Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Amos Burn – A Chess Biography by Richard Forster:

The Counties' Chess Association

Between 1870 and 1886 Burn's only chess activity of more than local interest was his participation in some of the annual congresses of the Counties' Chess Association. He attended them from 1873 to 1876, and then once more in 1883. The C.C.A. stood in stark contrast to the professional chess circles of the Metropolis and the B.C.A. With a strong clerical element and a firm determination to support amateur chess, it was very influential in the provinces but not very popular in the capital. The C.C.A. had risen from modest beginnings as the North Yorkshire and Durham Chess Association (1866), through the foundation of the Yorkshire Chess Association (1868), until it finally established itself as the Counties' Chess Association at the 1870 congress. The meetings usually lasted one week, with a main tournament in several classes and a handicap contest, as well as further attractions. Entrance to the first class was limited to provincial players. This provoked endless controversies with the metropolitan chess circles which did not see why generous prizes should be paid at these meetings to mere amateurs, who, with very few exceptions, were markedly weaker than the city professionals. In later years the meetings were open to London players too, but only if they were amateurs. It would perhaps have been more appropriate to call the body the "British Amateur Chess Association."

The fate of the Counties' Chess Association is inseparably connected with the name of the Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth (1830–1898). In the early years he undertook every effort to promote the association in his magazine, the Chess Players' Chronicle, and later also in numerous letters to chess editors all over the country. He was an untiring organiser and secretary of the Association, as well as an avid competitor himself. Unfortunately, he had a habit of falling ill early in a tournament, especially when things were not going his way, and this cost him much sympathy.

(...) With a few exceptions the Counties' Chess Association held its annual meetings regularly, and throughout a longer period than any other British chess association prior to the advent of the British Chess Federation in 1904. The Woodhall Spa meeting in 1893 marked the end of this remarkable series of provincial chess congresses. Efforts were made to resurrect the Association in connection with the Craigside tournaments of 1897 and 1898 (see Chapter 15), but the impact was slight, and the Association ceased for good the same year as Skipworth, its moving spirit and manager, died (1898).

Bristol 1873

Burn's first C.C.A. congress was in 1873 in Clifton (Bristol). A general understanding of these events can be gleaned from the tournament programme:

COUNTIES' CHESS ASSOCIATION. The annual meeting of this association will be held, under the presidency of Lord Lyttelton, at the Academy of Arts, Clifton, during the week commencing Monday, 4 August, 1873. Prizes will be offered for competition as follows:
CLASS I. – Open to all provincial amateurs, on becoming members of the association, by a subscription of at least £1 1s. The first prize will be of the value of £15; the second £5, if there are not less than eight entries; the third £2, if there are ten entries; the fourth £1, if 12 entries or more.
Should the entries in any class be, in the opinion of the committee, too numerous, it will be divided into two sections, A and B. The players to be divided by lot; each player to play one game with every other in his own section, and afterwards the two winners of the two sections to contend together for the first and second prizes, and the two having the next highest score for the third and fourth. In case this should occur, it is expected that there will be a fifth and sixth prize added.
A CHALLENGE PRIZE will be given to the player who first wins, three times, the association's first prize in class I. The present guaranteed value, £25, to be raised to £40 (funds permitting), the winner (if the prize is of full value) to give £10, the value of the annual class prize, towards the funds for a new challenge cup.
(...) The local hon. secretary (T. Castle, Esq., Academy of Arts) will be happy to give any information respecting hotels and lodgings.
No entries in any of the three classes will be received after 2 August.
[1]

The meeting turned out to be a very successful one, as witnessed by 20 entries in Class I, 13 in Class II, and four in Class III, among them one lady. In accordance with the rules, the entrants for Class I were divided into two groups of ten each. Since the schedule of these congresses was always very crowded, the games were not played in a fixed order, but simply as opportunities arose. Although apparently no time-control was enforced, play proceeded rather quickly. For instance, in about five days Burn managed to play eleven games in the regular tournament and three in the handicap.

Burn was in excellent form. By the final day he had won eight games in succession in the first-class tournament. Having already secured victory in his group, he lost unexpectedly in the last round to his club associate and correspondence chess partner, Archdall. In this game Burn went down in almost identical fashion as he had three years earlier against De Vere; he deviated only at move 13, when the position was already beyond repair. How could a master player lose twice in exactly the same way within such a short period?

(...) The congress featured various side attractions: a match for four guineas between MacDonnell and Wisker (won by the former 3–0 with one draw), a consultation game, some simultaneous exhibitions by Löwenthal, and the popular knockout handicap. With a total prize-fund of £22, the latter was barely less attractive than the main tournament, and 32 players entered. As this contest was open to all players, without restriction, MacDonnell and Wisker were also admitted. Burn's experience in the Liverpool club tournaments stood him in good stead, and after beating Mrs. Vivian at knight odds in the first round on the Thursday, MacDonnell the next day, and, eventually, at pawn odds, also Minchin (who had knocked out Wisker), Burn was in the semi-finals. There being insufficient time for further play, he shared the three main prizes with the Rev. John Coker, John de Soyres and Edmund Thorold, each of them receiving £4.

(82) Burn Skipworth 1:0
C.C.A. Congress Tie-break
Lincoln, [18–23] August 1873
Dutch Defence [A85]

1 c4 e6 2 e3 f5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 a3 b6 5 Nf3 Bb7 6 d4 Be7 7 b3 0-0 8 Bb2 Ne4

"Black has at this point at least as good a game as his opponent – the opening player having obtained no advantage from his first move." – Skipworth.

9 d5?!

"Premature; 9 Rc1 is the proper move." – Burn.

"Not good. Black has now rather the better game." – Skipworth.

9 ... Bf6 10 Rc1 Na6 11 Bd3 Nxc3 12 Bxc3 Bxc3+ 13 Rxc3 Qf6 14 Rc1 Nc5?

"Black would have obtained a troublesome attack if he had played 14 ... Qb2." – Burn.

"14 ... Qb2 was the correct and obvious continuation. If then 15 a4 Nc5, and Black has a fine game." – Skipworth.

After the text move White obtains the better game since Black is left with a poorly-placed bishop on b7.

15 b4 Nxd3+ 16 Qxd3 exd5 17 cxd5 Qd6 18 Rd1 Rae8 19 0-0 Rf6

"Black did not sufficiently examine 19 ... c6. Suppose 20 dxc6 Qxd3 21 Rxd3 Ba6 22 cxd7 Rd8 23 Rdd1 Bxf1 24 Kxf1 Rf6, and Black would win, for we believe the pawn at d7 must eventually fall." – Skipworth.

"If 19 ... c6 20 dxc6 Qxd3 21 Rxd3 Ba6 22 Rxd7 Bxf1 23 Kxf1, and White's game is preferable." – Burn.

20 Rfe1 Ref8 21 Rd2! Rh6 22 Rc1 g5

Exactly the kind of weakening advance that White was awaiting. But what else can Black do?

23 g3 f4 24 Nxg5 fxg3 25 fxg3 Rh5Position after 25...Rh5

Expecting 26 Ne4 Qxd5, with an acceptable game. But Burn has a surprise in store.

(see diagram)

26 h4!!

"The defence here is very ingeniously played. Black evidently had not foreseen this reply." – Skipworth.

26 ... Re8?!

"Black dare not take the g-pawn." – Burn.

"The tables are turned, and Black should have acted at once on the defensive, playing back the rook to h6 without delay, and keeping possession of the f-file as long as possible. If 26 ... Qxg3+ 27 Rg2, and Black's queen is lost. Or if 26 ... Ba6 White cannot take the bishop on account of 27 Qxa6 Qxg3+ 28 Rg2 Qxe3+ 29 Kh2 etc." – Skipworth.

The correct reply to 26 ... Ba6 is 27 Qd4.

27 e4 Rh6

"If 27 ... h6 28 e5." – Burn.

28 Rf2 Rg6 29 Rcf1 a5

"The game is now beyond recovery. If 29 ... h6 30 e5, etc." – Skipworth.

30 Qf3 Rg7 31 e5!

"The latter part of the game is extremely well played by Mr. Burn. Mr. Skipworth's play in this and the other deciding game was below his usual standard. 'Now the hurly-burly's done, now the battle's lost and won.'" – Skipworth.

31 ... Qe7 32 d6! cxd6

"Black cannot save the piece." – Burn.

33 Qxb7 Qxe5 34 Qf3 Rge7 35 Nf7 Qg7 36 Nxd6 Black resigned.

[Liverpool Weekly Albion, 30 August 1873] [2]

A.B. Skipworth The Rev. Arthur Bolland Skipworth (18301898)


From Amos Burn: A Chess Biography © 2004 Richard Forster by permission of McFarland, Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640, USA, www.mcfarlandpub.com


[1] The tournament programme appeared in two slightly different versions in Land and Water, 12 July 1873, and the Illustrated London News, 19 July 1873. The version presented here is a combination of both.
[2] Notes by Skipworth in the CPC, supplement, October 1873, pp. 13–15.