Matches resumed after the second world war with the main battles between Lancashire and Yorkshire but spirited opposition, usually from Cheshire, Northumberland and Durham, was increased by the appearance of a team from Cumberland and Westmorland. The new county boundaries caused a serious problem when in 1975 a minority group decided to set up a Greater Manchester County Chess Association. The methods used led to a special meeting of the NCCU in 1976 to vote “That this Union cannot tolerate the establishment of a County Association in its area against our will and by deceitful means”. The group were accepted by the Midlands County Chess Union and have remained there. By the late 1970’s the NCCU Championship consisted of 8 teams – Cheshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumbria and Yorkshire. For Lancashire players train journeys to York were very familiar. On one occasion a group were threatened with the police in York railway station cafe – for gambling, which was the management interpretation of analysing the day’s games. Road transport became the norm but there were snags. Heading for Hexham on a beautiful day the Lancashire cars were amused to see a permanent road sign warning of blizzards. This was less amusing a few minutes later when we were off the road in a snowstorm! One car turned back. Less intrepid explorers decided to divide the Championships into east and west leagues. The rules were less than perfect and on one occasion Lancashire knocked themselves out by annihilating Merseyside when they would have qualified for the finals with a ‘sensible’ 8.5-7.5 victory. With the advent of competitions based on grading limits the first team, or Open, Championship has become less popular as counties concentrate on the lower grading limits. So in 1999 we are back where we were in 1871 – Lancashire playing Yorkshire for the Championship.
With county competition now based on grading limits, players at all levels now have the opportunity to represent their county, be it at Open, U175, U150, U125, or U100 level. The U125 and U100 competitions have proved particularly popular, though thankfully there have always been at least two counties competing each section. The 1990’s have proved particularly successful for the smaller counties. Northumberland have ‘only’ won four county titles since the war – but that includes a remarkable double of Open and U175 titles in 1990!. Cleveland not only claimed their first county championship in 1994 – they did a double by winning both the U150 and U125 competitions, a feat they repeated in 1996 with wins in the U125 and U100 sections. Cheshire and North Wales (who had merged in 1968) have proved particularly competitive in the U125’s, winning the Pennine Shield five times since 1987. However a fantastic achievement stands above all of these – victory for 7 years running (1992-1998) by the Lancashire Open team, captained by Mike Conroy. Unfortunately (for Lancashire) a resurgent Yorkshire claimed both the Open and U175 titles in this, the Centenary year. Which all goes to show that NCCU county competitions remains competitive after 100 years!