For Leamington Chess Club, the past year was rather low-key. We fielded two teams in the Leamington & District Chess League. The A-team in Division One finished sixth out of eight, ahead of Solihull B and OltonB, winning four matches, drawing one, and losing nine. The B-team came bottom of Division Three, with two wins, two draws, six losses, and disappointingly, two matches defaulted. In the League Open Knock-Out Competition we exited in Round One, losing to Shirley & Wythall: our Under-120 team did make it to the second round, thanks to a bye, only to be defeated by Daventry.
Tom Darling flew the flag for Leamington in the League’s individual competitions. Though not progressing too far in the Open Knock-out, he must be congratulated on winning the Rapid-play. For overall performance in league matches, Andy Collins deserves mention, with an average of 50% on Board One for the A-team, against very high-graded opposition. Ben Eigid also had a good season, mainly on Two, but with occasional outings on top board. If only these two had been better supported on Boards Three and Four – and I have to plead guilty here – then Leamingotn A would have been respectably placed in Division One. In the last B-Team match of the season, Jacob Preston-Bridges, our youngest member, played his first game for the club, which he drew.
Over the past year we have missed the contributions of four previously active members – Jason Madden, Nigel Morris, Ola Olaleye, and Andy Price. Jason, apparently, is now withdrawing from his Leamington League activities as well, and is unlikely to return to us any time soon. Perhaps there is some hope that Nigel and Ola might reappear, should their work commitments change. However, I understand that Andy Price no longer wishes to play league chess, and is leaving us. If so, this is a very sad loss: Andy has been a mainstay of the club for decades. To find the actual year he first joined, we need to consult the old Treasurer’s Book in the archive – it was in the late 1970s, I think.
Undoubtedly, the absence of these four good players was a contributory factor in our poor league performance this season. But we should take a long view, always bearing in mind that the club has been in continuous existence since 1851. Inevitably there will be comings and goings, peaks and troughs. Back in December 1873, the Leamington Courier, no less, declared in an editorial that the Chess Club was “dying of inanition” – a word seldom seen in local newspapers these days; it means “exhaustion due to lack of nourishment.” But then a club member wrote in to say this was a mistake, comparing the club to “a smouldering fire which only, I believe, requires poking up and fresh materials added to render it lively again, and make it afford genial warmth and produce activity and interest.” Well, here we are, nearly 150 years on from that low point. Leamington Chess Club continues with the same ethos; and still provides the opportunity to play chess regularly, whether at a social or at a more competitive level.