Arlington gambit: chess at the Baths

Plaque from the Jacques chess set.
Image credit: Chess Scotland (PDF)

The Arlington Baths is not only about swimming. There have always been lots of other things going on… just like the Arlington Chess Association.

We first heard of the Arlington Chess Association when a chess set came up for sale.

The chess set had been awarded to a young man named Phillip Tod in 1889/90 for winning the Arlington Chess Association junior division.

Thanks to diligent research by Chess Scotland, chess set restorer Richard Dewey of Chessspy and Jon Oates from the Arlington Baths History Group we now know quite a bit more about the Arlington Chess Association.

Chess Player’s Companion of 1 June 1880 (p. 134) referred to the Arlington club as “newly formed…. The club played what appears to have been its first match on Saturday, 20 March 1880 at Helensburgh…

“By 1889, the Association had 40 members who met daily. Annual membership was 3 pounds, 3 shillings”

Chess Scotland: Clubs and Associations

The Arlington Chess Association secretary was J. MacLean, the president was Mr Neil Kennedy, and the team members were: Brown; Brownlie; Chamberlain; Duvoisin; Eekhout; Dr Lawrie; Maclean; Prevot; Roemmele and Stewart.

Presumably ‘Roemmele’ was Carl Hugo Roemmele, one of the original members of the Baths.

The chess set won by Phillip Tod was a fine example, made by Jacques of London, a company that sold a lot of sets to chess clubs to be used as prizes.

According to Chess Scotland, in 1889 Phillip H Tod was about 17 years old. In 1908 he moved to Canada, and his wife, Edith, followed two years later, bringing their two young sons, Philip Leslie and James Brownlee Tod.

In 1917, despite being 45 years old, he signed up for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force to serve in the First World War. He returned to Canada in 1919 but we don’t have information about his life after that, and or his death.

Around 2019, his chess set was bought for $10 at a charity shop in Sarasota in Florida, USA, and restored by Richard Dewey, who talks about the set in this YouTube video.

Research also revealed more about Neil Kennedy, the President of the Arlington Chess Association who presented the set to Phillip Tod. He was a “manufacturer and warehouse man” and was about 50 at the time of the 1889-1890 tournament. He had been interested in chess for more than a decade. In 1877 he won second prize in a competion in Scientific American magazine to write an chess acrostic poem.

Get more details about the chess set, Phillip H Tod and Neil Kennedy in this PDF on the Chess Scotland website

Many thanks to all who did research for this article:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s