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The history of chess and its links to Harrow

Every human virtue can be expressed in a simple chess game: patience, problem-solving, strategy, control, risk, acceptance and responsibility, etc. The game of chess is an intellectual pursuit, plagued by emotions.

“It is not my style to take my opponent and myself onto unknown grounds. A game of chess is not an examination of the knowledge: it is a battle of nerves.” David Bronstein, Chess Grandmaster.

The origins of chess remain a controversial subject. Historians believe anything resembling the modern form of chess dates back to the 6th century in India, where it has bled into every continent, morphing and evolving through culture and time.


Two crucial rule changes in 1475 progressed the game of chess. First, the counsellor became a queen, increasing her mobility to become the most powerful piece on the board. Second, the chaturanga piece called the elephant becoming a bishop granting it the ability to double its range.

The history of chess and its links to Harrow Harrow Online
Chess. Credit: Unsplash

H.J.R Murray’s book “ A History of Chess” gives one a deeper insight into the development of the game of chess. The birth of Competitive Chess began in 1851 in London, hosted by Howard Staunton’s international chess tournament. The winner was Adolf Anderssen, a German, renowned for his “romantic” playing style.

Competitive Chess is available to Harrovians. Harrow Chess Club, established in 1907 by Mr A. A Sainsbury. The club has a rich history – The Koltanowski Story, Georges Koltanowski ‘Blindfold Chess’ (ill let your imagination figure out the name), the master Belgian.

On February 15th 1937, Mr Koltanowski visited the Harrow Chess Club. He sat backwards and challenged ten members, a “teller” was appointed to convey his opponent’s moves. Koltanowski spent over four hours at the club. Six members were defeated, three drew, and one managed to defeat Koltanowski. During the evening, Koltanoski had a twenty-minute break, where he smoked five or six cigarettes. When he came back, he offered to play back any moves. Two members accepted his offer, and he informed them of their movements without looking at their chess boards.

Harrow Chess Club has had many interesting members, like IM Colin S. Crouch, who died in 2015. He was a writer and international master. Mr Crouch wrote fifteen books on chess, Magnus Force, Queen’s Gambit Declined, How to Defend in Chess – amongst others.  He was a dedicated coach and fostered talent like future international master IM Lorin D’Costa.

Mr Crouch is a sadly missed member of the Harrow Chess Club, but his legacy remains in those he taught.

The club regularly meets at Harrow High School, Gayton Road, HA1 2JG. Juniors: 18:00- 19:30, Adults: 19:30 – 22:30. The Season begins on the first Thursday in September and until the second Thursday in July.

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