Chess in Thurrock


In 1972 chess took on a new lease of life in this country spurred on by the World Title match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. The Thurrock Gazette of April 1975 reported that the Stanford-le-Hope Scout Chess Tournament spread over two days and attracted 162 entries. In December Michael Campbell of South Ockendon is reported as winning the British Forces, Germany, Chess Championship. Two of those concerned with the founding of Grays Chess Club in 1975, Clive Bellinger and Peter Cline, had won their section in the Thurrock Schools Chess Association in 1965/6.

The Gazette again brought chess to the fore when it carried an advert in the Personal Column on 27 June 1975 headed "Interested in chess? How about starting a club. Contact Mr Winter…. There were a number of replies, including some from members who had similar ideas at the Conservative Club and others who were already playing chess with the neighbouring club at Upminster. A notice in the library attracted others. The first meetings were held in the upstairs hall at the Conservative Club which remained the venue until 1980. The first AGM was held in 1976. At the 1977 AGM a constitution was put forward in which the name was changed from 'Grays and District Chess Club' to 'Grays Chess Club'.

Early in 1978 there arose a split in the ranks between those who enjoyed an informal atmosphere and the encouragement of youngsters, and those who wished only to play in league matches. This led to the formation of a new club at Tilbury Community Centre. There was a dramatic effect on Grays membership which fell from a high of 64 members to only 26 by April 1978. But by 1981 Tilbury were suggesting joining with Grays to play league matches - a proposal which was rejected by Grays. Soon after, Tilbury members gradually returned to the fold.

Grays became quite successful. In 1977 they organised a simultaneous display by Grand Master Leonard Barden; other Grand Masters who came to Thurrock were David Norwood, William Watson and Jonathan Levitt. The club first entered two teams in the Essex Chess Asssociation league in 1976. The results were impressive over a number of years, Grays coming first in the second, third, fourth and fifth divisions in various years. Club member Ian Pheby won the All-Play-All Tournament at the 27th Ilford Chess Congress in 1976. Andy King was Essex U150 Champion in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

As well as organising their own tournaments for club trophies Grays also helped to continue the tradition of chess in the scouting movement. The Club provided the equipment and the judges for the annual cub pack tournament with which they have been involved since 1987. Another local venture has been to organise an annual open-air chess tournament at the Orsett Show for which a trophy is presented by the Show organisers. This competition, which started in 1988, utilises a giant chess set and board donated by local accountants Rowland Hall and Co.

In 2001 there was another change of name to Thurrock Chess Club and a change of venue to the Grays Working Mens' Club in London Road.. The club continues to provide training and experience for young players, meeting on Wednesdays at 7.30 pm. For further information contact Malcolm Crane on 01375 379424.
Thurrock jumior schools have also been active in teaching youngsters chess under John Vigers' leadership.

The other chess club in Thurrock is that of the Shell Club at Corringhm, whose cliub began as a section in about 1954. In its early days it, too, under the leadership of Jim Luck, organised simultaneous displays with grand masters Larsen and Karpov. Grays played a 'friendly' match with Shell in 1977. After Shell had problems in 1994 their equipment was passed to Grays. It was returned in 2001 when the Shell Club was refounded, again under Jim Luck's leadership. This club has already had successes in both the Essex and Southend Leagues and has organised a simultaneous display with the young Grand Master and runner--up for the World Championship, Nigel Short. The club meets on Tuesdays at 7.30 pm at the Shell Club, Springhouse Road, Corringham; it has a web-site whose address is:

For further information contact The Manager, Shell Club, Corringham, 01375 672083.