When an organisation has been in existence for as long as Willesden Chess Club it is fair to say they would have experienced a lot. They would savour the good times and bemoan the bad, but nevertheless soldier on. Below is an extract from Club Secretary (Anthony Fulton) article, Chess in Brent, which can be found on Brent Museum and Archives website. (Anthony is also author of Southern Counties Chess Union – A Retrospective, an overview of the first 125 years of said organisation). It is fair to say that this account gives an accurate portrait of the formation of the club and brief insight to achievements.
Willesden & Brent Chess Club were established in 1946, under the initiative of Mrs. Lotte Dixon. Due to the limited activity afforded post-war, chess was one that flourished. Since the game was one that piqued the interest of the local populace, the Sports Editor (“Crusader”) of the Willesden Chronicle writes,
“Mrs. Lotte Dixon, of 7, Blenheim Gardens, Willesden Green, is anxious to know whether there is a chess club in Willesden or nearby, or if there is a possibility of meeting people interested in chess. I am unaware myself of a chess club in the locality and should be glad to hear from readers interested in forming one.”
Crusader may not have been convinced that he would get a response but his following column reports:
“As a result of my note in this column last week, suggesting the formation of a club, I have had a letter from Mr. S.J. Turner, chemist, of 809 Harrow Road, offering help. There must be plenty of other chess enthusiasts in Willesden who would like to pit their skills against other fellow players. If only we could get a few more volunteers a move could be made to start a club. What about it you chess fiends?”
The exchange between Mrs. Dixon and Turner was so positive that within a few short weeks of their interaction steps were taken to form a club.
“As the result of a suggestion made in this column there is good prospect that Willesden will have its own chess club in the near future. Prime mover is Mrs. Lotte Dixon of 7, Blenheim Gardens, Willesden Green, who is holding a preliminary meeting at her home next Tuesday at 7:30pm, and an open invitation is extended to all interested in the formation of such a club. She would be glad if those intending to attend notify in advance. Mrs. Dixon informs she has had letters from a number of people interested in the project, and I myself have received further letters from chess fans. There seems no doubt that there is plenty of scope for such a club. I shall watch its progress with keen interest and wish it every success.”
The said meeting is held on February 5th and Willesden Chess Club came into being, reprising the name by intention or accident of the former incarnation[i]. In this instance the name is more justified, as it was formed in the heart of the parish of Willesden, with Willesden Green as its base, albeit it with a temporary move to Stonebridge. The Club’s birth is celebrated by “Crusader”:
“Willesden Chess Club was successfully launched on Tuesday, at 7, Blenheim Gardens, Willesden Green, residence of Mrs. Lotte Dixon, who was instrumental in calling the meeting. I was impressed by the enthusiastic note struck at the meeting, and I feel sure the club has started off on the right foot. One of the difficulties facing the club is finding headquarters but there are prospects that suggestions put forward at the meeting may soon materialise. Although the membership is at present small, as soon as the club becomes known it is bound to attract many more chess fans to its ranks. Don’t be afraid to join because you are only a beginner. It is the surest way to improve your play to mix with players of experience.”
Although the club has had its difficulties since its inauguration, (struggles to find venues and attracting members the primary ones!) it has been able to celebrate, Silver (1971), Golden (1996) and Platinum (2016) anniversaries. It is hoped it will be able to celebrate more anniversaries. They have had a fair measure of success during this time. The period 1947-1968 was their most illustrious as they were winner (5) or runner-up (5) of the Eastern Zone no less than 10 times. Their greatest accolade being crowned Middlesex League Champions (1952-53). The club has also had several notable individuals representing it including Tom Landry and Julian Farrand (England Boys), Michael Lipton (co-author of Chess Problems: Introduction to an art) and chess masters A. Hirsch, Peter Batchelor, and Dominic Foord. In time a more comprehensive account of activities each cycle, and match records will be provided.
[i] Willesden Chess Club was based in Willesden Junction Hotel, Harlesden. They were formed in September 1889 and operated for the 1889-90 cycle.