History of Cumnor Chess Club

Cumnor Chess Club was established in October 2001.

In August 1999 Steve Bennett moved to Oxford from London. Unaware of any chess clubs in Oxford, Steve decided to start one.

Had Steve been aware of all the chess clubs in and around Oxford at that time, he most probably would not have bothered starting up a club from scratch. However, around May 2001 he placed an advert in Botley Post Office and another in Cumnor Newsagents, in order to see if there was any local interest to start a chess club. He received four calls in as many months. As there were no further enquiries he decided to get the club up and running.

Steve searched for a suitable local venue for the club to meet, and secured an evening every Thursday at Cumnor Old School. He purchased six chess sets and boards and the five members met for the first time on 11th October 2001.

The only founder members that are still regular players at the club are Ann Willan and Steve Bennett, the other three drifted away after a time. The average attendance in Cumnor Chess Club’s first nine weeks was four per evening. But then, soon after, the club started to take on new members and in the first year averaged 7.8 players per evening.

The club sees many faces come and go, but over time a new player sticks with the club and becomes a permanent member.

Around early 2004 Steve discovered Cowley Chess Club. He can’t remember how this happened, but managed to contact Lester Millin, Cowley’s Captain, and arranged a friendly match between our clubs, which was played at Cumnor Old School on 29th April 2004.

Cumnor lost the match 1.5 – 4.5. Lester mentioned that we might consider joining the ODCL league, but as the club was far too small for such a commitment, it wasn’t investigated further. (Steve used to run a chess club in London in 1990, and discovered then, the many problems that can ensue if you have a small club membership playing in a league.)

In the spring of 2006 Steve was in Grove, near Wantage. He popped into a green grocers there, and spotted a local publication, ‘What’s On In Wantage’. Flicking through it, he noticed there was a Chess Club in Wantage that meets every Tuesday evening. Steve called the contact name in the ad, Ray Cordon, and arranged to see him at one of their club evenings.

An eight board friendly match was arranged, and played on 25th May 2006 at Cumnor. Cumnor lost 3.5 – 4.5. Like Lester, Ray also suggested Cumnor Chess Club join the Oxfordshire & District Chess League (ODCL) league.

At first Steve was still reluctant to join the league, even though Cumnor’s permanent membership had increased since our friendly match against Cowley in 2004.

Steve still considered our numbers to be borderline to commit to joining a league. However, he put the idea of joining the league to the Cumnor players, of which they all expressed a positive desire to do so. Ray Cordon was also very instrumental in making Steve finally decide to enter the club into the ODCL league, and along with Ray’s help, Cumnor Chess Club entered the Oxford & District Chess League in September 2006, just in time for the start of the 06/07 season.

Of the four divisions in the league, we had to start in Division Four with seven other teams. At the end of our first season, Sept 06/April 07, we won twelve of our fourteen matches and lost the remaining two. Cumnor Chess Club won league division 4 after its 12th match, with two games in hand, as none of the other teams were able to catch us at that point in the season.

Cumnor Chess Club was promoted to Division 3 after its first season in the ODCL.

The ODCL 07/08 season was completed in April 2008, with Cumnor finishing bottom of Division 3. This season has been a completely different experience to our previous year in Division 4. Of the ten matches played we only managed 2 draws. However, the team has played stronger this year, despite meeting up with much stronger opposition. We shall be playing in Division 4 again next season and we are committed to win the Division again in 08/09.

The club has had some successes this season with two of its Junior players qualifying to play for Oxfordshire. Louis Hampden plays for Oxon U11’s and Hugo Thessieu plays for Oxon U10’s. The club also grew substantially over 2007. We now have an adult membership of 15 players and a Junior membership of 10. Sadly, Dennis Dyer, one of the clubs senior members, died this year.

Steven Bennett, 26th April 2008

The Oxfordshire District & Chess League, ODCL, changed its name to the Oxfordshire Chess Association, OCA.

Back in Division 4 this season, we encountered a number of different teams from the last time we played in the division in 06/07. We started the 08/09 season pretty slowly, losing 5 out of our 1st 7 matches, and at the half way point, were positioned bottom of the table in the eight team division. However, we slowly tightened up and gained ground in the second half of the season, finishing in 3rd place.

The club membership pretty much stayed the same during 07 through to 08. However, the few changes that occurred brought in stronger players to those leaving.

By February 2009 we had started to consider entering two teams in the OCA league. This would be a big commitment for the club, but it would also benefit those members that only play a few league matches in a season, along with those who do not get a chance to play at all.

After careful consideration we decided to enter two teams in the 09/10 season, starting September 2009. Liam Glenn will Captain Cumnor 2. Liam joined the club in September 2002, aged 12.

The club’s juniors made great progress at the start of 2009, of which 4 of the 11 qualified to player for Oxfordshire Juniors. Louis Hampden qualified for the second time to play for Oxon under 11’s. He won one of his three games in the Inter County Practice match in February 2009, but pulled off a fantastic 2.5 out of 3 in the Zonal Finals. Oxon Under 11’s came third in their section winning bronze medals, and going onto the final in May.

In the U11’s final, Louis, David and Susana played in the 24 player Oxon side, which came 6th in a 16 County final.

In the 2009 Oxon Under 9’s trails in January 09, Hugo came second place, winning 2 out of 3 games, and won a trophy for coming second. Unfortunately Hugo did not win any of his three games in the Under 9’s Zonal Championship in February.

This is the second year that Hugo has qualified for Oxon Under 9’s. Susana and David gained a place in the Oxon under 11’s practice match, held in February in Maidenstone. Both of them won 2 of their 3 games.

Susana was also picked to play for the Oxon Girl’s Under 11’s Final. The match was played on 28th March in Bolton. She won two of her three matches against opponents from Liverpool and Sussex.

All in all, the club has really progressed this year, we have a strong membership of over 25 players, 11 of which are juniors and 4 of them play for Oxfordshire Under 11’s & 9’s. We look forward to having two teams in the OCA league next year, which can only benefit all the members of the club.

Lastly and sadly, Lester Millin, Cowley Chess Club, passed away in the Autumn of 2008. Lester produced junior England chess players, and was widely respected across the Oxon Chess fraternity for all that he did for chess in Oxfordshire.

Steven Bennett, 3rd April 2009

The Club has undergone many changes since the last update in 2009. As mentioned before, we have fielded a second team in the 4th division since the start of the 2009/10 season. The second team has been used as an introduction into the Chess League system for many Juniors and Adults alike. As the Cumnor 2 team plays in the bottom division we can allow any player who would like to play some game time. The team is important to the growth of the club and a number of players who have started in the second team have been promoted into the first.

The first team, after a number of years bouncing up and down the divisions as the club settled down, now competes in the second division which we have been playing in since 2012. The club now has a much deeper squad of players to call on with seven players rated above ECF 138 and many others catching up with that benchmark.

The team also plays in the Frank Wood Shield, a knockout competition, with the highlights including reaching the semi-finals in 2011/12 and beating the Champions Witney 1 in 2014/15.

After the end of the 2010/11 season we decided to swap the captaincy of the first and second teams. My grade had increased to stop me playing every game in the second team so the simplest thing to do was to make Steve the second team captain and myself the first team captain.

Graham, with a little help from myself, has rebooted the website to give much more information to not only the Cumnor Chess Club members but to the local area, the chess playing community and beyond. We do our best with help from other contributors such as Andrew and Steve, to get the excitement created on the chequered board on to the website and show the world. Many of the Cumnor players share their games along with comments and interesting variations on the website. We also are active on Twitter and Facebook to reach even more people.

The internal competitions have likewise received a reboot and we currently have two competitions playing throughout the year, January-December. As the club now has players with a wide range of chess skill, we decided for 2015 it would be more fun for everyone if we split our traditional annual internal competition into two.

Our top-performing players (who typically play for the Cumnor 1 team) battle it out during the year, playing each other twice, to see who will win The Players’ Cup. Meanwhile, the rest of the club plays each other once (whether you will play white or black is decided randomly at the start of each game) to be in with a chance of receiving the Bill Laar Trophy.

Cumnor Chess Club is also well represented in tournaments; local, regional, national and internationally. Some of the more popular tournaments played in by ourselves include Cowley Blitz, Kidlington Chess Congress, Witney Chess Congress, The 4NCL, Chiltern League and The UK Chess Challenge. Keep an eye on the website to see how we get on and if you would like anymore information please check the links page or contact myself.

Sadly, Roger Burton a well known player in Oxfordshire lost his life in 2014. He came to the club in 2012 and always had a passion for the game. The club continues to grow with the current crop of players numbering around 25.

Liam Glenn, 12th March 2015