Scotland’s ‘king of chess’ recognised with MBE

Gerald Lobley, 79, from Aberdeenshire has been teaching the game to youngsters for half a century.

Gerald Lobley has taught people to play chess for half a century
Gerald Lobley has taught people to play chess for half a century (Lauren Hurley/PA)

A man who has spent 50 years teaching youngsters how to play chess has said he was “flabbergasted” to learn he has been honoured by the King.

Gerald Lobley, 79, from Kemnay in Aberdeenshire, has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to chess in Scotland for instructing future generations how to play the traditional board game.

He has for half a century volunteered to organise competitions and coaching sessions for people of all ages across the north east of Scotland and has arbitrated countless matches along the way.

One youngster he taught even went on to become a Scottish champion, but upon learning he was to become an MBE, Mr Lobley admits he had to think about whether to accept the honour.

“I was flabbergasted,” he said. “There are many volunteers who help to foster chess in Scotland, and I am just one of them.

“I’ll be honest, my reaction was ‘why me?’ and I thought about whether I should accept it.

“Then I thought it would be good publicity for chess in Scotland, so I feel I can accept it, but on behalf of all the other volunteers in Scotland who help keep chess going.”

Over the last 20 years Mr Lobley has been heavily involved in the management of the North East Junior Chess Association, which encourages young people of all ages to take up the game.

One of its main aims is to help as many youngsters as possible access coaching and competitions irrespective of their socioeconomic background by offering free entry to clubs and contests.

Mr Lobley said he is particularly proud to have recently helped refugees from Ukraine play the game under his tutelage.

“There shouldn’t be a barrier, it shouldn’t matter whether you can afford to pay for something,” he said. “We want to encourage people just to play.

“Chess is one of those games which you can play regardless of age – you can have a nine-year-old play a 90-year-old on equal terms. It’s a wonderful game and you can play at all levels.”

Mr Lobley said he was at his happiest when his pupils finally figured out how to beat him.

“I say to my youngsters when I’m teaching them, the happiest day will come when you beat me,” he said. “But the most important thing is to enjoy playing.”

One of the youngsters Mr Lobley instructed over the years, Murad Abdullah, went on to become the second youngest player ever to be crowned Scottish champion in 2017.

“I was talking to his father at an event last Sunday,” he said. “He ended up being Scottish champion, and it all started at one of our junior events.

“So they can achieve very high levels, or they can just simply enjoy the game.”