B.C. Junior Chess History

Junior chess in British Columbia, like junior chess elsewhere, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the Second World War there were certainly young players who were considered prodigies, e.g., the Polish-American Samuel Reshevsky or our own Abe Yanofsky, but tournaments for juniors were rare. Such events as did take place were often linked to an adult competition: Yanofsky's first tournaments, the rounds played at different times on the same days, were a Boys' Championship and Major (i.e., adult) Championship held in conjunction with the Canadian National Exhibition in 1936. This was also the case on the West Coast: the first recorded junior event in B.C., a Boys' Championship (apparently girls did not play chess), was held in 1947 in association with the B.C. Major and Minor Championships and a womens' contest. The winner is variously given as Harold or Herman or Howard Mitchner, depending upon which newspaper source is consulted. The age limit or criterion used for the event is not indicated. (For the sake of completeness it should be mentioned that North Vancouver fielded a junior squad in the Greater Vancouver Chess League during the 1918-19 season; the team was led by one Leslie Buckley, presumably one of B.C.'s earliest junior stars. This appears to have been an isolated case, but much of B.C.'s early chess history is difficult to establish due to a paucity of sources - all we have are occasional glimpses to work with.)

In 1950 Vancouver's City Chess Club began an initiative "to stimulate interest in chess amongst younger players" by sponsoring an inter-school individual championship: each high school was invited to send one representative to compete in the tournament, the top players to be awarded club memberships. Players from Prince of Wales, John Oliver, Magee, King Edward, Kitsilano, and Point Grey took part, with seventeen-year-old Harold Hatt of King Edward emerging as the eventual winner. There was talk of making this an annual event, but there is no further mention of the event in subsequent years. By 1956 B.C. had its first officially sanctioned junior individual championship, the B.C. High School Chess Championship, organized by Paul Smith of Qualicum Beach High School and sponsored by the BCCF. Mr. Smith ran the tournament in Qualicum Beach for the next five years, until he was transferred to Victoria; at that point a Mr. H.D. Bentley undertook to take over, and the competition moved to the Lester Pearson High School in New Westminster. The Championship continued in this form (for high school students) until 1970: here is a list of the known winners.

At the same time a championship for younger students was instituted, designated the "Junior" Championship. Initially organized by Mr. C.J. Littlewood and also held in New Westminster, the tournament was limited to those aged either twelve or thirteen or below, depending upon the year. Winners:

The existence of both these events is indicative of the rise of interest in the nuturing and developing of younger chess players. The first World Junior Championship ("Junior" defined as under twenty) took place in Coventry and Birmingham in 1951, the Canadian representative (future B.C. resident Lionel Joyner) being decided in a match. The third World Junior was held in Toronto in 1957; this was the catalyst for the first Canadian Junior Championship, held in Quebec City in July of that year to decide the Canadian entry to the Toronto event (see Jonathan Berry's chess pages for much more information). Frank May, UBC Chess Champion, took part for B.C., but was selected by the BCCF rather than being the winner of a particular competition. In 1960 the CFC and subsequently the BCCF offered for the first time a reduced membership rate for juniors; the number of junior BCCF members grew from 4 in 1962 to 55 by 1968. 1962 was the first year in which BCCF executive postions existed whose mandates dealt specifically with chess for younger players, filled by Bentley for High School Chess and Littlewood and Hudson for Junior Chess. Previously a Dave Creemer Memorial Fund had existed to promote chess in shools, which had been used to provide sets and trophies for school competitions. These activities culminated in the late 1960s with programs developed by Wayne Crookes, the first BCCF executive member to hold the title of Junior Coordinator.

1970 was a watershed year for junior chess in this country. During the 1960s the Canadian representative to the World Junior was decided by the top eligible finisher in the Canadian Open. In 1970 it was decided to hold instead the "First" Canadian Junior Championship (the initial 1957 Quebec City event having been forgotten by that point); this time B.C. decided its representative by holding the first "modern" B.C. Junior Championship. ("Junior" by this point generally meant U20, but perhaps out of inertia the U12 Junior Championship still continued in B.C., just to confuse the issue.)

The 1970 B.C. Junior (Final, as designated by Northwest Chess) was a six-player round robin. Bruce Harper was seeded in as High School Champion, Dan Scoones and Harry Satanove qualified by rating, and Robert Chow, Ken Baker, and Charles Balmer earned entry via a qualifying tournament. Chow was unable to play and was replaced by Bob Irwin:

B.C. Junior, 17 - 18 October 1970123456
1Harper, Bruce1843*11½114.5
2Scoones, Dan18840*½½113.0
3Satanove, Harry18530½*½½12.5
4Irwin, Bob1641½½½*102.5
5Baker, Ken169400½0*11.5
6Balmer, Charles162800010*1.0
Source: Northwest Chess November 1970

Leaving semantics aside, this is the starting point for the line of champions currently listed on the B.C. Junior Championship plaque, the Dave Creemer Memorial Trophy. This list can also be found here. There is a gap from 1970 to 1974; at that time the Canadian Junior was a biennial event, and in 1972 the B.C. representation was decided by rating. The Canadian Junior became an annual event in 1974, as did the B.C. Junior.

Postscript: the older U12 Junior Championship died out in the early 70s, but at the end of that decade a new event appeared for those considerably younger than twenty. FIDE instituted a Cadet Championship, generally but not always restricted to those under sixteen years of age; Canada and subsequently B.C. followed suit with their own Cadet Championships (again, see Jonathan Berry's chess pages for more information, particularly for all the vagaries of the FIDE competition). B.C.'s Cadet Champions, like the Junior Champions, can be found elsewhere on this site; the competition ran from 1980 until 1999, when it was subsumed as an age category of the CYCC. The gap in the list from 1984 to 1987 seems to indicate a lack of interest, as in 1984 the tournament had only four entrants. In 1987 West Vancouver marked its 75th anniversary, and as part of the celebration several chess events took place, including a large junior event incorporating both the B.C. Junior and Cadet at the Park Royal shopping mall.