Scarborough Chess Club - by Neil Pennock

Early Years

It is not clear when the main Scarborough Chess Club was formed as the information currently available is not conclusive.

It is believed that a Chess Club was formally established in Scarborough in January 1878 by the Mechanics' Institutes. (Reference 1). One source of funds for this club was a living chess match at the Circus details of which are on a separate page. This year is also given in 19th Century Chess by Bill Wall but this may just be a repetition of the previous reference. (Reference 2). Information from the local newspaper in 1891 indicates there was a Club referred to as OMS Chess Club Scarborough (Reference 3). None of these seem to have generated the activity that one would associate with a chess club in a town the size of Scarborough.

For the Whitby Chess Club it is very clear it was established in 1866 with the Whitby Gazette reporting on the 6 October that "At a meeting held on Tuesday night, in the Commercial Rooms, Flowergate, Mr Grimshaw in the chair, a chess and draughts club was formed under very promising circumstances. The meetings will be held at Mrs Thompson's Temperance Hotel, Baxtergate, at half-past seven o'clock, every Monday and Thursday evenings. Mr Forth, jun., printer, is the Honorary Secretary, and will be glad to receive applications for membership. "Twenty five members enrolled in the Club at Mrs Thompson's Temperance Hotel on the first evening. The newspaper gives regular reports of the activities of the club. Mr Walter Grimshaw was a renowned problem producer and solver and strong chess player but is also remembered for beating the first World Chess Champion, William Steinitz in a casual game (see separate page).

The Scarborough Chess Club looked to play matches against Whitby Chess Club and these seem to have been on a home and away basis each year. A record of a number of these survive and are given in the section on Matches. The earliest of these found so far is in 1893. Other neighbouring Clubs at Bridlington and Malton also participated in matches. The expansion of the railways enabled such matches to take place. The building of the lines were :- Scarborough to Bridlington 1840's, Scarborough to York 1845 and Scarborough to Whitby 1885. It is therefore likely that matches could have taken place earlier than 1893.

Correspondence Chess was also popular in the 19th Century with the introduction of the postal service and a match between Scarborough Chess Club and Burton-On-Trent occurred in 1882. A pair of games was usually played with alternative colours. The score of these game is given in the games section. Unfortunately, Scarborough lost both games. Other games are likely to have been played.

Sometime between 1883 and 1884 meetings of the Scarborough club were increased from every Friday to every Monday and Friday. The venue was the London Inn Cocoa House, London Inn Yard. The Cocoa House is long gone but London Inn Yard still exists in the centre of Scarborough.

The running of the club must have had some issues and probably ceased for a time as in 1891 it was indicated that the club had been resuscitated with the Rev E J Huntsman been elected President and Mr H Chapman, Secretary. (The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, November 28th 1891). This incarnation of the Club seems to have continued to operate to the present day. The Rev E J Huntsman moved to York and played there (There is a more detailed profile of him on the Yorkshire Chess History Site).

Also popular were simultaneous displays and a number of these events have been held in Scarborough. These are detailed in a separate section. The strong Scarborough player C.E Simpson, many times Club Champion, was also strong enough to give such displays including one at York in 1896 when he played simultaneous against York YMCA over 18 Boards with the result of 14 Won 2 Drawn 2 Lost (The Evening Press, Thursday, December 3,1896.)

Post 1900

After the turn of the Century chess became more organised and Scarborough became the venue for some significant Chess events.

In 1909 the sixth British Championship was held in Scarborough. The town when on to hold the Championship on four more occasions. In 1930, 1999, 2001 and 2004 (See Separate Pages).

Between 1924 and 1930 the Secretary of the Chess Club, Gerald Metire Reid, organised the Scarborough International Tournaments Festivals at Whitsuntide. These attracted the future world Champion Alexander Alekhine and the Women's World Champion Vera Menchik. The 1926 event was particularly difficult to organise as it was during the General Strike. (See Separate Pages).

As transport links improved the participation in regional competitions become possible. The Club first played in the Bradford Observer Trophy in 1896 but did not play in the Woodhouse Cup until much later in 1930/31. The Woodhouse Cup is a team event which has run in Yorkshire since 1885. The Club has spasmodically played in such regional competitions until the modern era when it played consistently in such completions from 1980 to 2003. (See Separate pages)

The Scarborough Chess Weekend Congress was first organised in 1977 and has run every year since each October. The organisation has always been separate to the Club.

The club has also played in national club competitions. (See Separate page)

The Club now plays in the York and District League.(See Separate page)

Back to list of historical articles.


  1. The Mechanics' Institutes of the East and North Ridings and of York, 18371887 J. Popple. To cite this article: J. Popple (1958) The Mechanics' Institutes of the East and North Ridings and of York, 18371887, The Vocational Aspect of Secondary and Further Education, 10:20, 29-46, DOI: 10.1080/03057875880000051 To link to this article:
  3. (F Woodhead O.M.S. Chess Club Scarborough problem solver in Manchester Times 6 November 1891)