Friday, 28 August 2015

Monmouthshire County Chess Association

The Early Years

By Gordon Cadden, Club President.
Copyright reserved.

1935 was a dramatic year for chess in Monmouthshire. JWF Greenleaf was the driving force, but it was the Working Men's Institutes in North Monmouthshire, which established the County Association, and eventually a Monmouthshire League.

Early in April, JWF Greenleaf, and senior committee members of the Newport Club, drove to Crumlin, together with representatives from the Abercarn, Blaina, Oakdale, and Tredegar Clubs. They probably convened at the Viaduct Hotel. In the chair was D.I.Jones, the former secretary of the Welsh Borders League, which was established 4th September, 1920, and flourished during the 1920's, but folded during the depression of the early 1930's.

It was unanimously decided to form a county chess association for Monmouthshire. JWF Greenleaf was duly elected honorary secretary and treasurer, and it was notified that Sir Henry Mather Jackson, Bart; C.B.E., was prepared to accept the Presidency.

There is no evidence of a Monmouthshire County League being established in the 1930's.

The most dramatic decision was to join the Southern Counties Chess Union. It must be remembered that the West of England Chess Association was not established until 1st June, 1947. It would mean having to travel long distance to county matches. There was no Severn Bridge, and the Beachley to Aust ferry was not reliable, closing early evening, and not operating in bad weather. It would also mean alienating Monmouthshire from the South Wales Chess Association. But the chess starved County players were eager to meet their adjoining English County Teams.

The first OTB match took place at the Kings Head Hotel, Newport, in November, 1935. Our opponents were the Gloucestershire County Team, over 16 boards. The more experienced Gloucestershire players dominated the match, which ended with Monmouthshire scoring 4 points, against Gloucestershire's 12 points. Our President, Sir Henry Mather Jackson, formerly welcomed the visiting team, and provided tea for all the visitors. R.O. Wickham, President of the Gloucestershire County Chess Association, formerly responded.

On 14th December, 1935, Monmouthshire played their first County match by telephone, against Dorsetshire. Because we were inexperienced at telephone match play, the British Chess Federation secretary, R.H.S. Stevenson, travelled to Newport, to act as Umpire. Match result: Dorsetshire 11 points Monmouthshire 5 points.

We were more successful with County Correspondence Teams. JWF Greenleaf played on top board for our correspondence team, and it is claimed that he never lost a game.

For the record, a list of M.C.C.A.senior officials during the early years:

Presidents

1935-1939 Sir Henry Mather-Jackson, Bart., C.B.E.
1946 Lord Tredegar
1947 -1954 H. Ivor-Smith (Newport)

Chairmen

1936-37 D.J.Jones (Blaina)
1937-1938 W.A. Jones (Newport)
1945-1946 N.W.C. Lee (Newport)
1946-1947 R.B.Herbert (Newport)
1947-1948 E.McHugh (Pontypool)
1948-1949 N.W.C. Lee
1949-1950 G.P.Pyle (Abertillery)
1950-1951 E.McHugh(Pontypool)
1951-1953 G.B. Eliot (Newport)

Secretaries

1935-1951 JWF Greenleaf
1951-1953 H.Golding (Noral)

1945 – The Abercarn club has dropped out of the Association, but Blackwood have joined. The Maindee club is still affiliated to the MCCA, but have no plans to join the League. They probably played friendly matches against Newport High School, and Newport Police. The 1946-1947 season commenced, with Abergavenny, Chepstow, and Pontypool joining the Association. Abergavenny did not list a Headquarters. Chepstow gave 13 High Street, Chepstow, and Pontypool gave 15 George Street, Pontypool. It should be noted that Abergavenny withdrew from the MCCA the following season. They may have had a problem finding a venue.

League Champions

1946-1947 Blaina
1947-1948 Blackwood
1948-1949 Newport and Tredegar
1949-1950 Blackwood
1950-1951 Tredegar
1951-1952 Newport "A"

The 1948-1949 season shows Abertillery joining, and Oakdale re-joining. The 1949-1950 and 1950-1951 season gives the same club structure for league matches. The Pontypool Club had moved to the Pontypool Educational Settlement at Panteg House. The County Team was getting stronger, with Dr Joseph Fine challenging for top board, and Colin Gilbert emerging as a new star player. 1950 was to be a very successful year for the county team, and their adventures into the Southern Counties Chess Union. Monmouthshire had reached the final of the Stevenson Minor Counties Trophy, and were scheduled to meet Hertfordshire in London, St. Bride Institute, on Saturday 6th May. Face to face with a Metropolitan Home County, Monmouthshire defied the odds, and defeated Hertfordshire. They arrived in triumph at Newport Rail Station, with JWF holding aloft the Stevenson Trophy. Their photograph was splashed across the South Wales Argus on the following Monday.

1950 – This year was the most successful in the history of the MCCA. We travelled to London and played Hertfordshire in the final of the Stevenson Trophy. The venue was St Bride Institute, Fleet Lane, EC4. Hertfordshire was left in a state of shock, that a County somewhere near South Wales, was taking the trophy with them. One can well understand the excitement in Monmouthshire; it was a very close match indeed. I have heard that JWF and young Colin Gilbert were carried shoulder high from Newport Rail Station.

We were congratulated by the editor of the British Chess Magazine, Brian Reilly, who unfortunately, made the disastrous mistake of describing Monmouthshire as "Western England". Subscribers to the B.C.M. included the libraries of the Working Men's Institutes in North Monmouthshire. This very contentious statement went down like a lead balloon. Indeed, it could be said that the editor of the B.C.M. had set in motion the movement to establish a Welsh Chess Union.

The County correspondence players also had a very successful year. The West of England Chess Union was established on 1st June, 1947, and Monmouthshire qualified to represent the West of England in the Final against the top team of the British Correspondence Chess Association.

Monmouthshire also qualified to play against a nationwide team, and came within an ace of defeating them.

The winner of the Monmouthshire League was the Blackwood Club. Newport's Dr Joseph Fine won the Individual Championship Trophy. The Abertillery Club had a successful year, with Dr Maria MacLean winning the Ladies Championship, and Eric Long the Boys U-18 Championship.

Stevenson's Trophy Final St. Brides Institute, Fleet Lane, London EC4.

MONMOUTHSHIRE HERTFORDSHIRE
Dr J. Fine 1 M. Rumney 0
H. Pugh 0 W.E. Pryer 1
J.B. McPherson 0 D.G. Durham 1
Dr H.V.M. Jones 0.5 W.C. Lewis 0.5
E. McHugh 0.5 H.J. Warren 0.5
W. Williams 0 J.W. Dickson 1
C.B. Eliot 1 J.A. Jepps 0
D. Reardon 0 J. Hakansson 1
A.S. Griffiths 1 H.G. Arnold 0
J.W.F. Greenleaf 0.5 E.J. Fairchild 0.5
A. Williams 0.5 H.L. Palmer 0.5
D. Price 1 J.R. Cheshire 0
I. Richards 0 P. Shapira 1
E. Long 0 W. Walker 1
Colin Gilbert 1 G.F.H. Packer 0
J.H.W. Roberts 1 H. Jacobsen 0
Francis Greenleaf 0.5 C.C. Sainsbury 0.5
J. Taynton-Evans 1 A.J. Thomas 0
Ed. Evans 1 W. Starling 0
M. Pedel 0.5 H. Green 0.5
11 9

1950 – It should be remembered that Correspondence Chess was very popular, and 1950 was a very successful year. I know that we still have correspondence players at the Pontypool and Newport clubs, and perhaps other clubs have correspondence enthusiasts. Monmouthshire was selected to play for the West of England, against a very strong team representing the British Correspondence Chess Association. You get an idea of the playing strength of our team, when you notice that the Monmouthshire OTB County Champion, is playing on board 10. A.S. Griffiths was the first winner of the Welsh OTB Championship in 1955.

WEST OF ENGLAND BRITISH CORRESPONDENCE CHESS ASSOCIATION
JWF Greenleaf 1 0.5 G.R. Mitchell 0 0.5
Dr H.V.M. Jones 0.5 0.5 H.F. Battersby 0.5 0.5
H. Pugh 2 T.H. Black 0
J.B. McPherson 0 J.A. Graham 2
A.S. Griffiths 0.5 0.5 J.W. Hastie 0.5 0.5
D. Price 0 E.C. Still 2
D. Reardon 2 S.M. Sawerby 0
W.J. Price 0 0.5 R.P.F. Rickard 1.05
R. Williams 1 J.G.A. Farrell 0
Dr J. Fine 0 J.M. Soesan 2
K.P. Hughes 2 R.A. McBrayne 0
11 11