The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]
An Opportunity is taken in this article to give the first history of the V.U.C. Chess Club since its formation in 1952. After five years' existence it seems reasonable to record this achievement in the hope that the roots of the club will take even stronger hold in life at V.U.C.
The first A.G.M., held on April 21, 1952, was rather quiet, as befits a contemplative pastime, but it was well supported. Due credit for getting the club started must go to Russell Feist, secretary-treasurer, 1952-53. The enthusiasm which is often attendant on a newly-founded club was particularly evident in 1952, and was rewarded with a good measure of success. A £15 grant was coaxed from the Executive to purchase much-needed equipment, and friendly games were played with Wellington College and Training College (one win, one draw). In the inter-club competitions our C grade team swept the field with five wins and a draw, while the B grade team went very close to capturing further championship honours. By the first term of 1953 membership was over 30 and a confident annual report from the secretary-treasurer anticipated another good year.
Why at this stage all the sanguine predictions should have been confounded can only be guessed at. The sudden cooling of interest cannot be explained away completely by the doubtful practice of holding alternate club nights. Poor attendances here were unfortunately matched by the disastrous exhibitions of the teams entered in the inter-club competitions"—all matches being lost apart from one draw.
Such a dismal record makes the move to disband the club in 1954 at least understandable. Happily there was sufficient opposition at the A.G.M. to postpone the decision to an S.G.M. where the club received a further tentative lease of life. Despite the discouraging opening to the year the committee with Don Mathieson as secretary-treasurer tried gallantly to keep chess at V.U.C. alive. "Modern Chess Strategy" and "Ideas Behind Chess Openings" were purchased to form the nucleus of a club library, and the possibility of holding matches with other university colleges was looked into.
Although active canvassing for membership was tried during the enrolling week in 1955, once again lack of support for the club was evident by poor attendance at the A.G.M. The minutes record "That the future of the club was discussed" and the suggestion from the C.U.C. Chess Club that chess be part of Tournament was not supported. That the club survived these lean years was greatly due to the untiring work of Secretary-Treasurer Don Mathieson and committee men Grey, Knight and Russell Feist.
With 1956 came a revival of interest and active membership. The improved performance of the B grade team in the inter-club competitions showed a return to the standards of 1952, a narrow loss in the last match against the Hutt Club robbing us of championship honours. Mention must be made here of the fine performance of Ross Barnett in winning all four of his games as our No. 1 player.
During the year it was decided to press ahead with the idea of holding a telegraphic match with C.U.C. which seemed to be the only other varsity club still active. After much preparatory work by our organiser Jim Fowler, the match finally took place on 6 April, 1957, at the Wellington Chess Club rooms. Briefly the system used was that each side had a team of ten, five games with white, the boards were numbered alphabetically and then each move as it was made was described in full and transmitted to the other end by morse. Thanks to the efficiency of the operators and the invaluable aid of two Wellington Chess Club men, any difficulty was quickly smoothed out and an enjoyable afternoon's play resulted. To our knowledge this was the first inter-varsity telegraph match to be held in New Zealand, and while the possibility of chess at Tournament remains so remote, we are very keen to make this match a yearly event. With two wins, three probable wins and no losses V.U.C. was virtually assured of victory when play ended.