Barry Meisel has recently did an article about the great Chester Barnes of which the news clip is attached below:
Barry's Article in type:
The question was asked "was Chester the best UK player ever in the UK"Champions from the past and present:Chester Barnes - the maverick badboy, five times English national champion
Chester Barnes was born in London’s East End in July 1947. He became England’syoungest ever national champion, when he won the championships for the firsttime in 1963 at age 15.
There was two sides to Chester, who was an exceptional, charismatic player froman early age, but his “my way or the highway” attitude caused him to be bannedby the ETTA on several occasions for many different reasons, which includedfailing to turn up for international matches.
Chester represented England over 250 times and he was a maverick of theswinging 1960s to be likened to Georgie Best the footballer, Alex Higgins ofsnooker and Terence Stamp the film star. His infectious grin & sense ofhumor endeared him to his audiences, who flocked to see if the talented butvolatile player would lose to a no body, or beat an internationalchampion.
He was at the height of his fame an icon, a one-man marketing machine, the onlyplayer with a personal manager & photographer who wore a show stopping pinkshirt, and drove a pink Jaguar E-Type sports car, registration number FU 2.
Chester claimed that he would be a world champion, but the highest he managedto reach was number 16 in the world. He had the first square shaped bat, soldunder his name.
Without a doubt he was one of England’s best players of his time, whichincluded Ian Harrison and Denis Neale, and the publicity surrounding him didwonders for the game. On one occasion he told the ETTA he would never play forEngland again if he was not ranked number one, then in 1968 he was banned fromplaying in the European Championships for not training with the other playersof the national team.
During one of the times when Chester was banned, he turned up to watch histeam-mates play in an international match against Czechoslovakia, which wasbeing televised by the BBC. Stuart Gibbs was ready to serve in the first game,but the umpire became temporarily confused and announced “ Chester Barnes toserve”. Without skipping a heart beat, Chester jumped over the barrier in hissuite & tie, borrowed Stuart’s bat and served the ball. This was classicChester Barnes, the Czechs were confused, and the spectators roared withapproval, loving every minute.
Chester was given the opportunity to play Jill Hammersley, the England numberone and European ladies champion in a 1,000 pound winner take all match,presented by Global Table Tennis Promotions. He withdrew at the last minute andwas replaced by England number 1 Denis Neale who was defeated by Jill, who wonthis first ever man versus woman match 3 games to nil, making tabletennis front page news for the first time in the world press.
Chester decided to retire from the sport competitively before he was 30years ofage, but performed a table tennis cabaret act at venues such as Caesar’sPalace, Wembley, Butlins Holiday Camps and many major cruise lines.
Today, Chester at 62 years of age is a successful race horse trainer, and ismarried to an English teacher. They have a son named Lester, named after thefamous jockey Lester Piggott. He chooses not to discuss his table tennis careerthese days, which adds to the aura that still surrounds the legendary ChesterBarnes.
Chester Barnes was not the best player England ever had but he did get thesport into the spotlight with packed out venues not seen today.
Just like other personalities in different sports John McEnroe, Illie Nastasieof lawn tennis, Georgie Best of football, Mohamed Ali of boxing and of courseMarty Reisman and Chester Barnes of table tennis, all characters which helpedtheir sports become a top attraction.
Today table tennis and most other sports need similar personalities
Chester undoubtedly had a high opinion of himself and lets be honest to be successful one could argue the qualities apart from skill, dedication and talent have to be a degree of self confidence and arrogance. The following gives you some idea of those two qualities just mentioned:
"Essex had to play Yorkshire in a County match one Saturday evening. The night before we had played Lancashire, not far away, then driven to a hotel in Leeds. We knew the match was to be played in Leeds YMCA and on Saturday morning my team mate Stuart Gibbs, and I decided to go and have a look at the place. We went there and found the Table Tennis hall. There were several tables and a few people playing. I suddenly felt i just had to have a game, but we had left our kit in the hotel and we were wearing jeans and sweaters. Stuart didn't want to play, so I had to challenge one of the locals. I watched until I saw who was the best player, and as soon as he finished a set I wandered over to him and said:
'Give me a game?'
He looked me up and down and said:
'Do you know how to play?'
I assured him that I did.
'Have you got a bat?'
was his next question, and as hadn't he told me I'd find one in a cupboard at the side of the hall. As I turned to go to the cupboard I just glimpsed at him giving a wink to his friends.
Another boy was at the cupboard, and he whispered to me:
'Your'e daft, you are. He's the YMCA champion!'
I wish i could spell their accents, but you can guess. Anyway, suitably impressed, I went back to the table. He insisted on starting a game immediately and he served first. He smiled at his friends and then served a high-pat ball to my forehand. I killed it stone dead down his backhand. He stopped smiling. His next serve was just as high to my backhand. I killed it down his forehand. He walked back to the table , having picked up the ball again, with an expression on his face rather like someone who had been asked a very difficult question. I won the game 21-7. I thanked him and went to walk away, but he said grimly:
'We'll have another one.'
He then took off his pullover, clenched his teeth and adopted a menacing crouching stance. I won the second game 21-3.
He was nice enough about it afterwards. He growled:
'You play like ----- Chester Barnes.'
At the match that evening I spotted him in the middle row of spectators. I chose my moment. Just as my opponent was about to serve I held my hand to stop him. Then I walked right to the barrier in front of the YMCA champion and said to him out loud:
'I look like, too.'
Several hundred people heard me; only one knew what i meant. The faces of the rest were a picture.............................
Taken from the book 'more than a match'
A rare footage of Chester in the clip.
A nice story but demonstrates not only his arrogance and self belief, but also his ability in carrying out the task in hand. One other thing that springs to mind is the reference to the crowd of 'several hundred' people, which now is not heard very often. Not even premier British League. It may be that we don't sell the sport well enough with characters like Chester Barnes spear heading the media promotion wherever possible. This may even mean that events such as premier British League would get better promotion and therefore media exposure. That said unless the financial carrot is dangled in front of the overseas top players we will not see the BL premier league given prime time in this Country, which is a shame given it's importance and standard.
Is Chester Barnes the best player we had in the UK?
Not only his playing ability but his ability to bring eyes and ears to to the sport of Table Tennis, which we are not seeing nowadays. Although it is sometimes extremely difficult to judge 'now and then' as we are in different eras and yes there may well be a better player or players in our present crop of top players but can, will or do any of the players create and stimulate the same interest Chester Barnes did many years ago?