Former Hastings Grammar School teacher George Frederick Harold Packer became chess champion of Devon, Sussex and Hertfordshire, but he did not win the Hastings CC Championship. Useful information about his life has been obtained from an obituary in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 29.12.1956.
He was born at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, on 28.1.1886 and was the son of a Congregationalist minister. He was educated at Caterham School in Surrey, but his time there was cut short by a serious illness which left him permanently lame. Not to be deterred, however, he made up lost time and obtained a Classics degree at Downing College, Cambridge,
He decided that his future career lay with teaching and he worked from 1909-18 in this capacity at Devonport High School at Plymouth. He joined the Plymouth Chess Club and in 1918 won the Devon Championship. He also built up a reputation as a composer of chess problems.
In 1919 he moved to Hastings and started employment at Hastings Grammar School. Here he usually taught English and he soon launched a school chess club, which became popular. One of his early chess pupils was Laurie Glyde, who was the president of the Hastings CC from 1976 to 1983. During Packer’s time at the school the team won the Wilson Cup (U-19 Sussex schools’ competition) from 1926-28 and the Butler Cup (U-14 Sussex school’s event) in 1922, 1923 and 1927. Packer became one of the housemasters and sang at school concerts. He was also a gifted pianist. When he was off-duty, he played golf and later bowls and would not be deterred by his lameness. In the 1956 obituary in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, which is mentioned above, he is described as follows: ‘Looking more elderly than his years, and of solid, avuncular appearance, he was habitually referred to as “Old Packer” but rarely with disrespect. He was human and tolerant in his dealings with boys and generous.’ In 1937 he retired as a teacher because of ill-health.
In 1919 he also joined the Hastings CC. He became a regular club player and also represented Hastings and St Leonards in the triangular competition called the Sexton Cup. The other sides in this were Brighton and Hove and the Rest of Sussex. He made many appearances for Sussex and was appointed to the county committee.
In March 1920 when Boris Kostich, the well-known Serbian master, gave a 20 board simultaneous at the Hastings CC, he lost three games, one of which was against Packer. Indeed the latter showed a definite improvement in his game in his first few years with the club. This was acknowledged by the columnist of the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, E J Ackroyd, in his article of 8th July 1922.
In 1925 Packer won the county championship after a long drawn out contest. Since the formation of the Sussex Chess Association in 1882 the championship had been decided by an all-play-all final section following qualification through preliminary sections. In 1925 Packer was placed in a final section with Dr R Dunstan, J A Watt and R E Lean. Dr Dunstan withdrew from the competition, but the all-play-all contest between the three other players ended in a tie. In the end the three contestants had to play each other again and quite close to the Sussex AGM Packer emerged as the winner. It is interesting that the following season the Sussex Chess Association decided that the county championship should be decided on a knock-out basis.
In 1937 Packer left Hastings to live in Brighton. He joined the Brighton CC and entered the club championship. He was also elected on to the committee of the Brighton Dupree Tournament, a competition for local schoolchildren.
It was not long before war broke out and Packer came out of retirement to work in the Ministry of Information, which was situated in London. For at least part of the war he lived at Royston in Hertfordshire.
At the end of the war Packer started playing for Sussex again (perhaps he had returned to Brighton), but in either 1949 or 1950 he became part of the Hertfordshire team. Presumably he was then living in that county as the Sussex Daily News of 11.6.1953 mentioned that he had returned to Brighton and rejoined the Brighton CC. The article also stated that he was the Hertfordshire champion, though the BCF yearbooks tell us that he won the title in 1952 rather than 1953 (he would then have been 65 or 66 years of age)..
It is unlikely that he stayed long in Brighton, as the 1956 obituary in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, which I have mentioned earlier, stated that he had returned to Hastings about four years before he died. An article in that same newspaper dated 25.6.1955 mentioned that he had entered a nursing home. In the first half of 1956 he gave a trophy to the club for an evening tournament based on a ‘time-equalisation’ scheme. In this no game was to last for more that an hour and fifty minutes and the stronger players had to give time to their weaker opponents. It was decided that Arthur Winser was to give time to all his rival competitors and forty minutes to some of them.
As Packer’s health declined further, he became confined to his room. He consoled himself with reading and looked forward to the visits of friends, particularly Old Hastonians (N.B. ex-pupils of Hastings Grammar School), to whom he would speak about the past with a sense of humour which never left him. The end came on Christmas morning in 1956 when he was 70 years of age.
It is almost certain that he had more chess problems published than games. Also I feel that a number of the games that have appeared in the press probably do not show him at his best. Of the fourteen games of his that I have in my database only three are wins for him. I have set out these wins below plus one of his draws:
Packer,GFH – Howell-Smith,SG [C21}
]BCF Congress, Malvern, 1st Class ‘A’ (7), 15.08.1921
1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.f4 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Qe7 5.Bd3 d5 6.e5 Nh6 7.Nf3 Nf5 8.Bxf5 Bxf5 9.Nxd4 Bxd2+ 10.Nxd2 Bd7 11.0–0 Nc6 12.N2b3 Nxd4 13.Qxd4 Qe6 14.Kh1 Qc6 15.f5 f6 16.e6 Bc8 17.Qg4 0–0 18.Rf3 Qe8 19.Rg3 Qe7 20.Re1 Bd7 21.Nc5 Be8 22.Nd3 Kh8 23.Nf4 g5 24.fxg6 Qg7 25.Qh4 Rg8 26.gxh7 Qxh7 27.Qxf6+ Rg7 28.Rh3 ‘and wins’. Source: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 3.9.1921. 1–0
Goldstein,ME – Packer,GFH [B02}
BCF Congress, Malvern, Ist Class ‘A’ (10), 18.08.1921
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nxd5 4.Qf3 e6 5.Bc4 c6 6.d4 Bd6 7.Nge2 Qc7 8.Bd2 Nd7 9.0–0–0 N7f6 10.Rhe1 Bd7 11.h3 Nxc3 12.Nxc3 0–0 13.Ne4 Nxe4 14.Rxe4 b5 15.Bd3 f5 16.Ree1 e5 17.dxe5 Bxe5 18.g4 g6 19.Qg2 f4 20.h4 f3 21.Qh3 Bf4 22.h5 g5 23.h6 Bxd2+ 24.Rxd2 Rae8 25.Red1 Qf4 26.Qf1 Bxg4 27.Kb1 Re7 28.c3 Rfe8 29.Bc2 Bf5 30.Bxf5 Qxf5+ 31.Qd3 Qxd3+ 32.Rxd3 Re1 33.Kc1 Rxd1+ 34.Kxd1 Rf8 35.Rd7 Source: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 8.10.1921. ½–½
Packer,GFH – Ginner,AG [C51]
Hastings CC Albany Cup, 1922
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bc5 6.d4 exd4 7.0–0 d6 8.cxd4 Bb6 9.d5 Na5 10.Bb2 Ne7 11.Bd3 f6? 12.Nh4 Ng6 13.Qh5 Kf7 14.e5! dxe5 15.Nxg6 hxg6 16.Bxg6+ Ke7 17.Ba3+ c5 18.dxc6+ Ke6 19.Bf7# Source: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 1.4.1922 1:0.
Packer,GFH – Bolland,Rev CF [C21}
Hastings Congress Major ‘C’, 01.01.1932
1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.f4 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Bxd2+ 5.Nxd2 Nc6 6.Ngf3 d6 7.Nb3 Nf6 8.Bd3 Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 0–0 11.0–0–0 a5 12.g4 Nb4 13.Nxd4 Nxa2+ 14.Kd2 Nb4 15.g5 Nd7 16.h4 Nxd3 17.cxd3 g6 18.h5 c5 19.hxg6 fxg6 20.Ne6 Qb6 21.Nxf8 Qxb2+ 22.Ke3 Rxf8 23.Qh3 Rf7 24.Rb1 Qd4+ 25.Ke2 b6 26.Qe6 c4 27.dxc4 Kf8 28.Rhd1 Qc3 29.Qxd6+ Re7 30.Rbc1 Qg3 31.Rg1 Qh2+ 32.Kf3 Nc5 33.Rh1 Qb2 34.Rxh7 ‘And White won.’ Source: Borough of West Ham, East Ham and Stratford Express of 9.1.1932. 1–0
Brian Denman 22.8.2013