Tuesday 26 February 2019

Training Day Tour 2018-9: Newcastle

This year's Training Day Tour has taken me all the way from The Isle of Arran to Truro but the latest leg was somewhat closer to home.

This year's Newcastle Training Day brought record high temperatures for a winter's day, which was in complete contrast to the conditions of exactly one year ago, when half of the delegates couldn't even get to the venue due to an uncommon amount of snow.

Newcastle is a city steeped in history and culture, with the Theatre Royal, where I famously saw Evita three times in 2018, being one of my favourite theatres...

...and Lord Grey keeps an eye on the city from the magnificent monument.

It was while I was taking these photographs that I was suddenly accosted by Radio Newcastle, who wanted to ask me how many 'Duff's there were at the start of the Eastenders theme tune.

We spoke about chess too and the show is still available, here. Scroll to two hours and 22 minutes for the exclusive chess content.

The City Library proved to be an excellent new venue for us. 

We had 10 delegates yesterday and they came from a variety of backgrounds. There were teachers, librarians, parents...all wanting to augment their existing skills to be able to take their chess ventures a shade further.

I was assisted by CSC Tyneside's Regional Organiser, Tim Wall, who was able to inform the delegates of the current chess activities in the region.

Soon enough, it was time to put the delegates to work. Everyone entered into the spirit of the day and it was clear from the start we were in for a fun and lively day.

The delegates completed a whole range of tasks and the section on the benefits of chess generated a very interesting group discussion.

Tim was game for a challenge or two and he played the delegates in two special games.

A little more work and a few more games...

...and then we were ready for a real treat, as Tim had offered to perform his extraordinary party piece - The 12 Days of Chessmas.

Well, there is no following that - but Tim is now available for festive bookings...

Thank you, everyone, for making it such a successful day.

Sunday 24 February 2019

International Chess Challenge: The Kings Gambit!

As previously mentioned, two of our schools are currently engaged in an international chess challenge with Hutt International Boys' School in New Zealand.   

The half-term break rather got in the way of the match against Park End, which will hopefully resume this week.

Meanwhile, the game featuring Yarm Senior School has already had some very interesting opening moves.

1 e4 e5 2 f4

Yarm Senior School v Hutt International Boys' School

This opening is called the King's Gambit.

White is offering a pawn sacrifice to open attacking lines for his pieces and to tempt Black to move away from the centre.

It is a risky opening because White not only goes a pawn down but also creates some weaknesses around his own king.

2 ...exf4

There are various to decline the gambit but Black is happy to accept the pawn. This usually leads to a very sharp game, with attacking chances for both sides - and often some interesting sacrifices are in the air.

3 Nf3 g5

This move looks rather extravagant but it is one of the main variations of the King's Gambit. Black is hoping to keep his extra pawn defended.

4 h4

White does not want Black to stabilise the position and makes an immediate challenge to the structure.

Black to move

We look forward to seeing more moves over the course of the week.

Sunday 17 February 2019

Training Day Tour 2018-9: Truro

'I think we should do a training day in Truro' said CSC's Chief Operating Officer Chris Fegan, shortly after I arrived back from the Isle of Arran. Naturally, I immediately said 'yes' - and we then spent several months putting together a plan to make the desire a reality.

Taking our training day tour to another new place was a very enticing prospect and anyway, there was always a chance I might bump into Demelza down in Truro.

Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case, but the entire expedition proved to be fabulously productive and we made lots of very important contacts in addition to impacting upon several community establishments.

The three days started off with me learning a great deal too. The only feasible way to travel from Teesside to Truro turned out to be a train to Manchester followed by a flight to Newquay Airport. I had never flown before so my own personal comfort zone was considerably extended even before a single pawn was pushed. What an experience! 

Stuart Roden, Truro City Council Councillor, helped Chris and I throughout our three days, showing great kindness and support. Stuart and Chris were there to welcome me at the airport.

Soon it was time for our first port of call - the Truro Community Library. We had already sent chess sets to the library so community wheels were already in motion.

I love to learn about the history of the places I visit and Chris informed me regarding the work of Truro philanthropist John Passmore Edwards M.P. This library is one of 70 major buildings originally funded by his bequests.

Chess aficionados will know that Britain's finest player, Michael Adams, hails from Truro.

The library is very close to another very impressive building - the Truro Cathedral.

It was good to see our event listed on the internal library board. Chris speculated that we could make chess even more popular if we recruited Madonna but I'm not so sure she was the Material Girl in the Medium Community Room. Either way, I am pleased we kept top billing.

On to the training session...and Chris and I were delighted by the amount of people who had enrolled for the day. The delegates included representatives from schools, libraries and chess clubs. Robin Kneebone, who has been organising chess events since the late 1960s, participated too. Chris and Robin have been friends for many years so it was quite a reunion.

Chris made the opening remarks and then went shopping...for the lunches.

All of the delegates worked very hard throughout the day. It was wonderful to hear all their own stories and to learn about their backgrounds in chess and education. It was very clear we had encountered an area of great enthusiasm.

Mini-games were soon in progress...

...and before too long we had volunteers walking around the room in the style of chess pieces.

The COO arrives back from the Co-op
Chris did a good job in the Truro Co-op but the delegates still had a few more piece-moves to complete before the comestibles were unleashed.
A bishop!
A queen!

Robin and Chris - reunited

Stuart called in to address the delegates
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the delegates and, as usual, I didn't want the day to end. Lots of plans are now going to be developed and we will see exactly what sort of impact we have achieved in due course.

We even managed to fit in a visit to Truro's chess club, where we found Robin involved in a team Rapidplay match.

The chess club enjoyed excellent facilities. Robin has been personally responsible for raising the standards of local chess clubs and it is something other areas should try and replicate.

It had been a long and excellent day and we had achieved a great deal. 

The expedition continued the following morning, with an 8.00 a.m. meeting with the Headteacher of Devoran School, which went very well indeed.

There was still one more meeting to squeeze in and that was over in Falmouth, which meant becoming acquainted with the local bus service.

The legacy of Passmore Edwards was further in evidence in Falmouth, as we made the initial moves in setting up a brand new library chess group.

The library had recently had an exhibition of automations
and this magnificent example was still on display
With Jayne Cardew at Falmouth Library
There were 10 minutes until bus time so I made a quick visit to the harbour, where more history awaited me.

This was where the famous raid on St Nazaire was launched, in which an explosive-laden HMS Campbeltown was deliberately rammed into Normandy dry dock. It was dubbed 'The Greatest Raid of All'.

It was time to return to Teesside but one last mission awaited me. Throughout my time in Cornwall, I had been gently berated for not having tried an authentic Cornish Pasty, so I felt I had to indulge.

It was Valentine's Day and, even though I was flying solo I did find myself a new gull friend.

Time to head back home. Taxi, plane, train...

Thank you, people of Cornwall! Where to next, I wonder? Well, at least two people mentioned a desire to see a training day in Devon...