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The First Leeds Chess Club?


The present Leeds Chess Club has long been regarded as dating from 1834, that date having been quoted on sets of rules, reports etc since the 1800s.  Nevertheless, “Leeds” contested correspondence games in the 1820s (see 1824-1825 Liverpool-Leeds, Correspondence Game).  On the face of it, this could have been either a formally constituted “Leeds Chess Club”, or a less formal group of chess-players who constituted an informal Leeds chess club (with lower-case c’s).


There is evidence of a formally constituted Leeds Chess Club in the 1820s was once found in a copy of Chess Essays, by “a Hindoo”, published in Bombay, in 1814, residing in the Manchester Central Free Reference Library.  This volume had on its flyleaf the faded but clearly legible inscription, “Leeds Chess Club, Novem. 1820, No. 5.”  This looks like a book formerly in a Leeds Chess Club’s library.  The person accidently locating this book – it had been listed in a catalogue adjacent to the book that person had been looking for – reported this finding in an article in the Manchester Evening News, and this article was then quoted in the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement of 23/03/1889.


The Second Leeds Chess Club?


There seem two possibilities as to the origin of the present Leeds Chess Club: that a Leeds Chess Club extant in 1820 was organised enough to have a library, but had lapsed before 1834, and was then replaced by a new Leeds Chess Club in 1834; or else the present Leeds Chess Club at some stage mistakenly assumed the date “1834” on a set of club rules (or similar) represented the date of foundation of the club rather than simply the date of origin of that set of rules (or whatever).  The former seems the more likely possibility, though something like a notice, in a newspaper, of the formation of the second club, would be needed if one were to be sure.





Copyright © 2014 Stephen John Mann

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