Saturday, December 27, 2008

New York 1924: The Honorable British Master, Mr. Frederick Yates

Born January 16, 1884 made Frederick Dewhurst Yates 40 at this event. He was a respected British chess master winning the British championship six times with his tenacious and sharp playing style. I could not find much information about this player in my limited research ( without investing in other printed memoirs of players of the time). There is quite a bit of material about his death which I will try to honor later in this article.

Outside of the New York 1924 event, he has been known to defeat attacking players like Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Akiba Rubinstein, and Milan Vidmar while not fairing so well with Positional players like Jose Capablanca and Geza Maroczy. Neither of these players he ever had a plus score against throughout his entire chess playing career.

A look at the games he played in this tournament reveals a tactical and resourceful player who was not all that strong in the opening lines. Rather, he’d make due of his given position and out- maneuver his opponent in the middlegame.

He managed to beat Edward Lasker in both encounters. As White in round 4, he advances the d4 pawn a little early giving Edward a chance cramp Yate’s position. He hangs on until he opens up the position to further complications. Ed. Lasker decides to exchange queens at the wrong time in an effort to simplify and Yates just plays it through to a victory. In round 12, this time as Black, Yates in a similar fashion, plays a passive Indian defense allowing Ed to over extend himself in the center. This was a relatively new hypermodern way to play. However, Yates to a risk at allowing too much central control for white. Luckily, Ed. Lasker decided to play into what Alekhine calls a “strategic Blunder of serious consequences” advancing a pawn to d5 here:

But this weakens the queen side as Ed. Lasker attempts a king side attack further weakening the position by castling queenside. Yates makes best use of the bishop pair like lasers on the queenside. The game ends in a B v N endgame with stronger pawns in Yate’s favor.

In round 14 as Black against Janowski, he plays a queenside strategy with minor pieces instead of freeing his position with a c5 lever advance against the center and almost costs him the middle game as he inherits a cramped position. Janowski, starts a series of exchanges which falls in Yates’ favor. If your opponent has a cramped position, one should avoid exchanges.

He demonstrates his knowledge of defending against the Ruy Lopez in round 11 and draws Emanual Lasker in a game that allowed him the bishop pair as compensation for a slightly weakened pawn position. As the game transitioned from the later middle game to endgame, it becomes clear that with both sides activating the kings and minor pieces, neither was penetrating through to the other side and a draw was agreed upon.

His most resourceful moment was in round 20 against Jose Capablanca. Yates had the white side of a Ruy Lopez . Capablanca managed to grab a strong central defender in the middle game which caused a lot of problems for Yates as Black’s bishops pinned pieces and limited his mobility. Yates sends off a desperado in this position and manages a draw a few moves later with a perpetual check.

In round 18, he was White against Tartakower’s Paulsen Variation of the Sicilian. Tartakower jumps the gun with a premature Ne5 before finishing development and Yates takes full advantage by controlling the center and the open c-file. In a moment of desperation and hopes of a perpetual check, Tartakower throws a piece away. His plan didn’t work out so well and Yates pulls off the win.

In Round 19, Yates plays white against Reti’s Caro-Kann. He doesn’t chase the bishop like we see in typical main lines. Reti gets greedy in the middle game and goes after pawns while Yates sets up a nice attack. Reti resigns after this position:

Overall, Yates finishes in 9th place with 7 points ( +5, -11, = 4 ) With $25 paid to every won game and $12.50 for every drawn to the non-prize winners, Frederick Yates still walked away with $175. I still like the idea of these old tournaments awarding at least some compensation to non-prize winners for games won.


Not much can be found on Frederick Yates following New York 1924. He was an honored British Chess Master. On November 11th, 1932, Yates was found dead in his apartment from asphyxiation due to a leaky gas fitting. The controversy surrounding his death seems to stem from a very speculative quote in Ed Lasker’s book, “ Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters” ( NY 1951) :

‘It made me very sad to learn, some time during the last war, that Yates had committed suicide, apparently for financial reasons. He had probably been too modest to ask British chessplayers for help.’
To set the record straight, this excerpt was recorded from the court verdict:

It came out at the inquest before the St Pancras coroner on 15 November that, though the gas-taps in the room were securely turned off, there had been an escape from what a gas company’s official described as an obsolete type of fitting attached to the meter in the room. The meter, it appears, was on the floor, and the fitting must have been accidentally dislodged. A verdict was recorded of Accidental Death; and the coroner directed that the gas-pipes from the room should remain in the custody of the court. The body was conveyed to Leeds for burial on the morning of 16 November.’

I’d prefer to remember Mr. Yates for his creativity in mediocre middle games and his ability to pounce when his opponent makes a blunder in strategy.


Anonymous said...

man this is one of the best sites of chess in the net, I have seen many, thanks for posting!

From the patzer said...

I doubt that one could survive with bad opening knowlegde at top level now like Yates did in his time.

But then again, one cannot compare those times with now since back then computers were a far cry from reality.

But Yates showed that at our level one must not be affraid of coming out of the opening in a worser position, because after the opening comes the middlegame in which we still have chances to outmanouvre the opponent.

So thanks Yates for showing us that one doesn't have to fear not knowing an opening 100% or not at all, since the prize will only be given at the end of the game.

wang said...

Blunder, e-mail me at He was on ICC, I'll tell you what his handle is.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Wow, Yates is at ICC? Amazing!

Great stuff as always BP. This will take quite a few lunches to digest and work through.

Anonymous said...

Blunder, these are some great and unique posts. For a game that has been around for 1500 years, we are exposed to a woefully small amount of the history.

Thanks for exposing us!


BlunderProne said...

Thanks for all the comments. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series. It's my online study journal as I explore these historic tournaments.

@BDK... yeah, that was a confusing exchange... Yates is quite good on ICC Blitz ;) Actually, it had to do about CL, He's back home in CO and Blitzing with wrestless abandon on ICC.

Ilkley Chess said...

It's Dewhirst not Dewhurst - otherwise great post.