100-year-old Derbyshire chess club brings the game back to Chesterfield schools

After a stalemate absence of many years, Chesterfield schools have re-introduced an inter-school chess tournament, inspired by members of the 100-year-old Chesterfield Chess Club.
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This will see pupils from the Outwood Academy, Brookfield Community School, St Mary’s Catholic High School, and Netherthorpe School compete for a trophy donated by the Chesterfield Chess Club. The tournament will take place on Friday, 19th of April, held at the Outwood Academy in Newbold.

Martin Howard of the Chesterfield Chess Club says “In recent years, chess fell out of fashion in schools, and chess clubs faded away. There hasn’t been any inter-school chess tournaments in Chesterfield for many years. So with it being our centenary, we were quite keen to see if we could do anything to encourage chess in schools.”

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“There has been a significant rise in the interest in chess, partly driven by youngsters playing online during covid. Also generated by a Netflix series called The Queen’s Gambit. Our chess club has been getting a lot more members recently as a result. These youngsters that have been playing online have become interested in playing over the board.”

Founder members of the Chesterfield Chess Club 1924Founder members of the Chesterfield Chess Club 1924
Founder members of the Chesterfield Chess Club 1924

To be overseen by the Chesterfield Chess Club, Martin sees the inspiration for the tournament a move from an original king of the club back in 1924.

“Because it’s our centenary, I was looking at our history, and I was particularly interested reading about Victor Owen Robinson who was a major figure in Chesterfield. He was the chairman of Robinson’s for a number of years. He was the driving force behind the formation of the chess club.”

“In the Derbyshire Times back in 1924, he inserted an advert leading to a meeting where the club was inaugurated. He was passionate about school chess, and was involved in the formation of the school chess league in Chesterfield in 1950. He had a trophy called the Robinson Trophy which was presented to the winners.”

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“When we wrote to various headteachers to run the idea of a chess tournament past them, the big schools in Chesterfield, they all got back to me saying ‘We’re running chess clubs, and we’d love to participate’. That’s interesting, because chess clubs have obviously re-emerged.”

“They were really excited about the prospect because at the moment there are no matches between local Chesterfield schools. So what we’re hoping is that this will generate inter-school chess activity in the future. It may well be that we will want to make this an annual event.”

“We have four schools competing for the trophy. They will have six pupils from each school. There will be a certificate for all the youngsters that take part.”

Martin sees the game of chess a valuable tool in education and life-learning. An organisation called Chess in Schools and Communities is also involved with the project, and Martin underlines what chess brings to young people aside from the fun of the game.

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“Mathematical skills, improved logical reasoning, pattern recognition and cognitive skills. Concentration, problem solving, resilience, self-esteem, patience…”

The 100-year-old Chesterfield Chess Club is also looking to introduce the game to even younger pupils. “We’ve got people in the club that are keen to do coaching in primary schools. In the future I wouldn’t rule out doing something similar, a Chesterfield and district tournament for primary schools.”

Chesterfield Chess Club meets at 7:30pm every Thursday upstairs at the Red Lion in Brimington. Martin says “We are very keen to welcome who knows and likes the game. We have members of all abilities.”

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