In the middle of 1929, a small band of enthusiasts founded the “Commonwealth Correspondence Chess League” as an offshoot of the Melbourne Chess Club. R Saunders was the first Director. Membership reached 39 at the end of the year.
L Spinks was Director from 1932 until 1936; he began many new tournaments, including a correspondence match between NSW and Victoria, and another between Australia and New Zealand, and by his introduction of the “Perpetual Handicap” laid the foundations of the system of regular competition among members, the main source of the CCLA’s strength.
In 1937 it was decided that the League, which had by now acquired its present title of “Correspondence Chess League of Australia”, should be formally founded as an independent organisation. A committee was formed with G Koshnitsky as President, G F McIntosh as Secretary, and F M Hallman as Director of Play. The Australasian Chess Review, under the editorship of CJS Purdy, was confirmed as the CCLA’s official organ. A policy of expansion saw a substantial increase in membership and the commencement of the first Australian Championship.
It was unfortunate that during the 1939-45 war, it was impossible for the members of the fighting forces to play correspondence chess because of difficulty with censorship, although to those in remote areas it could have been a great boon.
In 1946 the CCLA affiliated with the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation), a move which saw Cecil Purdy become the first World Champion. Since then Australia has regularly entered in international events, some of which have been on an ambitious scale, for example, matches on 100 boards against Great Britain and the USA. Many such friendly overseas matches are still conducted and, in addition, teams and individual players are entered in the ICCF’s regular series of Olympiads and other events, including, of course, the World Championships.
By 1948 membership had grown to over 400 and the League was able to start its own journal, to fund which the annual subscription was raised to ten shillings. In this year also, seven-player trophy tourneys were introduced in place of the twelve-player tourneys, which had proved larger than convenient, and the principle was adopted that all games in a tourney should start at once. The previous practice of allowing a tourney to start before all entries had come in had led to excessive delays in finishing some tourneys.
In 1950 came the automatic Rating System. It superseded the “Perpetual Handicap”. Until this time it had been necessary to wait until promoted from one class to another; the Rating System makes this automatic.
The moving spirit behind these advances was S E Ward, at the time Secretary and Director of Play. W A Parker became Director of Play in 1951, and later was also Secretary and Editor. His death in 1956 was untimely. He had been an enthusiastic player in the minor grades, so a memorial tourney is held each year in his honour, being the championship of Class 4.
In 1952 the four-two tourneys were introduced. In these tourneys one has three opponents, but plays two games against each, one as black, one as white. In 1959 the Maiden series of such events was added, open to those in Classes 6 and 7 who have not previously won a tourney.
The 750 membership mark was passed in 1962. At the time R G Gilbert was Secretary, serving a record term from 1957 to 1963, and A J Walsh was Director of Play, having filled this post since 1959.
This period of growth was also one of consolidation, the rules of play being redrafted, and various steps taken to minimise delays in tourneys. Previously each move had to be made in three days, but in 1959 this was altered so that account was taken every ten moves, ie. 10 moves in 30 days, 20 moves in 60 days, and so on; a boon to the player whose other commitments sometimes cause him/her to set a game aside for several days. In 1960 the post of Games Starter was established, D J Fraser being the inaugural occupant.
The 1000 membership mark was passed in 1968, and the rules of play were again revised with particular attention to simplifying procedures for the DOP, necessary because of the increasing number of games. Also multiple Directors of Play were introduced.
In 1966, a regular cycle of Major Events was introduced, then in 1971-72 the Master title was revised and Life Membership conferred on Masters. At the same time Class Championships were introduced.
And in 1975 the rules were revised and expanded to cover practically every aspect of a correspondence chess game. Further revisions were made in 1981 and 1988, based on experience gained over time since 1975.
Over the years the League has had many outstanding players and officials who have contributed much time and effort, both in establishing the CCLA and helping it grow since those early days. In recent times one of the key figures was R G (“Bob”) Laughton, who at one time was Treasurer, Games Starter and Membership Secretary, holding all three posts simultaneously. Others include Mrs V A Oliver, D A Keast, Dr M Sendak and A O Holloway.
D J Fraser was elected President following Cecil Purdy’s death in 1979 and served in this position until 1998, overseeing a period of great change for the League (including the use of computers in chess and the electronic transmission of moves). In 1998 M C C Newman was elected PresidentAll the Council positions involved with the administration and smooth running of the CCLA are, of course, honorary and officials receive only their expenses.