Here is the third in our Captain’s Corner series. This time featuring Teddy Bourne of The Reform:
Tell us a little about your Club
The Reform Club was founded in 1836 by Edward Ellice, MP for Coventry and Whig Whip, whose riches came from the Hudson’s Bay Company but whose zeal was chiefly devoted to securing the passage of the Reform Act 1832. The new club, for members of both Houses of Parliament, was intended to be a centre for the radical ideas which that Bill represented: a bastion of liberal and progressive thought.
The Reform Club’s building was designed by renowned architect Sir Charles Barry and was finished in 1841, the design being based on the Farnese Palace in Rome, and its saloon is regarded as the finest room of all London clubs. Its library contains over 75,000 books, mostly of a political, historical and biographical nature.
The Reform was the first of the major London clubs to admit women as full members.
And your Chess Circle
The Reform has had several Chess Circles over the years. Our records show the formation of Chess Circles in 1926, 1946 and 1981, but it is not known how long each incarnation lasted. The current Chess Circle was started by me in March 2001. In 2002 we had our first match – a friendly against the Athenaeum. (We surprised them and won; they have made sure that that has never happened again!) We do know that the Reform was participating in the London Clubs’ Chess League back in 1926, and we ventured back into league play starting in the 2003-4 season, since when we have been regular strong contenders for the wooden spoon each season. We adhere to Baron de Coubertin’s famous dictum that it is taking part that matters, but nevertheless the Chess Circle has been growing in a very satisfactory manner over the last two years, and with our increased numbers, including some good recruits, we hope to storm up the table in the coming seasons, with our sights set firmly on finishing at least third from bottom in the foreseeable future.
What about your own involvement with chess?
I learned to play chess from my father, and played sporadically as a boy. I had a travelling chess set, which I often took with me on holiday. I did not play competitive chess at all until my early 20’s, when I sometimes played in the London Legal League. I would take my travelling chess set on the tube and practise, from Edward Lasker’s wonderful Chess Self-Tutor. In those far off days, it was even possible, as a City solicitor, to have the occasional friendly game of chess with a colleague at lunchtime, something that would subsequently come to seem positively Dickensian as the modern work ethic took hold. After that, I did not play again regularly until I realised that the Reform Club would be the perfect place for a chess circle.
Who is your favourite chess player?
I’m not qualified to choose a favourite among the famous top players. Closer to home, I would nominate Danny Rosenbaum, for his enthusiasm and willingness to share his knowledge with others.
Favourite chess book/ DVD or video?
As you’ll have gathered, this is definitely Edward Lasker’s book. My original 1973 edition is entitled just “Chess”, and the modern algebraic notation version is called “Chess: the complete self-tutor”. It uses the teaching method where a situation is explained and you are given several possible options for the next move; each option refers you to another page of the book; if you choose a wrong option, you find an explanation of why your choice was not the best; and when you choose the right option, you can move on to the next lesson. I would recommend it to anyone who knows the basics and wants to learn more about how to think about chess.
Anything to add? Perhaps some trivia about yourself!
At Christmas in 2004, my wife invited a friend who lives in Brussels, and her husband, Christopher, to stay with us for Christmas. I played a game of chess with Christopher, and we started a second game but did not have time to finish it. We therefore agreed to complete the game by text message. This was the start of a series which has continued over the last 13+ years. In that time, I have achieved one win (the first game) and four draws. He is a much better player than I am, but I live in hope.