Captain’s Corner 5: Mike Radcliffe

Here is the fifth in our Captain’s Corner series. This time it is the turn of Mike Radcliffe of the Chelsea Arts Club:

Tell us about your club

The Chelsea Arts Club was founded in March 1891 by a group of artists among them James McNeill Whistler and the sculptor Thomas Stirling Lee. Initially sited at 181 King’s Road the Club moved to its current premises at 143 Old Church Street, Chelsea in 1901.
The original constitution of the club agreed that ‘the object of the Club shall be to advance the cause of art by means of exhibitions of works of art, life classes and other kindred means and to promote social intercourse amongst its members ‘.
Practising women artists were admitted in 1966 and in 1980 the sculptor Jane Coyle became the first lady Chairman of the club.
Today the club has a membership of over 2000 including artists, poets, architects, writers, actors, musicians and filmmakers and a waiting list for new members who have to be sponsored by current members. Its future seems secure.

And your chess circle

The present Chelsea Arts Chess Club was set up by Barry Martin after winning the Chelsea Arts Club Chess Championship in 1989. A one off competition organized by the Club it managed to attract 32 entries which was quite positive given that up until that point, the Club had only had social chess players and these were few in number. Later that year Barry was presented with his prize by Gary Kasparov at a Grandmasters’ Dinner held at the Club. A number of English Grandmasters among them David Norwood, Jon Speelman, Raymond Keene and Julian Hodgson who had attended the dinner were subsequently invited by Barry to hold simultaneous matches at the Club. As the standard of our Club’s players improved, we invited other club teams in the Hamilton Russell League to the Club for a series of friendlies. Over the next couple of years, we lost, drew and won some and with these games behind us we applied for the club to become a full member of the Hamilton Russell League which was granted towards the end of 1991.

I have now been Chess Captain for some five or six years and we meet every Wednesday evening in the Ladies Bar unless of course we are taking part in an away match. I run an in-house league during the summer months (May to September) which all chess players are welcome to attend as and when they are in town/not on holidays etc. On the plus side because numbers are smaller, these games tend to be longer and are certainly a useful tool for keeping the mind engaged in the game and indeed for nurturing any burgeoning talent among our newer and younger Club members.

What about your involvement in chess

I was taught by my father from about the age of 8 and we used to play fairly regularly. However our games stopped when at the age of 13 I beat him for the first and – as it turned out – the last time. I subsequently played at school and was elected Captain of the chess team at Elizabeth College, Guernsey. Inter-island rivalry being what it was – and indeed continues to be – our main competitor was Jersey’s Victoria College. As a Jersey boy schooled on Guernsey my loyalties were divided and I certainly took some ‘ribbing’.

I then had a break from chess until being invited to play with the CAC team by Barry Martin in 1993 although I had begun playing again intermittently with the Battersea Chess Club in the London and Surrey Leagues.

Who is your favourite chess player

I have two – Mikhail Tal and Bobby Fischer

Favourite chess book/DVD/Video

I enjoyed The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez Reverte where chess art and murder are skilfully woven together. Chess Monthly wrote ‘As chess fiction, it must be either the best ever written or second only to Stefan Zweig’s The Royal Game’ That said however, I accept that chess fiction is not a particularly well served genre. I also enjoy watching Youtube videos especially MatoJelic’s games for his dry sense of humour.

Anything to add perhaps some trivia about yourself

Sadly as far as my family is concerned I am never far from a chessboard and have been known on one holiday to fashion and paint my own as I had left the travel set behind. These days of course I can play chess on my iphone – useful but doesn’t show quite the same initiative….. The home crafted board now has a place in our family history and will usually find its way into the boot of the car when packing for holidays.

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