by Jeff Maynard
The Chess Club was one of the longest-running school societies. In my day (1962-69) it was mainly - but not completely - frequented by the younger boys, and had accumulated an eclectic assortment of chess sets, boards and chess clocks. The Abelson Cup for Chess was donated to the School in memory of Mr. Stevens, a Master at Harrow County. It is now in the School Archives. Read below for extracts from chess club reports, and reminiscences about the Chess Club.
1920-22 Click for an informal photograph of the Chess Club.
1926 from The Gaytonian, November 1926: We are now commencing our second season, and it promises to be a successful one. The average attendance at our weekly meetings is about sixteen, and there is room for many more as Mr. Woodall (our President) has kindly offered to make the number of our boards up to twelve. Secretary: F. M. Cook.
1937-38 The Secretary of the Chess Club from October 1937 to December 1938 was K. H. Williams.
1947-53 Colin Dickins remembers: "The Chess Club was the only thing I did rather well at school. I played second board for several years to Nigel Walsh's first. We played endlessly together and he was just that little bit better than me. Neither of us ever really studied the game, but the blessed Henry White, Secretary for some years, was for ever immersing himself in books on openings and master games - and then failing almost invariably to make them tell against Nigel or me. (His researches did, however, provide us with some of the technical substance we were too idle to acquire by our own efforts!)
1948 Colin Dickins: "Mr. Stevens restarted the School Chess Club in 1948, not because he was much of a player but because he thought a school of our standing ought to play chess. I was eternally grateful. Sadly, he died in harness and it was not until decades later that I discovered that he took his own life."
1948 from The Gaytonian, December 1948: This term has seen the forming of a chess club under the guidance of Mr. Stevens. There are 45 members, and meetings take place each dinner-hour and for half-an-hour on Friday afternoons. The club has been represented by Coules, Dodds, Jacketts, Oberst, Catton and Schonbeck against Merchant Taylors School, whose team was, however, too experienced for us. We hope for more success against neighbouring County Schools. W.S.
1949 from The Gaytonian, March 1949: The end of this term will mark the end of the first post-war chess season... The School chess team has beaten all county school teams it has met so far. [Preston Manor County School, Pinner County School, Wembley County School, Harrow Weald County School]. Jacketts has played in all these matches and won all his games. W.S.
1950 from The Gaytonian, December 1950: At the moment the Chess Club is in a very deplorable state and its sole assets seem to be five and a half chess sets and a large number of keen players (not all very good). It has forty-five members, well over half of whom are from the junior school. Therefore, any new members from the upper school are cordially invited.
Although only re-organised just before half-term, a team has been selected and one match has been played. This was against Harrow Weald County School, who beat us by five boards to three. A.R.T.
1952 from The Gaytonian, December 1952. The Club sustained a great loss early in the term in the sudden death of Mr. Stevens, our President, who had done such a great deal to further chess in the School. We are, however, fortunate in obtaining the offices of Mr. Goff as the new President. H. T. D. White - Honorary Secretary.
1953-54 from The Gaytonian, December 1953. Officers, Season 1953-4: Captain, H.T.D.White, Hon. Secretary, J.J.Wilkes, Hon. Treasurer, B.J.C. Russell.
The thanks of the club are again due to Messrs. Goff and Marchant for their continued help and encouragement.
1954-55 from The Gaytonian, October 1955. During the first two terms of last year the Club had record attendances and it was found necessary to divide it into two sections. ... The indivual performances of Deeth were often the mainstay of the team, indeed he won all his matches; Mabbs, Holley, Vincent, Chalker, Drinkwater and Capstick played consistently. The Junior team was of a largely experimental nature and Peachey, Biggs and Colledge played in most fixtures.
This year ... W. S. Deeth became London Schoolboy's Chess Champion, was sixth in the British Boys' Championship, and was a member of the English Schoolboys' Chess Team which won the International Championship at Dublin (he also won all his matches).
1955 The School Team has had a successful year, regaining, jointly with Latymer Upper School, the Abelson Cup. The competition is based upon the number of boards won, the two teams winning the highest number of boards playing in the final. In the two previous fixtures the finalists each won a a game by 3 1/2 to 2 1/2 boards, and were therefore evenly matched.
It is most satisfactory to report that the Club is now raised to the status of a representative Society of the School, and colours have been awarded to Deeth, Mabbs, Drinkwater, MacNamara and Holley. We would like to express our appreciation for the efforts of Mr. Goff and Mr. Marchant in running and attending to the working of the Club. Other officers for the past year were Deeth - Captain and Mabbs - Treasurer. A. Drinkwater - Hon. Secretary.
1956-60 Brian Slater remembers: "It was here that I discovered that there were some really bright people around. They are not just more clever because they work harder. They are out of sight, on another planet. I played reasonably well, but no matter how I tried, I never got beyond a certain level. One pal I played, “Tank” Heywood, would always win. I asked if he studied tactics. “No” he said, “I am just better than you” and he was. So don’t worry about it, just do the best you can. That’s what I learnt."
1958-59 Although the School Chess Club has very few members from the Upper School to support it, the Club has flourished during the past season. Many younger players have shown themselves proficient, as the fact that four players under sixteen have been playing regularly in the senior team shows.
In the Sunday Times National Schools Tournament, the School managed to reach the zonal final, where they were beaten in a close match by Latymer Upper School. This compares favourably with the previous season, when the School was knocked out in the first round.
The general results were highly satisfactory, the Seniors having played 9, won 5, drawn 3 and lost 1. The Juniors played 5, won 3, drawn 1 and lost 1.
Chess colours were re-awarded to A. K. Abel, C. H. Diamond, and K. R. Taylor, and for the first time to A. S. Eldridge, D. M. Griffiths, L. C. Samuels and P. A. Victor.
The Senior House Tournament was won by Welldon, and the Junior by Kenton. Preston and Welldon shared the Abelson Cup for the overall Tournament.
Finally, we should like to thank Messrs. Goff, Marchant and Wright for their advice and encouragement, and Diamond, the Captain, and the other members for their help and co-operation. - A. K. Abel, Secretary.
1962-63: The school teams, drawn from a chess club of over one hundred members, again proved themselves to be two of the strongest in the county. The senior team gained second place, and the junior team fourth place in the Harrow Senior and Junior Chess Leagues. However, in the Sunday Times National Tournament the team was eliminated in the semi-final on age handicap.
At the invitation of the Chess Club, Mr. D. J. Mabbs (Captain 1958) gave a very successful simultaneous display at Gayton Fair:- Played 36, Won 28, Drew 5, Lost 3.
Those who represented the school senior team were:- D. Griffiths (Captain), P. Victor, L. Samuels, S. Wiseman, H. Levene, B. Worth, S. Trimms; and the junior team:- Prue, Jay, Slater, Holman, Fenge and Gee.
Finally, we thank Messrs. Goff and Wright for their help throughout the year.
1964 Click for the 1964 Chess Team photograph
1966-67 The School Senior Team was usually picked from the following seven people:- Catford (Captain), Fischel (Vice-Captain), Salmon, Prue, Liebner, Lewis, Gershon. Two others, Sones and Varsanyi, played for the Senior Team. The Junior Team was almost always the following four: Goldstein (Captain), Gill (Vice-Captain), Stevens, Solomons. - Leigh Lewis (Secretary)
1967-68 The school chess teams last year, although severely weakened by members leaving school or becoming over-age for the junior team, put up an extremely respectable performance for the Harrow Schools' Chess League and Sunday Times Competition. The Senior team led the league for much of the season, and not until the final fixture against Orange Hill, then lying third in the league, was our position decided. This crucial match we lost, so we finished the season third in the league, one point behind Orange Hill, the winners, and 1/2 point behind Salvatorian College. The Juniors had a very good success and finished the season in second place.
The school team had its best season ever in the Sunday Times National Chess Knockout Competition. Several hundred teams from all over the country took part and we reached the semi-final of our zone, eventually losing to Glyn Grammar School, Ewell.
We are indebted to Mr. Wright for allowing Chess Club to meet every Tuesday and Thursday, and for his presence at every home match.
Senior Team (from): R. Fischel (colours), L. Lewis (colours), R. Liebner (copours),
A. Goldstein, R. Newman, R. Gershon.
Junior Team: P. Gill, D. Stevens, D. Segal, S. Rockall.
C. C. A. Coote (Secretary)
1971-72 Chess Colours were awarded to M. Rosenblatt and D. Green.
1998 The School, now renamed Harrow High School, has a life-size chess set in the Inner Quad.
2002 The Harrow High School Prospectus mentions that there is a Chess Club.