Mental Gymnastics for a Good Cause - Hull's Fascinating Chess History

13 March 2019

When the British Chess Championships came to Hull last summer, Roger Noble, a member of the Hull and District Chess Association, wrote a book about the city’s incredible chess history. He decided to donate the proceeds from the book to Yorkshire Cancer Research, raising more than £1,000 for the charity. Here he explains more about the event, his book and the game of chess.

The game of chess has been called ‘Mental Gymnastics’ or “The Gymnasium of the Mind”. It has links to mathematics and science, along with spatial and artistic elements, so much so that the late Marcel Duchamp is quoted as saying “While all artists are not chess players, it’s certain that all chess players are artists!”
To those among you who continue to consider chess as a ‘cardigan pipe smoking geeky pastime’ for individuals of age and comfort, then please think again. The modern chess player is armed with a brain of sharp intent and individuality. Their thought processes ‘flicker’ in and out of a meditative imagination, while all the time aware that their opponent’s first and only thought is to eliminate them! Of course, the game can be played at all levels, and that’s a choice, but arm yourself with just the rules and an opponent, and rest assured you will be hooked.
Last summer (27 July - 5 August 2018), the sun shone strongly on the city of Kingston Upon Hull as it played host to the British Chess Championships at Hull City Hall in the town centre. More than 1,700 players took part, and more than 2,000 people were attracted to the city to either play, view or get involved in the chess festival. All ages from junior to adult were catered for, and the tournament was sponsored by the Hull Leisure Services and the English Chess Federation with help from the Hull and District Chess Association. 

A player at the British Chess Chamionships in Hull in 2018

Alongside the championships, and to keep the visitors happy, there were subsidiary events like outdoor giant chess, a bookstall, a chess cake, competitions, evening events such as historic walks and talks, raffles and even pizza making for children. Even BBC Radio Humberside got involved.

Many Chess Grandmasters, both male and female were playing for trophies and prizes, and the chess was as competitive as ever as tactics and strategy filled the hall. The two men’s finalists had to compete in the closest championship for years, culminating in several play-off games of speed chess to decide the British ’crown’ and a champion’s prize of £10,000.

Roger with the Rank & File book and cheque for Yorkshire Cancer Research
In order to celebrate the British Chess Championships coming to Hull, I was sponsored by Hull Leisure Services to write a book about Hull’s chess history and its connections with chess in the surrounding area. 

‘RANK & FILE’ would be the book’s title (aptly named after the squares running sideways and vertical on a chess board), and the book would run to over 100 pages, filled with photographs, anecdotes, memories, ephemera, history and much more! Some copies of the book were given away for publicity and commemoration, but further copies were signed, auctioned, sold and donated, all to raise funds for the charity Yorkshire Cancer Research. 

Chess players, the general public, work colleagues and onlookers all made donations towards raising awareness and funds for Yorkshire Cancer Research, with the total raised so far at £1,200. 

I gave the time and effort needed to write the book completely free of charge, and drew upon photos, articles and more from my own chess archive. This is the first time Hull has had a book written about its own chess history. It has been accepted by libraries in the city. The book is sectioned, fetching the reader right up to date with what has been going on locally in recent chess circles within Hull’s boundaries. There is something for everyone in the book, especially if you enjoy photographs, and the book has been professionally printed and produced.
I would like to thank all those Chess Grandmasters, players, public, and everyone who made such kind donations towards the book and Yorkshire Cancer Research. I would also like to thank everyone who not only put our great city on show during that wonderful sunny two weeks in Hull, but also raised awareness for a great cause.

Roger has a few copies of ‘RANK & FILE’ left. If anyone wishes to purchase a copy at £10 plus postage & packaging please email and mark your enquiry RANK & FILE. Every penny  will again be donated to Yorkshire Cancer Research.

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