The Cleveland Chess Association was originally known as the Tees Side Chess Association and can claim to be one of the oldest chess associations in Britain.

The Tees Side Chess Association was founded in 1883 by the representatives of the Stockton and Middlesbrough chess clubs meeting at the Literary Institute in Stockton on 17th October and other local clubs were invited to join shortly afterwards. The first recorded President was a Mr H.G. Spence and the fees were fixed so ‘that each club joining the Association shall contribute towards the expenses of the Association the annual sum of 3d per member, but the subscription from any club shall in no case be less than 5/- per annum.’

In its first year it was recorded in the minutes that a match had been arranged over 10 boards with the Newcastle Chess Club to be played at Stockton on 31st January 1884. However it is not known what the score was but it is the first recorded chess activity by the TSCA and this match against Newcastle developed into a regular annual fixture over the years. Next year, in 1885, a match was played against Bradford Chess Club at Thirsk on the 24th January and again the result isn’t known. However 4 days later the second annual match against a combined Newcastle & Gateshead side was held at the Royal Scotch Arms, Newcastle with the teams drawing 19-19 over 20 boards.

How did they manage that you may ask? Well one of the curiosities of the time was that players used to try and fit in two games against each other if time permitted – presumably one black and one white.

After this match the Bradford club secretary wrote to the TSCA regarding the formation of a County Chess Association and asking ‘for an opinion on the same.’ The response was lukewarm and the Secretary, Mr Griffin wrote back saying ‘we should like to hear more fully as to the object of the Association.’

The first match against Leeds Chess Club took place at the Masonic Hall, Leeds on January 27th 1886 and Tees Side won 16-12 and later, in February, a Rev. A.B. Skipworth attended a meeting of the TSCA to explain the ‘objects of the Counties Chess Association’. This year saw it arrange to buy a Challenge Trophy out of a subscription from the clubs of £18, to be competed for by them for the first time in March 1886. Originally each team had a minimum of 8 players and a maximum of 12 and it was perfectly possible for two games to be played in each session. West Hartlepool won the very first Challenge Trophy, which is a magnificent set of chessmen and board and this trophy is still in the possession of the CCA today.

During the early years several well-known chess personalities of the time were approached with a request to give an exhibition of their skills to the Tees Side members in order to promote the new Association. Dr Zukertort, J.H. Blackburne and I.A. Gunsberg were all asked to appear locally and in 1887 the latter gave a simultaneous display against 32 members of the TSCA after the business of the annual general meeting had been concluded. Mr Gunsberg won 31 and lost 1 and his fee for the event was 2 guineas. In 1889 the celebrated chessplayer Joseph Blackburne visited the area for two simultaneous displays and a blindfold event. The total fee for his services was 9 guineas and a member had to pay 1/- for a simultaneous game or 2/6d to play him blindfold. Blackburne proved pretty invincible winning 29, drawing 2 and losing only one of the simultaneous games and in the blindfold he won 7 and drew 1 with 0 losses. His exploits were widely reported in the local press and must have given invaluable publicity to the TSCA.

In 1888 the Newcastle club joined the TSCA to challenge the West Yorkshire Association over 24 boards. The latter had earlier indicated to the TSCA that they would only play against counties. The result was a 14-10 win for Tyneside & Tees Side (see newspaper article Click Here )

In 1898 the Secretary, Mr H.E. Wright, received a letter from a Mr J.M. Brown of Leeds to the effect that ”an endeavour was being made to form Association representing each County of the North.’ However because the TSCA wasn’t a county the view from the Association was that the only way they could join was to rename it ‘The Durham County and Tees Side Association’, but eventually apathy broke out on this issue and it was agreed that ‘nothing could be done.’

An Open Handicap tournament was started in 1910 which was open to all members of the five clubs affiliated to the TSCA:- Darlington, Middlesbrough, Saltburn, Stockton and West Hartlepool. The President, Mr B.Dorman, donated a Cup to be held for one year by the winner of this event whose rules changed considerably over the years. Three years later saw the introduction of clocks, or ‘timing clocks’ as they were known then. In order to encourage the clubs to purchase them the TSCA agreed to ‘purchase and lend to each club one clock.’ Regular matches were still continuing against Bradford, Leeds and Newcastle and these lasted up until 1932.

The First World War years saw little chess played and it wasn’t until 1919 that the TSCA resumed its chess activity. A year later members were invited to play correspondence matches for Yorkshire against Warwickshire as by this time the TSCA had taken out membership of the Yorkshire Chess Association at 10/- a year. It even entered a team in the Yorkshire Woodhouse Cup but after 5 crashing defeats the experiment wasn’t repeated the following year.

In 1926 the TSCA played its first annual match against the newly formed Durham County Chess Association. This was played at Stockton on February 13th and resulted in a win for Tees Side by 9_-2_. This became a regular fixture each year particularly after it affiliated to Durham for the princely sum of 10/6d in 1934. This arrangement allowed TSCA members to play county chess and lasted until 1965 when the TSCA decided to disaffiliate.

The Second World War brought another suspension of chess activity and in 1948 the first junior event became established – the Tees-side Boys Championship which was run by the Captain, J.R. Paterson, with ‘a suitable book prize be awarded to the winner’. A year later a School’s League was formed by Mr T.H.Wise who later became President of the Association.

Even though the TSCA did not have County status and could not join the NCCU, attempts were made during the 50s and 60s to obtain county status from the BCF. However the TSCA or TCA, as it was becoming known as, still had influence within the NCCU from time to time. Mr R. Simpson, the TCA President from 1961-62 and 1965 became the NCCU President in 1963 and today its current President, Mr G.Walsh is also the President of the Cleveland Chess Association.

The 1970s saw the TCA finally attain its county status with the creation of Cleveland County in 1974. Because of this change in status, Mr Rushton, the then President of the NCCU invited Cleveland County CA to apply for membership and to play as a separate County team for the 1973-74 season. This probably makes the Cleveland Chess Association the youngest member of the Union.

The 70s were a golden age for Cleveland chess with many Congresses and special events being held for the first time. Congresses were held at Middlesbrough, Redcar, Teesside and the special events included an International GM tournament (1972), the World Junior Championship (1973), the Alexander Memorial tournament (1975), two international tournaments for the blind as well as a visit by the GM Bent Larsen for a simultaneous display and a lecture in 1973.

Today the Cleveland Chess Association runs a full League programme, the Tom Wise KO Cup team event, an Individual Championship, congresses at Middlesbrough, Redcar and Hartlepool and a rapidplay event. It also fields two County teams in the NCCU County Championship. It is in the last competition that, over its 116 year history it has achieved probably its finest success – in 1994 Cleveland were the County U150 and County U125 Champions.

Cleveland News