The Winchester Chess Club was formed in the Spring of 1992. Connie Stolow, an educational consultant to gifted students, had several parents who wanted to know if there was a chess club in the area where their children could learn chess. Connie contacted Harold Dondis, the chess correspondent to the Boston Globe who put her in touch with Dr. Michael Charney. Dr. Charney started The Games Project/Chess Makes Kids Smart. Connie and Dr. Charney came up with some ideas on how to start up a chess club in Winchester. Connie approached the Winchester Library about using one of the basement rooms and posted chess board notices around town inviting people to an organizational meeting. Although Connie did not play chess herself, the notices attracted several experienced chess players who began holding chess games and lessons.
The Games Project/Chess Makes Kids Smart established many neighborhood chess programs and distributed chess sets. It also started a program to design and construct giant chess sets. With a grant from Enka, the Winchester Chess Club participated in building a giant chess set that is still available for play on Town Day in the Winchester Chess Club area.
The club met on Saturday mornings at the library until January 1993. But, due to sports, many students could not play chess on Saturdays. The library could not provide space late enough in the evenings. So Connie found out that the Town Hall was available to the Chess Club at no charge on Friday evenings.
Vernon Shoup was the first president. Tom Richardson (currently Tournament Director) was vice president and John Shawcross (currently Treasurer and Secretary) were members from the first year. Neil Akiyama was also active in membership and and publicity during the early day of the club. David Plantamura (currently President) joined a few years later. Steve Frymer of Lexington who was MACA President also came by the club from time to time to encourage it to develop and include more tournaments. In the early days, Tom Richardson and sometimes Steve Frymer would do a simultaneous exhibition playing up to 20 players.
On January 8, 1993 the club moved to the Winchester Town Hall. Initially using the Winchester Room and expanding to a second basement level room as membership grew. Since the Town Hall was free, the club was a low cost operation. No membership dues were charged although small entry fees were charged for tournaments in order to provide prizes and to purchase trophies. A coffee can was available for donations and gradually chess sets and boards were purchased. Some parents started bringing soda and selling it and this enabled the club to buy chess clocks. Later on the ENKA society provided a grant to buy digital clocks, which are still in use in 2008.
In the fall of 2004, after more than 11 years, the Town decided that the club could no longer play free of charge at the Town Hall. It would require the Chess Club to pay for the janitor who would be on overtime. The club could not afford that, so we looked at several alternatives, finally settling on the Parish of the Epiphany at 70 Church Street Winchester. We played there for the first time on October 8, 2004. The church charged the club to recover the costs of heating the church so it became necessary to charge a $25 fee per player each half season. The members loved the new location with its gothic charm. The parents also enjoyed having an area with couches and soft chairs, where they could relax and socialize, while their children played chess.
In late 2007, Jim Herbert heard that the Griffin Museum at 67 Shore Road Winchester would host the Winchester Chess Club at no cost. The club moved on February 1, 2008. This is a beautiful well lit location with the added benefit of providing chess club members an opportunity to view the various exhibits at the Museum.
Tournaments and Events:
The club holds tournaments at various times throughout the season. These tournaments offer time controls from five minutes for the one week speed tournament to seventy-five minutes for the five week annual club tournament. There is also a bughouse tournament where teams of two players battle it out. In bughouse, teams are chosen by pairing the best players with junior players which means any team has a chance of winning the event. We also hold a Herbert Handicap where based on club ratings the better players remove some of their pieces at the start of the game to equalize the games. The event is named after Jim Herbert who donated an antique silver cocktail shaker which had been a trophy at the Boston Chess Club in 1932 (the Boston Chess Club played Bridge!).
Above history compiled in early 2008 by David Plantamura (President), and reviewed by John Shawcross (Treasurer and Webmaster), Tom Richardson (Tournament Director) and Connie Stolow (Founder of the Chess Club). Details were updated April 2008 after Tom Richardson found a copy of the first Winchester Chess Club Newsletter (Volume 1, Number 1 dated January 1993 announcing the schedule and the move to the Town Hall).
( As time permits we may expand this history. if anyone wants to suggest some detail or correct errors please let me know. John Shawcross)