Yorkshire Chess History



The Northern and Midland Counties Chess Association











Made in Yorkshire



Sheffield Sub-Site




The meetings of the original Yorkshire Chess Association attracted visitors from outside the county, but for most players the limitations of transport of the time meant that geographical catchment area of the YCA was primarily focussed on the clothing district of West Yorkshire.  Even Sheffield was remote, in terms of personal one-day return travel, from the original YCA meeting.


Nevertheless, the growth of organised chess in Yorkshire coincided with the development of communications, especially the railway system.  This was specifically commented on at the time by C. Paget of Ruddington (village south of Nottingham), High Sherriff of Nottinghamshire, who as chairman of the 1844 meeting of the Nottingham Chess Club, which was attended by players from the Yorkshire Chess Association.  His remarks during the dinner speeches, were reported by the Chess Player’s Chronicle, vol. V, 1844, on  pages 280-81,as follows:

One of the distinguishing features of the present times was railway travelling, by means of which distant localities were connected with each other, and the remotest parts of the country were placed, as it may be said, within visiting distances of each other.  None of the benefits showered upon trade and commerce by the quick transmission of merchandize, however, exceeded the advantages conferred upon society by the facility with which men of science from all parts of England or of Europe might be assembled together; and he believed the present meeting was indebted to steam for the presence of many of those gentlemen who surrounded that festive board.  Indeed, without the railway, he thought the players of Nottingham would never have had so good an opportunity of measuring their own skill with that of their Yorkshire friends.


It was against this background of expanding communications, most importantly the railway system, but also an improved postal system popularly referred to as the “penny post” (there was a restricted postal system before that), and improving telegraphic communications, that the Yorkshire Chess Association meeting of 1852 had expanded the scope of the Association, with a corresponding change in name, to Northern and Midland Counties Chess Association.


Three Meetings in Four Years


The first meeting of the rebadged Association was held in 1853, at Manchester, and the second meeting was held in 1854, at Liverpool.  These venues were the home towns of prominent players who in the past had from time to time attended meetings of the original Yorkshire Chess Association.  The new Association had not yet moved out of the “Northern” part of its nominal territory, into the “Midland” part.


The third meeting of the N&MCCA was held in 1855, at Leamington, which very definitely “Midland” rather than “Northern”.




The fourth meeting was to have been held in 1856, at Birmingham.  Plans went made by a committee in Birmingham, but due to what Medley limits himself to calling “circumstances”, the Birmingham meeting didn’t take place.


Influenced by plans to hold an Arts Treasures Exhibition in 1857, in Manchester, it was decided to hold the fourth N&MCCA meeting alongside this exhibition, so moving it back in the “Northern” part of the Association’s nominal territory.


The Manchester Chess Club set about organising the meeting of 1857, but it was decided to rename the Association again, this time by dropping any reference to geographical scope, and adopting the somewhat bald name “Chess Association”.  Quite were the authority to change the name came from is unclear.  The reasoning for the change in name was that the Association was in reality of nationwide scope, and this should be reflected in the name.  Arguably, it was a nationwide provincial chess association, rather than one into which the London clubs had sunk their claws.


Just as the expansion of the original YCA into the N&MCCA had deprived Yorkshire of its own local chess association, so too the expansion of the N&MCCA to a more-overtly national one came, in time, to deprive amateur chess-players outside London of their provincial amateur chess association.





Copyright © 2012 Stephen John Mann

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