The club has existed in various forms for at least 30 years but was reincarnated in 1995 and at that time was held at the Civic Centre in Heywood. Present club president Bill O’Rourke held a congress there in June 1995 with 150 competitors, and from it enlisted local entrants to join the new Heywood Chess Club. Right from the start the Heywood Junior Chess Club was also opened to all U18 chess players from any school in the region, with lessons for 2 hours each week. These lessons continued over ten years, during which several club members have taught over 300 children at least the rudiments of chess. We are proud to have taught children of both sexes, handicapped children and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The club moved to the excellent function room of the Hopwood Constitutional Sports and Social Club in Heywood in 2007 and has stayed there since. The club meets regularly on Wednesday evenings from about 7.15 p.m. (till late for adults!) throughout the year, and plans are under way to introduce some Lancashire junior training during season 2012-2013. Club members have twice run the English Primary Schools Chess Association U11 national county final tournament for over 400 players from all over the UK at the Holy Family College in Heywood, and each year run at least one Lancashire Junior Congress at the school.
The club has a strong e-mailing forum giving details of forthcoming events for its chess players, of which about 35 are currently active.
Bucking the national trend, the club has grown year on year ever since 1995. Heywood’s players have played a major part in the Lancashire county teams at all levels. This was especially true in the 2004-2005 season when the County won through to the ECF national semi-finals at all five levels, and three national finals.
Currently three of our players are Lancashire team captains. We have had players representing the club in all Lancashire junior teams, from U8 right up to U18. Many of our juniors have won through to the UK Chess Challenge Gigafinals over the years.
The club competes in four different leagues, currently fielding six teams in the Manchester Chess Federation, two in the Central Lancashire League, four in the Bury & Rochdale League and two in the East Lancs League.
The season 2011-2012 was a special celebration, with our first team winning the Manchester League first division for the first time ever in the 120-year history of the league! The club is also very active within the Northern Counties Chess Union Club Championships and have won each of the four sections in the competition over the last decade.
The club acts as a conduit for many county matches and has hosted the NCCU Club Championships Finals in May several times. In the past we have been runners up in a section of the national BCF Club Championships. The club is also very active on the international front, each year reciprocating chess club visits with our twin town Peine in Germany since 1996. These visits have become a highlight for this club, always much enjoyed!
The club has hosted simultaneous exhibition by Grandmasters Hodgson, Arkell and Davies over the years. The Heywood Congress, run by club members at the Heywood Civic Centre each June, is the second largest congress in the North West after Blackpool.
Sadly the club lost its mascot (and the country’s oldest active player?), 96-year-old Antonin Weleminsky, in February 2005, but he is remembered with a section named after him at the Heywood Congress. Jim Tennant-Smith is our oldest player and still enjoying his chess well into his eighties. Harry Praeger retired as club president in 2010 having been promoted to Aberdeen; Bill O’Rourke took over as president after being club secretary since 1995.
Anybody with an interest in chess (of whatever standard) is more than welcome at this club!
Bill O'Rourke (July 2012)