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Surbiton Chess Club History

To celebrate our 70th birthday we attempted to put together a short history of our club. That proved to be somewhat of a challenge due to an almost complete lack of written archive records within the club and also the incomplete records in one of the leagues we compete in. So this is a work in progress and we hope we can add to it over time. In particular there is one mystery about our origins that we hope a keen archivist might one day help us resolve.

Much of what we have been able to find out is via the kind efforts of Martin Cath and our gratitude and appreciation for his help are hereby noted.

The present incarnation of Surbiton Chess Club was formed in 1949. Why use the words "present incarnation" you may ask? Well, Surrey County Chess Association ("SCCA") records show that a "Surbiton" chess team won the Surrey Trophy in 1908-09 and the Beaumont Cup in 1905-06, 1906-07 and 1914-15. However, the Surrey Comet newspaper article dated 23rd September 1950, and linked to above, clearly states that "The club was formed in February of last year", i.e. February 1949. There are also no records that have been unearthed thus far indicating any Surbiton Chess Club in existence between the two World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-1945. Surrey records should have turned something up but did not. Thames Valley Chess League was not formed until 1947. We have two possible explanations, both of which are speculative:

a) The Surbiton Chess Club which existed until at least 1914-15 went out of existence as a result of the ravages of the First World War and a new chess club was not formed in Surbiton until 1949, after sufficient time had passed after the Second World War for normal life to have resumed.

b) Between the World Wars there was another chess club in our area, namely the Thames Valley Chess Club. In the 1927-28 season they were meeting in the Zeeta Cafe, Kingston Bridge, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a membership of nearly 60, including many of Surrey's leading players of that era. In 1931-32 they merged with Kingston Chess Club. Perhaps the pre-First World War Surbiton changed its name to Thames Valley Chess Club? Or did the former go out of existence because of the rise of the latter?

In either of the above cases, the current Surbiton Chess Club was born in February 1949 and so we celebrated our 70th birthday in 2019. If anyone can come up with more records to cast more light on this matter we would be most grateful. However we had our 70th birthday party regardless as we had bought the cake! A summary of other things the records (which are not complete) examined thus far show:


Meeting Venue

Meeting Days




Surbiton  Red Cross House


H.L.D. Dyer (Chair)

L. Green (Secretary)

E.W. Hall (Treasurer)

Thames Valley


Braemar, Lamberts Road, Surbiton

Mondays & Fridays

D. Chisholm (Secretary)

As above


British Legion, Hollyfield Road, Surbiton

Tuesdays & Thursdays

W.T. Atkinson (Secretary)

Thames Valley



Alfriston, 3 Berrylands Road, Surbiton


As above

Thames Valley


Library Staff Canteen, Ewell Road, Surbiton


As above

As above


As above


C.J. Viles (Secretary)

As above


Surbiton Hill Methodist Church


As above

As above


As above

As above

P. Durrant (Secretary)

As above


As above

As above

As above

Thames Valley



As above

As above

D.E. Poulter (Secretary)

As above


As above

As above

D.A. Barrett (Secretary)

As above


As above


P.E. Barnard


As above


The Surbiton Club,

34 St. James Road,


As above

As above

As above


Fircroft, 96 Ditton Road, Surbiton

As above

As above

As above


As above

As above

P.Durrant (Chair)

A.S. James


D. Morant (Treasurer)

As above


As above

As above

As above

Thames Valley



*Whilst at this venue the club changed its name to British Legion(Surbiton). The name reverted back to Surbiton when it moved venue four years later.

We have competed in both the Thames Valley and SCCA leagues, albeit with some gaps in our SCCA presence when it was too difficult to raise two (today we have eleven!) teams. More recently, in 2013-14, we also started to compete in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

Other notable dates we know about include 1957, which is the year our current Treasurer, David Morant, joined the club. David left in 1963 and rejoined again in 1991. So David goes back the longest of any of us but with a 28 year gap. David has managed to come up with an old Treasurer's cash book ledger which has helped us to confirm venue and league affiliation from 1963 onwards, as well as providing an insight into numbers of members over the years. Amongst other things the ledger has a record of our club website first being set up in 2004.

Our longest continuously serving member is our current Chairman, Paul Durrant, who joined the club a little after David, in 1960. Paul recalls that the club was based at Surbiton Grammar School at the time. As can be seen in the table above, Paul first appears as a club official in the records in 1977 when he was Secretary. When asked about this Paul confessed to having no memory whatsoever of being club Secretary. One wonders whether this may partly explain the lack of our paper records! Paul recalls:

"Chess clubs were a dime a dozen when I joined, with (local) clubs such as Norbiton, Kingston, Hanger Sports, NPL, Epsom, Stoneleigh, Sutton and Hampton all in competition for members. The big four were Kingston, Wimbledon, Sutton and Richmond who fielded British Champions. Richmond really dominated with 4A graded players (about 200 ECF) on bottom board.

In one match in the 60s we had the distinction of beating Richmond A away. We fielded Michael Basman, Richard Lemon, myself, Andrew Forster John Wright (soon to become US Amateur Champion) and two others. We were out-graded on every board. My Ponziani claimed the scalp of a 203 graded player.

Mike Basman joined in 1959 when we were at Surbiton Grammar and "left" in 1964 to go to University. He first played for the club on board 3 for the 2nd team and defeated Trevor Brugger in his first match. He was moved up to the first team and played below D J Groen, Tom Wild and G. C Galustian. It was well over a year before he was allowed to play board 3 and it was only in 63 and 64 that was he allowed to play board 1 where he had the distinction of losing to Michael Franklin."

Another notable member of the club, remembered by Paul Durrant, was Donald Woods, the anti-apartheid campaigner and journalist who spent time in exile in London. Donald negotiated the club moving to the Surbiton Club. His first recorded match for the club in the SCCA league was in 1984.

The Surbiton Club was the venue that attracted our first World Champion member. Robert Fulford joined us while we were there. He was World Croquet Champion! SCCA records him playing matches for Surbiton between 1999-2002.

Club Honours

Until the last 10-15 years we were a small club that was not competitive in the top divisions of the leagues in which we participated. That has all changed and this season, by winning the Surrey Trophy, we have completed the full set of winning the top honours in the two local leagues that we compete in. Below is a record of our trophy wins from 1949 onwards. Please note that the Thames Valley league records of winners prior to 1980 are sketchy except for division 1 and so it is possible there is more to add to the list for the lower divisions. Bracketed numbers or letters next to the dates indicate which of our teams won the trophy (1st, 2nd or A, B, etc.) where applicable.

Top Divisions and Cups

SCCA Surrey Trophy

SCCA Alexander Cup

Thames Valley Div 1

Thames Valley KO Cup

2018-19 (1)


2015-16 (A)




2014-15 (A) - Shared














Outside of our normal leagues, in 2018 Surbiton won the 2020Chess national title.

Lower Divisions - 4NCL

4NCL Div 4

2017-18 (1)

Lower Divisions - SCCA

Beaumont Cup (Div 2)

Ellam Trophy (Div 3)

Centenary Trophy (Div 4)

2008-09 (1)

2015-16 (2)*

2018-19 (4)

2005-06 (1)

2012-13 (2)

2011-12 (2)



1998-99 (2)



1988-89 (1)




Minor Trophy (Div 5)

Fred Manning Trophy


2016-17 (3)



1997-98 (2)



*For reasons too obscure to bore you with SCCA did not run a Div 2 in 2015-16 but did run a Div 3 and so this trophy win was effectively in the second tier of the SCCA league for that season.

Lower Divisions - Thames Valley Chess League

Division 2

Division 3

Division 4

Division 5

1998-99 (A)

2015-16 (C) - Shared

2006-07 (B)

2000-01 (B)

1981-82 (A)

2011-12 (B)

2001-02 (B)

1993-94 (A)


1995-96 (A)

1994-95 (A)


NB. Thames Valley records are incomplete for its lower divisions prior to 1980 and so there may be more to add to this table in future.