Yorkshire Chess History
John Edwin Povey
Identity of the Chess-Player
For a long time J E Povey was a strong Leeds-based chess-player, but his origins aren't clear. There was a J E Povey who played in a minor section of a London League New Year Congress of 1936. There was a J E Povey playing for Leeds on 20/11/1937, seemingly his first such appearance. There were other people called J E Povey in the London area, so these chess-playing J E Poveys, it seemed, could be distinct.
The birth registration which is most likely to represent such a person is that of John E Povey who was born in 1912 in the Kensington district of London. The death registration most likely to be the right one is that for a John Edwin Povey who died in 1989 in Buckinghamshire.
This was all very unclear at first, but John Saunders (of Britbase) has provided evidence of a chess-playing J E Povey associated with Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and everything fits into place to leave little doubt that the London-based, Leeds-based and Aylesbury-based chess-playing J E Poveys were indeed the same person, which is the assumption made here.
John Edwin Povey was born 15/05/1912 (per death registration) to a Mr & Mrs J Povey of Bexley, Kent (per marriage notice). His mother’s maiden name was Taylor, but otherwise the identity of the parents is unclear. In particular, they will not have been the John F Povey and Elsie Maud V Povey listed in the 1939 Register as resident at 111, Crocus Road, Bexley, Kent, since these two were born 30/07/1900 and 04/08/1899 respectively, and married in 1918, though they seem likely to be relatives of J E Povey.
Nothing is evident of the first 24 years of his life, but by 1937 he had joined the Royal Air Force. Chess records imply he moved from London to Yorkshire at some time from January to November 1937. His residence was given in July 1939 as the North Yorkshire village of Ryther, which is pretty well in the middle of nowhere, roughly equidistant from York and Leeds – slightly nearer York. His association with Leeds will initially have simply been that that is where the nearest chess club of note was to be found, as York Chess Club was not strong enough to be of interest to him.
The reason for living in Ryther will have been that he had been posted to RAF Church Fenton, which was opened in 1937, and became a base for home defence aircraft during World War II. It is situated between the villages of Church Fenton to the south and Ulleskelf to the north, with Ryther about one-and-a-half miles to the north-east. It is now Leeds East Airport.
Hon. Flight Officer John Edwin Povey (an early mention of his full name) was appointed a Pilot Officer on 18th July 1939. The final of the 1938/39 Yorkshire Championship was delayed due to the difficulties arising from Povey being in the RAF, and the titled was ultimately shared. On 11th September 1939, John Edwin Povey (73721), as a Pilot Officer on probation, was confirmed in his appointment and promoted to Flying Officer.
His being in the RAF explains why he is not evident in the 1939 Register.
The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury of 18/04/1941 reported his marriage to a bride 9 years older than himself, in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Leeds, as follows:
The bride, Margaret Florence Robertson, was born in 02/12/1902 in Bramley, at the edge of Leeds, her parents being medical practitioner Maurice George Robertson (born 21/01/1872, Huntly, Aberdeenshire; died 1928, Bramley) and Martha Mabel Robertson (born 1871/72, Cropwell-Butler, Notts.; died 23/08/1930, Armley, Leeds). Margaret Florence Robertson was herself a medical practitioner as her father had been. The 1939 Register found her to be a medical practitioner living in Nun Appleton, a quarter of a mile to the north of Ryther, which explains how she and John Edwin Povey met..
The couple appear to have had at least two children:
The places of birth of the children suggest the family lived in Leeds, but quite how that could fit in with RAF Church Fenton is unclear. Maybe they all lived either in Rhyther, or in Nun Appleton. (Also, it is possible Margaret Florence Robertson, as was, had inherited her parents’ home, The Lindens, Wesley Road, Armley, Leeds, when her mother died in 1930, and the Povey family may conceivably have lived there.)
The birth notice for John Philip Povey, in The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury of 14/09/1943, revealed that J E Povey was now a Flight Lieutenant:
At some stage, J E Povey moved to live in Leeds, though one might imagine that would only happen when he left the RAF, which may have been soon after the war. He was recorded as resident in Horsforth, Leeds, in 1960. (Horsforth is near the River Aire, which may explain the scoresheet headed “The Airedale Chess Club” pictured below.)
Margaret Florence Povey died in the Wharfedale registration district in 1978, suggesting J E Povey had not left the general Leeds area before 1978, and perhaps suggests that he had moved out of Leeds to somewhere in Wharfedale, such as Otley or Ilkley.
At some time from about 1978 to 1983, he had evidently move to Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, or thereabouts, as a chess-playing J E Povey crops up there. It is possible that after the death of his wife he moved to live with or near one of his children.
According to probate records, his residence at the time of his death was 20 Church Lane, Cheddington, Leighton Buzzard. Cheddington is a village about 6 miles south of its post town, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, though is itself in Buckinghamshire, and in the registration district of Aylesbury Vale. It is also about 6 miles east-north-east of Aylesbury, which evidently where he went to play chess.
In the Minor Section of the London Chess League 1936 New Year Congress, first place was shared between N A Perkins and J E Povey on 7 points out of 9.
An early record of J E Povey playing chess in Yorkshire was of him playing at board 9 for Leeds against Bradford in the Woodhouse Cup on 20/11/1937, when he beat J C Burrow.
Thereafter he popped up regularly playing for Leeds and Yorkshire.
In 1937-38 he played for Yorkshire against Cheshire, and Lancashire.
In 1938, he drew with Alekhine when the latter gave a simultaneous display in Leeds.
In 1938-39 he played for Yorkshire against Lancashire.
He shared the 1938-39 Yorkshire Championship with G Barron of Hull, as it wasn’t possible to play the final.
In 1945/46 he played for Yorkshire against Co. Durham and Lancashire.
On 30/03/1946 he played for NCCU v Scotland
In 1946 (December?) he played for Leeds v Manchester
In 1946-47 he played for Yorkshire against Northumberland, then Cheshire, and then Lancashire.
June 1949 (?) played for Yorkshire v Warwickshire.
26/11/1949 played for Leeds v Sheffield.
07/01/1950 played for Leeds v Hull.
06/05/1950 played for NCCU v MCCU.
28/10/1950 played for Leeds v Hull.
In 1950/51 he won the Yorkshire championship.
On 21/11/1953 he played for Yorkshire v Cumberland & Westmorland.
On 19/06/1954 he played for Yorkshire v Surrey.
On 12/03/1955 he played for Yorkshire v Co. Durham.
In 1955 J E Povey of Leeds finished 2nd on 3 points out of 5 (1st P C Gibbs) at YCA Easter Congress in Harrogate.
On 18/06/1955 he played for Yorkshire v Middlesex in the English Counties’ final.
In 1958 (June) he played for Yorkshire v Sussex.
In the 1960 British Championships, Major Open, results were 1st J. A. Lawrence 8½; 2nd P. B. Cook 8; 3rd= R. H. Northage, J. E. Povey of Horsforth 7½ (per Birmingham Daily Post 23 August 1960, and Leicester Evening Mail 19 August 1960)
The BCF Year Book of Chess for 1970-71 shows him playing for Yorkshire in September 1970.
At some stage he was made an Honorary Life Member of the Yorkshire Chess Association.
The 1983 SCCU Grading List lists J E Povey (Aylesbury), graded 153 (per John Saunders).
The 1983/84 BCF Yearbook shows J E Povey playing on board 20 for Buckinghamshire versus Derbyshire on 4 June 1983 in the semi-final of the Minor Counties' Championship and in the final versus Sussex on 2 July 1983 (per John Saunders).
Books and Magazines he Owned
A chess-player living in Scotland, Jim Anderson, purchased a collection of old chess books and magazines on eBay. Some of the books had inside the front cover the signature “John E. Povey”.
The items included the following.
Chess Sutton Coldfield Magazine - loose issues from November 1935 until July 1936.
British Chess Magazine “Bound” volumes from 1938, 1939, 1941, 1942, and 1943. These are all self-bound in that John would appear to have bound them with needle and thread and added brown paper covers to the each volume.
Loose BCM magazines from 1944, 1948, 1963, 1964,
Charousek’s Games of Chess published 1919 - John’s signature in the frontisleaf.
A copy of Walker’s Chess Studies, with inside it the inscription “Bought for 3/6d via M J Haygarth 27.11.1954 J. E. Povey”.
A copy of Fine’s Basic Chess Endings, inside the front leaf is John’s signature and the address again given as 17 West End lane Horsforth. There is an additional line in brackets which looks like Bicester and the year 1960. The edition is dated 1958, so I assume he bought it in 1960.
A programme from the BCF Annual Congress of August 1967, in Oxford, with a handwritten address for John of 17 West End Lane, Horsforth, Leeds. I presume he attended the Congress but although all the cross tables of the various tournaments are filled in in biro, his name does not appear in any as a competitor.
Six copies of the Year Book of Chess ending in the 1970-71 issue. His name appears playing for Yorkshire in September 1970.
In one of the books there was a score sheet of a game (no date) versus R. Blades seemingly played at the Airedale Chess Club, pictured below.
The death of John Edwin Povey (name given in full) was registered in the first quarter of 1989, in the registration district of Aylesbury Vale, which encompasses Cheddington, so he probably died at home in Cheddington.
Copyright © 2018, 2021 Stephen John Mann
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