Hall of Fame
month's inductee was a member of that rare species: a British Corld
Champion. And he was a world champ not just once, but six times.
Walter Bonham MBE MA was the most famous British blind player ever.
He was born in St. Neots, Huntingtonshire on 31 January 1906, into
a family of master butchers.
others in the family, he was born with deficient eyesight. At first
the young Bonham was educated locally; but his eyesight deteriorated
further, and at the age of 16 he entered Worcester College for the
Blind, where he was a pupil from 1922 to 1925 Bonham was an outstanding
student academically--and, encouraged by his headmaster (G.C. Brown),
he revealed a talent for sports--rowing and particularly chess---for
which he conceived a passion which lasted 60 years.
1926 he went on to Oxford where he became University champion. He
also rowed regularly for his college Eight, and made the final trials
for the Oxford crew.
1929 he returned to Worcester College for the Blind where he rapidly
became a hugely influential force. He taught mathematics and Braille
and was an enthusiastic coach at rowing, amateur dramatics, bridge,
and of course, chess. Every boy in the school was taught the game
by 'Bon' as he was popularly known. The college had four teams in
the local and county leagues--both of which they won more than once.
himself dominated the Worcestershire chess scene for many years--he
was county champion twenty times, and Midland champion four times.
In 1934, He founded the BCM (the Braille Chess Magazine) which he
edited, and mostly wrote, for the next twenty-five years.
the Second World War, 'Bon' enthusiastically took up correspondence
chess. He founded the International Braille Chess Association in
1951 (affiliated to FIDE in 1964) and won its first international
championship in 1956. He also entered and won the first Correspondence
World Championship for blind players. He then proceeded to win this
event on the next five occasions, in the face of fierce competition,
particularly from Eastern Europe.
memory was prodigious. He had no difficulty taking on ten players
at once blindfold, as it were; and he was able to keep the moves
of a score of correspondence games in his head, without recourse
to a board and men.
from his feats as a player, Bonham will be remembered by older players
as the author of two terrific little books, written in co-operation
with R.d. Wormald: Chess Questions Answered and More Chess Questions
Answered. If you come across either book in a second hand shop--buy
it. The passage of time has scarcely dated these two concise gems
of effective pedagoguery.
them you can see why Bonham was such a great teacher. We still recall
with pleasure soaking up the sections on pawn endings, where the
Bonham question and answer technique made clear what had previously
been a mystery.
died on the 16th March 1984. He was remembered by blind and sighted
players alike not only for his feats over the chess board, but for
his passion for teaching, his energy and his generosity.
above account owes much to the obituary from the Worcester College
Old Boys Journal, kindly provided by Peter Price of Harborne, who
was himself a chess pupil of Bonham.
were unable to supply pictures for last month's Hall of Fame inductee
R.W. Bonham, but thanks to the Worcestershire Evening News we are
now able to show you what he looked like.
again to Peter Price Birmingham for more information on the great
blind player. Peter also supplied the information that one of Bonham's
party tricks was to calculate 2 to the 64th in his head. If you
think that sounds easy--try it some time,
Wormald by the way, who was Bonham's co-author, taught Latin at
the Royal Grammar School, Worcester; while, as we mentioned last
time, R.W.B. taught maths at the Worcester College for the Blind.
last month's item, our old friend Peter Gibbs sent us a bundle of
games he played against Bonham in the fifties, when Peter was one
of the strongest players in the Midlands.
generously included some of his losses, but here's a short and sweet
game demonstrating that even Bonham occasionally suffered from amaurosis
game was played at Bonham's home, on Peter's 21st birthday, in the
British Championship Qualifying Competition. Peter recalls that
R.W.B. was the most gracious of losers:
P.C. Gibbs Black
British Championship Qualifier 1955 King's Indian Defence
Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 0-0 5 0-0 d6 6 c4 c5 7 Nc3 Nc6 8 h3
Bd7 9 Kh2? cxd4 10 Nxd4 Nxd4 11 Qxd4 Ng4+ 0-1