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John Warcup Cornforth
Number of games in database: 3
Years covered: 1937 to 1952

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(born Sep-07-1917, died Dec-08-2013, 96 years old) Australia (federation/nationality United Kingdom)

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Wikipedia article: John Cornforth

 page 1 of 1; 3 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. J W Cornforth vs C Purdy 0-1171937Australian Correspondence championshipE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
2. J W Cornforth vs F F Kelly 1-0201937Blindfold Simultaneous DisplayC20 King's Pawn Game
3. I Koenig vs J W Cornforth 1-0341952National Club ChampionshipC07 French, Tarrasch
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Cornforth wins | Cornforth loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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  GrahamClayton: Cornforth is an Australian who won the 1975 Nobel Prize for Chemistry:

Dec-18-13  Cibator: Sir John Cornforth died 8 December 2013.
May-09-14  optimal play: <<<CORNFORTH PLAYS BLINDFOLD>

Australian Record Broken.>

(By M. E. Goldstein, Melbourne Champion.)>


<Mr. J. W. Cornforth, of Sydney, playing chess blindfold against 12 opponents at the Amateur Sports Club, Perth, last night. The other players in the foreground are Messrs. W. H. Somerfield, secretary at the Perth Chess Club, and F. F. Kelly.>

<<Last night the Sydney undergraduate, Mr. John W. Cornforth, who is still in his teens, surprised the assembled spectators by the brilliance of his play in his blindfold display against 12 members of the Perth Chess Club.

After a week's rest from the heavy strain of tournament play for the Australian title, Cornforth was in excellent touch, and steadily piled up the advantage at most boards.

The first casualty among the defenders occurred within half an hour, when one player, tempted by the bait of winning a Queen, fell into a variation of Blackburne's famous trap, with which he lured to destruction many of his opponents on his visit to Australia 50 years ago.

The impetuous opponent this time was duly mated, the game bearing a striking resemblance to a brevity won by Cornforth in his previous blindfold display here last week.

The remaining 11 games were more evenly fought and it was not until 10 o'clock that the single player scored his second win.

From this point games were finished at regular intervals and at 11 o'clock the four games left unfinished were adjudicated by myself.

Cornforth finished with the magnificent record of eight wins, against Messrs. Somerfield, Kelly, Brassington jun, Poole, Snowball, A. Dodd, Hamersley and Mrs. Hubbard; two draws against Messrs. Dean and Pascoe, and two losses against Messrs. Goss and Sanders.

The quality of his games was very high and his mental grasp of each position wonderfully clear.

His two losses were caused by unfortunate blunders losing material and altogether Cornforth's play was most enterprising and attractive.

He played approximately 280 moves in the 12 games in 3½ hours, an average of one move every 45 seconds, which is a further indication of how quickly he could sum up the possibilities of the positions.

A number of spectacular sacrifices of Queens and rooks by the single player added to the enjoyment of spectators, who at the close of play heartily applauded an outstanding feat of pure thought by Cornforth.

He will leave today by the Westralia for the Eastern States and leaves behind him a very pleasant memory of a charming and intelligent young man with a very pleasing sense of humour.>

- The West Australian (Perth, WA) issue Thursday 21 January 1937 (page 7)>

Hmmm ... interesting photo ... it shows Cornforth with an actual blindfold for his “blindfold” simul!

Of course, it’s not usual to literally blindfold the player, but simply have his back to the board(s).

Also, considering that by 1937 Cornforth was deaf, I’m not sure how they could have communicated the moves to him if he was wearing a blindfold, so I’m guessing the newspaper photographer probably asked him to put a blindfold on just for the photograph.

May-09-14  optimal play: <John Cornforth: Brilliant chemist was profoundly deaf

Published: December 14, 2013

John Cornforth was awarded a Nobel prize in chemistry in 1975 and is still the only Australian to take the Nobel in chemistry. That year he was also named as joint Australian of the Year. Later he was knighted and still later the recipient of a Centenary of Federation medal for his contribution to society.

John Warcup Cornforth was born on September 7, 1917 in Sydney, the second of four children of John Cornforth, a Classics teacher from England, and his Australian wife, Hilda (nee Eipper), a nurse, and grew up in Sydney and Armidale. At 10 he started to go deaf from a condition called otosclerosis, where the bones in the middle ear become deformed and stop transmitting sound. By 20 he was completely deaf, except for the ringing in his ears of tinnitus, a common side effect of the disease.

Luckily, at Sydney Boys High, a young teacher, Leonard Basser, influenced Cornforth in the direction of chemistry, which seemed to the young student to offer a career where his deafness might not be a handicap. And so it proved, he was accepted to the University of Sydney at 16 and because he couldn't hear the lectures he started reading textbooks, which in those days were mostly in German, so he taught himself German as well. He graduated in 1937 with a bachelor of science, first class honours and University Medal.

After some post-graduate work in Australia, Cornforth was awarded one of two 1851 Exhibition scholarships in 1939 to study at Oxford. In those days there was no facility to do a PhD in chemistry in Australia.

The other winner of the scholarship that year was Rita Harradence, who he had already met in the laboratory when she needed his help. Equipment was so hard to get in those days that Cornforth had taught himself glass-blowing so he could repair things, and Harradence asked him to fix a flask he she had broken.

Expensive equipment was also the reason for Cornforth's lifelong nickname of ''Kappa'', because he used to engrave the Greek symbol on his glasswear to stop other students walking off with it.

Cornforth and Harradence arrived in Oxford in 1939, just as the war started, and after they had finished their doctoral work (on steroid synthesis) they became part of the group doing chemical studies of the new drug penicillin (the discovery of which earned the Australian Howard Florey a Nobel prize in 1945).

In 1949 Cornforth helped to write The Chemistry of Penicillin, the record of that work.

Meanwhile, in 1941 Cornforth and Harradence had married and she became his co-researcher and interpreter. They collaborated on 41 scientific papers and he always said that she was ''much better at the bench than I am'' and that she did most of the experimental work.>


May-09-14  optimal play: ...continued...

<After the war Australia had few openings for research chemists who could not lecture at universities, so the Cornforths stayed in England and he went back to the synthesis of steroids, in collaboration with his PhD supervisor, Robert Robinson. In 1946 Cornforth joined the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council and worked at its National Institute. In 1951 his team was able to complete the first total synthesis of the non-aromatic steroids.

At the Institute he met biological scientists and started work on collaborative projects with several of them. In particular, he shared an interest in cholesterol with the Hungarian scientist George Popjak. He and Popjak devised a complete carbon-by-carbon degradation of the nineteen-carbon ring structure of cholesterol and identified the arrangement of the acetic acid molecules from which the system is built, work that eventually led to Cornforth's Nobel prize.

In 1962 Cornforth and Popjak left the Medical Research Council and became co-directors of the Milstead Laboratory of Chemical Enzymology, set up by Shell Research Ltd. There they studied the stereochemistry of enzymic reactions by means of asymmetry artificially introduced by isotopic substitution, and Cornforth continued the work when Popjak left for the University of California.

Over the years, honours came along. Cornforth was elected to the Royal Society and awarded the Chemical Society's Corday Morgan medal in 1953. He also received the Flintoff medal in 1965. The American Chemical Society awarded him its Ernest Guenther award in 1968 and he took the Prix Roussel in 1972. He and Popjak were jointly awarded the Biochemical Society's Ciba medal in 1965, the Stouffer prize in 1967 and the Royal Society's Davy medal in 1968.

In 1975 Cornforth left Milstead to become Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Sussex. Then came the Nobel prize, which he shared with Bosnian chemist Vladimir Prelog for ''their efforts to relate molecular structure to the properties of chemical compounds''.

In an interview in 2006 he recalled the time, after his wife had told him the news that she had heard on the radio. ''I think that's the day I remember with the most pleasure in my experimental life. ''I was quite surprised. I had estimated my chances at about one in three. I knew that [Robert] Robinson had put me up for the prize. ''As for the ceremony, I couldn't hear a word of what was said. And so, as usual, I amused myself by looking around at the audience. It was in this sports stadium, an enormous place, because the town hall was being refurbished, but I could see, in the darkness of the auditorium, these flashes of bright light. They kept on like this, and I couldn't make out what they were. And finally I realised all the women were wearing their jewels, and that was what was causing the flashes of light. That was the thing I remember most of all from the ceremony.''

Cornforth was knighted in 1977, then awarded the Copley medal by the Royal Society of London in 1982. He went on lecturing at the University of Sussex until he retired and also travelled around the world to give lectures. He last lectured in Australia in 1992 for the 75th anniversary of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.

There he sympathised with modern students, saying that their study was more difficult than in his day. ''When Rita and I were learning our chemistry here, chemistry was not really very difficult. There was not really all that much to know. Now I am sorry for you people because there really is a lot to know.''

A lot of it, it must be said, because of his original research.

John Cornforth is survived by his children Brenda, John and Philippa, grandchildren Catherine and Andrew, four great-grandchildren and nine nieces and nephews. Rita died in 2012.

- Harriet Veitch>

This story was found at:



<<John Cornforth, the winner (left), and John Thurlow, runner-up, playing yesterday at Anthony Hordern and Sons, Ltd.>

- The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW) issue Saturday 9 September 1933 Page 16>

May-09-14  optimal play: <<Sir John Cornforth (1917-2013)>

Sir John Conforth, winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, has passed away at the age of 96.

He was born in Sydney in 1917, but spent a substantial amount of his life in the UK.

While best known as a research chemist, he was also a fine chess player when he was younger.

He played in the 1936 Australian Champion in Perth, scoring at least 6 wins, as well as the inaugural (1937) Australian Correspondence Chess Championship.

He did this while completing his studies as an undergraduate at the University of Sydney, and while suffering the final stages of otosclerosis, which resulted in total hearing loss.

He maintained a strong connection with the Correspondence Chess League of Australia, and was a life member of the CCLA.>

Goldstein, Maurice E - Cornforth, John W

[E28] AUS ch Perth (9.2), 07.01.1937

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 O-O 7. Bd3 d6 8. Ne2 b6 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. O-O e5 11. e4 Nc6 12. d5 Na5 13. Ng3 Ba6 14. Qe2 Qd7 15. a4 Nb3 16. Ra3 Nxc1 17. Rxc1 Rae8 18. a5 bxa5 19. Rxa5 Bc8 20. f3 a6 21. Ra3 g6 22. Bc2 Qe7 23. Ba4 Rd8 24. Rb1 h5 25. Qd2 h4 26. Ne2 Nh5 27. Qh6 Qf6 28. Bc6 h3 29. Rf1 hxg2 30. Rf2 Bh3 31. Qc1 g5 32. Rxa6 Nf4 33. Nxf4 exf4 34. Ra7 Qe5 35. Rb2 Kg7 36. Rbb7 g4 37. Re7 Qg5 38. e5 dxe5 39. d6 Rxd6 40. Bd5 Rf6 41. Qb1 gxf3 42. Bxf3 Re6 43. Rec7 e4 44. Qb7 Qf5 45. Bd1 f3 46. Ra2 Rd8 47. Ba4 e3 48. Rxf7+ Qxf7 49. Rxg2+ Bxg2 0-1

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  MissScarlett: <Warcup>? I feel a top 10 list of improbable middle names coming on.

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