MET OFFICE CHESS CLUB ARCHIVES
This history was reconstructed from our engraved trophies, the handwritten book of AGM and committee Minutes from 1961 to 1994, your author's knowledge since 1993, and four recently (Dec 2008) re-discovered files covering 1946 - 58 in Harrow & Dunstable, and 1961 - 1979 in Bracknell.
Harrow & Dunstable Meteorological Office Chess Clubs 1946 - 1961

The Met Office was formed by the Admiralty in 1854, but nothing is known about Chess at the Met Office until 92 years later. Pip Sarson founded a Met Office Chess Club in Harrow in 1946 as an offshoot of the Air Ministry Chess Club, with a plan to compete in Civil Service, Air Ministry and internal club events. 22 staff signed his initial invitation, but attendance at club nights soon fell away.

In 1947-48, a Club tournament of 2 divisions was started - the cross-table shows that Pip Sarson (our 1980 club champion) beat David Dicks (our 1996 club champion) in the upper division.

For a 6-week spell in summer 1950 the club documented in detail a very active chess club with a healthy membership. On 6th July the club played a Yugoslav national champion Mr J KONIG in a simultaneous display - Mr E J Axton scored the club's only win in a 1.5 - 16.5 defeat. On 27th July the club fielded a team with 3 lady members which unfortunately lost 0 - 16 to Harrow Town Chess Club. Finally on 15th August, eight members lost 3 - 5 in a simul against Mr PM Shaw the Civil Service champion. The paper file only includes one more entry - a letter from Pip Sarson in 1958.

In the 1950s the Met Office HQ was at Dunstable. Although we have no records of Chess there, David Dicks reminded us he was a member of the Chess Club at Dunstable, in response to a comment two other members had been there at the start (1961) and finish (2003) of the club in Bracknell.

Met Office (Berks) Chess Club 1961 - 2003
and what has this got to do with Chess in Devon ?

In 1961 the Met Office HQ moved from Dunstable to a brand-new state-of-the-art building in Bracknell. The Chess Club was re-founded in 1961 and apart from 8 years of apathy in the 60s-70s it continued for the life of the building. Pip Sarson (145 - 149) continued to show leadership of the club (champion, A team captain, and organisation) into the 1980s.

David Dicks (116-74) played regularly for Met Office CC until we moved to Devon in November 2003, so his membership spanned 56 years. David was club champion in 1996, forking my Q in the final after we both knocked out A team players. David's last grade was 74 and he is somewhat older than that.

Two founder members in 1961 Brian Edkins (130-79) & David Macklin (110-83) continued to play for the club until 2003. Dave Macklin plays regularly at Chess congresses in Torbay and is now a Slough and Bucks player.

The club's strongest player was Frank Woolford (186–) who continued to score over 85% in the club's slowplay and blitz tournaments well into his sixties. The Berkshire League 2nd Division has recently been named after him - a fitting memorial to an outstanding chess player.

We have two Grading Lists from the 1970s. In the all-Berkshire list for 1973/74, the overall range of grades was 90 to 203 - similar to 2009's New Grades. Because the list contained only players with 8+ games in the latest season (similar to category C now), only 5 Met Office players were listed :- Frank Woolford 186, JM Cradock 171, Tony Pearson 160, Pip Sarson 149, Chris Long 140.

The county grader provided us all our players in the Berkshire 1976-77 'Master List' :- Mike Bader 152, Terry Fagan 149, Chris Long 147, Pip Sarson 145, Wilf Taylor 135, Robin Rumney 123, David Dicks 116, Will Hand 113, Mr Banner 103, Brian Edkins 98, Cliff Russell 73. (Your website author's first ever grade was the same year : 97 at Orpington Chess Club).

In the late 70s the club thrived and ran sometimes three and usually two 6-board teams in the Berkshire League. Two then young club members Wilf Taylor (124–145) & Will Hand (137–92) have played against Devon clubs in 2005-06. Two lady members Jessica Hand then Alison McClure (BCF 150+) enhanced the club.

The 80s and 90s saw fresh talent, including David Roberts (163–189) who decided not to move to Exeter, and played at least one GM in the 2007 WECU championships in Exmouth. Richard Wood (134–152) gave up chess in 1997 to take up croquet, string quartets, and climate research, but has scored 50% in 5 recent Exeter League Division 1 matches. The A team oscillated between the Berkshire 1st and 2nd Divisions, and also included Steve Murray (130–158), Simon Waters (135–158), and Gil Ross (98–136) who are already well-known in Devon chess circles.

Gareth Ward (90–128) joined the Met Office in 1993 from suburban Kent chess, and took on the B team captaincy from Bob Whyman (93–114) except for one year when Norman P Gunther (103 - 135) took the reins. The B team usually just missed promotion from Berks Div 3. Bob was Club Secretary for more years than anyone could remember, and also played regularly up to 2003.

Norman's father Alex Gunther (97–48) also played for the club, and when graded 48 for the last year of his life, he reverted to 97 for his last season losing just once to our club member Paul Lewis (106-124) Paul seems to have been merged with the Reading player of the same name, on the ECF grading database. Twice our Blitz champion in the 1980s, John Austin (111-126) returned to Chess in 1998, bought a house in Exwick cheaply in 2001, but then took a job in the USA in 2003 so he never became a 'chessdevon' player.

The club has run slowplay and blitz internal competitions for which we have trophies each engraved with over 20 winners - see the Roll of Honour below.

We won the Berkshire_Chess_Association (see Archive > Trophy winners) Division 2 Trophy in 1962, 1985, 1988, 1993 (three-way tie), and 2003. We won the Jubilee Plate (1st-round-losers Cup) in 1994. The B team were Division 3 champions in 1981 & 1987.

In 1999 Gareth persuaded the club to try fresh challenges - BCF National Club u125, then the Surrey-Hants Border League (clubs around Guildford) to escape from the ineligibility rules of the Berkshire League. The club ran one 6-board (Berks) and two 5-board (Border) teams for our final two seasons in Bracknell.

Around this time we were aware of but hadn’t met an employee Andreas Keil (152–179), who worked at our Farnborough site in 2000-02 before returning to Germany for 2 years. Andreas played board 1 for Fleet Chess Club in the Border League.

The club’s active membership just before we left Berkshire was about 15, comprising 7-8 employees, 4 Met Office pensioners, and 3-4 refugees from other clubs (including Peter Byre who has played the Exmouth Seniors congress). In 2003 the club donated some members and both Leagues’ places to Bracknell CC who at the time were one team with no home venue.

You can see other players we haven't mentioned above, in the Club Champions Roll of Honour below and at http://grading.bcfservices.org.uk/getclub.php?club=Met%20Office%20Berks&inactive=1

Only 4 *keen* chess players started at the Exeter HQ in 2003, and their exploits will form a future history of the Met Office Chess Club in Exeter. In 2008-09 the club regained the membership levels (13) we had in Bracknell, allowing us to run four (albeit 4-board) teams for the first time ever.

CLUB CHAMPIONS
ROLL of HONOUR
SLOWPLAY CHAMPION
YEAR
BLITZ CHAMPION
 
1975
not known
Nick Brown
1979
Norman Gunther 131 & Pip Sarson 145 **
1980
Frank Woolford 186 **
Frank Woolford 186 **
1981
Frank Woolford
1982
John Austin 126 #
Frank Woolford
1983
Frank Woolford
Frank Woolford 155
1984
Frank Woolford 155
not known
1985
David Roberts
Bruce Ingleby 128
1986
David Roberts 163
Will Hand 132
1987
Bob Whyman 110 & John Austin
Wilf Taylor 134
1988
Mike Colgate 146
1989
Frank Woolford 140
1990
Frank Woolford 140
NOTE : For winners prior to 1989, the Grades above are all for 1989, except ** (1977) and # (2002).
David Roberts 173
1995
David Roberts 173
David Dicks 96
1996
David Roberts 189
Richard Wood 144
1997
Norman Gunther 103
Adrian Pickersgill 169
1998
Steve Murray 146
Adrian Pickersgill 168
1999
Joe Boreham 158
Paul Horrocks 107
2000
Steve Murray 146
Steve Murray 153
2001
Paul Lewis 124
Joe Boreham 154
2002
David Roberts 189
Philip Naylor 138
2003
David Roberts 173
 
 Devon
 
Steve Murray 138
2005
Andreas Keil 179*
2006
Andreas Keil 179*
2007
Andreas Keil 176
 
2008
 Graham Bramley 94 &
Lee Gillard 125* & Wilf Taylor 134
2009
 
2010
 
2011

ARCHIVES : Met Office HQ Chess Club in Devon
Match results 2004 - 2007
match type
date
HOME team
RE
SU
LT
AWAY team
friendly
13-09-2004
Met Office
2
-
2
Rural Payments Agency
Ex&DL Div1
21-02-2005
Met Office
1.5
-
2.5
Exmouth A
Ex&DL Div1
05-04-2005
Met Office
2
-
2
Exeter Rooks
Ex&DL Div1
11-04-2005
Met Office
1
-
3
Sidmouth A
friendly
21-09-2005
Met Office
3.5
-
0.5
Teignmouth
friendly
29-11-2005
Met Office
1.5
-
2.5
Newton Abbott
Ex&DL Div1
17-01-2006
Sidmouth A
3.5
-
0.5
Met Office
Ex&DL Div1
07-03-2006
Met Office
2.5
-
1.5
Exmouth A
Ex&DL Div1
28-03-2006
Met Office
0.5
-
3.5
Exeter Rooks
Ex&DL Div1
27-03-2007
Met Office
0
-
4
Exmouth A
Ex&DL Div1
17-04-2007
Exeter Rooks
1.5
-
2.5
Met Office
Ex&DL Div1
25-04-2007
Met Office
1.5
-
2.5
Sidmouth A
Match results 2007 - 08
Ex&DL Div2
05-12-2007
 Tiverton A
1.5
-
2.5
Met Office B
Ex&DL Div2
18-12-2007
Met Office B
1
-
3
Exmouth B 
Ex&DL Div2
22-01-2008
Exeter Pawns
2.5
-
1.5
Met Office B
Ex&DL Div2
26-02-2008
Met Office B
2
-
2
Sidmouth B
Ex&DL Div2
04-03-2008
Met Office B
1.5
-
2.5
Seaton A
Ex&DL Div1
05-04-2008
Met Office A
1.5
-
2.5
Exeter Rooks
Ex&DL Div1
29-04-2008
Met Office A
2
-
2
Exmouth A
Ex&DL Div1
13-05-2008
Sidmouth A
4
-
0
Met Office A
Match results 2008 - 09
Ex&DL Div 2
Tu 11-11-2008
Met Office B
2
-
2
Tiverton A
Ex&DL Div 3
W 19-11-2008
Met Office C
1
-
3
Sidmouth C
Ex&DL Div 2
W 26-11-2008
Seaton A
3
-
1
Met Office B
DCCA Newman
Tu 02-12-2008
Met Office R
3.5
-
4.5
Exmouth R
DCCA Newman
W 10-12-2008
Tiverton R
8
-
0
Met Office R
Ex&DL Div 3
Tu 13-01-2009
Exeter Gambits
2
-
2
Met Office C
Ex&DL Div 2
Tu 03-02-2009
Met Office B
2
-
2
Exeter Pawns
Ex&DL Div 2
Tu 10-02-2009
Sidmouth B
1
-
3
Met Office B
Ex&DL Div1
Tu 17-02-2009
Exeter Rooks
2
-
2
Met Office A
Ex&DL Div1
Tu 03-03-2009
Met Office A
1
-
3
Sidmouth A
DCCA Newman
Tu 10-03-2009
Met Office R
4.5
-
3.5
Exeter R
Ex&DL Div 3
Tu 17-03-2009
Met Office C
2.5
-
1.5
Seaton B
Ex&DL Div 3
W 25-03-2009
Tiverton B
2
-
2
Met Office C
Ex&DL Div1
W 01-04-2009
Met Office A
1.5
-
2.5
Exmouth A
2006 - 2008 Handicap Blitz results

2008 : Graham Bramley (94) = Lee Gillard (e121) = Wilf Taylor (134) all 6/10 after playoff >>
>> Gareth Ward (90) 4/8 >> David Thomson (e92) 1/8.

2007 : Andreas Keil (176) 6.5 / 7 won play-off >> Lee Gillard (e95) 6.5 / 7 lost play-off >> Will Hand (112017H) 4 >> Gil Ross (100) 3.5 >> Wilf Taylor (136) 2.5 >> David Thomson (U) 2 >> Graham Bramley (e105) 1.5 >> Gareth Ward (97) 1.5

2006 : Andreas Keil 6/6 >> Shane 3.5 >> Steve Mullerworth 1.5 >> Gareth Ward 1. Our guest entrant Shane was (like Andreas) a former member of Fleet Chess Club, and ~140 over 10 years ago. 

Exeter CC Jan 2009 Blitz (10-round Swiss) : other clubs were invited and took away 2 grading prizes. Gareth Ward (R83) on 5/10 shared the u90 prize with Brian Aldwin.
Individual Achievements
Andreas Keil is Civil Service Champion for 2008
Andreas Keil is the first Devon player for many years to become National Civil Service Champion at Leeds, after his 3rd places in 2006 and 2007. In all 3 years, Andreas won the the South-West qualifier, and the Blitz at Leeds. Neville Lane qualified for Leeds in 2005, and Ian Simpson in 2009.
After being donated pieces by several opponents, Gareth Ward (100 s) led after 5 rounds of the 2006 Teignmouth Rapidplay u-120, but there was no prize for losing to Robert Thompson and 4th place. Gareth did get a reward from the day - the Western Morning News Chess Correspondent (Bob Jones) wanted the scoop of being first to publish (27th May 2006) Gareth's 55-move game from a 1995 simul by GM David Bronstein.
A team of chess players trading as CHECKMATE! (Andreas Keil, Steve Murray, Gareth Ward) took on the Met Office Golf Society at their own game, at Exeter Golf and Country Club on 16th October 2008. CHECKMATE! were 2nd of the 7 teams. Individually, Andreas was 3rd of 21 players (38 pts) and Gareth (35 pts) the only player to par the long 17th.
Club Tournaments 2004 - 2008

Steve Murray won the 2004-06 tournament and Andreas Keil the 2006 tournament. Andreas also won the 2006 Blitz, to become only our 3rd player to win both events in the same year, after Frank Woolford (1983 1984 1990) and David Roberts (1995). The 2007/08 tournament was not completed - Graham Bramley should be credited for playing 4 of the 6 games and his deserved win on time against Steve.

Date
White
Grade
Result
Grade
Black
18/10/2004
Steve Murray
138
1
-
0
u92
Guy Robinson
25/10/2004
Guy Robinson
u92
0
-
1
134
Wilf Taylor
06/12/2004
Wilf Taylor
134
0
-
1
109
Gil Ross
09/12/2004
Gareth Ward
97
0.5
-
0.5
u92
Guy Robinson
26/04/2005
Gareth Ward
97
0.5
-
0.5
134
Wilf Taylor
09/05/2006
Gareth Ward
100
0
-
1
132
Wilf Taylor
23/05/2006
Gareth Ward
100
0
-
1
e170
Andreas Keil
06/06/2006
Andreas Keil
*179
1
-
0
133
Wilf Taylor
28/06/2006
Wilf Taylor
133
0.5
-
0.5
136
Steve Murray
19/07/2006
Andreas Keil
*179
0.5
-
0.5
136
Steve Murray

 

03/10/2006
Steve Murray
136
1
-
0
96
Gareth Ward
13/11/2006
Wilf Taylor
133
1
-
0
98
Gil Ross
14/11/2006
Gil Ross
98
0
-
1
*179
Andreas Keil
28/11/2006
Gil Ross
98
1
-
0
96
Gareth Ward
 
18/12/2006
Steve Murray
136
1
-
0
98
Gil Ross
 
23/08/2007
Wilf Taylor
136
1
-
0
e95
Graham Bramley
10/09/2007
Steve Murray
136
0
-
1
e95
Graham Bramley
??/??/2007
Neville Lane
e135
1
-
0
e95
Graham Bramley
11/12/2007
Gareth Ward
97
0
-
1
e125
Lee Gillard
22/04/2008
Gareth Ward
97
0.5
-
0.5
e95
Graham Bramley
 
03/12/2008
David Thomson
e92
0.5
-
0.5
e121
Lee Gillard
Club Tournament 2009