Club Profile #10: Castlehill Chess Club

Castlehill 2

Hello ChessJournal fans!

Its been quiet on the blog over August as the holiday season has kept everyone busy (plus I recently became the Publicity and Recruitment Officer for the Bristol & District Chess League which has also soaked up some of my blogging efforts).

Anyway, I have two instalments left in the Club Profiles series that I have been running on everyones favourite ChessJournal blog.  This week is the turn of Castlehill Chess Club based near Dundee, Scotland.  My apologies to the delay in publication to Keith Rose who actually sent me the interview about Castlehill at the start of August.  Anyway, lets see what Keith had to say:

Tell us a little bit about your club

Castlehill Chess Club is one of two clubs in Dundee and we meet every Thursday evening throughout the year at the Chaplaincy Centre of Dundee University. Currently there are about 35 adult members and 16 junior (aged 7 – 16) members. We enter five teams in the local Tayside and Fife League (winners of Division One 8 times, Division Two 8 times, Division Three 6 times), a team in the Scottish Spens Cup, (which we have won three times) and, jointly with Dundee CC, three teams in the Scottish National League.

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What kind of person plays for the club?

All of us are amateurs and range in strength from beginner to experienced club-level players. Our current strongest player is still a junior at 16 and is graded over 2000 in both the Scottish system and FIDE. As for ages, the youngest is seven, the oldest is well into retirement. We don’t currently have any titled members but have had a FM and WFM as members in the recent past.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The club was formed in the early 70s, was based at the Kirkton Community Centre, Dundee and was called the ‘Self-programming Chess and Draughts Club’. This was later shortened(!) to the ‘Kirkton Community Centre Chess Club’. There five originating members. Soon after formation the members were fired with enthusiasm to form a team and enter the TAFCA League. The earliest written record is the minutes of the AGM of 1978 which had an unfortunate outcome. The election of team captains led to several members leaving. They formed another club, Dundee West End.

1979 was the first in a period of several years during which a number of changes of premises were made. In 1980-81 season the move was to the ‘1314 Club’ in Dundee City Centre, which were the premises of the SNP, and it was decided to change our club name to reflect the association.  In February 1981 we lost Z.K. (Konrad) Wierzbicki, who died at the board of a league match at Dundee University. A memorial tournament was instituted in his memory which runs to this day.

At the 1981 AGM Keith Rose was elected as Secretary and he has held this post until the current date, with the exception of three years in the late 1990s. In the Summer of ’82 the 1314 Club closed and we became somewhat nomadic. Dundee Chess Club was kind enough to allow us to use their premises for club nights whilst League matches were played in the living room of one of our members. After a short period we moved to the Labour Club in Roseangle.

In March 1984 we moved yet again, back to the 1314 Club which was renamed ‘Castlehill Club’ (after the area of Dundee where a castle was once located), where we were to remain for several years. Then began a growth which continued for a number of years. A junior club was started, a second club night added and a fourth team was entered in the TAFCA League. We moved again in about 1989 to the Taychreggan Hotel and here began our most successful period in terms of membership, adult numbers peaking at 64 and juniors at about 25. We have been at our current venue for 2 years.

Castlehill 1

Although lacking a bar (!) it has room to accommodate our busiest nights – during the October-May periods most nights see attendances over 25 and frequently over 30. During the summer attendances are still in the high teens most weeks. This venue is also suitable for youngsters, which some of our previous homes were not.

Back in the 1970s there were five clubs in Dundee but now only we and Dundee Chess Club remain. Despite sometimes fierce rivalry the two clubs co-operate very well, each helping the other at times of difficulty, but both enjoy getting one over the other. Dundee CC has several players who are stronger than Castlehill’s but we have a larger membership and more populated club nights.

The best thing about the club is its camaraderie and friendliness. One of our number styled us ‘The Friendliest Club in Dundee’ – this goes back to a time when there still several other clubs and there was at times some unpleasant interactions. Although this has thankfully disappeared we still use this epithet. We also make a point of welcoming and inducting new people. As a young man I once entered another club to play one of their members, found myself in a crowd of unknown faces and not one spoke to me. That will never happen at Castlehill. Having reintroduced youngsters and held on to them we would like to expand our junior membership. We know there are quite a number of children taking part in school chess clubs so the aim must be to tap into that. In addition, with having a venue which is part of Dundee University we would hope to pull in students too.

So there we have it! A rich history supplied by a very long standing servant of the club (36yrs!) who clearly knows the Dundee chess scene inside out. Its also great to see such a high percentage of juniors supported at the club, yet another common trend in successful clubs that we have noticed in this series of blogs. From conversations with friends, its interesting to note how often parents end up joining a club after their child has shown an interest in our ancient game.

In other news at ChessJournal HQ, we have had a quiet development summer but are starting to think again around next steps and additional features. I hope to blog with more news once we finalise our next steps.

As always thanks for reading. Until next time!

Jon


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