Aberystwyth Chess Club History


It was the University though and not the Town which fostered the game in the area and that was probably due to the arrival of Gustavus Adolphus Schott in 1893 as a physics lecturer and Professor of Applied Mathematics.  Schott was born in Bradford and in 1887 was selected to play for Yorkshire against Lancashire.  The following year the British Amateur Championships were held in Bradford.  Schott finished in second place and was the only player to beat the winner.  By this time, he was at Cambridge and played twice in the varsity match; on the second occasion being top board and team captain. A record of events later that he played in reads:

1890 British Chess Association congress at Manchester

1890 Bradford-Liverpool match

1890 Counties Chess Association congress at Cambridge

1891 Counties Chess Association congress at Oxford

1895 British Amateur Championship run alongside the Hastings International 

1898 Craigside Tournament, Llandudno, finishing =3rd behind Amos Burn.

1899 Craigside Tournament, Llandudno

At the university he was club secretary and arranged events for the students but does not seem to have himself played any matches.  The university played St. David’s College, Lampeter in November 1895, winning easily eight games to nil.

J. D. Chambers visited in January 1898 and took on 13 students, losing just one and drawing two.

Schott died in Aberystwyth in 1937, aged 69.

Schott was not the only member of staff who enjoyed the game.  Robert William Genese had been a professor of mathematics in the University since 1879 (the university was opened in 1872).  A Yorkshireman, he obviously loved the game as in 1905 he travelled to Southport to take part in the Second Class section of the BCF Championships.  He was certainly not in the same class as Schott as a game from the event is on britbase where Genese opens with an attempt at Scholar’s mate.  He retired in 1919 and died in Tunbridge Wells, Kent in 1928 at the age of 80.  In January 1898 he, like Schott, played in the Craigside Tournament, in a handicap tournament finishing last and his affection for the game continued after his retirement he played in a minor section at the 1925 Scarborough Congress reaching the peak of his chess ‘career’ by finishing second; and at Hastings 1927/8.

                                                                  Photo: NLW

                                                          University staff 1884

                                        Professor Genese is on the left of the front row.

                        He said that chess kept him occupied during long train journeys.

Sadly, the spark that had been lit did not continue to burn. The university club disappears from the press and the town itself still struggled to drum up enthusiasm.  A draughts tournament was held in Aberystwyth in October 1900 and a call was made to set up a draughts and chess club but it came to nothing.  Again in October 1909 a Mr. Everard Davies convened a meeting at the Café in Great Darkgate Street and stated that there was plenty of money to run a club but a dearth of possible members!

Astoundingly, between 1936 and 1939 the University competed in the West Wales Chess League – a tremendous commitment.  There is no record of these matches but a Professor Vernon Charles Morton (1896-1978)  of the university was made a vice-president of the league.  He was a Professor of mathematics at Aberystwyth from 1923, retiring in 1961.

The university re-emerged as a chess force in the 1960s and stormed the Mid Wales league in 1962, 1965 and 1966.

They had reached the final of the Welsh Challenge Cup in 1956 and lost to Barry by default but nothing is known of the team or how they qualified.

The 1962 team lost in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup to Swansea.  The team was C.C. Parsons, R. Morton, A. A. Collyer, J. Humphreys, B. N. Barnett and N. Davies.

Parsons, from Yatton, played in the 1959 British Under 18 Championships at York, scoring 8 points.  In 1961 he played in the same event at Aberystwyth, scoring 7.5.

In 1965 they lost in the final to Cardiff Under 23s in the final, the match being played over just four boards.  The team on this occasion was D. I. W. Reynolds, L.P.Burnett, Bauxbaum and A. A. Collyer. In the semi-final they had beaten Llanelli when R. Benjamin, R. H. Jones and N. J. Davies had filled the lower boards.

David Ian Wishart Reynolds was born in 1942 in Wallasey.  He tied for the British Under 15 title in 1959.  In 1965 he won the Welsh senior title when the event was played in Swansea. 

The following year they once more got to the final and beat Newport, again over four boards, the team being L. P.Burnett, R. Benjamin, N.J. Davies and A. A. Collyer.

Davies played for Pontypridd for a short while after finishing in university.  In 1963 he played in the British Under 21 Championships in Bath. 

Burnett, who was very active as a junior, competing for England in the Glorney Cup, played in the same tournament scoring 8 points in the Under 18 section.  The following year at Whitby he finished joint 5th on 8.5 points.  He continued as a very strong player and won the West of England title in 1967 and the Essex championship 1970-1.

Collyer, from Weston-Super-Mare, won the First Class section when the British Championships were in Aberystwyth in 1961.

Many of the University students and lecturers were later the prime movers and players in the Aberystwyth Chess League.



 Like many other towns in Wales there was interest in the game of chess long before there was any thought of forming a chess club.  Slater’s 1868 Trade Directory records refurbishments of the Royal Belle Vue Hotel in Marine Terrace, Aberystwyth with facilities being enlarged “to include a billiard room, a smoking room and a chess room.” 

As early as April 1889 the men of Aberystwyth were contemplating getting together a team from the local press in order to play a match against Aberaeron.


 Twelve people attended a meeting at the Town Hall, Aberystwyth, on the 3rd October, 1945, to consider the formation of a Chess Club. Having decided that a club should be formed, the details of how the club should be run were left to the Chairman, Captain Evans (!) and the Secretary, Mr. T. I. Jones.

The usual problem of accommodation was an often recurring one in Aberystwyth. The first meetings were held in the Wesley Schoolroom, Queens Road, at a nightly fee of four shillings.  Later the club removed to the Seagull Cafe in Pier Street, thence to Slater’s Restaurant in Marine Terrace, and on again to the Home Cafe back in Pier Street.  Finally, the club moved to its home at the new Sports Centre in the North Parade.

The club membership rose rapidly so that, during the 1946-7 season, there were 37 members registered. This later rose even higher, but the formation of a permanent club at the University drew away some of the members so that the average after 1960 was about 25 members.

Occasionally friendly matches were played against the University and St. David’s College Lampeter Chess Clubs, but there was no other opposition within easy reach and all other competition was internal.  Three leagues were formed within the club, according to playing strength, and there were also knock­out and ladder tournaments.  A Club Championship was not commenced until 1964.

Among the club’s occasional members were two Welsh Champions in the persons of Messrs. B. P. Bourne and B. V. Douthwaite.  Both were accorded Life Membership of the club in recognition of their feats.  The latter was a member of the Aberystwyth club when he won the Welsh Championships in 1958.

The year 1955 was an outstanding one for chess in Aberystwyth. The British Championships were held in the town between 22nd August and 3rd September, and this involved all the Club members in a great deal of work. They had the whole-hearted co-operation of the College Authorities and the Town Council and all parties were represented at the opening ceremony.  The congress was a tremendous success.

The B.C.F. Congress returned to Aberystwyth in August 196l.   Once again, the Opening Ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Aberystwyth, supported by the Principal of the College and Mr. Dewi Williams the Club President.  Thanks to the hard work of the club members, another successful congress was guaranteed.

The club was concerned from the outset at its isolation from Welsh and indeed British chess affairs. Mr. Dewi Williams, Secretary, Chairman, and later President of the club until his death in 1974, was determined to bring the club into the main stream of chess, and to this end, in 1949, the club applied for membership of the British Chess Federation.  A year later, they affiliated to the South Wales Chess Association.

The club, and Mr. Williams in particular, was instrumental in the formation of a Mid Wales Chess Association in 1959, the inaugural meeting being held at the Aberystwyth Chess Club.  Matches were now played more frequently, but Aberystwyth did not possess any outstanding players and they won the league on just the one occasion.  That was in 1960, the first season, when A. E. Hugh and Roy Clues led the team.  They played Swansea in the semi-final of the Welsh Challenge Cup competition, losing 2-4.

Within the club, matches continued to be played in leagues, but in 1963, the President, Mr. Williams, presented a Chess Board as a Trophy, to be held for twelve months by the Club’s Champion.  The list of champions reads:

1964      R. K. Clues                                       1977  G. Woodhead

1965      R. Evans                                            1978  T. M. Whiteside           

1966      R. K. Clues                                       1979  T. M. Whiteside

1967      R. K. Clues                                       1980  T. M. Whiteside

1968      R. K. Clues                                       1981  J. N. McDonald

1969      H. A. Samson                                    1982  G. V. Jones

1970      R. W. Cooper                                    1983  T. M. Whiteside

1971      R. K. Clues

1972      E. R. Slater

1973      T. M. Whiteside

1974      T. M. Whiteside

1975      T. M. Whiteside

1976      T. M. Whiteside

                                          R.K.Clues.  Aberystwyth Club Champion,

                 Chairman of the Welsh Chess Union 1961-4 and President 1964-1994

Roy Clues, one-time Mayor of Aberystwyth, had given and continued after 1970 to give sterling service to the Union.  He was the most active of all the Presidents and did as much, if not more than anybody, to publicise Welsh chess throughout the world.

The members were not always concerned with playing chess.  At the Annual Dinner in May, 1950, it is recorded that the Community Singing was led by Jock MacPherson, who also sang solos; Dewi and Emrys Williams recited, whilst various other members told stories and the Vice-Chairman conducted a Beetle Drive!

Another special occasion was the Celebration Dinner, held on 7th December,1966, at the Cambrian Hotel, to mark the coming of age of the chess club.  Invitations were sent to the clubs in Mid Wales and special guests included the Mayor of Aberystwyth, the Principal of the University College of Wales, and representatives of the Welsh Chess Union.

Whilst lacking strength amongst its players, Aberystwyth lacked nothing in warmth of friendship amply shown in the persons of Dewi Williams, Roy Clues and others.  Dewi Williams was Honorary Life President of the Welsh Chess Union 1961-7.


 Frederick Chichester B. Latham (1895-1972) was from 1960 to 1965 secretary of the Welsh Chess Union.  Remarkably he did not play chess!  He was known as ‘Digger Latham’.  Regrettably, he did not hold out much hope for the future of Welsh chess and his comments in a letter to Henry Golding in 1965 speak volumes:

“I think the Welsh have an inbred inferiority complex which serves them ill in personally competitive endeavours.  They certainly resent – if subconsciously – any effort by a foreigner to lead them to the light…..  Poor Roy (Clues) must feel he stands alone – a foreigner in a sea of Welsh – but he will adapt.  I predict that within a year all Welsh Chess Union business will be concluded in Welsh.  My view is that, as it is the Welsh Chess Union, let the Welsh have it…  I am afraid that, in Wales, chess is too respectable to be really popular, if it was more like striptease it would be a sensation.”

He was made an Honorary Life Member of the WCU until 1970.

It is rare for a player from the area to gain international recognition but John A. John from Aberystwyth played for the Welsh (Under 18) Glorney Cup team in 1959.  He shared first place in the Welsh Championship Reserves in 1960 and took part in the Welsh Championship itself when the event was in the town in 1964.


 One individual from Mid Wales who had national recognition was David James Morgan of Aberystwyth.  For 25 years he wrote the column, ‘Quotes and Queries’ for the British Chess Magazine. 

Born in 1894 at Tanyrallt, Cardiganshire, he qualified as a teacher and war service (Great War) and the teaching profession took him away from Wales.  In 1957, after his retirement, he joined the Board of Directors of the British Chess Magazine.  Three years later he resigned that post when he left London to return to live in Wales.  He died at Aberystwyth on 13th May 1978.

D.J. was basically a solver-problemist and was President of the British Chess Problem Society, but he also took an active interest in Junior Chess and was a Life Vice President of The Chess Education Society.

The following is taken from the BCF Magazine, ‘Newsflash’:

“(He) called himself ‘a mere hotchpotch corner filler in the BCM’.  There is perhaps a grain of truth in this estimate, for profound as was his knowledge of chess and its history from every angle and, brilliantly as he could write when he chose to compose a set piece, it is for ‘Quotes and Queries’ that he will always be best remembered.

He opened his weird chess supermarket in the B.C.M. in March 1953 with the following words: ‘We offer brief replies to queries of general interest on any aspect of the game.  When we fail we will appeal to our readers……..’

His resource in repartee never flagged, and he was a supreme chess ‘ad libber’.  To a querist who wrote in and said rather cryptically, ‘I first judge a problem by counting the number of pieces in it’; D.J.M. replied, ‘You doubtless first judge a novel by counting the number of words in it.’  Q. ‘I have seen no problem lately by W…. Has he been composing in recent years?’  A. ‘Alas!  He has been decomposing since 1934.’  Q. ‘I find it extremely difficult to get boys interested in chess books.’  A. ‘Have you tried labelling them For Adults Only?’”



The hay-days for chess in Aberystwyth were the 1980s and 1990s.  The problems of travel throughout Dyfed and Powys in order to play matches in the Mid Wales League led to a fall-off of interest in the game.  This led directly to Martyn Whiteside creating an Aberystwyth Chess League for teams of three players with all matches taking place on Monday nights.

The result was the establishment of a number of new clubs in and around the town, leading to a full league being created operating with two divisions.

By 1983 the clubs operating in the league were;

Aberystwyth which met in the Cambrian Hotel


Asteroid – Asteroid club at the Holiday Village


Brynamlwg (two teams) This club had George Botterill and Bob Havard playing for them.

Cambrian Woodpushers – operating out of the Cambrian Hotel.  This team was run by Martyn Whiteside and usually won the league.

Carpovs – students from Carpenter Hall.  Their top player was Huw Morcam.

Penglais School – Ewan Stewart was one of their stars.

Penweddig School

Revenue Rookies

Tollgate Broadstiffs– out of the Tollgate Inn, Penparcau

Vicarage Academicals – a team of lecturers.

Other teams operating around this period were Y Geltiadd with John MacDonald leading; and Pantycelyn – a Welsh speaking team with Gwynfor Rees in charge.

One year an Aberystwyth combined team took part in the National Club Championships and reached the last 16 before losing to Atticus on board count.  The team (believed to be) was Botterill, Heaven, Mike Prettejohn, MacDonald, Whiteside and Morcam or Stewart.  In one round they played against Lerwick in the Shetlands by phone.

The league continued to thrive with able controllers M. J. Smith, J. G. Basterfield and R. B. A. Bennett.  The latter established a new club at Bow Street Village in 1994 and renamed the league – the North Ceredigion League.  The Bow Street club was massive at one time and may have been the largest club in Wales but, as with most clubs, such huge numbers did not last.

An article written by George Botterill for a national newspaper claimed that there were more active chessplayers in Aberystwyth per head of population that anywhere outside the USSR, and that up to 10% of the population were playing chess!

With International Master George Botterill, one of Wales’ strongest  correspondence chess  players Martyn Whiteside a Welsh CC Master and holding half an International CC norm, Robert G. Havard runner up in the East Glamorgan Championships whilst at Treherbert, Peter Heaven and others, the league was not lacking strong players either. Ewan Stewart of Penglais school represented Wales at the European Under 20 Championships at Gronigen  in 1984.

                                     George Botterill (right) in play against Nigel Short. 

       He won the British Championships in 1974 and 1977, the Welsh Championships in 1973. 

                                         He was made an International Master in 1978.

By the end of the 1990s the numbers had been sadly reduced and normal service resumed in the town.

(With thanks to W. Lee and T.M.Whiteside for their contributions towards this article).