Rockets & rationing 75 years ago
German V2 rockets were still falling on London when a group of chess enthusiasts from the Wolverhampton and Walsall areas got together in March 1945 to form the Wolverhampton and District Chess League.
Seventy five years later, almost to the day, players from the two towns were due to meet at Wolverhampton Chess Club next week to celebrate the anniversary and attempt to re-create the wartime atmosphere, dressed in typical attire of the time.
Those plans are now in tatters, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic which has led to a widespread curtailment both of inter club matches and social chess club meetings.
Frank Wood, the Wolverhampton Club chairman and League committee member, said the league pioneers were clearly undaunted by the logistical problems of travelling to evening chess matches at a time when hardly anyone had a car and petrol rationing was very much still in force. In 1950 drivers were still rationed to 90 miles per month.
“Even today clubs can have difficulty in getting six players to evening matches. In those days it must have been a daunting problem preventing rapid expansion of the league. Local football teams, playing day-time Saturday matches must have found it far easier with much more time to get to games” he said.
Nevertheless the Wolverhampton League gradually expanded and today has 17 clubs running 34 teams in four divisions. The League’s boundaries have stretched to towns including Kidderminster. Stourbridge, Stafford, Telford, Rugeley and Lichfield.
In 1945, works and schools, initially paying ten shillings membership per season, were amongst the first members of the league which boasted eight clubs in its first season, the championship being won by Cannock, an area currently no longer represented by a chess club..
Not all clubs had chess clocks and if the match result was in the balance, unfinished games had to be sent to an independent chess expert to be adjudicated. Today, all matches are concluded in one evening session.
The Wolverhampton Chess League runs in tandem with the Birmingham and District Chess League, with a number of clubs competing in both leagues.
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