Great kingdoms rise and fall, perhaps to rise again, phoenix-like, to new glories.
The same can be said for the once mighty Y.M.C.A. chess club of Bristol. We were the first champions in 1907-8, and the records would indicate that we are the only club surviving of those which founded the Bristol League (Clifton club did not join till later), 75 years ago.
In 1908, Dr Lasker, the reigning world champion, honoured us with his presence, with a lecture followed by a simultaneous exhibition. The club went from strength to strength, winning the League on numerous occasions, and everything else, from the local Division 2 (with our second team) up to the Gloucestershire Team Championship.
What a boost a visit by even a British Champion would give today to chess in Bristol! In 1928, Y.M.C.A. were hosts to the English Chess Champion, F.D.Yates, again for a lecture and simultaneous exhibition, and local players inflicted five losses on him; Bristol chess being strong in those days. The great Znosko-Borowski also visited in 1930, and the name C.Welch, which should be familiar to readers of a local newspaper column, is mentioned as one of his opponents; Mr Welch being the leading Y.M.C.A. player at the time.
In recent years, although the club now survives in Division 3, we lost our permanent premises when the Central Y.M.C.A. in Colston Street was sold. We still play there, however, but have lost several key players after climbing from Division 5 to Division 2 (the club had withdrawn from the League after internal feuding a decade ago). We are now a very friendly club, though small, and would cordially welcome any new members.
1997 postscript: Sadly, this kingdom fell for the last time. In the summer of 1987, Y.M.C.A. merged with Pegasus to form the Bristol Central club. The new club lasted five years but, following a large rent increase in the summer of 1992, the club closed and most of its players went to join Cossham. - JR