Reginald Bonham (1906-1984)
A short biography

Reginald Bonham was born 31 January 1906 in St Neots, Huntingdonshire. His father was a master butcher. But Reg had poor eye-sight because of an inherited condition. His attendance at local schools was cut short by his deteriorating eye-sight and he attended Worcester College of the Blind (Now RNIB College, Worcester) between 1922 and 1925. His academic prowess received early recognition at Worcester as did his strength in rowing. In 1926 he went to Oxford university and rowed for St Catherine's Eight, even getting as far as the final trials for the Varsity crew.

In 1929, he returned to Worcester as a teacher of Braille and Mathematics at the College where he had been a pupil. In addition to chess and rowing, he was involved in amateur dramatics and bridge. Chess, however, was his forte. 'Bon', as he was known, could take on 20 players without using tactile/Braille sets 'blindfold' and easily remembered correspondence games in his head. Every pupil of the Worcester College of the Blind learned the game of chess and at one stage, the College had four teams in the local league. School teams made the top league spots more than once.

Bonham dominated Worcestershire chess and was champion 20 times. On the national scene, Bonham instigated and edited the Braille Chess Magazine until the late 1950s. In the early years after the war, Bonham took up correspondence chess and was British Correspondence Chess champion 3 times. He founded the International Braille Chess Association in 1951, was its President for 23 years, and came first in the inaugural International Braille Championship in 1956. Bonham founded the World Blind Correspondence Chess Championship and was first in spite of fierce opposition from players in Eastern Europe in 1958. In 1972, Federation Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) awarded the title of Grand Master of Correspondence Chess to Bonham at the Pula Braille Chess Olympiad. Bonham won the International Braille Chess Association Correspondence World Championships six times between 1955 and 1963.

'Bon' was not outclassed by sighted players of national strength. He was Midlands Champion three times and won the Birmingham Post Cup (restricted to title holders in the west midlands) twice. He competed in the British Chess Federation championships 5 times between 1949 and 1955 when his best score was 5½ points.

With RD Wormald, another Worcester player, he wrote two small but useful books for improving players: Chess Questions Answered (1945) and More Chess Questions Answered (1948), both published by Jordan & Sons, London.

Bonham was awarded an MBE for his services to the blind especially in chess. He died 16 March 1984. Friends remember Bon for his generosity and enthusiastic teaching in Mathematics and chess.

Information for this page is largely from an obituary published in the Worcester College Old Boys' Journal from Peter Price, a former pupil of Bonham, via Peter Gibbs, Chess Correspondent of the Birmingham Post. Additional material is from an unsigned article (probably by TEW Widdows) published 9 September 1982 in Worcester Evening News. If you have corrections, more information, or further game scores from Reg Bonham's career, please let me know using the feedback form.
Very many thanks - Ray

Worcestershire Chess
      Braille Chess Assn Biography     Notable Worcester Players

revised 9 May 2009 by Ray Collett