Sunday 10 July 2022

Calling All Would-Be Bicycle Thieves...

Here's a bit of advice for would-be bicycle thieves. Let's imagine you've been apprehended eyeing up some bikes by an observant member of the constabulary and you're in the nick being given the third degree. Speaking as your (admittedly unqualified) brief, I'm recommending you keep schtum for the time being as the optimal time for using your trump card will be when you're up before the beak.

That's when you play your get-out-of-jail-free card. Or rather three cards. You tell the magistrate...

  • I was waiting for my brother; 
  • I can't ride a bike; 
  • I'm a chess player.

Sounds ridiculous? It worked for this bloke...

Croydon Times - Saturday 24 September 1932

Warning: you attempt this at your own risk - don't come crying to me if you get sent to prison. (And if anyone from Crown Prosecution Service happens to be reading this, it's not an incitement to crime, I'm joking, for heaven's sake.) Interesting, though, isn't it? Particularly that phrase "chess playing would account for concentrated gazing."

Seriously, though, folks: I can't help wondering, though I've zero evidence for this, whether Gilbert Victor Butler might have suffered from something along the lines of Asperger's Syndrome which might have caused him to stand and stare in an unusual way that the watching constable found suspicious. 

There seems little doubt that Gilbert Butler was entirely innocent of this bizarre charge brought against him. His track record as a chess player was impressive. Sadly, he contracted tuberculosis and died on 9 August 1942, aged only 39. His obituary appeared in the January 1943 issue of BCM:

"The passing of G. V. Butler deprives Sussex of one of their strongest and most dependable players. He had been ailing for some time and he died at Thornton Heath a comparatively young man, under 40.

"He was a former Sussex Champion as his father, H. W. Butler, the founder of the Sussex Chess Association was before him. It was no unusual occurrence for G. V. Butler to go through a season of the Counties’ Championship without loss, playing for Sussex on a high board, a tribute to his steadiness and resource. The following games demonstrate his unusual talent for carrying out powerful attacks by the simplest means. A great loss to British chess."

Gilbert Butler was born on 2 November 1902 and in 1939 he was living with his widowed mother and shown in the September 1939 as having no occupation. This was unusual in wartime and perhaps another indicator that he was unwell or unfit, although we know from the newspaper cutting that he had been a store-keeper in 1932, so maybe he was one of many who lost his job in the hungry Thirties.

Here are the three games given in the BCM obituary:

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