(Established since 1959)

Metropolitan Chess Club History

The Chief Secretary's Chess Club operated within the WA government Department of Chief Secretary's from 1948.

In 1959 the core of that club (20-25 players) lead by Robert (Bob) Pilgrim and Allan Respini established an independent club, open to players outside the department. This "new" club retained its original name but immediately became an affiliated member of the Chess Association of Western Australia (CAWA) Inc. Great assistance in establishing this club was given by John Butcher, Doug McLean, Vic Smyth and Richard Lilly.

The club moved from its initial location within the department at 57 Murray Street, Perth to the adjacent Young Australia League Building, corner Irwin and Murray Streets, Perth. The hall hire at the time was 1 pound & 10 shillings per night.

On 19 January 1961 the club agreed to change its name to the Metropolitan Chess Club. The inaugural President was Allan Respini; Secretary, Morrie Bergl; and Treasurer, Paul Fellows.

Accommodation Changes
Due to accommodation difficulty, the club moved out of the city to the Sunset Hospital (Old Men's Home), Birdwood Parade, Nedlands on 24 November 1963. This arrangement was financially beneficial since the venue was free but the room set-up was far from ideal and the venue was not conducive for an expanding membership.

During 1965/66 the club moved to Drabble House, Webster Street, Nedlands and has been there ever since. Initially one room was booked but as the membership increased so did the lease arrangements on the venue. Currently the whole house is booked (3 playing rooms) and our membership is now capped at 70.

For two years (2006 & 2007) the club membership was full and a "waiting list" with up to a dozen names was held by the Membership Officer. During this time many players considered other clubs with the Perth Chess Club (operating in the northern suburbs at Woodvale) picking up a significant number of these.

Social Highlights
In the early years of the club the annual Christmas party took the form of a family picnic day at Yanchep (a sea-side holiday town 50 kilometres north of Perth). The venue was the Gloucester Lodge in the Yanchep National Park. The day began at 11.00am and included activities such as running races for children, lightning tournament for members and friends and presentation of trophies won during competitions played that year.

The usual Christmas hamper raffle and spot prizes were arranged. Naturally nutritious food such as ice-cream, lollies, hard and soft drinks were available. These annual Christmas parties were very popular and well patronized during the 60's and 70's. The cost of attendance in 1963 was 7 shillings and 6 pence per family or 5 shillings per player (if alone).

Club Competitions
Early on in the club's history, mainly social (unrated) games were played, with players providing their own equipment. These days standard competition equipment is provided by the club including digital timers and self-carbonated score sheets so games can be published on the club's website.

The Club Championship began in 1959 with Bob Pilgrim being the first Club Champion. In 1960 the entry fee for the A division was 7 shillings. The format has always been an all-play-all event played within divisions based on the participant's ACF rating. For many years the time limit was 36 moves in 90 minutes, then 24 moves per hour with adjournments after the initial period. With digital clocks now the time limit is 70 minutes plus 40 seconds per move.

The Club Lightning Championship began in 1969 with Richard Lilly winning the title. In this event players were divided into groups of 8-10 with each group being of similar strength. Each group was an all-play-all with the top 3 in each group advancing to the final all-play-all group of 6-9 players.

1973 saw the establishment of three tournaments. The Respini Tournament (named in honour of Allan Respini) was a major competition set on the same format as the Club Championship. Details of its format can be seen on the Respini Tournament page of the website. John Butcher won the A division in its first year. Since 2004 the A division is registered and rated by FIDE.

Fixed Opening Tournament was a social event (not rated) to be played at club nights while the WA State Championships and the WA Inter-Club Competition were being played. Robert Butcher (19 years old) won this event in 1973.

The Club Lightning Handicap Championship was played the week after the club Lightning event. Handicaps were based on the previous week's results and a player's rating if they did not participate in that event. Bob Pilgrim, Norm Gillett, and Mark Segal shared the title in the competition's first year in 1973.

To encourage members to play in tournaments other than just the Club Championship an Aggregate Trophy was established in 1973. The points scored are within each division therefore any player in the club who does well at their respective level can win the trophy and the cash prize. The first year winner was Bob Pilgrim. Due to the significant effort put into the operations of the club, this competition was re-named the Robert Pilgrim Aggregate Trophy in 1998.

With the club's 40th year celebrations coming up in 1999 the Committee reflected on elements that made it successful. Recognition of the great effort of voluntary members in the club was considered and in 1998 the Best Club Member award was established. A perpetual trophy was purchased and a small cash prize was awarded annually. Garry Taylor was the first member recognised on the trophy.

Juniors will always be the life blood of any club so encouragement is necessary. Our club has very strong ties to the Lathlain Junior Chess Club where Bob Pilgrim has been coach for many years and assists in delivery of the annual program. That club has produced many of the State’s strongest juniors. It is no accident that following a solid beginning at the Lathlain Club, juniors progressed to the Metro Club and developed their skills further. The Most Improved Player award was introduced in 1998 to recognise improving members whether a junior or not. Eighteen year old Natalie Taylor (now Maris) was the first winner of this award. At the time she was the State Women’s Champion.

1999 saw the club's 40th year of operations and the establishment of a 7 round swiss tournament called the Metro Open. This event is initially open to club members but if all places are not taken, it is then open to any CAWA member. Timo Farber from the Midland Chess Club won the title in 1999.

Inter-Club Competitions
The Harris Shield (Harris/Edwardes) is the major inter-club competition organised by the Chess Association of Western Australia (CAWA). Since its inception in 1958 it was played between chess clubs affiliated with the CAWA. In more recent years "affiliation" with the CAWA is a less formal arrangement and "approved" groups or clubs have been permitted to enter.

Historically the home and away matches was an excellent way for club members to meet players from other clubs and get to know their venues. This concept altered over the past 10-15 years with matches being played at the Perth Chess Centre, Kings Hotel, Hay Street, Perth and then at Legacy House, 64 Mill Point Road, South Perth.

Clubs are invited to nominate teams of 4 players (with reserves). The competition consists of two or three grades (divisions) depending on the number of teams nominated. Allocation of a team to a division depends on the average rating of the top 4 players in the team.

In 1996 two divisions held six teams each. Midland entered 5 teams, Metro 3 teams, University 2, Fremantle and Perth had one team each.

1998 saw three divisions of 4 teams. Metro and Midland fielded a team in each division, Fremantle and Perth had 2 teams each, Westrac and the Women's & Girls Chess Council (WGCC) entered one team each.

The mixture of teams in 2002 was rather interesting with Metro, Midland and Fremantle playing one team in the A division. Six teams in the B division included 2 from Metro and one each from Midland, Perth, WGCC and the Junior Chess Council (JCC). The C division had 4 teams, one each from Metro, Midland, JCC and the Fremantle Juniors.

Gordon Dunlop has organised this competition from at least 1996 and has done a wonderful job. He constantly accepts feedback from players and clubs and fine-tunes the format each year. This ensures the competition continues to be popular and relevant to members.

The Bernard Anton Challenge is an annual inter-club teams competition between The Perth Chess Club and The Metro Chess Club.

This competition strengthens the ties between our clubs through friendly rivalry and enjoyable games. Home and away matches are always useful in introducing members to another club and its members.

Chess Equipment
Initially members brought their own chess equipment however the club set about raising funds to purchase its own equipment.

Two "tourney A varnished, felted and loaded chess sets" were purchased for 5 pounds each in 1960 from Chess World, 1 Bond Street, Sydney. Three "Tourney A (K 3 ½ inch) felted and loaded chess sets" were purchased from Chess World in 1961 for 4 pounds, 4 shillings & 6 pence each plus postage.

Thirty five pounds, seventeen shillings and tuppence was used to buy various equipment in 1961. Indeed, masonite was purchased the same year for one pound to make chess boards. In 1963 a "Garde" chess clock cost 6 pounds & 18 shillings each ($13.80).

During the 50 years of club operations, chess clocks have changed dramatically. The analogue clocks purchased included "Garde" made in Germany, "MOM" (with side leavers) made in Hungary, Russian "Jantar" (white) made in USSR, and BHB (three versions – upgrades) made in West Germany.

The digital game timers include DGT 2000 and DGT 2010 both made in the Netherlands.

Chess boards have improved from the masonite boards which suits oversized pieces, to the latest vinyl mats of an international standard.

A vast array of chess sets were purchased throughout the club's history. From oversized plastic sets suitable for the large boards, to smaller than standard wooden sets. In recent years the club has replaced all its old equipment with new boards, sets and clocks to meet the international standard.

Metro Honour Board
In the early 1960's Len Wilkinson, Finance Officer, Medical Department donated a chess board to the Metro Chess Club.

This board was specially made by Len who was skilled at woodturning. All squares on the board were individually inlaid. The white squares were made from Birdseye Maple and the dark squares from Silky Oak. The finished product was French polished ensuring a thick glossy coat protects the board.

Names of winners of the Club Championship were printed in gold over the board.

A photo of the board being held by the 1998 Club Champion Martin Hazelton is displayed below.

Martin was a very skilled player from England who took up a position of Mathematics Lecturer at the University of Western Australia.

Martin Hazelton

1998 Club Champion Martin Hazelton

Article published in the Metropolitan Chess Club 50th Anniversary Booklet - written by Garry Taylor.