The first edition of the Chesstimes appeared on the streets in April of 1980 and despite numerous changes in the editorial and production staff, the magazine has raised its readership to about one hundred individual readers, with additional copies sent free to every club in the League as well as to the Primary and Secondary Schools Chess Associations.
Chris Carter, the League Secretary, originally conceived the idea of a local chess magazine as an extension of his circular of official notices and league tables. The feeling at the time was for a half-yearly or quarterly issue, but Chris was convinced that a monthly issue was possible, and just as practicable since each issue would incorporate his monthly circular. To prove the point, he took over the editorship for the first seven issues. Chris considered himself (and still does) to be a weak player (although most people reading this would envy his grade) and so took on the help of Dave Osborne, one of the League's strongest players, as Chess Editor. The production team at the time was Alistair Brown, Bob Lowrey and Len Dorrington although, having helped to launch the magazine, Bob Lowrey soon dropped out.
Having set the magazine going, Chris handed over the editorship to Alistair Brown, who retained the help of Len Dorrington for a time on the production side of things and of Dave Osborne, who continued as Chess Editor. From April 1981 (issue 12) Alistair was editing, printing, compiling, distributing, and typing out most of the magazine. Although he received some help from contributors who submitted articles typed on the stencil, the work load remained extremely heavy. But help was at hand; Annette Rogers took over the distribution and compiling in October 1981 (issue 17) which relieved Alistair of a considerable burden. Martin Davies stood in for Dave Osborne at about the same time.
The second major change in the Chesstimes staff took place in April 1982 (issue 23). when Mick Cook took over as Editor, and the post of Chess Editor was replaced by that of Assistant Editor, which was filled by Mick's flatmate, Alex Easton. Since then, Mick has gone to Manchester to do a one year college course and Alex Easton is standing in as Acting Editor for the time being. Annette Rogers, after eighteen months in the taxing job of distributor, is to retire in January, and is being replaced by Geoff Amos. Alistair Brown continues to produce the magazine, as he has done from the very start.
It is noticable that the only person to have had a hand in every issue is Alistair. He has put in a vast amount of work into the magazine over its thirty issues and it is to him and Chris Carter that the Chesstimes owes most of its success.
However, contributors are needed to keep the magazine going. It has been the policy of all four editors to achieve as wide a range of contributors as possible and, going through the magazines from issue 1, I counted 47 different names writing for us. This is a reasonable proportion of the four hundred or so players in the League, but still not enough to make the magazine the true forum of opinion in the area that was hoped. There have been regular features, some of which have faded out, but most of which continue to run, albeit intermittently. For example, 'Match of the Month' makes regular appearances and 'International News' appears every month. Intermittent articles on opening theory have now gelled into a monthly column, and a problems and studies page has just been started to replace an endings column which faded out early in the magazine's history. So far, our most famous contributor has been Grandmaster John Nunn, who sent in a deeply annotated game of his from the 1981 Manor Tyres Congress.
As to the future of the Chesstimes, this seems assured. However, the magazine will not continue to improve unless more players in the area subscribe and contribute - the magazine will be what the chess players in the area want it to be, and nothing more.
1998 postscript: the Chesstimes is still going and has just reached issue 114 (November 1997). A later history appears in issue 100 (November 1994). - JR