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Hastings Chess Club Celebrates its 125th Birthday

Last Edited: Sunday July 1, 2007 9:23 AM

Hastings Chess ClubJohn Saunders reports: On 30 June 2007, Hastings Chess Club celebrated its 125th anniversary with a reception held at its own premises in Cornwallis Terrace, Hastings. A buffet lunch was provided for guests and members of the club, and BCM's editor was pleased to attend to represent British Chess Magazine and also to take some pictures and video clips.

The former editor of BCM, Bernard Cafferty, is the current president of the club and, after being introduced by club chairman Bill Penfold, he made a short speech outlining the club's distinguished history. Bernard says something of the club's benefactors over the years and the club's history, as one of only two existing British clubs which has its own dedicated premises. He also draws the audience's particular attention to the British Boys' Championship Honours Board which is on the wall in the corner of the room. "I had to get that one in - as my name is recorded on it!", quips Bernard, to general amusement. "Rather a long time ago," he adds ruefully (Bernard won the British Boys' Championship in Hastings in 1952, before the present writer was born). Someone else is heard to say "you haven't changed a bit". But don't take my word for it: click below to see a 4-minute video of Bernard Cafferty's speech.

Hastings Chess Club is in Cornwallis Terrace, Hastings. Click here to visit the club website. As you can see from the photo (left), it is a four-storey building and is situated in the centre of the town. The main club premises are on the first and second floors. On the ground floor is a general club room and library, which Bernard Cafferty told us is to be re-named the Ian Pountney Memorial Room after a club member who sadly died recently, but who left a very generous bequest to the club to be used for the club's upkeep. On the first floor is another club room which is fully stocked with boards, sets and clocks and where club matches are played. As you can see from the photos on this page, the walls of the club rooms are liberally covered with photos, drawings and cartoons of famous visitors to Hastings (both club and congress), and there are also honours boards, trophies and a well-stocked chess library. And now, of course, if you fail to find the book you are looking for on the club premises, it is only a short trip to the National Chess Library which is also to be found in Hastings.

Click below to see a 4-minute video of Bernard Cafferty's speech.

Technical note: if you click on the directional button in the middle of the video still below (you may need to click twice),
it will play in the same window - if you click elsewhere on the video still, it will open a new browser window.

Also present was the member of parliament for Hastings and Rye, Michael Foster MP, who has been very supportive of the long chess tradition in Hastings. He makes the excellent point that the existence of the Hastings Chess Club was a significant contributory factor in the establishment of the long series of major chess tournaments in Hastings, from the very famous and hugely strong Hastings tournament of 1895 right up to the present day. He also pays tribute to all the people who do so much excellent voluntary work to make sure the club and congress continue in Hastings. Don't miss his joke about the second thing which he would like to think Hastings is famous for (the first obviously being the Battle of Hastings in 1066)... click here for a short video of Michael Foster's speech at the Hastings Chess Club.

Another local politician who has played a big part in the maintenance of the chess tradition in Hastings is Councillor Paul Smith. In his excellent speech, he mentions the late Frank Parr, winner of the 1939/40 Hastings Premier, whose bequest of £10,000 has enabled the Hastings Congress to continue in recent years. He pointed out Frank Parr's name on the honours board at the Hastings club, where they have a list of the British Boys Champions who won the title when it was held annually at the club during Easter between 1923 and 1953 (these days this event is held as part of the British Championships in August). Frank Parr was British Boys' Champion in 1935. Councillor Smith also pointed out the names of two earlier winners of this title, PS (later Sir Stuart) Milner-Barry and CHO'D Alexander, who later played a significant part in the cracking of the Enigma code during World War Two. Whilst they both high-ranking civil servants in Whitehall, Councillor Smith told us, Milner-Barry and Alexander got one of their political masters, a cabinet minister, interested in the chess goings-on in Hastings. This was James Callaghan, who later went on to become the UK prime minister. Lord Callaghan retained his interest in chess activities in Hastings and on occasion came along to present prizes at the congress. Click below to see Councillor Smith's speech at the Hastings Chess Club celebrations.


Frank Parr and David Howell at the 2002/3 Hastings
The late Frank Parr, seen above playing alongside the (now) GM David Howell
at the 2002/3 Hastings Congress, left £10,000 to the Hastings Congress in his will.

After the speeches came a celebratory match between the club and the guests. At this point, fearing the strength of the Hastings CC line-up (which included IM Thomas Rendle), your reporter took his leave, pleading the imminent lapse of a car parking ticket. But before leaving I went round with my camera to take a few snaps of the club rooms and players in action.

Hastings CC Cartoons
The clubroom is festooned with images of many of the famous players who have played at the Hastings Congress or visited the club.
In this corner you can see some of the many cartoons drawn of players from the Hastings Premier over many years.

Hastings Trophies and Books
Other walls are covered with photos which you can see above an impressive array of trophies and chess books
(yes, they've got a complete run of
British Chess Magazine)

Hastings CC view
Enough of the talk - let's get down to some chess. The match between the club and guests begins.

Hastings CC
More of the club vs guests match. If you are wondering what the position is on
the tapestry on the wall... look it up on Mega Database (it is readily guessable)

News of the chess match (for which I am indebted to Bernard Cafferty)... the visitors beat Hastings CC by 9-8. Thomas Rendle (Black) drew with Ian Watson on top board, while John Sugden lost to Feliks Kwiatkowski on board two. The five-round rapidplay tournament finished in a tie between Thomas Rendle, former club champ, and Patrick Donovan, current holder (4½/5). They had a play-off which Rendle won. Freeman of Hastings & St Leonards Borough Council, Pam Brown, presented the prizes at about 8.30pm.

Finally, I'd like to pass on my personal thanks to club treasurer Ann Penfold and other club volunteers who laid on an excellent spread for the guests and members and helped keep our glasses topped up. As anyone who has ever organised a chess club will know, it is an unremitting task, and innumerable volunteers and back-room staff do huge amounts to keep chess clubs and congresses going up and down the country (and worldwide). All chessplayers are in their debt. Simply - thank you. And here's to the next 125 years of Hastings Chess Club.

Click here to visit the Hastings Chess Club websiteHastings Congress website


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