Early Beginnings

The first known founder / organiser of Crowthorne Chess Club was JMO (John Michael Osbourne) Curtis known as Mike to his friends. He was a teacher of History and Classics at Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire. Indeed, as a member myself in the early 1970s we would meet n Monday evenings in one of the classrooms of the Classics Department at Queen’s Court. Strangely, I remember that Mike’s telephone number was Crowthorne 2012.

My initial 1974 membership (and my first chess club) followed on the back of the huge media interest in the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match in Reykyavik. My Yateley School team mate, Mark Johnstone joined shortly after myself. Mark is now a highly successful barrister.

From those days the following members I can recall (using old scoresheets): M. Hameau, Norman Grant, Ken Preston-Wyse, John Evans, Terry King, John Sweeney, Fred Marzillier, R. Thompson, EM Davies, A. Keith Langford , A. Wort, ? Keeler, AM Foss and Ralph Knight.

The Berkshire League Beckoned

Crowthorne became affiliated to the Berkshire Chess Association for the 1975-6 season and in 1976 won its first trophy when the A team won the FS Woolford Trophy, for winning Division Two.

Early members at that time included Stan Dolan, John A. Freeman, Gordon Ironside, Arthur Sydney (“Sim”) Tonks (who lived in Scotland Hill), Don Derrick, Martin Harvey, Ron Crow. I went to UCL in 1978 and gave up chess in 1983 to restart my academic career at The University of Sussex and did not “play” again until 2004.

For the 1979-80 season Dr Nick England took over from Mike Curtis as Secretary. Nick was on Crowthorne 5623 and lived in Rose Cottage, taught Physics and went on to become Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight. The 1983-84 season saw a handover to Doug Legge who continued in post until 1985-86 to be replaced by Laurie Crowe.

1983 FM Richard Webb joined the club. Ken and Christine Coates (based in Yateley) joined in 1998 Ken having played for ICL Bracknell.(which folded) along with Mark Taylor who also joined Crowthorne.

Mike Curtis passed away in 1984. Having been a Japanese PoW he had carried a burden of ill health since 1945.

In 1984 an internal event was created called the Khyber Cup (now called the John Purkis Shield) which was an unrated rapidplay tournament of five rounds held at a members home. The first winner was Richard Webb. It has been held to the present day and even Covid-19 did not interrupt it.

The 1988-89 saw Gordon Ironside take over from Laurie as Secretary. Match Captains for that season were (A) Mark Saunders, (B) Ralph N Knight and (C) Barry D Halley.

The Surrey Border League

Around about this time (1986?), Crowthorne became affiliated to The Surrey & Hampshire Border League (known as the Surrey Border League these days) and in the first season won the Haslemere Trophy. In 1989 the A team won the top division of the Border League which had the strong Guildford and Camberley teams to contend with.

Richard Webb became Secretary for the 1989-90 season whilst living in Yateley and the Match Captains were as the previous year. Richard continued in 1990-91 and Neil Staples became A team Match Captain, Mark Saunders moved down to the B team and Vick Stegglass managed the C team. In the following year Mark Saunders resumed his A team captaincy, Gordon Ironside took over the B teams and John Purkis (of Khyber Cup fame) the C team.

After seven years service Richard stepped down and Peter Larwood took over for the 1996 -1997 season continuing in post until 2015 when replaced by the current Secretary, Jonathan Welton.

Past club Presidents have included Nick England, Richard Webb, Sim Tonks, Ken Norman, Ian Murray, Mark Taylor and Colin Purdon.

John Freeman won the Cadogan Cup (the Berkshire Individual Championship) in 1983 and Richard first won the same in 1984 and the Berkshire Quickplay Cup in 1990 retaining the title in the following year.

In 1993 Crowthorne first won Division One of the Berkshire League and, for the first time, The Premier Precision Trophy, the main knockout competition of the Berkshire League. 1993 was the first year of total dominance in the Berkshire League winning Divisions One, Two (albeit shared), Three and the Premier Precision Trophy. Crowthorne, to some extent, had replaced Reading as the club which had dominated the league for years since its inception in 1910.

In 19?? John Rawlinson (Mathematics) took over as liaison between the club and the College. john kindly facilitated the clubs meeting venue moving from the Classics Department to the Mathematics Department, also in Queen’s Court. During the time that Wellington College awarded bursaries for chess John ran a hugely strong Wellington College team of pupils which won the Berkshire League, Division One.

The Wellington College team included Felix Jose Ynojosa-Aponte, Alex Galliano, Lateefah Messam-Sparks, Brandon Clarke, James Holland, Akash Jain and Adrian Archer-Lock and latterly, William Foo.

In 2023 the club vacated its home in the Mathematics Department and relocated to the rather splendid Monro Pavillion so named after Hugo Monro who was the 12th Master of the College replaced in 2006 by Sir Anthony Seldon.

Other notable members and past members of the club include IM Shaun Taulbut, IM Tom Hinks-Edwards, FM Stephen Dishman, FM Paul Cooksey, WIM Natasha Regan and WFM Louise Head amongst others.

Our current Secretary is Jonathan Welton, President is Harriet Haslehurst and Treasurer is Harvey Duckers