Harry G.T. Matchett

Post by Brian J Denman on Aug 3, 2013 at 5:52pm
H.G.T. Matchett

This is the first in a short series of articles about Hastings players who became Sussex champions but did not win the club championship. Useful information about Harry Matchett has been obtained from William Ritson Morry and Frank Rhoden, who combined to produce Matchett’s obituary in the British Chess Magazine of October 1967.

The birth of Harry Gethin Thorp Matchett was registered at King’s Norton, Birmingham in the December quarter of 1900. He was educated at Oundle School, Oundle, Northamptonshire and obtained a place at Queen’s College, Cambridge. He represented the university at both chess and boxing and his college at rugby and water polo.

His father, Arthur T Matchett, a brass and iron founder by profession, was a keen chess player and Harry’s brother Noel also enjoyed playing the game. All three of them played an active part in the Birmingham League. It was Harry, however, who attracted the most publicity. Not only was he the strongest player in the family (he won the Birmingham Championship on seven occasions), but he also gained a reputation as an organiser. In 1935 in company with the well-known Kent organiser, R H S Stevenson, and a small committee appointed by the Kent Chess Association he accepted the task of organising the first Margate Congress. He received the support of the local council and was helped by an impressive list of patrons headed by Lord Dunsany. The first of the Margate congresses attracted an entry of over 120 players, but by 1939 when the last of the annual congresses was held the total number of competitors had risen to 302. The popularity of the congresses was probably largely down to the fact that several famous overseas players took part including the former World Champion, Jose Capablanca, the present World Champion, Alexander Alekhine, as well as Samuel Reshevesky, Jacques Mieses, Salo Flohr, Reuben Fine, Paul Keres, Rudolf Spielmann and Miguel Najdorf. Matchett took on the role of tournament controller for the 1935-38 events. It was reported in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 29.10.1938 that he had stood down from this post for business reasons. ‘Chess’ of November 1967 has a photograph of him standing alongside Capablanca at the time of one of the Margate congresses.. He was very tall with a ramrod back and towered over the former World Champion.

Towards the end of 1938 Matchett acted in a kindly fashion to give support to Jacques Mieses. The Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 24.12.1938 reported on a circular that Matchett had sent out in his capacity as secretary of the Birmingham CC. This stated that Mieses, who was 75 and crippled by a serious accident which had occurred at the time of the Kemeri tournament, had been forced to earn a livelihood in England as the result of the expulsion of the Jews from Germany. Matchett’s committee wanted to help the veteran player and were arranging a tournament next January in Birmingham in which he could play. The Birmingham CC were to make themselves responsible for all the tournament expenses so that any money subscribed could be given to Mieses as a presentation for his services.

The obituary in the British Chess Magazine (see above) states that Matchett enlisted in HM Forces at the start of the war. However, the Borough of West Ham, East Ham and Stratford Express of 13.10.1939 even goes so far as to suggest that he anticipated the future and signed up before hostilities broke out. In any case it is clear that he was regarded as a very responsible person and he rose several ranks in a short space of time. During his service with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment he often had to endure harrowing conditions and according to his brother Noel he was disturbed by the landing at Salerno in which he was involved in 1943. He served with distinction and was wounded at Anzio in 1944. He was twice mentioned in despatches.

On his return to England he took part in a 10 board match between Birmingham and London in December 1945 and in 1947 he became president of the Birmingham CC. He and his brother were joint proprietors of a firm which owned and hired out railway freight wagons and the business must have greatly benefited from the fact that Birmingham was an important rail centre. After the war with the advent of the nationalisation of the railways (1947) the brothers were bought out from their business and one assumes that this released a good sum of money for them. According to the obituary in the British Chess Magazine (see above) Harry Matchett joined the Hastings CC in 1958 following retirement. However, the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 28.3.1959 mentioned that he had become a member of the club and 1959 was perhaps the year in which his active period with the club began.

Matchett also joined the Bexhill CC and represented that club in the McArthur Cup. It probably was not very long before he was appointed as a Sussex ‘first-class’ player and this would have prevented him from playing for Hastings in that competition. The rule was that clubs in Brighton and Hove and Hastings and St Leonards were not allowed to use their ‘first-class’ players in the event. Matchett was appointed as a vice-president of the Bexhill CC at its 1960 AGM and he turned out for the club for a few years. However, in 1964 the club went into decline and it ceased to enter the McArthur Cup. In 1965 the McArthur Cup became an open competition and Matchett played for Hastings in the event.

In his early years with the Hastings CC Matchett took part in many club matches and

often played on the first board. He also took part in the triangular Sexton Cup competition, representing East Sussex in matches against West Sussex and Brighton. He made some appearances for Sussex, though it seems that he was not a regular member of the team. In 1964 he achieved what was probably his greatest success in the county championship. He knocked out one of his biggest rivals, Arthur Winser, and later Geoffrey James, before winning the final against John Cannon with a win and a draw in the two games. This made him one of the oldest Sussex champions at the age of 63.

Matchett’s retirement gave him a new lease of life and he took part in many congresses, usually finishing in the top half of open competitions. As well as the Hastings Congress (which he is known to have helped financially), there were large Sussex congresses at Bognor and Eastbourne at this time. He is also known to have taken part in the Paignton Congress, the Northern Open at Whitby and the Major Open section of BCF congresses. One of his best achievements came in the 1962 Eastbourne Festival when he held the Belgian grandmaster Alberic O’Kelly de Galway to a draw. There were twelve rounds in this competition and the grandmaster won all the rest of his games.

The Hastings CC had a particularly strong team in the mid 1960s and in 1965 the club enlisted the services of Dave Springgay from Brighton, a previous county champion. According to the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 15.5.1965 Matchett ‘pounced on’ Springgay when the latter was a visitor at the club. It appears that not long after this Matchett became match captain for the club. However, he only held the position for a short time as the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 7.5.1966 reported that Richard Upton, who was only 21, had taken over the post.

Matchett’s brief tenure of the position may suggest that he knew that his health was in decline. Towards the end of the year he had a serious operation for cancer. After convalescing at his bungalow in Cooden Drive, Bexhill, he returned to the club and played competitive chess again. The Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 4.3.1967 mentioned that the shiny maroon splendour of TNJ 500 was adding daily lustre to the club premises (N.B. Matchett used to drive a Rolls Bentley car, which he parked outside the club promptly at 2.00 p.m. every day). Sadly the cancer returned and he died in September 1967 at the age of 66.

Frank Rhoden paid tribute to him in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 16.9.1967 and his article contained the following extract: “My personal sense of loss is enormous; the lifts up the road in his magnificent maroon Bentley; his astringent sense of humour; his peerless parties; and, from a club point of view, his penetrating and pungently expressed point of view made him a personality to remember. I can’t think of any better epitaph for him than Hamlet’s comment on his father: ‘He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.’”

I enclose six of his games.

Matchett,HGT – Wells,DG [E60]
Stevenson Memorial Tournament at Bognor (7), 08.04.1959

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.Nf3 d6 6.0–0 c5 7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Ne5 Nfd7 9.Nxd7 Nxd7 10.Nc3 Nb6 11.Qb3 Qd4 12.Nd5 Qxc4 13.Nxb6 Sources: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 2.5.1959 and British Chess Magazine of May 1959. 1–0

Bielby,PR – Matchett,HGT [B68]
Hastings Premier Reserves ‘B’ 1960–61

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0–0–0 Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 b5 11.e5 b4 12.exf6 bxc3 13.Qxc3 gxf6 14.Bh4 d5 15.f5 Nb4 16.Qb3 Qa5 17.a3 Nxc2! 18.Rd2 Nxa3! 19.bxa3 Bxa3+ 20.Kb1 0–0 Source: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 18.3.1961. It is uncertain whether the game was played in 1960 or 1961. 0–1

Matchett,HGT – O’Kelly de Galway,A [E92]
Eastbourne Festival Open Championship Eastbourne, 08.1962

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e4 d6 6.Nf3 0–0 7.Be2 e5 8.h3 Nh5 9.g3 a6 10.Nh2 Nf6 11.Ng4 Ne8 12.Nh6+ Kh8 13.h4 f6 14.g4 Nc7 15.h5 g5 16.Nf5 h6 17.Bd2 Rf7 18.a4 b6 19.f3 Bf8 20.0–0 Ne8 21.Qc2 Rb7 22.Rfb1 Nc7 23.b3 Nd7 24.Ra2 Rab8 25.Rab2 Kh7 26.Ne3 Be7 27.Nf5 Nf8 28.Ng3 Bd7 29.Nd1 Qe8 30.Ne3 b5 31.axb5 axb5 32.Ngf5 Bxf5 33.Nxf5 Nd7 34.Kg2 Bf8 35.Ba5 Nb6 36.Bxb6 Rxb6 37.Ra1 bxc4 38.Bxc4 Kg8 39.Ne3 Qc8 40.Ra7 R8b7 41.Rxb7 Rxb7 42.Qc3 Qa8 43.Nc2 Sources: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 1.9.1962 and 16.9.1967. ½–½

James,GH – Matchett,HGT [B67]
Sussex Championship semi-final, 18.04.1964

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0–0–0 Bd7 9.f4 h6 10.Bh4 Rc8 11.Nf3 Qa5 12.Kb1 b5 13.e5 b4 14.exf6 bxc3 15.fxg7 cxd2 16.gxh8Q Nb4 17.a3 Nxc2 18.Rxd2 Nxa3+ 19.bxa3 e5 20.Bd3 Qxa3 21.Nd4 Rb8+ 22.Nb3 Rxb3+ 23.Kc2 Rb2+ 24.Kd1 Bg4+ 25.Ke1 Qa1+ 26.Kf2 Rxd2+ 27.Ke3 Rxd3+ 28.Kxd3 e4+ Sources: G H James and Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 6.6.1964. 0–1

Cannon,LJ – Matchett,HGT [B23]
Sussex Championship final 1st game, 03.05.1964

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 Nf6 4.e5 Ng8 5.Nf3 d5 6.Bb5 e6 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.d3 Nh6 9.0–0 Nf5 10.Qe1 h5 11.b3 Ba6 12.Qf2 h4 13.Rd1 Be7 14.Na4 Bb5 15.Nxc5 Qb6 16.b4 a5 17.c3 axb4 18.cxb4 Ba4 19.Nxa4 Qxf2+ 20.Kxf2 Rxa4 21.a3? Bxb4 22.Rb1 Bc5+ 23.Ke2 0–0 24.Rb3 Rfa8 25.Rc3 Bxa3 26.Bxa3 Rxa3 27.Rxc6 Ra2+ 28.Rd2 Rxd2+ 29.Nxd2? Nd4+ Source: L J Cannon. 0–1

Matchett,HGT – Freeman,MJ [E62]
Hastings Challengers , 01.1966

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.Nf3 d6 6.0–0 Nc6 7.Nc3 Bg4 8.d5 Bxf3 9.exf3 Na5 10.b3 a6 11.Bd2 c5 12.Qe1 b6 13.Rd1 Qd7 14.Ne4 Nb7 15.Ng5 b5 16.Bh3 Qc7 17.f4 Rfe8 18.f5 h6 19.fxg6 hxg5 20.gxf7+ Kxf7 21.Be6+ Kg6 22.Qe3 Nd8 23.Qxg5+ Kh7 24.Qh4+ Kg6 25.f4 Nxe6 26.dxe6 Bf8 27.f5+ Kg7 28.Qg5+ Kh8 29.Rf4 Bg7 30.Rh4+ Kg8 31.Qg6 Rf8 32.Bh6 Source: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 15.1.1966. 1–0

Brian Denman 3.8.2013

Post by richard on Dec 17, 2013 at 7:48pm
I have fond memories of Harry Matchett and in particular of the many skittle games we played. He was one of only a few strong adults that would not mind risking their reputation by playing a junior like myself. When playing me, he would insist on paying for my tea – which I gratefully accepted! He always called me “Upton” and I called him “Mr. Matchett” – the social and age gap was too great to allow me to call him “Harry”!

Est. 1882