Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Draughts Champions of Auckland

My mum used to love draughts. I still have one or two versions of the game stuck up on a shelf in the spare room. Little did I realise, until this morning when I came upon another research detour in Papers Past, just how serious the game of jumping and crowning got in Auckland (and Avondale!) in the late 1880s.

There's bound to be more on this out there on the old newspapers film at the Auckland Library. Another one of those projects I'll get stuck into when I can. For now, here's what the Internet databases tell us.

It started with the establishment of an Auckland Draughts Club in Grubb's bakery and store, Karangahape Road.
Otago Witness, 25 March 1887, p. 29

A match took place at the Newton Rooms, Grubb’s Buildings, on Saturday 11th inst., between six representing Auckland and a like number doing battle on behalf of Ponsonby, the result being in favour of the latter, after a carefully contested match … A meeting subsequently took place to consider the advisability of forming a club. Mr. Holton was appointed chairman. It was decided that a club be formed, to be called the “Auckland Draughts Club," and the following officers were elected:—Mr. Henderson, president; Mr. Grubb, vice-president; Mr. Battersby, secretary and treasurer; Mr. Holton and the above to act as managing committee. Some 20 names were then handed in by intending members. The Auckland club is fortunate in having for its first president, the well-known and enthusiastic player, Mr. H. Henderson, who was one of the competitors in the Australasian Draughts Championship Tourney.
By late 1888, an Avondale team had formed, and were taking on the likes of Avondale South (Blockhouse Bay) and Waterview.
Te Aroha News, 31 October 1888, p. 3
A draughts match is to take place in Avondale, November 3rd, between 6 players from Avondale South and a like number in Avondale. It is surprising how the game of draughts has gone ahead in this district in the last six months, especially in Avondale South.

Te Aroha News, 12 December 1888, p. 3
The above match took place at Waterview last Saturday, between six players from Avondale (under 20 years of age), and a like number at Waterview. The spirit that Waterview showed did not meet with the success it deserved, Avondale winning somewhat easily.
The players for Avondale were: G. Peck (Captain), H. Peck, E. Wilkins, A. Wickham, W. Aspinall, A. Stacey. For Waterview: J. Hill (Captain), T. Davy, H. Hull, C. Brooks, A. Sansom, T. Levers.
Te Aroha News, 13 March 1889, p. 6
The return match Avondale v. Newton and Ponsonby is to be played at Avondale, in the Public Hall, this (Saturday) evening, play to commence at 7,30.

Otago Witness, 4 April 1889, p. 29
Avondale v. Newton and Ponsonby.— The result of this match— a return— was a win for the combined team by 15 games to 13, 4 drawn.
And then, Mr. Henderson apparently left Auckland, throwing the title of Champion out into the open. There were only two real contenders -- Charles Gunthorp of Ponsonby, versus George Wilson, from Avondale. They'd clashed, somewhat, in comments on results and guesses as to moves in international draughts games in the papers. Now, they were to meet across the chequered board. The whole of Auckland Province was enthralled (well, at least those who played draughts.)
Te Aroha News, 19 June 1889, p. 4
Mr. Charles Gunthorp has through the columns of the Star issued a challenge to Mr. G. Wilson, of Avondale, to play a match for a stake of £5 and the championship of Auckland. £1 has been deposited with the Draughts Editor, Star Office, by Mr. Gunthorp's backer. A meeting was held on Wednesday evening, at Mr. Grubb's, Newton, to arrange about the match for the championship of Auckland. Unfortunately it fell through. Mr. Wilson was willing to play for the deposit money, £1, but did not care to up a stake of £5. Mr. Gunthorp's backers agreed that Mr. Wilson should either play for the £5 stake or forfeit the championship. Mr. Wilson decided to adopt the latter course. This leaves Mr. Gunthorp champion of Auckland without a struggle,

Te Aroha News, 3 July 1889, p. 5
A private match is on the tapis between Messrs Gunthorp and Wilson. Arrangements will probably be completed by next week.

Te Aroha News, 10 August 1889, p. 3
The friendly match between George Wilson, of Avondale, and C. Gunthorp, of Newton, resulted in a victory for the former. His youthful opponent played well, but the older man manifested greater experience, and ultimately won. As Mr. Wilson ceded the championship of Auckland to Mr. Gunthorp rather than play a public match for a sum of money, it is to be hoped that some definite understanding will be arrived at to show which is really the champion. Although the ex-champion proved victorious ,on this occasion, Mr. Gunthorp's friends are still willing to back him to be successful in a series of 15 games. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Wilson's recent victory will encourage him to make a public struggle to regain the championship of Auckland.

Te Aroha News, 17 August 1889, p. 3
Mr. George Wilson, of Avondale, writes complaining that the report of the match between him and Mr. Gunthorp was one-sided, because it stated that he ceded the championship to Mr. Gunthorp rather than play a match for a sum of money. He also states that he does not claim any championship, although he has always been open to play a match with anyone. He contends that Mr. Gunthorp has no claim for the championship of Auckland, as he had never played for it. That is exactly what was suggested in last week's report. We pointed out that the honours were somewhat barren, and expressed the hope that as Mr. Wilson had won the private match there would be a public match for the championship. Mr. Wilson now states that he is willing to play a match with Mr. Gunthorp for the love and honour of the game of draughts, but not for money, as he does not believe in it being made a means of gambling. We thoroughly agree with Mr. Wilson in this matter, and have no doubt that Mr. Gunthorp will be quite ready to meet him again for the honour of the thing. Let it be understood that the match is for the championship and let the best man have that position.

Te Aroha News, 28 September 1889, p. 3
Championship of Auckland. — Under the heading "Who is the Champion of Auckland ?” "Amateur " writes at some length pointing out the necessity for the question being definitely settled. He refers to the formation of the original Draughts Club in Auckland by Mr. Henderson, of Ponsonby, who became first champion of this city, and states that when that gentleman went away there was no recognised champion, until Mr. Wilson, of Avondale, assumed the position after issuing challenges which were not accepted. Mr. Wilson next advertised that he was prepared to defend the position. After some time Mr. Gunthorpe challenged Mr. Wilson to play on the terms previously advertised, but that gentleman offered to play for £2 instead of £5 and the Championship. " Amateur” adds— " The gentleman (a lover of the game) who ' backed ' Mr. Gunthorpe for the Championship, declined to have it valued at so low a trophy as £4, but was still anxious to see a trial of their skill with each other, and offered to back the youth for £2 at a private match, but claimed that the Championship be played for, coupled with a trophy of £10, i.e., £5 from each side (according with the terms on which Mr. Wilson had claimed the Championship and published his determination to defend it against all comers). He virtually and absolutely (if not voluntarily) ceded the Championship, which Mr. Gunthorpe claimed by default of Mr. Wilson not accepting the terms of his own published challenge. Thus, Mr. Gunthorpe became the third champion draught player of Auckland."— ["Amateur" perhaps is not aware that a private match was subsequently played between Wilson and Gunthorpe which resulted in a victory for the former. Therefore granting that Gunthorpe has as much claim as Wilson to the title of "champion,'' still it is by no means definitely settled as to which is really the best draughts player. — Ed.]
I'm not sure what happened to Wilson, but later, by 1900, Gunthorp ended up in business in South Africa -- where draughts wasn't such a big thing.
Otago Witness, 14 November 1900, p. 56
C. Gunthorpe.— We have been shown by Mr. D. A. Brodie a letter from Mr. C. Gunthorpe, late of Auckland (of which province he was champion), and who is well known throughout New Zealand. His brother, Mr. H. Gunthorpe, is familiar in Dunedin athletic circles, and takes some interest in draughts also. Mr C. Gunthorpe wrote from Durban, and sent several mementoes of the war. At time of writing he was about to remove to Kokstad, in Cape Colony, there to open up business on his own account. He says the game of draughts in South Africa is a dead thing, and one could hardly meet a draughts player in the course of a year. He is, consequently, not in trim for a match.

1 comment:

  1. wow that's awesome that people use to play championships of draughts, I use to play it growing up, my nana taught me, it's kind of sad that it's not a well known game now.