Posts Tagged ‘luton’

Dennis Victor Mardle is commonly found in Tom Sweby’s long running chess column in The Luton News. It’s hardly surprising since they both come from the same town, played in the same team and that Mardle, a true Lutonian, was by far the strongest of his generation from Bedfordshire. With the probable exception of William Ward, whose identity is less straightforward, he is still the strongest player Luton has produced to date.

Feb 19th 1970 2

The Luton News Feb 19th 1970

I managed to find one of Mardle’s tournament successes here (please scroll down to 1959). I have to say Mardle’s crushing defeat of British champion Wade (whose unwillingness to resign is rather embarrassing quite frankly) was a sure sign of his strength.


Wade – Mardle after 48. …f4+ Just how many connected passed pawns does it take for your opponent to resign gracefully?

I note that the tournament is listed at the 7th Bognor Open and in the zipped file as the Stevenson Memorial. My more senior fellow county players will recognize that as the eponymous R. Stevenson of Kent, since The Stevenson Cup, hosted Bedfordshire a number of times over the years. (see:

Stevenson had, most unfortunately, great tragedy in his personal life. His first wife Agnes, four times British Ladies’ Champion in the 1920s was tragically killed when she flew to Poland to play in the Women’s World Championship in 1935 when she walked into a propeller after the plane had landed. His second wife, former world champion Vera Menchik died nine years later in London after a V1 Rocket hit her home at the end of WW2.

Mardle was not so fortunate in life as well. He received a C.B.E for his relentless work on Polio in 1988. During one of many visits to Kenilworth Road, Luton to watch his beloved team play, he drank from a cracked cup and therewith contracted the disease himself…I wonder if his exploits over the board in Bognor 1959 were inspired by his beloved football team’s cup run that month and those preceding?


Debilitating disease aside, I suspect Dennis would have been somewhere amongst that crowd after Luton returned home as losing finalists of the 1959 FA Cup. 31 years on, your author stood below the ‘Saxone’ sign welcoming the England Football Team after they returned home from Italia 90.


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The claim in Chess in Bedfordshire that Reti visited Luton, which can be found here:


Is substantiated further in the following cutting (please read the whole article):





Reti – Moscow 1925 apparently


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Here’s the local reportage of Blackburne’s visit to Luton. Please click on all images for an enlarged view



An advertisement.


Waller Street, where the action took place (no longer there).



A second advertisement.


Boxing in the baths.



I have to say, this makes for a cracking read.

Luton, probably 1906

Luton town centre probably 1906



Reportage from south of London.



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Diggle, who in a -news- flash has become my favourite chess writer, spent at least four years living in my home town just before the war, I was pleased to recently learn. There he befriended the ever-smiling Tom Sweby – Bedfordshire’s principle post-war chess representative, and a man I had the pleasure of meeting as a once promising junior, long, long ago. It would appear that he also knew the esteemed Secretary of Luton Chess Club Brian Cox too. (see Part 5 of Here is Diggle’s take on the unlikely duo and my home town. (Reminiscences of a Badmaster [Vol.1])

                                34. Grandmaster Mecca

The Luton Chess Club (of which the BM has pleasant memories from 1935-1939) celebrates its Centenary this year. Among generations of its stalwarts, two great figures in particular bestride the Century. In a match played in 1931 between Luton and Northampton, we find on adjacent boards the names of Edward How and T.W.Sweby. The former, then 83 years of age, playing in his last match, had been a founder member in 1878, Hon. Sec. for over 30 years, and President thereafter. The latter, playing in his first match, was destined after a long stretch as ‘general factotum’ to ‘stagger along’ (his own expression) as President (which he still is) for the ensuing quarter of a century. In How’s time Luton was visited by Blackburne, Zukertort, Lasker, Capablanca, Reti, and Alekhine; in Sweby’s (during the past decade alone) by Larsen, Keene, Hartston, Wade, Tal, Glogoric, Suttles, Korchnoi, Petrosian and Hort. The popularity of Luton as a ‘Grandmaster’ Mecca can be ascribed partly to the organising genius and dynamism of a remarkable Secretary (Brian Cox) and partly to the hospitality of its President and his charming wife. One cam almost believe that Grandmasters (after the manner of tramps) inscribe mysterious signs on the front gate of the ‘White House’ when departing, to notify those that follow that they will find the place ‘a bit of alright’.

The younger generation of Luton chessplayers , however, may be surprised to hear that in his earlier days, ‘T. W. S.’ [Diggle is referring to how Sweby signs his Luton News Column] (who now ‘leaves all the organization to Michael’) himself embarked on chess ventures, some of a peculiar kind [of course, those of us who knew Tom Sweby would not be surprised at all, being the great raconteur that he was]. On one occasion eight local players received ‘top secret’ letters instructing them  to be at the front entrance of the Midland Hotel at a certain hour – they would then be ushered in to take part in an eight round ‘Mystery Lightening Tourney’ against eight ‘Invisible Masters’! Another eight Luton chessists each received a similar letter, except that their venue was another entrance round the corner. The two parties (in the custody of T. W. S. and the BM respectively) were smuggled up different staircases and via separate doors into opposite halves of a large room divided by a high folding partition; each half contained a row of eight boards. Play then commenced T. W. S. calling out ‘over the wall’ the first move made by his No.1 Board and the BM making it at once on the corresponding No.1 and so on to No.8, then the process was reversed, the BM calling the replies and the T. W. S. making them. At the end of each round, one contingent ‘moved one up’ as in the Mad Hatter’s tea-party – the other lot sat still. Though all combatants had been enjoined to observe the strictest silence each set of ‘Invisible Masters’ rumbled the other (collectively) in no time, the rot being started by a well-known character with a notorious high-pitched cough which he suddenly emitted during the second round. Thereafter, the announcements of the moves were punctuated by derisive comments from the performers: P-KR3 ‘I bet that’s Joe, the cautious old bastard’ or ‘Resigns’ (loud laughter) ‘that’s Len’s cackle but he sounds three boards off me’. By a masterstroke of timing the last round terminated at 9.30 pm and was followed by a general stampede to the bar – where the ‘first round’ started!



Luton in Diggle’s days. Note that the ‘Midland Hotel’ (painted white) can be seen to the left.

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