Yorkshire Chess History

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Narrative: 2) Formation of the Original Yorkshire Chess Association











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The lack, for most players, of opposition outside their own clubs could severely limit the variety of styles of play encountered, so limiting the extent to which players could increase their skill.  Indeed, players could develop styles of play based on the weaknesses of their opponents, styles which might in fact be flawed, though they might be adequate to defeat other players in the club concerned.


This was expressed in a write-up of the second meeting of the Yorkshire Chess Association, held on 8th November 1841, as follows:

In almost all provincial clubs some one style of play often predominates, - a strong mannerism (if we may use the expression) runs through the chess notions of all the members, and wherever this peculiarity exists, it always operates as a serious obstacle to attaining any high degree of efficiency.


Medley’s way of expressing this, writing in 1862, was:

“Isolated as they were a quarter of a century ago by the difficulties of intercommunication, chess-players in general knew but little of each other.  The disadvantages arising from this cause were plainly apparent in the provincial clubs, whose members rarely, if ever, enjoyed the privilege of a visit from an eminent player, and who, therefore, not having before them any high standard of play, were apt to acquire a mannerism prejudicial to the attainment of any great degree of skill.  To remedy this state of things as far as possible was one of the principal objects of the founders of the Yorkshire Chess Association.”


This problem was addressed in the clothing district of the West Riding of Yorkshire.  Two Wakefield chess-players, Edward Shepherd, governor of Wakefield House of Correction, and William Ledgar Robinson, a steward at the same institution, dreamt up the idea of a one-day chess meeting at which players from various different clubs in Yorkshire would convene to play against each other.


This idea was embraced by Leeds Chess Club’s secretary, John Rhodes, its treasurer Robert Cadman, and club member Robert Alexander Brown, and consequently there was formed an association of clubs, the first of its kind, called the Yorkshire Chess Association, with the intention of holding annual meetings of Yorkshire chess-players, to enable individuals to play opponents from clubs other than their own.


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Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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