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Monday, January 16, 2012

The case of the long-stored chess trophy!

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2012

Hello everyone,

Here is an interesting article about a silver chess trophy that has remained unclaimed for half a century! According to the Irish Times, the polishing room at the top of the house of Weirs on Grafton Street, has uncovered a chess trophy conundrum!

A small silver trophy had been left for engraving but never picked up – after 50 years awaiting inscription – and it was time to do something.

“It’s always been there in the polishing room,” said Allan Kilpatrick of Weir Sons jewellers. “We were doing a bit of spring cleaning, it was cleaned up . . . It needed to find its rightful owner.”

With a rook in the centre and knights on either side, the trophy, made by Alwright Marshall silversmiths, was the Irish Times Game of the Year chess trophy, it turns out.

The trophy was awarded to the best Irish chess player or a chess player in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s. Picking from the best “half-dozen or so games” played that year, Irish Times chess correspondent JJ Walsh would forward the scores from the games for independent adjudication.

“Some competitors still appear to be unaware of what constitutes an ideal game of the year entry,” Walsh noted in an article in 1962.

“The overall play is what really matters and a careful note is taken of the loser’s display, for the strength of his resistance in the game can enhance the achievement of the winner.”

Inscribed on the back of the trophy were the names of the five title winners from 1958 to 1962, the final recipient one ‘V Maher’. The Irish Times archive reveals it was a Dr Vincent Maher, but where to find him?

“We believe you won the Irish Times [chess] Game of Year in 1962, Dr Maher?” we said, having tracked the retired GP to Stockport, England.

Born in Dublin in 1929 and educated at Newbridge College, where he learned chess at 13, within six months Vincent Maher could beat everyone at school. He emigrated to England in 1953 and in 1954 he played his first chess Olympiad in Amsterdam. Irish champion in 1955, he won the I rish Times prize in 1961 and in 1962.

“Yes, I’ve got the trophy,” says Dr Maher from the home he shares with his wife Edith. Aged 82, he continues to play, although not competitively.

So who owns the trophy in the polishing room at Weirs?

Walsh explains: “Whoever would win the title would get to keep the [perpetual] trophy for a year; then they would get a replica to keep for good. I don’t know what happened to the trophy when the competition more or less ran out of steam.”


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