I. M. Friedberger

Post by Brian J Jenman on May 19, 2013 at 10:01am
Notes by Brian Denman (April 2005)

There is a problem over the first initial of I. M. Friedberger. His name is often quoted as J. M. Friedberger, though this is probably wrong. At a time when scripts were often handwritten, it was probably not too difficult to confuse the letters ‘I’ and ‘J’.

In the Chess Player’s Chronicle of 1882 a J. M. Friedberger is listed as representing the Birmingham CC. This may well have been the player who joined the Hastings CC towards the end of the 1890’s. He won the club championship in 1900 and, as the club captain, took it upon himself (and his wife probably) to arrange a club party early in 1901. Most of the active members were invited to the reception in the club rooms and music was provided.

I have made an internet search of the 1901 census looking for Friedberger’s name and there is listed for Hastings an Isidor M. Friedberger, born about 1843 in Germany, and a retired missionary. There is a good chance that this was the chess player.

Friedberger was a keen correspondence player and he represented the South against the North in correspondence matches in 1900-01 and 1902-03. He also played for Southern Counties against Northern Counties in this same type of chess in about 1907. He played a few correspondence matches for the county and in the 1907-08 season he defeated the well-known player R. C. Griffith in a match against Middlesex. In the same season he played on board one for the county in a correspondence match against Cumberland and won against W. Butler.

This was to be his swan song for the county, for by 1907 he had already started to play for Kent in over-the-board chess and he had also begun to turn out for the Tunbridge Wells CC. The last mention that I have of him is of playing for Kent against Essex in a 1911-12 correspondence match.


Update by Brian Denman (April 2013):

I am very grateful to Brenda Walter of Tunbridge Wells for information about this chess player. Brenda has discovered that he was a Hebrew Christian, a missionary, who probably adopted some of the Jewish practices and traditions, but at the same time believed in the sacrifice of Jesus. She has kindly forwarded a photograph of him together with one of his wife [reproduced above] which was included in a book called ‘Memories of Gospel triumphs among the Jews during the Victorian era’ written by John Dunlop in 1894. The photograph quotes Friedberger’s first name as ‘Israel’, but ‘Isidor’ is written on his gravestone. There is, however, no contradiction here as Israel and Isidor are interchangeable for Jewish people.

After living in Liverpool and Birmingham he took up residence in Hastings in about 1895 and lived there for about ten years. He then arranged the construction of his own house in Tunbridge Wells and was the first occupant of the house in which Brenda now lives. In fact Brenda’s father, who recently died, knew the Friedbergers by sight and recalled a man in a black Jewish type coat outfit, who gave out apples from the garden to passing school children.

I mentioned previously that Isidor arranged a chess party for the Hastings CC players in 1901. Since then I have discovered that he held a second such party about a year later.

Isidor’s last known competitive chess game was in 1914 when he represented Kent in a correspondence match against Sussex. The arrival of the war against Germany placed him in a difficult position. Chess players of German nationality were not immune to tough treatment during World War 1 and the well-known player George Shories was sent to a remote internment camp, while Edward Lasker, who was one of the strongest players in London and had made the city his home, made a hasty departure to America. Isidor decided to change his name and he adopted the surname of his wife. He had married Eda Eliza Stevens at Aston, Birmingham, in 1890 and he now became Isidor Maurice Stevens.

He continued to reside at Tunbridge Wells, though it is uncertain for how long he was an active chess player. He moved house in 1927, but stayed in the same town until his death on Christmas Day 1935, when he had reached the grand old age of 94. He is buried alongside his wife, who died in 1945 at the age of 92.

Est. 1882