Maxwell Thornton, a former SCA Secretary, died in Falkirk Hospital on Thursday February 7 aged 91. He is survived by wife Margo and daughters, Valerie in Glasgow and Freda in Oxford. Both daughters have Degrees in English, Valerie is a writer and Freda works for the Oxford English Dictionary.
Maxwell Douglas Thornton – actuary and chess guru
by George Clarke
Stirling Chess Club lost its only nonagenarian member last week when Maxwell Douglas Thornton (91) died on Thursday 7 th February. He is survived by his wife Margo and daughters Valerie and Freda.
Maxwell was an actuary, and was pensions manager at the former Scottish Amicable Life Assurance Society , Stirling , now part of the Prudential Group.
Maxwell was President of the Faculty of Actuaries from 1975 – 77.
I got to know Maxwell in 1988 when I joined the club after settling in Stirling. By then, he had won the prestigious Richardson Cup on 15 separate occasions between 1959 and 1988, a record still unequalled.
Maxwell was more than a mere club member: from 1959-74 he was secretary of the Scottish Chess Association (SCA) founded in 1884, one of the oldest national chess organisations in the world. Maxwell was one of a triumvirate along with W.A. Fairhurst, Scotland 's top chess player from 1930 and a world renowned civil engineer, as President, together with Eric Allan, a civil servant, as Treasurer, to help give gravitas to Scottish chess.
Maxwell collaborated with Craig W Pritchett, IM (later to become Scottish Chess Champion) to write Scotland 's Chess Centenary Book:1884 – 1984.
His love of chess began in the 1930s at Glasgow High School when he solved chess problems published in newspapers. In the 1980s and 90s he participated in the annual British Chess Problem Solving Competition, and his regular success in the qualifying rounds ensured that he was always invited to the final competition in London.
In 1997 I began submitting a Chess Teaser to each edition of the twice-weekly Stirling Observer. Of the 900 plus teasers published since, Maxwell solved them all – in minutes!
In the past year due to his poor health I delivered copies to his home for him to phone me the solutions. Not satisfied with giving me the solutions he would elaborate on the teaser's theme: mentioning “mirror mates”, “half-pins”, “Merediths”, etc, etc!
Even on the day before he died he solved the two teasers that Margo his wife took into the hospital. She said that on seeing the teasers his eyes would light-up – and we were ignored as he pored over them. Shortly before he died he uttered the fateful phrase,
“Put the chessmen back in the box. Close the lid. The game's over” – an apposite epitaph not only for Maxwell, but for all chess players.
I like to think that in his last weeks I made his time in hospital that little bit cheerier.
Maxwell will be missed by many, not just chess club members.
George A Clarke
Stirling Chess Club
11 February 2008