Ballarat Chess Club Personalities
John was a Treasurer of the club for many years and we also have named the Reserve Championship after him. John played in numerous of the early Begonia events and visited the event each year after he could not play any longer.
His daughter wrote this moving memorial obituary for 10 years since his passing in 2008. (Ballarat Courier May 10, 2008)
John Baynham, Gordon Males, Mark Bruere, John Brouwers - Telechess '82
Gary is a past Treasurer and member, one of the many important people who have kept the club going for its members and the Ballarat community.
Gary Bennewitz at the 2009 Ballarat Begonia.
Bill observing a game at the club
Charles Marshall Fisher (1845-Apr.1890) was born in Creswick, and educated at Brighton. After leaving school he spent some time in Ballarat, where he acquired so great a reputation as a chess-player that he was chosen as a representative of Victoria in several inter-colonial matches with New South Wales. Fisher was president of the Ballarat Chess Club 1867-? And one of the Vice-Presidents of the newly formed Victorian Chess Association in Sept.1877.
Later in life he resided for some years in Sydney, and was engaged there as a stock and sharebroker. He also occupied the position of chess editor of the Sydney Mail (1878-’79), and became known as a good player of blindfold chess.
In the year 1871 he returned to Melbourne, where he had a successful career as a sharebroker, and was understood to have realised a fortune in Broken Hill stock. He went to England about a year ago with his wife and daughters, and when last heard of he had gone to Nice, presumably in search of warm weather.
Mr. C. M. Fisher succeeded the late John Wisker as chess editor of The Australasian (1884-’85), and occupied that position with great credit to himself for several years. As a chess editor he was always distinguished by his perfect fairness, by his uniform courtesy, by his mastery as a judge of the merits of problem composition, and by his skill as an annotator of games.
As a chess-player his most brilliant and most famous achievement was his defeat of Mr. Louis Goldsmith at a time when that accomplished player was at the zenith of his chess strength.
The match, which was for the first five wins, partook of an inter-colonial character, being played during the years when Mr. Fisher was a resident in Sydney. The score at one stage was in Mr. Goldsmith's favour by four wins to two wins, but Mr. Fisher then showed his quality as a match-player by scoring the next three games in succession, thus winning the most interesting chess match that has yet been played in Australia.
After his return to Melbourne, he maintained his reputation as a match-player by twice carrying off the chief prize in handicap tourneys of the Melbourne Chess Club; Mr. Burns, Mr. Gossip, and other good players being among his competitors. As an odds-giver he was probably without a rival in Australia.
Of late years, however, his business engagements have been too engrossing to allow of his devoting much time to chess and he has been content to be recognised in Melbourne chess circles as one who had won his spurs as a member of the "old brigade." But it is known that during his holiday trip in Europe he had carried out the intention, of which he had often spoken to his Melbourne chess friends of testing his quality as a player in some of the most famous of the chess resorts of Europe; and ‘The Australasian’ of December 28 contains the score of a brilliant skirmish which he had won a few weeks previously at the Cafe de la Régence, in Paris. This is the last specimen of his chess skill which has been published in Melbourne.
Here is a brilliant blindfold victory by Fisher
The Hull Packet and East Riding Times (Hull, England), Friday, September 9, 1881
By 1875 there was little doubt that the 3 strongest players in Australia were Andrew Burns, Louis Goldsmith, and Charles Fisher. In that year Goldsmith and Fisher played, for a stake of £20 a side, the first notable match over the board between a Victorian and a player from another colony. The match, played in Melbourne club, drew many spectators and was narrowly won by Fisher. When Blackburne visited Australia in 1885, Fisher alone held the British master to a draw on level terms.
Fisher returned to Ballarat in 1884 to give a demonstration of simultaneous play and an uproar was caused when an official of the Institute turned the gas out on him. It was reported in the Ballarat Courier (21st March 1884)* and reprinted in Fisher’s column in the Australasian, the following week.
Leader, Saturday 10 May 1890, page 7
It is with deep sorrow that we announce the premature death of this distinguished player which, we learn by telegram, took place at Monte Carlo on the 29th April, at the early ago of 45. Mr. Fisher was a native of Victoria, having been born in the Goulburn, where his father had a station called Woodstock. While he was still a child his father removed to St. Kilda, and he was sent for his education to a school at Brighton. The family afterwards changed their residence, first to Geelong, and then to Ballarat, where at the age of 15 he entered the office of the local foundry, in which he remained for the next 10 years. When a very young man he devoted himself to the study of chess, in which he became an adept, and ever since has been identified with the progress of the game in Australia. In 1866, he won the championship of Ballarat in a tournament, in which, we believe, both Mr. M'Combe, the well known player, and Mr. Connor took part. His first appearances in Melbourne were at the Intercolonial matches of 1870 and 1871 against New South Wales. His opponents on these occasions were Messrs. Pendrill and Haydon, respectively, but he only succeeded in drawing both games. Indeed, in most of the Intercolonial Matches, as will be seen hereafter, he was unfortunate, and seemed not to play up to his full strength. In 1872 business called him to Sydney, and in that year we find him in the New South Wales team pitted against Mr. S. Phillips, who at that time was one of the finest players in Victoria, and from whom he suffered defeat. He soon , however, established his title to the championship of New South Wales by winning a challenge cup, presented by the president of the Sydney Chess club, twice in succession. In the second tournament for this cup which took place in 1873, he lost both his games with Mr. Robert Smith, which gave rise to a challenge from that gentleman to a match. This came off towards the end of the same year, and after a hard struggle in which the score at one time stood at 5 all, resulted in favour of Mr. Fisher, the final score being Fisher 7, Smith 5.
In the Intercolonial matches of 1873 and 1874 he again appeared in the New South Wales team, his opponent on both occasions being Mr. Stephen, and won both games. Early in the following year, 1875, he paid a long visit to Melbourne, during which a match was arranged between him and Mr. L. Goldsmith, to be decided by the winning of 5 game. This match proved to be the closest and most exciting that has occurred in Australia. At one time it seemed as if Mr. Goldsmith was to have a somewhat easy victory, the score standing at Goldsmith 4, Fisher 2, but the latter proved himself equal to the occasion, and though six more games were played before the match was decided, he did not allow his opponent to win another game, the final score being, Fisher 5, Goldsmith 4, drawn 3. In the Intercolonial match of the following year he was drawn against Mr. Burns, the result being one of the finest games ever played in Australia, which was scored by Mr. Burns. In the same year he again came out first in the handicap tourney at the Sydney Club, Mr. Crane being second. In consequence of his repeated victories he was very heavily handicapped in the tourney of 1877, having to give Mr. Crane the odds of pawn and move. Notwithstanding this he won both his games with that player, and once more carried off the first prize. Strange to say, though he must at the time have been in excellent form, he suffered a third defeat in the Intercolonial match of the same year, his opponent on that occasion being Mr. Stanley. After this he appears to have relaxed his efforts somewhat, as we find him in the Sydney handicap of 1878 taking only third place, Mr. Ryan, to whom he gave the pawn and move, being first, and Mr. Slade second. In this tourney, however, he was again successful against Mr. Crane at the same odds. The result of the handicap of the following year shows that he must have been quite out of form, as he was not even placed, Mr. Crane who received the pawn and move, taking first honors. This surmise is confirmed by the fact that he declined to play in the Intercolonial match of May 1880, evidently feeling that he could not do himself justice. Shortly afterwards he returned to Victoria, and in the Intercolonial match of 1883 again took his place in the Melbourne team, his opponent being Mr. Crane, with whom he drew. For some time after his return he took little part in chess matters, being absorbed in mining speculations, but in 1884, having been appointed chess editor to a weekly contemporary, he returned to chess circles, and resumed practice of the game. In this year he entered as a competitor for tho challenge in a tourney at the Melbourne Chess Club, but was unsuccessful, having been defeated by both Mr. Burns and Mr. Gossip. In the following year, however, he retrieved his laurels, and carried off the cup, following up this success by winning it a second time in 1886, when it became his absolute property. By these victories he established his claim to the championship of Victoria. Since that time, being engaged in large speculations in silver in the Stock Exchange, in which he was very successful, he almost entirely withdrew from the chess arena, and took no part in either of the Intercolonial champion matches, subsequently held in Adelaide and Melbourne. Besides being a fine player over the board, Mr. Fisher could play very well blindfold, though he never, we believe, attempted the feat, now somewhat common, of conducting several games simultaneously. He was also an excellent judge of problems, which he occasionally composed himself. As a chess editor, he was distinguished by invariable courtesy and keen powers of analysis. At the beginning of last year he determined to pay a visit to England, which he had never seen, and sailed with his wife and family in the month of March. On his arrival, he found his way to the chess clubs of London and Paris, and met with considerable success in his encounters with the amateurs whom he met, though we are not aware that he crossed swords with any of the recognised champions. To escape the rigors of an English winter he went to the south of France, and up to the date of his last letters appeared to be in good health and spirits, talking of an early return to Victoria. The telegram announcing his death has therefore come with a painful shock to his relatives and friends, who were looking forward to an early happy reunion. In private life Mr. Fisher was a pleasant and lively companion, and his cheery presence will be much missed at the club room as well as by a large circle of friends. But to his own family, his loss is irreparable. In all his domestic relations he was most exemplary-a good and generous son to his aged parents, who are both alive; a kind brother and an affectionate husband and father. He leaves a widow and two young daughters to mourn his untimely death.Australasian, Saturday 9 August 1890, page 12
THE LATE C. H. FISHER.
A private letter has been placed at our disposal from which we have compiled the following account of the closing months of Mr. C. M. Fisher's life:-He went to Paris at the end of last October, and remained there for about five weeks, during the whole of which he was in the best of health. At the beginning of December he visited Fryeburg, for the purpose of inspecting the mining machinery of the place. From Freiburg he went to Berlin, where he found the cold so intense that he proceeded to Vienna with the intention of returning to Paris southward. But when he reached Vienna the place was blocked with snow, and the train by which he travelled was the last to arrive. For four days nothing could leave the town. He therefore decided to change his route, and to return to Paris as speedily as possible. He arrived there suffering from a frightful cold and from bronchitis, and found his wife and children prostrate with the prevailing epidemic of influenza. As soon as they were able to travel they proceeded to Nice, where for the first three or four weeks Mr. Fisher's health was splendid. He then began to complain of sleepiness and of headache. After a little while he was persuaded to consult an English physician, who pronounced the pain in the head to be neuralgic (?BvR), prescribed generous food, with as much open-air life as possible, and directed that Mr. Fisher should not be allowed to give way to his tendency to go to sleep. As, however, he still continued to complain of pain in his head, he was recommended to go to Monte Carlo. He had been there only a week when he was suddenly prostrated by an attack which a German doctor, who was staying at the hotel, pronounced to be paralysis of the left side, accompanied by slight haemorrhage on the brain. The attack had been induced by the incorrect treatment which had followed on the earlier warning symptoms of sleepiness and pain in the head. After a short time an English doctor was called in, and under his care Mr. Fisher's health speedily began to improve. In the course of a little while he was able to discuss business matters with his wife. He was wonderfully well on Tuesday, April 22. and went out for a short drive, during which he caught a slight cold. Three days afterwards he seemed so much better that the doctor told him he might look forward to being taken to Aix les Baines in about a week. A few hours later, at midnight, Mrs. Fisher thought that he moved in his sleep, and on going to him she found him unconscious, and perspiring profusely. The doctor, who lived close by, was promptly in attendance, and saw at once that there was a fresh haemorrhage. Other medical men were called in consultation, and everything that was possible was done to save Mr. Fisher's life. On the morning of Sunday, April 27, he seemed much better, and it was thought that there was a chance of his living. But in the evening he was worse, and on the following morning it was evident that the end was near at hand. He lingered, however, for about 24 hours, and died early on the morning of Tuesday, April 29. Mrs. Fisher was desirous of arranging for the transport of the body to Melbourne, so that it might rest in the St Kilda Cemetery. But the difficulties in the way were so great that she was compelled to abandon the idea, and to consent that the body should be laid in the pretty little cemetery of Monaco. Mr. Fisher’s will was proved a few weeks ago at £46,910. Hence, says the "Adelaide Observer," the deceased chess-player may not inappropriately be called the Kolisch of Australia. " Fisher and Kolisch were nearly the same age, the latter being the elder of the two, and both died in Europe, Kolisch near Vienna on April 29, 1889, and Fisher on exactly the same day of the same month a year afterwards at Monte Carlo. Both were brilliant chess players, genial disposition and popular with their fellows. Both retired from the chess arena, and concentrating their intellects upon business, speedily made a fortune, yet each never ceased to cherish a strong regard for the game, and liberally supported all projects for its advancement. Kolisch, by winning the Emperor’s prize in Paris in 1867, became the champion of the world, and Fisher at one time was probably the best player in Australia."
**NB Ignaz Kolisch (later Baron) was born at Pressburg in the year 1837 and was regarded by Steinitz and others as one of the strongest players of the world. He challenged Morphy in 1867 for the world title but Morphy declined saying that he regarded Anderson and Paulsen to be stronger than K.
Kolisch biggest triumph was to win the Emperor Tournament in 1867, ahead of Winawer (2) and Steinitz (3)
Ernest "Ernie" Greenhalgh was a past president of the club. More information is required on his contributions and history with the club - please contact the webmaster.
This is a copy of 3 score sheets with games between Ernie and Ralph Van Beek, K Hartigan and one other
Rod receives his Life Member medal from President Patrick Cook.
Early Membership 1960's
Rod first attended the club in the mid 1960's. Our club minute book records that his father attended a General Meeting of members held at the home of our first Life Member Andy Miitel on 1 October 1964. This was when the club was reformed after being in recess since 1962.
Member of Club
The cash book shows that Rod was a financial member for the 1978/79 financial year and each year thereafter until 1994
Elected to Club Committee 1980
The minutes for the 1980 AGM on 10/4/1980 show that Rod attended that meeting and was appointed as Publicity Officer.
Treasurer of Club
Rod was elected Treasurer of the club at the AGM held on 9/4/1981 and retained that position until 25/4/1991.
1984/85 Australian Open Championship
On 5/4/1984 Rod was elected as convener of the committee to conduct the 1984/85 Australian Open Championship which was to be hosted by the club in Ballarat.
Appointed as Coordinator of Junior Chess Coaching in Ballarat On 5/4/1984.
Treasurer of Chess Victoria
Rod served in this capacity for a period during the 1990's.
Member (recess period)
Rod was a regular and active member of club up to 1994 when he took a break to progress his legal career.
The records indicate that Rod attended a club EGM on 12/5/2010 and he has been a regular member ever since that time.
Club Champion 2014
Rod achieved on his lifetime goals when he became Club champion in 2014. He won the title as 6' seed after a record breaking 4-way tie for first was resolved in his favour.
Rod was appointed club captain in 2016 and he has represented the club at all 8 inter-city matches against Geelong.
Married to Pam and with 2 children Mark and Linda who have both played at the club over the years. Proud grandparent of popular junior member Sasha who has been a regular player ever since his grandfather brought him along to the club.
Rod was employed by the old law firm of Cuthbert Morrow Must and Shaw after he left Ballarat Grammar School and ultimately progressed to become a partner in that firm, which is more recently known as Cuthberts. After being a partner there for many years in 2010 Rod left that firm to commence his own professional practice along with his wife Pam. That has developed into one of the most well-respected legal firms in Ballarat.
Rod has always prepared very well for his chess games and as we all know he has a quite aggressive and open attacking style. There are never any dull boring games when you play Rod. His post-game analysis and insightful comments can be seen on the club website. He plays chess just the way it should be hard and competitive. He is also a very strong blitz chess player.
Mr. Arthur Koelle was Victorian Junior champion in 1968 at age 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. Due to rising numbers of participants the original round robin format for the A Grade has now become a Swiss tournament, while the B and C Grade tournaments' format depends on the number of entries. The inaugural tournament was held in 2011.
A.G.M’Combe played an important part in the early history of chess in Victoria. A former secretary of the Glasgow Chess Club, he triggered off the surge in chess activity in 1855/56 in Melbourne which led to the very first tournament in Victoria (Melbourne 1856). After playing in the Ballarat tournament in 1867 he returned to Melbourne where he became editor of the Australasian chess column from 1867 until his retirement (in disgrace) in 1870.
Kevin is the current Treasurer and a life member of the club. The article below was written by Patrick Cook in 2007, and includes a game link to one of their games.
Kevin Perrin at the 2009 Ballarat Begonia. Photo by Mathew Juszczynsk
"Mr Ballarat Chess"
by Patrick Cook, 2007
Kevin Perrin, senior partner at Prowse, Perrin and Twomey, is a successful and respected accountant in the Ballarat community.
Mr.Perrin was born in Ballarat in 1949 and received his secondary education at St. Paul's Technical College, leaving at the end of year 10. He completed year 11 at SMB and later qualified as a Certified Practising Accountant.
However, like many other successful people, he has another string to his bow: he is a highly regarded and equally successful chess player.
He learned the moves of the Royal Game from his brother at age 11 and joined the newly revived Ballarat chess club in 1966, just in time to compete in the first Ballarat Chess Club championship of the modern era. This was to be the first of an astonishing 42 successive championship tournaments as of this year (2007). "I just keep coming back because I enjoy it so much" he said. Of those 42 tournaments, Kevin has won seven championship titles, the chess club record, despite his last victory being way back in 1989! He is still a highly dangerous opponent, regularly finishing in the top two or three places in the Ballarat Championship.
Reflecting upon the highlights of his chess playing career, he mentioned playing (and losing to) the doyen of Australian chess, the late C.J.S.Purdy, at the Geelong Open chess tournament in the early 1970's, and representing Ballarat Chess Club in a simultaneous exhibition at the Hiatt-on-Collins hotel against the former World Chess champion Boris Spassky when he visited Melbourne in 1989.
When asked about his best played games, Kevin felt that two victories, over Bas van Riel and Patrick Cook, both six times Ballarat champions, were probably his best games in the Ballarat championships. "Those two games were technically very difficult", he said. He also recalls a beautiful smothered checkmate, a rare manoeuvre in chess, against the late Paul Saver at the Country Victorian chess championships, an event he has also won seven times. "Such rare moves provide a lot of the pleasure in chess."
Kevin's achievements and contributions to chess extend beyond his prowess as a player, though. His major contribution has been in his capacity as an administrator.
He became an office-bearer of the Ballarat Chess Club for the first time in 1967 when he was elected to the position of assistant secretary. Within two years he was elected secretary and served the club in that role for 27 years! Also in 1967 he was appointed assistant Director-of-Play for the lst Begonia Open Chess Tournament and has remained a pivotal organizer of this tournament ever since. The annual event has grown under his stewardship into one of the most prestigious chess tournaments on the Australian circuit, attracting the cream of the nations chess players over the past 41 years. The tournament trophy, the K.J.Perrin shield, is appropriately named after him.
In 1981, Kevin initiated the School Chess competition for the Ballarat region and was a driving force in the running of the competition for well over 15 years. "Juniors are important; they're the future of the Club" he said.
In 1984, he was one of the main organizers and Director-of-Play for the Australian Open chess championship when it was held in Ballarat, one of the rare occasions that this major event has been held outsid e capital city. The following year he was awarded the title of International Arbiter by the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
By 1988, his reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable Director-of-Play was such that he was invited by FIDE to be Chief Arbiter at the World Junior Chess
Championships held in Adelaide. This annual event was unusually strong that year, with many future stars of world chess competing.
The following year the members of Ballarat Chess Club made him a Life Member, only the second player to be so honoured.
To crown this stellar administrative career, in 2002, the Australian Chess Federation recognized Kevin's outstanding contributions to Australian chess by awarding him the Koshnitsky Medal. When asked how he felt when looking back on his administrative career, Kevin observed "I suppose the awards and recognition are fine, but it isn't why we do it, as you know! We like to play competitive chess against strong opposition and you need a wellorganized chess club for that."
In recent years, Kevin has been stepping into the background as a chess organizer and administrator, but still serves his local chess club as a very competent Treasurer and, of course, as a keen and strong player, an inspiration to new and younger members of the chess club, and a fine example of the quiet and understated contribution many people make to their community by pursuing what they love.
The following game well illustrates Kevin's strengths as a player: persistence combined with highly refined technique.
Ballarat Chess Club championship
1998 Round 5
Kevin Perrin versus Patrick Cook
Source: On The Move 1986
Kevin receives his FIDE certificate of accreditation as an International Arbiter: No.18.pdf
This is a personal note written to Michael's family by Kevin Perrin on the event of Michael's funeral. It is copied here in full as it gives a feel for what a big part of Ballarat Chess Michael played. Watch Michael's Memorial Video here, while it's available.Sherry, Wally, Anthony and family
It was a very sad day when I heard that Michael had passed away. Please accept my condolences and also those of other members of the Ballarat Chess Club. Most of my exposure to Michael was through the chess club so the following are some of my memories.
Michael was a very popular member and he really enjoyed his weekly game of chess and visit to the club. He was a very capable player and enjoyed nothing more than giving an opponent a hard time over the chess board. He won many games which gave him immense joy and always let his opponent know. He had a wicked sense of humor and loved to take the mickey out of someone. He often beat me in friendly games with one of his favorite opening tricks.
If his carer made an incorrect move on the chess board or failed to press his clock then every one else knew about it, until it was corrected. He developed a very close relationship with his carer Vojko Skontra and he was deeply saddened when he passed away. It took a while before Michael returned to the club.
I still recall very well when Michael beat me in a club championship. I made a bad mistake of agreeing to play on his pocket size magnetic chess board. He played an impeccable game and it seemed that every move he made was a winner. He took piece after piece and I was forced into an early resignation. That win gave him great pleasure and I was actually not disappointed at all to lose, since it meant so much to him.
Last year Michael came so close to winning a championship at the club. It looked like he had the title sewn up with a round to go since he was a clear leader. A cautious draw would have secured the title but Michael preferred to win in style and he launched an over ambitious attack, only to let his opponent in for a counter attack and the game was lost. Many members were disappointed not to see him win, but runner-up was a great testament to his tenacity.
He liked to attend our Christmas party breakup nights and enjoyed having some sweets and drinks which were on offer. He invited a lot of his chess friends to his 50th birthday celebration last year and that was very much enjoyed by all.
We also loved to chat about football and he took great pleasure in letting me know when Carlton won and Essendon had lost. I got more grief from Michael than anyone else over the wretched supplements saga and he particularly liked to get stuck into James Hird. It is best not to repeat some of the things he had to say in that regard. This was all just friendly banter and we enjoyed a joke about it.
He was a popular member and his presence will be missed by a lot of his friends at the club. His memory however will live on for many years to come.
Michael on his 50th with BCC members, with Vojka in earlier days, and a picture of him playing 'chicken' in the carpark with Rob L in 2008
News: Note from the President May 2020
It is my sad duty to report that Club member Michael Schreenan passed away on May 26, 2020. Michael
had a severe Acquired Brain Injury which made life very difficult for him, but certainly did not deter him
from living life to the full. He was quite a character, with an impish sense of humour.
He joined the Chess Club in 2002, and was so impressed with the members and atmosphere that he soon
after nominated the Club for a Community Award.
Michael liked to play sharp, tactical chess, and although not one of the strongest players he could be extremely dangerous, claiming the scalps of many of the Club's best players, including Kevin Perrin and Patrick Cook.
The Club extends its condolences to Michael's family and friends. He will be missed.
President, Ballarat Chess Club
Watch Michael's Memorial Video here.
Here is the 2010 Reserve Champion, Boris Skontra, receiving his medal from Patrick Cook. He played in the inaugural championship 50 years ago! His son, Vojka was Michael Schreenan's carer for many years before tragically passing away several years ago.
Boris Skontra & Club President Patrick Cook. Vojka (inset right)
Late in the 19th Century, the Club gained a new member in the youthful Nathan Spielvogel, a teacher, poet, historian and gadfly. Spielvogel became Secretary of the Club in 1893 and President in 1939. A tireless promoter and administrator in all that he did, Spielvogel represented the Club in many competitions in its formative years. The Club now honours his memory with the Nathan Spielvogel Memorial tournament each year.
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), Saturday 14 August 1943, page 5
Nathan F. Spielvogel's Verses.
BALLARATIANS, his brother teachers and all Australian versifiers and lovers of the Victorian mining scene will be glad that Nathan F. Spielvogel has published, in the evening of his days, "Our Gum Trees", with its dedication to John K. Moir, President of the Bread and Cheese Club. It embraces some 30 narrative and descriptive poems, many of them with the authentic touch of the man who wrote "A Gumsucker on the Tramp", and that creator of "Old Eko", whom thousands of State school old boys call blessed. Mr. R. H. Croll —surely the champion introducer of old and young literary lions — writes one of his pleasant introductions to his old friend's work.
Mr. Spielvogel, besides other accomplishments, is a doughty chess player, a fact that gives special point to one of his more fatalistic poems, “Life's Pawn”, which has an ending which all chess enthusiasts will appreciate.
Finish quickly! Put the men up!
Little time have I for play!
I'm that pawn, friend, in this end- game
That will finish here to-day.
Pawn of life on verge of capture.
Help me! Help me! Now! Oh Lord!
Black Knight swooping down upon me
... .I am off the board!
Other poems reveal a more cheerful philosophy. One of the best tells of "The Golden Days of Ballarat"; one of the most poignant is "Beyond the Ninety-Mile.
If all the poems "date", they are not less welcome on that account.
His writings also paint a wonderful picture of the Chess Club at the Mechanics' Institute:
By Nathan F. Spielvogel (From 'The Ballarat Courier’, 9th April 1932)
About 5 o'clock on a dreary afternoon is the best time to visit the Smokery at the Mechanics' Institute.
“Out in the street the wind blaws as t'wad blaw its last, the rattling showers rise on the blast”.
But whistling wind, sleety rain, and bitter cold are all forgotten once you enter the cheerful smokery, the air of which is a fog produced by more or less fragrant tobacco. Nearly all the chairs are occupied. Fine, solid old-fashioned chairs they are! Some of them. black and shiny with the friction of thousands of trousers, must be a hundred years old.
Around the fire lounge the politicians. Fierce and fiery are the denunciations of Langism, of Bolshevism, of the perfidy of the United States,. of the degenerate spirit of the age. One orator eloquently and loudly proves that the ruin of the country is caused by the crass extravagance of the Parliaments. and another is pleading for a trial of the theory of Henry George. And there is always an audience to applaud or to offer ribald comments.
Duels of grim earnestness are being fought across the chess and draught tables, for you must certainly know that the Smokery has produced at least three chess players considered good enough to play for Victoria against New South Wales, and today John Armstrong, a son of the Smokery is playing off for the draughts championship of Australia. Around each table is a group of onlookers ever ready to give unsolicited advice how the game should have been played. No insult will silence them!
Once upon a time a player challenged his foe to play a game of chess for a pound. His opponent politely remarked he did not care to play the noble game of chess for the filthy lucre. The challenger looked round at the circle of grinning spectators, and said he had no objection to the filthy lucre. What he objected to was the filthy on lucre. It may be added he is still alive!
In a cosy corner a noisy, merry game of Ricketty Kate is in progress, and 80 year old young "Dick" Mitchell gives an exhibition of how the game is played according to Lancashire rules. Nearby a loud, defiant cry of "Nine clubs" shows where the 500 experts are doing battle.
Everything is going merrily till a queer, quaint sound rises from one of the draught tables. It is only a player in a tight corner easing his feelings by breaking into song. He gets as far as –“There’s a green little spot in old Ireland”, when howls from all sides silence his dismal carol.
There are few young men in the Smokery. Anyone under 50 years of age is looked on as a mere boy. And there are some ripe old lads taking their ease on those old chairs. Alex. Don is well on to his ninetieth mile post, and is still able to give the best of them a good go over the draught board; Harry Mitchell, who taught school as far back as 1865, and is still as straight as the proverbial poker. is there; Edgar Martin, despite his 80 years, worries his opponents both at the chess table and on the bowling green; John Andrews, the evergreen, sits and smokes and murmurs cynical gibes about the blunders of the chess players.
The hands of the clock creep round to 6 o’clock. Reluctantly the men drift out, mindful of:
“Where sits our sulky, sullen dame
Gathering her brows like winter storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.”
The apostle of fresh air throws open all the windows to clear the room of the stale tobacco fumes. And then he, too, departs. Only one man remains, quietly reading the evening paper. What tales he could tell about the actors who strutted upon the boards of the old theatre, of Stewart and Maggie Moore, and John Sheridan and Charles Anderson, and other celebrated folk!
I sit me down and in the gloaming muse about all the men who came here to take their leisure on those hard old chairs. Men who have all gone on their last long voyage. Then methinks I see them here again. That sturdy little Scotchman, John Munro, eternal flower in the buttonhole of his double-breasted reefer coat, ever ready to take up the cudgels on behalf of Tory ideals.
Slim, kind-eyed J.M.Bickett courageous dabbler in mining shares; Don Ricardo, the Spaniard with a Galway brogue, who waylaying any youth who poked his inquisitive nose inside the door, dragged him in and taught him how to play chess (he must have taught hundreds of us); quarrelsome Harry Rawlings, the watchdog of the Institute, ever ready to jump on anybody who broke the unwritten laws of the Smokery; W.B.Withers, the author of "The History of Ballarat” who came in to play chess, and looked with deep contempt on all the amateur politicians; and then in stalked R.T.Vale, member for Ballarat West, just for the joy of a blow up with the group round the fire. When he had reduced them all to silence he would chuckle sardonically and stalk out. I remember him ending a debate by telling his opponent he was nothing else but an iconoclastic anachronism! A nice name to call a decent hard working man!
And in came little Dick Mitchell, father of young Dick. He wore a long flowing beard, and his eyes were full of fight. He been champion draughts player of the goldfields, and was still prepared to take anyone on for a bout. Along the western wall sat a group of men who had been mining-mates in the days when the Affair at Eureka was but a thing of yesterday, and when they were giants in the land.
And, again, I, a callow youth, snuggled close besides them, and listened to their entrancing stories of the days when the world was wide. Gentle fatherly Tom Muir; friendly Bob Gullan, with his high boxer hat; Jack Tatham, the smiling Yorkshire man; very tall and very frail Charlie Martin, with his treble voice, and cultured, well-read Reeves, the bookseller.
I look at the clock. An hour has slipped away while I have been communing with the dead. The time for the evening session is approaching. Tom Opie sets up a patience deck, and a group gathering round watch his amazing manipulations of the cards. Crib and euchre schools are formed. In the cosy corner, a solo school goes its miseres and pays out its fishes.
At the other end of the room frowning brows and tense silence betray the bridge fiends. Among these are J.C.Fletcher and T.R.Odlum who have the honour of holding the record as the oldest continuous habitués of the Smokery. They came here long, long ago, young bright-eyed youths -how long ago may be judged by the fact that both of them played in a chess tournament in 1890, a tournament in which there were 24 competitors.
From the crib table came the ancient tags- “Two’s the crew,” “Three’s the weight,” “Four’s the score,” ”Six’s the fix.”
And from the euchre school good-natured banter and merry laughter. Swiftly the hours glide away.
“The storm outside might rain and rustle,
They did not mind the storm a whustle”.
The door suddenly opens. There stands the caretaker. “Time, gentlemen, please!”
On with the coats! Out with umbrellas! Friendly good nights! And the Smokery is deserted.
Perhaps now the ghosts of the old players return to their beloved haunt to play their old games over again. Certainly, there would be stern Herbert Lockett, bold and adventurous Ernest Figgis, merry George Rowsell, little big-browed P.Lampe, gentle Bob Clarke, imposing J.Lee Archer, dignified Jacob Showman, noisy Reg Fray, musician Hatfield, as well H.H.Morell, cigar-smoking Goddie Abraham, pleasant Tweedie, cunning Power, mighty Tullidge, schoolmaster Burgess, foul-mouthed ??
But such meetings are not to be seen by human eyes. They certainly are not seen by the weary caretaker tidying up the room for tomorrow’s revels.
In 2020, Veronica Spielvogel came across this poem about chess players and sent it on to the Ballarat Chess Club.
THE CONFESSION by Nathan Spielvogel
The prisoner raised his bloodshot eyes,
Each person held his breath.
Your Honour, I confess my crime.
I did this man to death.
His trembling hands were tightly clasped,
All stretched their ears to hear
The wretched villain’s whispered words
He wiped away a tear.
Your Honour, Will you hear my tale?
I want but little time.
And I’ll explain what prompted me
To do this awful crime.
His Honour gravely bowed his head
“You’re free now to confess”
The prisoner sighed, and sadly said
“It came through playing chess.
Each night I played down at the Club,
I played till cares grew dim.
But one thing came and spoiled my fun,
And that one thing was –HIM.
Each night he sat down by my side,
And gave me free advice.
What I should do. Where I went wrong.
You see it was not nice.
I begged him have a game himself,
I bade him “Go away”
I bade him go and choke himself
He grinned and spoiled my play.
One night the scoundrel plagued me so,
I swore I’d have his life.
I dogged his footsteps from the Club.
I took my little knife.
The night was still. The street was dark.
No motor, tram or cart.
I cried aloud “You villain DIE”
My knife went through his heart.”
The prisoner paused. His tears fell fast.
Your Honour I confess.
I killed this man for interfering
With my game of chess.
The judge stood up and stretched his hands.
“It is no crime you’ve done.
A noble deed. The thanks of all
Chess players you have won!
Go forth, brave man. I set you free!
Your reputation’s clear.
Next case” …… The crowd in
Court set up a mighty cheer.
Just then I woke. I searched my dream
To find that Judge’s name
For if I knew that he’d try me,
I’d treat Blank Blank the same.
I’d crunch his face into his head
Till it is just a smudge.
So Mr Blank Blank beware.
I yet may find that judge.
In 1952, the Club gained a new, important member in Arthur Teters. Arriving in Australia in 1950, Teters was part of the great wave of post-war immigration of Baltic chess players who enlivened Australian chess in the ensuing decades. He won what is now recognised as the first 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 1958, and then the Victorian State championship in 1965, no doubt after he had returned to live in Melbourne.
Upon his arrival in Ballarat, he 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. After returning to Melbourne, Teters won the Victorian Championship in 1965. Akin to Nathan Spielvogel, the Ballarat Chess Club now honours his memory with an annual Arthur Teters Memorial tournament.Notes:
The minutes of the club’s annual meeting (Apr.1953) mentioned that Artur Teters had joined the club during the year, probably in early 1952, as reference was made of a match held between Ballarat and Venta, the Latvian club in Melbourne.
He played in the international chess tournament in Melbbourne, which coincided with the Olympic Games in 1956: 1.Sarapu (NZ); 2/3.Ozols, Lazare; 4.Campomanes (who later became a controversial FIDE president). Teters finished 14th of 24 players.
The Adelaide Mail, 15 May 1954 reported: 'Victoria fielded almost its best possible team, bringing Teters down from Ballarat’.
1958. Teters finished 26th of 32 players. L. Stein won the tournament with 12½ points.
1960 Teters in strong tourrnament finished on 7 1/2 in first half of the field. He won a.o. against G.Koshnisky.
1964-’65. Australian Championship in Hobart. D.Hamilton won the playoff against Purdy. Teters just in the top half of the field.
1965. Teters became Victorian Champion.
1960. Teters in tournament, won by Y.Averbakh. Teters finished equal 10-14th. Interesting to read Averbakh’s comments about his opponents at the bottom of the page. Re. Teters he said: “while lacking the various skills of the other players, he has a wide knowledge of openings”.
The Arthur Teters Memorial Clock, donated by the late Arthur Homburg, who played many games against Teters using this clock.
Bas is a prominent member of the club and was made a Life Member in 2023. The Medal presented by Kevin and Patrick in the Humffray Room of the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute.
C.M.Watson, a Ballarat lawyer, was the father of the future Australian champion (C.G.M.Watson, champion in 1922 and 1931).