How it all began

The organisation of county chess in Lancashire took longer than in Yorkshire or Cheshire, possibly because of the rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool. However the battles between Lancashire and Yorkshire teams, begun in 1871, had continued in 1883, 1884, 1887, 1889 and 1890. 1884 had been a mammoth production of 80 boards and in 1887 there were 50. In 1887 the players wore White and Red roses and timekeepers were provided by Fattorini and sons, the time limit being 20 moves an hour. In 1883, at a Liverpool v. Manchester match the Rev. John Owen had put forward the idea of a northern chess association. but the Lancashire County Association was to come first, and when it did, in 1897, the British Chess Magazine commentated that “the formation of an association for Lancashire will enable the county to appoint accredited representatives to take part in any effort to establish a Northern Union.” The BCM also commented “it is understood that the first duty of the executive will be to send a challenge to the Yorkshire Chess Association”. In 1898 the match duly took place, Lancashire winning 20-15. At the dinner after the match Amos Burn promised to assist in any steps taken to found a Northern Chess Union. Both Counties were agreed that such a Union be formed. The inaugural meeting of the Northern Counties Chess Union took place at the rooms of the North Manchester Chess Club on January 28th 1899. Mr. A. E. Moore (North Manchester) was appointed Chairman and Mr. I. M. Brown (Leeds) was appointed Secretary. The 1900 Lancashire Chess Association Annual Meeting voted to enter the “Northern Counties Union Challenge Trophy”, donated by Mr. A. E. Moore.

Mr. A. E. Moore of North Manchester

President Northern Counties Chess Union (1899 – 1906)

The competition for the trophy began with a Lancashire v. Cheshire match in 1901. After 4 hours play the unfinished games were adjudicated by Dr. Lasker and a powerful Lancashire team had won 17 games, drawn two and lost only three. The 1901 Lancashire v. Yorkshire match was reported in the BCM as “the tenth meeting of the counties but the first under Northern Union rules”. Lancashire won 16.5-8.5 and Mr. A. E. Moore presented the trophy to the winners. He hoped that the trophy would do something to stimulate an interest in Chess in the North of England. Dr. Lasker, who had again done the adjudications, wished prosperity to the Northern Counties Chess Union.

The First NCCU County Match

The early years of the twentieth century saw the first competitive county matches organised by the new Northern Chess Union. Usually Cheshire, Cumberland, Lancashire and Yorkshire competed, there being two semi-finals and a final.  The matches were well reported in the British Chess Magazine.

In the 1900-01 semi-final Cheshire met Lancashire “at the rooms of the North Manchester Chess Club, Dyson’s Restaurant, Church Street, Manchester on Saturday 26th January 1901.” Since Cumberland had been unable to raise a team to play Yorkshire the week before, this was the first county match organised by the Northern Union.

“By agreement between the officials of the two counties, the teams were to consist of 20 players and 5 reserves. The number of games actually scored was 21. Play commenced at 3.40 and ceased at 7.40, after which both teams had tea together. The arrangements made by the North Manchester Club were of the usual elaborate and complete description and the match attracted a large number of spectators, who followed the varying fortunes of the games with the keenest interest. Play took place in the spacious dining room of the restaurant, which has already been the scene of important county contests, and which bids fair to become identified with the royal game in the North.

One pleasing feature was the use at most boards of the new “Congress” chess clocks, the handsome cases and large white dials of which gave quite a scientific air to the tables. The clocks were also appreciated by the players on account of their accuracy, subdued ticking, and the noiselessness with which the starting and stopping was effected. Dr Lasker was amongst the spectators, evidently taking an interest generally in the games, and particularly watching with a fatherly eye several of the players with whom he has already come in contact during his short connection with the North Manchester Club. When the scoring sheet was posted it was at once seen that the Cheshire team had a stiff fight before them; the Lancashire team contained the names of many prominent players for the county.

Somewhat to the general surprise, the Lancashire captain (Mr Amos Burn) elected to play second board, placing the Lancashire champion, Dr JH Shaw, of Liverpool, at the head of the team, a graceful compliment to the Doctor’s position as champion of the county, and a very useful and desirable precedent for future matches. The game at No 1 board between the two champions (Mr Rhodes Marriott and Dr Shaw) was still in progress when the time expired, but Dr Lasker (who at the request of the captains acted as adjudicator) had no difficulty in awarding a win for the Lancashire representative. The game at No 2 board between Mr Amos Burn and Mr EA Greig attracted a great deal of attention, especially when it was found that the Cheshire representative was holding his own against the famous player and making a really good fight; just before the close of play, however, Mr Burn was able to obtain a definite winning advantage, and scored the game for his county. After Dr Lasker had concluded his adjudications on the four games left unfinished.