Ralph Spencer

(Formerly Rolf Silberberg)

Born circa 1918 - Died 1983, aged 65

Ralph Spencer is in the middle. (The others have not been identified.)

Photo courtesy of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, Glasgow.

Mr Spencer was associated with the Glasgow Jewish Institute Chess Club.

Ralph Spencer fled Berlin in the 1930s after the rise of the Nazis, becoming a student in Paris. As the war progressed, he fled France and ended up in Glasgow. He served in the British Forces during the war, when he was known as Pte. Ralph Michel.

In 1942-43 he played a match against W.A. Fairhurst - nine games are given in the latter's notebooks. Fairhurst, who won with a score of +4, =4, -1, recorded his opponent's name as Silverberg, the English equivalent of his German name. (The sixth game of the match was published in the Glasgow Herald of 19 February 1943, with Fairhurst's opponent shown as Pte. R. Michel.)

Mr Spencer also played Fairhurst in several matches between the Virginians CC and Glasgow CC. In one such match on 23 January 1943 he defeated Fairhurst on board 1.

R. Silverberg (Virginians) - W.A. Fairhurst (Glasgow)

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nf3 e4 6. Nd4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8.
Qxd2 O-O 9. Nc3 Re8 10. e3 d5 11. O-O-O dxc4 12. Bxc4 a6 13. Qc2 Qc7 14. Nd5
Nxd5 15. Bxd5 Qxc2+ 16. Kxc2 Nd7 17. Nf5 Nf6 18. Nd6 Re7 19. Bb3 Bg4 20. Rd4
Bh5 21. Kd2 Bg6 22. Rc1 Rd7 23. Nc8 Rxd4+ 24. exd4 Kf8 25. h3 h5 26. Ke3 Rb8
27. Nb6 Ke7 28. Rc5 h4 29. Nd5+ Nxd5+ 30. Bxd5 Kd7 31. Bxe4 Bxe4 32. Kxe4 Re8+
33. Kd3 Re6 34. f4 (time) 1-0

As Pte. Ralph Michel he also played in the 1943 Army Championship, losing the Scotland regional qualifying final to Pte. Frank Parr, who was already well known from numerous English tournaments.

In 1947 Ralph Spencer was granted British citizenship.

Michael Freeman, who provided some personal information, said that Mr Spencer obtained a degree in pharmacy and later had a chemist shop. He also knew that Mr Spencer travelled to Berlin to seek compensation for the Nazi seizure of property owned by his family.

An appeal for information on the Jewish Telegraph web site resulted in information from Rona Statt in the USA, who worked for Mr Spencer when she was a young girl. Her information resulted in finding references to Spencer's chemist shops in Broomton Road, Auchinairn and Liddesdale Square, Milton, Glasgow.

Glasgow Herald, 29. January 1943
Edinburgh Gazette, 23 September 1947
Michael Freeman
Jewish Telegraph (http://www.jewishtelegraph.com/)
Rona Stott
Reminiscences of Springburn web site at: http://oldspringburn.wikifoundry.com/search/everything/spencer?contains=spencer

Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland