Monday 23 November 2015

Secret Training

Having selected a small group of extraordinary juniors to tackle a top secret and extremely difficult mission for CSC Teesside (more details later), it was time to put them through their paces.

However, the training wasn't particularly arduous as it involved bowling and eating pizza.

First up - the Juniors vs. Adults bowling match!

CSC Teesside - relieved that the training is actually fun.
Father and son bowling in perfect harmony.
''Just one more joke, Mr Marsh - and your foot gets it!''
I am quite attached to my feet and am hoping things stay that way.
On the way to a clearance.
The most fun they can have without actually checkmating someone.
Can we beat them...?

A spy in the camp...?

We added up the total scores for each lane and announced the adults had won. Until the juniors realised we had five players to their four, of course - at which point a recount was demanded.
A competitive game of air hockey soon followed.

There was only one way to follow all of that. Pizza time!

A very rare shot of Thomas with his mouth closed.
I hadn't realised my camera was so fast.
No caption required!

Most pizzas on our table were cut into seven pieces. I cut mine into four. The juniors asked why and I told them I wasn't so sure I could eat seven pieces. They are still thinking about that one.

Just to complete our photographic record of all three of Grace's courses.
Finlay getting his just desserts.
Captain Caitlin trying to control the team. Sort of...

Sunday 22 November 2015


My latest project - 'How to Grow New Chess Players' - begins to take shape...

Thursday 19 November 2015

Tuesday 17 November 2015

In Their Own Words (9)

''The best thing about chess is being able to use my maths skills and being challenged by other people. Also, I like being competitive.''

Evie (10)

''Chess is a brilliant game. It takes skill and stamina. You need a lot of brain power and slyness to be able to play.''

Alix (10)

''I have learned a lot and it has made me better at Maths. I've been the chess champion for six months. As soon as you learn it you will become better and better. I've been in about nine tournaments and got four trophies and five medals.''

Ben (10)

''I enjoy chess because I find it really fun and educational.''

Henry (8)

''It is fun to win and chess makes you concentrate better.''

Luke (10)

Sunday 15 November 2015

Yarm School at the 2015 HMC Chess Championships

Yarm School at the HMC 2015
QEGS, Wakefield

We had three teams in action at this year's HMC chess championships; two in the Under-11s and one in the Under-9 section. It turned out to be a very exciting day of chess.

Last-minute preparation!
Great choice of book, sir!
The Under-9s, brilliantly captained by Henry Parker (who scored 5/6) and also featuring Yusuf Syed (5/6), Oscar Thomas (2.5/6) and Ajay Selvan (3.5/6 - and still only Y3!), started very well with two powerful match victories. They then faced their first really tough test, against perennial rivals RGS A. After a very hard match, they ended up with a creditable 2-2 draw. However, they lost their next match by a narrow margin and fell behind both RGS A and QEGS A with two rounds left to play. A big effort was required and the team rose immediately to the challenge with a fabulous win over QEGS A, thus catching them up. The battle for second place raged on into the final round, in which our team showed they had saved the best until last, as they hammered RGS C 4-0 to zoom ahead of QEGS A to clinch a very impressive second place.
Under the gaze of two Queen Elizabeths
The Under-11s had their work cut out to match the achievements of their younger counterparts. The B Team - Matthew Anthony (4.5/6), Adam Jones (2/6), Luke Nargol (3/6) and Will Craggs (2.5/6). - started well with victories against Dame Allan's and Ampleforth but faded during the middle rounds of the event. However, they finished with a fine 3-1 win against Pocklington and this helped them to a share of 7th place. Matthew was the captain and he played with a great sense of responsibility; his score of four wins, one draw and just one defeat - against eventual champions RGS A - was one of his best-ever championship performances.
Hard at work
The A Team, captained by a very determined Ihsaan Mahmood, played consistently well throughout the six rounds. A narrow defeat to RGS A in the third round left them with too large a gap to bridge in the battle for first place, but two fabulous 4-0 victories in the last two rounds - against Dame Allan's and QEGS A (!) respectively - secured a very fine second place for the team. Ihsaan, Edward Adams and Jake Meager all scored 5/6 (with Jake being the only person to win a game against RGS A on the day) and Ammar Soni, still young enough to return with next year's Under-11 team, finished with 3/6.

Second place in both events represents our best showing at the HMC event for some time.

Thank you to hosts Queen Elizabeth Grammar School ('QEGS') and congratulations to Royal Grammar School, Newcastle ('RGS') on their double success.

Well done, everyone!

Sunday 8 November 2015

In Their Own Words (8)

''I love chess because it is a fun game and I enjoy it every time I play. It is the best game ever.''

Ella (8)

''I like chess because I like Mr Marsh and also I can beat my brother.''

Rian (8)

''I like playing chess because it is fun and I like to beat people.''

Rumman (8)

''I enjoy chess because it is the most enjoyable game to play and also I never knew how to play before but I do now.''

Holly (8)

''I enjoy playing chess because I usually win. My favourite moment was when I beat the best chess player and I became the best. I would like to become even better at chess too.''

James (8)

Saturday 7 November 2015

Grandmaster To Visit Teesside

Exciting news!

An International Grandmaster of chess will be visiting the Teesside region next month. GM Keith Arkell will be giving a simultaneous display, playing up to 30 people at the same time.

Keith did two two simultaneous displays for me when we had the Chess Links Project on the go back in the mid-2000s. Both events were very well attended and hugely enjoyable.

Here are the details of December's event, courtesy of event organiser, Carl Stephens.

''Darlington Chess Club Proudly Presents

Grandmaster Simultaneous Display 30 Boards


Reigning World Seniors' Champion GM Keith Arkell 

Monday 21 December 2015 at 6 p.m. 

Darlington Chess Club, Cockerton Musical Band and Institute Club,  Cockerton,

Entry Fee: £12 per person.

Places will come on a first come, first served basis, this event is expected to fill up fast Be sure to reserve you place early.

For all enquiries and to reserve your place please contact: Carl Stephens, Mobile: 07581 069774

All entries are to be paid in full on the day of the event.''

Please connect Carl directly for all enquiries and entries.

Why not order a copy of Keith's book, to be signed on the night of the event?

Monday 2 November 2015

The London Chess Conference 2015

The London Chess Conference takes place at the Hilton Olympia, 5-6 December 2015. It is part of the 7th London Chess Classic festival of events.

I was asked to contribute a set of notes on Key Points to Inspire Teachers to Introduce Chess into Schools, which can be found both here and on the main conference site.

1) Concentration. To play chess well - or to solve chess problems - children must learn how to improve their concentration and to remain focused and ‘‘on task’’ throughout a full game. It is very noticeable how games between the children start to last longer as they progress through their weekly lessons. Generally speaking, children have a strong desire to win when they play games and they quickly understand how paying attention during the lesson input leads to improved results over-the-board.

2) Discipline. It is not always easy to maintain discipline during a game of chess, in which mistakes - large and small - will occur on a regular basis. Yet self-discipline is an important characteristic if one seeks success. Through chess, children learn to live with the responsibilities of their actions. One bad move can undo a lot of hard work, but children learn how to deal with disappointments and - even more importantly - how to recover and come back stronger next time.

3) Good sportsmanship. Fortunately, chess retains a certain degree of etiquette missing from various sports and games with a higher profile. Children are encouraged to shake hands before and after each game, regardless of result. Bad sportsmanship can lead to reduced opportunities (losing a place on the school team, for example) as children must, at all times, remain perfect ambassadors for their school.

4) Impact on Literacy and Numeracy. Chess in Schools and Communities recently collaborated with the Education Endowment Foundation (‘EEF’) to assess the impact of regular chess (more information here: The fact that the EEF should feel inclined to conduct a serious study on the impact of chess lessons should provide ample indication of the growing status our of our curriculum. Chess is traditionally linked with mathematics but I strongly feel the impact on other academic areas is consistently underrated. An easy example would be to highlight the creative and imaginative skill required to visualise a desired position a few moves down the line; such skills are transferable to other academic pursuits, such as writing stories, for instance.

5) General Learning Skills. Chess lessons offer a perfect combination of the three key types of learning: auditory (listening to the tutor), visual (watching the action on the tutor’s demonstration board), and kinesthetic (working in the pupil workbooks and playing games).

6) Opportunities. Chess is an absolutely ideal game for breaking down boundaries. Time and again it comes as a great surprise to teachers when they find particular pupils excelling in our lessons and tournaments. With everyone starting from the very beginning, previous classroom ‘‘pecking orders’’ and the like are rendered superfluous. Additionally, children who do not excel at sports have the opportunity to represent their school for the first time, thus boosting their confidence and pride.

7) Fun. Apart from the academic side of things, anyone who witnesses our chess lessons will develop the distinct impression that the children are having a lot of fun! Believe me, when children are having fun yet remain fully engaged by the tutor, the scope for even more learning grows considerably…

Benefits of Teaching Chess in Schools

Some of the benefits of teaching children to play and study chess manifest themselves away from the classroom. An unexpected aspect of our lessons became apparent when children started to report back they were teaching their parents how to play. Grandparents already know, but there is a ‘lost’ generation who were never given the opportunity to play chess at school. Having children teach older people how to do something makes a wonderful story and there can no doubt that ‘‘getting the grandparents’ chess set out of the loft’’ is, in its own small way, bringing families just that little bit closer together. 

Incidentally, I know of a signifiant number of cases where pupils who would normally be off school for trivial reasons have made a determined effort to battle through minor colds and other sundry ailments to make it into school on the day of their chess lessons.

On the subject of inclusion, I once had a pupil at Pennyman Primary Academy who was confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, and who could communicate only with one finger and one eyebrow. He studied and played chess with the rest of his class every week for a year.

Our annual Teesside championship - open to all of players aged 11 and under - attracted a record entry of 120 children earlier this year. This was despite lots of Saturday-morning competition from a host of other activities (football, dancing etc). In our most recent tournament, a young girl missed her twin brother’s birthday party to play chess, safe in the knowledge that her own party was on the next day!