RAMNIK Mehta and chess are originally from the same country.

It was there that they were introduced many years ago.

“Being in India in the 1940s, because of the rainy season you can’t do anything for four months.

“My neighbour had a chess set. I came from a very poor family – we couldn’t afford anything. My neighbour taught me.

“It is an Indian game and India still exports quite a lot of chess pieces. I bought a chess set when I was in India seven years ago – the wooden pieces are nice to hold.”

Ramnik was born in 1937. He and his family moved to Mumbai from Gujarat in 1942.

“I came to this country in 1961 – the 16th of September 58 years ago.”

Ramnik is a retired chartered accountant whose career distinctions included a Bronze Medal from the Institute of Chartered Accountant for services to the organisation, having set up the first branch in Gloucester and then the first branch in Swindon.

He was bewildered by the absence of a Swindon branch when he arrived in the town.

“We had 1,100 or 1,200 accountants in the area and I thought, ‘This is ridiculous – if they go to a branch they have to go to Reading, Gloucester – where I had formed the branch – or Bristol.’”

He always retained an interest in the game he had first learned as a boy, but a number of factors led to the formation of the Community Chess Club.

“I used to play squash. By the time I was 70 I had slowed down a bit, and by the time I was 77 I couldn’t play!”

One day Ramnik was at a Swindon hotel and saw a man - now a member of the club which meets at West Swindon Library - with a chess set.

The two played and were the nucleus of a group which met at the hotel.

“There were about 10 people and they all, one after another, either left or stopped playing.”

Later Ramnik spoke to a community social worker, Gail Light, about the possible benefits of establishing a club, and she secured the funds for sets.

The club’s coach, Peter Richmond, has been involved since the beginning.

Ramnik said: “He came to the very first day and he is really running the show, because I – being an old man – keep going on holiday, you see!”

A nine-times Wiltshire champion and former professional coach whose clients have included 11 national champions, Peter made his debut for the Nottinghamshire County first team aged 14, in 1971.

He is a committed teacher and advocate of the game. Everybody who comes to the Community Chess Club is welcome to ask his advice, and he is also happy to sit opposite players and guide them through entire games should they wish.

Peter said: “I would always recommend that people learn chess because it’s got transferable skills.

“It teaches clarity of thought, calculation – you’re learning strategic principles and tactics. It develops the imagination.

“What’s good about chess as a game? It’s logical. The player who is better will generally win – but there’s always the chance that somebody’s going to make a howler. There’s always that element.”

Ramnik agrees about the merits of chess in improving and maintaining thought processes.

“It’s mental alertness and thinking – you have to have clear thinking. That’s very important; you have to be able to think three or four moves ahead and be really focused. This gives your brain a lot of training.

“We have about 120 members on the books, people of all ages. The youngest is four years old and the oldest is 93 years old.”

The club welcomes players of all abilities, from novices who simply wish to find out more about the game to seasoned players who want to practice and perhaps sharpen their skills.

Seeing younger players learn is particularly satisfying.

“The children are very, very good at learning and Peter is very good at teaching. It gives them motivation and something to achieve.”

The Community Chess Club meets every Tuesday between 3.45pm and 5.45pm.

Peter said: “Come and give it a go – and if you like it come back!”