Arthur Albert Rider

Many thanks to Brian Denman for this article

Arthur Albert Rider was born at Newington in London on 30.7.1881. It is uncertain what his main employment was, as he tried different lines of work. In the 1901 census he is listed as a solicitor’s clerk and in the 1911 census he was employed as a shipping clerk. In the National Register of 1939 he is quoted as being the proprietor of a boarding house.

He married Florence Jenkins in 1914 and one thing that is certain is that he and his wife were committed Christians. They were members of the famous Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, which took its name from Charles Spurgeon (1834-92), a charismatic Baptist preacher. Arthur and his wife saw Hastings as a nice place to live in retirement and, when they moved south (in about 1930), they proved of great benefit to the Baptist Church in Wellington Square. Arthur became the Superintendent of Sunday School.

My first reference to him as a chess player takes us to December 1930, when he won on board 11 in a friendly match against Eastbourne. He was not a particularly strong player and he would play on the lower boards for Hastings. He seems to have made fewer appearances as he grew older and his great strength lay in his organisational skills rather than his over-the-board play. He also was probably the founder of a small group of chess players at the Baptist church and he also played in friendlies for this club.

His first post at the main chess club was as librarian and he was appointed to this at the 1933 AGM. A more demanding position was the organiser of the Boys’ Congress and he first took this on in 1934. He was very suited to the post and he insisted in giving every competitor a welcoming handshake. In 1935 he became joint assistant secretary with Miss Lewcock and in 1937 Allan Kidney joined him as the other assistant secretary.

In 1938 the club’s president, Herbert Dobell, passed away. He was an inspirational figure in the club’s history, having been a member almost since the club was founded in 1882. In its early years the club was of moderate size and very much second to Brighton, but gradually Dobell’s influence made itself felt. It was a great achievement to bring together the illustrious group of masters for the 1895 Hastings International Tournament. On Dobell’s death Rider paid tribute to his work and said that the Hastings CC is because H E Dobell was. Kidney became the new president of the club and Rider became the sole secretary. He was to hold this position until his death about fifteen years later.

During World War II Rider proved to be the ideal club secretary even though he also did some work at the Army Records Office at Ore and for a few months in 1943 was away on business in London. There were those, who thought that it would be a good idea for the club to close down when hostilities started, but Rider would have none of it. He maintained that the need to concentrate on the game helped to take away thoughts about the war. Several of the club’s members were enrolled in HM Forces, but Rider sought to enlist in the membership church members, social institutions and members of the Forces, who were stationed near Hastings. He offered to arrange chess teaching to those combatants, who did not know the rules. Later in the war the club offered more general beginners’ classes. He also loaned out sets to the Home Guard.

Small local chess groups became keen to arrange matches with each other and these included King’s College, Hastings YMCA, Ore Place, Ore railwaymen and the Baptist Church in Wellington Square. The first team still played a few friendly matches and Bexhill and Brighton were regular opponents as far as the travelling arrangements permitted. By 1943 the Hastings CC was already plotting how it would arrange a Victory Congress and an attempt was also made to arrange a friendly with West London CC, though this fell through at the last moment. At the end of the war Hastings held a Christmas Congress in which W.H.M Kirk was the main organiser. Rider was heavily involved and in future congresses he took the lead in organisation. He must have had a heavy work load as he was acting as congress director, running the Boys’ Congress as well as doing the usual secretarial work.

The post-war years were not easy for the club. There were problems with the premises to be resolved and the congresses seemed to be underfunded. Allan Kidney resigned the presidency in 1947 (because of an accident he had great difficulty getting to the c;lub) and Percy Morren became president. In that same year the Rider Shield was fashioned and was said to have taken 500 hours of work by a master craftsman to make. The shield was presented to the Sussex boy, who each year obtained the highest score in the Boys’ Congress. The donor was William Frank Freeman, an elderly club member, who made the first presentation of the shield in 1947. When the Boys’ Congress came under the jurisdiction of the BCF in 1954, the shield stayed in the club. For some time after this presentations continued to be made to the Sussex boy obtaining the best result in the British U-18 Championship. The last entry on the shield is for 1960, though it is known that a winner was declared as late as 1965.

I would like to mention a couple of ways in which Rider was honoured. The Sussex Daily News of 22.10.1946 reported that he was appointed as a controller for the recent Anglo-Russian match. Secondly the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 22.1.1952 referred to his appointment as an international judge in recognition of his work at Hastings for world chess.

In 1949 following the death of the strong player, Arthur Mackenzie, Rider took over the writing of chess articles in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer. He was not a strong enough player to become involved in complex annotation of games and he wrote a series of reports about the club. These included a series of interesting articles about the club’s history. Early in 1953 he handed over the role to local school teacher, Frank Rhoden.

The club was greatly helped by donations from Vic Pelton, an elderly member of the club, which eventually led to the acquisition of its own premises. Another success was the Coronation Congress of 1953, when the British Chess Federation Congress once again came to the town. Sadly for Rider that year was to be a difficult one. In February he suffered a severe blow, when his wife passed away and by August his own health was in severe decline. This caused him to resign the post of congress director in October 1953 and Frank Rhoden took over the position. The club’s AGM was not held until December 1953. A A Angel read Rider’s report and the latter offered his resignation. However, he was so popular that the membership would not accept it and appointed W Kennett to assist him in his duties. Unfortunately the end was not far away and Rider was not fit enough to attend the Christmas Congress. He died on 24th January 1954 at the age of 72. He is certainly a significant figure in the club’s history.

Est. 1882