We Were the Champions (3)

On this day in 1975 we faced Mushrooms. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll be aware that we also played them just a few days ago.

Our opponents were a player short and weak on the lower boards, so scoring heavily at the bottom, along with winning with White and drawing with Black at the top, proved a successful policy, and we scored a comfortable win.

24 October 1975 St Bride’s Institute
Richmond & Twickenham 1 Mushrooms
1 AP Law 225 ½:½ RMR O’Kelly 204
2 GH James 211 1:0 RL Johannes 201
3 MJ Franklin 192 ½:½ WA Linton 199
4 MJ Lightfoot 183 1:0 TW Pelling 191
5 AR Bracher – ½:½ RS Sefton 178
6 P Gillham 184 0:1 R Lancaster –
7 PJ Stubbs 179 ½:½ R Roberts –
8 DM Andrew 182 ½:½ CR Carew 160
9 JC Benjamin 183 1:0 P Bacon –
10 CD Carr 178 ½:½ MW Burrows 129
11 HO Herbst 171 1:0 P Alexander 102
12 PJ Sowray 170 1:0 Default
8:4

You’ll note a few things. Firstly, Rory O’Kelly, Bill Linton and Tim Pelling are still, 43 years on, playing regularly for Mushrooms and appeared against us the other day. While Rory and Bill’s grades have, understandably declined slightly, Tim’s grade is, impressively, even higher than it was back in 1975.

Roger Lancaster no longer plays for Mushrooms, but is very much involved with chess, particularly junior coaching, in Watford.

Patrick Alexander, Board 11 for Mushrooms, was a well-known novelist.

To explain the name, let’s go back to the 1950s, when a group of teenage chess enthusiasts from the Harrow area formed a club known as Cedars. They were famous in their day but didn’t last too long, and, by 1975 two of their leading lights, Daves Rumens and Mabbs, were playing for Hampstead. Other clubs sprang up in imitation, giving themselves similarly botanical names. Most didn’t last long, but the Mushrooms are still active, now, unlike then, big enough to field two strong London League teams. Long may they continue to flourish.

One final question: they were halcyon days in the 1950s and 60s, when many teenagers (sadly nearly all boys), often from what would then have been called working-class backgrounds, were fanatical about chess. Given my age and my interest in chess history, it’s natural that I should write a lot about the past, but how can we get back there? How can we bring more teenagers from all backgrounds, girls as well as boys, into chess?