Yorkshire Chess History
1893: North v South – (1) Preparations
The Original Idea
The idea of a match between the North of England and the South of England appears to have been primarily the brainchild of Isaac McIntyre Brown of Leeds. He was one of those listed, on the front cover, as providing “co-operation” to the British Chess Magazine, which chronicled the progress of arrangements, as did the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement’s chess column. On pages 265 & 266 of the 1892 British Chess Magazine, after praising the enterprising plans of the City of London Chess Club for match-play against teams from far afield, I. M. Brown went on the advocate more inter-county matches, and other match-play at a level higher than that of local inter-club matches. He then wrote, “A match between players of the north and the south of England would be exceedingly popular, and could be arranged without much trouble. We would undertake readily the duties of organising secretary for the north, at any rate, until relieved of the responsibility by a properly constituted board of management.”
The North-South Divide
There was in the final scoping of “North” and “South” no conception of there being a “Midlands” in between. The Southern Counties Chess Union was in the process of being established in 1892, but there was as yet no move toward a Northern Counties Chess Union, mainly because Lancashire had as yet to form a county chess association. There were 25 counties defined as within the scope of the SCCU by its draft constitution which thus provided a pre-defined “South”. The remaining English counties by default made up the “North” for this match, the split being as follows:
The accusation was levelled by some, at the North, that it had annexed the North Midlands. The response by others was that the South had already annexed the South Midlands. An analysis by population, and less relevantly area, might be interesting.
The Issuing of a Challenge
An initial step in stirring up support for the idea of a North v South match was the sending on 03/06/1892 of a letter on the subject to chess organisations and major clubs in the 11 counties of Cheshire, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Durham, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Westmoreland, Yorkshire. The most southerly of the above fifteen counties of the “North”, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire and Rutland, seem to have been excluded from this initial trawl, perhaps suggesting I. M. Brown’s initial idea of the scope of the “North”, which may at that stage have envisaged a “Midlands” between “North” and “South”. This probably occurred before a draft constitution for the proposed Southern Counties Chess Union had become available, with its scoping of the “South”, which included what might be thought of as the South Midlands.
Articles in support of the proposed match appeared in various papers including: the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, the Manchester Weekly Times, the Liverpool Weekly Mercury, the Bradford Observer Budget, the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement, and the Nottinghamshire Guardian.
A crucial meeting of representatives of chess organisations from chess centres of the “North” was held in on Saturday, 20/08/1892, at the Grand Hotel, Boar Lane, Leeds, under the presidency of George Cann Heywood (born 1853, Winkleigh, Devon; died 1895, Newcastle-upon-Tyne), of Newcastle, (who was chess editor of the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle,) with Isaac McIntyre Brown as honorary secretary. The purpose of the meeting was to decide whether to send a challenge to the South, and if so, to agree the broad terms of that challenge.
Representatives of the following organisations voted in favour of sending a challenge:
Some representatives present had not yet been able formally to consult their membership, and so did not vote, yet they gave assurances of the support of the membership of their organisations, namely:
Liverpool Chess Club was not represented at the meeting. Liverpool’s secretary, Anthony Dod of Birkenhead, replied to his invitation, by letter dated 20/08/1892, saying, “Our committee object on principle to take part in any contest of fifty or more players a-side, and they would therefore be unable to co-operate in the above match.” This echoed the patriarchal Liverpool Chess Club’s similar view expressed in 1888 and 1889 regarding Yorkshire-Lancashire inter-county matches. As can be seen above, Liverpool North End Chess Club did, however, support the North v South match.
In accordance with the outcome of the above meeting, I. M. Brown wrote a letter to various relevant organisers in the “South”. (Click here for the text of the letter.) An important part of the challenge was that professional players be not eligible to compete for either team. The professionals were of course based mainly in London.
The meeting also agreed to invite the Rev. John Owen to act as captain for the North, and he replied to the invitation sent by I. M. Brown with the words, “I accept with great pleasure the great honour accorded to me.” He also said, “I know little of the strength of the proposed players, but the Northern lights should be many and strong.”
Conditions Proposed by the South
Leonard Percy Rees (born 1862, Croydon; died 1944, Surrey), of Redhill, Surrey, vice-president of the Sussex Chess Association, responded by taking the initiative in setting out to collect the views of southern clubs and organisations, and so provided the necessary focus of organisation in the South. Like I. M. Brown, L.P. Rees was one of those listed, on the front cover, as providing “co-operation” to the British Chess Magazine.
A meeting of Southern chess organisations on 03/09/1892, at the Salutation, Newgate Street, London EC, discussed not only the formation of a Southern Counties Chess Union, and a provisional constitution for it drawn up by L. P. Rees, but also discussed the challenge from the North. The challenge was provisionally accepted by the South, who liked the idea of Birmingham as the venue, but adopted the idea that Birmingham players should be neutral, acting as reserves to be called on by either side. The South also inclined at this stage toward a match of only 50 boards.
The Rev. William Wayte, around this time, accepted an invitation to captain the “South” team.
At the first committee meeting of the newly-formed Southern Counties Chess Union, on 08/10/1892, the Southern representatives abandoned the neutrality of Birmingham, and adopted 100 as the preferred minimum number of boards, and approved a set of detailed conditions for the match. I. M. Brown was present as a guest at the meeting, and he said he thought the South’s terms would be agreed by the North. (Click here for these terms.)
The North’s Response
A meeting of Northern representatives, held on 12/11/1892, at Manchester Chess Club, under the presidency of the Rev. John Owen, the intended captain of the North, was attended by representatives of the following 15 organisations:
From the above list it is evident that Liverpool had been persuaded to come on board.
A committee was appointed consisting of the Rev. John Owen as captain, Isaac McIntyre Brown as secretary, and a delegate for each of 5 districts to serve as contacts for would-be players. The five delegates were as follows:
The meeting discussed the South’s terms for the match, accepting most as they stood, but making some changes to be submitted to the South for approval. (Click here for these revised terms.)
The only point on which the South differed was that of the start and finish of the period of play. Essentially the South wanted London players to be able to make the round trip to and from Birmingham within one day. Unless the duration of play was reduced to four or four-and-a-half hours, then they would, it was claimed, lose a third of their best players.
The North’s Team Selection
A meeting of the North’s selection committee took place on 07/01/1893, at the Clarendon Hotel, Derby, to select the final pool of 110 players from the 230 or so who had volunteered themselves for selection. The Leeds Mercury of 14/01/1893 declined to publish the list of names, but gave a breakdown of those selected, totalled by county, as follows:
It was planned that Southern players would wear blue rosettes, while Northern players would wear red-and-white rosettes, the two designs combining the Union Flag’s colours of red, white and blue. (This idea seems slightly illogical in that the blue of the Union Flag comes from the background to St. Andrew’s cross on the flag of Scotland, which country as such was not represented in the match!)
Arrangements for the venue, which was the luncheon room of the Great Western Hotel, Birmingham, were entrusted to H. Clere of Birmingham Chess Club and W. R. Taylor of Birmingham St. George’s Chess Club.
The Match Goes Ahead
The North versus South chess match accordingly took place on Saturday 28/01/1893, at the Great Western Hotel, Birmingham. (Click here for some details of the match itself.)
British Chess Magazine 1892, pp. 302, 346, 392, 481, 423, & 535.
Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement 14/01/1892.
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann