Hello ChessJournal Fans!
I’ve been a little preoccupied following the British Chess Championships this week in Llandudno, North Wales. The coverage has been excellent and a special shout out to both Andrew Martin’s Game of the day videos as well as the excellent tweetage from Phil Makepeace (@alteredcourse).
As a result, I realised its been a week since the last club profile. Ive been sitting on this one for a couple of weeks due to life getting busy but I am really excited to bring you todays club profile of Battersea Chess Club in London. A massive thank you to Leon Watson (of Telegraph chess fame) for his excellent tongue in cheek response to our request. Particularly with his dismissal of the noisy neighbours Hammersmith…
Tell us a little bit about your club
Right, we are Battersea Chess Club and the first thing you will want to know about us is that pints at our venue cost a mere £2.90. Yes, you read that right – £2.90. And, yes, we are Battersea as in the place in London. So, £2.90 pints in London. Surely that’s not possible? Well, if you come on down to our gaff it is. As to the question you were actually asking, well, do you need to know any more? Oh ok, I’ll run through the boring stuff: we are a medium-sized club, established way back in 1885 and based south of the river in a working men’s (person’s) club a couple of minutes’ walk from Clapham Junction station, one of the best connected stations in the capital. We have about 40 members and rising and this season we will be putting out six teams in the London League, three in the Central London League and we have two in a new more casual league we have co-founded called the Summer Chess League.
What kind of person plays for the club?
Well, who do you think? People who like cheap pints obviously. After that a very broad range of people. We have all sorts of backgrounds. But, of course, this is chess we’re talking about so unfortunately most of us are actually slightly rounded men with thinning hair and a strange desire to get out of the family home on weeknights. But if you ignore that then yes, we have a very varied set of members. We certainly welcome everyone, or try to. I can confidently say we cater for every ability – we have total beginners and we have people pushing for titles. We also have league teams to reflect that from an U125 team all the way up the ladder to a team in division 1 of the London Chess League where it is not at all unusual to come across IMs and GMs. We don’t at the moment have a formal junior set up as we meet in the evening which is too late for most kids. However we have had a couple coming through the door recently and we also have a kid we’re all excited about and think will go on to something big. His name is Denis Dupuis and you heard his name here first! But in all seriousness we desperately need as a club to broaden our membership at least to include another gender. If anyone has any ideas on how to do this, let us know.
Can you tell us about the history of the club?
The club has a long and illustrious history which I could go into detail about but we have a potted history on our website which explains far better than I ever could. We were established in 1885 and, while we are not the oldest, we believe we are the oldest continually-existing club in London. Probably our most famous former player is a certain Grandmaster Ray Keene. In fact, I found out the other day he lives nearby so I might knock on his door and try to persuade him to come along and get involved. Not as treasurer though, obviously. More recently GM Keith Arkell turned out for us, and we are hoping to persuade a big name or two this year to play for us. We’ll see. As far as our performance down the years is concerned, we’ve won the London League several times but perhaps not historically been one of its really strong clubs. We’re not a Cavendish or Wood Green. Although the last time we won it we did keep the trophy for six years. Ok, that was because of the war, but it still counts! Two years ago our first team won promotion to first division again after several decades out of the top tier and we are very proud of that. It was a big achievement for us but staying in it is tough: we narrowly escaped relegation last season may well be in the same dogfight this season. Until a few years ago we were also active in the Surrey League but we pulled out because it was hard getting people to go down to Dorking on a Wednesday night.
Who are your fiercest rivals and why?!
Well, Hammersmith like to think they’re our rivals but honestly it’s a bit embarrassing really. They’re a little club, no history, their best team is only in div 3 of the London League and we beat them almost every time. It’s just… awkward. We humour them. Honestly, if you remember the TV series Bottom with Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, the Spammers (as we call them) are like Richie and Eddie – a complete shambles. Incidentally, Bottom was set in Hammersmith. The other day I saw a couple of guys playing chess in a care home – Hammersmith should probably try being rivals with them, they’ll have more success that way. Apart from those jokers, the nearest team in terms of geography is Streatham & Brixton but in my time at the club I’ve not noticed any rivalry with them. But then you wouldn’t pick a fight with a team from Streatham and Brixton, would you?
What is your favourite thing about the club?
We’re a good bunch, we’re welcoming and we’re doing our best to drag ourselves into this century. We have our eccentrics (cough, Emil) but we all have the same approach – we love the game and just want to play. Most of us genuinely love the club too. We want it to continue for another 131-years. That’s perhaps a bit optimistic admittedly, but we’ve realised that you have to be proactive to survive and we’re doing that. We need to find ways to get more members and interest more people in the game, otherwise we will wither and die. To that end over the last year we’ve had the legendary GM Simon Williams play at our club along with GM David Howell (!!!) and even the YouTube star IM John Bartholomew. He came over from the US and did a simul and blitz tournament in which he had an epic three-game play-off with the Ginger GM. It was fantastic to watch. And how many clubs have a 2700 guy like David Howell drop in?
Is there anything else you would like to add about your club?
If you live in London or are moving to London, just come along to one of our club nights. You’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome, especially if you come armed with a £20 new membership fee. Remember, pints are £2.90 – so you’ll practically be SAVING money. Get hold of me first and I’ll tell you what to expect and who to steer clear of (Emil again…). The last thing is just that we’re a great club (much better than Hammersmith).
Thank you Leon for a lovely funny overview of this excellently run club! Its interesting to note the strong correlation in our club profiles between active marketing and engagement through digital mediums, and success for chess clubs. I’ve previously mentioned Battersea Chess Club in the review of top chess club websites in the UK and their constant flow of engaging content (much like, ahem, Hammersmith) is a big draw. It must be really exciting as an “average strength” club player to know that on any given club night a famous titled player may show up!
I have a handful of remaining club profiles in the pipeline and then I feel I will draw a close to this series of articles for the summer. If you have enjoyed this romp through British chess clubs then please do let me know and maybe we can resurrect it next summer. I also feel that a summary articles of themes and trends in running successful chess clubs is in order
In other news, regular readers will have noticed that the ChessJournal summer sale is back for August with 40% off premium subscriptions. Thats just £2.99 a year people (or slightly more than a pint at battersea chess club)! With the new chess season fast approaching why not take advantage and give it a try?!
As always thanks for reading. Until next time.
ChessJournal is the companion app for club and tournament players. Store your games in the cloud for free and analyse them on the go on your phone or tablet. Set and track personal improvement goals, linking key games to them across the season. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!
You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here: