Winning and putting out top-notch players for almost 70 years.
Cricket and chess are two sports with a fine history, so it comes as no surprise that one of the world’s best chess clubs is tucked away on the grounds of the Downend Cricket Club in Bristol. That’s where you’ll find the Downend & Fishponds Chess Club – an organization that features casual players, experienced competitors, as well as beginners looking for a social outlet and help learning the game.
Beginnings of the Downend & Fishponds Chess Club
For nearly seventy years, the Downend & Fishponds Chess Club has provided chess lovers in the Bristol area a place to spend time with friends, enjoy a good game of chess, as well as compete and improve their skills. Over the years, it’s grown into one of the largest chess clubs in southwest England.
It all started in 1949 when a group of chess-loving friends would meet at each other’s houses to play. The club was finally made official later that year after one Mr. W. Rolls donated a hut for the group’s use. The group kicked off with a total of nine members who named themselves the Downend Chess Club.
The first members decided to choose a motto as a “battlecry” and opted for “Fortiter et Recte,” which translates into either “Vigorously and Correctly” or “Boldly and Rightly.” With time (and increasing numbers), the club took to the battlefield – challenging other chess teams from Bedminster, Charfield, and Kingswood to friendly competitions. By the summer of 1950, the membership numbers were up to 40 and the club was entering teams in League competitions. In the following years, the team began improving…and winning.
Headquarters on the Move
In 1958, two important events occurred. First, the group moved its headquarters to the Horseshoe Inn in Downend. Then the Fishponds Chess Club disbanded and some of its members joined the Downend Chess Club, giving it the moniker it exists under today. The 1960s brought an infusion of talent and energy from junior players such as Derek Wise, Geoff Young, and Richard Kendall. The club won its first League Championship in 1966-67.
In 1988, the Downend & Fishponds Chess Club made its final move to the Downend Cricket Club, where it’s met for over 26 years. The move was a happy one, as many of the club members also have cricket skills and have been invited to participate at Downend (the move occurred thanks to M.J. Wood, who served as the Treasurer of Downend Cricket Club).
Chess Club Events
Over the years, events held at the Downend & Fishponds Chess Club have evolved just as much as the organization itself. At first, the events held throughout the season were all-play-all before being divided into sections. In time, those events moved into one-off competitions. Today, the club’s Christmas and Summer tournaments attract the most talented players from all over the area.
Members of the club take part in events such as the Cross Hands Blitz, the British Blitz Championship Bristol Qualifier, the Cotswold Chess Congress, and the Bristol Summer Congress. The club also hosts its annual Downend Summer Tournament, a multi-night event that pairs players off in six games per evening.
Every year, Downend & Fishponds enters six teams in the Brisol & District Leagues. They’ve been crowned top division champions 14 times, starting in 1956-67 and most recently in 2016-17.
The Downends & Fishponds Chess Club has a wonderful website that’s full of historic photos of its membership that date back to the early days, as well as games to study and links to chess resources. Club players can log on to look at their grading and see how they match up against others.
There is also a “members only” section that allows official members to log in and access additional information and benefits. In 2017, it won the English Chess Federation’s award for Website of the Year.
Want to Attend a Meeting?
If you’re interested in stopping by to check out the club and maybe get involved in a game or two, you’re welcome to drop in! Downend & Fishponds meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Meetings are held at the clubhouse of the beautiful Downend Cricket Club, which is located at W.G. Grace Memorial Ground on Downend Road in Bristol.
Visitors to the club get to enjoy the scenic views, as well as the fascinating photographs and cricket memorabilia (as the cricket club is the home of Dr. W.G. Grace – one of the greatest cricket players of the 19th century).
Stop By and Play!
It doesn’t matter if you’re age 4 or age 104, if you live nearby (or will be visiting) and would like to take in a bit of chess amongst a group of warm and welcoming friends, the Downend & Fishponds Chess Club shouldn’t be missed. If you’re a competitive player, it’s an excellent place to be equally matched against top-notch players, but if you’re just learning or a casual player hoping to improve your game, don’t be deterred – the doors are open to everyone!