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This year, Blue Coat’s Chess Club entered two teams into Merseyside Chess Association’s Junior League. The Junior League has two divisions with teams from Southport, Wirral and Liverpool junior chess clubs, as well as a number of school chess clubs, competing for promotion and the coveted division title. This was Blue Coat’s first venture into competitive chess in over 14 years and, with some of the competitors playing in adult leagues as well as junior leagues, we knew that the level of chess we were going to encounter was always going to be high!

Our first fixture in November, at Merchant Taylors, saw mixed success. Our Division 1 team came away with just half a point after Year 8 student Jack managed to fight for a draw but all five students played excellent games. The team’s first game was against the infamous Liverpool Juniors 1, a team who have not only stormed to victory in the Junior Division 1 League, but also topped the Adult Division 5 League. Amongst their ranks is our very own Year 9 student Frank, who was paired against our very own Ethan. Frank is currently undefeated in our internal school league, it is no surprise that his teammates are all of a similar high standard. Whilst we were clearly outranked and this was apparent in our 0-5 loss, this result didn’t reflect the great standard of chess displayed by the team – to be drawn against Liverpool Juniors 1 in our very first match was just unlucky. Our second match was against Liverpool Juniors 2, another difficult team but which earned us our first half point! This round lasted longer, with some good battles being fought on the board.

Our Division 2 team had quite a different set of results. The Division 2 team played 3 matches on that day, all against Merchant Taylors teams. The first match saw us win 4:1, with some great games in particular from Year 8 students Joshua and Jude. After a quick team shuffle we took on Merchant Taylor Girls B. This was a slightly closer game, with the result being 3:2. The final round was against Merchant Taylor Juniors A. The eventual league winners won this match, beating us 4:1 but both Year 9 student Prashanti and Joshua drew their games against these tough opponents. It would be wrong not to also mention Jude again, who was one of the last to leave the hall after a very long, solid match with his opponent. It was a very close call but eventually Merchant’s claimed the victory. We left this fixture in a very strong position, with the potential to take a podium finish.

Our second fixture saw us take on Wirral Juniors. Wirral Juniors U9s recently got through to the Northern Junior finals in Nottingham and so again, we were up against a club with a strong reputation! The fixture was especially important for our Division 2 team as winning this match meant that we would finish in 2nd place, which would be a great result for our first season. Due to a Pangea Maths Final competition in London we were missing a few of our more seasoned veterans who had been with us at Merchant Taylor’s but we had some very capable new entries into the starting line-ups for both our Division 1 and 2 teams. Division 1 saw a good win for Year 11 student Parth, in his first competitive chess match for the school. David fought his way to a draw after a lengthy battle and Year 10 student Ben claimed our second win of the match. Both Year 11 student Sai and Jonothan were just pipped to the post by their opponents but both games were still really interesting to spectate and at times could have gone either way. Drawing the match 2.5:2.5 was a great result, and meant that we moved up a place to 4th, having kept the bottom spot warm since November.

Division 2 also had a close call, winning 3:2. The win meant that we finished in 2nd place overall in the division. After 4 boards had finished the result was 2:2 so the chance for 2nd place sat with Year 10 George. Lots of eager eyes were on George, and he went a rook down early in the game but he kept a cool head and took his time which paid off for him with him taking our 3rd point of the match and securing 2nd place. Both Year 8 students Ishaan and Aryan played well, and Aryan was another brand new face to the team so taking on a team as strong as Wirral was a great challenge.

After the match we were treated to a “simul” game with two local masters, Women’s FIDE Master Maria Rodrigo Yanguas, who had been visiting Liverpool Chess Club from Spain during 6 months of study in the UK, and local International Master Gary Quillan. Whilst the simul was being set up several students took on Liverpool Juniors and Wirral in some friendly blitz games. Sai played several matches against Liverpool’s Bashar, a very experienced and formidable young player who has had the privilege of meeting Garry Kasparov. Sai is well known in our club for his blitz games and so Sai vs Bashar always promised to be a good match. Bashar ended up winning but it gave Sai the opportunity to play a very worthy opponent! Several other blitz games were played, with Aryan pairing himself up against Marek from Liverpool, taking on a huge challenge. Marek told Aryan that he played well but Marek won the game. Jonothan played Gary Quillan’s daughter, Penny, who had taken home a trophy in a competition just two weeks before.

Maria and Gary took on 14 boards each and students got to experience chess played at some of the highest levels. All students played very admirably and treated the games with respect. Some of our students came away with draws which was a fantastic result given the difference in ratings but as expected, the Masters took the majority of the wins. A lot of the students recorded their games and so far analysis suggests that there were plenty of high rated moves played! Well done in particular to Ben and Prashanti for their games. For a playthrough of Ben’s game with Maria please click here. Ben’s game was one of the longest of the simul, and he started with his classic English opening, a current club favourite due to Ben’s extensive promotion of it!

Next season we will be looking to enter 3 teams into the 2 junior leagues in Merseyside and keep improving our position. Although we might not yet be at the same lofty heights as the 70s and 80s where we were national champions, with the level of commitment and enthusiasm which the club has shown this year then there’s every chance of getting back to that position. Well done to every student who has represented the school this year at Chess, whether as part of the team or as an individual participant at an English Chess Federation event.

Miss Jennifer Long, Old Blues Class of 2009 – Chess Club Coordinator

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