Blue Coat School Chess Club is inspiring other local schools by starting a new league as part of its powerful come-back after being defunct for almost a decade and a half.
It has set up the Secondary Schools Congress with four other Merseyside schools and others are keen to join. Presently the aim is to hold friendly matches with a long-term goal of growing it into a more formal league.
This will give other Liverpool schools a taste of competitive chess and allow key players to meet, as currently other schools are not competing in the same leagues as Blue Coat and only offer their members internal matches.
“Blue Coat School was very big in chess during the 1970s and we want to get back to that place. I want it to be as common place a sporting choice for our students as joining the football or netball teams,” said Old Blue Jenny Long from the Class of 2009, who single-handedly revived the Chess Club’s a few years ago after a 14 year gap.
The turn-around in the club’s fortunes has suddenly taken off: for a long time it only met weekly with 12 players at most, but this recently increased to thrice weekly meetings, attracting an average of 45-60 players.
In 2019, Blue Coat fielded two teams in the Merseyside Chess Association League and this has now expanded to five teams. In the first round this year, in February 2020, our Team 1 became top of the league (rising from bottom in 2019) and Team 2 is in second place.
Jenny said: “Activity is the key thing, initially knowing that we can compete at club level and now being able to put teams into county and regional competitions.
“That’s why the Secondary Schools Chess Congress is so important, as it’s an ideal chance for less-experienced students to compete to gain confidence and move to a higher level.”
Malcolm Payne, the International Chess Master from Liverpool and Founder/Chief Executive of the Chess in Schools & Communities charity, is an enthusiastic supporter of the new Secondary Schools Congress and the revival of student chess in the city.
He visited Blue Coat School to play simultaneously on 21 boards against members and, keeping his reputation intact, won all matches.
The School’s 60 Chess Club members split equally into competition and casual players. To Jenny’s disappointment these are all male, but that reflects the game’s history
“Women were actually discouraged from playing and internationally the split is 91 per cent male players and nine per cent female. When I arrived at one club to compete an official asked me if I was there to watch my boyfriend play!
“I was taught by my father and it’s a fascinating game of puzzles and tactics which anyone can enjoy. There are more combinations of moves than atoms in the universe.”
Her other ambitions are for students to sit the English Chess Federation’s Certificate of Chess Excellence exam and use the game for to gain the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in skills and service playing with community groups.