The history of Sutton Coldfield Chess Club was tightly associated with that of the chess entrepreneur, BH Wood (1909-1989). Wood founded CHESS magazine in 1935 and went on to be the proprietor of “Chess, Sutton Coldfield” a world-famous mail order business. The Club was co-founded by him in 1937 as Sutton YMCA before it becoming Sutton Coldfield in 1939. Wood was always the Club’s leading administrator and one of its very strongest players.

Prior to its present venue, Minworth Social Club (first club night 7th October 2013), the Club played at the Erdington Club, Jaguar Social Club, Erdington Conservative Club (for nearly 9 years), Sutton Coldfield British Legion, Veseyan Sports Club, Boldmere High School (throughout the 1970s and for about 17 years altogether), and others before that, starting with Sutton YMCA.

Over fifteen consecutive seasons, 1956 to 1971, the Club fielded a minimum of five teams in the Birmingham & District Chess League. Since joining that League in 1937, it has been Division 1 Champions 9 times (most recently in 2015-16 and 2017-18) and Terrill Trophy Champions 8 times.

The Club was the first in the area to have its very own website (1999), and the first to equip a team and then the entire Club with digital clocks.

The Club has played in the Cannock & District Chess League since 2005. Among various successes, they were Division 1 Champions for 6 consecutive seasons 2014-2019.

In 2006-07 the Club fielded its own team in the 4NCL.

This century 4 of the Club’s juniors have been British Champions in various age groups: Sabrina Chevannes, Henrik Stepanyan, Astghik Stepanyan, and Chirag Guha.

In 2015 the Club won the ECF National Club Championship Open section, as well as the Intermediate and Minor sections. They retained the Championship in 2016. They had won the National Club Championship once before, in 1960-61.

The Club won the Staffordshire Chess Association’s Gothard Cup in 2017, the first time it had entered, and retained it in 2018.

In its first season in the Dudley & District Chess League (2017-2018) the Club were runners-up in Division 1.

In 2020, shortly before the coronavirus restrictions in March made over-the-board chess impossible, the Club managed to win the Birmingham League Homer Trophy, the Birmingham League Team Lightning Championship, and the Cannock League Division 1 Championship.

While waiting for the lockdown to ease the Club has taken its teams online and, among other things, won the West Midlands Area Summer League Division 1 played August-October 2020.

19th Century addendum

Of course there was local chess activity long before the modern chess club started in 1937. John Skelton (1845-1927) was Secretary of the Chess & Draft Club which held its first meeting in December 1886 in the library of the Town Hall. It met between 6pm and 9pm on Thursdays, but it seems the club struggled to maintain members though it once had sixteen. That club was superseded in March 1888 by a new club with CJ Gilbert acting as Secretary. The Birmingham & District Chess League was formed in 1897, but there was no participation by any Sutton team before 1937.

With thanks to Stephen Roberts the author of the three-volume Glimpses into Sutton’s Past which covers 1800-1914.

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