John Edwin Jones.
12th March 1922 - 7th May 1994
John Edwin Jones, or Eddy as he was known to family and friends, was born in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, the only son of John Palin Jones and Edith Annie (née Bolland). Four years later a sister, Betty Mary, was born. The family soon moved to Woodland Avenue, Tettenhall Wood, a small village on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, long since incorporated within the encroaching city boundaries.
He attended the village primary school in Tettenhall Wood from where he gained a scholarship, the first for many years from that school, to Wolverhampton Grammar School for Boys. Although Tettenhall always was, as it is now, on the smart, western side of Wolverhampton, the economic depression of the 1930s hit the whole West Midlands very hard in general, and the Jones family in particular; his father was almost constantly out of work, and his mother did a number of jobs to enable Eddy to remain at the prestigious school. After Eddy had passed his School Certificate, he told his teachers he would have to leave school as his parents could not afford the fees to keep him there. The Headmaster summoned his mother to school and explained that Eddy must continue with his education, and it would not cost them a penny.
So he was able to continue with his A levels which he passed with flying colours, winning, in addition, a Staffordshire County scholarship and Wolverhampton Borough scholarship to enable him to go to Oxford University. The receiving college, Hertford College, also offered a scholarship for him to read Classics, so he was able to take up the offered place, though life was still very hard financially.
War had broken out by this time and interrupted his studies. After five terms at Oxford he was obliged to do war service, and he went straight to Sandhurst Officers Training College, where he was consigned to the Tank Regiment. But just as a glittering wartime career in the army beckoned, he was involved in an accident. The tank he was driving came into contact with an armoured personnel carrier and "scratched it", as he later put it to his family. However, as tanks tend to do rather more than scratching vehicles into which they come into contact, he may have been guilty of slightly understating the case, especially since, as a result of this, he had to leave Sandhurst and was returned to his unit. He spent the rest of the war at Porton Down, doing research work on the development of tank armour.
It was during this period, that he married Hilda Mary Dodd, known as Mary, on 8th July 1944. She had lived in an adjacent road in Tettenhall Wood, 82, Wood Road, where her father was a gardener at Vale Head, Wightwick nearby, and close to Wightwick Manor (see below right) . Her grandfather had been the caretaker of Stafford Castle, before it became a derelict ruin. They married at Christ Church, Tettenhall Wood, and the British Red Cross Mobile Unit, of which Mary was a member, provided a guard of honour.The honeymoon consisted of two days spent back at Oxford before he returned to his unit. Picture right: on the banks of the Thames at Oxford, from the family album with the caption "And everywhere that Eddy went, his chess was sure to go".
After demob, he went back to Hertford College in September 1945 where he spent a further five terms completing his degree. He left in the summer of 1947 with a 2:1 in Classics. Granted that the war disrupted not only his education but also organised chess nationally, no record has been traced of any formal activity during this period. He doesn't appear in any reports of county matches, varsity matches or even army championships, though he did play top board for Hertford College,
His first job was as a teacher at the St. Chad's Choir School, situated in the Close of Lichfield Cathedral. One of the advantages of the post was that a flat came with the job, Selwyn House in the Close, and that was a great attraction for a couple with little money. Their first child, Gareth was born in 1947
He was now able to take up his chess career in earnest. The pattern of his future life was to found a new club wherever he happened to find himself should there not be one already, and he quickly helped organise a new club at Lichfield. However, its relative isolation from the Midland conurbation made matches difficult, and to get proper competition he also took up membership of the much stronger Wolverhampton Kipping Chess Club, named after the well-known problemist, Cyril Kipping, who was the Head of a nearby secondary school for boys. Even before he started teaching, he took top board for his club in the Staffordshire team championship, the Hickman Cup. The 1947 final was held at Stafford, against the Victory Club of Stoke, and Jones led his team to a fine championship win.
Pictured opposite: Eddy with son Gareth and chess set at his in-law's in Wood Road
The Wolverhampton & District Chess League had just been founded in 1944 or he would undoubtedly have founded that as well. Its inaugural winners were my father's team of Cannock.
He played on Boards 4 or 5 for the county in this first full season (1947 - 8) back in his home county, and Board 5 in its correspondence team. He soon became established in the Staffordshire hierarchy. Within 12 months he was the General Secretary of the county and Vice Captain of the county team.
The following year he had become one of 3 Staffordshire delegates to the Midland Union. More than that, he won the Staffordshire individual championship, the Advertiser Trophy, for the first time, his game in the final lasting a mere 9 moves. His photograph with the trophy heads this article. In addition, his club, Wolverhampton Kipping, won the county team championship for the second time in three years.
The following season, 1949 - 50, he continued as vice-captain and general secretary of Staffordshire, and successfully defended his individual county championship, shown here with the Advertiser Trophy, wearing the same suit, as he only had one.
However, this was shortly to come to an end when Mary had their second child, Hilary, and, as the flat was on a 2nd storey and involved climbing 3 flights of stairs, it was deemed unsuitable for a family of that size.
A Move to Devon.
Early in 1951, he started applying for other posts and got a job at King Edward VI Grammar School, Totnes. They moved firstly to temporary accommodation in Paignton, before buying a house called Altona in Station Road, Totnes, and moved there in July before taking up his post in September.
Once there, he wasted no time in making his mark on the Devon chess scene. He found that although the Totnes Club had played a significant role in Devon chess in the early years of the century, it had, in fact, disbanded in 1926. Before that, members had included J. E. D. Moysey, once described by Mieses as one of the foremost English amateurs, Dr. Allingham, several times Devon Champion and the wonderfully-named J. Darley Dingle, former Devon match captain, who had died in 1924 while still in that office. Quite why the Totnes club had folded is not clear, as at the time it was Devon's fourth largest club after Plymouth, Exeter and Torquay.
Within a month of arriving, Jones had reformed the Totnes Club, retrieving the old club's equipment and trophies that had languished for over a quarter century in the vaults of a local bank, and setting up meetings at Redworth School. Its first events were a simultaneous display by Jones who won every game. This was followed by a lightning tournament in which Messrs Taylor, Payne and Hawke came 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Once he had taken stock of the wider situation in his new county, he persuaded the Plymouth-based Western Morning News to take him on as a chess columnist, in spite of the fact that they already had one. This was being done by the former British Champion Reginald Broadbent, and appeared on a Saturday. However it consisted simply of a game and a problem, which had little local connection. Jones undertook to base his column on activities solely within Devon and Cornwall, and his first WMN column appeared on Wednesday October 27th 1953, and continued for a decade. Each Sunday morning, he wrote it up while his wife was running the Sunday School in St. Mary's Parish Church, and later meticulously pasted the cuttings into a series of blue school exercise books. Today these prove a priceless record of chess in Devon and Cornwall during those ten years. In over a decade, he never once used the words "me, my or I", but often wrote about his own activities as if there were another person of the same name. As in his daily life, he was often outspoken in the column, and more than once the Editor refused to print what he had written.
As he had done in his home county, although he revived and oversaw a small club in his immediate locality, he joined a much stronger club nearby in order to get the strongest opposition available. In this case it was Paignton that he joined, in those days a club of some 30 members led by Frank Pitt-Fox. He quickly became fully immersed in the affairs of the Devon County Chess Association and West of England Chess Union. For several years, he was both DCCA secretary and treasurer.
These are some of the main posts he filled during his later years in Devon.
Before this he had, for several years, been Devon's General Secretary and Treasurer at the same time.
As WECU Grading & Records Officer, he made the following observations in his chess column in the summer of 1963, which illustrate both the size of just one of his administrative offices and his impatience with those less committed than himself. "During the next six weeks the West Union grading and records officer, J. E. Jones of Totnes, has the task of examining the results of between 1,000 and 2,000 players. At least two-thirds of these will not have recorded enough games to be classified, though practically all of them will actually have played enough games to qualify for classification if the results had been notified. At the moment Gloucestershire and Wiltshire officials have notified far too few. But the blackest spot of all is Somerset, whose players seem likely to be omitted altogether unless the Somerset League and Somerset county competition secretaries can be spurred to action".
In 1957 he made plans to found a new League based on clubs in the Torbay area. Shortly after his arrival in Devon, he had witnessed the creation and success of such a league based on clubs in and around Exeter, whose main function was to provide midweek matches for players of below county strength. Jones sought to repeat that formula in his own area. In his Western Morning News column in June 1957 he reported its advent, which sets out very well his philosophy. "Plans are in hand for the Torbay area to have its own league next season. Initially, the league will be composed on one or more teams from the Paignton, Teignmouth, Torquay and Totnes clubs, but it is hoped to foster the foundation of clubs in other places in the area where no organised chess exists at present.
The encouragement of junior chess will be an important part in the league's programme, the ideal being to start a school's league on the same lines as the adult competition. There will be an individual championship, and it is intended to enter a representative Torbay team in the national club championship".
By that October, the story had moved on. The inaugural league meeting had been held and, at the last minute, Torquay had refused to affiliate, its members fearing they would be unable to raise a team. Jones was its first Secretary and Treasurer. Their aim of encouraging junior chess was no mere form of words. Under his leadership, the League formed a Torbay Primary Schools' Chess League, a Secondary Schools' League playing for the Varian Shield, a prep schools' league and a junior congress. Jones reported to the League's 3rd A.G.M. on ambitious plans to introduce chess to 27 primary schools, with Reg Thynne and P. G. Walton going round to schools and regularly finding schools with 40 or 50 children keen to play but nothing to play with. A special fund was set up to buy or otherwise acquire 100 sets for use in schools.
The historic first match in the new league suitably involved Totnes v Paignton, resulting in a win for in the inland club.
Having entered a composite team in the National Club Championship, Torbay had their first match December 1957. Drawn against Plymouth, Torbay unfortunately suffered a flu epidemic which cut down their bottom 3 boards, with inexperienced replacements having to be drafted in at the last minute. Almost inevitably, they went down 4½ - 1½, due to the three substitutes all losing.
It was at this period that Jones began a long-running dispute with the DCCA over the running of its top tournaments. As early as the 1953 - 54 season, he had been drawn against Ron Bruce in the 1st round of the Devon Individual Championship, and it took them five games before the tie was broken in Jones's favour. (all 5 games are in the database). At the end of the 1956 - 57 season, no less than three competitions were still unfinished; Devon's Individual Championship, the Winter-Wood Tournament for club champions and the Bremidge Cup (Division 1). Jones had played ten games in the 5 Round county championship alone, and his final against A. R. B. Thomas was still unresolved. In response to Jones's complaints, the AGM set up a sub-committee consisting of himself, A. G. H. Winterburn and I. F. Grix to submit recommendations for the re-organisation of these tournaments to the Autumn council.
In the WMN of October 15th, he reported that "One of the main items on the agenda of the council of the DCCA was the preliminary hearing of the new competition rules proposed by that go-ahead triumvirate, Messrs. Winterburn, Grix and Jones. Of major importance among the suggested changes is the use of the All-play-all or of the Swiss system to decide the county individual competitions. Few, if any, of the West counties, besides Devon, decide their highest individual award by an unseeded knockout, and even seeding such an event leaves half the competitors without any further interest in the competition after the first round. …the present system is almost antediluvian in origin". The meeting voted to continue as before, and Jones went on…"Then, as if to emphasise the fundamental flaws in the existing set-up, seven of Devon's 'top ten' came out of the hat consecutively in the draw for this season individual championship. Only two of these can possibly reach the semi-finals". Of these, A. R. B. Thomas was paired against Ron Bruce in Rd. 1, arguably two of Devon's top 3 players. In spite of the scorn Jones poured on the existing system, his suggestions were not taken up. It seems the Jones v Thomas final was left unresolved and it was agreed they share the trophy that year.
The following year, no less than 24 players entered the Individual Championship, which rather knocked his All-Play-All idea on the head, but he did not let the matter rest.
At some point about 1962 or '63, he fell out completely with the DCCA Executive over a point of principle that no one can quite remember, and resigned all his posts in Devon. It is also possible that he refused to affiliate the Totnes Club to the DCCA, as it no longer appeared in the BCF yearbook in the list of affiliated clubs. It is possible that he gave vent to these internecine rows in his filed copy for his Western Morning News columns, for his time as columnist suddenly ended in August 1963. Either he resigned because he felt he could no longer support and publicise the activities of an organisation he felt was not supporting him. Or it may be that the editor thought his writing was coming to lack the requisite objectivity, and was relieved of the post. It is known that his writing was sometimes heavily blue-pencilled, as the editor refused to publish some of the things he said and the way he said it. Whether he jumped or was pushed we may never know, but his successor, KenBloodworth, was quietly advised at the outset that he should resist any temptation to use the column as a pulpit, from which one might infer that this was indeed a factor in the changeover.
Ivor Annetts recalls that, in the early 1960s, the Torbay Individual Championship, as devised by Jones, was run on the same lines as the then World Championship; a group of candidates would fight it out for the privilege of challenging the champion, who was usually Jones himself, waiting for a challenger to emerge. On two occasions the challenger to make the final was Ivor himself, and the Final was the best of 3 games. Games were played in the book-lined front room of Jones's house. In the 1965 Final, Jones won the first game, Annetts the second (on time) and the third was drawn, but Jones retained his title by virtue of not having been beaten over the 3 games.
By 1964 it was clear that Totnes Grammar School was going to become a comprehensive school, and he felt it was time to move on, so he took a sabbatical year, taking an M.Ed at Birmingham University. During this year he rejoined his old club, Wolverhampton Kipping, and won the Wolverhampton & District Individual Championship, the Rock Cup, beating J. D. Hughes in the final.
With his father on the point of moving to Manchester, Gareth played in the September 1966 Paignton Congress. (see picture above).
Gareth can be seen in the right hand row, facing right, above W. R. Rayner (bald head) , C. Richards, and with C. Meadows on his left.
As a matter of interest, the centre part of the picture is made up of the 20 players in the Swiss Challengers B. These were A. P. Sombor (5½); J. A. Flood & W. E. Yeales (both 5); G. C. Franklin & J. Horrocks (both 4½); J. R. Crampton & A. S. Thompson (both 4); L. E. J. Glyde, E. B. Sandercock, G. W. Thomas, Miss E. Tranmer, H. V. Trevenen, J. C. van Gemeren & John Walker, (all 3½); M. Powick, 3; D. M. H. Everington & G. C. Walker both 2½, F. Jaeck 2; E. G. Exell & A. J. Lait (both 1½).
Recognisable are Trevenen, several times West of England champion, is in the first diagonal row, facing right. Next to him is Flood, chain-smoking. At the end of that row is the blind player J. Horrocks, smoking his pipe, playing John Walker. At the far end of the next row, next to Eileen Tranmer, Barry Sandercock is playing Gordon Walker.
A Move To Manchester.
In September 1966, he obtained a post as lecturer in education at Didsbury Teacher Training College, Manchester. The family moved north, to 19, Moss Lane, Timperley, Altrincham, in the south west outskirts of Manchester but then in Cheshire, while retaining their Totnes home, letting it out.
It seems he was less active in the north than in his Devon days. He only rarely played for Cheshire, but did organise Cheshire's individual championships, hardly an onerous task compared to what he had been used to. Perhaps he was glad for the opportunity to ease his chess burden; or perhaps his job as lecturer was stretching him more fully than teaching Latin to fifth formers.
His willingness to take on that particular post may have derived from the row he'd had in Devon that had simmered without resolution for three years. No wonder he was happy to take charge in this area in a new setting. In 1971 he also took on the job as Cheshire delegate to the NCCU.
Another factor in a reduction of activity may have been that his children were now growing into young adults. Gareth had taken readily to chess under the influence of his father, (see photograph) and there are other photographs of him in his Totnes days playing at the Paignton Congress and in a simultaneous display against Bob Wade at Teignmouth Chess Club.
He trained as a doctor at Birmingham University, and specialised in microbiology in relation to the functioning of the brain. He worked for a private research company in Leeds and then took a post at Manchester Hospital. When there, it was felt advisable for practical reasons to modify his name to reduce the risk of confusion, and he added the name of the part of Manchester where he lived, becoming Dr. G. M. Trafford-Jones.
After 2 years, in 1968, Eddy was promoted to Senior Lecturer. In 1977, the College was absorbed into Manchester University, and he took the opportunity of a golden handshake and retirement at the age of 55.
However, it was during this period that he was involved in possibly the BCF's greatest, long-running controversy. In 1974, Parliament reorganised local government, which included the creation of six new Metropolitan Counties. Bristol, for example, became the centre of a newly-created county of Avon, taking with it bits of Somerset and Gloucestershire. It was never a popular entity in the westcountry, and the West of England Union decreed that as far as inter-county chess was concerned, things should continue as before - which they did. By the same process, Greater Manchester was created, becoming a separate entity from Lancashire, and taking with it other notable towns like Oldham, Rochdale, Bolton, Wigan and Jones' own patch of Altrincham . However, unlike the westcountry, things did not carry on as before. Certain Manchester players decided that this would be an ideal opportunity to create a new county team. This was done very quickly and with little consultation with the other bodies that would be affected by it. Not only that, but almost immediately the newly-created Greater Manchester County Chess Association applied to affiliate to the Northern Union, and at the same time, unknown to the NCCU, to affiliate to the Midland Union. Like WECU, not wishing to have a new county team diluting the playing strength of Lancashire, and ignorant of their other application, the NCCU declined the application, but the Midlands accepted it shortly after. Thus the new Greater Manchester County Association joined the Midlands Union, taking 18 clubs with them, a move that still excites the emotions of those involved a generation later.
It is tempting to assume that, in view of his life's pattern of creating new clubs, teams or leagues wherever he went, that Eddy Jones might have been a prime mover in this affair. Yet David Anderton of the MCCU and Jim Nicolson of Greater Manchester, who were both involved in the move and knew Jones, both affirm that he was not. He was now in his 50s and was not far from retirement, so perhaps he had mellowed and was happy to let others lead from the front. Indeed, Nicolson remembers Eddy as being rather quiet in committee in those days; in fact it was Gareth, also a committee member, who tended to have more to say.
Nevertheless, he and his son Gareth were fully behind it and both acted jointly as Greater Manchester's Tournament Controllers for the 1975 - 6 season, and both were listed among its first Vice Presidents. At the same time, Eddy continued with his post as Individual Tournament Controller for Cheshire. More than that, he took on the same role for the Northern Union in 1975. So for the rest of his time in Manchester, he held the same post for Cheshire, the Northern Union and Greater Manchester in the Midland Union, which perhaps demonstrates an impartial attitude on his part to the highly contentious split.
Back To Devon.
Eddy's association with Greater Manchester was short-lived as he was given early retirement in 1977 when Didsbury College was taken over by Manchester University, and he and Mary returned to their Totnes home of Altona. Retirement, however, started badly. After spending a whole day carrying his extensive library of chess books back up into the loft, he was taken ill and taken to hospital, where he was found to have had a heart attack. He recovered but had to learn to take life a bit easier. He bought an organ and taught himself to play hymns, and took a big part in the local church, often taking services as a lay preacher. From time to time, he could be seen striding down Totnes High Street in a flowing cassock, on his way to an ecclesiastical function, though he was not actually ordained.
The Torbay League, that he had founded 20 years earlier was still functioning well, flourishing in fact, but not unnaturally had evolved during his absence, and was not quite the same as he left it. He hoped to be elected President, so that he could resume his powerful influence on the League's activities, but, for whatever reason, this was resisted, and his ambitions in this direction were thwarted.
His response was to try and create another league, this time based on the South Hams. To this end, he founded new clubs at Brixham, Dartington, Buckfastleigh and Kingsbridge. Of these, Dartington was just a mile or two from the existing Totnes club, and the area could barely support one club, let alone two. Buckfastleigh was also too small and subsequently foundered, while the Brixham and Kingsbridge still struggle on. The successful Torbay League would always draw in any real talent that might have existed in these small communities, and the idea of a South Hams League as such was short-lived.
In the mid 1980s, tragedy struck the whole family. For some time, his son Gareth had been increasingly troubled by bouts of depression, caused by what we better understand today as a chemical imbalance in the brain, for which he eventually paid the ultimate price. He left a son, Russell. In spite of the crippling emotional shock, Eddy and his wife found some consolation in their four grandchildren and watching their progress. Numerous photographs in the family albums show Eddy relaxed and happy in their company, clearly enjoying the role of Grandad.
A Final Move.
In 1992, he felt the need to move again, this time for the sake of his health, so they bought a beautiful house in the village of Great Blakenham near Ipswich, to be near his daughter's family, and where he would benefit from the drier climate and flat landscape. He did indeed feel better at first, but 2 years later he had a second heart attack. He was taken to hospital but died there four days later, on 7th May 1994. He was buried in the small country graveyard in Great Blakenham, just over the main road from the house where Mary Jones still lives.
His score books were given to a member of the Dartington Club whose identity has been forgotten. His scrapbook of Western Morning News chess columns were donated to the Devon County Chess Association archives and are in constant use as a valuable source of information for the 1950s. His extensive chess library was sold.
There are some problems in trying to assess accurately his playing strength during his first decade in Devon, probably the period of his greatest energy and playing strength, as the numerical system we are familiar with today had not been developed. By the early 1960s the BCF were able to group players of roughly equal strength into bands, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, and so on. In 1963, for instance, Jones was put into 3b just behind A. R. B. Thomas in 3a, and above Ron Bruce and Frank Kitto, both 4b. There was a useful transition period in the late '60s when these band code numbers were retained but equated to a purely numerical equivalent. These showed that 3b equated to a grade band from 208 to 201.
The grading list in 1976 showed him, now aged 54 and on the point of retirement, with a FIDE rating of 2245 which roughly equates to 200.
He was a man of principle, who found it difficult, if not impossible, to compromise on what he thought was right. In committee, he would often speak eloquently and at length on matters he felt passionately about. This quality sometimes brought him into conflict with those who preferred the status quo, or thought differently.
Yet one cannot but admire the way he worked his way from an impoverished background through education and hard work. Chess was his passion and he surely put more into the game than he took out. As a player, he specialised in the openings and relied on his superior knowledge to get an early advantage, which he might be able to exploit. If this did not happen, he would tend to lose interest in the game and play for a draw as he was far less interested in the subtleties of end-game techniques, judged by the highest standards. He had no illusions about this and made no apologies for it. Writing about himself in the Western Morning News he wrote in 1963 "The Totnesian has a Cassius Clay-type theory that 20 moves correctly played are enough to settle most players' hash, and seems likely to prove this again in a correspondence game against P. C. Gibbs, whose new variation of the Sicilian is made to look ripe for the trash can".
As an administrator and organiser, he was both creative and tireless. He founded several new clubs that are still active today. The Torbay League has gone from strength to strength, and 50 years on, is probably his greatest single achievement.
In the absence of his scorebooks, a small database of his games has been built up and may be found on the website.
Thanks for their contributions and recollections are due to the following:
Mrs. Mary Jones.
R. H. Jones.