BCCA Brief History 1906 – 2014

By Neil Limbert (Correct as at 23/02/2014)

The BCCA is the longest running continuously operating CC organisation in the world! Founded in 1906, the BCCA has seen many competitors come and go but no others have stood the test of time. Faced with an ever-changing world, the BCCA has shown adaptability and resilience which, when allied to its tradition and rich history, has proved a very strong combination.

There are two outstanding reference works covering the history of the BCCA:-

“The Official History of the British Correspondence Chess Association 1906-2006” by DJ Rogers.

“Correspondence Chess in Britain & Ireland 1824-1987” by T Harding.

The brief history given below draws heavily of these references and readers are strongly recommended to obtain copies of these works should they wish to delve deeper into the wonderful world of CC!

Founded in 1906, the BCCA quickly established itself in the chess world. Rules were drawn up, trophies purchased and tournaments began. The BCCA grew vigorously in 1907 thanks to the keen efforts of officers, and the first Year Book was produced at the end of the year showing a full list of officers, rules and a selection of annotated games. By 1908, membership had risen to 72 and its first international CC match was commenced (against the Pillsbury National CC Association of the USA).

In 1909, the BCCA launched its first magazine. Originally appearing on a quarterly basis, it became more irregular towards the outbreak of WWI and only spasmodically throughout the war. Indeed, the young BCCA almost died during the Great War as membership dropped to around 30 but was saved through the efforts of a few die-hard enthusiasts. After WW1, things improved rapidly and membership numbers began to flourish. From 1921 (until 1956), BCCA had a regular 2 or 3 pages in each issue of BCM (British Chess Magazine) which kept members up to date with results and news as well as occasionally providing annotated games. Also, from 1921, the BCF (British Chess Federation) finally caught on to the popularity of CC and launched the British CC Championship which no doubt helped tremendously with marketing CC.

The inter-war years of BCCA were indeed a “golden period”. Membership rose year on year and standards of play increased. New competitions were added (the two BCCA mainstays – the annual Championship & the Handicap tourney had both been ongoing since 1909) such as the Knock-Out tourney and the Problem Solving Tourney. A BCCA Instruction Course was introduced in 1929 and, from 1925, the BCCA began to produce annual Yearbooks (just as they had at the beginning of the Association’s life in 1907 & 1908 but not produced after that) to record all the activities of the BCCA in the past year with all results etc. This very important aspect continues to this present day.

WWII saw a boom in CC! Membership rose rapidly to well over a 1000 by 1946 but this proved to be the highest membership number BCCA ever had. In 1949, the Association felt strong enough to re-start its own magazine. Originally 6 issues a year, it quickly reduced to 4 which has been the pattern ever since. Apart from a slight blip in 2004, the magazine has run continuously since 1949 to date and is one of our proudest achievements. The magazine was renamed “Correspondence Chess” in 1963 and has had a distinguished series of Editors throughout its life. In 2008, “Correspondence Chess” was named Magazine of the Year by the English Chess Federation.

Membership slipped during the 1950’s owing to a combination of a too-staid approach by the Executive Committee and the arrival of a vibrant newcomer on the scene of CC. The Postal Chess Club (PCC) had the distinct advantage that the owner/proprietor (Baruch Wood) also ran “Chess Monthly” and could market itself across the chess playing British public. However, unlike the BCCA, the PCC had no democratic structure and eventually died in 2002. However, the lesson had been learned – the BCCA cannot afford to remain static as there are competitors all around us. Innovations, fresh challenges & new competitions must be continually sought.

1962 saw the formation of the British Postal Chess Federation (now called the British Federation for CC- BFCC) to bring together all the various different CC bodies, organise the British Championship and enter England teams & players in the international arena. The BCCA affiliated to this new body and has done so ever since. Following the Fischer-Spassky match of 1972, CC entered its second golden age and, by the end of the 1970’s/early 80’s, membership once again approached 1000. The standard of CC was now extremely high and at least one BCCA Championship Final featured players with an average OTB grade of over 200.

In the mid-1980’s membership begin to fall. Chess was not as popular and the cost of playing chess by post became much higher. Also, the arrival of computers and chess analysis engines began to make itself felt and put some players off. The 1990’s and early part of the 21st century saw a continuous decline and many forecast the death of CC. But they were wrong! The internet and e-mail brought fresh life and new opportunities. The BCCA began its first webserver tournaments in 2006 which became immediately popular. In 2011, the decision was made to switch the BCCA Championship to webserver and this competition has seen a resurge in interest. New competitions such as the webserver Trio are now available throughout the year and the BCCA is now ready to meet the future with confidence!

Tournaments

1909 saw the formation of the BCCA Handicap tourney: a continuous tournament that continues to run to this day! This makes the BCCA Handicap tournament the longest running continuous CC tournament in the world. This tournament is still organised on a postal basis & forms the backbone of play for BCCA’s postal players. At one time, the Handicap tournament had over 400 players annually recording thousands of results and needed two BCCA officers to look after it.

The Rev B.Reed & J Solari were declared joint BCCA champions in 1909 and the BCCA Championship also runs to this day but it has not been totally continuous. The BCCA declared its own Champion from 1909-1939, after which the BCCA winner was also recognised by the BCF as the British Champion from 1939 to 1963. In 1963, the fledgling BPCF (British Postal Chess Federation; now the BFCC – British Federation for Correspondence Chess) took over control of the British Championship from the BCCA. All our players competed in this new Championship but gradually players from other organisations began to take part. It was therefore decided, in 1972, that BCCA once again needed its own Championship which was began in the same year and runs to the present day. From 2010, Candidates & Reserves sections have been made available on the webserver – this proved so popular that the whole tournament will be moved to webserver from 2012.

The Knock-Out tourney began in 1930 and was very popular for half a century. However, these tournaments have to be played quickly to maintain interest and, with 3 or 4 rounds needed to produce a winner, it could take a long while. With the declining speed of postal play, the knock-out gradually lost interest and the BCCA discontinued it in 2009. However, the new Webserver Trio’s launched in 2011 have more than taken the KO’s place & look set for a rosy future ahead.

Other tournaments have come and gone in the BCCA’s long history such as the Problem Solving tourney, Overseas Postal Championship & the Hoffman Tourney. But the BCCA continues to offer a wide variety of tournaments such as the Players Tourneys, Endgame tourneys, thematic tournaments and free e-mail tournaments.

In 2011, two important new initiatives were started showing BCCA’s determination to remain innovative – the Medal tourneys and the BCCA Titles (BCCA Master & BCCA Candidate Master)

Officers & Constitution

There are no paid workers in the BCCA! Everyone, from the President down to the Tournament Directors are all volunteers and give their time and effort for nothing, other than the satisfaction of a job well done and seeing the enjoyment it allows other players. Throughout its history, the BCCA has been remarkably fortunate to have attracted such a series of dedicated officers, many of whom devoted large tracts of their life to BCCA. Many officers have served the BCCA for over 25 years and there are at least two officers who served for over 40 years!

The democratic structure of the BCCA, laid down almost from the very beginning, is one of the secrets of our success. Unlike other organisations, the BCCA never becomes too reliant on just one or two individuals and so is able to survive difficult times when other organisations fold. Anyone can get involved in running the BCCA – volunteers are always welcome!

Initially, the office of President was an honorary one but, from the 1920’s onwards, effectively became the “Chairman” acting as such at BCCA meetings and bringing together the efforts of all the officers. The BCCA Secretary has usually being the hardest working official not only minuting meetings and dealing with all the other correspondence of the Association, but also maintaining the membership records & renewals of all members. In the 1970’s it was decided that this role was too much for one man & a Membership Secretary (BJ Armitage) was appointed solely to deal with members’ records & renewals. In 2006, this reverted back to the Secretary only.

Magazine

Since 1949, the BCCA has maintained a quarterly printed magazine. At a time when many other CC organisations have given up on the printed word, the BCCA continues to provide a quality product packed with articles, news, competitions & results.

The BCCA remains very proud of its tradition and achievements!

BCCA ROLLS OF HONOUR
The Date of each BCCA Champion is the year in which the tournament started

YearBCCA ChampionsBCCA PresidentsBCCA SecretariesBCCA Editors
1906J Solari / Rev. B ReedMajor AK MurrayHT Dickinson
1907Rev. E GriffithsMJ MeyerF. de Mattos Harding
1908E Montague JonesMJ MeyerF. de Mattos Harding
1909E GriffithsMJ MeyerF. de Mattos HardingWC Platt & HT Dickinson
1910J JacksonGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBF. de Mattos HardingWC Platt
1911E GriffithsGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBGL BrooksJ Jackson
1912Rev. E GriffithsGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBGL BrooksRev. E Griffiths
1913FE HamondGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBSG SheadRev. E Griffiths
1914FE HamondGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBSG SheadRev. E Griffiths
1915FE HamondGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBSG SheadRev. E Griffiths
1916WH GunstonGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBMiss D Shead (acting)(The above were magazine editors)
1917WH GunstonGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBMiss D Shead (acting)
1918JD ChambersGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBMiss D Shead (acting)(The below are Yearbook Editors only until 1948)
1919DM MacIsaacGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBMiss D Shead (acting)HE Matthews
1920WH GunstonGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBMiss D Shead (acting)HE Matthews
1921FW ClarkeGen. Sir HM Bengough KCBHE MatthewsHE Matthews
1922FW Clarke / WH GunstonSir SG SheadHE MatthewsHE Matthews
1923RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadHE MatthewsHE Matthews
1924RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadHE MatthewsHE Matthews
1925E BodkinSir SG SheadH BardsleyH Bardsley
1926WH GunstonSir SG SheadH BardsleyH Bardsley
1927RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadH BardsleyH Bardsley
1928H PeachSir SG SheadJT SteeleJT Steele
1929RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadSG DuffellJT Steele
1930L Illingworth / WH GunstonSir SG SheadSG DuffellSG Duffell
1931RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadSG DuffellSG Duffell
1932RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadH St.John-BrooksH St.John-Brooks
1933JT SteeleSir SG SheadMrs BG HollisMrs BG Hollis
1934RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadMrs BG HollisMrs BG Hollis
1935JT SteeleSir SG SheadMrs BG HollisMrs BG Hollis
1936RC MacDonaldSir SG SheadMrs BG HollisMrs BG Hollis
1937FA Richardson / EA EllisonSir SG SheadMrs BG HollisMrs BG Hollis
1938HA MarshallSir SG SheadHG PearceHG Pearce
1939WL RocheSir SG SheadHG PearceHG Pearce
1940J Wolstenholme (completed 1942)Sir SG SheadMrs BG HollisHG Pearce
1941W Ritson MorrySir SG SheadAF Stammwitz
1942RW BonhamL IllingworthAF Stammwitz
1943DV HooperL IllingworthAF Stammwitz
1944BH WoodL IllingworthAF StammwitzL Illingworth & AF Stammwitz
1945G WoodL IllingworthAF BattersbyL Illingworth & DH Butler
1946RW Bonham / J CairncrossL IllingworthAF BattersbyL Illingworth & DH Butler
1947F Parr / G WoodL IllingworthS SchroderNC Jacobs & S Schroder
1948F Parr / H IsraelL IllingworthS SchroderEC Still
Beginningof BCCA Magazine
1949F ParrJR GreenopS SchroderEC Still
1950RW Bonham / E BrownJR GreenopS SchroderEC Still
1951AM HallmarkJR GreenopS SchroderEC Still
1952HG RhodesJR GreenopS SchroderFr JB Hemphill
1953JA FullerJR GreenopS SchroderFr JB Hemphill
1954JA FullerJR GreenopS SchroderJWC Serpentelli
1955F ParrJR GreenopS SchroderJWC Serpentelli
1956SC DaveyJR GreenopWS LampardJG Coggan
1957PJ OakleyJR GreenopWS LampardJG Coggan
1958S MilanJR GreenopWS LampardJG Coggan
1959B CaffertyJR GreenopWS LampardJG Coggan
1960Sc Davey / C HunterJR GreenopWS LampardJG Coggan
1961S MilanJR GreenopWS LampardJG Coggan
1962S MilanT Vaughan - WilliamsPB DodsonJG Coggan
1963PB DodsonT Vaughan – WilliamsPB DodsonJC Bloodworth
1964S MilanT Vaughan – WilliamsRev CA WintersJC Bloodworth
1965S Milan / AS HollisT Vaughan - WilliamsRev CA WintersJC Bloodworth
1966AS HollisDH ButlerJB WardJC Bloodworth
1967J TimperleyDH ButlerJB WardJC Bloodworth
1968S MilanDH ButlerBA ClarkJB Ward
1969B HopewellDH ButlerBA ClarkJB Ward
1970AS HollisDH ButlerBA ClarkBA Clark & DJ Rogers
1971MRB ClarkeDH ButlerBA ClarkDJ Rogers
1972DE RodfordDH ButlerBA ClarkDJ Rogers
1973JE HaynesDH ButlerBA ClarkDJ Rogers
1974WL RocheDH ButlerJM AllainDJ Rogers
1975J HobbsDH ButlerJM AllainDJ Rogers
1976FJ KwiatkowskiJ NottinghamJM AllainDJ Rogers
1977RJ LaingJ NottinghamJM AllainJC Skipworth
1978K BowmerS SchroderJM AllainJC Skipworth
1979P CoastS SchroderJM AllainJM Allain & AN Morris
1980JR CookeS SchroderJM AllainAN Morris
1981PC MaguireS SchroderJM AllainAN Morris
1982JC PigottS SchroderJM AllainGE Finch
1983PW HempsonDE RodfordJM AllainGE Finch
1984P TerryDE RodfordJM AllainGE Finch
1985NP DonovanDE RodfordJM AllainGE Finch
1986AR CorkettDE RodfordJM AllainGE Finch
1987J CorfieldDE RodfordJM AllainGE Finch
1988J CorfieldDE RodfordJM AllainNJ Blake
1989MW JohnsonDE RodfordJM AllainNJ Blake
1990MW JohnsonDE RodfordJM AllainA Raoof
1991MW JohnsonDE RodfordJM AllainA Raoof
1992JA TaitDE RodfordJM AllainJA Tait
1993JA TaitDE RodfordJM AllainJA Tait
1994AM StewartDE RodfordJM AllainJA Tait
1995WD TaylorDE RodfordJM AllainJA Tait
1996SD SmithDE RodfordJM AllainJA Tait
1997JA TaitJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
1998CC WilliamsJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
1999DA PhillipsJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
2000R WalkJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
2001A SuttonJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
2002KW McLaughlinJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
2003K FranksJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
2004J AndersonJM AllainJM AllainJA Tait
2005K KitsonJM AllainJM AllainPJ Dodd & JM Allain
2006KW McLaughlinJM AllainSJ GraylandJM Allain
2007KW McLaughlinJM AllainSJ GraylandJM Allain
2008AC BrownJMV RashleighSJ GraylandN Limbert
2009KW McLaughlinJMV RashleighSJ GraylandN Limbert
2010LT EllisJMV RashleighSJ GraylandN Limbert
2011Anthony BalshawJMV RashleighSJ GraylandN Limbert
2012Kjartan MaackJMV RashleighN LimbertN Limbert
2013Neil LimbertJMV RashleighN LimbertN Limbert