Isle of Wight - Early Chess Matches - Part 3

Updated: Jul 12

Isle of Wight - Norfolk Jan 13 1898 Telephone Match

In 1897 a new telephone service was introduced on the Isle of Wight. To commentate this a chess match against the Norfolk and Norwich County Chess Association was planned to take place in 1898. At this time this was thought to be a record for the distance that a chess telephone match had been played.

Details on the match were published in the South Wales Echo and Eastern Evening News as well as a number of other newspapers.

JS Flower was the chess correspondence for the Isle of Wight Observer and as well as playing in the match wrote the following article. This may not be that easy to read so I have also provided a transcript up to the point of the pairings.

CHESS. (Edited by Mr JS Flower.) The event of the week to chess players in the Isle of Wight, and in the country generally, has been the long-distance telephone match between the Norfolk and Norwich Chess Association and the Isle of Wight Chess Association. The match was played from the Royal Esplanade Hotel, Ryde, at the Isle of Wight end, and the Y.M.C.A. at the Norwich end, the distance being 200 miles by wire between the two places.
The wire was connected through from Ryde to Newport, and thence to Southampton, London, Ipswich, Lowestoft, Yarmouth and Norwich. Subscribers were allowed to use the lines as usual, but special operators were provided at each of the connecting offices, to watch the line and to ensure quickness in making the connection and to remove any fault that might occur.
Play began at 5 p.m. and continued until close upon 12 o'clock. In the earlier part of the evening the communication was frequently off by calls, about an hour and a quarter being lost in this way, but considering the many towns through which the line passes, these interruptions were few. Mr AE Jupe was chief steward, receiving and sending all the moves There were also eight stewards, one attending to each board. All arrangements were well thought out and worked exceedingly well. The Rev AT Richardson umpired at the Ryde end for Norwich, and Mr Littlebay did the same service for the Isle of Wight players at Norwich.
The teams were paired and the Isle of Wight winning the toss took first move at board 1,3,5 and 7. Play proceeded steadily until 9 o'clock when Dr Belding defeated Mr JS Flower in brilliant style, announcing mate in four moves. He was loudly cheered by the Norwich spectators, the applause being heard at the Ryde end. Sometime after eleven o'clock, the Isle of Wight players entered into negotiations with their opponents with a view to ceasing play as most of them had long distances to travel ere reaching home, and the hour was late.
It was decided to leave three games for adjudication, and the others were resigned by Messrs. Caws and Daws, of the Isle of Wight, and Mr Hardy, of Norfolk. Mutual congratulations were exchanged on the successful issue of the match, and after cheers from each party, and a little friendly chat (?) from the players engaged the wire was disconnected.
Mr GI Gribble moved a very hearty vote of thanks to Mr Daws for organising the match, and Mr Daws in his reply thanked Mr Howe (the Southern District Manager), Mr TA. Bates (the I.W. Manager), and Mr OS Flower, of the National Telephone Company, for their exertions, and congratulated them on the great success of the affair. Mr AE Jupe was also heartily thanked for his kindness in taking charge of the instruments, an arduous duty, lasting as it did for over five hours. Mr Sirkett was also thanked for his courtesy in lending the room.

The final result was a 5 - 3 win for Norfolk, but still a fine showing by the Isle of Wight in what must have been a strange set-up compared to their normal over the board matches. I guess we had something similar with the Pandemic, when longer games were completed on-line, which have normally been mainly used for blitz and rapid games. But so much easier for us to play in the comfort of our own homes, with instant responses. You can't beat the over the board experience though.

The article mentions but does not have the Dr Belding game where mate in four was announced. But does have the top board struggle which went to adjudication and was agreed drawn. I give this game below, with the original comments by JS Flower and some of my own (with computer assistance) as well. Update: The Dr Belding game from the 1898 match has now been sourced and has been added to the list of games in the 1909 games.

Isle of Wight - Portsmouth Chess Association Sept 13th 1899

The next match I have for the Isle of Wight is against Portsmouth Chess Association in 1899 and the format has was now the one game, that is more common now. According to the report in the Isle of Wight Observer Portsmouth did well to win as they were without three of their best players. This was a team from the Portsmouth Association, rather than just Portsmouth Chess Club. There were no details as to what clubs the Portsmouth players were from but the Isle of Wight had four from Ryde and Newport and one each from Shanklin, Sandown, Brading and Gatcombe. Isle of Wight were also missing some of their stronger players e.g. HS Hewett, SD Caws and WH Daws who all played in the telephone match against Norfolk.

"On both sides there were absentees, Portsmouth being without three of their best men. Under these circumstances, their win was a very creditable one. Mr. Daws, the Island champion, was very unfortunate in losing. No. 3 board would probably have been won by the Island had there been time to finish." Source: Isle of Wight Observer.

Isle of Wight - Portsmouth Chess Association June 9th 1904

Jumping ahead to 1904 the Portsmouth Chess Association were the opposition again. The match took place on Thursday afternoon at the Swiss Café in Ryde, and resulted in a win for the home team. As reported in the Isle of Wight Observer this was a very satisfactory result as several strong Island players were unavoidably absent, and some very strong county players were in the Portsmouth team.

On top board for Portsmouth was the future British Chess Champion Sir George Thomas. In 1904 he would have been 23 and playing board four for Hampshire. Surprisingly he only played board one for Hampshire twice, with J Blake and FJH Elwell normally playing above him at different times.

Thomas won his game and Portsmouth were too strong on the top boards, scoring 2 wins and 2 draws. But the depth in strength went the Isle of Wight's way only dropping half a point on the other 8 boards to win comfortably 8½ - 3½.

Isle of Wight - Norfolk 1909 Telephone Match

Eleven years after the first telephone match against Norfolk and Norwich chess club a return match took place. The article in the Lowestoft Journal refers to the first ever telephone match in 1884 and their previous one against the Isle of Wight.

As per now, technology moves quickly and the connections were much smoother than in 1888 and there was a 7pm rather than 5pm start this time. Not all the matches were able to be completed on the night though and at the end of the evening the match stood at 3½ - 2½ to the Island. Following the adjudications only one game was adjudicated as a draw, with all the others being wins for the Isle of Wight. The final score being a 6 - 3 in the IOW favour, thus they had their revenge.

Four of the IOW players had played in the previous match and FA Joyce had his revenge as well winning this time, whilst Revd Barry Cole won again on bottom board.

IOW - Norfolk Telephone Chess Match 1909.
IOW - Norfolk Telephone Chess Match 1909. Source: Lowestoft Journal

The Lowestoft Journal included one of the wins by Norfolk and the top board draw (home reporting bias!). Both games can also be played through.

Games from IOW - Norfolk Telephone Match 1909
Games from IOW - Norfolk Telephone Match 1909. Source: Lowestoft Journal

Update: As per additional information from Gerard Killoran 2 more games from the 1909 match and one from the 1898 match have been sourced. These are now included below.


This has been a snapshot of the matches the Isle of Wight Chess Association played over a 21 period from their association in 1888. As mentioned I think there were probably many more matches against the Southampton and Portsmouth Chess clubs / associations, but these would not have always been included in the Newspapers. There may be additional information in the AGM's but that will be left for another time. If anyone has additional material please let me know.

Although this has covered the matches, there will be one more post, which will detail the Isle of Wight players, their performance and any other additional information I have.


Acknowledgements and sources:

  • Eastern Evening News

  • Isle of Wight Observer

  • South Wales Echo

  • Lowestoft Journal

  • The British Newspaper Archive