Sunday, 25 September 2016

HOCCC: The formation of the North Essex Chess League

The material for this post was taken from the booklet "The History of the North Essex Chess League" by J. Priestley.  It follows on from this post about the Essex-Suffolk Border League.


The scene was now set for a rapid series of friendly matches between the various clubs in the group, with the match-starved Chelmsford players alone completing half a dozen such fixtures in the first few weeks of 1964. With the frequency of fixtures approaching that in organised competitions, talk soon turned to the possibility of forming a league in which all could compete.

Braintree, under the energetic leadership of Colin Smith, were predominant in these discussions and it was they who called an exploratory meeting at Braintree Institute on 3rd April 1964. Exchanges of information had revealed that clubs were known to exist at Braintree, Chelmsford, Colchester, Hoffmann, Wethersfield, Wickford, Ghyllgrove, Kedington, Burnham-on-Crouch and Clacton but, although all were invited, only the first five named sent representatives on the day, although Clacton indicated that they might wish to take part if a league could be formed. Of the others, Kedington felt that they were not yet ready for the commitment of regular league chess, while Burnham, Ghyllgrove and Wickford all concluded that entry into the Essex League was more suitable to their geographical locations at the southern end of central Essex, and were considering such a liaison.

The response had been slightly disappointing, but enthusiasm ran infectiously high. Although many who attended the meeting had officiated at club level, nobody knew very much about running a league. Possibly, this was just as well, for any voice of experience might well have materially dampened enthusiasm by casting serious doubts on the wisdom of setting up a league of just five clubs. But if anybody had such apprehensions they were unheard in the jubilant spirit of adventure which dominated the proceedings and it was resolved to form a league under the title "North Essex Chess League". Matches were to be played over six boards on a home and away basis. A place was reserved for Clacton, but in the event it was not taken up. Colin Smith was elected chairman, and Len Frain secretary. The latter found himself on the move from Braintree only shortly afterwards and was replaced by another Braintree member, Brian Heath, who acted in a temporary capacity for the first season. The League was to be administered by a committee consisting of chairman, secretary and one representative from each club. Only the club representatives had the power to vote.

The area had seen a remarkable transformation in a short period of time. Only a few months before it would have seemed to the observer that there was no likelihood of organised competition being re-introduced for quite a long while, the previous venture having failed for want of support in an area larger, and thus with a greater population than that covered by the new league. But there was still some way to go before the new league could justifiably describe itself as established.

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