Harry Golombek

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Harry Golombek
Harry Golombek.jpg
Harry Golombek
Full nameHarry Golombek
Born(1911-03-01)1 March 1911
Died7 January 1995(1995-01-07) (aged 83)
Lambeth, London
TitleInternational Master (1950)
Grandmaster (1985)

Harry Golombek OBE (1 March 1911 – 7 January 1995), was a British chess grandmaster, chess arbiter, chess author, and wartime codebreaker. He was three times British chess champion, in 1947, 1949, and 1955 and finished second in 1948. He was retrospectively awarded the grandmaster title in 1985.[1]

He was born in Lambeth to Polish-Jewish[2] parents. He was the chess correspondent of The Times newspaper from 1945 to 1989. He was an official of the FIDE, and served as Arbiter for several important events, including the Candidates' Tournament of 1959 in Yugoslavia, and the World Chess Championship match 1963 between Mikhail Botvinnik and Tigran Petrosian. He was also editor of some well-known collections of games such as José Raúl Capablanca's and Réti's, and was a well-respected author. He was editor of British Chess Magazine from 1938 to 1940, and its overseas editor throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Golombek also translated several chess books from Russian into English.

On the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Golombek was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, competing in the Chess Olympiad for Britain alongside C. H. O'D. Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry.[3] They immediately returned to the UK, and were soon recruited into Bletchley Park, the wartime codebreaking centre. Golombek worked in Hut 8,[4] the section responsible for solving German Naval Enigma, moving to another section in October/November 1942.[5] After the war he lived at 35 Albion Crescent, Chalfont St Giles.

Golombek represented England nine times in chess Olympiads. He earned the title of International Master in 1950 and was awarded an Honorary[6]Grandmaster title in 1985. He was the first British player to qualify for an Interzonal tournament.

Golombek studied philology at King's College London,[7] having been a pupil at Wilson's Grammar School, Camberwell.[1] He was appointed OBE in 1966, the first to be so honoured for services to chess.[7]


Hoogovens 1949: Golombek vs. Alberic O'Kelly de Galway
  • Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess, edited by Golombek, 1977, Batsford/Crown, ISBN 0-517-53146-1
  • Golombek, H. (1954). The Game of Chess. Penguin.
  • A History of Chess, 1976, Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN 0-7100-8266-5
  • The Art of the Middle Game, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-046102-7
  • Modern Opening Chess Strategy, 1959, Pitman
  • Reti's Best Games of Chess, annotated by H. Golombek, 1954 (G. Bell & Sons, Ltd), republished 1974 (Dover Publications, Inc.)
  • Instructions to Young Chess Players, 1958, Pitman, ISBN 0-273-48550-4
  • Capablanca's 100 Best Games, 1970, G. Bell and Sons
  • The World Chess Championship 1948, David McKay Company


  1. ^ a b Allport, D.H. & Friskney, N.J. "A Short History of Wilson's School", Wilson's School Charitable Trust, 1987
  2. ^ Sugarman, Martin (2005). "Breaking the codes: Jewish personnel at Bletchley Park". Jewish Historical Studies. 40: 217. JSTOR 24027033.
  3. ^ Stuart Milner-Barry, "Hut 6: Early Days", p. 89 in F. H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp, eds. Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park, Oxford University Press, 1993
  4. ^ David Kahn, Seizing the Enigma, 1991, ISBN 0-395-42739-8, p. 139
  5. ^ Ralph Erskine, "Breaking German Naval Enigma", p. 186 in Action this Day, edited by Ralph Erskine and Michael Smith, 2001
  6. ^ Golombek himself always disputed that his Grandmaster title was 'honorary', insisting that it was belatedly bestowed for his playing achievements in the 1940s. (see Golombek Obituary by William Hartston - 'The Independent' Online Archives 10/1/1995).
  7. ^ a b British Society for the History of Mathematics Gazetteer

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