Yorkshire Chess Association





Jack Duckworth

(1933 – 2021)


John (usually known as “Jack”) Duckworth, a long-time member of Harrogate Chess Cub living latterly in Oundle, died peacefully on 29th October 2021 at the age of 88.  He was born on 04/07/1933, in Harrogate, the third of four children born to Charles Duckworth, a public works contractor’s labourer, and Ethel Marjorie (“Madge”) Duckworth, the family home in 1939 being 6 Sykes Grove, Harrogate.  Immediately prior to moving to Oundle around 2014-15, he had lived at 5 Rossett Holt View, Harrogate.  He leaves wife Anne, who he married in 1964, and children Miles and Kay; also he was a grandfather.


The following obituary has been supplied by Andrew Zigmond.


Jack Duckworth joined the Harrogate Chess Club in 1953 and I believe played a part when the club won the Woodhouse Cup in 1958; the only time to date we have done so.  However a defining moment had already come way before that when Jack attended primary school with Margaret Wilkinson, later Margaret Rowley, who would join the chess club only a few years after him.  The two would form a lifelong friendship – at the club dinner a few years ago they performed a rendition of the comedy song I Remember It Well (with a self-composed extra verse about chess).


Jack left the area for some years to build a professional career.  While working in Singapore he played in a simul against Gligorić.  His game was the last to finish and the grandmaster sat at the board opposite him to conclude it, which must have been an occasion.  (Gligorić accepted the offer of a beer afterwards but was whisked away by the hosts for hospitality elsewhere.)


He returned to Harrogate in 1975 and threw himself into the life of the club, being a stalwart of the first team.  Around this time he founded the Harrogate and District Primary Schools Chess Association (HDPSCA), a registered charity [registered 23/04/1981, webmaster], supporting chess in primary schools locally, which is still active today.


Shortly after retiring Jack assumed the club presidency following the death of Aubrey Spalton, with the idea that he and Margaret would alternate the presidency between them.  However it soon became apparent that Jack’s abilities were wasted in a largely ceremonial role and he assumed instead the role of club chairman, leading the club through a period of growth and rebuilding in the early 2000s.  Around this time he also took on the role of bulletin editor for the Yorkshire Chess Association.  From his own recollections he had been approached for a senior role in the YCA back in the 1980s but declined due to other commitments – he was made an honorary life member of the YCA.


In his later years Jack moved to Oundle in Northamptonshire to be nearer his family.  While his own chess activities were limited by advancing years and, latterly, pandemic restrictions, he maintained a keen interest in the game and remained in touch with Harrogate members.  I last corresponded with him following the death of Ernie Little, who he knew well.


Outside of chess he served as a Liberal Democrat councillor on North Yorkshire County Council for many years.  His other great passion was music; he possessed a fine singing voice and gave up his time to perform in retirement homes locally.  No club dinner was complete without him leading us in song.


There was no area of Harrogate Chess Club, and indeed the wider chess community, where his influence was not felt.  He will be greatly missed.


Peter Cloudsdale has added:


I knew Jack for many years.

A good leader who helped Harrogate Chess Club.

Very enthusiastic and good family man with good standards. Will be sadly missed.