Gerald Abrahams

by Bill Wall


Gerald Abrahams was born in Liverpool on April 15, 1907 in England.


He was an English lawyer (barrister), political theorist, philosopher, and strong amateur chess player.


He is best known for the “Abrahams Defense” of the Semi-Slav.  This is also known as the Noteboom variation, after the Dutch player Daniel Noteboom (1910-1932).  The opening moves are 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.e3 b5 6.a4 Bb4 7.Bd2 a5.  He first played this line in a university game for Oxford vs. London (Allcock-Abrahams, England 1925).  Abrahams later used this variation to defeat V. Ragozin in the USSR-Britain radio match of 1946.  Abrahams later played his variation against Gligoric at Hastings 1951/2 but lost.  Daniel Noteboom later played this variation at the Hamburg Olympiad in 1930 and won.


He was a strong blindfold player.


He is quoted as saying, “The tactician knows what to do when there is something to do; whereas the strategian knows what to do when there is nothing to do.”   Other quotes of his are “Chess is a good mistress but a bad master,” and “In chess there is a world of intellectual values,” and “Good positions don’t win games, good moves do.”


Abrahams started playing chess in 1921 at the age of 14.


In the early 1920s, he was composing chess problems.


In 1923, at the age of 16, he played in the Liverpool chess championship.


In 1923, he played Alekhine and was the last surviving member in a simultaneous exhibition given by Alekhine.  Abrahams lost and Alekhine swept all the pieces aside brusquely and stalked away.


In 1929, he played in his first British chess championship, held at Ramsgate.


By the 1930s, Abrahams was the most attacking player in England according to Harry Golombek.


In 1933, Abrahams finished 3rd place in the British Championship, won by Mir Sultan Khan.  2nd place went to T.H. Tylor.


In 1933-34, Abrahams was in Belfast as a lecturer in law at Queen’s University.


In 1934, he won on board 1 against J.J. O’Hanlon in a match Belfast vs. Dublin.


In 1934, he won on board 1 against W. Minnis in a match between Queen’s University and C.I.Y.M.S.


On May 21, 1934, Abrahams played 4 strong players blindfolded in Belfast.  He won two and drew two.


In 1936, he finished in 3rd place with Karel Opocensky at the Nottingham Major Open.


In 1936, Abrahams helped Alekhine’s wife in renewing her visa.


In 1938, he wrote Law Affecting Police and Public.


In 1939, he wrote Law Relating to Hire Purchase.


In 1940, he wrote Ugly Angel.


In 1941, he wrote Retribution.


In 1943, he wrote Day of Reckoning.  He also wrote World Turns Left in July, 1943.


In 1945, he wrote Conscience Makes Heroes.


In 1946, Heinrich Fraenkel (Assiac) organized a New Statesman competition to find a suitable translation of Zugswang.  Abrahams won the competition for the word movebound.


In 1946, he won one game and drew one game against Viacheslav Ragozin in the Anglo-Soviet radio match.  Ragozin later became the second World Correspondence Chess Champion.


In 1946, he played in the British chess championship at Nottingham.


In 1946-47, he played at Hastings.


In 1947, he played David Bronstein in London in the England-USSR match.


In 1948, he wrote Teach Yourself Chess.


In 1948 he played at Bad Gastein and won the brilliancy prize for his game with S. Toth in which Toth, as Black, played a French Defense.  Abrahams wrote, “The Bad Gastein organizers promised me a Brilliancy Prize for ths; but all I got was a free copy of the Tournament book.”


In 1951, he wrote The Chess Mind.   The book has plenty of theorizing, chess stories, advice, and over 250 positions.  It was reprinted by Penguin Books in 1960.


In 1951, he wrote Lunatics and Lawyers.


In 1951-52, he played at Hastings.


In 1954, he wrote The Legal Mind. In this book, Abrahms commented about a case in which chess player William Herbert Wallace may have killed his wife Julia Wallace in Liverpool in 1931.  His alibi was that he was at a chess club in Liverpool when the crime was committed.


In 1955, he wrote Chess.


In 1956, he wrote La Mediocrazia Contemporanea.


In 1957, he wrote Lo Stato Come Societa Commerciale: E La Irresponsibilitia Dei Ministri.


In 1958, he wrote The Law for Writers and Journalists. 


In 1958, he also wrote According to Evidence: An Essay on Legal Proof.  In this book, Abrahams commented about a case in which chess player William Herbert Wallace may have killed his wife Julia Wallace in Liverpool.


In 1961, he wrote Technique in Chess.  It is a guide to general concepts of chess technique and the methods for using technique to plan ahead.  Abraham analyzes 200 examples and problems from actual play.  In 1973, a Dover edition was published.


In 1961, he wrote The Jewish Mind.  Abrahams gave four possible explanations why Jews were good at chess.

   1.  Jews traditionally strive to produce the pure intellectual.

   2.  They love study and learning.

   3.  They are perseverant.

   4.  They are talented at languages including the language of chess.


In 1962, he wrote Brains in Bridge.


In 1962, he played in the British Championship, held in Whitby, England.


In 1963, he wrote Test Your Chess.


In 1964, he wrote Police Questioning: The Judges’ Rules.


In 1965, he wrote Pan Book of Chess.


In 1965, he wrote Handbook of Chess for Beginners and Practiced Players.


In 1966, he wrote Let’s Look at Israel.


In 1967, Abrahams gave a lecture to the meeting of The Chess Endgame Study Circle at the 1967-68 Hastings International Chess Congress.  His title of the lecture was “Chess Endings - Didactic and Epicurean.”  An edited version of his lecture appeared in the March 1969 issue (issue # 15) of EG magazine.


In 1968, he wrote Trade Unions and the Law.


In 1971, he wrote Morality and the Law.


In 1974, he wrote Not Only Chess: A Selection of Chessays.


In 1977, he wrote Brilliance in Chess.


Abrahams died on March 15, 1980.  He was 72 years old.  He was one month away from his 73rd birthday.