West London Chess Club

Club History

1893 West London Chess Club is founded.

The West London Chess Club was founded in 1893 by the Reverend James Thomas Chipperfield Chatto MA. It appears to have had a shaky start. On 26th September 1893, a new club calling itself the Hammersmith Chess Club was reportedly formed from the remnants of the West London Club. But then in April/May 1896, the club changed its name back to West London Chess Club at a general meeting chaired by Dr. Thornton. The vote was unanimous and as far as records show, the name has remained since.

J.T.C. Chatto also produced the Amateur Chess Magazine from 1872 onwards, nearly 10 years before the arrival of the BCM. He left the club at the end of May 1897 to become the Vicar of East Kennett in Wiltshire. Then in 1900 he became the rector of Blunston St. Andrew (slightly further north) until his death in 1907. He retained the Presidency until 1898, when it was taken over by Mr Atherley-Jones QC MP. Other founding members were Mr. W.E. Blunt (Vice-President), C. Woollacott and K. Arnst who were also strong players for the club at this time.

1939 - 1945 The War Years.

During World War II, very few clubs remained open, but thanks to the determination of the officers, West London Chess Club persevered and invited players from other clubs to play. This brought more strong players to the club, including the likes of Jacques Mieses, Vera Menchik, Sir George Thomas and briefly, Capablanca. In February 1944, the British Women's Champion Elaine Saunders joined the club and for a short time, the Women's World Champion, British Champion and London Champion (Mdlle. Amez-Droz) were all members at the same time [1].

References: [1] West London Gazette, February 1944.

The British National Chess Centre

The National Chess Centre opened in September 1939, the same month as the start of World War II. The venue was the Cavendish Square building of the John Lewis Partnership, Oxford Street, London W1.

The City of London Chess Club merged with the National Chess Centre on on 20th November 1939, somewhat boosting the number of strong players. The club was formed in 1852 and was known as one of the strongest clubs in London.

Excerpt from "The Living Age" 1898:

The City of London Chess Club stood at the very head of English chess as a great fighting organization. It is aptly named, for it is and has always been a city club for city men, busy men all--stock-brokers, merchants, lawyers, accountants, managers and others, all representatives of the busy hive wherein they toil. In every way the "City" is a great chess institution, great alike in its membership, its aggregate playing strength and its enthusiasm for the game. Its membership totals up to something like four hundred and fifty, and it is ready to play a match, one hundred a side, with any chess club or organization in the world. The quality of the play in its championship tournament, and in the first-class sections of its great winter tournament, is of the highest; and what the "old City" can do when put upon its mettle was fully shown some little time ago when a team of master players (including Lasker) could do no more than effect a draw against a team of "City" players.

A book is available by Roger Leslie Paige listing games of the City club championship between 1890-1939.

Vera Menchik was the manager of the British National Chess Centre until it was destroyed by fire (during The Blitz) on the 23rd September 1940. At that time it was the largest chess club in London with over 700 members. The contents of the Chess centre were entirely destroyed. The entire property of the SCCU, the best half of the BCF library, all the finer old four-handed equipment, some Kent trophies and records were all gone. Only the SCCU's Shannon Trophy was recovered and repaired some time later. Chess Magazine 1952 page 93 has a photo of the war damaged National Chess Centre.

The significance of this event to West London Chess Club's history, is that it left a large number of players without anywhere to play. When Vera Menchik joined West London in 1941, many of the strongest players followed.

The National Chess Centre was re-opened on Monday 22nd September 1952 on the second floor of Messrs. Fleming's Restaurant at 307 Oxford Street [1], just opposite the old venue, which was still a network of battered steel girders. The official opening was held on Saturday 4th October, with a six-a-side lightning team tournament with approximately 100 attending the lunch before the tournament [2].

The National Chess Centre was still going in March 1957 at 158 Bishopsgate, London EC2 [3], but is now sadly defunct.

References: [1] BCM, September 1952; [2] BCM, November 1952; [3] BCM, March 1957.

The West London Gazette

The club once produced a West London Chess Club Gazette, which contains a wealth of information. The first edition was produced in November 1941 [1]

During 1967, the publication formerly mimeographed, became printed (thanks to Mr. A.Ivey) [2].

Pat Aherne a former two time club champion (1963-64 and 1994-95), kindly donated a copy of the July-August 1967 edition. He informed us that there was a dispute between the principal author of the gazette M.H. Hawley and the printer A. Ivey regarding content. A. Ivey wanted to include other material such as anecdotes, but M.H. Hawley wanted to keep it strictly to chess. This conflict and the simple fact that the publication in its current form was becoming a strain on the committee, signalled the beginning of the end for the gazette. It is thought that there were at most another two publications before it stopped at the end of 1967.

References: [1] West London Gazette, November 1941; [2] BCM, June 1967.

1946 Yugoslav Master Imre König joins.

Yugoslav Master Imre König joined the club in January 1946 [1] and played in league matches. He is considered to be of IM strength and is sometimes referred to as I. Koenig. His analytical study of openings contributed to British chess literature and he wrote the book "Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik", which is still on sale today.

He did arduous work for Britain all through World War II and finished 2nd in the Hastings tournament of 1948-49. Prior to joining the club, he lived in Nottingham and wrote articles in the BCM (Jan/Feb/Mar1941 & May 1948). A book titled "IMRE KONIG" has been written by US IM John Donaldson.

References: [1] West London gazette, January 1946.

1967 Chiswick Town Hall

From January 1967 to the present day, the club meets in Chiswick Town Hall [1] [2]. The club inaugurated the new premises with a simultaneous display by Grandmaster Mikhail Botvinnik on January 28th [3]. The former world champion won 21 games with 5 draws.. Later that year the club reports in Chess magazine that the club was thriving at its new location and having held another simultaneous display with the British Champion Jonathan Penrose.

References: [1] Internal club records; [2] BCM, June 1967; [3] BCM, March 1967.