History of the Norfolk & Norwich Chess Club

Early Norfolk & Norwich Chess Club History - by Owen Hindle

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We know there were chess clubs in Norfolk from at least 1836 for both Norwich and Yarmouth clubs were listed as subscribers to the book of Alexander McDonnell games published that year.

In the 1840’s, occasional references to chess in Norwich occur in the pages of the Chess Player’s Chronicle. Most notably, in 1841, Howard Staunton, the magazine’s editor, was requested by the Norwich club to act as arbiter in a dispute over a correspondence match with the Maryport chess club. Staunton ruled in favour of Norwich.

Around that time Norfolk possessed a distinguished figure in the chess world. Rev. Horatio Bolton (1793-1873), who was related to the Nelson family through the great British admiral’s sister Susannah, was one of the pioneers in the field of chess problem composition.

Much credit for the successful formation of a viable club in Norwich must go to Frederick G. Rainger (1829-1871) its secretary from 1857 to 1866. J.O.Howard Taylor, in his obituary of Rainger, referred to him as the club’s ‘very life and soul’. Rainger’s chess column in the Norfolk News from 1859-1863 did much to popularise the game in the county. He defeated Howard Taylor (who had joined the club in April, 1859) in a match for the club championship in 1860. By then (probably since about 1857) the fuller name of Norfolk and Norwich had come into use.

(A club history compiled by P.H.Bannock, published in booklet form in 1936, contained interesting information particularly regarding premises and lists of officials, etc.).

This account of the club’s early history will predominately feature the visits of great masters to the city. (continue …)

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