Yorkshire Chess History
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, and then in the Manchester area, eventually spreading to the Leeds area.
“A Rivlin” was a 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 mother’s 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.)
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:
There’s no apparent evidence of Abraham, Haid, Judah or Mordeccai being born in this country, but Abba was apparently born in Jerusalem, so one infers that the parents (possibly) and first two children (probably) were born in Jerusalem too, before moving from there to England, more specifically Prestwich, at some time from 1913 to 1916, to escape from war and/or anti-Semitism. At some stage, and certainly by 1929, the family had moved to Leeds.
Abba attended the central City of Leeds School, and at this stage, specifically 1930, the family lived in Reginald Terrace, Leeds.
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.
A Mordecai Rivlin was killed during the Second World War, in 1943 (unless there were two of that name).
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:
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.
Son Mark advises, “Dad was a football, cricket and snooker fan. I remember us going to a hotel in Cornwall around 1967 and there was a full-size snooker table and he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeve and rattled off a 50-plus break! He played schoolboy football to a decent level (he was a goalkeeper) and he saw Bradman twice at Headingley.”
In October 1930, Abba Rivlin told a Yorkshire Post reporter that at the age of 10 he had been taught to play by his father, but could not now play his father as the latter’s game was too inferior.
He played chess at school, being captain of the City of Leeds School team, and won a tournament promoted by Leeds Chess Club 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.
He was one of three players to win their games in Znosko-Borovsky’s 1930 simultaneous display in Leeds, and on this occasion revealed to a reporter that his attacking strategy was the Scotch Gambit: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4.
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 appeared in the I M Brown Shield before the war (as for instance away to Sheffield 2nd team on 04/04/1933).
A game he played found its way into a Brazilian book on the Budapest Defence, going as follows:
Event: unknown, c. 1954; White: unknown, Black: Rivlin, Abba
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ne4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Qc2 d5 6. exd6 ep Bf5 7. dxc7 Qxc7 8. Qb3 O-O-O 9. Be3 Bb4+ 10. Nc3 Qa5 11. Rc1 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Ba3 13. Ra1 Nb4 14. Nd4 Rxd4 15. Bxd4 Nc2+ 16. Kd1 Nxa1 White resigned, 0-1. (The game can be played on screen here.)
Besides playing over the board, he also played correspondence chess, sometimes with four or more games on the go at once, according to son Mark.
When Frank Avison, as YCA Correspondence Chess Conductor, instituted a YCA Correspondence Chess Bulletin in 1972, Abba Rivlin undertook the job of getting it duplicated.
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 on 04/05/1993, in Leeds. His wife Zena died in 1998 in Leeds. He was resident at this time at 6 Sandmoor Chase, Leeds.
Copyright © 2018, 2019 Stephen John Mann
Census information is copyright of The National Archive, see UK Census Information