N.A. Perkins Remembers

Nicholas Anthony Perkins
7 Dec 1912 - 26 May 1991.

From an article in Scottish Chess Bulletin Nr.4, July-September 1961

My work took me to Edinburgh late in 1937 and I joined the Civil Service Club having had some years’ experience of University and county chess in England. On the strength of this, my entry was accepted for the 1938 Scottish Championship, held in the Edinburgh Chess Club but limited to ten players in an American tournament, the commendable Swiss system being then untried. The tournament was won by W.A. Fairhurst. My own success was limited but it included a win against J.M. Aitken, whom I had already met some years previously in Oxford.

Then came the memorable 1939 contest in Aberdeen to which I brought Peter Anderson and Max Pavey in a “vintage” car which was too venerable to complete the return journey over the Devil’s Elbow and led to the three of us parting company at Perth station, in the early hours of the morning of the day after we had set out from Aberdeen. That year, Aberdeen and the Bon Accord Club entertained the congress royaly; I have never in 20 years’ tournament experience played in better conditions nor been more cordially received. On this occasion J.M. Aitken took his revenge on me, but otherwise I contrived 3 wins and 5 draws, three of them against the prize winners, Pavey, Combe and Winter, all, alas, untimely departed since those days. The S.C.A. [Scottish Chess Association – AMcG], however, paid me the compliment of an invitation to the International Team Tournament to be held that summer in Buenos Aires, but I could not go. In the event, no Scottish team was entered for this contest clouded by the outbreak of war.

During the war I sadly left Edinburgh and though I returned to marry, I have since lived, in the S.C.A. classification, “furth of Scotland”. But somewhere in England I again found myself a neighbour of James Aitken and a close colleague of Harry Golombek, so chesswise as well as otherwise I was fortunate indeed. [Perkins was involved in secret work during WWII - AMcG.]

N.A. (Tony) Perkins,
1946 or 1947.
Photo courtesy of the
Old Rendcombian Society


My next contact with Scottish chess was when I entered for the 1948 Championship as a former competitor and came north to Edinburgh for the purpose. Whether or not as a result of wartime associations I then came nearest to success. Fairhurst, exceptionally, lost a game to E.G.W. Beckingham of Dundee and as I didn’t concede more than ½ point until I met him, I wanted only a draw from him for the title. But he saw to it efficiently that I didn’t get this vital score and we shared first place with 7½ out of 9. The play-off took place in Glasgow as match of four games in which Fairhurst convincingly demonstrated his ownership of the title.

My next venture for the title was at Glasgow in 1952 and I hadn’t learned my lessons of 1948, for after defeating the two former champions competing [J.M. Aitken and P.B. Anderson – AMcG], I came to grief against the less fancied competitors and a defeat in the last round left me in 3rd place after Aitken and N.A. Macleod.

In 1954 the annual congress was held, for the first time, I believe, in Stirling, and at last I managed to come through undefeated, but so did Peter Anderson and with one less draw he took the title. Here I met many old friends and some new ones, in particular Col. W.G. Irvine Fortescue, and on the Sunday we hit the high spots with a memorable ascent of Ben Vorlich, surely a rival to Ben Lawers as the finest viewpoint in central Scotland, and a source of inspiration for the rest of the tournament.

So to 1958 when the S.C.A. renewed its invitation to me to join the team for the Munich Chess Olympiad. Here we put up the best performance for a Scottish team. On form we could not really hope to finish high enough in the seeded preliminary tournament to reach the middle section of the finals, but in the third section we finished well in the top half. Even half a point was hard earned in this company and our final position was largely due to Aitken's consistent form which brought him on second board (and sometimes first) 7 wins and 8 draws from 17 games; but we all managed to score more than 33% and Aird Thomson had a plus score.

Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland