Kingston Chess Club Origins

The historical development of the chess club

John Foley

The earliest record of Kingston Chess Club dates from a newspaper clipping from 1875. There was an informal club meeting in a Kingston hostelry. Subsequent adverts for players to form a club in Kingston indicate that, although there were local players, the formalities of a club had not been established and there was not a regular venue.

Formal records of the club started from 14 October 1914 when the Thames Valley (Teddington) Chess Club and the Kingston-upon-Thames Chess Club amalgamated to form the Thames Valley Chess Club. This was undoubtedly due to the First World War when leisure activities such as chess were put into the background. The two clubs were probably based in just two venues – one in Teddington and one in Kingston. Subsequently the club met in various locations around Kingston, initially at the Scotch CafĂ©, Kingston Bridge and then at “Ye Olde Poste House” from 1927.

Ye Olde Post House was close to the Market Square

The Thames Valley Chess Club was an active member of the Surrey League winning the Surrey Trophy (i.e. Division 1) in the 1924/25 season. In 1928, it won the Alexander Cup, the premier Surrey club knockout tournament. The team was very strong, containing the notable stalwarts R.P. Michell and J.H. Blake on Boards 1 and 2.

In 1930/31, the club changed its name to Kingston & Thames Valley Chess Club. This may have been to reflect its location whilst retaining its geographical brand. It may have needed to provide a more defined geographical location because many other clubs, including those along the Thames Valley, had been formed in the 1920s.

In in 1931/32, the year after it changed its name, the Kingston & Thames Valley Chess Club had its finest season winnning both the Surrey Trophy and the Alexander Cup. This feat has never been matched subsequently by any manifestations of Kingston Chess Club. The club champion was R.P. Michell every year from 1931 to 1938. The Club continued to meet during the Second World War although Surrey League matches were suspended.

J.H. Blake was club champion from 1942 to 1949 apart from 1943 when Dr Letchworth won – the club having moved to his living room, the regular venue having been bombed. It shoud be noted that J.H. Blake was aged 90 when he won his final club championship.

The Thames Valley League was formed in 1947 which marked the change in focus for the club members. Instead of challenging themselves and focussing on the club championship, they were more concerned with playing in leagues and knockouts against other clubs.

In the Surrey League, for many decades Kingston has been a yo-yo club i.e. it has been too strong for Division 2 and when promoted, is not quite strong enough to remain in Division 1 from which it gets demoted. The Thames Valley League has proved more congenial in that Kingston is comfortable in the first division.

At an AGM in 2015, the name of the Club was changed to Kingston Chess Club. This simplification reflected the location. This was a reversion to the name of the club in 1875. Nobody could explain why it had been named Kingston and Thames Valley Chess Club.

Mergers and renaming in chess club history