‘Chess has a beauty to it’: Putting the ‘mate’ back in ‘checkmate’ with the historic Preston Chess Club

Chess can trace its roots back some 1500 years, with its origins likely lying in India before it took hold to more widespread effect in Persia before spreading across southern Europe. Today, it’s estimated that over 650m people globally play chess on a regular basis.

By Jack Marshall
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 2:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 2:18 pm

Those 650m players include the 20 or so members at Preston Chess Club, which meets at Jalgos on Rose Street each Wednesday at 7.30pm for friendly and competitive matches as well as running teams in both the Blackpool & Fylde League and the Central Lancashire League.

“People always ask me when I first started playing!” says Malcolm Peacock, 59, who has been a member of the club since 1985. “My dad taught me when I was seven, which was 52 years ago, but we’ve got someone else at the club who’s been playing for 65 years.

“I suppose I fell in love with chess from the start - I always played draughts as well, so if you’ve got a mind for these things, you enjoy them,” adds Malcolm, who lives in Penwortham. “It was the competitive angle mixed with the problem-solving element, too. And chess even has a beauty to it, as well.

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Preston Chess Club

“I don’t think I really thought about what it was specifically about chess which appealed to me at that age, but I knew I enjoyed it so I just played it. I was fascinated by it and I wanted to get better. If I went wrong, I wanted to know why and how I’d gone wrong.”

A good social outlet for members, Preston Chess Club also runs the Preston Chess Congress each November and, prior to the pandemic, even sent players to a tournament in Utrecht in the Netherlands as well as other domestic tournaments such as the Northern Counties’ Chess Union Knockout and the Lancashire Clubs’ Knockout.

“It’s difficult to tell exactly how long the club’s been around, but we have a trophy which had names on it going back to the 1450s - we don’t know who these people are or what the trophy was for, but it’s always been there,” says Malcolm. “Chess has such a long history.

“During lockdown, I started a weekly Zoom call and we played online chess together as a virtual Preston Chess Club,” he adds. “It just gave us a chance to play the game and chat about everything which was going on. It was an important outlet for people.

Preston Chess Club

“Some people who were members pre-Covid haven’t come back, but we’ve also had new members come along because they got into playing chess in lockdown,” Malcolm continues, with the club having been meeting in person again since July last year.

“Having gained some new people is great - it was weird playing chess on a real board again after lockdown! These days, there’s a strong social aspect to it as well - I’ve known some people at the club since I first joined, so we’ve known each other a very long time and we’ve become really good friends.”

Preston Chess Club
Preston Chess Club
Preston Chess Club