Wednesday 27 March 2019

Game Changer

Recently I wrote a five-part series on the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge blog all about Game Changer, the fabulous new book by GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan.

An index to the series can be found here.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

International Chess Challenge: Play Intensifies

Time for an update on our International Chess Challenge.

Following on from the positions when we last saw them, we now have the additional moves...

Yarm Senior School's King's Gambit against Hutt International Boy's School has given rise to early adventures on both sides.

Yarm Senior School v Hutt International Boys' School
5 ...h5

To protect the g4-pawn from the knight's attack.

6 Bc4 Nh6

Knights don't normally feel so comfortable on the side of the board but Black had to protect the f7-square. Black is hoping to stabilise the defence and then chase away the attacking white pieces.

7 d4 Qf6

8 Nc3 Bd6

Allowing the other white knight to leap into the centre to attack the black queen.

9 Nd5 Qg7

Yarm have now played 10 Bxf4

White's rainbow of bishops and knights looks great and the black pieces have been forced to take up unorthodox positions. If Black can survive the early pressure then it may be possible to drive away the attackers. On the other hand, if White can keep the initiative going then it could turn into a very powerful attack.

Meanwhile, in the match between Park End Primary and Hutt International Boy's School, with sides are content to develop quietly and keep everything safe during the opening phase of the game.

Park End Primary v Hutt International Boys' School
2 Nf3 Nc6

Both sides have developed their knights to central squares, from which they can control more space than if they had gone to the side of the board.

3 Bh3

Park End have developed their bishop and they preparing to castle.

Hutt International now developed their own bishop to a central square.

3 ...Bd6

Both sides seem to be limbering up to castle, to make sure their respective kings are safe before the middlegame action begins.

Tune in next week for another update.

Monday 18 March 2019

'You Sold Me Illusions For a Sack Full of Checks...'

'You sold me illusions for a sack full of checks...'

The archive has recently revealed a number of old photographs, including this one, taken at one of my first press photo-shoots.

This was in 1988, back when it all started. 

'Sacrificing' any thoughts of the standard '2.4' normality, I endeavoured to carve out my own unique path.

Back then, I had youth on my side - but now all I have is a promising future behind me.

'Regrets? I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention.'

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Marathon Memories

Back in time, to 1994...

...and the second of my 24-hour chess marathons received coverage in my Herald and Post chess column.

I am sure I have some photographs in the archive and I will revisit this topic again soon.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

New CSC Teesside Chess Library

We are delighted to announce that our sixth CSC chess library is now up and running.

The details can be found here.

CSC Tutor Sean Cassidy, who has already made the Stockton Central Library sessions such a terrific success, is in charge at Ingleby Barwick Library too.

The sessions are on Sunday afternoons, 1.00 - 3.00 p.m. and are suitable for all ages and abilities, from complete novices to Grandmasters and from juniors to Grandmas.

''How The Little Dreams We Dream, Are All We Can Really Do...''

The release this week of Patty Griffin's new (self-titled) album put me in a reflective mood.

Her unique music always evokes many memories. Some bad, some good; smiles and tears.

One song from a previous album always brings back strong memories of my many years working on the Stockton-on-Tees Summer School for the Gifted and Talented. Originally I was brought into the team merely to add a little chess to proceedings and I felt like an imposter in the midst of so many genuinely talented people. However, I was pleased to be able to return every year, with my own character and capacity growing all of the time. I will always be thankful to the people who trusted me to grow into the role, especially during the years when others had shown a distinct lack of faith in anything I had to offer on both professional and personal levels.

Ultimately, I became the only ever-present over the course of the years the Summer Schools were active and I learned such a lot from all of the remarkable teachers, TAs and children with whom I worked.

The chess was a memorable part of the events, of course, but amid the ocean of other excellent activities and outings on offer, I can tell you the time when everyone was universally at their happiest was when we made and flew simple kites on the Sunday afternoon.

It was only a few years later that I discovered this remarkable song by Patty Griffin, which somehow encapsulates the experience of those summer days when, just for a couple of hours, the biggest problem anyone - child or adult - had to worry about was a nothing more than a tangled string.

''The Sunday after there was laughter in the air
Everybody had a kite
They were flying everywhere
And all the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream
All the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream...''

''How the little dreams we dream
Are all we can really do...''

Monday 11 March 2019

Book Presentation

News has reached me from of my best and most loyal friends, Nevil Chan.

Nevil has helped me in so many ways over the years and it is always a great pleasure to work with him. 

Nevil's news featured the presentation of a book that looks a shade on the familiar side.

''Attached photo presenting Karen Giles a rare antiquarian book at the Brent Schools' Chess League prize-giving after final rounds last Thursday. Karen is headteacher at Barham Primary who have hosted the league match meets since inception in 2013-14.

The school was instrumental in helping to forge the link between Chess in Schools and Communities and Barclaycard when they offered to open up especially during one half-term to host an Internet match against German pupils. David Chan, the then CEO of Barclaycard Europe, attended this inaugural event and the rest is history.''

Indeed, we enjoyed three fine years with the Barclaycard volunteers before the project came to an unfortunate end.

Saturday 9 March 2019


Anyone who knows me will understand I don't usually comment on political issues.

Yet when I hear that 'experts' are blaming school exclusions for the rise in knife crime, drugs and gangs it really is too much of a red rag.

It is also cheap scapegoating of the worst kind.

It appears someone, somewhere has spotted two graphs with a similar-looking curve and used one to excuse the other - and let loose a rallying cry of 'blame the schools.'

Anyone who has worked in schools will be able to present a more balanced point of view. They will understand, for one thing, that school exclusions are extremely difficult to process (many years) and are only utilised as an absolute final resort. They are not something that could - or should - be commonplace or utilised on a whim.

Does anyone outside of education really understand or appreciate what schools are up against at the moment? It seems unlikely.

Year after year of budget cuts have come tumbling down from above. I try hard to convince schools of the benefits of introducing chess to their internal culture, at a relatively small cost - and all the time the very same schools are having to let staff go because they can no longer afford to keep everyone in work.

I have had Headteachers virtually in tears because they desperately want to keep an ethos of enrichment in their schools but simply do not have the financial resources to do so.

Class sizes continue to go through the roof. Who, now, remembers the promises from above to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 25 - and to keep them there? I do.

Countless teachers I have known have had to retire from the world of education for a variety of reasons, usually involving copious amounts of pressure. Fine, dedicated people who found the job was suddenly worlds away from the one they dreamed of doing. The felt they could no longer make a difference, when the desire to make a difference was the very reason they chose a career in education in the first place.

Yes - the problems of gangs, drugs and knife crime have complex backgrounds and causes. There are plenty of sizeable elephants in the room which nobody dare even mention (and to which I may return another time). If you a want a war on drugs, for example, do it properly.

But meanwhile, I can reiterate what I said more than once before. In all of my schools I know for sure how dedicated and committed the staff are, despite plenty of challenges and lengthening hours of duty.

So please...don't blame the schools.

Friday 8 March 2019

Thursday 7 March 2019

Brand New Shadow

We are no strangers to shadows here on Teesside. Who can forget the impact made by my excellent friends Andrew MacQueen, Sean Cassidy and John Lydon? Yes, Teesside always enjoys visits by the shadows and all are welcome to return any time they like.

This week it was the turn of Jo Hutchinson, who had been present at my highly memorable Hull Training Day. Jo travelled all the way from Scunthorpe to shadow me for two full days in a couple of our Teesside schools.

The first of the two days was spent at The Links Primary School and Jo had a very good day teaching the children of Y4, Y5 and Y6 and facilitating rounds of the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge.

A post-school chess challenge was issued and, try as I might, I could not distract my illustrious opponent from the game.

Even a celeriac and mushroom risotto failed to prevent intense analysis of our moves...nor did a very green smoothie from Mint Hobo.

The second day was spent at Park End Primary (stars of The One Show), where, of course, virtually every member of staff is as chess-mad as the children.

It was a day of Y3s and Y5s; six groups of children in total. Jo even found the time to play some of our excellent chess-playing staff, including the wonderful Miss King, who put up a very good fight in a Dutch Defence.

Then, fuelled by a wonderful Park End lunch... was time for a big game with Mr Tapner.

Sorry, Mr Tapner - but that is checkmate!

Jo was excellent company and I hope we can work together again very soon.

The only problem is...the children all now want Jo to be their regular chess teacher, instead of me! (Eh...!?)

Thank you to everyone at both The Links and Park End for making the two days such a wonderful experience and for giving Jo a great Teesside welcome.

Monday 4 March 2019

2019 Teesside Megafinal Details

Event: 2019 Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge Teesside Megafinal. This for anyone who has qualified for a Megafinal through their own school or club. Over-11s (children at Secondary/Senior schools) do not need to qualify; they can just enter at this stage.

Venue: Yarm Senior School, specifically the Princess Alexandra Auditorium.  This is one of the North East's premier concert venues and we are delighted to be back here. Parking is available on site.

Date: Sunday 5 May 2019

Timings: Please arrive for 9.30 a.m. Play will start at 10.00 a.m. The prize giving will be at approximately 5.00 p.m.

The full list of timings and other information can be found on the UKCC website.

Format: All players will play six rounds, on the Swiss system. We will combine some of the sections but the champions of each one will receive the trophies and titles. Tied places will be resolved by the Sum of Progressive Scores tiebreaker.

Arbiter: Sean Marsh

Gigafinal Qualification: All players require three and a half or more points out of six to qualify for the Manchester Gigafinal. 

The full Gigafinal dates have now been confirmed:

London, 29-30 June 2019, Orleans Park School, Twickenham

Midlands, 6-7 July 2019, Grace Academy, Solihull

Northern, 13-14 July, Wright Robinson College, Manchester

Southern, 20-21 July, Sandown Park Racecourse

The tournament is not just about qualifying for the Gigafinal. It should be seen primarily as an excellent experience for all competitors who will be able to learn a lot by playing against new opponents from a large number of different schools.

If you have not qualified for a Megafinal and would like to try to do so, please consider the Last Chance Saloons.

General Information: 

The Megafinal has a set number of places. Once these have been booked the online entry system will not allow any more.

We cannot accept any more entries once the Megafinal is full and we will definitely not be able to take extra entries on the day.

If you miss out on a place on Teesside, please try another Megafinal. They are listed here.

We cannot offer full supervision anywhere outside of the playing rooms. Parents/guardians must supervise their children at all times other than when the children are in the playing rooms.

Parents, guardians, teachers and chess coaches will not be allowed in the playing rooms during the rounds.

Problems arising during the games will be solved by the tournament Arbiter. Children must alert the Arbiter to any problems by raising their hand. It is very difficult to solve problems retrospectively.

The venue's cafe will be open and basic refreshments will be on sale throughout the day. However, we advise you to bring a packed lunch too.

We will be working very hard on the day trying to ensure everyone has a great time. As usual with our events, we want to keep the pressure on the children to an absolute minimum. To help protect this ethos, we want the children to relax between the rounds and to temporarily forget about their chess battles. It would be greatly appreciated if all parents, guardians, teachers, chess coaches et al supported this ethos too and helped all of the children to enjoy the day without applying any pressure between the rounds.

Full reports will appear across our range of social media platforms. Please let me know on the day if you have any concerns regarding the use of photographs.

The Arbiter's decision in all matters relating to the tournament is final.

A full list of Megafinal rules can be found on the UKCC website.

Sunday 3 March 2019

International Chess Challenge: Both Games On!

The King's Gambit between Yarm Senior School and Hutt International Boys' School in New Zealand is getting very lively.

We last saw the position after 4 h4.

Yarm Senior School v Hutt International Boys' School

Now both sides have moved again.

4 ...g4

Meeting fire with fire, Black refuses to allow the pawn structure to be dismantled and the threatened pawn moves forward, attacking the knight.

5 Ne5

Black to play
The knight moves to the most aggressive post. Often, in the King's Gambit, the knight will be sacrificed on f7 to further reduce the pawn protection of the black king.

Meanwhile, the game between Hutt International Boys' School ands Park End Primary has started too.

Park End Primary v Hutt International Boys' School
1 g3 e6

In contrast to the Yarm game, this one has seen a cautious start by both sides, which will see both sides developing their pieces calmly before any major conflict occurs.

White to play

Yarm Prep. School UKCC

Yarm Prep. School had their Delancey UK Chess Challenge yesterday.

61 children entered the tournament, and there were players all the way from Year 2s (playing in their first-ever chess event) up to Year 6s.

We had a very good day and 16 players qualified for the Teesside Megafinal (more on that event in the next report).

Well done everyone!