Sun Life

by Colin Marriner

A history of the chess club, published in the 75th League anniversary issue of the Bristol Chesstimes in 1982.

We have a patchy but honorable past.

My connection with the club started in about 1965/66 toward the end of a long decline - I increased the membership by 50% simply by joining! One of the other members left London shortly thereafter but was soon replaced by a hard working Irishman called Steve White. He was largely responsible for our resurgence.

In my own (unsuccessful) efforts to build up a team - our target was the London Insurance League - I met a few old stagers who reminisced of pre-war and early post-war glories gained jointly with the Sun Fire Office. When they merged with the Alliance and the London Assurance the "Sun" Chess Club split. As most of the strong players worked for the re-named Sun Alliance & London, the Sun Life side gradually faded away. There were no written records of these victories, but I later saw the Sun name on more than one trophy from the 1930's and 1940's.

I went to work in Croydon shortly after but kept in touch and a couple of years later was invited to play for the re-established team in, I think, Division 4 of the London Insurance League. When Steve White left I foolishly took over as captain and general Club dogsbody. As we had only about 6-10 members - it fluctuated a lot - finding a team was always difficult and sometimes impossible. This was the early 1970's, the winters of discontent, continuous train and tube strikes when no sensible commuter remained in Central London a moment longer than was absolutely necessary.

Nevertheless, we were successful. We reached Division 1 in four years, just failing (by ½ point) to top the League in our last year as a full team in London. We had taken the K.O. Cup the previous year. We had a strong team, including a London "Under-21" Champion on Board 2.

The move of our Head Office to Bristol in 1976/77 was too severe a blow. The top 2 boards left to find other jobs in London, and the rest of us were too busy with new homes in Bristol. However, the Club was re-formed after a couple of years - and recent league tables speak for themselves. The Sun name was added to a trophy for the first time in Bristol last season. League leaders beware!

1997 postscript: The league leaders did not have too much to worry about and Sun Life is currently in Division 3. It has recently moved to play at the company's impressive new headquarters in Stoke Gifford. The club had its finest hour when it won the National Minor Club competition in 1993. The victorious team was Gordon Cameron, Martin Ashford, Colin Marriner (the author of the above article), Gerald Mobbs, and Andy Tonkin. Colin got the decisive wins in both the semi-final and final! - JR