Tom Russell

27 September 1925 - 06 August 2000, Glasgow

Former member of Glasgow CC, former Secretary and Treasurer of the Scottish Chess Association.

From Scottish Chess No. 170, October 2000, p 30: Tom Russell, longtime member of Glasgow CC (and latterly Cambuslang CC), passed away a few months after being diagnosed with cancer. After undergoing surgery he was resting at home when he suffered a relapse and had to be admitted to intensive care. On returning to the general ward there was even some hope of a recovery, but it was not to be.

Tom's early interest in chess was encouraged when he joined Glasgow CC in the 1940's. In particular, he became attracted to chess problems and was encouragd in this area by fellow club member Norman Macleod, who would later be so successful at the art that he was awarded the title of Grandmaster of Chess Compostition, and Comins Mansfield, regarded as the greatest composer of two-move problems and then resident in Glasgow.

Further encouragement was offered by the fact that in these far-off days newspaper chess columns still included problems, thereby offering a regular outlet for such creativity. D.M. MacIsaac, then the Glasgow Herald's chess contributor, considered problems to be the poetry of chess, and he featured some of Tom's early compositions in his column.

Tom developed a deep knowledge of the subject and its literature, including that of the Soviet Union, helped by the fact that he had studied Russian at St. Andrew's University for a year. He also had a good command of Italian.

Tom maintained his interest in problems throughout his life and was even responsible for inventing a new theme of seventh rank promotion (Glasgow Chess, he called it), an idea that was taken up by other composers and around which a composing tourney was later organised. He was well known to other problem enthusiasts throughout the U.K. and overseas, many of whom he met at some of the regular meetings of the British Chess Problem Society.

Tom wrote several special articles for this magazine in the past (related to his memories of problem composers) and in one of them he commented about abandoning temporarily the problem for over-the-board play, something he described as "not the wisest decision."

In fact, he was well known in regular chess circles, particularly during his most active playing period, both at club and national level. he competed in several Scottish Championships in the 1950"s (although without conspicuous success), and after the demise of Glasgow CC he continued with OTB play at his local club, Cambuslang.

In 1998 he was invited to contribute a regular column to the magazine and he did so with enthusiasm. This attempt to broaden the range of material on offer to readers allowed Tom to write about not only his beloved chess problems, but endgame studies as well.

Tom was entitled to use the letters MRPhS after his name, as he was a Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. He continued to help as a locum pharmacist in his retirement. He was survived by his wife Isabel and sister Janet.

Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland