Captain’s Corner 6: Peter Haddock

Here is the sixth in our Captain’s Corner series. This time it is the turn of Peter Haddock of the Oriental Club:

Tell us a little about your Club

The Oriental Club was established in 1824 initially as a focal point for those returning from India and the East.  The Duke of Wellington, the Club’s first President, gave the originating committee the advice to “buy the freehold!” This stood the Club in good stead when, in the late 1950s, the Club’s finances came under strain.  The then clubhouse in Hanover Square was sold on very favourable terms and the Club moved to its present location, Stratford House, in 1961.

The clubhouse is a small but beautiful building and at one time was the London home of Lord Derby.  It is situated in Stratford Place; an attractive cul-de-sac which sadly has been allowed by Westminster Council to become a builders’ yard for almost as long as I can remember.

And your chess circle

The Chess Society, as we call it, was founded by Hamilton McMillan at the turn of the century.  The society has a number of non-playing dining members but very few playing members.  Although some informal chess is played in the clubhouse, currently the society’s main function is to play in the Hamilton-Russell Cup and the associated activities.  The shortage of playing members has brought about our association with the East India Club for matches in the Inter-Club league.

What about your own involvement in chess

Father taught me the moves at about the age of seven and we played occasional games for some years.  These would have been of a very low standard but they familiarised me with the function of the pieces.  At grammar school I was “spotted” by the master in charge of chess who put me in the hands of the school captain to coach and to encourage me.  As a result I played in all the matches against local schools.

In 1956 I became Essex Junior Champion.  At that time I was playing regularly for Essex and various local clubs.  I remember my first game for Essex was on board 99.  Over the years, I crept up to about board 10 of a pretty strong Essex team lead by Jonathan Penrose.

For three years I played for London University becoming its captain in my finals year and gaining a half purple.  In that year I organised a two week trip to Czechoslovakia for a 12 board University team which performed with some success against Czech university players.

After graduating, I found that building a career and having a family were more important than playing competitive chess and sadly gave up the game until my interest was rekindled when Hamilton McMillan founded the Oriental Club Chess Society.

Who is your favourite chess player?

Viktor Kortchnoi.  In my opinion, the strongest player not to win the World Championship.  He may well have done so if his match against Karpov in Baguio in 1978 had been played on a level playing field.

Favourite chess book

Garry Kasparov’s series – “My Great Predecessors”.  It contains far too much lengthy computer analysis but aside from that is a wonderful collection of top class games and GK writes with great insight on both the chess and the personalities.

Anything to add? Perhaps some trivia about yourself?

In 1956 I organised the breaking of the then British record for simultaneous display.  In the canteen of the Ilford County High School Geoffrey Martin, a school old boy, played about 145 Essex school boys winning almost all the games.  The hardest thing was not finding so many players but obtaining so many chess sets.  The event was rather chaotic but did make the Guinness Book of Records for a short time.

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