Club History - The Early Years

Last edited: 16.May.2017


The first meeting of St Albans Chess Club, attended by 26 members, took place on Thursday 28th March 1878 in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall.

Mr. H. F. Lindley was elected President and Mr. George F. Gibbs Honorary Secretary. Other members appointed to the committee were: Messrs. S. L. Harding, D. Cumberland, G. Barnes, C. W. Reynolds, and W. E. Tompkin.

In its first full season (1878-79). the club arranged some friendly matches against clubs in the surrounding towns. The first was played against Luton at St Albans Club on 14th November and the return was played at Luton on 19th December.

In researching the Chess Club's history, we are fortunate that many of the club's activities have been reported in the local newspaper, The Herts Advertiser (HA), for which the archive (1858 to date) is available on microfilm at Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies (HALS), Hertford, and at St Albans Library.

Details of the club and its officers were regularly published in the St Albans Almanak and Kelly's Directory, copies of which are also held at HALS and St Albans Library.

A selection of published articles has been reproduced below, covering the period from the founding of the St Albans Chess Club in 1878 up to the creation of Hertford County Chess Association in 1901.

Mar 1978. Proposed Chess Club at St. Albans

A Provisional Committee having been formed for the purpose of establishing a Chess Club, gentlemen residing in the City or vicinity, wishing to join, are invited to send in their names on or before SATURDAY 16TH MARCH, to Mr. Lindley, London and County Bank, St. Albans. [Advt.]

We are requested to draw attention to advertisement in our columns relative to the formation of Chess Club for St. Albans and its vicinity, and we understand that a few gentlemen have formed provisional committee and players are invited to join.

It may not be well known that Abel Smith, Esq., M.P., has presented a challenge cup to the county; the Ware Chess Club holding the trophy at the present time. Intimations have been received from the Ware and Harrow Chess Clubs to try conclusions with St. Albans club if one should be formed. [HA, 9 Mar 1878.]

Mar 1878. First Meeting.

We are glad to be able to announce that a Chess Club has now been formed, and a committee, consisting of the following gentlemen, viz.: Messrs. S. L. Harding, D. Cumberland, G. Barnes, C. W. Reynolds, and W. E. Tompkins, chosen. Mr. H. F. Lindley was elected president, and Mr. George F. Gibbs, Hon. Sec.

It is arranged to meet for the present for practice each Thursday from 7.00 till 10.30 p.m., in the Council Chamber, at the Town Hall, and the first meeting took place last Thursday evening. We hope this club, which already numbers 26 members, will prove a benefit to the city, and meet with success. [HA, 30 Mar 1878.]

Sept 1878. Annual General Meeting.

The annual general meeting of the above was held on Thursday evening, at the Albion Hotel, Victoria Street; Mr. S. L. Harding in the chair. There were also present Messrs. E. Palin, A. Collings, D. Cumberland, A. E. Ekins, G. Barnes, H. Cole, G. F. Gibbs (Hon. Sec.), O.W. Reynolds, and F. W. Silvester.

The chief business was the presentation of the balance sheet and report, which showed very satisfactory state of things. The committee and officers were re-elected for the ensuing year. It was arranged to meet every Thursday in the room which the present meeting was held, instead of the Town Hall, as hitherto.

The members now number 31, and no doubt as the winter is approaching, they will increase. Some matches with neighbouring towns are in contemplation. A vote of thanks to the chairman was passed. [HA, 28 Sep 1878.]

Nov 1878. Match Report: St. Albans v Luton

On Thursday week a match was played at the rooms of the St. Albans Chess Club, between that Club and the Luton Chess Club. There were ten players on each side, each gentleman playing two games. Of the twenty games thus ..[HA, 23 Nov 1878.]

Dec 1878. Match Report: Luton v St. Albans

The return match between the above club and Luton was played at Luton on Thursday evening, December 19lh, and was won by St. Albans by two games. The following is the score. Drawn games count half to each player. 1st Round. ST. ...[HA, 28 Dec 1878.]

Oct 1880. Annual General Meeting.

The third session of the St. Albans Chess Club has just commenced.

The annual general meeting was held last week, when the officers for the ensuing year were elected. A tournament for places will be played as soon as possible, and matches with neighbouring towns arranged the' season advances.

The committee have engaged private room at the Queen's Hotel, where the club will hold its meetings Thursday evenings from six till eleven. It to be hoped that this purely intellectual game may find many votaries in the city, and that the club may as successful its matches as in previous years.

The committee will be glad to receive the names of any players in the city or neighbourhood, who have not already joined. Any information may be obtained from the Hon. Sec., Mr. G. F. Gibbs, London-road. [HA, 9 Oct 1880.]

Oct 1889. Chess by Telephone

Taking advantage of the completion the system of the National Telephone Company between St. Albans and Dunstable, a chess match between four representatives of the city and a similar number of players at Dunstable was arranged to be contested by means of the instrument.

On Tuesday evening a number of ladies and gentlemen interested in the game assembled at The Cottage, Prospect-road, St. Albans; Mr. Henry Watts having placed his house at the service of the players. An instrument with five or six receivers was provided, and the mode of operation being novel in the district was watched with great interest. Among those present were: Mr. and Mrs. Kenny, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, Mr. and Mrs. Travers, Mr. and Mrs Watts, Messrs. G. E. Wright, N. Rix, Wroot, R. L. Samuel, Slade, Fischer, Lindley, Barnes, &c.

Four games were played simultaneously, the competitors being: St. Albans - No.1 Mr. Travers, No. 2, Mr. Fischer, No. 3, Mr. Rogers, No. 4 Mrs Rogers. Dunstable - No1, Mr Knight, No. 2, Mr. George, No. 3, Mr. Buckmaster, No. 4, Mr., Collins.

Mr. Kenney was at the St. Albans instrument, and as the moves were made at each table, he announced them to the receiver at Dunstable, who in turn transmitted details of the play on the four boards at his end of wire.

Play lasted nearly four hours, when the games stood thus: No. 1 draw; No. 2 and 3 unfinished; No. 4, Mrs. Rogers resigned to Mr. Collins.All the games were conducted with considerable spirit. The unfinished games will be completed this (Friday) evening, play at St. Albans being at the North Western Hotel. [HA, 19 Oct 1889]

Dec 1889. Mr. Braund Simultaneous Exhibition

An exhibition of simultaneous play was held at the residence of Mr. Lindley, President of the St Albans Chess Club, on Thursday evening. Mr F. N. Braund, of Ware, undertook to play against all comers, and 10 of the strongest members of St. Albans Club accepted the challenge.

The following comprises the names of the players:- Mr J. Rogers, Mr. A. Cliffe, Mr. H. Lindley, Mr. W. Price, Mr H. Travers, Mr O. Wroot, Mr F. D. Kenny, Mr. A. Collings, Mr A. Willmott, and Mrs Rogers.

Play commenced at half-past six o'clock. lasting four hours. At the close, Mr. Braund had won five games, drawn four, and lost one. Mr. Lindley alone came off with winning honours. Messrs. Collings, Price, Cliff, and Mrs. Rogers drew their games respectively.

It speaks favourably of the strength of St. Albans Club, as in a previous exhibition at Ware, Mr Braund won every game. [HA, 14 Dec 1889.]

Nov 1892. Annual General Meeting.

The annual meeting of the St Albans Chess Club was held last week, when Mr. Lindley was re-elected president, and Mr. Rogers, secretary.

The financial statement was satisfactory, showing a fair balance in hand. Challenges have been issued to the Athenaeum (London), Luton, Barnet, and Watford Clubs. The last named club has accepted, and the match is being arranged.

It is intended, during the season to invite Herr Gunsberg and Mr Tinsley to give an exhibition of simultaneous display. [HA, 5 Nov 1892]

Feb 1893. Mr. Gunsberg at St. Albans. A Brilliant Performance

Members of the St. Albans Chess Club and their friends were afforded an opportunity on Saturday evening of participating in or watching games between the world-renowned chess player, Mr. Gunsberg and sixteen members of the St.Albans Chess Club. This is the first time so brilliant an exponent of chess - the most scientific of all games - has visited this city for the purpose of playing in public, and those who had an intimation that Mr. Gunsberg would play sixteen games simultaneously at the County Club promised themselves a profitable and instructive evening.

The local club did not make any efforts to get together a large company, the objective in view being to stimulate the interest of the members in the club, and to obtain an accession to the membership roll, rather than to achieve a public success. The news, however, that Mr. Gunsberg was coming leaked out, and consequently a good number of persons were present during the time the games were in progress.

The tables were arranged in semi-circular style in a convenient room, but the light was hardly so good as could be wished.The players who presided at the boards were well known local exponents of the game, and in playing sixteen games simultaneously Mr Gunsberg had set himself by no means an easy task. Shortly before eight o'clock the single player commenced play, and moving round very quickly he had soon given his numerous antagonists plenty to think about. The opening movements were very quickly performed, and not long had elapsed ere Mr. Gunsberg was vigorously attacking, and had got some of his opponents into difficulties.

Mr Lindley, who played the King's Gambit game was unable to withstand an exceedingly strong all-round attack, and soon resigned, his example being followed by Mr Travers, who played the centre Gambit. Mr. Gunsberg quickly developed a powerful attack with queen and bishops, and Mr. Travers, who was unable to extricate himself from his difficulties, gave up the struggle.

Meanwhile some interesting games were going on at other boards, three or four of the players offering an exceedingly stubborn defence, but Mr. Gunsberg gradually reduced the number, chiefly through bold, free play, rather than by working out complicated combinations. Mr. Moon, whose game at one time looked promised to be a most interesting one, made a false move at a critical period, and almost immediately afterwards he found himself in a hopeless position, and resigned.

The first player who had the honour of a draw was Mr. F. E. Carter, who opened with the King's Gambit, and not contenting himself with a defensive game, he pushed forwards a well-sustained attack, and forced the exchange of several pieces. The game was in a fairly even position when the draw was offered, and Mr Carter accepted it. The games at some of the other boards were now being rapidly bought to a close, and at about half-past nine there were only five players who had not succumbed, excepting, of course, Mr. Carter.

Mr Jeanes, of Watford, had a very good game, and prolonged the struggle with great skill, but a cleverly worked-out combination on the part of Mr. Gunsberg, forced him to resign; and soon afterwards Mr. Coupees, who had played with his customary caution, was checkmated. Messers. Cliff and H. Slade accepted draws with even positions, and Mr. J. Rogers also drew. He played a French defence, and in a very complicated position judiciously sacrificed his queen for rook and bishop, thus ensuring a draw, as the single player had nothing better left than perpetual check.

The following were the players and the results of their games:-

Mr Gunsberg1Mr. F.B. Gibson0
 "         "½Mr. F.E. Carter½
 "         "½Mr. Cliff½
 "         "1Mr Parker Dixon0
 "         "1Mr. C. T. Moon0
 "         "1Mr Lindley0
 "         "1Mr Coupees (Luton)0
 "         "½Mr. J. Rogers½
 "         "1Mr. Rhodes0
 "         "1Mr. Dillon0
 "         "1Mr. Willmott0
 "         "1Mr. Travers0
 "         "½Mr. H. Slade½
 "         "1Mr. Jeanes (Watford)0
 "         "1Mr Price0
 "         "1Mr. Helsby (Watford)0
total14total 2
[HA, 11 Feb 1893]

Feb 1893. Match Report: St Albans v Athenaeum

The St Albans Chess Club sustained their first defeat of the season on Saturday, at the hands of a team sent down by the Athenaeum, a well known powerful London club. Although badly beaten by their experienced adversaries the local team were not disgraced, and they feel confident of being able to render a better account of themselves in the return match, which will shortly take place in London.

Mr. Rogers was unfortunate in losing, as the appended copy of his game will show. Up to the 34th move he had a distinctly winning postion, but at that point an oversight wrecked his chances, and he then resigned. Mr. Cliff won his game for St. Albans from Mr. Ward after a stubborn fight, the latter losing a bishop in a brilliant but unsuccessful attack.

Mr. Lindley was hardly up to his usual form, and made a poor show against Mr. Carson, a rising young player, while Mr. Carter showed bad judgement in refusing an offer of a draw, a game which he ultimately lost. Messrs. Price and Gibson also lost games in the first round, the latter forfeiting a winning advantage through want of care in the finish. Messers. Travers and Debenham likewise failed to score, the latter being apparently unwell, and consequently quite out of form.

In the second round only four games were played, and the scoring was more even, as although Messrs. Lindley and Debenham again lost, Messers. Gibson and Travers each won for St Albans, the former, after sacrificiing a rook for a knight, obtaining a position which enabled him to easily win.

The following game played will be found worth a careful study:-

Mr. Peachey, Athenaeum v. Mr. Rogers, St. Albans

Sicilian Defence

Mr PeacheyMr RogersMr PeacheyMr Rogers
  White  Black  White  Black
 1. P-K4P-QB419. P-B3Kt-B3
 2. Kt-QB3Kt-QB320. B-B2Q-Q2
 3. B-B4P-KKt321. P-Q3Kt-Q4
 4. P-B4B-Kt222. P-QR4P-Kt5
 5. Kt-B3P-Q323. P x PKt x P
 6. CastlesKt-B324. B-Kt sqQR-B sq
 7. P-K5P x P25. R-R3P-K4
 8. P x PKt x P26. Kt-R5P x Kt
 9. B-Kt5 chKKt-Q227. Q x PP-KB4
10. Kt x Kt B x Kt28. P-Q4Q-KB2
11. Q-K sqB-K5 ch29. Q-R4Q-KB2
12. K-R sqCastles30. R-R3B-B3
13. Kt-Q5P-K331. Q-R6K-R sq
14. Kt-B4P-QR332. R x PQ-Kt2
15. B-B4P-QKt433. Q-R5B x P
16. Q-K4R-Kt sq34. B-R6R x R
17. B-Q3B-Kt235. B x Q chResigns.
18. Q-K2B-Kt2

The final scores were as follows:- , [HA, 18 Feb 1893]

Nov 1898. S. Tinsley Simultaneous

The first match of the season took the form of a simultaneous display given by Mr. S. Tinsley, on Wednesday, at the County Club.

Of his opponents, Mr. Travers and Mr. P. Lindley each won one and lost one, and Mr. Flear succeeded in drawing. The rest of the players, viz., Messers. Collings, Townson, Gilpin, L. Lindley, Bartoch, E.R. Mitchell with Mr Buckmaster (Watford), and Messers. Cliff and Lucas (Harpenden), all lost one game each. [HA, 19 Nov 1898]

Sept 1900. Annual General Meeting.

Record of the Local Club. After a lapse of three years, a [general] meeting of the members of the St. Albans Chess Club was held at the County Club on Wednesday evening. Mr. Lindley presided, and others present included Messrs. F. W. Flear, H. A. Slade, A. Collings. H Travers, E. Townson, R. Ironmonger, and J. J. W. Rogers, with the Hon. Sec.,Mr. E. R. Mitchell.

The Club's History. The Hon. Secretary at the outset read a brief statement as to the progress of the Club. This was to the effect that October 7th, 1897, a meeting of the local chess players was held the Temperance Hotel, London-road, when members and officers were elected, and arrangements were made for practice nights.

Early in March, 1898, the Club challenged the Watford Club for the County Cup, but in consequence of difficulties which presented themselves as to the most convenient dates for contest, the clubs did not meet in competition for the trophy during that season. The St. Albans Club, however, had an encounter with the Watford Club on Jan. 20th of the present year, and were then victors by eight games to five, thus securing the cup.

During the 1899-1900 season silver castle was also bought out of the funds of the Club, to be competed for annually by members in a handicap tournament ,to won three times in all by one member before becoming his absolute property. The players of the first tournament were drawn against each other by lot for the first round, the winners of the first round being drawn again for the second round, and so on; the best of three decisive games declare the winner. This tournament proved an interesting one and was won Mr. Townson.

A record of the matches in which the Club has taken part is of interest, and results to prove that St. Albans have chess-players who are means novices at the game. The record for the post season shows that out of the matches played with Watford, Harpenden, and Luton, 42 games were won and 26 lost.

Financially, too, the Club is in satisfactory state, although the balance in hand of £4 1s. 5d. at the end of 1899, has been reduced 6s. 7d. This diminution is accounted for by the purchase of the silver castle at a cost of £5.

The Membership. It was stated by the Hon. Secretary, in answer to a member, that the membership of the Club was about twelve. Mr. FIear proposed that the report and statement of accounts should be adopted, and expressed the indebtedness of the Club to the Hon. Secretary for the excellent report he had rendered.

The Committee. On the proposition of Mr. Slade, seconded by Mr. Ironmonger, Messrs Collings, Townson and Travers were chosen as a committee.

Nights of Meeting. A discussion arose as to the advisability of a change in the night of the meeting. Wednesday, it was explained, was an inconvenient night for some members, and it was decided to alter it to Thursdays.

The Hon. Secretary's Work. The President expressed the thanks of the Club to Mr. E. R. Mitchell for the capable manner in which he had their affairs during the past three years, and formally proposed that he should be re-elected to that post. - Mr Collings seconded, and Mr. Mitchell having expressed his willingness to again take office, he was unanimously re-elected.

The Presidency. Mr Flear, in cordial terms, proposed the re-election of Mr Lindley to the position of President of the Club, and it was unanimously agreed to.- The President expressed his willingness to act in that capacity, and observed the results of the last three years had been a great deal more encouraging than those of previous years. He should be happy to continue to do anything he could to to further the interests of the Club.

The Castle. It was decided that the silver castle won in the tournament should be handed to Mr. Townson with the congratulations of the Club upon having been successful in securing it.

A vote of thanks to the President concluded the meeting. [HA, 15 Sep 1900.]

Sept 1901. Founding of Hertford County Chess Association.

A meeting of representatives of the different Chess Clubs in the county was held on Tuesday last at the City of London Chess Club. Delegates were sent by the Bishop’s Stortford, St. Albans, Watford, and Harpenden Clubs. Mr. F. W. Flear (St. Albans), with whom lay the inception of the Association, was appropriately voted to the chair.

Rules were drawn up, amended and adopted, and a secretary chosen in Mr. A. C. Buckmaster, of Harpenden, a gentleman who has had experience in a similar capacity to the Watford Chess Club when resident there. This was the most important thing settled, as with a new Association acting over a large district with very bad or no communication between the important centres, the work of a Secretary is not to be envied. The committee is to be composed of a representative elected by each club affiliating, and vice-presidents, who will act as representative of unnattached members.

A vote of thanks was passed to the City of London Club (the M.C.C. of the Chess World) for having generously lent their rooms for the meeting, and a vote of thanks to the Chairman concluded the business. It is expected that ere long the new Association will give good account of itself. [HA, 14 Sep 1901]