(1869 - 1935)

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Lucas Bull was one of the founders of the Durban Chess Club in 1893 and the first person to win the Durban championship on five occasions, running out the winner in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906 and 1911. He also participated in the South African championships on three occasions, finishing 9th in 1897, 7th in 1899, and 2nd on his final appearance in 1906.

Lucas Bull was born in Twickenham (part of London) in 1869, and came from a very large family, consisting of five sons (he was the third son) and four daughters. His father, Thomas Bull, was a surveyor and auctioneer, and must have had a profitable business, as the Bull family employed four servants at the time (source: 1881 census).

Bull arrived in Durban in 1892 and apparently chose South Africa, rather than the United States, as they don't play cricket in the USA! He was already the champion of the Twickenham Chess Club, and was starting to get an international reputation as a problemist. From the date of his arrival, up until the time that he discontinued serious over the board play in 1907, he was almost certainly the strongest player in Natal.

Chess Problems

Lucas Bull is world famous as a composer of chess problems. He wrote a column on chess for the "Natal Advertiser" (now better known as the "Daily News") from 1893 to 1907 where he published many of his problems. The chess column in the "Natal Advertiser" stopped publishing problems in 1908 and thereafter his problems appeared frequently in the "Natal Mercury". A selection of his best 3 move mate problems can be seen in the book "Sonatas in Chess" written by Donald McIntyre.

Natal Mercury 1916
White to mate in 3

This problem was composed in October 1916 whilst Bull was in hospital recovering from an operation. The answer is at the end.

Natal Mercury 1918
White to mate in 3

This problem was published in September 1918 and Bull dedicated it to his friend McIntyre. It is one of the first known examples of triple promotion with Knights (which gives you a hint!).


Here is a game from the 1899 South African Championship:

Bull,C A L - Van Breda, P G
RSA-ch03 Durban, 1899
(source: Len Reitstein)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 d6 5.d3 Be7 6.c3 0-0 7.Be3 Bd7 8.Ba4 Qc8 9.Nbd2 Ng4 10.Bc2 f5 11.exf5 Bxf5 12.d4 Bxc2 13.Qxc2 Nxe3 14.fxe3 Qd7 15.Ne4 h6 16.Rad1 d5 17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5

18...Rxf1+? (Van Breda probably missed Bull's 20th as he should have played 18...Qe6 here.) 19.Rxf1 Qe6 20.Ng6! dxe4 (Relatively best was 20...Qxg6! 21.Nf6+ Qxf6 22.Rxf6 Bxf6 23.Qb3 when White still has to work for the point. Had Van Breda played 18...Qe6 then 19.Rxf8+ Rxf8 20.Ng6 no longer works eg. 20...Qxg6 21.Rxd5 Bg5 22.Qd3 Qf7 23.h3 Bxe3+ 24.Kh2 is equal.) 21.Qb3! Qxb3 22.Nxe7+ Kh8 23.axb3 Rd8 24.h4 Rd2 25.h5 1-0

Problem Solution
1.Ra3! forces mate. This is a problem in the Bohemian style which Bull specialised in. Notice that each square is covered only once, and that the King is only attacked by one piece at the end, making this a model mate. The nicest line is probably 1.Ra3! Kb4 2.Bc6 Kxa3 3.Bc5 mate.

Problem Solution
The key move is an under promotion by 1.e8=N. There are three main variations, namely 1...Nxg8 2.fxg8=N Kxg8 3.Nf6# or 1...Nxe8 2.fxe8=N Kxg8 3.Nf6# or 1...Nd5 2.f8=N+ Kxg8 3.h7#

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