Friday 24 February 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 3. City Champ

In this third episode of our story of the life and chess of Herbert Levi Jacobs (1863-1950) (episode 1 is here, and episode is 2 here) we will round off the account of his time with the City of London Chess Club up to his signal success in the club championship of 1894.  There are sundry other chess matters along the way, and - for better or for worse - a good number of Herbert's games. There is also a note, at the end, on a some interesting chess history documentation hidden in Hackney.

City Slicker

Last time we were tracing Jacobs' progress in the internal CLCC tournaments and we got as far as 1889 (when he was still only 26 years old). We thought that he was now trimming back his chess commitments - possibly his legal career at the Inner Temple, plus the obligations of married life, were beginning to tell - but he remained just as active at the CLCC. Brother Harold also - and he can be seen in the 2nd team playing Cambridge University in early 1890, where you'll notice two other familiar names from our blog's back catalogue: E.M.Jellie (CLCC 2nds) and J.N.Keynes (Cambridge). Students of the outer reaches of chess historical trivia will be pleased to note that this is a much earlier Jellie spot than unearthed hitherto, and a later one for John Keynes (father of Maynard).

British Chess Magazine April 1890
Mini-matches against other members of the club were the order of the day at the CLCC, and in the Summer of 89 Jacobs, Herbert, took on Block in a first-to-five match, played every Friday (Illustrated London News 24 Aug 1889). A match game appeared in the press later (ILN 21 Sep 89), in which his opponent tried to dig in (a Blockade, obviously), but dropped a big pawn and with it the game.    

From the Illustrated London News 21 September 1889 - with their notes 

Herbert was, as ever, clubbable. He was the teller at the CLCC annual blindfold simuls by Blackburne in September 1890 (BCM October) and again in October 1891 (Harding Blackburne p 311), 5-1-2 on both occasions. And on the subject of blindfold displays, the putative CLCC blindfold team mentioned last time finally made its appearance in print: Messrs Loman, Moriau and Curnock took "six boards each, played blindfold for three hours" - winning 13 and drawing three combined. "Extraordinary" and "prolonged cheering" reported the Morning Post 30 November 1891 - they must have played a blinder. Jacobs also did a stint of simuls down at the Club (in plain sight, I assume), taking his turn with the other experts at 3.00pm on Saturdays (ISDN 24 Jan 91).

However, although he had given up on the University of London Chess team in 1889, Jacobs didn't then confine his chess activity to the City Club. As we have already noted he was playing Surrey County matches, London inter-club competition chess with Brixton, with occasional forays elsewhere. In Part 1 we passed rather too quickly over a case of the latter and so missed some telling portents: it was the Middle Temple v Inner Temple match of July 1888. In Jacobs' Inner Temple side (below) note left-wing Liberal Llewellyn Atherley-Jones M.P., who was perhaps a kindred spirit politically, and right-leaning libertarian "Adonis" Donisthorpe, who perhaps was not. Among the Brethren in the Middle Temple team was H. W. Trenchard, one of Jacobs' University of London Chess Club colleagues, but also heavily identified with the North London CC - on the same side of the board here, but opposite in the game given further down this post.

From The Chess Monthly August 1888
Apologies for the British Library watermark.

Note that the Middle Temple team was listed alphabetically as is sometimes seen in other match reports, presumably so as not to risk offending the sensitivities of Chamber seniority. Note also that The Chess Monthly felt it necessary to acknowledge the provision of refreshments - an important detail for C19th readers. Of more significance to us looking back from the C21st is the presence of Miss Florence Balgarnie - a campaigner for Women's Suffrage: there perhaps at the invitation of Atherley-Jones, a supporter, and maybe even of Jacobs himself, as we shall see. By the way, there was to be a repeat performance of the battle between these teams of Our Learned Friends, in 1896 (CM March 96), in which Jacob's again played for the Inner Temple. Along the way the BCM (Jan 93) offered the following compliment to our hero "in wig and gown": that he "can conduct a case in court as ably as a game of chess" - as we shall also see later.

Another winter - 1891/2 - another CLCC tournament, and of course it's news in the chess press: Herbert was among the "well-known strong players" (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 26 Sep 91) taking part. He had a game published, but unfortunately it's a loss against M. Camille Moriau (I'm guessing, from the date of publication, it was played in December 91). This time its Herbert who drops the pawn, gets some counter-play, wriggles, but goes down in the end.

From The Morning Post January 4 1892 -with their notes

As an index of his progress up the CLCC pecking order we now find Herbert in their top team to play the traditional annual match against St. George's on 25th May 1892, though, as the BCM report (June 92) observed, the West End illuminations were not turned on to celebrate the match: it was for the no small matter of the Queen's birthday. Jacobs was playing alongside Mocatta, Loman, Physic et al, "the very flower of the Club" said its secretary, and Herbert duly outmanoeuvred General Minchin.

Jacobs played two "little matches" (as the BCM Oct 92 called them) - first to 5 wins - in the course of 1892 with Mr Owen Jones. Jacobs generally got the better of it, winning both matches, and even a third when he gave his opponent a head start of 3 in a match of first to 7.

From the Morning Post 25 April 1892 - with their notes.  

And here is Jacobs defending against a Jones attack - emerging on top once again.

From The London Evening Standard 12 September 1892 - with their notes.

But Mr Jones routed Herbert in this next one when the latter was somewhat cavalier in the neglect of his development (I am supposing it was played in September as it was reported at the beginning of October) .

From The Standard 3 October 1892 - with their notes. 

In spite of his drubbing overall, Jones might have had consolation from beating Jacobs under tournament conditions in the British Amateur Championship of March 1892.

Herbert also found time to win a gambit tournament in Spring 1893 at the Metropolitan Chess Club, beating (with Black) Ward in a play-off for 1st place in the first-class section. They played the Hampe-Allgaier (BCM April 93). According to the Oamaru Mail  (a New Zealand paper) (15 June 1893) - quoting the London Daily News - the gambit played was chosen by lot, but - bad luck Mr Ward - Jacobs had made a "special study" of this one. I give the game in case someone tries it on you.

Oamaru Mail 15 June 1893

Jacobs played another friendly match against his CLCC club colleague Rudolph Loman, at the Divan this time, terminating in July: "Mr Jacobs took the lead at first, but in the later games Mr Loman had it pretty well his own way": +6, =1, -4 in Loman's favour (BCM Aug 93). Here is another Jacobs' Vienna Meises variation - though he wins this time. Was Loman's mind on other things?

London Daily News 22 June 1893 - with their notes 

A Champion Again  

Which brings us, rather clunkingly, to late 1893 when Herbert Jacobs succeeded - after many attempts over his near-ten years of membership - in winning the CLCC championship of 1893/4. He beat Mr Mocatta in a championship game on-line here (another Vienna Meises). The BCM March 1894 said: "Mr Jacob's victory is very popular with his fellow members, as he is a chivalrous player and ready for the battle". It was this signal success that, I would think, have earned him the appreciative article, and a photograph similar to the one below, in The Chess Monthly of February 1895. He was, it said, "fast approaching to mastership."
Herbert Jacobs in 1894
In the L.B. Hackney Archive (see Note).

The fruits - and responsibilities - of success, and popularity, were to follow: at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the City of London Chess Club Jacobs was elected to the club committee (CM April 1896).

He also now found himself on highest boards of the CLCC side in the London League. This switch of allegiance from Brixton came about in the following circumstances (if I have got it right). Firstly Brixton bombed in the Metropolitan Chess Club's competition in 91/2 and was now in Division B if not worse. In 1893, this inter-club competition, which had been running since 1888/9, adopted the title by which we know it today: the "London Chess League" (BCM May 93). By this time the CLCC was competing in its top Division. Thus, there is mention of Herbert Jacobs on board 1 for CLCC v Metropolitan in Division A at the final match of the 93/4 season, and on board 4 v Met again at the start of the 94/5 season (CM Nov 94), and he captained CLCC v Athenaeum in December (BCM Jan 95). For the record: teams in Division A of the London League in 94/5 were Athenaeum, Bohemians, City of London, City News Rooms, Ludgate Circus, Metropolitan, North London (CM May 95). The London League website archive shows Metropolitan dominated the years 91/2 to 95/6 when Brixton bounced back to win once more. In spite of its strength in depth, CLCC never won the Championship.

Even though Hebert would still turn out for Surrey, he played for the North of the Thames, not the South of the Thames, in the 100 board mega-match in May 1896. You were eligible to play if you had resided "within the Metropolitan Postal District for six months" (London Daily News 13 April 96), and the 1891 census put him in Paddington, north of the river. I mention all this only as a pretext to show once again the splendid heading of the ceremonial team list prepared for the event.

With Herbert on 3, Harold was on 42 for the North, and nice to see Dr William Ballard on 9.
From the SCCA archive, with thanks.  

However, in spite of all this success, here is a dismal Jacob's loss. He seems to have been given to bouts of timidity at the board, and with his modest opening - one that we have seen him employ before - his play seem hardly worthy of a CLCC champion and top board for the club. Was it his turn to let his mind wander? His opponent, was of course, well-known to him on the Legal and London Chess Club scenes as we saw above, and the game it is of interest for taking place at the British Chess Club - and not at CLCC nor the North London CC, with which the two players were principally identified. The London clubs seemed to have overlapping memberships.

From The Morning Post March 2 1896 - with their notes 

Having now followed Herbert to the top of the City tree, we shall leave him with his well-earned success. Jacobs was however to win the CLCC individual championship once again, in 1899 (Sergeant (1934), also Times March 20 1899 with the score of the game Jacobs v Leye 1-0, 54) suggesting he remained a strong competitor in the club's tournaments - and indeed you can see his invariable participation in CLCC tournaments, never out of the chess news, reported in the BCM though to the mid 1920s, including a number of Jacobs' games - some of which we will try and fit in later.  

The next episode will turn attention to his participation in Congresses, and will take us well into the next century. We'll finish this one with a step over the threshold and win from 1900/01 against Barlow. It was published in the BCM in January 1901.

British Chess Magazine, January 1901

Part 1. Beginning in CroydonPart 2. Brixton, Benedict and Bar; Part 4. Congress ManPart 5. A Load of Old Cablers; Part 6. Engaging AgnesPart 7. Congress Man Replayed 8. Madame Larkcom9. Jacobs Crackers; and subsequent episodes via Lost in History

London Borough of Hackney Archive.
The photograph of Herbert Jacobs above comes from material originating from the North London Chess Club and now in the Local History Archive at the L.B. Hackney. The cache consists of minute books, and other documents, detailing the internal life of the NLCC from its inception in 1875 through to 1930. The material provides a fascinating insight into the goings-on in a Victorian chess club, and deserves to be known by a wider chess-historical readership.

The archive includes a set of ten mini-albums each of four photographs of players (carte de visite style), published in 1893-4 as "The Chess Album - Cabinet photographs of Leading Amateurs" - published by David Hum, 230 Northumberland Park, Tottenham, London. A sample appears in Hans Rennette's recent Bird biography at page 457.

Like so many archives in public institutions, which happen to be the custodians of niche material, Hackney asks for a fee for digital publication, even on non-commercial not-for-profit interested parties such as your blogger. In this case over £80 per item (on top of a £8.00 personal use photograph-as-much-as-you-like fee). I have written to Hackney to protest, but have not yet had a reply.

Details of the Albums are:

Lost in History


Ilkley Chess said...

Get it here for free

Martin Smith said...

Great find! Thanks Gerard!