went on to win the title for the season.
In the Woodhouse Cup, A. Y. Green played in 7 of Sheffield’s 9 matches (+5, =1, -1), while Charlie played in 5 (+3, =1, -1). Sheffield won the West section and then beat Hull in the East-West play-off to determine the overall winners, A. Y. Green beating Hull’s Jacob Bronowski (later famous for “The Ascent of Man” on television) on board one, and Charlie beating G. Barron on board 2.
Sheffield had defaulted on board one against Huddersfield. “Owing to unfortunate misunderstanding as to the trains, two well-known Sheffield players did not make the journey.” Sheffield must have had a reserve, as only top board was conceded by default. As W. Gregory and W. C. Evans were on boards 2 and 3, it follows that at least one of the two absentees was Green or Gurnhill.
Against Wakefield, Charlie had played former Sheffield Champion G. W. Moses on board one. That game went as follows:
Sheffield-Wakefield, Woodhouse Cup, Sheffield, 12/01/1935
White: Moses, GW (Wakefield), Black: Gurnhill, CR (Sheffield)
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. g3 Bb7 4. Bg2 d6 5. O-O Nbd7 6. c4 e5 7. d5 Be7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. Qc2 a5 10. h3 Kh8 11. e4 Ng8 12. Be3 Rb8 13. Nd2 g6 14. f4 Bf6 15. Rf3 exf4 16. gxf4 Bg7 17. Ne2 Nh6 18. Nd4 Nc5 19. a3 a4 20. Raf1 f5 21. Nb5 Qe7 22. Nc3 Re8 23. Bxc5 bxc5 24. Kh1 Bc8 25. Re3 Bd7 26. Nf3 Bd4 27. Re2 Qg7 28. Nxd4 cxd4 29. Nd1 Rb3 30. exf5 Nxf5 31. Rxe8+ Bxe8 32. Rf3 Qe7 33. Rxb3 axb3 34. Qxb3 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Qe2 36. Kg1 Nh4 37. Nf2 Qe1+ 38. Bf1 Nf5 39. Qd3 Bd7 40. b4 Qc1 41. b5 Qxf4 42. a4 Ne3 43. Ne4 Qe5 44. Nf2 Qg3+ 45. Kh1 Qxf2 46. Qxd4+ Kg8 47. Qd3 Bf5 and White resigned.
The turn-out by Green and Gurnhill in the Sheffield league in 1934-35, was as bad as in the previous season. Charlie didn’t even turn out for the ritual destruction, by “The Rest”, of the Davy Trophy Winners, Woodseats Friends (“Friends” being a reference to the Quakers’ premises were they met, distinguishing them from Woodseats Chess Club, though the two clubs arose from a division into two of the prior Woodseats club), though Green played board one for “The Rest”.
In 1939, Charlie, still single (he seems never to have married), was living in the household of the Hicklin family at 17 Primrose Avenue, in the Firth Park district of Sheffield. He was a foreign correspondent, and is reputed to have had command of a number of foreign languages.
It seems likely that, between the wars, Green and Gurnhill were regular sparring partners for some years. After the Second World War, A. Y. Green settled in London, entering a new phase of his chess career. Charlie remained in Sheffield.
Compiling details of Charlie’s career since World War II would take months, and is here not attempted.
As mentioned earlier, he won the Yorkshire Championship in 1947-48, and then again, for the last time, in 1949-50.
Post-war tournaments he played in included:
1946 BCF Congress, Nottingham, British Championship
1961 9th Appleby-Frodingham Annual Whit Congess
1962 BCF Congress, Whitby, Major Open
1966 BCF Congress, Sunderland, Major Open
One of his famous games is what may be the shortest-ever game played in the Major Open section at the British Championships. It was played at Whitby in August 1962, the year fellow Sheffielder Norman Littlewood very nearly won the British Championship. Charlie won in six moves as follows:
White: C R Gurnhill, Black: W H Banks
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Qe2 Ngf6 6.Nd6 mate.
Charlie must have retires around March 1956, having in the latter part of his working life been a clerk in a steel works.
In the mid-1960s he was playing for Sheffield YMCA, which at that time met at the YMCA’s long-established premises in Fargate, Sheffield. In the later 1960s he moved to Hillsborough Chess Club, perhaps due to the move of the YMCA out of the city centre to its new premises on Victoria Road, off Collegiate Crescent.
Hillsborough played at The (“Ye”) Olde English Sampson on Duke Street (where the present writer once appeared, ineligibly, for Hillsborough Juniors in the Richardson Cup), and after that at the Brown Cow at Bridgehouses, near the start of Mowbray Street. Then it merged with the new Ecclesall Chess Club, losing its nomenclatural identity, though the Hillsborough Chess Club championship trophy became the Ecclesall Chess Club championship trophy. Charlie’s name may well be on that trophy, though perhaps by that time he was no longer strong enough to compete at club-championship level.
He was famous for the length of ash which built up on his cigarette. The present writer played him in a match at Hillsborough Chess Club, and remembers the fascinatingly-long length of ash building up on the end of the cigarette between his fingers as he motionlessly contemplated the board, and also remembers having to press Charlie’s clock for him, as Charlie was getting forgetful in that respect.
One story about him, from some British Championship event, involves a player on an adjacent board to Charlie jokingly castling using one of Charlie’s rooks. Perhaps Charlie was not at the board at the time. Anyway, Charlie apparently took some time to notice he’d mysteriously lost a rook. This story is difficult to verify, but its telling perhaps reflects the affection with which mild-mannered Charlie is remembered by Sheffield & District chess-players old enough to remember him; whether it’s true hardly seems important.
On the basis of directory evidence, he moved to 382 Windmill Lane, Sheffield, in about 1968. (Recorded there in Kelly dated 1969 and 1971, but not 1968 or before.)
Charlie Gurnhill died in early April, 1972, at 382 Windmill Lane, Firth Park, Sheffield. No notice is evident in either the Morning Telegraph or the Yorkshire Telegraph & Star. He was buried on 12/04/1972 at Sheffield’s Shiregreen Cemetery, but there is no headstone or other above-ground structure at the grave plot.
The Gurnhill Memorial Trophy competition was instituted by the Sheffield & District Chess Association in memory of Charlie, and was first contested in 1973, the first winner being Harry Russell. The trophy is made of electro-plated nickel-silver.
Copyright © 2012, 2013, 2017 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information