Yorkshire Chess History
Sheffield Chess League
When the Sheffield & District Chess Association was formed in 1883, its purpose was more to present a single “Sheffield” chess organisation to the outside world than to organise team competitions between the constituent clubs. Club secretaries were already accustomed to arranging team matches between their clubs, usually one match at the home of one club, then another (the “return” match) at the home of the other club. It was some time before a formal all-play-all team competition was instituted by the S&DCA.
What follows below, on this page, is a summary of the development of the Sheffield Chess League. Greater detail is to be found elsewhere, as follows:
(List to be expanded in time.)
Start of the Sheffield Chess League
The Sheffield & District Chess Association instituted a formal inter-club team competition, known from the outset as the Sheffield Chess League, in 1893. For the first 12 seasons it was contested “for honour only”, which is to say there was no trophy for the competition.
The idea of establishing a formal inter-club chess team league in Sheffield was probably a topic of discussion during the season 1892-93, and at the 1893 S&DCA Annual General meeting*, held on Friday 06/10/1893 at the Clarence Hotel, the idea of forming a league was discussed at length, ending in a decision to form one. Devising a set of Rules for the league was delegated to the committee. [*Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, 09/10/1893]
In 1892-93, there had been only four clubs affiliated to the S&DCA, apart from the patriarchal Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club, namely Arundel (& Hallamshire), Rotherham (Liberals), Stocksbridge Institute and West End.
There seem to have been at least a further seven chess clubs in existence in Sheffield at the time, which were not affiliated to the S&DCA, namely All Saints Institute, Attercliffe, Blind Institution, Cornish Place, Heeley I.L.P., Hillsborough and Wycliffe Institute. However, after the decision to institute a league, St. Peter’s, Walkley and the YMCA affiliated to the Association, bringing the number of clubs up to eight. Of these eight, the Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club did not enter the league, but a number of its members participated as members of other clubs. Thus the initial season of the league featured seven teams, one from each competing club.
The format decided on was the still-standard all-play-all twice, once at home and once away. Final placing was to be on the basis of match points (scoring one, half and no points for won, drawn and lost matches respectively). As regards number of boards was concerned, a system was instituted whereby one team had the right to specify the number of boards, presumably within certain limits. Such a rule existed in the Yorkshire league, whereby the smaller town, by population, had the right to specify the number of boards. In the Sheffield League the smaller club presumably had the right, though it may conceivably have been the visiting team.
Introduction of the Davy Trophy
In 1909, Ernest Richards Davy presented the Davy Trophy as a memorial to his father, Arthur Davy, for contest in the existing Sheffield Chess League. The new trophy was first contested in the season 1909-1910.
Introduction of the Weston Trophy
It soon became clear that there were more clubs than were appropriate for the Davy Trophy, both as regards number and strength of teams. Accordingly, it was decided to institute another team competition, for what might be regarded as “minor” clubs, and Edward Weston donated the Weston Trophy for the new competition, the first season of which was 1914-15. There was at this stage no provision for promotion and relegation between the two competitions, nor were second teams of clubs with teams in the Davy Trophy competition admitted to the Weston Trophy competition in the early years.
First World War
Many chess leagues ground to a halt due to the First World War. Sheffield was lucky in that the Davy family made premises at one of their cafes available for chess matches throughout the course of the war. Thus both the Davy Trophy and Weston Trophy competitions continued un interrupted throughout the war, all matches being play at Davy’s cafe.
Little changed between the World Wars, except that second teams became eligible to enter the Weston Trophy, and promotion and relegation were introduced at some stage.
Second World War
The 1938-39 competitions for both the Davy Trophy and the Weston Trophy were completed, but both competitions then ceased due to the effects of war. The Sheffield Works Chess League was similarly suspended during the war.
The rate at which local chess clubs and associations got going again after the Second World War varied. It was evident that not enough clubs had got back on their feet for all pre-war competitions to be resumed for 1944-45. There were insufficient teams for either the Association or the Works leagues to resume as normal, so the Davy Trophy alone was resumed for 1944-45, and it contained teams from both the Association and the Works, there being 12 teams in all, 7 from the pre-war Association and 5 from the pre-war Works.
The resurrection of more clubs enabled the Weston Trophy competition and the Works league to be resumed for 1945-46. Two Works clubs which had contested the Davy in 1944-45 immediately returned to the Works League for 1945-46, but three remained in the Sheffield & District Chess Association’s league. With the resumption of the Weston Trophy competition for 1945-46 it was necessary to relegate 2 teams from the Davy, to reduce the number of teams to the stipulated 8 teams, both being Works teams. However, a third Works team, Laycocks, was strong enough to keep its place in the Davy Trophy competition for 5 seasons before being relegated to the Weston Trophy.
Introduction of the Batley-Meek Memorial Trophy
In 1948 a third division was instituted. No donor of a new trophy stepped forward, so the Association secured a trophy for the new, third division, naming it the Batley-Meek Memorial Trophy, contested for the first time in the season 1948-49.
Return to Two Divisions
The third division lasted initially for 13 seasons, but for 1961-62 the number of teams entering the league sank below the 21 felt to be the minimum to sustain three divisions. For 1961-62 there were only 19 teams, and the third division was discontinued for 14 seasons, until things picked up again. For 1972-73 the number of teams entering the league sank to the lowest level since 1944-45, with only 15 teams entering.
Despite the “low” of 1972-73, for 1973-74 there were 19 teams; the 11 Weston Trophy teams playing each played 2 matches against 6 or its opponents, but only 1 against the other four opponents. Then for 1974-75 there were 26 teams, with the 18 Weston Trophy teams playing a 17-match single-round all-play-all competition. The Batley-Meek was not re-introduced at this stage, as the splitting of teams between the second and third divisions would have been too contentious. Instead, new rules were adopted to come into force for 1975-76 onwards, and clubs knew that the outcome of the 1975-76 Weston Trophy competition would be used to determine the teams staying in the Weston, and those being relegated to the Batley-Meek competition.
Prior to 1975-75, the standard number of teams in the Davy Trophy was 8. For 1975-76, the new rules were implemented. These rules provided for 9 being the standard number of teams in the higher divisions.
This rule change was timely, as for 1975-76 there were 29 teams. Consequently the Davy Trophy and Weston Trophy competitions each had 9 teams, and the Batley-Meek competition had 11 teams. This entry of 29 participants (excluding withdrawals) was not exceeded until 1980-81.
For 1980-81, There were 36 team entries into the league. This precipitated a decision to plan for a fourth division in 1981-82, and the Batley-Meek teams knew the 1980-81 competition would determine the split of teams between third and fourth divisions of 1981-82.
Introduction of the Athenaeum Cup
As luck would have it, a member of the family of the person who had won outright the club championship trophy of the Athenaeum Chess Club back in 1888 contacted the present writer (then General Secretary of the S&DCA) as he’d decided to make the trophy available to the Sheffield & District Chess Association. (For details see Sheffield Athenaeum Chess Club Championship Trophy.) Accordingly, what is now called the Athenaeum Cup was introduced as the trophy for the new, fourth division.
The uncomfortable arrangements arising from a large unwieldy bottom division for a season, before a new division is formed, was overcome by a revision of the rules so that the number of divisions was explicitly determined by the number of teams entering the league. Thus each division other than the lowest has 9 teams, and the lowest division has a minimum of 6 teams and a maximum of 14.
The magic number of teams needed to trigger the introduction of a fifth division was 42 or more, and in time that was reached [when?].
Introduction of the P. H. Charles Trophy
When progressive expansion triggered the formation of a fifth division, former S&DCA president Peter H. Charles undertook to provide a trophy for the new, fifth division of the Sheffield Chess League. This is known as the P. H. Charles Trophy (or simply Charles Trophy).
Since its first appearance, the fifth division disappeared for a while [when?], due to the number of teams in the league falling below 42, but in 2007-2008 the fifth division came back into existence and has continued to the present (2013-2014).
Copyright © 2014, 2015 Stephen John Mann