Fun & Games: Chess

Early pioneers of the region began to seek out fellow chess enthusiasts from the 1870’s onwards. Stationer, Bookseller and Newsagent, H. H. Smith on Commissioner’s Hill (Slide 1) in Gympie (the ridge along Channon Street) regularly advertised supplies for sale of Chess, Backgammon and Cribbage Boards (Slide 2).

Take a look at a slideshow below
showcasing some of the history of Chess in our Gympie region

In 1871, Mr R. Ballard advertised in The Gympie Times (22 February 1871) “TO CHESS PLAYERS AND OTHERS – those interested in the formation of a CHESS CLUB are informed that the preliminary meeting will take place at HYNE’S (Commerical) HOTEL, on Friday everning next, at 8 o’clock, instead of this evening, as originally intended”.

It was reported after said meeting, in The Gympie Times (1 March 1871) that Mr McGhie was voted to the chair and resolutions were passed to the effect that a chess club should be formed, to be called THE GYMPIE CHESS CLUB with a decided entrance fee of five shillings and a subscription of five shillings per annum for membership. Messrs Kidgell, Ballard, McGhie and Woodburn formed a committee to carry out enquiries into a suitable place to hold club meetings. There were about 20 present at this first meeting. Mr Woodburn was appointed as Secretary and Treasurer (Slide 3).

The meetings appeared to shift around in location much of 1871 with meetings in the temporary School of Arts (old hospital building), Mr Mathewson’s (photographer) new building, the Golden Age Hotel and then the School of Arts (Slide 4).

By September 1871, the first series of Chess tournaments were taking place. Many prominent members of Gympie society took part in these tournaments. You may recognise names of Kidgell, Stumm, Benson, Du Rietz, Woodrow, etc (Slide 5).

Not long after, in February 1872, the honorable secretary of the Brisbane Chess Club accepted the challenge by the Gympie Chess Club to play a match of chess by telegraph. The contest was reported:

“The contest so far has gone in favour of the Gympie players, and their opponents must score the game at board 4 (the disputed one) in order to draw the match. Considering the good stand made by the Brisbane players in their match with Sydney, the result of the present contest is highly creditable to their antagonists” (Slide 6).

By 1873, more chess clubs were forming with the One Mile Miner’s Institute proposing to rent a cottage in the main street and form a reading room. Sixty-four (64) members enrolled in the One Mile Miner’s Institute and sets of Chess, draughts and dominoes were purchased (along with European and Colonial newspapers for the reading room) (The Gympie Times, 18 January 1873). In February 1873, a meeting was held to form a One Mile Miner’s Institute Chess Club with objective to “get more practice and thereby be able to meet antagonists more creditably” (The Gympie Times, 8 February 1873). In March 1873, the news of Chess on the goldfield made the newspaper in Melbourne (The Leader), stating that “chess is in a flourishing condition in this distant goldfield” mentioning both the Gympie and One Mile clubs. (Slide 7)

An amazing photograph by photographer Thomas Bevan (shown above and Slide 8) depicts “Jimmie in a fix”. Jimmie we assume being James Woodroom (on the left of the photograph). Jacob Stumm is seen standing over the match and the player to the right is not confirmed.

Slide 9 demonstrates that chess clubs were still going strong into the turn of the century with the Gympie Chess and Draughts Club advertising (The Gympie Times, 29 September 1904).