Lancashire, Yorkshire & Cheshire dominate

Participants, officers and officials at the 1903 Yorkshire v. Lancashire match at Bradford.

The years leading up to the First World War saw the championship fought over by the old rivals from Lancashire and Yorkshire. Present at the 1903 match was Sir John Thursby of Burnley Union, in his capacity of a Vice President of the Northern Union. Sir John was to be President of the British Chess Federation from 1905 until his death in 1920. the 1903 adjudications were done by the famous American player Frank Marshall. The Mayor of Bradford did his best to raise Yorkshire spirits in his closing speech after the 1903 defeat by claiming that Yorkshire “could generally beat Lancashire at Cricket”! Cumberland’s appearance in 1904 led to a Lancashire trip to Carlisle. Lancashire won comfortably and were congratulated at the after match tea by Mr. Platt of Cumberland, who also referred to the lack of experience of his team in match play “including clocks, onlookers, and other disturbing elements”. What these elements were is open to speculation! it is interesting to note that to get home that evening the Lancashire players had to charter a special train. (the team was exclusively Liverpool and Manchester based). The 1904 Yorkshire match saw Frank Marshall decide 8 adjudications in a 13.5-11.5 Lancashire win. The match was held at Manchester and the Manchester Chess Club rule that no member was allowed more than one glass of liquor during an evening was pointed out to be responsible for the very large glasses used for toasts at the after match dinner! Another famous adjudicator appeared in 1906 – J.H. Blackburne, a former Manchester Chess Club Champion.

The English County Championships began in 1908 but, sad to say, no Northern County Champion team could win in the years before World War One. Lancashire were terribly unlucky in the 1912 final v. Surrey when Mr. H. J. James of Liverpool, the exchange and three pawns up, fainted. The game was scored 0-0. Had Mr. James been able to play on to win then Lancashire would have won the match. In Lancashire’s last match before the void caused by the war, Mr. A. Meilzner of Manchester appears on board 29, better known to later generations as Alfred Milner.