Ballarat Chess History



1925 - Ballarat vs Geelong,
Ballarat Mechanics Institute

The first Ballarat Chess Club was formed at Brun's Cigar Divan on Monday, 16th June 1856. It is unknown how long the 1856 club lasted. A number of chess clubs were founded in Victoria during the 1850's (Melbourne 1851, 1855 and 1857, Geelong 1855, Beechworth 1857, Ararat 1859) but the constant movements of the population during the gold rushes mitigated against the clubs lasting for very long.The first Ballarat Chess Club is no exception and it seems to have petered out like the others.

It seems likely that the present club goes back to a meeting at the Ballarat Mechanics Institute on Tuesday, February 28th, 1865, when the Ballarat Chess and Draughts Club was founded with 35 members. The meeting was chaired by Mr.Daniel O'Connor who a few days later was to be elected the first President of the club.

Events moved fairly quickly. On Tuesday night the club was formed. On Friday night at a meeting of the Mechanics Institute Committee O'Connor introduced a delegation consisting of Messrs. C.Fisher and W.Marshall which applied for the use of a room at the Institute two evenings a week.

Ballarat owes its accurate chess records to Mr.Nathan Spielvogel, who became secretary in 1893 and who also played interstate competition.

Nathan Spielvogel. Biography...

For more research on the history of Ballarat chess see the Bas van Riel Website
which contains the following articles:

The Ballarat versus Geelong and Melbourne Matches in 1925-26
The Smokery - the Ballarat Chess Club in 1932 
The Ballarat Handicap Chess Tournament 1866-67
The Ballarat Champions 1966-2004

Four Major Annual Club Tournaments


1. The Spielvogel Memorial
In memory of Nathan Spielvogel (see above)

2. Club Championships
The A grade playing for the Andy Miitel Championship trophy, and the B grade for John Baynham Reserves title. Andy Miitel was a former club president who was instrumental in revitalising and reconstituting the club in the mid nineteen sixties after the club had become somewhat moribund in the early sixties. John Baynham was an important club administrator in the late sixties and early seventies.

3. Arthur Teters Memorial.
For the past decade or so, the period between the annual Club Championships and the Arthur Koelle tournaments had been filled with non-descript rapid play tournaments. At the suggestion of some club members, a new annual 7 round Swiss, games to be rated, was devised. All that remained was to give it a name. After a great deal of discussion, it was finally agreed to honour a past Ballarat player who has faded, almost to obscurity in our collective memories. Arthur Teters was part of the great wave of post-war immigration to Australia of Baltic chess players. He arrived in Australia in 1950 and won the Australian Open in Melbourne in 1953, before settling in Ballarat in 1954. It can be established that he won the Ballarat Club championship in 1954 and 1957, and possibly several other years as well. He was elected President of the Club shortly after arriving here and played successfully for the Club in numerous inter-city matches. His other OTB achievements included winning the Country Victorian championship in the 1950’s, and then the Victorian State championship in 1965, no doubt after he had returned to live in Melbourne.

Bill Homburg from Ararat had this to say about Arthur whom he played many a time in his youth:
"Arthur was the epitome of the ‘Old World’ gentleman; when I knew him he still clicked his heels and bobbed the head on introduction. During the 1950’s and 60s we played many, many games of chess when he lived in Loch Ave and later when he occupied the ‘Villiers House’ in Gillies St.  He was a very solid positional player but lacked the combinational flair of a Karlis Ozols. That being said, he was a stronger player than any country Victoria player of that era. We crossed swords in the 1958 Victorian Correspondence Championship - a game that ended in an honourable draw."



Upon his arrival in Ballarat, Arthur had told the “Courier” that a highlight of his youth was holding the World Champion to a draw in a simultaneous exhibition in Riga. The Champion could only have been Mikhail Botvinnik, a notable achievement indeed. He was also a strong and active CC player, winning the Victorian Correspondence Chess championship in the 1950’s and representing Australia in a CC Olympiad. By a curious coincidence, the current President of the Club, Patrick Cook, played against Mr.Teters a number of times in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, without ever knowing of his connection to Ballarat chess. Kevin Perrin also played and defeated Mr.Teters at the Geelong Open 1976. So, it is important that he not be forgotten and this new tournament is an appropriate salute to a past Ballarat champion.


This chess clock, made in Ballarat by J Tkatch for Arthur Teters, was donated by Bill Homburg to the Ballarat Chess Club in 2014. It has a plaque added to the rear to name the Teters Champions.

4. Arthur Koelle Tournament.
Like the Club Championship, the A Grade is a round robin tournament restricted to 8 players, while the B Grade tournament format depends on the number of entries. The inaugural tournament was held in 2011 and was won by Rob Loveband. Mr. Arthur Koelle was Victorian Junior champion in 1968 at 14, Country Victorian champion in the same year, and Club champion, also in 1968 as well as 1969. Most of  these achievements are age records to this day! He went on to win the Australian Junior championship in 1971. Arthur has been living in Germany since 1982 and competed in the famous Bundesliga club competition, mixing it with experienced grandmasters, up until the mid-1990’s when work commitments became more pressing.

Here is a link to a very interesting game played by Arthur Koelle in the final round of the German Landesliga. The game went for 6hrs 55 mins and Arthurs win gave his team the premiership in the division. The win came just before the sudden death at 7 hours. There were errors on both sides but it was played under great tension. It was the last game of the final round with the outcome to determine the team winner for the year in that division. Hannover Chess is the web page in German, and for the game try here.