Alan May RIP

Alan May, who played a very prominent role in Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, died on 11 February at the age of 84.

Alan Kenneth May’s birth was registered in Surrey North Eastern in the second quarter of 1937, the son of Cyril and Florence May.

Like many of his generation, he started playing chess at home with his father and then in his teens joined what was then the Twickenham Chess Club and, by the time he reached Durham University, he was already a strong player. Whilst at Durham University he won the Durham University Chess Championship. He was also very active in the now combined Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club during his vacations.

On leaving University he worked for the Bank of England, eventually rising to a senior position, from what I recall, in IT. He captained Richmond’s team in the Surrey Trophy (Division 1 of the Surrey League) and the Alexander Cup (the Surrey knock-out championship) during the 1960s and early 1970s. Richmond had won the Surrey Trophy for the first time in 1957/58, shortly before the merger with Twickenham, and, under Alan’s captaincy, RTCC were successful again in 1961/62, 1965/66, 1966/67 (tied with Mushrooms) 1968/69 and 1972/73. It was a similar story in the Alexander Cup: Richmond’s first victory was in 1955/56, and there were wins for RTCC in 1961/62, 1962/63, 1966/67, 1967/68, 1968/69 and 1970/71. Alan was a very effective match captain: so much so that, when he retired, no one else was able to persuade our stronger players to visit the more distant venues the other side of Croydon! (It’s good that, thanks to Huw, we are now back in our county league, even if only to provide match practice for our less experienced players in lower divisions. Most of our A team players represent other clubs in the Surrey Trophy.)

Alan also edited a club newsletter for several years round about 1970. Always hilarious and outspoken, and often self-deprecating, this proved popular with many members, and it’s reputed that copies today fetch a fortune on the black market!

Beyond his administrative and journalistic skills, he was also a formidable player, usually graded just over 200, and, on his day, capable of beating almost anyone in the country. He qualified for the British Championship in 1961, finishing on 4/11, and, during the 1960s, frequently played in the annual Bognor Regis tournament. In 1964 he beat Owen Hindle, one of England’s leading young players at the time. In 1967 he scored 7/11 (7th= with Hindle, P Lee, N Littlewood etc, ahead of Wade and Golombek, whom he beat in their individual game). In 1968 he did better still, scoring 7½/11 (6th= with Kottnauer, Keene and others), one of his victims being the young Simon Webb.

Alan was a dangerous tactician who enjoyed playing for complications in fluid, open positions. With Black he favoured the Sicilian Najdorf and the Grünfeld, and he usually played d4 with White, choosing aggressive variations leading to quick attacks.

In 1971 Alan married Janice and last year they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Alan and Janice would go on to have two daughters: Carolyn (1974) and Jeanette (1978). He gradually scaled down his involvement in chess over the next couple of years as family life and increased work responsibilities took over, retaining his connection with RTCC through regular appearances at our AGM. He was never totally lost to chess, though, He occasionally played correspondence chess, and, much later in life, made a comeback over the board, representing what had now become his local club, Dorking. He was still playing for them up to 2019. Grades are recorded for him from 1995 to 2001, and from 2010 onwards.

Alan May, along with Robert Pinner, was instrumental in developing RTCC as a strong club during the 1960s. Without their efforts, the club wouldn’t be what it is today.

His funeral will be held on Friday 11th March at the Holy Trinity Church, Logmore Lane, Westcott, Surrey, RH4 3NN at noon. The wake will follow afterwards at Dorking Golf Club, Deepdene Avenue, Dorking, RH5 4BX.


  • Ken Norman for sending me the Owen Hindle game
  • Simon Rogers for posting the news on the English Chess Forum
  • John Saunders & BritBase for records of Alan’s tournament performances and gradings
  • Other games taken from MegaBase2022, online newspaper archives and the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club Newsletter
  • Family information from

Many thanks also to Janice May for corrections and amendments now incorporated (25-02-22).

Here’s a short selection of his games for your enjoyment.

May – Stephenson Durham League 1959

Matchett – May Bognor Regis 1959

Hindle – May Bognor Regis 1964

May – Tennant-Smith Correspondence 1970

May – Richards Surrey Championship 1970

(I have permission from the Committee to upgrade our WordPress account to enable us to display games directly in future. For the moment you’ll have to live with clicking on the links.)