Yorkshire Chess History



1871: Yorkshire v Lancashire











Made in Yorkshire



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The first match billed as “Yorkshire v Lancashire”, was played at the West Yorkshire Chess Association annual meeting held at the Victoria Hotel, Bradford (conveniently adjacent to the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway station), on Saturday 20th May 1871.


The report in the Bradford Observer of 22/05/1871 reported on the match as follows:


The county match was a most exciting contest, and some of the games lasted such a length of time that, by the time the Lancashire players had to leave, they were not concluded.  Several of them, therefore, had to be drawn.  It was agreed that it should be left for future consideration whether the match should be considered drawn, or the players should meet at times and places to suit their own convenience and play it out.  The prize for the winning county was given by the Bradford Chess Club.  It consisted of a set of the best African ivory chess-men, of the Staunton pattern and club size, with a chess-board and casket.  The casket was made of a black substance resembling ebony, and was beautifully carved, so as to be emblematical of the game.  The whole is worth £11 11s.  The players on the two sides were paired according to their strength, and each couple had to play two games each.  In the list given below, which shall show how the games stood when play ceased, the players are arranged in the order of their strength: -








[Amos Burn]


Burn, (Liverpool)


Watkinson, (Huddersfield)

[John Watkinson]





[J. Lord]


Lord, (Manchester)


Rev. A. B. Skipworth, (Bilsdale)

[Rev.Arthur Bolland Skipworth]





[John Soul]


Soul, (Liverpool)


Werner, (Halifax)

[Maximilian Edward Werner]





[G. Dufresne]


Dupresne [sic], (Liverpool)


Whitman, (Huddersfield)

[Channing Wood Whitman]





[A. Steinkühler]


Steinkühler, (Manchester)


Parratt, (Huddersfield)

[Walter Parratt, res. Wigan]





[F. Grübe]


Grube, (Manchester)


Young, (Wakefield)

[John William Young]





[J. B. Burnett]


Burnet, (Manchester)


J. H. Finlinson, (Huddersfield)

[Joseph Henry Scott Finlinson]





[Henry Edwin Kidson]


Kidson, (Liverpool)


Stokoe, (Leeds)

[Thomas Young Stokoe]





[Matthew Bateson Wood]


Wood, (Manchester)


Petty, (Bradford)

[Joshua Petty]





[Thomas Johnson]


Johnson, (Bolton)


W. Fieldsend, (Bradford)

[William Fieldsend]









(includes the draws)


with “u” denoting 6 games unfinished and 3 consequently unstarted.

[The names in square brackets are the writer’s understanding of the identities of the players.]


The above result table is presented differently from how the Observer printed it.  Where a pair of players completed both their games, there was no indication of the order in which they were played.  Colours weren’t specified.  “Dupresne” was printed in error for “Dufresne”.  In reproducing the above results in the British Chess Magazine of 1884, John Watkinson added initials missing from the above, though failed to distinguish between drawn and unfinished games.


C. W. Whitman was a consular agent for America, resident in Huddersfield, and who had a reputation himself for playing blindfold.


The Observer continued:


From the above it will be seen that only nine games of the twenty were concluded, and that and that Yorkshire won five and Lancashire 4, so at present it remains in favour of the home county.


The Chess Players’ Quarterly Chronicle, Vol. II, 1870 & 1871, page 282, carried a report of the meeting and of the county match.  Whilst the Bradford Observer had listed two drawn games as distinct from unfinished (including unstarted) games, it didn’t take into account the draws in summarising the totals to date, and the Chronicle didn’t mention the draws at all in its own rendering of the result table.  Usually such reports in the Chronicle would be based on a copy of the text submitted also to the newspapers or a newspaper cutting, but in this case the Chronicle’s editor, the Rev. Skipworth, was present in person.  Regarding the county match, the Chronicle gave the following:


The Bradford Club gave a handsome prize for the County Match – an ivory set of the Staunton Chess Men, with a Board, costing altogether, we believe, £11 11s.  The players on each side were paired, we were told, partly by arrangement and partly by lot, and two games were to be played by each pair, as far as time would allow.  The play in the match did not commence generally until after two o’clock, consequently many of the games were unfinished, and considered drawn.


[Here followed the result table, with the 4-5 score-line in Yorkshire’s favour.]


Yorkshire thus winning, according to the regulations, by the odd game.  While we mention, on the Lancashire side, the names of Messrs. Burn and Lord, two gentlemen well known as strong players in the Metropolitan chess circle, we regret the absence from the county contest of such men, on the Yorkshire side, as Mr. Cutler, Sheffield; Mr. Ball, York; Rev. O. A. Manners, Hawnby; Mr. Brown, Whitby; Mr. Grimshaw, Whitby; Mr. Walker, Hull; many of whom were specially invited.  If we except Mr. Skipworth, the county was represented only by West Riding players.  There are always difficulties in a match of this description, but the committee met them in a liberal spirit – perhaps their greatest difficulty is yet to come.  Yorkshire has won the prize, but who is to represent the county, and hold it.?  The prize is now a county one, and a public one, and we hope the question is not out of place, nor the suggested solution which follows.  We think the prize ought to be played for, the competition (open to every Yorkshireman) to be annual, until some player succeeds in winning it twice, when he should be allowed to claim it as his own – a well earned prize, when Yorkshire possesses so many good players.


Thus the Rev A.B. Skipworth was advocating the inauguration of an annual Yorkshire Individual Championship, for which the ivory chess set and board would be the trophy.  This was, of course, all based on the idea that Yorkshire had won the match and hence “Yorkshire”, as opposed to the West Yorkshire Chess Association, owned the ivory chess set and board.  In time he might have been advocating that WYCA become a Yorkshire Chess Association in name as well as nature-by-default.


Those to whom Skipworth alluded when lamenting their absence from the Yorkshire included George Octavius Cutler (Sheffield), Alfred Ball (York), Rev. Otho Augustus Manners (Hawnby), and Walter Grimshaw (Whitby).  Mr. Brown of Whitby may have been a misprint referring to Thomas Bourn (Whitby).  “Mr. Walker, Hull” was probably James Walker, but possibly W. Walker or Albert Walker of Hull.


In its next issue, the Chronicle published the following:


YORKSHIRE v LANCASHIRE.- We have been officially informed that the match which was recently played at Bradford, will probably be considered drawn, the conditions not having been understood by all parties.  Though Yorkshire was one game ahead at the conclusion of the day’s play, the unfinished games (not of course including the several never commenced) were in favour of Lancashire.  It is not improbable that arrangements may shortly be made for a return match to be played in Manchester.  The conditions being misunderstood, will account for the statement in our last, that Yorkshire had won the match.


The records of Bradford Chess Club (held in West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford) record that the club had initially raised the eleven guineas for the ivory chess set, board and cask by chipping in £5 from club funds and raising the difference by private subscription.  Later they relate an amusing sequence of events.  After the match, a member of the club took the ivory chess set and board home for safe keeping, while arrangements were commenced for a return match.  That return match never materialised, and the club member, holding the ivory set and board resigned from the club, but didn’t return the set and board.  Thereafter, repeated attempts were made to retrieve the set and board.  The matter was eventually taken to court, but the judge refused to entertain the case due to the Bradford Chess Club being “neither a registered society nor an organisation for the propagation of arts or sciences”, and the club had to pay the costs.





Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann

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