James Macrae Aitken

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James Macrae Aitken (27 October 1908 – 3 December 1983) was a Scottish chess player.[1][2] Aitken was born in Calderbank, Lanarkshire, Scotland. In 1938 he received a PhD from Edinburgh University on the topic of 'The Trial of George Buchanan Before the Lisbon Inquisition'.[3]

Aitken learned chess from his father at age 10.[4] He was Scottish champion in 1935, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1965, the latter jointly with PM Jamieson.[1] He was also London Champion in 1950.[1] In 1959 he had his best result in the British Championship, finishing tied for seventh place.[4] Aitken represented Scotland in four Chess Olympiads. He played top board at Stockholm 1937, scoring only 32.4% but he did defeat Swedish GM Gideon Ståhlberg[4][5] and draw with American GM Samuel Reshevsky.[4] He played second board at Munich 1958 and Tel Aviv 1964, scoring 67.6% and 28.1% respectively. Aitken played sixth board at Skopje 1972, scoring 38.9%.[5]

Aitken represented Great Britain in matches against the USSR and Yugoslavia.[4] In the 1946 radio match between the United Kingdom and the USSR he lost his match with Igor Bondarevsky on board 8.[6] Aitken defeated GM Savielly Tartakower at Southsea 1949[4][7] and GM Efim Bogoljubow at Bad Pyrmont 1951.[4][8]

During World War II, Aitken worked in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park on solving German Enigma machines.[9] On 2 December 1944 Bletchley Park played a 12-board team match against the Oxford University Chess Club. Bletchley Park won the match 8–4 with C.H.O'D. Alexander, Harry Golombek, and Aitken on the top three boards.[10] Aitken wrote many book reviews for the British Chess Magazine.[11] Aside from chess his hobbies included golf, philately, bridge, and watching cricket.[4] He died in Cheltenham in 1983, aged 75.[2]

Aitken variation of the Giuoco Piano

In 1937 he recommended a line in the Greco Variation of the Giuoco Piano in the British Chess Magazine, now called the Aitken Variation: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.O-O Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Ba3.[12]

a b c d e f g h
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
c6 black knight
c4 white bishop
d4 white pawn
a3 white bishop
c3 black bishop
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
d1 white queen
f1 white rook
g1 white king
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Aitken Variation after 10. Ba3


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Whyld, Ken (1986), Chess: The Records, Guinness Books, p. 128, ISBN 0-85112-455-0<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gaige, Jeremy (1987), Chess Personalia, A Biobibliography, McFarland, ISBN 0-7864-2353-6<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Aitken, James M. (1939). The Trial of George Buchanan Before the Lisbon Inquisition. Edinburgh, London: Oliver and Boyd.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Sunnucks, Anne (1970), The Encyclopaedia of Chess, St. Martin's Press, p. 2, LCCN 78106371<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Golombek, Harry, ed. (1977), "Aitken, Dr James Macrae", Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess, Crown Publishing, p. 8, ISBN 0-517-53146-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. http://www.amici.iccf.com/issues/Issue_07/issue_07_the_radio_match_grb-urss_1946.html
  7. Southsea at www.365chess.com
  8. Bad Pyrmont zt at www.365chess.com
  9. Taunt, Derek (2001), "The German Naval Enigma", in Erskine, Ralph; Smith, Michael (eds.), Action This Day, pp. 77–93, ISBN 0-593-04982-9<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Chess Notes 4034. The code-breakers by Edward Winter; based on a report from CHESS, February 1945, p. 73.
  11. Chess Notes 3766. James M. Aitken by Edward Winter
  12. Hooper, David; Whyld, Kenneth (1992), The Oxford Companion to Chess (2 ed.), Oxford University Press, pp. 5, 474, ISBN 0-19-280049-3<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • British Chess Magazine, 1984, pp. 64–65.

External links