Club Profile #6: Camberley Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal fans!

The requests for club profiles keep coming in.  Im really glad the community is engaging with this series of articles.  Im certainly enjoying it and it makes a change from discussing the usual “White to mate in 3 moves” posts that normally litter most chess blogs. Nothing against that type of post per se but it does get a little dry after a while (usually sack a queen is the answer). Anyway I digress…

Camberley Chess Club has the unique distinction of being one of only three chess clubs I have ever played at.  Ten years a go I was seconded on business to Camberley and used to pop down to the club for friendlies over the summer months.  Im glad to see that the Grob wielding maniac that took me apart a decade a go is still causing chaos and confusion! Lets hand over to John Upham from Camberley Chess Club who I conducted this interview with.

Tell us a little bit about your club

Camberley Chess Club is a relatively young club formed in 1972, using for many years the private and very spacious Camberley residence of three times, British Ladies Champion, WIM Patricia Anne Sunnucks in Brackendale Close.

Having retired from a colourful military role Anne cheerfully ran BMS Chess Supplies in the 1970s and 1980s always having multiple copies of the latest titles from B.T. Batsford Ltd. on a large number of shelves and Yours Truly spent far too much pocket money and student grant (£300 per term) on them!

As well as Captain Sunnucks one of our formative and most loyal players was Britain’s first (1975) correspondence Grandmaster, Keith Bevan Richardson who passed away in May of 2017. We have organised a one day rapidplay memorial tournament in his honour for the “Glorious Twelfth” of August 12th, 2017 at our club venue.

Where are you based?

Since 1982 we have met (almost) every Tuesday night throughout the year at Camberley Baptist Church, 15, Frimley Road, Camberley, GU15 3EN where we have use of a match room plus a club room for those not playing in league matches. We are active “out of season” running a club championship, club nights and coaching evenings sharing the famous motto of the Windmill Theatre : “We never closed”.

We have use of a kitchen but, not a bar (!) however, following club nights, we often retire to a nearby watering hole that we have donated chess sets to. Until recently, The William IV Tavern was adjacent now converted to a Co-Operative convenience store.

How many players do you have?

A small revival of fortunes has brought in new members bringing us up to around thirty members with a now proactive Membership Secretary constantly scouting for more.

What league or division do you play in?

A number of our teams play in the Berkshire League and in the Surrey Border League in both divisional competitions and knockout competitions. Over the years we’ve managed to get our name on every trophy in these leagues at least once. Juniors are “bloodied” in the lower divisions and brought into the higher teams as they develop.

What kind of person plays for the club?

Almost all members are keen amateurs from Camberley and surrounding areas with some from as far as Reading, Guildford and Newbury choosing to play for us rather then, for them, a more local club : we must be doing something right !

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We have players ranging from over ECF 200 to less than ECF 50 providing teams for any and all levels of experience and ability. We try and recruit players from anywhere and everywhere including U3A, libraries, schools (primaries and secondaries plus home schooled children).

Do you have any titled players? How diverse is your club? Do you have room for juniors for example?

Before relocating to Guildford, IM Andrew Martin was a key member of our first teams
Two club rooms in one venue allows a separate area for juniors to play and be coached. Many of our more mature members prefer a peaceful location for their club night. Refreshments are free with a fully equipped kitchen available.

One of our longest standing members is Professor of Food Science at The University of Reading and played “normal” chess before attending an event run by IM Michael Basman. Ever since the 1980s, Prof. Gordon Birch has bamboozled his opponents with The Grob (1.g4) and, for total consistency plays The Borg (1…g5) at every opportunity. Indeed, I have witnessed a bizarre game between the late Joe French and Prof. Birch which started 1. f4 g5 ! Suffice to say that this line has not been examined by New in Chess.

In a Bell Trophy match that I captained Gordon was paired with a Bracknell player who also plays The Grob and I was hoping for a 1. g4 g5 start to the game but, instead they asked NOT to play each other and the chess world was robbed of the chance to witness a symmetrical Grob for the first time !

Who are you fiercest rivals and why?!

Crowthorne chess club is geographically close and many members are also Crowthorne members. Every match with our friends is fiercely contested but usually finishes in a local watering hole ! Both clubs have existed for a similar time and have an overlapping catchment area.

We like to beat Guildford Chess Club as often as we can since they are much larger in membership terms and have existed for around three – four times as long but, just as with Crowthorne all matches are in good spirit whatever the outcome.

What is your favourite thing about the club?

There is a great comradery amongst friends including much banter and the like during club nights. Blitz chess is highly popular and we like to help each other improve our chess standard. Members take it turns to do coaching presentations.

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If only we had a bar to have a view from or of ! The membership fee is not especially cheap but we feel that our venue makes the fee worthwhile. Juniors pay £25 per year and this is subsidized by the adult membership.

We like to get involved with the local community and have run several promotional events in Camberley and Farnborough. The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme pushes it members our way and we are happy to take them on for accreditation.

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Several members either are already or are become ECF Accredited Coaches and teach in local schools. Members are active as officers of local and national chess organisations allowing as to have our influence on local and national chess politics.

Having celebrated our Forty Fifth Anniversary in 2017 we look forward to our 50th in 2022 ! Thank-you for allowing us to talk about our club.

Thank you John!  Another cracking insight to this medium sized club based near the M3 (I enjoyed my time at Camberley Chess Club, I did not at any point in time enjoy the nearest motorway).

The more of these club profiles I pull together the more themes start to emerge.  I think in a months time I will step back and pull together a summary blog post on the common challenges as well as traits that make clubs successful. Also perhaps we should have a vote on the blog on a very important aspect of British Chess – “Should a club have a bar? My own club Horfield seems to have survived without a bar on its current premises since 1984! Astonishing quite frankly!

As always, I hope you have enjoyed this post and do continue to share it far and wide with any league chess aficionados you know.

Until next time

Jon

P.S. Me and Matt are pulling together a big new feature called “Chess Calendar” in the next month, ahead of the new season.  I’ll blog about it soon but if you have any burning feature requests or comments on how your club schedules and plans fixtures then now is the time to get in touch – jon@chessjournalapp.com


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