James Gilchrist

25 April 1894, Glasgow - 04 October 1963, London

Associated with Falkirk Chess Club, Central CC (Glasgow) and Glasgow CC.

Member of the Central CC teams that won the Richardson Cup in 1925 and 1929.

Glasgow CC champion 1927.

Son of John C. Gilchrist, former Provost of Falkirk.

Author of several chess books:

1. Emanual Lasker, Chess Champion, edited by J. Gilchrist, Volume 1, Part 1. Master Games of the World Championship period 1894-1921. Published by K. Whyld, Nottingham, 1955.
2. Emanual Lasker, Chess Champion, edited by J. Gilchrist, Volume II, Part 2. Master games played outside the World Championship period. Before 1894, or after 1921. Published by K. Whyld, Nottingham, 1958.
3. Capablanca. Weltgeschichte des Schachs. Vol. 14. Gilchrist & Hooper. Publisher: Wildhagen, Hamburg, 1963.  

From the 1963 British Chess Magazine, pp 328-9:
Obituary by P.B. Anderson:
The bald announcement that Jimmy Gilchrist died suddenly of coronary atheroma on October 4th has left me numb for a variety of reasons, but for two in particular: I have lost a dear and valued friend; and the last active member of that group of chess stalwarts which also included Dr R.C. Macdonald, William Gibson, James McKee, George Page, and Dugald MacIsaac, and which made glorious that Golden Age of Scottish Chess which extended for about a decade and a half after the close of the Great War, has gone from us.

James Gilchrist was born in Glasgow on May 5th, 1894; the family soon moved to Falkirk, in the grammar school of which town James was educated. The bare discipline of school life did not appeal to him, and at the earliest opportunity he sat, successfully, the entrance examinations to the Civil Service. In common with many of his fellow-countrymen, he spent his early years in the service in London, when was born that love of the metropolis which stayed with him all his life. When war broke out in 1914, he was in a reserved occupation, but he volunteered, and was accepted, for military service, serving in the R.F.A. in which, as he would humorously remark, he was always losing his stripe. On the cessation of hostilities his duties took him north, and chess became a part of his life. First of all he played top board for Falkirk C.C. in the Richardson Cup, Scotland's premier trophy. he played in the Scottish Championship from time to time, with varying success. He never won the championship, but in Glasgow in 1926 he had victory within his grasp, but transposed a move in a won ending against McKee, the eventual winner, and came third, ½ point behind the joint leaders. It was this experience that led him to the conclusion that he had not the temperament to aspire to the highest honours, strong player though he was; but in playing chess afterwards, he always relished the intellectual and social pleasure to be found in the company of the best chessplayers. In Scotland he loved the company of McKee and Dr Macdonald.

In 1929 he was transferred to Enniskillen, pursuing his duties as an income tax man in the Inland Revenue. There he met the sweet and gentle Aileen, whom he married in Belfast in 1932. Not long after, the happy couple moved to London, where Jimmy was to spend the rest of his life. Here he played in the Inland revenue, Metropolitan, and for Middlesex County. It was at this time that he came in close contact with William Winter, and Jimmy was very proud of their long friendship. The pair of them came north in 1939 to play in the Scottish Championship won by Max Pavey, the brilliant Brooklyn player. With their usual bountiful hospitality, the Aberdonians treated us to a magnificent spread in the Palace Hotel on the last night of the congress. Following this, there was an all-night session at the Waverley Hotel, the residence of Gilchrist and Winter. I will never forget that night as long as I live. Many friendships were cemented. Of those taking part in that occasion, Max Pavey, William Winter, James Gilchrist and Robert Combe are no longer with us.

Jimmy retired from the Civil Service on Hogmanay, 1958. Then he really was free to pursue his manifold interests, such as a symposium from his friends on Edgar Allan Poe's dictum in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, that draughts and whist called for more intellectual power than chess.

James Gilchrist will be remembered by posterity for his monumental labours on Lasker and Capablanca (in the latter stages of the Capablanca he was given a lot of assistance by David Hooper): and not least by his pioneering and continued labour in connection with the B.C.F. Grading List, on which work he spent incalculable hours. Among his colleagues on this work, he had great admiration for the intellectual powers of R.W.B. Clarke.

Gilchrist was a manly man, and he could never suffer fools gladly. On the other hand, he would go to great lengths to assist a friend, as I found when he helped me with my research on our only great Scottish chessplayer, Captain Mackenzie. Nothing was too much trouble for him. I shall miss him in many ways, as will a lot of people, perhaps most of all his bosom pals Laurie Alexander and George Fisher.

 From the Chess Reader issue of Christmas 1963:
'He was born on 25th April 1894 - as he said, during the Lasker-Steinitz match... He carried a fund of chess lore in his mind. He has been described in 'Chess' as a 'great chess Bohemian' and this may have been so. He was certainly a man high principle with an abhorrence of extravagant publicity. For that reason it was difficult tp persuade him to write a biography of Lasker - a task he was well qualified to do. He feared that the result would be read as a subjective 'Unscientific' statement.

An interesting game by Gilchrist against the 79 year old Mieses.

Mieses - Gilchrist, West London CC Championship 1944, Section 'A': [Notes by William Winter] 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 g6 4.b3 Mieses is famous for his originality in the openings but this move cannot be good. The queen's fianchetto in conjunction with e4 seems a violation of the principle, and here where Black is already prepared with a counter king's fianchetto is soon results in serious disadvantage. Best is 4. g3 transposing into normal variation. 4...Bg7 5.Bb2 Nf6 6.Nd5 0-0 7.Nxf6+ exf6 8.Ng3 [If 8.c4 to prevent the advance of the hostile QP, Black obtains the advantage by 8...Re8 9.d3 f5 10.Bxg7 Kxg7 11.exf5 Qa5+ 12.Qd2 Nb4 13.Kd1 d5 etc.] 8...d5 9.Be2 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Qe7 11.d3 f5 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.Nc3 Nd4 14.0-0 Bd7 15.Re1 Bc6 16.Qd2 Qh4 17.Nd1 f4 18.c3 [18.f3 Nxc2] 18...Nxe2+ [18...Qg5 looks very strong, but White can defend himself at the cost of a pawn by 19.f3 Bxf3 20.Bf1 etc.] 19.Rxe2 f3 20.Re5 Rfe8 Very strong. White was hoping for 20...fxg2 after which 21. Qg5 gets rid of the attack. 21.Rxe8 Rxe8 22.Ne3 f5 22...Re5 threatening 23...Rh5 seems even stronger. 23.Re1 The alternative 23.g3 Qh3 24.Re1 g5 only delays matters for one move. A very smart game by Gilchrist who took excellent advantage of his opponent's irregularities in the opening. 23...f4 24.gxf3 fxe3 25.Rxe3 Qg5+ 26.Kf1 Bxf3 White resigned.

Alan McGowan
Historian/Archivist, Chess Scotland

Updated 5/6/2020