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26/09/2022

Northern Chess Counties

 

When the Local Government Act of 1972 was implemented in 1974, a number of new “counties” were formed, mainly by aggregating areas of relatively high population, and often aggregating such areas on either side of a river or estuary which hitherto had formed a county boundary.  The “historic” counties were not in fact abolished, but the revised landscape, with its new “counties” (formally named as such) is what formed the structure of Local Government.  Thus, there were two main distinguishable county systems, the Local Government “counties” as defined by the 1972 Act, and the “historic counties” instituted by the Normans.  The concept of Lieutenancies muddies the picture further, but is ignored here, as it never affected chess.

 

The 1974 changes were less significant south of traditional NCCU territory.  (Unions do not concisely define their “territory” except in terms of the counties they admit into membership.)  West Midlands, Avon and the splitting of Sussex into East and West were ignored by chess, though in the world of draughts Avon became a competing county.  Way back in 1965, Middlesex was replaced by Greater London for Local Government purposes, with only slight boundary tweaking, and chess, like cricket, continued recognising the historic county of Middlesex as the relevant unit.

 

However, in the North, when new “counties” popped up in 1974, some at least were encouraged to consider affiliating to the NCCU.

 

There was no existing chess organisation equating to Tyne and Wear (the latter river being that on which Sunderland, in historic Co. Durham, is situated).  It appears Tyne & Wear Chess Association was ever formed.

 

In the new Cleveland, however, there was the Tees Side Chess Association which dated back to 1883.  The NCCU President of the day (Jim Rushton, also a later YCA President) encouraged the Tess Side CA to affiliate to the NCCU as “Cleveland”, which it did.  Cleveland encompassed the more-populace areas of historic Durham and Yorkshire either side of the Tees, but Yorkshire did not oppose Cleveland’s joining the NCCU.  Cleveland was abolished as a county in 1996, so becoming “newly historic”!  This non-existence might in part be why in recent years it has not been affiliated to the NCCU.

 

North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire never seriously entertained going it alone in chess, but East Yorkshire had identity problems!

 

Humberside combined a significant chunk of Yorkshire in the NCCU, including Hull, with a significant chunk of Lincolnshire in the MCCU.  All chess-players in Humberside, north and south of the river, knew where they really lived!  Then YCA secretary Dave Milton used “East Yorkshire” in his postal address.  The Hull & DCA asserted their county identity by affiliating to the YCA even at a time when the Association itself (as opposed to Hull Chess Club) did not compete in YCA events.  Humberside was also abolished in 1996.

 

Cumbria’s coming into being as a local government “county” had been anticipated by chess, and caused no problem.  Way back in 1938, the Cumberland CA and Westmorland CA had merged, and were accepted by the ECF (mainly for correspondence chess) and the NCCU, competing under the name “Cumberland & Westmorland CA”.  In 1958, Lancashire agreed that the Furness district be transferred for chess purposes to Cumberland and Westmorland, producing the “Cumberland, Westmorland & Furness CA”, reminiscent of the meteorologists’ “Cumberland, Westmorland and the Furness district of Lancashire” which was so often to be heard in radio weather forecasts.  “Cumbria” was thus just a name change as far as chess was concerned.

 

Merseyside CA was formed in 1977, and was admitted to the NCCU, apparently without opposition from any other counties.  Nevertheless, it relieved Cheshire of the relatively highly populated areas of the Wirral and other areas, and relieved Lancashire of its second city, Liverpool, as well as the populated coastal strip up to and beyond Southport.

 

Greater Manchester is of course centred on what was Lancashire’s largest city.  As “Manchester and District Chess Association”, what is now the “Manchester Chess Federation” was a founding unit of the British Chess Federation and as “Manchester Chess Federation” still is one of the constituent units of the English Chess Federation.  Prior to 1974, it had been in the nature of a large local chess association, but after the 1974 reorganisation the M&DCA became a county chess association known as Greater Manchester County Chess Association, later becoming the MCF.  Greater Manchester probably sensed some potential coolness toward the idea of them joining the NCCU, so they did in fact apply to join both the NCCU and the MCCU.  Somewhat humorously, the NCCU and MCCU AGMs of the year in question (presumably 1974) took place on the same day.  They were rejected by the NCCU but accepted by the MCCU.  Yorkshire at the time did cast votes for or against Manchester as such, but out of respect the feelings of the existing county possibly which stood to lose out significantly, namely Lancashire.  Thus Yorkshire resolved to vote as Lancashire voted, irrespective of which way that was.  This was rather like the way the chairman of a meeting, in making a “casting vote”, traditionally sides with the status quo.

 

The 2022 NCCU AGM is to be held on 8th October 2022 and is expected to entertain admission of the Manchester Chess Federation (playing as “Greater Manchester”) to the NCCU.  Besides NCCU Officials, each member county can field two delegates both of whom has a vote.  It remains to be seen which counties actually attend, some being inactive in inter-county team chess, and how many delegates each sends.  Yorkshire’s elected delegates to the NCCU are Rupert Jones and Steve Westmoreland.  The date in question is a Yorkshire League date, but both YCA delegates are expected at least to try to attend, in person or by Zoom.  The proposed resolution makes provision for the fact that some people living in Greater Manchester might nevertheless wish to play for Lancashire.

 

There are of course eligibility criteria other than residence, and the consideration of place of birth is being left as is, but some tightening up of meaning might have been desirable.  For a birth qualification, the question arises as to whether the test concerns which county the place of birth was in at the time of birth or whether it concerns which county the place of birth is in at the time of the match - or could it be either?  The ECF eligibility rules are similarly woolly.

 

Below is a diagrammatic representation of the shifting sands of “counties” and their boundaries, and whether current units are affiliated to the NCCU and whether they compete in NCCU county chess competitions.

 

Pre-1974 NCCU

Pre-1974 Counties

Post-1974 Counties

Post‑1996 Counties

Present Chess Units

NCCU Aff.

Competing

Northumberland

Northumberland

 

Northumberland

Northumberland

yes

yes

 

 

 

Tyne & Wear

(never a chess entity)

 

 

 

 

Durham

Durham

 

 

Durham

yes

no

 

 

 

Durham

 

 

longer

 

 

 

Cleveland

 

Cleveland

formerly yes,

Yorkshire

Yorkshire

(N Riding)

 

 

 

now no longer

 

 

 

N Yorkshire

Yorkshire

yes

yes

 

 

(W Riding)

W Yorkshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

S Yorkshire

 

 

 

 

 

(E Riding)

E Yorkshire

E Yorkshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humberside

(never a chess entity)

 

 

 

 

Lincolnshire (part)

 

Lincolnshire (part)

(Lincolnshire is in the MCCU)

Cheshire

Cheshire

 

Cheshire

Cheshire

yes

no

 

 

 

Merseyside &

Greater Manchester

Merseyside

yes

no

Lancashire

Lancashire

(major part)

(Greater Manchester is currently in MCCU)

 

 

(lesser part)

Lancashire

Lancashire

yes

yes

Cumbria

 

(Furness)

Cumbria

Cumbria

yes

yes

 

Westmorland

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cumberland

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 1974 Local Government reorganisation may well have been irreversibly detrimental to county chess in Cheshire, while “Cleveland” as a county is now merely a shadow of a brief past, yet as a local chess association, Cleveland CA still goes strong.