James Arthur Watt

Post by Brian J Denman on May 24, 2013 at 2:22pm
James Arthur Watt

Winner of the Hastings & St Leonards Club Championship in 1912

There’s a brief mention of him in the Book of the Hastings International Masters’ Chess Tournament, 1922, On p.9 of the book we learn that ‘Mr. J. A. Watt, of the Waverley Hotel’, accommodated some of the players. This may possibly be J. A. Watt’s only appearance in formal chess literature, but he is mentioned a good few times in Sussex chess records and in the chess column of the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer.

“Watt played for Sussex as early as November 1901 (possibly earlier – there are some gaps in the record around the turn of the century). From much the same date he was a regular in the Hastings Club’s first team, and while never one of its strongest players gained something of a reputation as a giant-killer. In September of 1912 he had the honour of encountering the great Frank Marshall when playing board 1 for Hastings in a friendly match against Tunbridge Wells (unsurprisingly, he lost). He played (with F. D. Yates, G. A. Thomas and others) in the First Class Tournament at the Kent & Sussex Congress of 1913, defeating Thomas in their individual game [see below]. And in March 1920 he defeated Boris Kostic´ in a simul held at the Hastings Club. Watts remained active through the 1920s, taking part in the Hastings Club’s tour of Belgium and Holland in the summer of 1923. The last time I find his name mentioned is in 1929, when he played on board 14 for Sussex in a match against Surrey.

“Watt was a keen correspondence player, and represented the South (on board 40) in the North v South correspondence match of 1900-1901. In 1925 he won the Sussex Correspondence Championship.

“Of J. A. Watt as a person I know almost nothing, but in E. J. Ackroyd’s chess column in the Hastings and St. Leonards Observer in 1922 there’s a satirical reference to Watt ‘with a long Corona-Corona cigar, … busy putting up a smoke barrage in the hopes of obscuring his own game’, and subsequently ‘exchang[ing] his Corona for a Calabash and eventually succeed[ing] in asphyxiating his opponent’, from which we may deduce that he was a heavy smoker (maybe it went with the profession of hotelier!).”

Here are a couple of Mr J. A. Watt’s games. [See also below]

Watt,JA – Tillard,Col GH – Hastings v Tunbridge Wells board 2, 30.11.1899

Paley Hughes,WA – Watt, JA – Chapman Cup, 1908

The Chapman Cup was a popular tournament in the Hastings CC and the trophy was presented by Horace Chapman, a very successful club president, in 1900. It is not known what happened to the solid silver cup, which seems to have disappeared by the end of World War I (and probably earlier).

Some of the information quoted above apparently comes from Chess Archaeology, but it is unclear in which section.


Some further information has come from Brian Denman (April 2013):

Simon Taylor was editor of the above article on Watt. The information quoted as from ‘Chess Archaeology’ was researched by Chris Ravilious and sent to James S Hilbert (presumably to include in one of his books). There is an article in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 31.3.1962. This mentioned the death of Watt on 26.3.1962 in a nursing home at Woking at the age of 91.

He was for many years the proprietor of the Waverley Hotel in Havelock Road, Hastings. His father started the hotel in 1877 and James Watt himself took it over in 1906. The hotel closed down for the war in 1940 and Mr Watt retired. He eventually moved away from Hastings and was then made an honorary life member of the club.

Here is the score of the win by the Hastings player against G. A. Thomas mentioned above, a major scalp:

Watt,JA – Thomas,GA [A53]
Kent & Sussex Congress 1st Class ‘B’ (7), 15.05.1913
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.e3 e5 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 c6 8.d5 Qb6 9.Bd2 Rc8 10.Na4 Qd8 11.e4 c5 12.Nc3 Be7 13.Be2 0-0 14.g4 Ne8 15.h4 g6 16.Bh6 Ng7 17.Qh3 f6 18.0-0-0 Rf7 19.Rdg1 Bf8 20.g5 Kh8 21.h5 Nxh5 22.Bxh5 gxh5 23.Qxh5 Qe7 24.Bxf8 Rcxf8 25.g6 Rg7 26.Nb5 Nb6 27.b3 a6 28.Nc3 Qd7 29.Nd1 f5 30.f3 f4 31.Nf2 Rf6 32.Rg5 Qe8 33.Ng4 Rfxg6 34.Nf6 Qf7 35.Rxg6 Played at Hastings 1-0.
Sources: Yorkshire Weekly Post, The Year-Book of Chess, 1913 – founded by E A Michell (Frank Hollings, London 1914), and Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 13.6.1953 (from White’s 20th move to the end of the game).

Thomas became Sir George Alan Thomas, Baronet in 1918 when his father died and he inherited the title.

Mr J. A. Watt also won the East Sussex Queen in 1898. Please see the club champions section for a photograph of the medal. (page missing)

Est. 1882