The Master of the Task: The Life and Work of Sir Jeremy Morse

Written by John Rice.

Jeremy Morse was born in London in 1928 and educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford. On his father’s side he came from a Norwich brewing family. Had he gone into the family business, he would have been the sixth generation in the brewery. His mother’s forebears were in business in Liverpool in the 19th century, and his paternal grandmother came from an old Genevese family. Jeremy therefore regards himself as three-quarters English and one-quarter Swiss. After leaving school he did two years’ National Service with the army in Northern Ireland, Palestine (as it then was) and Egypt, before going up to New College to study Classics. On leaving Oxford in 1953 he joined Glyn, Mills & Co., where he was trained in banking, and became a Director in 1964. Later that year he moved to the Bank of England, where he was Executive Director with varying responsibilities until 1972. At that point in what was already becoming a distinguished career he was chosen to be Chairman of the Deputies of the Committee on Reform of the International Monetary System and Related Issues (Committee of Twenty) of the International Monetary Fund, a position he held for two years until the Committee was disbanded. Having been plain Mr Morse up to this point, he was knighted in 1975 for his international work. In the same year he joined Lloyds Bank, becoming Chairman in 1977, a post he did not relinquish until February 1993. During this period he held a wide range of other important posts in banking, insurance and similar fields, including various directorships.

How did Jeremy seek relaxation in this busy professional life? He first came to chess problems in 1953 when he started work after university. He had been solving crosswords and other problems in the newspapers for some years, and he thought he might try chess problems alongside them, as purveyed by Brian Harley in The Observer, C. H. O’D. Alexander in the London Evening News, Murray Davey in The Tablet and ‘Assiac’ in the New Statesman. Jeremy is modest about his achievements in the field of cryptic crosswords, but there is a tale to tell in this connection. He was for many years a regular prizewinner in the “Ximenes” crossword published in The Observer. Another solver, whose name also featured frequently in the prize list, was N. C. Dexter – Colin Dexter, now well known as a writer of detective fiction. When Dexter was at work on his first novel, he needed surnames for his principal characters and decided to take them from those of his fellow crossword enthusiasts. This is how Jeremy’s surname was attached to a detective whose fame has spread worldwide, thanks in large part to the medium of television: Inspector Morse was born!

Over a period of some 60 years Jeremy has published about 450 twomovers and 130 problems of other types, including threemovers, moremovers, studies, stalemates, selfmates, helpmates, series-movers and fairies (though never with unconventional pieces or boards). Of the three elements puzzle, art and task in the chess problem, his only pure puzzles were five moremove selfmates sent to the New Statesman in the 1950s. Although interested in tasks from the outset, he concentrated on artistry in the 1960s, and most of his handful of first prizes and Album entries date from that period.

Here are some more of them.

4. C. J. Morse

2nd Prize, British Chess Magazine, 1962


Mate in 2

No. 4 showed for the first time 4-fold dual-free cyclic Black Correction without promotion key. The mechanism involves play of the bB along different diagonals to North-East/South-West and to South-East, with corrections on each one. 1.Qf8 (-) S7~/Sd5/B~SE/Bd1+/B~NE,SW/Bc4/S6~/Sxc5 2.Bc3/Sxe6/Sxe6/Rxd1/Rd1/Sf3/Sf3/Bc3. This one appears in the FIDE Album for the period.

5. C. J. Morse

Busmen’s Chess Review, 1963


Mate in 2

In no. 5 a white line is closed three times with interference and gate-opening for the wQ. The key gives a flight and the play is dual-free. 1.Sc2 (>2.Sb4) Re5/Be5/Se5 2.Qxd7/Qh1/Qe4.

6. C. J. Morse

1st Prize, The Observer, 1964


Mate in 2

A record of seven gate-openings for the wQ is shown in no. 6, a deserved 1st prizewinner. 1.Qc4 (-) cxb5/Re5/R~/Be5/Bg7/Bxe3/d2/c5/S~ 2.Qc8/Qf7/Qe6/Qxg4/Qf4/Qe4/Qf1/Bd7/Qxd3.

7. C. J. Morse

1st Prize, BCPS Ring Tourney, 1964


Mate in 2

No. 7 is another 1st prizewinner, with 5 selfblocks by bRs. 1.Bd3 (-) Rxc6/Rd6/Re6/Rc4/Rxd4 2.Qe5/Qe4/Qc5/Be4/Se3, and 1…Ra~,Kxc6/Rf~ 2.Sb4/Qd7.

8. C. J. Morse

4th Prize, The Problemist, 1964


Mate in 2

No. 8 shows 5 corrections by a wR in a Meredith setting, after an unexpected flight-giving key. 1.Be8 (-) Rd8,d5/Rd6,Kc4/Rd4/Rd3/Rd2/Rd1 2.Kb3/Qc3/Qc6/Kxd3/Kxd2/Kxd1.

9. C. J. Morse

problem, 1965


Mate in 2

Despite its poor key, no. 9 is an interesting setting of transferred Albino. Set 1...Rb3+/Rxa3/Rxg2/Rd3 2.cxb3/c3/c4/cxd3. 1.Sf3 (>2.R,Qe3) Qb3+/Qe5+/Qxc5/Qd3 2.cxb3/c3/c4/cxd3, and 1...Rxf3/Qd4+/Qd2/Qc4/Sc3 2.exf3/Qxd4/Sxd2/Re3/Qe3.

Developed and maintained by Brian Stephenson.