Robert McClure

1890, Larne, N. Ireland - 11 January 1953, Bo'ness/Carriden, West Lothian, Scotland

Chess problem composer. The BCM of January 1943, p 21 noted that Mr McClure, of 46 Empire Street, Whitburn, West Lothian, was producing a 4-page magazine named The Chess Problem. It was a fortnightly publication, the first two issues being November 11th and 25th, 1942. This was an effort to replace the loss of the Falkirk Herald column. [The editor of the Falkirk Herald chess column, A,J. Neilson, had died in April 1942, and his column died with him. - AMcG]

Michael Clapham has provided an extremely detailed article, with numerous illustrations, about Mr McClure's magazine on his Chess Book Chats blog (August 2017).

John Beasley of the British Chess Problem Society kindly supplied the text of an article he wrote on the history of Mr McClure's pubication for The Problemist


by John Beasley

(originally prepared for The Problemist, May 2003, and reproduced with the author’s permission)

The Chess Problem (fortnightly magazine edited by Robert McClure, 1942-48)

This little magazine is often referred to but rarely seen; even the British Library appears not to have it. When I took over as librarian, we too held none of it, but Colin Vaughan passed on Jack Fenner’s holding, and the heirs of the heirs of C. S. Kipping have now given us the rest. It ran for 108 issues, and then apparently stopped in mid-flight. Issue 108 included problems for solution and the cessation was clearly unplanned, but I have never heard of a further issue, and the bookseller’s catalogue covering the sale of T. R. Dawson’s library in 1953 referred to issues 1-108 and no more.

Issue 1, dated 11 November 1942, describes its purpose in one short sentence: ‘This little sheet is being issued in an attempt to fill the gap created by the suspension of “The Falkirk Herald” Chess Column.’ The first few issues were produced wholly by hand, using a mixture of pen-and-ink manuscript, pasted-in diagrams with pencilled shading for the dark squares, rubber-stamped men, and text apparently produced by one of those John Bull printing sets whose possession was a major status symbol at my primary school a few years later. It was a real labour of love in what were doubtless difficult wartime circumstances. The initial solving ladder had seven names, and a note in issue 3 referred to seventeen copies being posted to readers. It also said that a complete file of the journal was being lodged in the BCPS Library, but this had vanished by the time Lu Citeroni drew up his 1967 Library List.

The work involved in producing even seventeen copies by hand will have been substantial, and many of the early issues seem to have appeared without solutions and solving ladder. The magazine was initially supplied without charge, but from issue 12 there is a note “4/- per year” (old shillings). Conventional printed diagrams appear from issue 17, though the John Bull printing set continued to give good service for text and solutions. The annual subscription went up to 7/6 at issue 89 (26 June 1946), by which time the magazine had grown to eight pages with a solving ladder of fifteen names. There was a three-month pause towards the end of 1945 and the magazine became a monthly from February 1947, and a note in a much delayed issue 106 referred to “a complete breakdown in health due to overwork”. There were only two more, the final issue being Number 108, March 1948.

All this gave a platform to well over 800 originals, which were of all kinds including endgame studies. A features one wholly pinned and two line-pinned men, and even the Black knight has no safe move. The three-mover B is soon seen to be another complete block. C was billed as a “Christmas card”, and I found it surprisingly tricky. D is by Robert Gray, whom many of us met at Paisley some years ago. The opening move 1.Rg2+ is obvious enough, but Black replies 1...Kf5 and an immediate capture will give stalemate...

[Diagrams reconstructed from the printed page, checking desirable!]
A F. Gamage, The Chess Problem 1945, 6k1/3N1p1b/KR4qP/P3B2p/1p5P/1Bnp2R1/3P2P1/2Q5, mate in 2
B J. Stewart, The Chess Problem 1943, 8/8/2R5/1P1kp3/1B2p3/1bP5/8/1B2K3, mate in 3
C C. E. Kemp, The Chess Problem 1946, kb6/8/8/8/8/2p5/p5pp/K5N1, helpmate in 5
D R. Gray, 1st Prize The Chess Problem 1944, 6r1/8/8/3K3N/6k1/8/7R/8, White to play and win


A 1.Re6 giving Black three more moves, but to no avail: 1...fxe6 2.Bxe6, 1...f6 2.Re8, 1...f5 2.Rxg6.
B Set 1...Bc4 2.Rd6#, 1...B-- 2.Ba2+, 1...e3 2.Rd6+ Kc4 3.Bd3. The neat little key 1.Ba3 spoils this last line, but substitutes 2.c4+ Kd4 3.Bb2 exploiting the selfblock.
C 1.h8B Ne2 2.g1N! Nxc3 3.Bb7 Kb2 4.a1R Nd5 5.Ra7 Nb6, a beautifully accurate line.
D 1.Rg2+ is indeed correct, and play continues 1...Kf5 2.Ng3+ (2.Ng7+ Kf6) Kf6/g6 3.Ne4+ Kf7 (3...Kh7 4.Nf6+) 4.Nd6+ Kf8 5.Rf2+ Ke7 (5...Kg7 6.Nf5+ with 6...Kf- 7.Nh6+ and 6...Kh7 7.Rh2+ Kg6 8.Ne7+) 6.Rf7+ Kd8 7.Kc6 (threatening mate on d7, a standard manoeuvre in this ending) Rg7 (a last try for stalemate) 8.Nb7+ and 9.Rxg7.


Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland