Yorkshire Chess History



Abba Rivlin











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site





1993, Leeds


Identity and Origins of the Chess-Player


Abba is a Jewish forename, and Rivlin is a Jewish surname.  There were Rivlins concentrated in south Wales, but then in the Manchester area, eventually spreading to the Leeds area.


“A Rivlin” was an Yorkshire chess-player.  There were only two people answering to “A Rivlin” in Yorkshire in the relevant period: Abraham B Rivlin and Abba Rivlin.  These two are found together with Haid Rivlin in the 1939 Register, making it clear Abba was Abraham’s son. Dates and ages in chess records make it clear the son was the chess-player.


On the basis of probability, it would seem five other Rivlins in Leeds were Abba’s siblings.  These all had births registered with a mothers maiden name either of “Schwartz” or the Anglicised “Black”.


The Yorkshire Post of Friday 31/10/1930 refers to schoolboy “A Rivlin” as “Abram”.  (“Abba” as a name is not an abbreviation of “Abraham”, but the reporter may have made that mistake.)


Non-Chess Life


Abraham B Rivlin, was born 02/02/1886, and his wife Haid Rivlin, née Schwartz, was born 08/07/1881.  The couple evidently had at least the following children:


Judah Rivlin

born 07/02/1907 or 07/03/1907

Mordeccai Rivlin

born 28/01/1912

Abba Rivlin

born 21/05/1913

Matthias Rivlin

born 05/09/1916, Prestwich

Moses Allenby Rivlin

born 05/12/1917, Prestwich

Mary Allenby Rivlin

born 1922, Prestwich


There’s no apparent evidence of Abraham, Haid, Judah, Mordeccai or Abba being born in this country, so one infers that the parents and first three children were born in and originally lived in mainland Europe, and moved from there to England, more specifically Prestwich, at some time from 1913 to 1916 to escape from war and/or anti-Semitism.


Abba attended the central City of Leeds School.


The 1939 Register found parents, Mordeccai, Abba and Matthias living at 30 Scholebroke Terrace, Leeds.  Father Abraham was a wholesale draper, while the three resident sons were commercial travellers, presumably for their father’s business.


In 1943, in Leeds, Abba married Zena Lefcovitch, born 05/06/1919, daughter of Marks Lefcovitch and Leah Lefcovitch, née Morris.  The couple appear to have had at least three children:


Michael M Rivlin

born 1943/44, Leeds

Marilyn E Rivlin

born ??/12/1947, Leeds

Mark A Rivlin

born 1955, Leeds


In 1947 Abba’s family lived in Orange Vale, Leeds 7.


Father Abraham appears to have died in 1949, in Middlesbrough.  Information on the death of his mother is not evident.




Abba Rivlin played chess at school and won a tournament for “fostering young talent in the schools” in each or the first three years in which it was held: 1929, 1930 and 1931.  He will have left school at that stage.


His debut in the Leeds Woodhouse Cup team was probably on 27/02/1932, on board 10 (with Julius Silverman on board 1) against Bradford.


He seems not to have been a regular Woodhouse Cup player until after the second world war, though he may have appeared in the I M Brown Shield before the war.


He also represented Yorkshire in county matches, a couple of examples being in 1946-47 and 1954-55.


At some stage he was made an Honorary Life Member of the Yorkshire Chess Association.  It was a long time after his death that his name was removed from the published list, illustrating the principle that old chess-players rarely die; they usually merely fade away unnoticed.




Abba Rivlin died in 1993, in Leeds.  His wife Zena died in 1998 in Leeds.






Copyright © 2018 Stephen John Mann

Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information

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