Following the Fischer Spassky World Championship of 1972, the wife of current member Dave Pugh came up with the idea that they could set up a new chess club for the newly inspired local youth. They started up a club of about 15 mostly young members at St James Church in Rubery. This was the start of our story ….
The club was soon playing competitive chess in Division 10 of the Birmingham League. They had many talented flourishing young players with a few more experienced members.Early members included The Pugh’s , D.Beckett ,I.Truscott, G.Harness ,N.Rodway , Bill & Andrew Whitten , N.McSheehee and a couple of brothers named Arkell !!
Allegedly, Our opponents had to walk past coffins on display to get to the match room where the strength of our players haunted and tortured them on the boards !!
By 1976 the club membership had doubled and had to move to play at the larger facilities at the King George V Pub. It was during the period at the pub that our current chaiman Laurence Wheatley and current secretary & team captain Richard Collett and current member Brian Allsop joined St James Chess Club.
With a few more years experience, the youngsters, along with new members, were now a very strong first team but in 76/77 had to enter the Birmingham League in Division 4. They cruised their way through to be successive division champions and gained rightful entry into the top division after winning Division 2 in 78/79. Division 1, however, was a much tougher nut to crack , being dominated by Kynoch Chess Club who won it an impressive 5 years on the trot from 80/81 to 84/85. In 85/86 St James finally cracked it and proudly became Birmingham League Champions for the first time. We were later to repeat this great achievement in seasons 88/9 and 93/4.
St James chess club continued to prosper eventually having to move again to play in a larger room at the Greenlands Social Club. The club’s very best years were probably from the late 70’s until the peak in mid to late 80’s before things slowly started going the other way. I joined a still very active thriving St James around 1988 and claim that it is only coincidence that the next 20 years or so saw a gradual but continual reduction in membership from in excess of 80 members down to a minimal survival level of 10-15.
This is where the now Greenlands Chess Club has stabilised since. As you can read in part 4 of our story, we are currently making great efforts to grow the club back towards these good old successful days.
At the start of the 90’s the club was still very strong with a good (Albeit declining) number of members playing in the big concert room of Greenlands Social Club. Unfortunately the numbers, for various reasons, continued to reduce throughout the decade. This inevitably caused difficulties in sustaining the previous high status and success of the teams which via the “Vicious Circle Scenario” led to more leavers. We may have been past our peak but by mid 90’s we still had very strong players including A.Hynes, P.Kitson,D.Joshi, N.McSheehey , M.Bethel & K.Hurney. Strong players including L.Wheatley, T.Hurney, I.Truscott & myself and also many good loyal club players including B.Allsop, R.Collett, F.Cassidy, S. Johnson and many others. In season 93/94 the club made extra effort to persuade Keith Arkell to help us out for one season which was rewarded by becoming Birmingham League Champions for a third time.
In 95/6 our B’ham D1 team finished a respectable mid table position, D2 were relegated and D5 just missed promotion in 3rd place.
Having now lost some of our strongest players, we could no longer avoid D1 relegation in 96/7. Next season 97/8 we performed brilliantly to be champions of D2. Mid table D3 but were relegated from D5.
In the 90’s, St James had internal competitions as well as other league & cups and a quarterly newsletter by K.Hurney. One of our trophies was the Fred Parker Trophy.
By doing this research , I realised who Fred Parker was. On many different nights when all was silent with serious league matches going on in the Greenlands concert room., you’d suddenly hear an elderly gentleman from our club shout out: “ I’ve made a balls up !! “ , that I’ve just learnt , was Fred Parker.
He without doubt deserved a trophy to be named after him but it was probably for been a long serving respected member of the club rather than his incredible ability for accurate but brutal analysis of his moves !!
Greenlands Social saw more profit in Bingo than Chess and so invested in refurbishment of “OUR” room (How Dare They !) Consequently by September 1997, it was time to hop over the road to Austin Rover Club.
This bought with it eventual finance problems with £20 week room charge between lower number of members. Eventually after much begging they reduced it to £10 week.
Our first team was no longer genuine D1 standard but somehow survived 98/99 before relegation in 99/2000.
Problems, problems …. but we are experts at survival !!
There can be no better proof of our stubbornness to survive than the following : (This time on the board, Division 1 survival by ex-member Kevin Hurney) St James needed Kevin to draw against Andrew Grant (Lichfield) to keep us in Division 1. It took FIVE sessions of play and 130sh moves before the final outcome was , you’ve guessed it : DRAW !!
Lets hope next century brings an upturn ….. ?
After a difficult 1990’s , St James continued on the slippery slope down into the 21st century. We had retained a few of our very strong players though and in typical St James fashion, after last year’s relegation, we bounced back once again to Division 1 with promotion in 2000/01. Even more impressively we performed well above our level with a mid table D1 finish in 01/02. The D1 team were now an unusual mix of 3 very strong D1 players on the top 3 boards with 3 players below D1 standard desperately trying to draw games on boards 4 to 6. The strain really started to tell in the following season and after losing the first 3 matches, we all agreed to withdraw the team. The unfortunate but understandable consequence of this was to lose the top 3 players to other clubs.
Off the board, finances were also straining due to low numbers. Even though Austin Rover room rent had reduced to £10 / week, we were still losing money. In 2005, Steve Shaw managed to negotiate us a great deal for us to return back to the Greenlands Social Club. They gave us the offer to have use of a nice room (Ideal for our smaller sized club) upstairs on a Tuesday night. This could also be Free of charge provided we became their chess club. The chance was a lifeline that we could not refuse and so St James Chess Club became Greenlands Chess Club.
Here we go again, —- Another hop back over Longbridge Lane !!
We had now left most of our superstars well in the past and were now a much smaller club of around 15 member mainly made up of average to good loyal players, most of whom had been at the club for many years. We could still just about run two Birmingham League teams in D3 & D6 and also a couple of teams in the Worcestershire Leagues.
In 2008/9 we won D3 and strengthened the team for the challenge of D2 to finish mid table the next season.
In 2010/11 we finished equal second bottom of D2 with Bushbury’s 2nd team.
This led to a very unusual play off situation, both clubs wanted to default in order to be relegated to D3. BDCL officials gave up after losing a few more hairs and agreed for both teams to play D3 the following season !! This has been very much justified in subsequent years with both yo-yoing between D5 & D4. (Note : Bushbury’s 1st team have remained in the top division).
We managed to run two BDCL teams until we had to discontinue the D6 team in 2013.
To finish off the past history, it’s only fair to mention the following memorial trophies won by the club :
ST JAMES : Frank H Terrill 75/6 (D7 team), 76/7 (D4 team), 77/8 (D3 team)
Dudley M Townsend 74/5 (D8 team), 75/6 (D7 team), 76/7 (D7 team)
85/6 (D8 team), 92/3 (D6 team)
And Finally, a one and only GREENLANDS trophy :
Jim Barrington 2014/15 YAY , GO GREENLANDS !!!!
And Now What ?? A question most of us ask as we make our moves !! We currently have one BDCL team (D4), and a team in both of the Worcestershire Leagues (In D2 of both)
The current season 2016/17 has already seen ups and downs with us struggling to try to maintain D4 BDCL status. We unfortunately lost two strong long standing players recently but on the other side have been joined by good enthusiastic new members and welcome Gary, Steve and Stan to help turn the club back onto an upward direction. In addition to our regular Birmingham League players, our current squad also benefits from the loyalty of Brian, Geoff and Frank who play in the Worcestershire Leagues and also help us out in the Birmingham League.
As well as playing, over many years, L.Wheatley, R.Collett and I.Truscott have also been very active in the running of the club and not forgetting S. Johnson & D. Beckett in earlier times.
Thanks to all the people who have contributed greatly for our clubs’ benefit over the years.
Now to the future. ???????????
New members Steve & Gary along with Richard and myself (Roy) are very keen to try to help find new Greenlands players.
Could you follow in Keith’s path from us to Grandmaster ??
We may be struggling now but not many clubs have such history !!
Onwards & Upwards, we hope so ! Please Join us — You’ll be very welcome !!
Tuesdays from 7pm
Greenlands Chess Club
Greenlands Social Club
Longbridge Lane (Opposite Longbridge Station)
B31 4LF Steve 07932 860524
Richard 0121 4587617
FOUR MORE YEARS
Greenlands Chess Club formally went out of existence on October 9th, 2020 following two uncertain years until our final and unceremonious eviction – so our future looked once more to be across Longbridge Lane back at the Austin!
With tales when visiting teams would have to negotiate with various coffins upon walking through the crypt of “Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church” in Long Leach Lane Rednal; and the return of Andrew Whitten to our online team in recent months; I sit here overseeing the final moments of Greenlands Chess Club, and giving birth to Longbridge Chess Club.
Since my arrival on September 13th 2016, the club had been transformed as I gradually immersed myself in the project to save a club in decline.
We started calling me Assistant Secretary, then Secretary, and finally mother to an entire membership; and having formed the Greenlands Chess Club and Academy.
Such has been our success in lifting another 5 Trophies; and in an increase of membership from approximately 10 players until we had 45 people associated with the club, if not more if we count a multitude of South Korean parents and their beautiful children. Academy was thriving, club was exceeding all expectations with the formation of the WDCL Division 1 team that looked to be lifting the first major trophy in almost 20 years – when Corona Virus struck and normality ceased to exist.
We had gone from forming six teams in various leagues, hosting County matches and events of a weekend; to a state of shock, as we faced the perfect storm of Covid-19, threatened eviction and the discovery of my cancer; which severely hampered my ability to organise effectively. So it became apparent that I should stop playing competitive chess, and concentrate on recovery…
I wasn’t the only one responsible for the upturn in the good fortunes that had taken shape; many excellent people had contributed. Gary Mason had been an inspiration but then left the club as a hundred people came and mostly went through the revolving door of club and Academy – publicity had been very effective. Nonetheless, many good people stuck with us and were instrumental in the revival of the club. People like Stephen Woodhouse and Spike Bignall remain to this day; part of a fantastic team that still includes Richard Collett, Kevin Hurney, Roy Peters, Brian Allsop, and fellow cancer victim Ian Truscott; who was instrumental in attracting GM Keith Arkell back to play in our online 1st team.
Despite the uncertainty; we continue to build and to grow online; and to play our final match as Greenlands a few evenings from now.
Following our final online WMA match with Worcester in this year of 2020; Greenlands will cease to exist. We shall blot out that building from our own interpretation of the landscape, as we look forward to the continued regeneration of Longbridge.
From midnight, October 8th, Longbridge Chess Club will in theory take up residence at the Austin, in what will be a new and exciting adventure.