Sir George Thomas. Two days, Two World Champions, Two Wins. Then Disaster!
Sir George Thomas. Image the property of Malcolm Barker. All rights reserved by the owner - not to be reproduced in any for without the owner's consent.

Sir George Thomas. Two days, Two World Champions, Two Wins. Then Disaster!

simaginfan
simaginfan
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A couple of days ago, the subject of the extraordinary Sir George Thomas. Bart. ( i.e. Baronet) came up in a conversation. Yes, I know he deserves a very large book about his 'Boy's Own' life, and various sporting and chess achievements.

For me to write an even half decent article about him would take a month just to research. Instead, I decided to give the story of how Sir George finished equal first at the Hastings 1934-1935 congress, in the company of Capablanca, Botvinnik, Euwe, Flohr and the young Lilienthal ( Indeed , that was the event where Lilienthal played his famous Queen sacrifice against Capablanca.)

I have no idea how many pictures of Thomas I have - quite a lot - (including some from one of his other lives as a legend in the world of badminton.)  but luckily there was a press photographer at the event on the first day of the dramas of this story.( i.e. day 2 of the tournament)

Olimpiu Urcan has posted online a set of photographs from The Illustrated London News, Jan. 1935.

Evidently Sonja Graf was considered more photogenic than one of the drama's main players!! I will get to him later.

So, Round 2 of the tournament. Thomas is Black against the great Capablanca. An earlier Hastings encounter between the two - back in 1919 - was a story in itself, but this was an even bigger one.

Capablanca during the game.

I.L.N. via Chessmarginalia. as in above montage.

Sir George during the game - great version of the picture.

The next day, Sir George was up against a player in his first major tournament abroad - although he was already a player of world renown - pictured here during his match the previous year against another of the players in this tournament, Salo Flohr.

In it's way, the game was even more dramatic than the Capablanca one.

Botvinnik and Euwe - also part of our drama - in a photo from earlier in 1934, at the great Leningrad Tournament.

tartajubov.blogspot. Fascinating site!

With one round to go - as chessgames .com correctly gives it - we had this situation.

chessgames.com

Euwe was playing Norman, and could be expected to win, so Thomas needed at least a draw to be sure of at least sharing first prize - ahead of Capablanca, Botvinnik and Flohr!!

He was up against a player I know a little about! One Reginald Pryce Michell  ( An article very few have looked at!) A standard picture of him.

this version. kingstonchess.org.

Michell was 60 years old at the time, I think, and he and Thomas were very good friends, friendly rivals,  and team-mates over many years. One example - the 'Great Britain' team from the first Olympiad, 1927, as pictured in the souvenir publication 'Chess Pie. No.1.' 

So, The obvious scenario - expected by many at the time, it seems was this. The two old friends agree a painless draw, Thomas gets a fully deserved share - at least - of first prize, and the greatest success of a long and distinguished career ( his services to British chess go way beyond the scope of this little article, but I can assure you that they were immense. He was an incredible and generous man )

However, that fails to take into account the admirable Reginald Michell!! A man of honour and the English tradition of 'fair play' so lacking in the sporting world of today. ( no further comment on that subject!!)

He felt that he had a moral obligation to the rest of the competitors in the tournament to do his very best - and his very best was pretty good. The game result would make no great difference to his tournament, but obviously affect the standings of the prize-winners. You just have to admire the man!!

The game.


And the final part of the story. While all that was going on there was another 'chess amateur' in play. The great Max Euwe. His own sportsmanship led him to agree a draw with Norman - in a position where he could have fought on for the win and sole first place himself.

All of that left the final table like this.
So, a shared victory for Sir George Thomas, and also a victory for the spirit of chess. I think it's a nice story!
To finish up, my few regular readers will know that I love my old black and white chess pictures. Sir George is in one of my absolute favourites. It is the personal property of the incredible Malcolm Barker, and, as such is NOT to be reproduced without his consent, and I WILL take action if I find otherwise.

100% copyrighted personal property of the owner. End of debate. Likewise for the crop used for the header.

W.N. Marshall, Malcolm Barker. W. Ritson Morry and Sir George Thomas.