W&B Chess Club Junior History

When commemorating the Silver Jubilee of Willesden Chess Club (1946-1971), Ken Valentine wrote,

“A local chess club tends nowadays to comprise two main groups of members, one group consists of older members with roots firmly established in the locality; these provide stability and continuity necessary for the efficient running of the club, month by month and year by year. The other group consists of up-and-coming teenagers, many of them preparing for university courses; these supply a continuous infusion of new blood, giving vitality and zest to a body that might grow flaccid and stale. Inevitably, many of these young members stay for a short time but the few who renew their links with the club after their studies frequently become its leading players in competitive matches.”

This article reflects the club’s activities surrounding junior chess, i.e., ‘The other group’ as the tradition of welcoming juniors has been beneficial to both the club and the individual. There are many reasons to welcome juniors, a non-inclusive list includes, they are the lifeblood of a club if it wishes to have longevity; chess by its very nature is inclusive and juniors learning chess at an early stage, benefit from attending a dedicated club; this is not always possible in schools and adult clubs are not always junior friendly if only because of the premises used to hold meetings, and safeguarding requirements. Willesden’s ethos, as established by founders Mrs. Lotte Dixon and S.J. Turner is to embrace all chess-players in the community, and this of course includes juniors.

Having been formed in 1946 the first few years were spent consolidating the new club. Its’ primary challenge was to secure a permanent base. The opening years saw the club start at Queens Restaurant, 2 Queens Parade, Willesden Green (1946-47) move to Hurworth House, Stonebridge (1947-49), return to Queen’s Restaurant (1949) then relocate to Kings Hall (Willesden) for the commencement of 1949-50 cycle. The move to Kings Hall coincided with a change in the club’s fortunes. 

“At Willesden schoolboys began to appear in the early 1950’s, with dramatic results.”

1950-51 saw schoolboys join the club, of those joining T.A. Landry was the most notable. He would eventually become the All-England Schoolboy Championship runner-up (1954) and in the same year represent England twice (1953-54) even captaining the team for the match against Ireland. He would become Willesden’s leading player for the next two decades. The following cycle saw two more schoolboys of outstanding promise join the club, Julian Farrand and Michael Lipton. Farrand not only won the Willesden Championship he also won the Middlesex Junior, and Southern Counties Boys championships. Lipton who won the maiden Turner Trophy, a cup donated by the club’s first president S.J. Turner, was to go on to be a well-known problemist and co-author of Chess Problems: Introduction to an art.

Julian Farrand ECF Chess Forum

Michael Lipton’s Collected Chess Problems

The presence of these talented schoolboys in conjunction with the more experienced campaigners sees the club win the Middlesex League title in 1952-53, the one and only time the club have had the accolade of being the Association’s league champions. The club may not have this heady success since, but the decade since has seen several juniors become County or Regional Masters but Peter Batchelor and Dominic Foord are two juniors the club helped to become FIDE Masters. It is noticeable that the consistency of the club’s performance in the 1950’s coincided with the presence of numerous talented juniors in the team as opposed to the accumulation of stronger adult players.  As Valentine states holding on to these juniors is challenging once they go to university or are of such strength that they join other clubs who can provide the level of challenge required. Tom Landry is a great example of a junior who not only returned to the club but went on to be one of its leading lights including taking on the role of match captain.

Peter Batchelor British Chess News Article

The club’s commitment to junior chess was demonstrated when they inaugurated the Brent Junior Chess Congress to supplement their junior session (see picture above). It has been in abeyance since 2016, as there were not enough volunteers to help run the event. Although competition is suspended (we are seeking to revive it) the club continues to provide club tuition.

The club has a long tradition of junior chess and long may it continue!