FROM NALGO TO TELEPOST - THE HISTORY
OF A CHESS CLUB
Keith Tabner asked Bill Clarke about the
origins of Telepost Chess Club. This is his story:-
have really set the memory going and I am very happy to tell the tale.
Even better I have dug out the original NALGO Chess club record book which
I still have. We played our first game on 23rd August 1978 and I kept
a detailed record of every game played up to the beginning of the 1984
season, by which time we were running three teams. As the Telepost club
historian (congratulations on achieving that exalted status,) I am going
to send you a bag of goodies to keep. This will include the NALGO book
and a scrapbook I kept with David Everington's articles in the Shrewsbury
Chronicle around 1979 -1981. Twill be a bit heavy mind.
Right settle down , this will keep me typing for the next
hour ! The seeds of NALGO Chess club began six years earlier in 1972 when
I got interested in Chess. The catalyst was the enormous publicity given
to the Fisher / Spassky match in Iceland. It's hard to recall now what
a huge event it was, battle between East and West, tantrums, drama etc.
They even had the latest board positions on the main TV news bulletins.
I got hooked, I suppose I always did like a bit of hassle and aggro in
sport ! I vaguely knew how to play having learned as a kid, but by then
I was 35 and hadn't played for 20 years. I was working at Shire Hall with
Bryan Holland who had played league chess in Wales. I started to go round
to see him to play and learn the game. We did this for some years and
also played "postal " games together, actually I handed the
move over in the office. Funnily enough I never considered joining a club
and many years were lost. I suppose looking back, I was doing lots of
other things, playing league table tennis and then cricket in summer.
Having a lot of kids as well.
Five years passed by , and we now had five kids, James
was also beginning to get interested and by 1977 was aged 10. We used
to play together and a teacher at his junior school was also playing games
with him ( chess that is ! )
In early 1977 I suddenly decided to go to Shrewsbury Chess club, I was
40 by then and had never played a competitive chess game in my life: It
all felt very strange, and clearly I wasn't in the same street as those
" experts " who turned up. I remember people like Eric Ingles
was there, Brian Nicholls, David Everington, and the coughing Norman Andrews.
I trotted along for the winter and began to learn a bit. I played three
or four games for the C team, losing the lot of course. My first game
was at Shrewsbury school and I remember being terrified of the clock !
Anyway to cut a short story long, I was also at this stage
still playing friendly games with Bryan and Joy Mukherjee who was also
joining in . I tried to persuade them to come and join me in going to
the Shrewsbury club but neither would. I then had the idea around Spring
1978 why not start a Shire Hall Chess club and persuade Bryan and Joy
to come along. I made a few enquiries with members of the NALGO Sports
Committee ( mates of mine ! ) A proposal was put to the committee together
with an estimate of the cost of buying the required kit. I got a price
from Chess Sutton Coldfield for half a dozen clocks , boards and pieces.
It was approved and I began to put posters up all round Shire Hall with
meetings every Thursday evenings in one of the Committee rooms. The mean
buggers charged for the hire of the room so a 50p charge was levied. I
used to keep the kit in boxes under my desk, and lug it down to the Committee
room every club night.
You will probably remember the playing conditions were
magnificent apart from the giant drawback we were kicked out every night
at 10-30pm sharp. The number of times I ended up looking at a tricky position
at 10-29 with a uniformed bloke jangling his keys in my ear !! So basically
NALGO was up and running for the beginning of the 1978 season. We kicked
off with a friendly against GKN losing 4-3. ( a very young James Clarke
losing on bottom board, his Dad starting off as he was to do for the next
15 years........ drawing ! ) Our very first league game in Division three
came on the 27th Sept 1978 winning 4-1 against Telford C, The team was,
in board order, Joy Mukherjee, Bryan Holland, Peter Wells, Martin Blizzard
and Dominic Pagett. I was supporter and chauffeur. When we first started
to play that first season I concocted a devious scheme whereby certain
members of the team would play the same colour every game. We didn't have
any grades or anything clever like that, so it seemed to me sensible to
play to our strengths. Stodgy ,dour , defensive types like me and Bryan
were always black, aggressive up and at 'em players like Peter Wells and
Joy always got the white bits. Bloody stupid really but that's the way
we did it. I think it was a couple of years before I ever had the first
move and then I didn't know what to do!
We never ever had a proper club organisation. I did everything , secretary,
treasurer, organiser , cleaner upper, etc, etc. As ever, nobody cared,
they just wanted to play and handed over their 50p's assuming I wouldn't
spend it at the chip shop on the way home. Generally the club was successful.
We had a few decent players and after the first season getting used to
it , we won the third division in 79 / 80 and then the second division
in 80 / 81. So by the beginning of 81 / 82 we were up in the big league,
James was now firmly established on top board. More people were coming
to meetings and in 1980 we started a B team and in 1982 a C team. One
of the reasons was I had started also to run the County Junior teams and
got to know several good young players in Shrewsbury schools , in particular
the Wakeman School where James went. A stream of kids started to come
along including some of the best juniors in the County , Jeff Chapman
, Rupert Brindley moved over from Shrewsbury ( the word poaching comes
to mind ! ) We gained players from other clubs, Syd Bricknell came for
a time from GKN and in 1983 the one and only John Bashall arrived from
Severn Trent Water team ( I think ).
It all came to an end in 1985 when the club folded. The
main reason was the sordid subject of money. The County Council suddenly
decided they were going to up the charges on the room by a considerable
amount. We simply couldn't afford it and decided to look around elsewhere.
The 10-30pm closure time had always been a real pain anyway. One great
problem in setting up elsewhere was the kit, which belonged to the NALGO
Committee. A few quiet words to the right people and they let me keep
it all. I 'm sure some of that kit is still in use today. Anyway Bryan,
Joy and myself were in effect the unofficial committee and began to look
around. Joy always was a bit of a fixer and he found the Old Shrewsbury
Bowling Club. We tried it out in August 1985 when Joy got a couple of
his Indian Grandmaster friends, Barua and Thipsay to do a Saturday afternoon
We remained as OSB chess club for about three years before
moving to Telepost. Unfortunately I stopped keeping records at the end
of the 1983 season. I remember one famous evening at OSB when we had to
take the upstairs room for a match against Shrewsbury as there was a function
on in the big room below we normally used. We played the match to the
strains of a German Oompah Band belting it out. It was at OSB that one
night a ginger headed scouser appeared, Dave summat or other !! The rest
is history as they say. (Dave Bryan - ed) I
quite liked it down there and we could go on much later than Shire Hall.
I'm not really sure why we left. There was some trouble with members of
the OSB committee, some fiddling had been going on if I remember and the
man we had been dealing with left in a hurry. We also decided to go, I
think they were going to charge us more but I'm not sure. Anyway as ever
Joy sniffed round and came up with the Telepost club. I think it was in
1988 we moved over, NALGO boards and all ! I remember putting posters
around the town that Gordon Thomas did , we put one up in the Library
and hooked a big fish called Nigel Ferrington one day. He used to speak
even less then!
When I look back at it all chess became a major thing
in my life over a fifteen year span. Apart from running the various clubs
we formed, I ran the county juniors for about four seasons plus was on
the County Committee. I also ran the individual championship for a few
years and the highlight was probably organising the National under 16
team championships held in Telford in 1982. It seemed daft I should be
doing that from my kitchen table, it wouldn't happen in football !! I
suppose all my energies went into organisation because I started too late
to become a really strong player. One of my great regrets is I never played
as a kid. Mind look what James achieved as a kid - Shropshire Champion
at 16, playing in a simul for England under 18's , British Junior Postal
champion and now aged 35 has given the game up completely. I was just
starting then !
That's about it for starters. Hard to realise it's actually
virtually 25 years since it all started. I still play a bit of postal
but am cutting that down now. I play postally for Kent and you will find
it hard to believe I am their board 2 with a grade of 2520 !!! Natural
talent you understand !!
I will send over the books which will be of interest I'm
sure. They will only get thrown out here when I pop my clogs so they are
better off at the Telepost.
I hope you are keeping well. Can you remember once playing me in a game
(was it at Shire Hall ?) and there was a piano in the room and you crept
away between moves to play a tune! That clearly put me off and I blew
a totally won position.
Cheers - Bill Clarke - 6th June 2003