1919: HV Mallison


The dominant figure in Exeter chess between the wars was H.V. (Harold Vincent) Mallison, who bequeathed a generous sum and a lifetime's notes on chess to the club on his death in 1980. 

Among Mallison's notes are his victory in the Cambridge University Chess Club Championship for 1919-20, winning his section ahead of J.H. Barnes and L.S. Penrose (which pair he notes "agreed to a draw without playing more than the first move") and defeating N.H. Smith in the final. These games, like all the rest in the archive, are hand-written onto plain paper with copious footnotes, and the pages for each season are sewn into signatures.  He played in the Varsity match against Oxford in 1920, an account of which is to be found in the April British Chess Magazine,.

The next set of notes are of his victory in the Exeter Club Championship for 1921-22, whence he went on to win the Thomas Winter Wood Trophy (a knockout championship of the club champions of Devon; the E.J. Winter Wood Cup is contested for the individual championship of Devon).  This was the first time an Exeter player had won the trophy. His victory in the next year's club championship was again followed by victory in the Winter Wood trophy, beating Ron Bruce in the final. Mallison became captain (1927) and then secretary of the Devonshire County team; in July 1931 the British Chess Magazine noted that " Devonshire have an efficient and hard-working secretary in H.V. Mallison, a first-class top-board player in R.W. Bruce, a sturdy veteran in T. Taylor, and a loyal and enthusiastic team" (Thanks to Stephen Jackson for these cuttings.)

He and Ron played many games in the top division of the Devon league (the Bremridge Cup). Other rivals (and colleagues in Devon matches) included Pitt-Fox of Paignton and Goodman of Plymouth. It seems Mallison first secured the individual championship of Devon in 1933, a year in which he played a match against D. Egginton of Teignmouth, giving his opponent a 3-point start towards a decisive score of six points, which he won 6-5. 

We also have from the late nineteen-thirties some games of Mrs. G.L. Mallison, but whether she played at all after that we don't know. 

There is not a complete record for the club championship in subsequent years, but Mallison won in every year for which we have his notes (1927, 1931-1939, 1941 and 1946 and 1947). He took the Devon championship in 1946 too, beating Ron Bruce in the second replay of the final; in 1947 he withdrew from the Winter Wood competition because of ill-health, and the second-placed player, Frank Kitto, went on to win it. One of the last Exeter games we have of Mallison's is yet another encounter in the Bremridge in 1957 with Ron Bruce. 

Apart from the Devon games there are a few tournament records, and among the scores are games with many leading players of the day, including J.M. Aitken, Bowen, Gerald Abrahams, Hugh Alexander, Harry Golombek, Vera Menchik-Stephenson, Stuart Milner-Barry, Arthur Reynolds, E.G. Sergeant, George Thomas, T.H. Tylor, and whipper-snappers like Frank Parr and Barry Wood.  He won the BCF Major Open Reserves Championship on three occasions. Perhaps Mallison’s most widely-known game comes from the British Championship of 1938, though sadly because his loss to Alexander in a gambit line of the Petroff is still considered definitive . He also played in the Plymouth International Tournament in the same year (where he played Alekhin, and beat Vera Menchik on time). 

We might repeat that all the scores of these hundreds of games also bear Mallison's footnotes; a similar quantity of games by contemporary players and masters of the nineteenth century have also been copied out, again with notes (which as far as we can tell are also largely Mallison's own, but certainly some were transcribed from magazines). 

As if to complete the circle, the last games we have of H.V. Mallison are also playing at a University club, this time for the staff of Exeter University in 1963 against the students in one of the irregular manifestations of the University club. 

— DR




Mallison Bridge, behind the Antiques Centre at Exeter's Quay. The smart building with white window surrounds is the Custom House.

HV Mallison was generous not just to the chess world.

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