Chess was introduced as a lunch time recreation in 1990 by Dr C.A Hewavitharane, an old boy. The game may have been played at an informal level through that century, but its revival in the 1950’s acquired a more formal footing. During this time, the chess club was formed, a master-in-charge was put in position and the Royal College chess team was formally recognized.
However, the game lacked popularity amongst the people at that time. Nevertheless, the Royal College team played matches with the University of Ceylon, St John’s Jaffna, and St Peter’s Colombo. At school, Chess was played in the area regarded as the “common room”, below the tuck-shop facing the basket ball courts. Although there was no time for formal coaching sessions, the books about chess in the library were in constant use.
During the 1960’s, chess at Royal College was organized under the patronage of the Indoor Games Club and the game had to compete with sports such as Badminton, Carom and Table Tennis. Yet matches were organized annually against St Thomas’s College, Gurutallawa and Jaffna Central College. In September 1970, when the chess federation was formed in Ceylon, sixteen chess clubs were affiliated with it and Royal College was one of them.
In 1973, the Chess Federation organized and directed the National Schools Chess Tournament for the first time and Brooke Bond Ceylon Limited sponsored the event. This tournament was followed by the National chess tournament. The latter tournament was conducted in four divisions; the premier, the major, the novices and outstation divisions. Christopher Parakrama, an 18 year old Royalist won the National title.
Despite these victories, 1978 and 1979 were disastrous years for the school chess team. Nevertheless, after Arjuna Parakrama took on coaching the team on a more permanent basis, the Royal chess team emerged runners up in the following two years. The ‘Golden age’ of Royal College chess began that year. From 1984 until the end of the decade, the school won the junior and senior titles every single year.
Chess tournaments were halted in 1990 as the country was in turmoil owing to various political reasons. Against this low-spirited backdrop, Royal College came forward to organize a Colombo district schools invitation chess tournament in October 1991. This was a good opportunity for chess players in Colombo schools to challenge each other and Royal College emerged as winners.
However, there were breaks during this time where there were no tournaments. Due to the lack of experience in competitions, Royal too suffered low standards during countless occasions. The school still had a good senior team but the standard junior chess was not up to standard. In the National Games of 1995 in Badulla, Royal regained the title after some time. Then in 1998, the school won the National games in both senior and junior categories.
In 1996, Royal organized an All Island Inter School Chess Championship, to which they invited all the leading chess playing schools in the country. Since then, this has become a popular annual event.
Today, with various developments in the school, the chess players of Royal are relentlessly displaying their talents while new batches of students are taking up the game to continue the glory of the sport.
Captain – B.D.S. Mendis
Vice Captain – K.M.H. Hasanga