Guildford Chess Club celebrates 125 years

Guildford Chess Club

From early beginnings…

Guildford Chess Club was founded on Friday 10th April 1896 at the Guildford Institute, as the ‘Guildford and Working Men’s Institute (GWMI) Chess Club’. The minutes reported that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) who lived in Guildford for a period until his death in 1898, occasionally visited the Club.

 

Alice Through the Looking Glass in the grounds of Guildford Castle
Alice Through the Looking Glass in the grounds of Guildford Castle

On 10th April 1899, GWMI amalgamated with the original Guildford Chess Club, which had been in existence since at least 1887 although unfortunately no minutes appear to exist for that Club, so little is known about its background. It was decided to adopt the latter’s name and to make the Guildford Institute its home venue, which it has remained to this day. The minutes note: ‘The object of the Guildford Chess Club is to play, promote and teach the game of Chess’.

Over the years the Club has fulfilled its purpose by not only operating a wide range of teams who participate in the local leagues in Surrey, as well as in national team competitions, but by also actively promoting chess and helping people to develop their ability to play the royal game.

The Club celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1920 with an invitation to the legendary José Raul Capablanca to give a 42-board simultaneous display, which he graciously accepted and unsurprisingly won every game!

José Raul Capablanca
José Raul Capablanca

The Club also demonstrated its commitment to its original object of promoting and teaching chess by creating a junior section, which saw some very promising young talent coming through from the Royal Grammar School based in Guildford and this strong association between the Club and the School is still evident today. Amongst this talent were two very promising players, B.C. Gould and A.W.J. Down, both of whom went on to win British Boys Championships between 1929 and 1933.

In 1934, in keeping with its mandate, the Club invited Eugene A. Znosko-Borovsky, the noted Russian Chess master to give a lecture on ‘General Principles’.

Eugene Znosko-Borovsky in play during the 1948 British Chess Federation Congress at Bishopsgate Institute, 30th August, 1948. Keystone Press Archive.
Eugene Znosko-Borovsky in play during the 1948 British Chess Federation Congress at Bishopsgate Institute, 30th August, 1948. Keystone Press Archive.

Guildford’s reputation as a thriving club was further evidenced by an invitation to the reigning British Champion, Sir George Thomas, to give a 25-board Simultaneous display at the Royal Grammar School on 13th December 1935. Sir George met strong resistance, winning 17, drawing 6 and losing 2 – a fine result for Guildford members.

Sir George Thomas and Brian Reilly Sir George Thomas (left), leader of the British chess team, playing Irishman Brian Reilly at the Easter Chess Congress, Margate, April 24th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Sir George Thomas and Brian Reilly
Sir George Thomas (left), leader of the British chess team, playing Irishman Brian Reilly at the Easter Chess Congress, Margate, April 24th 1935. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The Centenary

In 1996 Guildford Chess Club celebrated its centenary by organising a series of events, which included a 12-board match against the Surrey Border League, which the Club won 8-4, the restoration of an open-air chess board in the Castle grounds, running a ‘Chess Variants’ tournament at Charterhouse School in Godalming, conducting some local Simultaneous displays and holding a Centenary dinner with IM William Hartston as the keynote speaker.

The Club also invested more effort in the development of its Junior Section by creating a coaching programme which resulted in certificates being awarded to celebrate stages of achievement and the Club has continued to run a thriving Junior section up until the present day.

The last 25 years have been particularly successful for Guildford Chess Club which continues to do well in the local leagues as well as nationally, with its recent domination of the 4NCL for the last eight years. It has been an interesting and exciting 125 years for the Club, which has been based at the same venue for its entire existence and it is fair to say that during this time, thanks to the Club’s various achievements, it has evolved to become one of the most successful chess clubs in the country.

Today – the 125th Anniversary

To celebrate its 125th anniversary the Club is running a special event in Guildford High Street on Saturday 11th September from 10.30 – 16.30.

Chess fans are therefore invited to participate in a 125-Board Simultaneous display given by some of the top Chess players in England!

They include Grandmaster Gawain Jones, former British Champion and current European Online Blitz Champion and Grandmaster Nick Pert, former World Under 18 Champion!

GM Gawain Jones at the 2013 London Chess Classic courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Gawain Jones at the 2013 London Chess Classic courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Nick Pert at the 2014 British Championships courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Nick Pert at the 2014 British Championships courtesy of John Upham Photography

Other Masters giving the Simultaneous include: Matthew Wadsworth, former British U18 and U21 Champion;

FM Matthew J Wadsworth
FM Matthew J Wadsworth

Akshaya Kalaiyalahan, former British Women’s Champion;

Akshaya Kalaiyalahan
Akshaya Kalaiyalahan

Andrew Martin, former Guinness World-record holder for playing the most games simultaneously;

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Nigel Povah, former British Senior Over 50s Champion;

IM Nigel Povah
IM Nigel Povah

Harry Grieve, British Rapidplay Online Champion;

FM Harry Grieve
FM Harry Grieve

Alex Golding, the highest rated 17-year old in England;

FM Alex Golding
FM Alex Golding

Jessica Mellor, former European School Girls Under 11 Champion.

Jessica Mellor
Jessica Mellor
This is your chance to play against some of them for FREE!
How do I enter?

The event comprises of three playing sessions, starting at 10.30, 12.30 and 14.30 and you can book your place for any one, two or all three of these sessions, each of which is anticipated to last up to 1½ hours. Places will be secured on a first-come-first-served basis. It is of course possible that your game finishes quite quickly, in which case you can either depart or choose to play another game in one of the other Simultaneous displays, space permitting.

Participants should note that appropriate arrangements have been made to ensure the event will go ahead, even if we are faced with inclement weather!

To register to play in the event please go to:

https://guildfordchess125.eventbrite.co.uk

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