Hobart chess club (inc.) Library

Between the years 2010 and 2013 the HICC saw the passing of some of its great characters.  In their passing Tony (Thelston) Sturges and Glen Barker Gibbs left a considerable volume of Chess literature to the HICC.  In honour of their contributions, the HICC has created its own library of nearly 170 titles.  This library is available to all full paying HICC members and has titles dating back to the 1890's.  Over the years to come the HICC aims to grow the title range to allow for a full and enriched club chess experience.

You can view the HICC library by author, title, or year of publication.  Borrowing periods for all titles are fortnightly, with the option for extensions unless reservations are placed on the title.  At this stage titles must be requested and borrowed on club nights in person.  A small collection of popular titles will be held at the HICC, and a digital request system will be implemented soon.

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Tony (Thelston) Sturges (1953-2013)

By Kevin Bonham

Tony was involved in the Hobart chess scene ever since I first became involved, up till his last tournaments late last year (2012). He was a regular player and very active junior coach and sometimes arbiter, working on chess at a number of primary schools around the city over the years. As a player he was noted for his love of (and incredibly deep historical knowledge of) very obscure and ancient and generally wacky opening lines. You never knew what you would get from him but there was a fair chance it would be something, possibly an unsound gambit, that you'd never heard of let alone seen before. One of his more locally famous wins was with the Guatemala Defence (1...b6 and 2...Ba6). 

Prospective high rated victims would usually escape as Tony tended to drift in the middlegame or get in time trouble, but it was pretty common to see strong players with embarrassing positions against him early on. I imagine those watching my games with him saw me struggling a number of times too. As with many players of his rating range (1100s-1400s) he won his share of ratings prizes and would now and then secure a minor outright place. It was always a great pleasure to award a prize to Tony because he donated so much money to prize pools himself.

Tony had many interests beside chess. He was especially interested in philosophy and politics, and published a massive number of short letters in newspapers in Tasmania and interstate. Several recurring themes featured in his output - disagreements with Christianity and other religions (Tony was a deist, but may as well have been an atheist), his views on personal and economic freedom, and disdain for formal dress codes were some examples that spring to mind. In all the time I knew him I'm unsure I ever saw him wearing even a collared shirt as opposed to a t-shirt. He would have been the terror of any internet forum but Tony did not use computers because of a form of dyslexia, and therefore wrote all his letters by hand.

In the early 1980s Tony was a public servant, but following a severe breakdown he was pensioned out (I believe on quite a reasonable rate) and was on a range of medication for the rest of his life. For all the time I knew him he lived with his father (who is still alive in a nursing home in his late 90s) at the same address in Rosetta. Because Tony's father was Arthur Edward and Tony was Edward Anthony official letters to one or the other would often create confusion. This inspired Tony to formally change his first name by deed poll to Thelston, although most of us still knew him as Tony. The name came from a relatively obscure West Indian wicketkeeper, Thelston Payne. Tony had a great fascination with names and their spelling and held quite strong opinions for or against certain names and variants.

Tony's health prevented him playing chess in the evenings during the last 10-15 years but he remained a regular player at weekenders, often taking leisurely trips up to Burnie to play in events there. He was extremely generous in his sponsorship of junior prizes at tournaments, and also in his willingness to buy meals and so on for other players, and in the amount of his time he spent helping transport chess players. I would have enjoyed several hundred dollars worth, at least, of meals that Tony generously bought for me whether I could have paid or not, expecting nothing in return other than to support my chess interest and perhaps that I would keep him informed with what was going on and send him crosstables of events when they were finished. 

One of Tony's many apparent paradoxes was that although he was an ardent devotee of the ultra-capitalist philosophy of Ayn Rand (and at times espoused even harsher philosophies, though it was not always clear if he was serious), in his own life the function of money seemed to be to be given away as generously as possible. This included to the authorities - Tony often paid the fine instead of voting (as he objected to compulsory voting), and would often deliberately feed parking meters unnecessarily on weekends and public holidays.

Tony was interested in many sports including local football (he disdained AFL considering that the draft and other rules had turned it into a handicap event) and boxing (he had briefly been an amateur boxer when much younger). He tended to actually develop interests in just about anything, so that it was common for him to suddenly demonstrate deep knowledge of, for instance, different brands of ballpoint pen, makes of Korean car he considered on completely unfathomable grounds to be stylish, or the history of little-known soft-drink flavours.

It's common to say that someone was a great character of their local chess scene but I think for many in our scene Tony Sturges was the character - among the most eccentric, often hilariously funny and unconventional people one is ever likely or even unlikely to encounter; and really, the above has only scratched the surface. His various medical conditions gave him a lot of problems, and at times in public places he could say or do things that would make you want to hide under your chair. Yet I believe the strange course of his life also gave him a remarkable freedom. 

Glen Barker Gibbs (1935-2010)

By Kevin Bonham

Glen was involved with the Tasmanian chess community since arriving in the early 1980s, and was a regular player at the old Hobart club until it went into suspension in the early 1990s. Glen made many major contributions to the club including making his house available for members to play in STD intercity telephone matches. After the old Hobart club closed, Glen continued playing in weekenders on a very regular basis and was one of the state's top ten players for most of his three decades of involvement here; he was ranked as highly as number 3 in the state as recently as 2002. Glen was the 2010 Tasmanian Seniors Champion, and indeed won that title at all his three attempts since its recent inception. He was also active in the local bridge scene.

Glen often played in Australian Seniors tournaments and sometimes in other interstate and overseas events (including as part of an Australian team in an Asian Cities event in the late 1980s). One of his best performances came in the 2001-2 Australian Seniors Championship where he won his last four games in a row to tie with Phil Viner for 2nd in a large and strong field (the event was won by the late Paul Dosza). In 2007 Glen played in the World Seniors in Italy and met Korchnoi among others. 

Glen loved prolonged strategic battles in Dutches and Frenches and so on but could also punish defensive errors in spectacular fashion. He tied for first in at least two weekenders and was an extremely consistent gatherer of second and third places. He had a great ability to play difficult endgames quickly and in the pre-increment days I quite often saw him emerge from apparently hopeless time trouble to win some complex ending with a minute or two on his clock.

During the last five years Glen was one of the main Interschool arbiters in Tasmania and he and I travelled together to many tournaments in small country towns; Tasmania's thriving interschool scene would not have been as successful without him. He also had a major role in the instigation of the Arlauskas Medal and Romanas Arlauskas Award for Australian Junior Player of the Year, and it was especially fitting that Glen was able to be present at the first presentation of this award in Hobart during the Australian Junior (to FM Bobby Cheng). Glen also served as photographer for the event.

I do not know too much about Glen's full professional career or the details of his life before he came to Hobart but I believe he worked at one stage as a parliamentary counsel, drafting legislation for the Tasmanian government. He was involved in similar drafting work on a contract basis up until his death, as well as working for ChessKids on the running of the Tasmanian Interschools. 

Glen had a long history of health problems, but in general he was doing remarkably well to be as active as he was given that in his forties he had had a massive health scare requiring a quintuple bypass. He was always very grateful to the surgeons who had done such an excellent job and given him so many years of life he would otherwise not have enjoyed.