Former St Leonards headmaster, Wallace Henry King, won the Sussex Championship, but did not become Hastings champion.
He was born on 23.10.1888 at Hastings and it was not long before he learnt how to play chess. He was shown the moves at the age of six on a white and red ivory set by his father, Henry King, who was a keen Hastings CC player and subsequently carried out the duties of Sussex treasurer from 1898 to 1923.
Wallace King went to West Ham Technical College and won the chess championship in the three years that he was there. He also joined the West Ham CC. On returning to Hastings, he joined the main chess club and won the third-class championship (N.B. unfortunately the article in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 30.11.1929, from which this information is taken, is short on dates, but an estimate for the year of this success would be about 1909). Following this he gave up chess for some time only starting to play again when he was in the army during World War I.
Henry King had founded the St Leonards Collegiate School in about 1877. In 1907 he started a cadet corps affiliated to the Royal Engineers. The corps was later commanded by his son Wallace and it acted as guard of honour when Prince George visited the town in 1930. Towards the end of World War II Wallace’s military title of lieutenant-colonel begins to appear in Sussex chess records, though it does not seem that he fought in the second world war. He took over the position of headmaster of the school from his father in 1914.
He rejoined the Hastings CC in 1920 and won the second-class championship in that year after a hard battle with Samuel Dalladay. He now turned out regularly for the club in matches against other teams and for the combined Hastings and St Leonards side in the Sexton Cup. In the 1920-21 season he played on board 1 in the McArthur Cup team, which reached the final and lost against the village team of Lodsworth. His first game for the county seems to date from 1921.
In the early 1920s the St Leonards Collegiate School began to develop a good chess team. It won the Butler Cup (awarded for the best U-14 school in Sussex) in 1924, 1929 and 1930 and the Wilson Cup (awarded for the best U-19 school in Sussex) in 1925. The chess columnist, Edward Ackroyd, has a puzzling reference to Wallace King and the Butler Cup in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 8.4.1922. Ackroyd gives pen pictures of the Hastings players in a match against the Thornton Heath and Norbury CC. He states that Mr. King sat on the Butler Cup and his opponent mated him while he was busy filling it to see whether it leaked! I think that we can assume that this did not happen, but perhaps Ackroyd is suggesting that King would have liked to have had the trophy in his possession. If so, he had two years to wait before his school team won the competition.
In 1923 the St Leonards Collegiate team entered the newly-formed Hastings Junior League. The word ‘junior’ does not mean that only young players were allowed to take part in the competition. Instead the event was intended for players in the area who did not play on the top boards for local clubs. In 1924 the school team went a stage further and entered the McArthur Cup. No other school had ever taken part in this competition, though it has to be said that Wallace King and Henry King were included in the side. The school team became regular entrants for these competitions and about 1935 the school was renamed King’s College.
In 1929 Wallace King achieved his best ever result at chess by winning the county championship. In the final he defeated William Varley of the Brighton CC after two replays. Winning the title was a very special result as King had never played in the top ten for Sussex.
When World War II started, Kings College was very active in arranging matches against local teams like Hastings YMCA, Wellington Square Baptist Church, Ore Railwaymen, Ore Place, the Home Guard and Greenwich Central School (an evacuated school). The chess club at the school was very popular and Wallace’s son, Derrick Ivan King, became the strongest player. Several matches were played against the school ‘old boys’ and the club was active until at least 1951.
In the years after the war Wallace King made some appearances for the county and Hastings, but it seems likely that he was now actively planning for his retirement. He became a pensioner in 1953 and this may have been a factor in the closure of King’s College at about that time. For part of his retirement he lived at Orpington and later he moved to Sevenoaks. He died at the latter place on 24.9.1970 at the age of 81.
I enclose the score of one of his games:
King,WH – Drewitt,JAJ [D02]
Hastings CC Championship Hastings, 1922
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.Bg5 f6 4.Bh4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.e3 Be6 8.c3 Bd6 9.Nbd2 Nge7 10.Bg3 0–0 11.e4 Qc7 12.exd5 Bxd5 13.Bc4 Bxc4 14.Nxc4 Rad8 15.Qb3 Kh8 16.Rd1 Ng6 17.0–0 Be7 18.Nd4! Nxd4 19.cxd4 Rc8 20.Ne3 Nf4 21.Rfe1 Bd6 22.Nf5 Rfd8 23.Nxd6 Rxd6 24.dxe5 Rb6? 25.Qe3 fxe5 26.Bxf4 Source: Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 18.11.1922. 1:0
Brian Denman 23.8.2013