Christchurch Play Chess In A World First – 1866

In 1866, a small group of Cantab Chess enthusiasts got together to play their counterparts in Nelson via telegraph – a world first.

After this historic event, the group disbanded until the formation of the Christchurch Chess Club in 1877. The same year, the club hosted the New Zealand Chess Championships – also known as a Congress.

Apparently, after the Congress finished, some nerves were frayed and the club lost some members. Over the next two years, the organisation evolved into the Canterbury Chess Club. Determined to keep Chess on the front line of sporting activities for the South Island, Christchurch continued to host Congresses, members traveling to other parts of the region to promote their love of the game.

In 1960, the Club co-founded the New Zealand Chess Federation which was based in Christchurch. Housed in their iconic orange club rooms at 277 Bealey Ave, the club (now a Charity) moved to 27 Tyne Street in 2009. Although the old club rooms were badly damaged in 22nd February 2010 earthquake and red-stickered, the house has since been fully restored.

Pictured here is the New Zealand Chess Congress in 1894 in Wellington. Canterbury is represented by Mr. H. Hookham, the gentleman second from the left, front row. Retired businessman and school principal (Kaiapoi Island School), Hookham was President of the Canterbury Chess Club from 1885 till his death in 1898. He wrote about the game for the ‘Canterbury Times’ and even represented New Zealand in a Congress hosted in Adelaide, Australia.

* Image courtesy of the University of Wellington –*

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