Celebrating 150th anniversary of Shields chess club

There will be some extra special moves being made by members of South Shields Chess Club in the coming months.
Laygate Square around the time the chess club was formed.Laygate Square around the time the chess club was formed.
Laygate Square around the time the chess club was formed.

That’s because this year, the club is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Club spokesman Eddie Czestochowski said: “This is a remarkable achievement, making it one of the oldest chess clubs in Britain.”

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Eddie said the club was born following an appeal by one of South Shields leading citizens.

“A notice was printed in the South Shields Gazette, in October, 1866,” he explained.

“It was sent in by the first president of the club , the very forward-thinking Alderman and former Mayor of the Borough, John Williamson.

“It simply stated that a committee had been formed, and that they welcomed all who were interested to go along to the Golden Lion Hotel, in Ocean Road, to a place where ‘lovers and learners of the game shall meet’.

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“As a result of the advert, 17 men turned up, and the club was formed.

“From that day, it has been kept together by people with a shared passion for this wonderful game.”

Eddie said a number of events have been arranged by club members to mark the anniversary – “the highlight of which, will be the South Shields Chess Congress, to held at the Customs House on July 3”.

The celebrations come at a time when the club continues to chalk-up success on the national stage.

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Last summer, 80-year-old Paul Bielby became the over 65 chess champion, at the UK British Championships, in Warwick.

Eddie himself took top honours at the Chester-le-Street Congress, winning the U135 competition.

It was also a good year for the club as a whole, which was promoted to Division One.

“Due to the success of club membership drive last season, partly helped by coverage in the Gazette, we now have four teams – for the first time in more than 20 years.”

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l What are your memories of the chess club? What can you tell me about the people who put South Tyneside on the chess-playing map?

Please get in touch, especially if you have any photos of chess playing from years gone by.