The History And Development Of Organised
Chess In Chesterfield
The club's championship trophy is a beautiful, if somewhat battered, silver cup; and on it, the list of Club champions begins with A E Raynes in 1924 - the first of his seven victories. His successor Joe Bunting (1925) was one of our last links with the club's early days: it's entirely likely he was a founder member. He was club champion again in '52 '54 and '57, and he'll be a regular figure in these annals. That apart, a brief account of the Life of Joe Hooton records that Major Alderman Wakerly JP was President of the club from 1925 to 1945, when he handed over to Colonel Victor Robinson MC, a hero of the Great War and a well known benefactor of the town, who was (non-playing?) President until 1973 . And on the Richardson Cup itself, trophy of the knockout tournament still played between the clubs of the Sheffield and District Chess Association, we read that after some unexplained interruption from 1939 to '45, Tinsley Working Men's Club won in '46, then Chesterfield '47, '48 and '49; the team presumably including Hooton, Saunderson and Bunting, but also CM Greenhalgh, club champion in '48 and nowhere else recorded. Such scraps of information are all we appear to have left of early times...any help much appreciated!
The man who could have told us so much more was of course RJ "Joe" Hooton; a "lovely guy" said Andy Mort and none present contradicted him, and a member from 1925 until his death in 1994. His first recorded game was played on Monday November 25th, 1935, when he beat Mr H Golding of Derby; by 1948 he was board one, drawing against Mr Siddall from Southey in the final of the Richardson Cup, which the club won for the second year in succession. That same year he became captain of Chesterfield A, a position he retained until 1972. The Life describes how he took his own set, board and clock to home matches, and how from the early 50s he led the Derbyshire County Chess Association as President and League Captain...I myself recall that years after his death, decisions as to the direction the club should take were still subject to the consideration of what Joe would have wanted.
While moving the club's old books and papers from The Spital to our new venue at The Three Merry Lads, I came across the series of notebooks, containing results and some brief comments from the years 1952 to 69. These form the basis of the account I shall now write. Without a little detective work we cannot know the compiler, but it seems entirely likely that they form Joe's last gift to his club. So let the story begin, with Joe the President of the county, captain of Chesterfield, and his team masters of all they survey in Sheffield and Derbyshire....
On October 21st, 1952, Chesterfield went to the Talbot hotel in Sheffield and demolished Ecclesfield by 6 points to 2. Joe Bunting the club champion played top board, followed by the legendary Doug Saunderson, 13 times the champion from 1949 to 1970, last recorded grade in 1994. Joe Hooton was on 3, followed by Leslie Calvert; all of them Chesterfield players for many years. WF Watson, NC Lewis, AJ Rodgers and JH Stockton; I've no doubt these names are familiar to many a veteran still playing in the Sheffield League. As for their opponents, they included three men named Taylor, and maybe likelier to strike a chord: J Kenworthy and ER Hague. Surely these are relatives of a couple of outstanding players very much around today?
The writer notes that clocks were offered but not accepted - could you do this? - and were used for "timing" on boards 2 to 5, whatever that means. No wonder only one game finished before 9 30. The second match was the Richardson, the mystery compiler noting that Chesterfield "had no difficulty in overcoming their opponents and made a clean sweep on all six boards". It's all downhill from the 50s onwards guys!
The writer includes brief remarks on each of the games in the matches, with one curious exception. The veteran Frank Raynes played his last two games for the club this season, and presumably was too revered a figure for comment to be passed. Brother of the original club champion, he had won himself in '31 and '33; he ended his career with a win on board 8 in the match v Button Lane.
I anticipated that, by perhaps the early 60s, I'd be mentioning the odd player who's still around, and maybe trying to find something nice to say about this or that chap who's spent a long career beating up the good folk of Chesterfield. What I didn't expect was that I'd first have this experience when recording events in 1952. But unless I'm confusing father with son, there on the YMCA team of 21st November 1952 (5-3 winners, if you must know) is the name R Trigg, winner v Chesterfield's Cecil Lewis. Marvellous, and belated congratulations on that win, if this is indeed Ray appearing as an infant prodigy.
Trigg and co. brought off a victory which proved but a brief hiccup. There were eight teams in the Davy in those days, and Chesterfield won every other match. 24 points ahead of Limes on 17; everyone else way behind. Two of the other clubs are still around today: the score of match with Sheffield University has not survived, but there were two matches with Woodseats. In the second, Chesterfield's attempt to win the treble came to grief in the Richardson final; and in the hope these names mean something to any passers-by from Woodseats or elsewhere, there follows the score.
Saunderson lost to H Clark; Calvert - JP Smith draw; Bunting lost to AW Jenkinson; Hooton won v JR Clark and Watson v A Smith; 3.5-2.5 to Woodseats as AJ Rodgers lost to RJ Graham. It's noted that they played with clocks this time.
The treble, not the double? Well, then as now Chesterfield played in two leagues. The Derbyshire League began shortly after the war and lasted until a couple of years ago. The club met strong opposition in the late 50s, but not back in its heyday: played 5, won 5 v Derby, Rolls Royce, Buxton, Long Eaton and Pastures, all clubs but the last still around. Heady days: I believe a photo still exists of the team that won the Sheffield and Derbyshire Leagues in the same season, the holy grail for modern Chesterfield players and hardly likely to be repeated.
Following all this success Joe had the nerve to accept a challenge from a team representing the Rest of the Davy League; the inevitable comeuppance was 1.5-6.5; the top four losing Saunderson to DG Tranter, Calvert to WC Evans, Bunting to HM Evans and Joe himself to E Vincent. Possibly the modern Nomads could do a little better?
One match is recorded by Chesterfield's second team, an eight board friendly v Tibshelf. Chesterfield seem to have sneaked seasoned first teamers Calvert and Watson onto the bottom two boards, but the rest include names from the future. John Salt won on one v Rev Deane Little; J.W ("Jack") Enion played 5; and I note that the opposition featured another intriguing any relation? A.F Coupe on 2 was the highest Tibshelf winner.
County matches were taken more seriously in those days, and Joe never dragged out less than six Chesterfield players for the 25 or 30 board Derbyshire teams. Steve Bracey once told me that it was a very rare privilege to be part of a winning Derbyshire team, and individual results suggest it was rare then too.
Calvert and Saunderson alternated on top board this season; Bunting and Hooton close behind. W.F Watson was an increasingly regular board 5 as the season wore on, and the pattern that Chesterfield score more highly at the lower end seems already established. Rodgers, Lewis, Salt and Green the lower end chaps in question.
Not that much stood in the way of either end of Joe's side, as it defended the titles in Sheffield and Derbyshire. They won every match in both leagues, and you have to wonder if the Sheffield League continued to insist that all matches were for double points, because it was so far to Chesterfield, or because other clubs didn't care to take on Hooton's outfit more than once a season. All, however, was soon to change. This was Joe's third successive win of the Davy League, and the last for the time being. Played seven, won seven; for 74, against 38, and while any modern success is achieved with top boards typically scoring 30-40% against Sheffield's star players, back then only three folk had the measure of Saunderson Bunting and Hooton; to wit the Limes top two, N Littlewood and HM Evans, and Tinsley's lead man WC Evans, who managed a point in their 5.5-2.5 defeat, when it was all over anyway.
The stats in Derbyshire were even more impressive, and the 100% score was for the third consecutive season...where did it all go wrong??
Well, maybe someone's still around to tell us. Joe played board 4 against RA Sutcliffe, then of Alfreton, on March 3rd 1954. The game was agreed drawn, with Joe up the exchange for a pawn and the writer says "it was possibly a win", but if Rob reckons otherwise that's how we'll record it. Limes "dashed our hopes of the treble" records the notebook, 4-2 winners in the Richardson semi-final, and you'd have thought with all that success the notebook might have gone a little easier on the hard luck stories...but this was the treble after all, and it eludes us still.
Bunting and Saunderson tied the club championship on 6/7, Hooton a distant third on 4. Bunting won the second play off game and this was his third championship (1925! 52 and 54).
As usual, the writer gives us Chesterfield players' individual results in county matches, but no details of the overall match results. The guys did well against Notts and Lincs, and got kicked around by Leicestershire; the game which jumps out at you was board 3 v Notts on 24 10 53; Doug's opponent (whom he beat) was Kenneth Whyld, future co-author with David Hooper of one of the standard works on the game, The Oxford Companion to Chess.
And lastly...an extraordinary friendly, Sheffield Chess Association v the Works Chess Association; 50% scores for the four Chesterfield representatives, but what an occasion, what a scale they played on: 50 boards!
The champions started with convincing wins over University II and Woodseats; their third match was on New Year's Day, Rolls Royce going down 4-2 in the Derbyshire. But the second half of the 50s was now upon us, and with it the turning of the tide. Everyone was out for the match at YMCA - Bunting, Saunderson, Hooton, Rodgers, Salt, Lewis, Stockton and Green. It was still not enough against a YMCA team for whom Gurnhill could only make board 3, and the team then lost to Worksop in the first round of the Richardson. Worse was to follow, as the team's iron grip on events in Derbyshire was finally loosened: 1.5-4.5 at Derby, even though Doug held the county champion MW Alford. Long Eaton and Limes were next upon them, like hyenas on a stricken elephant.
One major clue as to how Chesterfield were dethroned is clear from the merest glance at that Limes teamsheet. They were headed by one of the great men of British chess, the future FM JE Littlewood, who was to represent the country at the Varna Olympiad just a few years later. John was over 200 well into this century. So there's the clue: other teams had upped their act, and none more than Kimberworth, winners of the Davy with 23 points to Limes' 19 and Chesterfield 18. Woodseats were fourth with 12, but had the consolation of the Richardson Cup for the second time in three years.
Doug played third board for the county, Joe skippering the side from 6 or 8; Lewis, Watson, Bunting and Salt also appearing. The last named played board 23 against Lincolnshire on 22 01 55, and his young opponent was none other than Mike Brumby. An honourable draw.
So, second in Derbyshire, third in Sheffield, not a successful year by the standards to which the guys had become accustomed. But for one stalwart 1955 was the year that meant so much that he never forgot it, and probably never let anyone else forget it either. Mike Johnson recently related to me how, when Mike was a youngster, Joe Hooton told him about the club championship of 1955. After 22 years of trying, during which time he was often second, Joe finally got his name on the trophy for the one and only time. The crosstable still exists, and it was obviously a proper well-earned victory; 17 took part in a 7 round Swiss, all the club's regular first team were there, and only Hooton and Bunting played every game against players who finished in the top nine. Hooton 6, Bunting 5.5, Saunderson 5, Calvert 4.5, Lewis 4. Et in Arcadia ego.
The season started with losses to YMCA and, narrowly, Sheffield University who were to prove as dominant at the end of the decade as Chesterfield had been at its start. This time, it was 3-2 with three games for adjudication; Chesterfield claimed two points but got only a half, the writer tells us with obvious disgruntlement. The team took it out on Limes (6.5-1.5), Talbot and Kimberworth, before squeaking through against Woodseats. This looked pretty promising, but the last match v Tinsley was disastrous, and the final league position was fourth, University winning. In the Richardson, two narrow wins, then 4-2 semifinal defeat at Woodseats.
Derby too were beyond Joe's boys; 4.5-1.5 just as last season, and second place for Chesterfield. Doug Saunderson was second in the Derbyshire Individual this year, but winner W Slovik didn't turn out for the county side, so Doug got a steady run at board one and scored 50%: the loss being to PN Wallis, who I believe is still around. Four other Chesterfield players turned out, the new boy being J Aavisto. This was also the first year for young Otto Hardy, with a single game on board 4 before heading off to University.
The position of club champion was taken seriously in those days. Joe was catapulted to board one, where he did well enough: star result being a win over H Clark in the 4.5-3.5 v Woodseats. He also had the dubious privilege of playing a simul against most of the rest of the club. Saunderson and Bunting sat this one out, but his first team colleagues Stockton, Portman and Salt led the way as the captain got a bit of a kicking: +5, =1, -7. Among the losers was M Adams, but this time we'll guess that....no, not that one.
One day I hope to name and pay tribute to the painstaking compiler of the notebooks I've been using to recall these ancient days. Sadly he was too modest to include his own name; the other regret is that we have results, but not the games. 25 01 58 and Derbyshire played Lincolnshire on neutral turf in Nottinghamshire. But how did the game go, in which Doug Saunderson scored the point against the redoubtable John Littlewood - who experienced no such trouble against Dave Latham only a couple of years ago? If only we knew.
Chesterfield's regular top of the order batting partnership was Doug Saunderson and Joe Hooton, both well remembered to this day. Joe was president for many years, and Doug's name appears on the club championship trophy a record 13 times. Middle order L Calvert, P Tatlow, AK Hobson and J Salt; these were the regulars of the 15 players who appeared. Future president Ian Potter - a member until very recently and still living in Holymoorside - got a single game on board 8 as a promising youngster.
The Davy League was won by Kimberworth, for whom our old friend Paul Blackman will be appearing when we get to the early 60s. The University team came second, crushing Chesterfield 6.5-1.5 in a match featuring Otto Hardy's win v Doug Saunderson on top board. Third and fourth Talbot and the YMCA (Saunderson halves with N Littlewood), and Chesterfield in at 5th. Next - and at last a club young 'uns have heard of - Woodseats, whose team included TW Crabbe as in the Crabbe Shield, annual one-dayer and jolly good fun every Summer, this year in particular for Andrew Ledger and Jon Nelson. Tinsley and Limes 7th/8th and Chesterfield, in these days of largely public transport, played every league match for double points.
The Derbyshire League was a 6 board affair, with Chesterfield third of eight after Rolls Royce and Derby. Most of the clubs still play, with name changes (Amber Valley for Alfreton, British Celanese must now be Spondon; Pastures anybody??) but the surprise competitors for me are Buxton. Too far away for our scene nowadays, but back then they and Chesterfield trekked to Bakewell for a 3-3 tie. We really must find the time to meet up with their new incarnation High Peak, whose website indicates they may well be the strongest Derbyshire club.
Doug was the sole representative in the Derbyshire Championship, third of seven behind A Walker (5.5/6 but that sole draw was to Doug) and WS Lowik. Three county matches saw Doug on board 1, Joe a regular 5 and Tatlow, Portman and Hobson also appearing. 46.2% is meticulously recorded as our boys' final score.
And I saved the best 'til last. The Richardson Cup was won, then as now, and then as now by narrow squeaks. The lads beat the University in the first round, 3.5-2.5. They faced an entirely different team than their later conquerors in the Davy, so maybe got in at the start of term before the students got fully organised! Next a bye; next up King Edward VIIth School. Who are they nowadays? Back then, again it was close but 3.5-2.5 led to a semi v surprise qualifiers Southey, who managed a lone draw against Joe's men. The final showdown was against Talbot, who'd beaten Chesterfield in the Davy, finished ahead of them and must have started favourites. Calvert and Boyden won for us on the night, but these were the only games concluded. No 15 mins to finish back then, it was by Gentleman's Agreement that the other games ended three draws and a win, and the trophy to Chesterfield by 4.5-1.5.
I hope to add years at the rate of one a week (does that make sense?) and have this section up to speed by Christmas '09.
Otto Hardy was the star addition this year. Chesterfield had got no change out of him when he was the University top board, so if you can't beat'em, (re)recruit 'em. He won the club championship at the first attempt, ahead of A Walker and W Slowik, and Doug ceded him the higher board for club and county. Otto's first match for Chesterfield was against his old University colleagues, a draw on board one v DJ Mabbs - we've heard of him too. Doug and cap'n Joe won their games, but the lower order were largely turned over.
So began a slow start, with losses to Limes and Woodseats. In the latter match there was a ninth board friendly, which sounds a civilised idea well worth repeating. The crowd then drew away at Derby; 29 11 58 and I wonder if Chris Williams of Rotherham recalls his draw with John Salt of Chesterfield that day? Chesterfield ended the season third in Derbyshire, but drew their matches with the top two, Derby and Rolls Royce. Both clubs are still going, and to this day no Derbyshire county side, captain Paul Kelman reassures us, would turn out without Maurice Hill, who was already a Rolls Royce player back in '59 (draw with G Boyden).
Revival in the League - 5.5-2.5 v defending champs Kimberworth - was snuffed out narrowly at YMCA; the grim note on this match reading "Saunderson and Hooton were not picked up by Portman owing to a mix up and so got left behind". On such events the fate of chess clubs hangs. Everyone made it to the venue for the cup semi-final against bogey team Sheffield University, but here a brave defence of the Richardson ended, 2.5-3.5. Since we played them in the second round this year, wasn't it funny that the club won the Richardson 50 years after the triumph of '58, and then, again 50 years on, went out to the same...no, maybe it wasn't.
Joe finished the season by claiming the last three Derbyshire fixtures, citing a variety of procedural failures by Chesterfield's opponents: clearly not a captain to mess with. He then led the side to victory at YMCA - Otto winning v P Melia. Concluding match was a storming 5.5-2.5 at Talbot, no Chesterfield player losing. University won the Davy, 24/28 ahead of Limes on 22; everyone else way behind, Chesterfield 4th and Woodseats 6th.
And lastly - National Chess Week in March '59 featured what must have been a highly competitive 13 board match, Old Stagers 7.5 v Teenagers 5.5. OK, so we can accept the old timers included the Chesterfield regulars Saunderson, Hooton, Rodgers, Salt, Portman et al. But there on board one is a chap still playing among us - Otto Hardy reckoned he was already one of the veterans way back then.
The batting order was now settled as Hardy (club champion for the second year), Saunderson, Hooton, Hobson, Green and Salt; this was a formidable outfit of experienced players which ended up second in both Sheffield and Derbyshire. Not that it looked that way, as Chesterfield kicked off at the University with a 2-6 defeat, Mabbs Low and Barnett 3-0 at the top end v Otto, Joe and ...absentee? Did they forget to pick up Doug again?
Picking up from here Joe got his way on three out of four adjudications to beat YMCA, and the gang accounted for last year's runners-up Limes by 4.5-3.5. CR Gurnhill - another hero whose trophy is still played for - led the Limes team and scored their only win, against Otto. Others regarded this as no mean feat, as is suggested by events at The West End Hotel in the notorious Chesterfield-Thorncliffe match. Otto was thrown a sacrificial lamb in the shape of the Thorncliffe captain, while his expected opponent scored lower down to tie the match. "This was the match", thunders the notebook, "in which the opposing captain flagrantly broke rule 18B by playing himself at top board and their normal top board at no.4....the executive merely expressed their disapproval by letter to Thorncliffe". Controversy predates Kramnik-Topalov.
First sight this year of one of our own finest: Harry Poopuu misguidedly turning out for Pastures before destiny set him aright. Now our only Life Member, we heard from him recently, living in Nottingham near his children. Much missed and perhaps we'll see him again some day. And debuting for Chesterfield: Jack Wheeldon, long a mainstay and fondly remembered by older members; and Jack Enion, who carried on as our auditor long after retiring as a player. He kicked off with a win v Kimberworth; Otto and Doug also scored the point but it wasn't quite enough. 3.5 - 4.5 and Kimberworth went on to win the Davy, four points ahead of Chesterfield. The team had the satisfaction of finishing ahead of their nemesis University, who were third, and this despite scoring a total of 68.5-43.5 over the board, as against 58-54 by Chesterfield. Fine economy of effort by Joe's lads.
No luck in the Richardson: first round saw a clash of the eventual Davy top two, and it went to Kimberworth by 2.5-3.5; Joe our only winner and the Evanses, WC and A, for the oppo.
In Derbyshire all hung not only on a single game, but on a disputed adjudication, Joe needing a draw to win a match with Derby and tie Rolls Royce for the title. It wasn't to be, even though Joe rejected local analysis and called in the BCF for a final decision. If we can find the game, we'll put it through Rybka even now.
Five Chesterfield players took part in the four county matches; 12 years into his job as Chesterfield captain, Joe was one of the county's senior organisers and he captained the Derbyshire team as well.
Funny how a match, looked back on from years in the future, takes on a very different significance to that which it probably had at the time. The first pair of matches this season must have been the first Chesterfield saw of two of the North of England's great organisers and players; and here they were as youngsters on the lower boards, while the top men hung on the results of Hardy-Mabbs or Saunderson-Evans.
Chesterfield kept up their tradition of opening the season by getting smashed at Sheffield University; there was no great shame in that - the students were in a class of their own, conceding one match point all season and scoring 75-21 in games. And there on board 5 for the University, Harry Lamb: still Mr Bolton chess, organiser of their annual congress, leading light of their historic club and the man who gave so many of us our first shot at real competitive chess. He was most recently in our club a couple of years ago, at a weekend county match played at The Spital as a neutral venue between Manchester and Leicestershire, I think it was.
Joe and company fared little better v Kimberworth in the next match, going down 3-5. Many years later, when we received the beautiful board donated by the Ramsden family, and decided to make it just that little bit more special by reserving it for the games of the most distinguished players, we were very glad to offer one of the first shots to Kimberworth's bottom board of November 10th 1960, now Rotherham Juniors' sensei, Mr Paul Blackman. As is well known, Paul's taught countless local youngsters, some of them now players as formidable as he remains; and his clubs have stood, as chess at its best has always done, for proper sporting ethics and community integration since long before it became fashionable. Many a point he's taken off us over the years...but at least not in the opener against JH Stockton.
Smoothly freeing themselves from the distraction of the Richardson Cup (2.5-3.5 at YMCA), the team started getting it together with a 6-2 win at Limes, Doug revenging Otto's defeat by CR Gurnhill the year before. The YMCA were crushed 7-1, Joe commenting that he didn't mind enforcing the rule that the Y field a sub when their top man said he'd be late, as the previous season they'd claimed the game when Otto turned up late pleading he'd crashed his motorbike on the way in!
Final placing in Sheffield: fifth, but in Derbyshire first at last. Buxton had decided it was too far; Derby were crushed 5-1. This left the main opposition coming from Rolls Royce and Bemrose School. The 3-3 draw at Bemrose was the only match point dropped, and the team came through in style, 4-2 against holders Rolls Royce. Saunderson, Hobson and R Tatlow the winners on the day.
Otto Hardy won the club championship for the third time in a row, but this was his last season with Chesterfield; Doug Saunderson was lurking in the wings, ready to restore the old order the following year.
The loss of Otto must have been a real blow to any chance of a return to the very top in either Sheffield or Derbyshire, even though Aylwin Hobson was a more regular player than he had been, and the club recruited a new second board part way through the season in RD Hollands. Not that anyone stood much chance against the University, who won every match. They played Lamb on board 7 and no less a player than Mike Conroy on 6. I wonder if there had been a "Tal effect" anything like the "Fischer boom" of '72, with events on the world stage inspiring talented youngsters to take up the game? Apart from the University's domination of the Davy, I note that they owned the Richardson Cup in the 60s: eight years out of ten. Obviously the Davy is the more prestigious competition, but the element of chance in the knockout means that you have to be far out in front to win it year after year.
Kimberworth were second and won every match bar those against the University. Chesterfield's result was creditable in such company, third of eight, five wins and two losses. They thrashed two teams representing the YMCA, and had a narrow win against Thorncliffe, Doug beating the chap they'd expected to play Otto a couple of years before. The result against Talbot (6.5-1.5) was particularly impressive, one of the winners being A Princep of whom more anon.
The Richardson campaign ended with a 1-5 semifinal turkey shoot at the University, but worse was to happen in Derbyshire. 0-6, Joe ?? Makes you sorry there was never a match between Rolls Royce and Sheffield University; the all conquering RR team boasting Gibbins, H&I Morton, A Walker (hadn't he been he one of ours?), Bowyer and...Maurice Hill, whom I might ask about it. A match v Buxton-Bakewell was 2.5-2.5 when R Tatlow is related as "having an easy draw", but the captain agreed to let him risk it all on a win. One to add to my list of excuses: maybe the B-B board two Roger Hoole saw it differently, as he watched this decisive game after his draw with Joe Hooton?
Bemrose School were the other team to beat our crowd, 3.5-2.5; their board 3 Ray Gamble is a familiar well-liked member of the Derbyshire County side even now. Third in Sheffield, fourth in Derbyshire: nowadays the Davy competition is usually considerably the harder.
No record of Derbyshire fixtures; and so to the club championship. The sixties was the Age of Saunderson: nine wins out of ten for Doug, and this was the first of that unparalleled sequence. Board one was soon his own for as long as he wanted it; Joe was the organiser, Doug was The Man.