H. V. Mallison aged 50
Harold Mallison was born in Leicester in 1897, the eldest child of George Robert Preston Mallison, a tailor's cutter, and his wife Anne Wilks Mallison. In 1901 they lived at 49, Loughborough Road, and had two other children, Wilfred Gordon and baby Lillian Anne. At that time George was 33 and his wife 30.
Tragedy struck shortly after when their mother died in 1904, leaving three children under 7. One of George's unmarried sisters came to look after them, but she was a somewhat stern character and the children's home life was less than convivial. In fact, Wilfred was so keen to leave home that he lied about his age in order to join up and fight in the Great War. After taking a B.Sc in Mathematics from London University Harold also joined up, and both were badly injured, Harold receiving shrapnel wounds which temporarily blinded him, and left his sight permanently at risk.
After the war, Harold went up to Cambridge University where he spent a year taking an M.A. In the 1920 Varsity Match, he played on Bd. 2 below Lionel Penrose, the father of Jonathan, future many times British Champion, and Oliver.
The Cambridge University Championship that year consisted of two 7 man American sections, with a final between the two section winners. In Mallison's section was Penrose, A. A. Maris, C. M. Precious, C. Rister and R. H. Thouless, all of whom he beat, and J. H. Barnes against whom he lost, finishing on 5/6. Barnes and Penrose were equal 2nd, half a point behind, mainly through earlier having agreed a draw after just one move. The other section was won by N. H. Smith. Mallison beat him in the final after 56 moves, becoming University Champion 1920. All the games were played without clocks.
At Cambridge, he began his career-long practice of writing the scores of all his own games into booklets that he made himself. He used sheets of heavy, unlined, plain white paper, almost A4 in size, folded them double, and stitched them together. On the left hand page he wrote the moves and filled the opposite page with detailed analysis of the game in neat, minute handwriting. He compiled 20 books of his own games, each containing about 30 games. In addition, there are about 44 similar booklets of varying thickness, containing games from tournaments and matches around the world. They are mostly of the years 1913 - 15, which suggests that this was the period when he first became absorbed with the game and was his method of learning. In his will, he bequeathed them to the Exeter Chess Club where they still reside. All his games will eventually be typed into his games database, although this will take some time. Many of them involve hitherto unpublished and lost games against better-known opponents.
Immediately after graduating, he was appointed as an Assistant Lecturer in Mathematics at Exeter College, and he remained there for the rest of his working life, exactly the same career pattern as his near contemporary, A. R. B. Thomas - Cambridge degree in Mathematics, followed by 40 years in the same Devon educational establishment.
This was very far from the university set-up that we have become familiar with today. At the time of his arrival, the college had about 300 students and was struggling financially, to the point where its closure was a distinct possibility. However the authorities were striving to have it upgraded to the status of university college, and their application was finally accepted by the University Grants Committee in August 1922, the biggest single milestone in the university's history. Never the less, Mallison's salary as assistant lecture was still less than an ordinary schoolmaster on the Burnham Scale at the time.
He was elected as a member of the Exeter Chess Club in 1921 and won the club championship in his first two seasons. He went on to win the club championship ten times in all up to 1946 - 47, and it would doubtless have been more were it not for two reasons; the years that he did not win in the 1920s were those in which he did not participate. This may have been due to the pressure of work as he got established at the University-College, or because he felt it bad for the club if he won it every year for a decade, as he almost certainly could have done. He competed regularly in the 1930s, but his run was then interrupted by the 6 year gap for the 2nd world war. He was undoubtedly Exeter's strongest player between the wars. A. R. B. Thomas was nearby at Tiverton from 1925, but for some reason chose not to get involved in Devon chess until after the war.
As the future of the university college was looking rosier, in 1925 he purchased a house in a new development off Ladysmith Road, which became known as First, Second and Third Avenues. The address was originally 104, Ladysmith Road, becoming 29, Third Avenue in 1933, and being re-numbered to No. 9 the following year. He lived there till his death in 1980. He was promoted to Lecturer in 1927, at which level he remained until 1955, when he became a Senior Lecturer..
During the inter-war years, Devon was affiliated to the S.C.C.U. the area of which stretched from Penzance to Great Yarmouth, a distance of over 400 miles. To enable a reasonable programme of inter-county matches, the western counties competed in their own section for the Montague-Jones Cup, which was regarded as something of a 2nd Division, while the metropolitan counties competed for the Shannon Cup. The winner of each section would meet for the overall SCCU championship and a place in the National Inter-County Final.
The 1930 - 31 season was markedly successful for the Devon team generally. They had won the Montague-Jones Cup and met Middlesex
at Salisbury on 31st May 1931, to decide the SCCU county championship. The BCM reported the match in the following manner:-
Middlesex won the championship of the SCCU, but Devonshire put up a fine resistance, and had the match been 12-a-side, would have finished up winners. The last 4 Middlesex players, however, all won their games, giving the Metropolitan County the match by 10 - 6. We have great pleasure in giving a picture of the Devonshire team, the first time we believe we have portrayed this sporting County.
It is most encouraging to find so good a team so far from London and the great mercantile centres. Devonshire have an efficient and hard-working secretary in H. V. Mallison, a 1st class top board player in R. M. Bruce (he has won 4½ out of 5 in this year's championship matches), a sturdy veteran in T. Taylor, and a loyal and enthusiastic team. The members have considerable travelling for nearly every match, and sometimes cannot return home the same night. We wish the best of luck to the chessplayers of the West, and hope that the Montague Jones Cup will often rest there…
The Devon team that contested the final of the Southern Area Championship - 1931.
Seated l - r: Tom Taylor; Harold Mallison; Ron Bruce; Frank Pitt-Fox and the Rev. A. Seymour.
Standing: Jack Goodman; A. B. Treloar; F. Mather; Prof. S. B. Slack; H. J. H. Cope; H. J. Stretton; R. W. Hornbrook; W. C. Rickard; G. B. Crowther; Dr. C. L. Lander & J. W. Catling.
Devon's problems were alluded to in the report. In addition to the distances travelled, Jack Goodman, for example, was an orthodox Jew and if the match was on a Saturday, as it usually was, had to travel to each venue the day before and return the day after, and someone had to write down his moves. Pitt-Fox was physically disabled, as one can detect from his posture in the picture. Professor Slack, incidentally, was great friends with A. R. B. Thomas' father, having been at Oxford University together, and 33 years later, Andrew was to marry Slack's niece, Liddy - (see A.R.B.'s biography).
The following year, Mallison played in the BCF Congress in London, but for some reason was placed in a section far too easy for a player of his ability - in the 7th of 9 twelve man American sections. He won by a country mile, dropping just a half point in the process. Interestingly, the Runner-Up in his section, Nikolai Worobjeff, was himself no mean player, having got a draw against Capablanca in a simultaneous match when just 13 years old. Later in the 1930s he changed his name to Nicholas Worthing, and eventually retired to Budleigh Salterton, where he joined the Exmouth Club. (See their site for his biography).
The following extract from the Devon & Exeter Daily Gazette of 28th January 1932, gives an idea not only of his ability and expertise, but also his willingness to share that with others around the county.
"Mr. H. V. Mallison, President of the Exeter Chess Club, paid a visit to the Teignmouth Chess Club last Saturday. He had a large and appreciative audience for his lecture on the Ruy Lopez in which he demonstrated the fine attack and the difficulty Black has in meeting it. He analysed various defences, particularly the Steintiz, the Steinitz Deferred, the Berlin and the counterattack by P-KN4.
The members were keenly interested as the Ruy Lopez is this year's tourney opening. No-one in the district is better qualified than Mr. Mallison to impart such instruction, and the thoroughness of his analysis is proved by the exactitude of his practical examples.
After tea, Mr. Mallison gave a simultaneous exhibition, giving all eight opponents the odds of a knight. He won every game!"
In 1934, he played in the BCF congress at Chester, entering the Major Open Reserves. He came joint 1st ahead of 25 year old Barry Wood and the 56 year old William Watts.
Around 1934 he married Grace Lydia Pepper, 7 months younger than Harold and from his home town of Leicester. Though not in her husband's class, she was a player of some ability and won prizes in the lower sections at the Exeter Club. She even played him in the Exeter Club Championship each season from 1935 up to the outbreak of war. As ever, he recorded the games in great detail, making no mention of any relationship between the two. In March 1939, for example, he recorded that at the outset of the Round 7 game against her, that "Black only needed a draw to win the Championship" - and a draw it duly was; she got a draw against one of Devon's top players and he won the championship - satisfaction all round.
In August 1935 she went with him to Great Yarmouth to take part in the B.C.F. Congress, and clearly inspired him to great success.
In 1935 & '36, Sir George Thomas toured the country giving a series of simultaneous matches in order to raise funds for the proposed great international congress at Nottingham. In Devon he visited the Exeter and Plymouth clubs, and in the process raised not only funds but also enthusiasm for the event among Devon. Mallison and his wife both played and other Devonians included Ron Bruce and his future wife, the 17 yr old Rowena Dew, Jack Goodman and R.W, A. W. & F. C. Hornbrook from Plymouth, Kathleen Passmore of Exeter and Douglas Egginton of Teignmouth.
Mallison's final score can only be described as respectable. The solitary half point from the top 4 players indicated a slight difference in class between him and the leaders. Mrs. Mallison played with five other ladies in the 3rd Class Division 2 "A" where she scored 4 wins and 2 draws from her 10 games.
It was different at the British Championships at Blackpool the following year, 1937, where he came clear 1st in the Major Open, thus qualifying for the Championship itself the following year.
Grace played in the Third Class Division 2, where she came 6th= on 5/11, just half a point behind Mrs. Mary Dew, mother of Rowena, who won the British Ladies Championship with the massive score of 10 points.
The late summer of 1938 was a period of great activity for Mallison, and in one sense can be considered the peak of his playing career. He went to Brighton in early August to play 11 games in the British Championship, followed in early September by Plymouth's Golden Jubilee Congress which consisted of an 8 player American. In these few days his opponents included Alekhine, twice each against Menchik, Sir George Thomas, Milner-Barry, and, for good measure, C. H. O'D. Alexander, Golombek, T. H. Tylor, Aitken, Sergeant, and Dr. List among others.
Some of Mallison's eminent opponents at Brighton; l - r: Golombek; Frank Parr (tieless) ; C. H. O'D. Alexander; Sir George Thomas (partly hidden), Milner-Barry; E. G. Sergeant & A. Lenton.
The Plymouth Club had reached its 50th year in 1938 and to commemorate the fact organised a special tournament. This attracted the World Champion and a number of bright young English players. Ron Bruce was the Plymouth champion and although heavily involved in the organisation was not going to pass up the chance of meeting the masters. Mallison was invited on the strength of being the current Exeter Champion and Devon's champion of champions, holder of the Winter-Wood Trophy. Bruce paid the price for his work overload. The Tuesday was the only day to have a double round; in the morning, Bruce was badly beaten in 12 moves by Alekhine, and then had to face Vera Menchik in the afternoon. He dined for over half a century on the story of how he was the only person to have played two world champions on the same day.
Mallison had better luck against Menchik, when he offered a draw, which she accepted. They shook hands, before noticing that the lady's flag had fallen. He got the full point.
The Women's World Champion, Vera Stevenson in play at Brighton. She played there under her married name, and a few days later at Plymouth under her maiden name, and was recorded in Mallison's scorebook as Vera Menchik-Stevenson.
His results were far from impressive, and although he was doubtless past his best in terms of playing strength, this was, as events subsequently turned out, a glorious Indian summer in terms of the arenas in which he found himself.
The outbreak of war the following year brought an end to the usual pattern of chess activity, and on resumption, by the mid-1940s, his scorebooks alone tell the story of a serious illness. The last of his neatly done booklets was done in 1946. After that, the sheets of paper are only held together with a paperclip; the handwriting is much larger and there is no minutely-written analysis. The games become increasingly spaced out in time and by 1956, the handwriting is that of another person. The last two games were in University Staff v Students matches in January 1962 and February 1963.
The reason for this decline in his usual impeccable standard of recording games is undoubtedly related to an illness that he incurred in the summer of 1947. In April he clinched the Club Championship yet again with 9½/10, with Frank Kitto 2nd on 9. However, as usual writing about himself in the third person, on the back of the scoresheet he records, "Owing to ill-health, H. V. Mallison resigned from completing the Winter-Wood Trophy in favour of F. E. A. Kitto, who subsequently won it". He was also due to play in the Devon Individual Championship, and on 2nd June 1947 he beat Ron Bruce after two draws, but wrote on the back of the scoresheet "After this game H. V. Mallison resigned from the Championship Tourney owing to ill-health".
The exact nature of his illness is not known, but whatever it was, it marked the end of his involvement with the Exeter Club's internal affairs. Their minute books show no mention of him again after this, except to say that he once attended an A.G.M. His presence alone was sufficiently unusual to merit a special mention.
He was forced to give up the captaincy of the Devon that he had done since he took over on the death of Thomas Taylor in 1934, and Ron Bruce took over, a job he held for the next 40 years. This led to the remarkable statistic that for the best part of the 20th century, between 1904 and 1987, Devon had only 3 match captains, Taylor, Mallison and Bruce.
His chess activities were far from over, however. Although his playing was greatly restricted, he still played for Devon in county matches. His playing strength doesn't seem to have been affected by his illness as he still played on a high board, usually around Bds. 4 - 6. He played for Exeter in important matches such as the National Club Championship and the Bremridge Cup. He continued to record his games at the end of each season, but the handwriting was suddenly very large, and there was no attempt to add analysis or sew the loose pages into a neat booklet - the sheets were merely paper-clipped together. From 1955, the scores are in a lady's hand, which show that he had by that time lost most of his vision, and Grace had to do this herself, although by then he played only a handful of games each season.
He was elected President of the DCCA in 1948 and continued in that office for a 13 year unbroken run until 1961. At this point, a further decline in his health forced him to give up this post, and he was succeeded by his Cambridge contemporary Andrew Thomas. The new President's first job was to circulate all Devon's club with the following letter, which in itself is an excellent summary of his contribution to Devon chess.
15th October 1961
Dear Club Secretary,
At a meeting of the council of the DCCA, held at Exeter on 7th October, it was the general wish that the Association should make a presentation to Mr. H. V. Mallison in acknowledgement of his long and outstanding contribution to Devon chess.
Mr. Mallison's services to Devon, not only as a distinguished player, a generous patron and as an office holder, cover a period of over 35 years. In 1928 he was Match Conductor for the county team and a delegate to the Southern Counties Chess Union, both of which offices he retained for many years, but in addition, he was an outstanding chess player in National and County events. Between 1922 and 1946 he won the Winter-Wood Trophy on nine occasions and the County Individual Championship on six occasions. In 1950(sic) he was elected to the office of President of the Association and in this office which he held till this year, he earned the respect of all who came into contact with him. Due to declining health he has had to give up much of his chess, and by doing so we lose a President for whom we hold a great affection and a player of outstanding ability.
The council approved the suggestion that a subscription list be opened to provide a gift worthy of the occasion for presentation to Mr. Mallison at the County Match to be held at Taunton on the 25th November and I am sure your members will desire to support this appeal. ….
A.R. B. Thomas.
The Exeter Secretary duly responded with a postal order for £1.35p.
It seems strange that even after these two bouts of serious illness, forcing him to give up the game he loved, he still lived another 20 years, reaching the ripe old age of 82. For example, from 1968 to his death in 1980, he was listed as Devon's Vice President, as opposed to the long list of vice-presidents, serving a rotation of presidents.
He was far more than a journeyman maths lecturer, as throughout his teaching career he regularly contributed learned articles to the Mathematics Journal and Mathematical Gazette, bearing such diverse and intriguing titles as, for example, "The Involute of the Astroid", "Tracing the Conic", "Elements at Infinity" and "The Rule of Signs" (all from the 1920s), and "Pedal Circles and the Quadrangle" and "The Coincidence of Locus and Envelope" from the 1950s, to name but a few. Some of these are drawn on as source material in the book Concise Encyclopaedia of Mathematics by Eric Weisstein (1998), so have stood the test of time.
He was a keen musician and played the piano. In this way he was a perfect example of the unity of the three activities; chess, music and maths. Skill at chess is often matched by an equal skill at one or both of the other two. His contemporary A. R. B. Thomas, was another fine example of this. (see his biography).
Grace Mallison died in January 1970, and Harold's spinster sister, Lillian, came down from Leicester to look after him.
In 1980, he died suddenly on one of his annual visits to St. Dunstan's in Brighton. He was buried in Exeter Higher Cemetery in grave no. HJ 170, next to his wife and barely a stone's throw from his home.
Above right: The pleasant and well-kept surroundings of Exeter Higher Cemetery, looking towards the Mallison headstone.
There was a number of bequests in the terms of his will. He left £600 in trust to be used "to provide intensive training at appropriate levels" for Devon's junior chess players. A Trust was set up and registered with the Charity Commissioners. There were to be three Trustees and up to two other persons whom the trustees might wish to co-opt. The inaugural meeting of the Trust took place on 19th February 1982 at the Teignmouth home of Reg Thynne, with Ken Schofield (Exmouth), elected hon. Chairman, Les Wade (Torquay), as hon. Treasurer and Thynne being Secretary.
By 1989, the time of the fourth and most recent training session at Torquay Boys' Grammar School, funds had risen to approximately £1,000. On this occasion, 38 juniors, mostly under-11s, attended who were divided into three groups according to ability, and instruction was given by a team consisting of I.M. Gary Lane, Chris Heath, Vic Cross, Eddy Jones and Bob Jones. An attendance fee of £1 was charged so the Trust's expenditure was less than the allocated sum of £80.
A substantial bequest was made to Exeter City Council to set up the Harold Vincent and Grace Lydia Mallison Memorial Fund to be used in any way it thought fit for the benefit of the people of Exeter. It decided on a small wooden footbridge across the Higher Leat, where it re-enters the Exe near the Customs House on the Quay. A suitable design was done by D. J. Howard of the City Council, and the bridge was eventually opened on 19th September 1984 by his nephew Roger Mallison. It is called the Mallison Bridge and a small plaque commemorates his generous donation. The council also named a road after him, Mallison Close, on a new housing estate in the Exwick area of the city, not far from St. David's Station. The rest was spent on the Arts Centre in Gandy Street.
Above left & right: The Mallison Bridge in the pleasant surroundings of the quayside on the Exeter Canal terminus.
Below: The small plaque on the bridge walkway.
He left his house to Exeter University, with the proviso that his sister Lillian be allowed to spend the rest of her life there. They had little time to wait as she died in 1983. They called the house Mallison House and it was used first as a disability resource centre, and then for student accommodation. But it was inconveniently situated from the university's point of view, and in 2006 it was sold off and "the proceeds reinvested into the university's strategic aims". It has now reverted to a private residence.
His collection of sheet music was left to the University's Music Department, and his chess score-books were left to the Exeter Club.
Of the original three Mallison siblings, neither Harold nor his sister had children; their brother, Wilfred married Ivy Clarke in 1926 and had a son, Roger Lloyd, and daughter, Pamela Joan. The Mallison line and name lives on in Roger's three sons, Andrew, Patrick and Ian.
Harold's eventual blindness, probably brought on by his wartime injury, caused him to lose touch with his chess contacts for the last quarter century of his life, and this in turn resulted in him becoming, to some extent, a forgotten man in the chess world even in his own lifetime. Even though he only died in 1980, there is no-one left who remembers him as a player or organiser. Yet there is no denying his tremendous contribution during the inter-war years, both as a regular championship-winning player and organiser. Even from this distance, he was clearly very well-liked by his peers, and he, in turn, was generous to them, both in his time and resources. He is the only person to have had the foresight to make any financial provision for those who come after, and his name thus lives on in his adopted city of Exeter. His place in this gallery of pioneers is both deserved and assured.
N.B. For most of the years he did not win the Exeter Club Championship, he had not, in fact, entered, and thus could not qualify for column 3.
Clapp, B. W: University of Exeter - A History 1982
Exeter University Register 1893 - 1962 1970
Regis, Dr. D: 100-odd Years of Exeter Chess Club.
Di Felice, G: Chess Results 1931 - 35 McF 2006
Di Felice, G: Chess Results 1936 - 40. McF 2007
Mallison, H. V: His own scorebooks.
Exeter Chess Club minute books and archives.
Testimony of Roger L. Mallison (nephew)