THE EARLY YEARS OF OSWESTRY CHESS CLUB
So far no club records from the early days of Oswestry Chess Club have been found. However the local newspaper carried reports on the formation of the club and information on matches and related events. The reports give us an insight about the chess scene at the turn of the nineteenth Century.
As far as is known, the first mention of a chess club in Oswestry was in the Border Counties Advertiser, a newspaper that is still being published today.
Border Counties Advertiser 2 October 1889.
At a well attended meeting held on Monday night, it was unanimously decided to form a chess club in the town, under the name of "The Oswestry Chess Club", to hold it's first meeting at the Coach and Dogs on Wednesday October 9th. Any person wishing to join is requested to communicate with the secretary, Mr. W.K.Minshall.
The paper reported on matches that were played against Ruabon, Wrexham and Ellesmere chess clubs and it is probable that the team traveled to the matches by rail. Below is the first match report to be published in the paper.
Border Counties Advertiser 7 May 1890
The Oswestry Chess Club finished the season on Thursday evening with a match against the Ruabon Club, at Ruabon. Result: -
Oswestry Chess Club ‑ W.C.Morris 1, J.Thomas 1, T.W.Beard 0, R.Brayne 0, T. Phillips 0, K. Minslhall 1, Sargt. Byrne, undecided, F, R. Mitchell 0, F. J. Mason 1;
Result Oswestry 4.
Ruabon Chess Club ‑ George Saint 0, L.B.Rowland 0, D. I. Davies 1, W.Jones 1, C.Simpson 1. Rev. G. M. Ashdown 0. R. Mills undecided. Rev. Buncombe !.N.Fairfax, Result 4 and one undecided.
The Coach and Dogs was a temperance hotel in the 1990`s, still standing, it is now a restaurant. Situated in Church Street, near to the center of the town, the building is of architectural interest being one of the finest timber framed buildings in the area.
The club met on Wednesdays at first but later the club nights were increased to two a week, the meetings taking place on Mondays and Fridays.
In 1898 J. H. Blackburn, the English Chess Champion was invited to the town to give a simultaneous display, Perhaps this could be considered Oswestry`s most notable chess event ever to take place in the town.
Border Counties Advertizer 26 October 1898
Meetings and Entertainment’s,
Oswestry Chess Club
(The English Chess Champion)
Will give an EXHIBITION of Simultaneous Play
At The Queen's Hotel, Oswestry
Play will commence at 7.00 P.M.
Admission (by Ticket only) to witness
the game, 1/‑ each
Border Counties Advertizer 2 November 1890
Visit of the English Chess Champion ‑ Mr. J.H.Backburne
The English Chess Champion gave an exhibition of simultaneous play at the Queen's Hotel on Wednesday evening. There was an encouraging number of spectators present, including several Ladies.
Mr.Blackburne was introduced by Dr.Cartwright, one of the vice‑presidents of the Chess Club. The boards numbered thirteen and were taken by Messrs.W.Kenrick Minshall, R.H. Gasquoine, S.Pryce‑Parry, J.W.Thomas, W.C.Morris, C.E.W.Noake, F.Corfield, Dr.O'Conor, Messrs. F.S.Higgs, T.W.Beard, R.Mills (Chester), R.W.R.Hodges (Ellesmere) and P.Jones.
Play began about 7 o'clock and finished about quarter past ten. Mr.Blackburne won all the games but one, his successful opponent being Mr.Morris. At the conclusion of the play Dr.O'Conor, on behalf of the club, thanked Mr. Blackburne for his exhibition and Mr.Blackburne, in reply, congratulated the Club on its strength and remarked that some of the games were very well contested. He attributed his defeat in the one case to a serious error on his part which he was unable to remedy. It is to be hoped that Mr.Blackburn`s visit will result in increased membership of the Club and thus promote the game in Oswestry.
The Club has comfortable headquarters at the Coach and Dogs, Church Street, and the club nights are Tuesdays and Fridays. Every opportunity is given to those who are not players to make themselves proficient.
Previous to Blackburne`s visit the club had also invited John Chambers to come and give a simultaneous exhibition. John had gained the title of Chess Champion of Scotland in 1891.
The Borders and County Advertizer 19 January 1898
The Chess Club. - In the presence of a good company, an interesting match was played at the Queens Hotel on Saturday evening, when Mr Chambers the well, known exponent of simultaneous play and ex-champion of Scotland, faced twelve members of the Oswestry Club viz., Messrs W.C.Morris, J.W.Thomsas, C.E.W.Noakes, R. Brayne, W.K.Marshall, T. Beard, R.H.Gasquoine, Sargent Bryne, P. Jones W, Roberts. H. Maclardy, and F.S.Higgs. - Mr Brayne,
Having briefly introduced Mr Chambers, play was commenced at 6.15 and continued until nearly 10.30, All the Oswestry players made a good fight but by 10 O’clock the majority had been defeated and retired from the contest. Eventually only Mr Marshell, (who had played the Sicilian defence), and Mr Noake, (who relied on the Petroff defence) survived and both these gentlemen managed to win there games, amidst applause.
The result was therefore was that Mr Chambers lost two and won ten games. - Dr O`Conor, on behalf of the club, thanked Mr Chambers for coming to them, and Mr Chambers in a humorous speech responded and congratulated the Club on being able to find twelve players of such strength. He had great experience in the opening of clubs, having formed and organised over a hundred clubs throughout the country. He considered the Oswestry players exceedingly strong on the openings of the games. - Great credit is due to Mr Higgs, the secretary, for organising such a successful match. The Club is looking forward to a visit from Mr J.H. Blackburn, the celebrated English blindfold player, early next month
There is over a ten year span between the two matches reported below. J. W. Thomas, probably Oswestry`s best player, took part in both matches.
Border Counties Advertizer, 15 February 1891
Chess Match ‑ On Friday night a chess match was played at the Coach and Dogs, between the home chess club and Wrexham chess club. Play began at seven o'clock, there being eight a side. The result was that the visitors won five games to three. Messrs. Morris and Holt were the adjudicators. The scores were as follows:
Oswestry C.C. Wrexham C.C.
1. J.W.Thomas 1/2 e Whitehouse 1/2 e
2. W.C.Morris 1/2 e L.Holt 1/2 e
3. J.deL Abbot 1/2 e L.Rowland 1/2 e
4. T.W.Beard 0 L.B.Rowland 1
5. W.K.Minshull 1 Edwards 0
6. R.Brayne 0 Price 1
7: C.H.Byrne 0 Martin 1
8 T.B.Mitchell 1/2 e S.A.Whitehouse 1/2 e
e Signifies that game was adjudicated
Border Counties Advertizer 22 May 1901
Chess Denbighshire v Shropshire ‑
This annual match was played at the Wynnstay Hotel, Oswestry on Saturday and resulted in a victory for Denbighshire by six games to four. We believe this is the first occasion on which gallant little Wales has ever beaten England in a county match. The majority of the games were very well contested. Subjoined is the full score.
George Saint 0 J.E.Parry 1
L. Holt (Wrexham) 1 G.A.Lock. 0
Dr. Jones 1 A.T.Bassett 0
J.Campbell Douglas 1/2 Ernest Groom I/2
G.Whitehouse (Wx) 1 W.E.Morris 0
W.A. Hughes 0 W.H.Greenhalgh 1
Alfred Shaw 1/2 C.Groom 1/2
P.D.Rowland 0 F.W.Forest 1
Charles S.Medway 1 J.W.Thomas (Osw) O
Charles Simpson 1 Alf Jones 0
This historic county match was the last to be reported in the Advertizer during this early period. Apart from a chess problem page that ran in the 1920`s, no mention of any chess activity in the town has been found until recent times. It is known that the Ruabon club did not survive after the First World War (1914 –18) and it is likely that the Oswestry club also ceased to exist during the early 1900`s.
Since that time chess continued in Oswestry but no records have been kept. Henry Jones the Borough Librarian kept the club going and many games were played at the Library. The only surviving member from that period is Roy Haynes , who also played at one time for Whitchurch Chess Club
By 1966 the club were meeting at least once a week at the town’s library. By 1969 there were enough members to enter a team in the Shropshire Chess League. At the time there was only the one division in the county and this made it difficult for a new team from a small club to prosper. The final league table was as follows.
Wellington 6 1/2
GKN Sankeys 4 1/2
Shrewsbury Blues 4
Newport Reds 4
Shrewsbury Reds 3
Newport Greens 3
R.A.F. Gosford 0
The club was not able raise a team the following year and it was not until 1974 that they were able re-enter the Shropshire league, this time playing in the third division. From then on the fortunes of the club began to improve, as the club gained in strength and numbers. Within a short time they achieved the exceptional feat of coming top of the third, second and first divisions of the league in consecutive years, 1976, 1977, and 1978.
The members winning teams were: -
1976 and 1977
Jonathan Bourne, who replaced Glyn Phelps in the 1978 team, was one of the many star players ever to play for the club. He went on to win the Shropshire Chess Championship in 1987. Roy Haynes, an inaugural member of the modern club, had also been a member of short-lived 1969-70 team. The club maintained a team in the senior division until the middle of the 1990s
For most of this period the Oswestry club has had two teams in the Shropshire league and for a time in the 1970s it fielded three. At present, 2015 they have a team in the first division and one in the second division.
Shropshire Chess History