Club President from 1921-1938.
Club Champion in 1895, 1896, 1901 and 1908.
In Herbert Dobell the Hastings CC had its greatest leader, a man to whom A A Rider paid a special tribute, which included these words: ‘The Hastings Chess Club is , because H.E.Dobell was .’
Herbert Edward Dobell was born on 8.9.1864 at Brighton. His father was the first treasurer of the club and it appears that Herbert joined not long after the club started in September 1882. He was of course then still a teenager and at first there were players in the club who could give him odds.
It may have seemed surprising that someone so young was offered the secretary’s job in 1887, but he agreed to accept it, though initially only for six months. In the end he continued in the job until 1907.
When he first became secretary, the Hastings CC was relatively small and was really second to Brighton in Sussex chess affairs. In about three years Hastings proved that they were able to match their western neighbours and then in 1895 the international congress achieved as much as any club in the country might have done. The period from that year till 1907 was very special, but then in one year the club had to make changes to the key positions of secretary and president.
In 1907 Dobell became president of the Sussex Chess Association, a post he held for 3 years. He had also been the first treasurer of the British Chess Federation which held its first congress at Hastings in 1904. He gave up the post in 1928.
In 1907 Dobell became the vice-president of the Hastings CC, in 1920 the treasurer and in 1921 the president. The period between the two wars was another boom time for the club with membership levels reaching their highest so far. The Christmas Congresses were, of course, a great success and Hastings ran the special Boys’ Congress which developed into the British Boys’ Championship. Dobell took a great interest in the young players that came to the town for the competition. In 1938 he fell ill with diabetes. At first he appeared to respond to insulin, but it was presumably because of the illness that he died on 14th September of that year at the age of 74.
He was a strong player and might perhaps have done even better, if he had not spent so much time on organisation. In 1892 he won the East Sussex Queen and thus became a ‘first-class’ player. As well as his success in the Hastings competitions he won the Sussex Championship in 1904.
His father, E. Dobell, jeweller, 21 Robertson Street, was a founder member and first Treasurer of Hastings Chess Club. He took over the business on his father’s death and remained actively concerened in running it all his life. A bachelor, he occupied the living accommodation on two floors over the shop.
The premises continued in use as a jewellery business for many years after his death but have lately been converted into a bar. Happily, the unique ornate glass and metal shop frontage has been preserved.
A man of tremendous energy and resource, he was an organising renius. His calm and unflappable temperament combined with a reassuring charm to create a personality whuch was universally admired and respected.
Chess was undoubtedly the love of his life. He was totally dedicated to Hastings Chess Club and all it stood for but also did a tremendous amount of good work for chess generally through active involvement with the British Chess Federation and the Sussex Chess Association.
As a Town Councillor, he took a prominent part in local affairs, firstly for a shirt spell in the early part of the century and more significantly from 1921-37. He was Deputy Mayor in 1926.
Notwithstanding all his other activities, he still found time to play the game often and well. He played for the Club and the County on literally hundreds of occasions, as well as in innumerable Club tournaments. He won the Club Championship on four occasions.
He started the Club library with a copy of Freeborough and Ranken’s Chess Openings in 1892.
He died on 14th September 1938, aged 74, whilst still in office.
Dobell was quoted in a report of the 1897 AGM of the Brighton Chess Club as being an Hon. Member of the club (it is not certain when exactly he obtained that honour). For a rival club to grant him that distinction was an indication of just how highly he was regarded.