Member Insights

Here’s a fine insight from Simon McGuinness on the history of the South Shields Chess Club:
In the history of the South Shields Chess Club I doubt there was a stronger player than Lance Oliver. When I started playing seriously in about 1972 Lance was absent from the club, he had struggled with health problems and when he came back in the early 1980s his best days were probably behind him. Nevertheless he was a fierce attacking player with both black and white. He had an excellent eye for combination and sacrifice. In his fifties and without playing for several years he rapidly gained in strength enough to beat the existing county champion, Ken Neat. Lance himself was Northumberland county champion at some point and was afraid of no one over the board. He was a great collector of chess books and pieces and many items were bequeathed to the club and it’s members on his passing in the 90s. I never knew Lance very well personally, as he was a very private person, but he should go down as probably the strongest South Shields chess player ever.

Stan Hawes was another player who graced South Shields chess club for many years . I think few would disagree that he was a real gentleman and one of the nicest men you could possibly meet . He joined the club along with his brother Dennis in the 1970s. Dennis was the stronger player but I think left due to work commitments. Stan was a natural player with little or no interest in theoretical study. He was one of the most enthusiastic players I have met. Rarely without a cigarette in his hand (remarkable if only because he worked for the gas board for years !) he would remain buoyant win, lose or draw. He played in many congresses and I rather think scooped quite a lot if prize money over the years on the chess circuit. Stan sadly died in 2008 but I am sure is remembered fondly by many.

Another from Hugh Hunter:
I was 16 when I joined South Shields Chess Club at the Marine & Technical College in 1969. There were a number of older players including Lance Oliver mentioned by Simon. Lance was very reserved and always brought his own rosewood chess set along to the club. The knights had hypnotic diamond eyes. The secretary of the club was Mr Dodds and other long standing members included Mr Bishop and Mr Jennings who always smoked a pipe containing a very aromatic blend of tobacco. One of our stronger players was Mr Williamson who played a defensive game, waiting for his opponent to make mistakes; perhaps a little in the style of Petrosian. Keith Dunmore was also a regular who was a strong player at both chess and draughts. We had two teams and held our own in the leagues without finishing top. Sunderland had two good teams: Sunderland YMCA and Sunderland NALGO. After the Marine & Tech ,we played at various venues: the YMCA in Fowler Street followed by the Psalm room at the rear of St Hilda’s church in the market place. Eddie Jenkins was elected secretary of the club when were were still at the college and continued in the role for several years.

A memory of players past from Ian Maughan:
For a year or so, while he studied engineering, at The Marine & Tech as it then , an excellent chess player called Daz Subrata  was a regular at Shield’s Chess Club in the days when it was still at St Hilda’s. Actually, the club used to attract quite a  few overseas students . With a very sharp eye for tactics and deep positional understanding, Daz was a most impressive player. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with such an amazing grasp of the possibilities contained in any position. It was an education to witness his analytical abilities as he would with dizzying speed of thought (at least 50 times faster than most club players!) confidently dismiss most suggested lines of play as if they were of no account whatsoever and not deserving of his consideration. By some minor miracle I think I did on rare occasions win the odd blitz game against him, but those were few and far between and more by luck than good management. He usually annihilated me! I remember Daz was keen on Wordsworth and while in England had planned to visit Dove Cottage proving he had a heart as well as a brain. Recently, out of curiosity I Googled his name + chess and drew a blank, but I’d be most surprised, assuming he still plays chess, if he isn’t SuperGrandmaster strength by now.

A True Story – The Night A Twister Came To The Club – Fondly remembered by Ian Maughan:
I was there the night a twister hit South Shields Chess Club! I don’t think it had ever happened before, and I doubt very much if it will happen again. The twister in question, I seem to recall blew in the form of a mystery chess player .Anyway, I was there that night when the extraordinary twisting took place. For I was the first (and probably the last) to sit down and play a game of chess against a very polite and well-spoken young man who simply oozed confidence and obviously rated his chances of pulling off a clean sweep and trouncing each member of the club, one by one. That was certainly the impression I got. What was so memorable about his play, however, wasn’t so much the moves themselves, but the very distinctive style in which he played them. For every time it was his turn, he would confidently pick up a piece, raise it above the board, about a couple of feet in the air and then slam it down forcefully onto a square while giving it an exaggerated – and I have to say completely unnecessary – twist of his wrist. The effect was shocking to anyone, like myself, used to playing a quiet, gentle, undemonstrative game of chess, although, at the same time I couldn’t help being amused by it. I only recall playing the one game against this extraordinary visitor – whose name, I’m afraid I’ve long forgotten. I managed to win without too much trouble, despite being somewhat traumatised by the slamming of pieces from a great height coupled with the most unnerving twisting movement,  carried out as if he were screwing each piece firmly onto the squares. Or else mentally screwing down to his satisfaction, the coffin-lid of his opponent! From that night on, sadly, no more was seen of the twister, or his unique and dramatic way of moving the chessmen, reminiscent of the controversial service action of some table-tennis players at the time. No more ‘twisting the knight away’. And thereafter, against much duller players I’m relieved to report, my blood-pressure, just about returned to normal!

Some Memories stirred in David Pardoe:
I was a member from about 1966-70, and remember some of the people mentioned, including Jack Bishop, Mr Dodds, Lance Oliver and Mr Johnson. I recall one night around 1968, when the club hosted a Simultaneous Chess Event featuring one of Englands leading players, P H Clarke. I think about 40 players took part at the Marine & Tech, and there were two who beat him, myself and Eric Whiting if I remember correctly. We received book prizes, but it was a memorable night. It was a great challenge by Peter Clarke to take on 40 players simultaneously, and these days our top players limit themselves to about 30 opponents. He played at Newcastle and Sunderland clubs also on that tour and was probably a top 10 British player in the mid 60’s, and wrote some classic books on chess. He went on to become British Master and Chess Correspondent for The Times. In those days South Shields had about 20 active members I believe, including Bill Jenkings, and a great chap called Mr Joss, whose advice to me as a young player was invaluable.