Friday, February 13, 2015

County Counting: 7. Local Derbys - They Also Ran

This series has been exploring the Surrey County Association Match Books, which gave chapter and verse on Surrey's matches against, in the main, other counties. An exception, which we looked at last time (episode 6), was the sequence against "Croydon", which was actually part of Surrey, hence the latter was obliged to present itself as "The Rest". We tracked the matches between these two sides over several decades up to the late 1920s, noting the dominance of the "Rest of Surrey" - which you might expect - and a couple of anomalies, not to say errors, in the way the Match Books recorded them - which you might not.      

By and large the British Chess Magazine (BCM) seemed disinclined to report these contests, so we were left, at the end of episode 6, with a rather bloodless account. Now we have some fulsome reportage of two of them from the BCMs of 1902 and 1903, and from the local Croydon Guardian weekly newspaper (CG), that weren't to hand earlier. They describe what were indeed the first two matches (as we suspected, in spite of their omission in the Match Books), and they give us the atmosphere of those early Local Derbys. They also give an insight into the esteem in which chess, and its local clubs, were held in those far-off days. All this follows in this episode, into which we can also squeeze a game of chess.

The 1902 BCM suggests that the inspiration for the matches came from that force of nature L.P.Rees (we met him last time) who had organised a "Rural" v "Metropolitan" Surrey match a decade earlier, in 1892. The idea then was to redress, under the umbrella of the Surrey Association, the imbalance of opportunity whereby the chessers in the north of the county, with easy access to London, had richer pickings. Note also the following in CG (18 January 1902): the "Thornton-heath club once beat a Surrey team..." - but there is no further detail.

So, in this vein, it was the "rural" members from "Croydon and District who, led by the energetic Thornton Heath Club, sought to entertain and vanquish if possible the flower of their fellow members scattered over the rest of the Surrey" (BCM 1902 pp70-1). This first match took place on Saturday January 11th 1902, at the now familiar Baths Hall, Thornton Heath. It was billed as "The Borough of Croydon versus the Rest of Surrey", and 60 boards were arranged.

The ceremonials started at 5.00pm when Capt. A.S.Beaumont the "popular president of the Association"...

From BCM 1901
...welcomed the Mayor and Mayoress and admitted that "it did him good to see young clubs [e.g. Thornton Heath - MS] shaping so well...[they] spurred the older ones and kept them awake..(Laughter, and hear, hear.)".  The Mayor responded: "...was extremely pleased to be there, ...standard of chess playing in Croydon was so good, ...chess was a good thing in education of young people, it would be admirable if it could be taught to boys in school. (Hear. Hear.)". All, in the manner of the time, from CG January 18th.     

The Mayor then made the ritual first move on board 1, which was answered "at the bidding of the Surrey man, by the Mayoress, amid loud applause" (CG) before A.J. Maas (Croydon) and G.W.Wainwright (RofS) were able to get down to it - Maas played "slowly and doggedly" for a draw (CG). The visitors, RoS, ran out winners 34 to 26, after a "ding dong race" (BCM) - the teams lists are appended below. The BCM remarked "what a good proportion of the talent in Surrey is to be found in and around Croydon, especially in the clubs of Croydon, South Norwood, West Norwood, Purley, Thonton Heath, and Wallington". Of these only South Norwood and Wallington remain 120-odd years later.    

There are even more detailed reports of the razzamatazz surrounding the "interesting" match the following year, on January 3rd, 1903, including in the "Gossip" column of the Croydon Guardian of Saturday January 10th 1903. This was under a sub-heading "LARGE CHESS" where the "Wanderer" observed, with regret, that few women played in the matches (one in the previous year, two this): "If ladies come into it ...the awesome solemnity of those occasions will be agreeably chastened ...Ladies should know that chess-players are the very salt of the earth ...In a borough where females predominate so largely chess should open up for them a pleasing vista of social possibility, not to omit mention of mere matrimony."

In its proper chess report the paper said that the event was notable for the "large assemblage of players [i.e. 63 boards - MS] and spectators" present as the party of dignitaries "ascended the platform". Guests of honour were the Mayor, and this time he was given his name, Sir Frederick Edridge, ...

From Croydon Local History
and the Mayoress, Lady Edridge, plus a brace of Councillors. They were accompanied by Dr. Dunstan and Mr.T.H.Moore (respectively the new President, and Secretary, of the SCCA) and Mr. A. E. Parnell (Secretary of Thornton Heath CC), "under whose auspices the contest was arranged and carried out" - again.

And, in this repeat performance, there was again much ceremony before a pawn was pushed, including the reading of a well-wishing letter from the convalescing Captain Beaumont who was in Ramsgate on Doctor's orders. The Mayor, in his turn, "discharge[d] his pleasing extend a hearty welcome" to the assembly and "hoped they would have an interesting and successful series of games...and that the present meeting was only a prelude to other equally interesting the future."

The 63 boards of players (minus a few defaults) then locked horns up to 'time' at 7.30 pm, when there followed yet another round of ceremonials. Mr Parnell, for the hosts, observed - helpfully putting on record the spirit of the matches - that it "was not a case of deadly rivalry, but rather a peaceful tournament between members of one Association. Such matches helped to bind them in fellowship and goodwill". He thanked the Clubs who made up the home team, and didn't forget to refer directly to "the ladies who had ministered to [everyone's] comfort with refreshments".

Secretary of the SCCA in the early 1900s. 
A slightly wonky reproduction of a photo in BCM 1901.
In response, Mr Moore, for the SCCA, "eulogised the great energy shown by [the hosts] in making such splendid arrangements"; and finally Dr Dunstan "exhibited the gold cigar case which the members of the Association are about to present to Captain Beaumont as a memento of his enthusiastic and genial help while holding the office of president." Gold. The past is a foreign country..etc., etc.,

The BCM did squeeze in a mention of the chess. It was a win for RoS by 37 to 26, although it had been "very close" for the first hour or so, the SCCA then "began to draw away". At close of play Isidor Gunsberg found himself with 13 unfinished games to adjudicate - but, said the BCM, he "quickly gave verdicts"; or, as the CG more colourfully put it : "the eminent player...concentrated his brilliant brain and quickly gave unimpeachable verdicts". Both journals used identical wording to observe that players from Croydon CC "did well by winning 5½ out 10"; both adding somewhat acidly, "South Norwood hardly came up to expectations."

This time the BCM gave a full match list, as did CG (reproduced in the Appendix below), from which we can note some individual boards; for example: (with Croydon first) on board 1, Maas 0 v 1 Curnock; on board 9, Rees won for RoS (with his Redhill CC hat on, presumably, rather than that of the underperforming South Norwood with which he was also involved, with Capt. Beaumont, over the previous two decades). On board 8 the president Dr. Dunstan did well to draw with H.Uber. Mr Moore and Mr Parnell who matched each other for pleasantries at the close of play were as equally matched chess-wise on board 18 (and perhaps, in view of the occasion, more than likely quickly agreed their draw).

As spotted by "Wanderer", RoS had two ladies playing, Miss Corser won on 28, and Miss Tapsell on 37 (and she also played in 1902, on board 49). Their names crop up in an appreciation of L.P. Rees in the Surrey Mirror (29 September) on his death in 1944, where it says they were both members of Redhill CC and helped to make it "one of the strongest clubs in the the early part of the century". Miss Corser would become Redhill's club secretary in the 1920s. More about the ladies, perhaps, in a later post.

A nice detail is that board 16 for RoS was H.C.Griffiths, who was to play for "Croydon" in the last Derby match in 1926; and on bottom board for RofS was Reginald Baylis, nephew of Sir Wyke Baylis, an early Brixton CC member, one-time Surrey Champion, and a vice-President of SCCA. Possibly Sir Wyke was in that "large assemblage of spectators" at the first match; he was still playing club chess in 1902 (as other reports show), though not for the County. It would be nice if Sir Wyke, also, would appear at length in a later post. We'll see.

Let's also mention the 1903 board 3, Childs 0 v 1 Tiejen, for the reason that Arthur Tiejen (1866-1938), who also played in 1902, sounds a bit of a lad Edwardian-style; and he gets some of your actual chess into today's post. He was among the prime-movers of the "Chess Bohemians" club, meeting at the CafĂ© Nero in New Broad Street in the City - which was, according to the BCM, "glad to hear from gentlemen who 'desire chess and fraternity'". Another "Bohemian" was A. Curnock, also playing in both matches on the top boards. Tiejen had a taste for the Gledhill Attack against the French - it is similar to the Haldane Hack (see note) for sending the Queen on a provocative outing - which is the justification for showing this particular game from a Surrey v Sussex County Match in November 1902, annotated by the inventor himself, W. Gledhill (1854-1917), in the BCM in December. The same issue had two more Tiejen wins with the line. It may not be trendy these days, but provides some light relief now that we have finished this exhaustive two-part account of the Surrey-Croydon Local Derbys 1902 to 1926.

[Note: if you are reading the Blog via Safari and the above game  doesn't show properly try Google instead]

The "Haldane Hack" was unleashed on an unsuspecting chess world in an article in Knightmare! 1978, page 71 et seq. You'll find it on the Streatham and Brixton Chess Club website's Club History page. Go the Knightmare! 1978, part 3 link at the end of the article, and scroll to page 71. For a digest of Knightmare!s have a look here.  
On Arthur Tiejen see here.
The Croydon Guardian is on microfilm at Croydon Local Studies Library

Croydon v Rest of Surrey Team Lists, 1902 and 1903.

Left: Borough of Croydon v Rest of Surrey 11 January 1902 - source Croydon Guardian 18 January 1902
Right: Borough of Croydon v Rest of Surrey 3 January 1903 - source Croydon Guardian 10 January 1903 

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