Chapter 3 – 1945 – 1949

With the end of the Second World War in 1945, hostilities of a more civilised kind were resumed over the chess board. A new league championship trophy was introduced, presumably the original did not survive the war. Not that chess had been entirely absent during the war years. The Shrewsbury Chess Club Trophy shows club champions for each year except 1940, with Colonel C.Stuart-Prince taking that title in 1942, 1944 and 1945.

In 1945-46 there were eight clubs affiliated to the “Shropshire Chess Association (including Herefordshire)”, which were Shrewsbury, Hereford, Ludlow, Wellington, Whitchurch, Church Stretton, Sentinel Works (based in Shrewsbury), and Bridgnorth. However the Bridgnorth Club folded at the end of that season. The SCA Correspondence Championship started during the war, was continued, Mr CH Pennell having given a handsome rose bowl as a trophy – won by CWH Williams. – BCF Year Book 1946-47

Several mid-European players found themselves in Shropshire as a direct result of the war. They greatly enriched the chess scene here both by their playing skills and diverse personalities. These included Otto Schalscha, Hans Lobbenberg, Pal Mondelski, Herbert Becker, Mrs Ingram, and Stanley Obcarskas. 

The league title was shared between three of the four major clubs – Wellington in 1946, Hereford in 1947, and Shrewsbury reinforced by Gemmell and Lobbenberg in 1948 and 1949, with only Ludlow missing out. It is perhaps not surprising that a county with such a small player base had not won a match against any rival county since 1916. Another twenty years would elapse before that historic next victory, with Dr Gemmell as the proud county captain.

The county championship was won in 1946 and 1947 by DE MacNab thus adding to his titles from 1938 and 1939. Clearly the war had not dulled his chess skills. HT Lobbenberg took the crown in 1948 followed by Rev AP Lacy-Hulbert‘s second title in 1949. 

Lt.Col. DE MacNab – Four Times County Champion 1938 – 1947

The end of hostilities saw MacNab return with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and all his old chess skill to score this crisp win in the county’s first post war match. Sadly by the 1950’s he had foresaken the game for golf and other interests, leaving the county for many years short of a top board capable of competing against top class opposition. 

MacNab,D – Bonham,R [A48] – Shropshire & Herefordshire v Worcestershire Board 1 – 1945
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 Bg7 4.h3 0–0 5.e3 d6 6.Bd3 Nbd7 7.0–0 Nh5 8.Bh2 f5 9.Bc4+ Kh8 10.Ng5 Qe8 11.Ne6 Nb6 12.Nxg7 [12.Nxf8? Nxc4 and the white Knight is trapped] 12…Kxg7 13.Bb3 f4 14.exf4 Nxf4 15.Bxf4 Rxf4 16.Qd2 Qf8 17.Nc3 Qf6 18.Rae1 e5 the losing move although white was threatening a serious encroachment by d5 anyway 19.dxe5 dxe5 20.Qe3 Nd7?? 21.Nd5 Qg5 22.Nxf4 exf4 23.Qe7+ 1-0
1956 picture courtesy of Shrewsbury Golf Club

Hans Lobbenberg 1896-1955
Shropshire Champion 1948

In the early post-war years an impressive new power appeared on the Shropshire Chess horizon in the form of Hans Lobbenberg who won the County Championship at his first attempt in the 1947/48 season under the new system of play wherein the holder had to take his chances in the tournament right from the start. He beat the holder, MacNab, in the semi-final and clinched the title against another well known local player at the time, JH Thomasson. Both had founded businesses in Shrewsbury, the latter running the small electrical business of Thomasson and Holland in Barker Street, at the other end of the commercial scale to the then massive Silhouette Company founded by his opponent.

Lobbenberg,H – Thomasson,J [D91]
Shropshire Championship 1948
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nc3 d5 5.Bg5 c6 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Rc1 0–0 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 Nb6 10.Bb3 Nbd5 11.Nxd5 Nxd5 12.e4 Nf6 13.Qd3 Nd7 14.0–0 Qe8 15.Qe3 e5 16.Bh6 A nice pawn sacrifice leading to a vicious but not necessarily fatal king side attack 16…exd4 17.Nxd4 Bxh6 18.Qxh6 Qxe4 19.Nf3 Qf5 20.Ng5 Nf6 21.Rc4 Be6 22.Rh4 Rfd8 23.Nxh7 Nxh7 24.Qxh7+ Kf8 25.Re1 Ke7?? Black seems to have had little hope even after 25…. Qf6 but this attempt at escape is a blunder 26.Bxe6 Qxe6 27.Rxe6+ Kxe6 28.Re4+ Kf5 29.f3 Rd7 30.Qh3+ 1–0

Hans Lobbenberg was Shropshire Chess Champion in 1948 and Shrewsbury Club Champion at least once – in 1946. His was a fascinating story.
He was born to Jewish parents at Cologne in 1896 and after service in the first world war German Airforce as a wireless operator he eventually joined the family corsetry business and worked as its chief salesman. 

He was always passionate about chess and knew and played against World Champion Emmanuel Lasker and GM Fritz Saemisch – the latter being best man at his second marriage, to Annemarie Rabl, in 1934. She came from Carlsbad in Czechoslovakia and they were drawn together through bridge.
The family business set up a parallel operation in London in 1936 where, given the situation in Nazi Germany, Hans and Annemarie followed in 1938 with great help from the organiser of the London branch, Hans Blumenau.

The company was offered relocation away from London during the war and started up in Shrewsbury at Tankerville Street Church Hall – which is still there. It eventually grew into one of Shrewsbury’s major employers, Corset Silhouette, and was quoted on the stock exchange.

Hans died prematurely in 1955, not living to see the company at the height of its success. Sadly for Shrewsbury, the company was taken over in 1981 and the new owners shortly afterwards went bust, depriving the town of several hundreds of jobs. Hans’ daughter-in-law, Margaret, widow of his son George, still lives in Shrewsbury. Annemarie died in 1971.

This information and the 1938 picture were supplied by Hans’ son Peter Lobbenberg, a forensic accountant in London. The whole story is yet another example of how the dreadful events on mainland Europe in the 1930s and 1940s actually enriched the lives, and often the incomes, of the communities to which Jewish and other refugees came at that time. 

Dr HD Gemmell – 3 Time County Champion,
County Captain, President

Dr Hugh Gemmell arrived in Shropshire just after the war to take up a medical practice at Westbury. With the Shrewsbury Club and as County Captain he built up a reputation as the county’s most accomplished defensive player. In 1939 he had been invited, as holder of the Scottish Junior Championship, to play at the Buenos Aires Team Tournament but the outbreak of war prevented his team’s departure. He won the county individual title in 1958 and shared the title in 1966 and 1968. He was later elected President of the Shropshire Chess Association, a post he held to the mid 1980s. He remained an honorary president of Shrewsbury Chess Club until his death in 2006.

This crisp attacking win shortly after his arrival in Shropshire contrasts with his normal defensive style.
Gemmell,H – Lacy-Hulbert,A [A18] Shrewsbury v Ludlow Bd 1, 1948
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 A trademark of Dr Gemmell 3…d5 4.e5 d4! Any other reply leaves black in difficulties 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.d4 Be7 black makes no serious attempt to challenge the white centre and gets cramped 8.Nf3 h6 9.Bd3 Nd7 10.Qe2 b6 11.Be4 Rb8 12.Bb2 0–0 13.0–0 Rd8 14.Rfe1 Ba6 15.Rad1 Bd6 16.Bc2 Qe7 17.Ne5 Nxe5 18.dxe5 Bc5 19.Qe4 g6 20.Bc1 Qf8 21.Qh4 Kh7 22.Bg5! Rxd1 23.Rxd1 Bxc4? 24.Rd7! Bxa2 25.Bxh6! Qe8 [25…Qxh6?? 26.Rxf7+ wins the queen and keeps the attack] 26.Bg5+ afterKg8 27.Bf6 and mate next move. 1-0

Sir Leonard Swinnerton-Dyer – Ludlow Chess Club

Sir Leonard Dyer, 15th Baronet, moved to Diddlebury, Shropshire from Northumberland in 1933. In 1956 Sir Leonard, as President of the British Chess Federation, accompanied the British team which finished in a creditable 6th place in the Moscow Olympiad. He has also served as Chairman of Salop County Council. His son Peter Swinnerton-Dyer also appeared for the county in the 1950s on top board.

In this 1948 county match Sir Leonard remorselessly presses home his opening advantage.
Southall,G – Dyer,L [D31] Shropshire & Herefordshire v Worcestershire Bd15 – 1948
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bb4 6.Qc2?! [The main line is 6.e3 b5 7.Bd2 a5 8.axb5 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 cxb5 10.b3 Bb7 11.d5! allegedly with the edge.] 6…b5 7.axb5 cxb5 8.g3 Bb7 9.Bg2 Nd7 10.Bg5 Qb6 11.Rd1 h6 12.Be3 Bxc3+ 13.Qxc3 Ngf6 14.0–0 Nd5 15.Qd2 Nxe3 16.Qxe3 0–0 17.Ne5 Nxe5 18.Bxb7 Qxb7 19.Qxe5 a5 20.Ra1 a4 21.Qc5 Rfb8 22.Qb4 Qb6 23.e3 Qa5 24.Qc5 Rc8 25.Qd6 b4 26.Rfc1 Qb5 27.Qf4 a3 28.bxa3 bxa3 29.Qe4 Qa4 30.h4 Rcb8 31.d5 exd5 32.Qxd5 Rc8 33.Qd2 Rab8 34.Rc3 Rb3 35.Qc2 Qb4 36.Rxb3 Qxb3 37.Qxb3 cxb3 38.Rxa3 b2 0–1

Miss CM Murphy – Wellington

Miss Cicely Murphy was active on the Shropshire chess scene for over 30 years. Together with club teammate Mrs. Ingram she ensured that local chess was not an all-male province. A regular competitor in the British Ladies Championship, she finished 3rd on one occasion. In this game from the 1946 Shropshire Championship, of necessity after losing the exchange, she shows an aggressive style and manages a winning break into the white position. She thus knocked Lacy-Hulbert out of the event and went on to challenge the holder, MacNab, only to lose after a hard fight. Her opponent Lacy-Hulbert later added to his two 1930’s titles with a win in 1949.

Rev.A.P.Lacy-Hulbert -Miss C.M.Murphy[D05] Shropshire Championship, 1946 Colle System
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 Be7 5.0–0 0–0 6.Nbd2 Nbd7 7.Re1 c5 8.c3 b6 9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Bb7 11.Ng3 cxd4 12.cxd4 Nd5 13.Ne5 N7f6 14.Ne4 Rb8 15.Nxf6+ Nxf6 16.Re3 Bd5 17.Rh3 Be4? 18.Bxe4 Nxe4 19.Nc6 Qc7 20.Nxb8 Rxb8 21.Qf3 Qc2 22.Be3 Rc8 23.g4 Qxb2 24.Rd1 Nc3 The game had to be adjourned at this point and surprisingly continued by correspondence! 25.Rd2 Qb1+ 26.Kg2 Nd5 27.Qe2 Qg6 28.Kf1 Rc1+ 29.Kg2 f5 30.Rb2 Rc7 31.Bd2 fxg4 32.Rg3 h5 33.Kh1 Bd6 34.Rg1 Qf5 35.f3 gxf3 36.Qf2 Rf7 37.Bg5 Nc3! 0–1

Members of the Hereford City Chess Club who won the 1947 Championship of the Shropshire & Herefordshire Chess Association. 

From Left to Right seated: E.Newton (Captain), G.H.Peacock (President), T.H.Chetwynd & H.D.Bell. 
Standing from Left to Right: H.Wood, G.W.H.Williams, G.R.Maw, P.Garrick & L.M.Proctor.

Extract from the Mid-Week Edition of the Hereford Times, August 11th 1948, courtesy of Cheryl Fletcher of Perth, Western Australia 

A letter from J. Jones to Dr. Gemmell dated 14/10/1947 uses a letterhead which provides a revealing insight into the local chess hierarchy at the time.

Shropshire Chess Association
(including Herefordshire)

PresidentF Clayton
Senior Vice PresidentSir Kenneth Crossley, Bart.
Hon.Sec. & TreasurerRev A.P.Lacy Hulbert
Hon.Sec.for SchoolsJ.Jones
Vice Presidents:- 
H.T.LobbenbergSir L.Swinnerton-Dyer
Major E.LovekinH.P.F.Swinnerton-Dyer

To Chapter 4 – 1950 – 1959