Club Profile #11: Brewood Chess Circle


Hello ChessJournal fans!

A relatively quiet month on the blog due to holidays, work and the Bristol & District Chess League kicking off.  Todays instalment is a late comer to the club profiles feature that we have been running over the summer, Brewood Chess Circle.  My thanks to their chairman David Blower for taking part.

Tell us a little bit about your club

Brewood Chess Circle is a chess club based within the village of Brewood in Staffordshire. The aim of the chess club is simple to let members meet up socially for the enjoyment of the game of chess. The chess club is a small chess club with around 20 members. We hope to gain some new members this coming season and if this website article helps us to do this than all the better. On that note just in case anyone reading this article lives in or around Brewood and is interested in possibly joining the club let me start the article by introducing the relevant details you need to know.  The club meets up on Tuesdays from 7:30pm. Best of all there isn’t actually a finishing time, meaning that we can go home as early or as late into the evening as we want.

New members are welcome, regardless of age and ability and that is something I will probably repeat a lot in the article. The club plays in two different leagues. Soon after the club was formed we joined the Wolverhampton Chess League in 1981, where we have been ever present since. We currently have one team in division two of the league and have never been in the top division, (Division 1) in our entire history of the club. We also enter two cup competitions run by the league. The other league we play in is the Cannock Chess League which we initially joined as a one off in the 1999-2000 season and then as ever presents from the 2003-2004 season onwards. We play in division two of the league, and also enter a cup competition run by the league. The team also compete in the Shropshire Rapid Play League where we are currently in division two of that league, having got relegated from division one of the league last season. The internal club competitions are also something to talk about. The club championship began when the club was first started in 1980, and has been ECF graded since 2012. We also have an ECF graded rapid play club championship which started in 2015 which makes use of digital chess clocks and Fisher incremental time controls.  The club championship trophy is a chess board with the previous winners names engraved on the outside of the board. It is a tradition at the club that the defending club champion plays their next season’s club championship matches on that board.  Playing your matches on the trophy you have won to try and defend it has to be unique!!  


What kind of person plays for the club?

Who can join our club? The simple answer is anyone who likes chess. The amount of teams we run means that we believe we cater for players of most standards of chess. We do not have any titled players at the moment but they would also be more than welcome to join. The ability level of players at our club ranges from children who have just started learning the game to those graded in the 150s. Any new members who want to join the club and immediately want to start playing competitive chess against other local chess clubs in local leagues can have their level of play assessed and be placed into one of our clubs teams that is best suited to their ability level. Clearly we would love it if someone graded in the 200s wanted to join. However whilst the club does run competitive teams the main aim as I said at the start of the article is to meet socially for the enjoyment of chess. That was the aim when the club was formed and it is still true now. Any member who wishes to play socially but not competitively is welcome as well and there is no pressure applied to anyone to play in a team if they do not want to. This leads me onto the best thing about the club. Even if there is not a match you can be sure that there will be about half a dozen members who will turn up to the club each week. Any potential new member turning up will be sure to get a game. Simply turning up and enjoying yourself is what counts. The best thing about the club is the social atmosphere. The club accepts and encourages juniors to turn up to the club and also adults that are new to chess. Recently a couple of members had turned up who started playing as children but had took a break from the game, and had now resumed playing as an adult.

The youngest member of the club is ten years old and has being going for three years. There are six junior members at the club which is a relatively high number for a chess club which is not a specialist junior only chess club.  We are hopeful that one of our juniors will qualify for the England under 11 national team. Obviously the level of competition to get into any England team is high, so whilst it will be difficult everyone at the club is rooting for him.

Whilst the majority of the members are now adults quite a few of us started playing when we were children ourselves. I started playing when I was seven years old so I know what it is like to play chess as a child and that is something I always try and keep in mind when talking to children now at the club.

Experienced players are happy to give advice to help improve the level of play of children. Mini coaching sessions can often take place in the evening focusing on aspects of the game, that take place during the opening, the middle game and the endgame. We often have children reluctant to leave the club at the end of the evening which is a good sign that they have enjoyed themselves. Children also have the opportunity to play in teams. One of the junior members of the club helped win us the Dudley League Division 3 in the 2012-2013 season, the clubs most recent trophy win to date. The Cannock League is not a promotion and relegation league but a team graded restricted league allowing us the opportunity to play new members of the club including juniors in that team.

Meanwhile the oldest member of the club is in his mid-70s (but don’t tell anyone I have told you his age.) We also have one member of the club who has being going to it since 1980. Chess is a game you can play for years and still learn something new and that is one of the best things about the game. Improvement can take place at whatever level you are already at and it is not just juniors who wish to improve. I myself often ask one of the highest graded players at the club “can you go over this game with me.” You can guarantee that someone will always be willing to go over a game that you have just played, either to help you understand a defeat or simply if you want to show off a win!

One thing that should be stated is that there is no minimum ability level required to join the chess club. Players or parents of children should not think that they will be deemed too weak to be a member of a chess club because this is simply not true. Besides which experience shows that the best thing players can do to improve their chess is become a member of a chess club.

Can you tell us about the history of the club?

The story of how the club was formed is that in 1978 two people at the Roman Catholic Church in Brewood during an idol time discovered during a conversation that they both had a mutual interest in chess. Games soon followed initially in their houses and soon the happy band of players was up to eleven. By this time there were too many people to still meet up in people’s houses and so that issues such as the club championship and trophies being engraved could probably be dealt with the suggestion was made that a club should be formed. On 29th April 1980 the club had its first AGM where the club was officially formed and games of lightning chess followed. The word Circle in the name of the club comes from the fact that those who founded the club wanted the name of the club to sound as inclusive as possible. The club does play competitive chess but the idea of it being a place where anyone who enjoys chess can turn up, remains as true now as it was in 1980 when the club was formed. The club has moved around in its 37 year history but has remained within the village of Brewood. We are very proud of that.

I am not personally aware of any famous chess club player having ever played for the club but maybe that will happen in the future. Whilst our honours board may not have as many trophies as some clubs we have won 15 trophies during the 37 year history of the club.

We are hopeful of adding more honours in future years. The Wolverhampton Chess League Division Two 2017-2018 title would be good to enable us to go into division one of the Wolverhampton Chess League for the first time in our history.

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?

The main rivals we have are Bushbury, simply because there are a few members who play for both chess clubs. As it turns out we have been drawn away to them in the first round of one of the cup competitions being run by the Wolverhampton Chess League and therefore it looks likely there will be at least one club member playing against us in our first competitive match of the season.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your club?

I also have to mention our internet activity. Our website address is: We are also on Facebook, twitter and YouTube. 

The website has details of all the latest news from the club including match reports from our matches, a page with contact details for new members to join the club, and a sense of history with a page explaining the full details of the history of the club. The aim is to eventually have a complete record of every finishing position the club has ever had in any competition. There are also future plans to cater the website for juniors. The website already has some specific advice for parents on the “Joining the club” webpage of the website. Meanwhile in the future the puzzles page will be changed to a “Puzzles page for juniors,” with monthly puzzles designed with children in mind. The website also features some of our favourite games on the games page. Although keeping it up-to-date is not as easy as I would like, it has attracted some new members to the club on the back of us having a good website.

There is one final thing I would like to repeat (rather than add.) Any age. Any ability. The club caters for anyone who likes chess, including experienced league players, adults new or returning to chess and juniors. You are rarely too young and never too old to play chess. There is no minimum ability level required to join a chess club. Enjoyment of the game alone is enough. Experienced players are happy to give advice and help anyone improve at whatever skill level that a player is currently at. So why not give it a try? You will be sure to enjoy yourself.

Thank you David! So there we see a cracking example of a smaller rural club making real strides both digitally and in their local chess scene.  My particular favourite comment is the idea of having to play on the board with your name engraved on it.  A bit like a belt at boxing.  Great idea that is sure to crank the tension when the clock is ticking!

This will be the last of the club profiles moving into Autumn and Winter.  As I’ve previously said Im thinking about consolidating all of the common features of successful clubs into another article as I feel this will be really interesting.

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:




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!


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:



40% off ChessJournal Premium in our Summer Sale

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

Just a quick one from me today to bring some exciting news in the normally quiet Chess month of August.  For the whole of August we will be offering ChessJournal Premium for a massively reduced 40%, down to just £2.99 / €3 / $4 a year.  If you are still uncertain then you can trial 3 months for just £1 / €1 / $1.5.

Longterm readers will remember that we ran a similar sale for the whole of August last year and it proved really popular with the community so myself and Matt thought we would make it an annual thing.

As I have previously blogged, we have a number of new features in the pipeline for ChessJournal that will expand our premium (and non-premium to be fair) offering.  However, the summer months are proving to be very busy times for both of us in terms of life (this weekend I am attending my third wedding in four weeks) so they will be a slight delay in bringing you these exciting changes.

Therefore, I suggest we all kick back, enjoy the sun (rain if you are UK based) and maybe take this opportunity to try ChessJournal Premium if its something you have been thinking about.

Thanks for reading and all your continued support.

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:



Club Profile #4: Hammersmith Chess Club


Hello ChessJournal Fans,

Today we have another instalment in our popular club profiles feature, Hammersmith Chess Club.  Based in west London, the story of Hammersmith is encouraging to every chess club member nationwide.  As little as three years ago the club was in a very different state, with finances and membership numbers becoming a greater concern.  Fast forward to 2017 and we witness a club that has turned around its fortunes through a clever approach to both digital and how to handle its rent (although I personally think they are just being very Anglo Saxon and enjoying a beer too much in the Summer!).

This interview was conducted with Andy from Hammersmith CC over the last week, enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your club?

We are a very friendly and welcoming club based in the inner suburb of Hammersmith, West London. With a catchment area that includes Fulham, Kensington, and a few other suburbs, we now count over 50 active members, and growing!

We have 10 teams this year, catering for all levels of chess. The main League we play is the London League, where we field 5 teams ranging from League 6 up to League 3. We also play in the Thames Valley, and Middlesex Leagues, fielding 3 teams there. And most recently we were involved in launching a brand new Summer League involving 4 clubs, allowing us to field 2 teams there. On a busy night we’ll have upwards of 30 players involved in competitive chess, and with the launch of the Summer League we now offer members competitive games all year round.

We are based in a local community hall in the borough during the main season, de-camping to a nearby pub for the Summer months when the main chess season ends.

What kind of person plays for the Club?

In many ways the club is a microcosm of the city we’re based in. We have a very diverse set of players, ranging from our youngest who is barely 10 years old, up to the pensionable mainstays of the club in their 80’s! In addition, we can boast a large & growing foreign legion, featuring players from Italy, Kosovo, America, Turkey and beyond. We also count a handful of female players as members.

Our players range from the chippy amateurs, right up to a top group pushing ECF 200, with a sizeable rump of strong players in the 120-180 range. At present we don’t have any titled players, though recently we did count WIM Sue Maroroa amongst our membership.


Whilst we don’t yet have a formal junior section, it is on the radar for the future. In the meantime, we have managed to linkup very successfully with a couple of local Junior clubs, playing multi-board Rapid games against them every year. A fun & exciting challenge for all involved!

Can you tell us about the history of the Club?

Our Club was formed in 1962, and there is a full and interesting history behind it located here:

By far our most successful former player is four-times British champ Julian Hodgson. He played for us as a junior before going on to bigger & better things!

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?

We have a long-standing and very friendly rivalry with our South West London friends over at Battersea Chess Club. As a similarly well-run club with a lively online presence, we can often be found gently teasing each other over social media and our websites. We even went as far as having a two-legged dual over about 30 boards the other Summer, dubbed “El Chessico”, which we won, naturally!!

What is your favourite thing about the Club?

The best thing about Hammersmith is definitely the ethos – we are on a constant mission to improve what we offer our members, and create as many opportunities for playing & learning the game in a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, as possible.


For instance, we now have a regular training rota whereby our stronger players teach theory, tactics and openings at the practice board. We introduced competitive games over the Summer (historically the London chess scene takes a break every Summer, but the demand is clearly there!), we frequently take on all-comers at a local cafe. We partnered with our local branch of MIND charity to take chess to the streets of Hammersmith earlier this year – a genuinely brilliant day! And in a nod to our recent past, this year we pioneered a linkup with a foreign club, with 15 of our members taking a trip to De Pion chess club in Amsterdam for a weekend of Chess, friendship and beers!!

Hopefully we offer something for everyone, and we are always looking to offer more.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your Club?

Like many clubs, rent is one of our biggest costs. We took the decision a couple of years ago to give up our community hall venue over the Summer and de-camp to a nearby pub (The Albion, Hammersmith Road). So we now use their function room in the warmer months as our “home venue” – hopefully paying our way in beer – and revert back to our community hall when the main league season re-starts.

Not only has it been a brilliant move for the balance sheet, it’s also actually quite nice playing chess in a pub! It provides a welcoming atmosphere for any first-timers, and generally makes for a more sociable and relaxed time! Highly recommended.

I have to admit to being a bit of a fan boy for Hammersmith’s approach to running a chess club for the past few months.  I particularly enjoyed their club organised trip to Holland to play a local Dutch club “over the board”.  They have also been active in running events to raise money for charity (see below for their support of Mind). A more apt charity for chess players I cannot think of! These kinds of social events are exactly what can unite a club as a community as well as a competitive entity.


Thanks again for reading.  We are starting to get lots of requests coming in for club features so thank you for all your support and sharing of the blog. Hopefully we can inspire and make a positive difference to clubs around the UK and the world! Please do continue to spread the word about the ChessJournal Blog and if you fancy it, check out our App for club and tournament players.

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. Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here:



ChessJournal 2.1 now available (eventually…)

Hello ChessJournal Fans!

I’m delighted to finally write a new blog post today on our latest update, ChessJournal 2.1.

“Wait a minute Jon, that came out last week?!” I hear you cry.

Well yes. Yes it did.

Android users have been enjoying v2.1 since June 3rd but unfortunately a bug in our iOS release meant we had to go through App Store approval again and that lasted longer than either myself or Matt would have liked.

Despite this short delay, I am delighted to introduce all the new features in v2.1 as follows:

  • ECF Rating: If you are based in the UK then you now have the ability to change your ChessJournal settings to ECF rather than ELO! This was a common request from all of our British based woodpusher fans and I’m glad to finally bring this feature to you.
  • Move Indicator: Another common request was to provide an indicator on the game screen of exactly what move in a game or variation a player is on. This move indicator can also be used now to highlight to a user when a variation is available to view without having to scroll.
  • Improved Game Controls UI: We have also cleaned up the main controls around games to make them easier to alternate between evaluating positions and variations. I think this change is my favourite update in this release.
  • Name a season: Many users also asked us to provide the ability to name a season so they can functionally group different types of games e.g. “Bristol League Games” or “Somerset New Year Tournament”. You asked for it, you got it!
  • Improved PGN Import: We also tweaked some of the usability and technical aspects of importing your games from PGN.
  • Minor bug fixes: As always we did some minor clean up on bugs reported by the ChessJournal community.

So there we are! You asked and we listened!

In total myself and Matt have spent about 30hrs updating to ChessJournal 2.1 in the last few weeks (including our various liaisons with the App Store). I hope you can see the value that our efforts bring to v2.1 of ChessJournal.
If you are pleased with the update and progress that we are making with ChessJournal then please please please leave us a review in the App Store or Google Play Store. Reviews are crucial to helping us reach more of our fellow woodpushers.

In other news, I have a number of other initiatives that I am planning for the blog so stay tuned!

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.  Leave your laptop at home the next time you visit that big tournament!

You can download ChessJournal on iOS and Android here: