Central Chess Club (Glasgow)

The story of this club goes all the way back to the inauguration of the Glasgow Central Working Men's Club and Institute on 20 February 1865 at 153 Trongate. The facility included a reading room and space for indoor games.

The club's success meant required several changes of accommodation; in 1866 it moved to the Campbell Arcade, 74 Trongate; in April 1870 it moved to 68 Trongate, and in Dec 1876 a new building specially constructed for the club was formally opened at 34 Trongate, where it remained until its demise.

Draughts had a major following within the club, but chess began to take a hold in the early 1870s. A leading figure was John Court (1842-1922) who helped improve the standard of play by organising club tournaments.

Those who took part in the club's chess events included:- J. McGregor, W. Bryden, J. Kirk, J. King, W.T. McCulloch, J. Young, and G. Buchanan. Several of them, including William Bryden, John Kirk and J. King can also be seen in reports of draughts tournaments and matches. A special article about Chess and Draughts can be seen here.

Friendly matches were also arranged with other clubs and soon, aided by an influx of members, it wasn't long before the Central Club - as it was often simply referred to - was proving a match even for Glasgow CC, holding them to a draw in January 1885.

Unfortunately, within a few years, a slow decline set in. The Tontine piazza was closed and buildings around the club were demolished, driving people to other parts. Also, rival working men's clubs were instituted in other parts of the city, Bridgeton, for example, further reducing their numbers. Its reading room and library were still important but the opening of the Mitchell Library was the final straw and the club closed in February 1891.

  The chess enthusiasts didn't waste much time; a number of them met on 7 March 1891 and formally constituted themselves into a club - the Central Chess Club of Glasgow - and arranged to meet until the close of the season at Murdoch's Restaurant, 269 Argyle Street, Glasgow, on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. G.F. Krasser was the secretary.

To raise awareness of the new club and its circumstances several events were soon held. J.D. Chambers gave a simultaneous display at the club on 20 March, and on 17 April W.H. Jonas did the same, playing twn boards and scoring +5, =2, -3.

It seems the club soon began investigating other premises, for on 16 May G.E. Barbier gave a lecture at the Christian Institute, Bothwell Street which was under the auspices of the Central CC. In the meantime, however, activities continued at 269 Argyle Street. In November 1891 they played a Coatbridge and Uddingston select, winning convincingly by 14-6. And in December they defeated the Arlington CA 8-.

Players on the Central teams around this time included:-
James Birch, John Court, W. Dickson, J.L.C. Docherty, M. Gerletti,
A. Haddow, Wm. Harrison, F. Krasser, John Leishman, J.R. Longwill, James McGrouther, James Russell, John Russell, P. Sandeman,
J.C. Semple. (Many of these players were also members of other clubs.)

In May 1892 the club made an application for rooms within the Christian Institute, 70 Bothwell Street. This was approved and the club moved into its new quarters on 1st June. The terms were for one year, ending 31 May 1893, and included membership of the Institute. The club remained at the Christian Institute through the summer months of 1893, but in different rooms.

All must not have been satisfactory, however, because by December 1894 the club had moved to Hamilton's Restaurant, 259 Argyle Street, Glasgow. The secretary at the time, James Leith, planned a "vigorous and enterprising programme."

Despite problems with their accommodation, the Central CC was still able to demonstrate its strength; in April 1894 it defeated Dundee CC 8-4 and Glasgow CC 5-4, and after settling into Hamilton's Restaurant they again defeated a visiting Glasgow team by 7-5 on 11 December.

The 1895 annual meeting of the club was held in Murdoch's Restaurant, Argyle Street, on 21 May. It is not clear whether the club had by this time returned to its old haunt as its playing venue, or whether the location was chosen only for the AGM.

John Court, president, was in the chair. The following office-bearers were elected for the next year:- president, John Russell; vice-president, W.F. Murray; secretary, James Leith; treasurer, D. Robertson; committee, R. Ronald, J.M. Rule and E.S. Duncan. The club championship was won by R. Ronald. In the club handicap J.M. Rule was first, D. Robertson second and F. Krasser third.

There is a dearth of detail about the club from this point forward. The Falkirk Herald chess column mentioned the club in its column of 14 October 1896, saying it had played two matches the week previous.

The April 1898 issue of the British Chess Magazine (p. 172) referred to the 'now defunct Central Club.'

Reborn: the final version
Fast forward to 1903 and the announcement in the Falkirk Herald of 11 February that the Cabin Chess Club - called after the Cabin Tea Rooms - were changing their name to the Central Chess Club, the third and final version. A match played at this time included James Leith, F.G. Harris, D. Blackstock, F. Goodwin, J.R. Draper, William McTurk and Carrick Wardhaugh.

The club soon established a club championship tournament, the first winner of which was Andrew Jackson, the then president, in 1905.

Central CC, which met at the Regent Tea Rooms, 51 West Regent Street, Glasgow, did not take long to prove itself, winning the 1906 Spens Cup and repeating the success in 1912. They were also losing finalists in 1910.

 The club remained at the Regent Tea Rooms up to their Annual General Meeting on 3 May 1912. At that meeting the office-bearers elected for the year ahead were:- Hon. president, Bailie Archibald Campbell; president, A. Smith; vice-president, J. Currie; secretary and treasurer, H.W. Tennant; match secretary, J. Vincent. The club champion was J.R. Draper. The minor championship was won by J. Annan.

New Premises
The club then moved to Miss Buick's Tea Rooms at 147 West George Street, Glasgow, opened by Margaret Buick in 1912. (Miss Buick married Central CC member William Gibson in 1916.)

Further success followed. In 1913 they won the Glasgow League 1st Division championship and in 1914, at the end of a particularly successful season, they won both the 1st and 2nd divisions of the Glasgow League, in each case without loss of a match, as well as winning the 1914 Richardson Cup without loss of a game.

We are fortunate to be able to see some of the club members in the following photographs.

Central club members with Glasgow League 1st Division Shield 1914
Back, L-R: A.V. Logie, J.R. Draper, J. Currie, N. Macintyre, P. Wenman & J. Dickson
Middle, L-R:  A. Smith & D. Hogg
Front, L-R: Rev. J. Young & W. Gibson

Central Club members with Glasgow League 2nd Division Shield 1914
Back, L-R:  J. Guthrie, G.T. Purves, G. Robertson, J. Dickson, I. Sinclair
Front, L-R:  A.R. Weir & W. Walker


Central Club members with the Richardson Cup 1914.
Back L-R: H.W. Tennant, A. Smith, A.V. Logie, N. Macintyre, J. Currie, D. Hogg
Front L-R: P. Wenman, J.R. Draper

An interesting match was also held that year. Played over 50 boards, it was the largest inter-club friendly match to date, though it was played over two nights, February 24 and 25, and split between the Central and Bohemian clubs. Central won 26-24.

At the club's Annual General Meeting on 6 May 1913, William Gibson intimated that there was a movement to bring the Glasgow Ladies' CC into close contact with the Central Club by amalgamation, affiliation or some other scheme, so that the ladies might get better practice. It is interesting to note that by October 1914 the Glasgow Ladies' CC had chosen to use Miss Buick's Tea Rooms for their club.

While there was still a considerable amount of club chess activity during the First World War, the Glasgow League was suspended. It restarted in season 1919-20 and the Central Club immediately stamped itself on the competition, winning the 1st Division in 1920, 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1929. In three of these years - 1920, 1921, and 1924 - it also won the 2nd Division.

Adding to the post-war enthusiasm for the game, the Glasgow Herald began publishing a regular chess column in October 1921. It was edited by Central CC member Carrick Wardhaugh until his death in 1930, when another club member, D.M. MacIsaac, took on the editorial role.

Change of club rooms
It appears the club had been given special privileges at Miss Buick's Tea, for in May 1923 they were advised by the proprietors that it could no longer be given the full use of the room during the day, and it had been decided to open it to the general public. This obliged the club to look for 'new' premises, and by June it had returned to the Regent Restaurant at 51 West Regent Street. The smoke room was made available for members daily to 10 p.m., and for the winter season they were given a private room for two weeknights from 5 to 10.45 p.m.   

Alekhine visit
During a 1923 visit to Glasgow, Alekhine gave a 20-board simultaneous display at the Central Club on 3 October. He won 18 and drew with J.H. Elliott and H.R.S. Brown.

The club also won the Richardson Cup in 1925 and 1929, and were losing finalists in 1923 and 1926.

Central Club members with the Richardson Cup 1925.
Back L-R: A. Smith, J.H. Whyte, H.N.J. Walsworth, R.C. Borland, J. Gilchrist.
Front L-R: D.M. MacIsaac, C.D. Craig (President), J.R. Draper.

Central Club members with the Richardson Cup 1929.
Back L-R: A. Craig, J.S. Gavin (Hon. Secretary), W.B. Bird (President), A. Smith,
H.N.J. Walsworth, A.M. Scott.
Front L-R: D.M. MacIsaac, J.R. Draper, J. Gilchrist, C. Wardhaugh

Having won the Richardson Cup and the Glasgow League 1st Division in 1929 (just as they had done in 1914 and 1925), the club chose to organise a celebratory dinner at the start of the new season. This was held in the Regent Restaurant on Tuesday, 8 October 1929.

There were no similar high level successes in the 1930s, except for winning the 1932 Spens Cup, but that only highlighted how the club had been relegated from the premier team competition. They redeemed themselves somewhat by reaching the 1933 Richardson Cup final, but lost to Glasgow.

Folkestone Olympiad 1933
By this time Scotland had been admitted to FIDE as an independent member and, with the support and encouragement of W.A. Fairhurst, a team was entered in the Olympiad which included club member D.M. MacIsaac.

Multiple moves
The period leading up to the start of the Second World War in 1939 was marred by the club moving several times. Business changes at the Regent Restaurant obliged the club to look for new rooms around May 1935 and they found space at the Ca'doro in Union Street. A year later, though, at the start of the 1936-37 season, they moved to Reid's Tea Rooms, 34 Gordon Street, but by June 1937 they were in the Oak Tearoom in Bath Street. Another move took place in September 1938, this time to Miss Buick's second tea room at 19a Renfield Street, and in October 1940 they took up residence in Graham's Coffee Rooms, 31 Gordon Street. Club activities continued for a short time before the club was suspended for the remaining years of the war.

Final phase
The club was revived in 1946 after the return from the forces of T.K. Blake, the secretary. The Glasgow Herald chess column of 13 September 1946 indicated that from 8 October the club would meet at the Christian Institute, Bothwell Street. 

Within a few years the club was beginning to show its renewed strength, though it never matched its successes in the 1920s and 1930s. Central won the Spens Cup in 1949 and 1956, and won the 1st Division championship of the Glasgow League in 1955 and 1958.

However, Scottish Chess Bulletin No. 9, October-December 1962, reported that because of diminishing membership, and the growth of clubs in the suburbs, a decision was taken to disband.

A summary of statistics:

Spens Cup winners 1906, 1912, 1932, 1949, 1956.
Losing finalists 1910, 1948, 1954, 1955.

Richardson Cup winners 1914, 1925, 1929.
Losing finalists 1915, 1923, 1926, 1933.

Glasgow League 1st Division winners (11 times): 1912-13, 1913-14, 1919-20, 1920-21, 1923-24, 1924-25, 1925-26, 1926-27, 1928-29, 1954-55, 1957-58.

Glasgow League 2nd Division winners (5 times):
1909-10, 1913-14, 1919-20, 1920-21, 1923-24.

Club Championship Shield
D.M. MacIsaac (11 times)
John Richard Draper (8)
M.D. Thornton (8)
T.K. Blake (4)
J. Gilchrist, A.V. Logie (2)
Those who won it once include Andrew Jackson, H.N.J. Walsworth, C. Wardhaugh, P. Wenman,
J.H. Whyte, John Macdonald, James Gilchrist, A. Murray and J. Steele.

Scottish Champions
C. Wardhaugh 1914
P. Wenman 1920
W. Gibson won the Scottish championship 9 times. He played for Central CC in league matches (see 1914), but represented Glasgow CC in the Richardson Cup.

British Correspondence Chess Association champion:
D.M. MacIsaac 1920

Glasgow Herald chess columnists
Carrick Wardhaugh 1921-30
Dugald M. MacIsaac 1930-59

Some significant names: (some were also members of other clubs)
Thomas K. Blake
R.C. Borland
James Dickson
Peter Fyfe
John S. Gavin
Frank Goodwin
David Harvey
Gerald R. Hill
W.B. Hird
David Hogg
J.R.K. Law
Nicol MacIntyre
A.M. Scott
Alexander Smith
H.W. Tennant
C.M. Vance
James Vincent
Andrew R. Weir
Rev. John Young


City of London Chess Magazine, Feb 1876, p41.
Huddersfield College Magazine 1877-78, p137.
Brooklyn Chess Chronicle
1886-87, p.70.
Glasgow Evening News, 4 March 1891, p4.
BCM 1891, p153; 1895, p272;
Scottish Referee, 18 May 1891, p4; 17 December 1894, p2.
Perthshire Advertiser, 11 November and 16 December 1891, p3. 
The Chess Monthly, December 1894, p107.
Falkirk Herald (various issues).
Glasgow Herald
(various issues).
Valerie Thornton, daughter of M.D. Thornton.

Alan McGowan
Historian, Chess Scotland

updated March 27, 2020