Leicester Chess Congress

H. E. Atkins Memorial

About Us

Henry Earnest Atkins was born in Leicester on 20 August 1872.

His record in the British Chess Championship is without parallel.  Atkins played eleven times, winning in all but his first and last attempts. He first played at Hastings 1904, the first Championship organized by the newly formed British Chess Federation.  He tied for first with William Ewart Napier, each scoring 8.5/11. However, Atkins lost the playoff (3 draws, 1 loss) and was thus relegated to second place.  Remarkably, this was to be Atkins' worst result in the Championship for a third of a century.   He proceeded to win the next seven Championships: Southport 1905 and Shrewsbury 1906, again scoring 8.5/11 each time; Crystal Palace 1907 (7.5/11); Tunbridge Wells 1908 (8/11); Scarborough 1909, where he tied for first with Joseph Henry Blake, each scoring 8.5/11, but won the playoff with 2.5/3; Oxford 1910 (8.5/11); and Glasgow 1911, tying for first with Frederick Yates at 8.5/11, and winning all three games in the playoff.

After the 1911 Championship, Atkins retired completely from tournament chess for the next 11 years.  However, in 1922, a major international tournament was organized in London, the first in almost a quarter of a century; many of the world's leading players agreed to compete, such as newly crowned World Champion José Raúl Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, and Akiba Rubinstein. Despite his long layoff from the game, Atkins was also invited, and agreed to play.  After such a long hiatus, he unsurprisingly had a disappointing tournament, scoring only 6/15 and finishing 10th out of 16 players.  He finished just outside the prize list, for the first and only time in his career.  He did have the consolation of claiming among his victims Rubinstein and Tartakower.

His appetite for competition having been stirred, he returned to the British Championship, playing at Southport 1924.  This time he showed his old form, winning his eighth championship with his usual score of 8.5/11. The following year, he exceeded himself, winning at Stratford-on-Avon with his best-ever score of 9.5/11 (8 wins, 3 draws).  He then didn't play again until his final Championship appearance in 1937, when he tied for third at the age of 65!

The memorial congress was started in 1972 and with a few absences has run ever since.