I think for anyone not knowing Algebraic Chess, the following will be Greek to them… Morphy Defence, C78 Ruy Lopez, 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nf6, 3. Bb5 a6, 4. Ba4 Nf6, 5. O-O b5, ……29. Qxc2 dxe5…etc. That was the opening moves of a chess game of Fischer vs Di Camillo played 1956 in Washington D.C. Fischer won. During the WW’s/Cold War, codes were used to send messages and some of the messages were disguised as chess moves! There were also the Code Breakers and many of them were chess champions (employed to break the codes) and some of them just very good chess players. So, if you want to send messages disguised as chess moves, it’s time for you to start knowing about algebraic chess! [haha] I’ve come across this interesting article and want to share it with you. Near to the bottom of the post you can read about Britain’s Code Breakers and how they operated. Last year Bletchley Park was in the news again as the building needed restoration. Bletchley Park is now a museum. Bletchley Park also helped to win WW2 and the launch of the modern computer. Read the Timesonline-link at the bottom of this post.
Intriguing spy postcards with cryptic messages to MI5 chief during Cold War found
23rd July 2009
Top secret postcards containing coded messages sent from a Cold War spy in Germany to an MI5 boss have come to light.
Written in cryptic text based around a series of chess games, they were posted in 1950 to Graham Mitchell, the then deputy director general of MI5.
Found by a member of Mitchell’s household staff – who kept them for more than 50 years – they are expected to fetch £1,000 when sold at auction on Monday.
Intriguing: Chess was a favourite Russian national pastime and information would often be disguised as chess moves [click on images for a larger view]
Sent from what is thought to be an undercover agent in Frankfurt – a hub of espionage activity at the time as it was well positioned for spying on both the East and West – experts are not sure what side the men were spying for, as Mitchell was suspected of being a secret Soviet agent at the time.
Written on typewriters and dated throughout 1950, each of the messages revolves around chess, with a discussion of various moves and games written out in the text.
Some are addressed to ‘Dear chessfriend Mitchell’, and each contains a series of numbers recognisable as chess moves, used by correspondents to play games at a distance.
One postcard, dated June 16, 1950 said: ‘Without against Dr. Balogh I always have now hard fights in my games.
‘Against Collins I have been fallen into a variation of the Nimzowich-defence who surely should be lost!
‘I shall try to find a new idea for defending. But only a little hope. But all my games go forward in a quick way.
Gordon Thomas, author and expert on the history of MI5 and MI6, said chess moves were a common way of communicating during the Cold War.
He said: ‘Mitchell was head of counter-espionage at MI5 and would have been responsible for recruiting double agents with the aim of getting them into the KGB networks.
‘The Russians in particular favoured using chess as a method of communicating. It was a great national pastime and information would often be disguised as chess moves.
Code: Experts have not worked out the true meaning of the cryptic text
‘There’s even a section about it in the KGB handbook. For example, one move could ascertain what was happening and another could give instructions.
‘Agents would be trained to understand chess moves and Mitchell was quite a good chess player.The chances are that these were instructions or intelligence to a Soviet agent or an informer.
‘Of course they could just be innocent correspondence, but at the height of the Cold War it seems logical Mitchell would have more important things on his mind. We will never really know, but nevertheless it really is an astonishing find.’
Following a series of operation failures Mitchell was put under investigation along with the director general Roger Hollis.
He was even suspected as being in cahoots with the notorious Cambridge Five spies and was named by the now-famous Spycatcher author Peter White as a spy.
No evidence was found against them but Mitchell took early retirement in 1963 as a result of the investigation.
The postcards were delivered to Mitchell’s address in Chobham, Surrey, and were all sent from a Dr. Edmund Adam in Frankfurt.
Heather Cannon, of Barbers Fine Art Auctioneers of Woking, Surrey, said: ‘It was commonly known that Mitchell was investigated on suspicion of being a spy. He was also known to play chess and it seems he had a regular correspondence with Dr Adams.
‘The messages could very well be codes that conveyed secret information between the two. But until they are broken we can never know for sure.
‘They’re certainly a very interesting find and we’re expecting a lot of interest from people who are fascinated by MI5.
‘Anyone interested in spies and codes would be intrigued by them, and perhaps the buyer would be able to spend time trying to crack the mystery.’
Born in 1905, Graham Mitchell was educated at Winchester School and Oxford University before joining MI5 as an expert on fascist organisations.
Bletchley Park – image: Wikipedia
Sir (Philip) Stuart Milner-Barry OBE CB KCVO (20 September 1906 – 25 March 1995) was a British chess player, chess writer, World War II codebreaker and civil servant. He worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, and was head of “Hut 6”, a section responsible for deciphering messages which had been encrypted using the German Enigma machine. He was one of four leading codebreakers at Bletchley to petition the then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill directly for more resources for their work. After the war he worked in the Treasury and later administered the British honours system. In chess, he represented England in international tournaments and lent his name to three opening variations.
He represented England in chess, and played in the international Chess Olympiads of 1937 and 1939. The latter tournament, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, coincided with Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in September 1939. Milner-Barry, with teammates Hugh Alexander (at that time the British chess champion) and Harry Golombek, abandoned the tournament and returned to Britain.
The Codebreakers: Names underlined in red were British Chess Champions or Scottish chess champions and others only very strong chess players.
Bletchley Park, also known as Station X, is an estate located in the town of Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire. Since 1967, Bletchley has been part of Milton Keynes, England.
Although its function was a secret at the time, Bletchley Park was officially known as the ‘GCCS’ (Government Code and Cypher School, which some irreverent people re-interpreted as the ‘Golf Club and Chess Society’). Up to 7000 people worked there at any one time.
Towards the end of the war, when they could be a bit more relaxed about security. Here is a detail from a photograph which appeared in the magazine ‘Chess’ showing participants in a 1944 match between what was called ‘Bletchley Chess Club’ and Oxford University. ‘Bletchley’ won the match 8-4.
During World War II, Bletchley Park was the site of the United Kingdom’s main decryption establishment. Ciphers and codes of several Axis countries were decrypted there, most importantly ciphers generated by the German Enigma and Lorenz machines.
The high-level intelligence produced at Bletchley Park, codenamed Ultra, is credited with having provided crucial assistance to the Allied war effort and with having shortened the war, though Ultra’s precise influence is still studied and debated.
Bletchley Park is now a museum run by the Bletchley Park Trust and is open to the public. The main manor house is also available for functions and is licensed for ceremonies. Part of the fees for hiring the facilities go to the Trust for use in maintaining the museum.
Five weeks before the outbreak of World War II, in Warsaw, Poland’s Biuro Szyfrów (Cipher Bureau) revealed its achievements in decrypting German Enigma ciphers to French and British intelligence. The British used this information as the foundation for their own early efforts to decrypt Enigma.
The “first wave” of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) moved to Bletchley Park on 15 August 1939. The main body of GC&CS, including its Naval, Military and Air Sections, was on the house’s ground floor, together with a telephone exchange, a teleprinter room, a kitchen and a dining room. The top floor was allocated to MI6. The prefabricated wooden huts were still being erected, and initially the entire “shooting party” was crowded into the existing house, its stables and cottages. These were too small, so Elmers School, a neighbouring boys’ boarding school, was acquired for the Commercial and Diplomatic Sections.
A wireless room was set up in the mansion’s water tower and given the code name “Station X”, a term now sometimes applied to the codebreaking efforts at Bletchley as a whole. The “X” simply denotes the number “10” in Roman numerals, as this was the tenth such station to be opened. Due to the long radio aerials stretching from the wireless room, the radio station was moved from Bletchley Park to nearby Whaddon to avoid drawing attention to the site.
Listening stations – the Y-stations (such as the ones at Chicksands in Bedfordshire and Beaumanor Hall in Leicestershire, the War Office “Y” Group HQ) – gathered raw signals for processing at Bletchley. Coded messages were taken down by hand and sent to Bletchley on paper by motorcycle couriers or, later, by teleprinter. Bletchley Park is mainly remembered for breaking messages enciphered on the German Enigma cypher machine, but its greatest cryptographic achievement may have been the breaking of the German “Fish” High Command teleprinter cyphers.
The intelligence produced from decrypts at Bletchley was code-named “Ultra”. It contributed greatly to the Allied success in defeating the U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, and to the British naval victories of Battle of Cape Matapan and the Battle of North Cape.
When the United States joined the war Churchill agreed with Roosevelt to pool resources and a number of American cryptographers were posted to Bletchley Park. Whilst the British continued to work on German cyphers, the Americans concentrated on the Japanese ones.
The only direct action that the site experienced was when three bombs, thought to have been intended for Bletchley railway station, were dropped on 20 November 1940 – 21 November 1940. One bomb exploded next to the dispatch riders’ entrance, shifting the whole of Hut 4 (the Naval Intelligence hut) two feet on its base. As the huts stood on brick pillars, workmen just winched it back into position whilst work continued inside.
An outpost of Bletchley Park was set up at Kilindini, Kenya, to break and decipher Japanese codes. With a mixture of skill and good fortune, this was successfully done: the Japanese merchant marine suffered 90 per cent losses by August 1945, a result of decrypts.
After the war, Churchill referred to the Bletchley staff as “My geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled.”
During WW2 the British set up at Bletchley Park a major organisation whose purpose was to try to crack the sophisticated German codes (i.e. those using the ‘Enigma’ machine). A number of notable academics and mind-gamers were employed, including chess players, mathematicians and crossword-puzzle solvers. They succeeded in their task, and it has been seriously suggested that this single breakthrough shortened the war in Europe by 2 years. The Germans never believed that such a thing was possible. Among the chess-players based at Bletchley park were C.H.O’D (Hugh) Alexander (a British Champion) Stuart Milner-Barry (who gave his name to more than one ‘gambit’ variation) Harry Golombek (distinguished chess-player and author), N A Perkins, and James McRae Aitken (10 times Scottish Champion).
Other people at Bletchley Park included the mathematician Alan Turing (whose theories led to the development of artificial intelligence and computers), politician Roy Jenkins (subsequently a leader of the Labour and Social Democratic parties) and Professor Donald Michie (who later brought chessplayers Danny Kopec and Ivan Bratko to Edinburgh University to research AI techniques using chess).
Bletchley Park, the codebreaking centre that helped to win the Second World War and launch the modern computer, is in danger of irreparable decay unless the Government steps in to save it, some of the country’s leading computer scientists caution today.
In a letter to The Times, 97 senior experts, mostly professors and heads of department, say that “the ravages of age and a lack of investment” have left the historic site under threat.
One of the unheated wooden huts where the codebreakers worked day and night to turn the tide of the war now looks “like a garden shed that’s been left for 60 years”, according to Sue Black, head of the Department of Information and Software Systems at the University of Westminster and one of the organisers of the letter.
A dirty tarpaulin keeps out the rain, and several of the eight surviving huts have peeling paint and boarded-up windows. [Read on the next link more – the link will open in a new window.]
The leading British chess masters of World War II all became leading codebreakers for British intelligence.