History of the Norfolk & Norwich Chess Club
Early Norfolk & Norwich Chess Club History (continued)
Before the end of the century the ever-popular Blackburne made further visits. His two-day display in April, 1896 was organised by the Norfolk Chess Association (most of his opponents were members of the Norfolk & Norwich Club). On the 23rd he played 38 games winning 31, drawing 3 and losing 4. The next afternoon he played 6 blindfold games and won them all. In the evening he visited the rooms of the Norfolk and Norwich Club and played many games against the members without losing a single game.
The club members were treated to a bumper year in 1900 with Blackburne visiting again in February and, in November, came the momentous appearance of Emanuel Lasker, the world champion. The British Chess Magazine for January, 1901 reported :“On November 28th, the President (Dr. Crook) celebrated the opening of the new rooms by giving a reception to the players of the district , and invited Dr. E. Lasker to give a simultaneous display for their entertainment . The rooms during the evening presented an animated appearance, crowded with players from all parts of East Anglia to witness the struggle between the champion of the world and twenty of the strongest players of Norfolk.” The Norfolk players acquitted themselves well winning three games, and drawing two. The club archives have a fine caricature of Lasker drawn on the occasion. Another prized possession of the club is the visitors’ book that was started on the evening of the world champion’s visit.
The annual congress of the Southern Counties’ Chess Union was held in Norwich in 1902. This event, held two years before the formation of the British Chess Federation, was almost the equivalent of a British Championship and was won by R.P.Michell.
Blackburne also visited in 1902 and another treasure of the club is a caricature depicting him on that occasion. He was in Norwich again in 1905. In 1907, the ‘grand old man’ of British chess gave his final performance in Norwich. Actually, the event was billed as a jubilee celebration under the mistaken impression that the club had been formed in 1857. It appears that John Keeble was the first to discover, some years later, the 1836 reference.
John Keeble (1855-1939) deserves an honoured position in the history of the Norfolk & Norwich club. A good, but never master-strength player, he was a familiar face at British events and occasionally those on the continent. He was regarded very highly in chess problem circles. In this he maintained the Norfolk chess problem tradition of Horatio Bolton and also of J.A.Miles (1817-1891), who had been a member of both the Fakenham and Norwich clubs. Keeble was an author of chess problem books and conducted successful newspaper columns. Perhaps his greatest fame was in historical chess research in which he made a number of significant discoveries. His obituary in the British Chess Magazine spread over more than two pages in the April, 1939 issue. (continue …)