Club History 1: Foundation and the Nineteenth Century
According to the the club's minute book, Worcester City Chess Club was re-founded in 1837 and the first mention in published sources was in 1845 when the Illustrated London News stated that the club met in the Museum, Foregate Street. However, it is possible to trace Worcester's association with the "royal game" back to the twelfth century because Alexander of Neckham, who is buried in Worcester Cathedral, wrote about the game in 1180. Worcester has also the doubtful distinction of having hosted the Synod in 1240 at which the Church banned priests and monks from playing chess. This edict was almost certainly a heavy-handed reaction to the popularity of the game. Taking the verifiable date of 1837, it is believed that only two other British clubs have such a long history. It is interesting to see over and over again in the early records an important item of expenditure: candles!
In 1852, Löwenthal, was reported to "have a professional engagement at Worcester". Johann Löwenthal, was one of the first international professional chess players. He was born in Budapest, played in the USA where he was friendly with Paul Murphy, and then settled in London where he was a professional player for the St George's Club. In 1853, The Chess Player's Chronicle reported that Worcester City Chess Club had been re-organised with Lord Lyttleton as President. Lord Lyttleton was a prominent Conservative politician and Lord Lieutenant - the Queen's representative - in Worcestershire for 37 years. Lyttleton was also President of the British Chess Association, and a moving force behind the 1862 London International Chess Congress, which pioneered the 'American system' (all-play-all) in international tournament play. In 1855 Worcester beat Birmingham in a chess match, but Worcester lost the return match in the following year 2-12. The earliest recorded meeting place of the club is the Museum room at the then Worcester Grammar School. After 1882, the club met at the Guildhall and then moved to the Victoria Hotel in 1899. In 1885 the international player Joseph Henry Blackburn took on 8 Worcester players in a blindfold simultaneous display (for one of his victories click here). The club transferred to the Central Hotel on the Cross in 1903 where facilities for members were provided from 3pm on club days.
Notable Early President Rev Charles Ranken
One of our early Presidents was Rev Charles. E. Ranken, editor of the Chess Players' Chronicle and for some years of the British Chess Magazine's games department. He was a player of international strength, having beaten MacDonnell and drawing with players such as von Bardeleben and Gunsberg. Ranken is also remembered for his re-establishment of the Oxford University Chess Club and his joint authorship of Chess Openings Ancient and Modern in 1893. One of the Club's trophies is The Ranken Tournament Cup first presented in 1895 to F G Jones.