Tuesday 27 February 2018

CSC Training Day Tour: Newcastle 2018

Today's training day was not without its unusual aspects.

For example the much-hyped 'Beast from the East' made travelling conditions very difficult and caused a number of delegates to withdraw.

Then we had a picket line to cross at the university, a situation we handled with charm and aplomb.

There were other issues too, such as some chess sets not making it to the venue and sundry other problems.

It was therefore a great relief to see some people had made it through to room TR1 for the training - and to see the teas and coffees awaiting our indulgence (following our journey from Teesside that had lasted nearly two and a half hours) was a very welcome sight too.

Everything was fine once we started the chess!

The delegates worked hard all day on their various tasks and mini-games.

Brian and John enjoying a mini-game
Richard and Alan had more chess battles today than any other pairing of players.
Siyan and Anu utilised the big board for their games.

Half-time! Christine brought in copious amounts of excellent sandwiches and promised an extra-large urn of tea for the afternoon refreshments.

Christine was true to her word...

We were fortunate indeed to have CSC Tyneside Co-ordinator Tim Wall there to help us with the day. Here he is, trying to make me disappear with a magic wand, having heard one too many puns for his liking.

Tim gamely took on the whole army of delegates in two special challenges - and won, 2-0!

King Tim of Wall. 

The delegates were soon out to work on a written task. 

The mini-games and chess variants proved to be very popular indeed. The next few photos give an indication as to the levels of concentration we achieved today.

A capacity crowd for this game of Maharajah Chess - the longest I have ever seen.
Alan was especially pleased to master, once and for all, the en passant pawn capture.

Thank you very much, everyone! None of the strange circumstances prevented us from having an excellent day.

Sunday 25 February 2018

Project 30: 30 Years on 64 Squares

The library event simply couldn't have gone better from my point of view.

The sizable audience included people from all corners of my past and present, with juniors mixing well with work and club colleagues, dear friends and a number of people I had not seen for many years. There were even some people who were new to me and I greatly appreciated the support of everyone who attended. 

I didn't know who was going to be there and was genuinely surprised and delighted to see so many people. 

The person who travelled the furthest was IM Richard Palliser, who was there representing CHESS Magazine (he is the editor who knocks my articles into shape each month). Richard played in some of our junior tournaments many years ago and it was wonderful to see him at the library.

I started with a talk looking at various moments from my 30 years of teaching chess in schools, which was very well received.

Following a tea break, it was time for the only part for the evening over which I had no control whatsoever...question time! I promised to answer any questions fired at me to the best of my ability.

This is the part of any show that can fizzle out very quickly after a couple of token questions but on this occasion it led to a fascinating, extended session during which I was asked the most remarkable range of questions from people all across the wide spectrum of ages.

After an hour of questions we had to start winding down so we could do the book signing session. I was thrilled to be able to talk to people on a one-to-one basis at this point and to thank them for their support.

The evening would not have been a success without the expert help of Lucy Carlton-Walker and her superb team at Stockton Central Library. Lucy also took the photos featured in this report.

Thank you, everyone! It was a truly memorable evening.

A sequel is in the planning stages, so watch this space...

Saturday 24 February 2018


CSC Teesside didn’t get where we are today by lazing around at weekends.

68 chess players are on their way for the Yarm Prep. School UK Chess Challenge.

Thursday 22 February 2018

Man With Two Shadows

Andrew MacQueen enjoyed his first shadowing sessions at the start of the month and after the half-term break he returned for more.

Some of these chess puzzles are tough!
Andrew was in action once again at both Brambles and Whale Hill and he helped the children with their workbooks and facilitated their Delancey UK Chess Challenge tournament games. 

White to play and checkmate Black in two moves
Andrew also found the time and energy to play a number of children simultaneously at the end of the day at Whale Hill.

Two days later I had a new shadow, in the form of Sean Cassidy.

Sean is the organiser of The Buffs chess club in Stockton and has been delivering high-quality chess sessions at Stockton Central Library since last Summer.

Sean shadowed me at Park End for a full day, testing all of the Year 3 and Year 5 children with some tricky chess puzzles before helping with their tournament games and then enjoying games with some of the pupils.

White to play and checkmate Black in two moves

He also enjoyed his first school lunch in quite a number of years.

Proof I eat my greens
Thank you, Andrew and Sean, for all of your hard work. Thank you to the pupils and staff of Brambles, Whale Hill and Park End for making our two special guests stars very welcome.

Monday 19 February 2018

Back to Broadway

Today brought the second of my three visits to Broadway Junior School in Sunderland.

I was last there back in October 2017 and I was very keen to see how both classes of Y4s had progressed since the start of the school year. In short, the answer was - a lot! Lisa Hastie and the rest of the Year 4 team have clearly been working very hard with the children on their chess.

Today we worked hard on exploring the differences between check, checkmate and stalemate and set the children to work on a written test.

Of course, we played plenty of games too.

Even I got a game this time!

We still had a little time to expand the children's knowledge of chess tactics and the demonstration of the pin should stick in their memories for some time!

It was wonderful to work with two sets of children - with approximately 30 pupils in each - who were all so enthusiastic and hardworking.

Thank you, Broadway. I am looking forward to working with you again soon.