For over a century, the New Britain Chess Club of Connecticut (NBCC), our state’s largest and most historic chess
organization, has had a strong reputation for its vital role in the development, promotion, and enrichment of this game to people of
ages and levels across the Northeastern United States. The NBCC has been built on many traditions and yet has become quite adaptable
the changing times. Our members and network of chess friends have also established numerous ties with other local chess institutions,
has been essential for our club’s growth. These solid foundations and key alliances have enabled our club to maintain its solid
for chess in our community through the ages. Regardless of the challenges that our club has dealt with throughout its history, our
unwavering determination has always led “The Heart of Connecticut Chess” to brighter days for our family and for chess in
that background, here is the NBCC story.
We begin our journey around the turn of the twentieth century. During that time, groups of chess men gathered at the YMCA and at
venues in the city to engage in casual play and spirited competition. As a new century dawned, a few leaders from that nascent chess
community met to lay the grounds for the formation of our historic club. On January 26, 1901, thirty-three chess enthusiasts, led by
Kirkham, our club’s first president, met in a building in the downtown district to celebrate the official organization and birth of
Judge Kirkham, who was also a prominent chess master and Connecticut chess champion, worked closely with other newly formed chess
organizations in our state, such as Waterbury, Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, to hold inter-club matches. These events drew a
respectable amount of interest and ultimately helped promote our organization and Connecticut chess. In addition to these matches,
held smaller and more informal tournaments during its regular meetings. Membership levels remained fairly constant during the 1900s
early 1910s, but most chess activity came to a crashing halt as the nation entered WWI. Based on a lack of records, it appears that
caused the disbandment of many Connecticut chess clubs.
The NBCC began to re-emerge sometime in the late 1920s. Two of our club’s presidents over the next two decades worked zealously to
re-energize our organization: Boleslaw Gryboski in the 1930s and Edmund Roman in the 1940s. These leaders were instrumental in
membership base and creating a more structured schedule of activities, including organizing annual club and city championship events
boost membership. Our club also continued to hold joint events with the Hartford Chess Club to attract interest throughout our chess
community. However, our leaders’ efforts to keep our club active proved to be quite challenging during these times. First, tragedy
our club in the mid-1930s when a fire occurred at our meeting place at the Union Building on Main Street, destroying many club
forcing us to relocate. We soon moved to Nathan Hale Junior High School and then to Falcon Crest Hall in New Britain. Then, in 1941,
lost some of its members because of the draft during WWII. If there was any silver lining for our club during this war, it was that
meetings were still held in despite of a decline in membership. After 1945, membership slowly rose, and it was the task of President
and others to ensure that our club would sustain in the second half of the twentieth century.
In 1951, Arkadijs Strazdins, who would eventually become the NBCC’s greatest advocate and contributor and the most influential member
our club’s history, joined our organization. Our club saw many changes in leadership in the mid-to-late 1950s, and membership was
low. However, by the early 1960s, our club started exploring ways to get more involved on the state-wide scene in hopes of sparking
interest in our chess community. Mr. Strazdins, who began his life-long service to the NBCC, often worked with its officers
1950s and 1960s to arrange and host a variety of matches, simultaneous chess exhibitions, and tournaments, including the annual New
Summer Open Chess Championship, which started in 1966 and which would eventually become Connecticut’s grandest summer chess event.
As our club continued to fulfill its most important mission of providing a facility and a social environment for chess, the level of
membership rebounded. When the Bobby Fischer boom occurred in the early 1970s, membership soared to unprecedented levels. By 1973,
had 119 members - a record that would not be challenged until 2010 and then in 2017, 2019, and 2022, when membership reached 101, 104,
101, and 101,
Mr. Strazdins, who took the helm as president in 1970, led our club during one of its most prosperous periods.
For nearly twenty years, between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s, our club held its meetings at the General Holler Post in New
club was grateful to Jan Cendrowski, a commander of the post and our club president in the 1960s, for securing that venue for so
Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, our club was forced to relocate from that site in 1975. The move came at a time when
club attained peak membership. Thankfully, Mr. Strazdins was able to find and secure a hall at the New Britain Quartette Club, where
club would stay for the next thirty-five years.
With the relocation behind us, our club focused on playing a more pivotal role in the development of Connecticut chess. By 1980, the
was the third-largest chess club in Connecticut behind Hartford and New Haven. Mr. Strazdins, who had won over fifty major club
by then, worked tirelessly to promote our organization in his many capacities as officer, tournament director, and team captain. He
countless hours to ensure that our club would remain vibrant in the coming decades. Due to Mr. Strazdins’ steadfast efforts, our club
emerged as Connecticut’s largest chess organization by the mid-to-late 1980s.
Mr. Strazdins continued pursuing his passion for and devotion to our club well into the 1990s by keeping its image alive and well.
the turn of the century, Mr. Strazdins regrettably had to take a step back from club operations because of declining health. His son,
Andris, who was our club’s treasurer since 1973, worked passionately with the other officers and tournament directors to ensure that
father’s vision for our club was fulfilled.
The early years of the twenty-first century saw significant changes in leadership in our club, with the stepping down of Mr.
president after serving thirty-one years. The new officers then and today were and have been inspired by Mr. Strazdins’ work for our
and they have kept alive the traditions that he established during his five decades of service to our organization. Moreover, our
administrators from 2001 to the present have created their own interesting and unique ideas to benefit our club’s growth, many of
have resulted in the biggest expansion of our club’s social network and have attracted many scholastic chess players.
In 2010, our club left the New Britain Quartette Club and relocated to the New Britain Assyrian Community Center, where we stayed for
years. In 2014, our club moved to our current venue at the Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection in New Britain. During both
our organization lost some members but still remained a leading voice for chess in Connecticut. In 2020, our
club closed its indoor operations twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Membership, consequently, reached one of its lowest levels
in recorded club history. However, our club was able to open its operations online as a result of the closing of its indoor
operations. When the coronavirus pandemic began to subside in 2021, our club was able to reopen its indoor operations.
The NBCC is extremely proud of its heritage and its positive impact on our chess community. In spite of the challenges that our club
faced (membership declines, relocations, and the stepping down of a leader of thirty-plus years), we endured every time. Because of
and because of our rich and diverse history, “The Heart of Connecticut Chess” will no doubt continue to thrive and flourish in the
decades. The NBCC is very excited about its future, and we anticipate that future generations of chess players will continue to play
integral role in the advancement of our wonderful institution and Connecticut chess.
If your travels ever bring you to Connecticut, please pay a visit to the NBCC. Meetings are held every Tuesday at the Armenian Church
the Holy Resurrection. For directions to and more information about our club, please visit www.newbritainchessclub.com.
Yours in chess,
NBCC and CT Chess Historian
December 31, 2023
1) 1935 - William Burling wins New Britain City Chess Championship - Photo courtesy of the Hartford Courant
2) 1967 - Jan Cendrowski presents Andris Strazdins with a chess book for his prize in the New Britain City Chess Championship
3) 1979 - Arkadijs Strazdins plays Kurt Holyst in the NBCC Action Quads - Photo courtesy of the New Britain Herald
4) 1996 - Edward McHugh hosts simultaneous chess exhibition at the NBCC - Photo courtesy of the Hartford Courant
5) 2015 - NBCC family photo at the 50th New Britain Summer Open at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT