The English Primary Schools’ Chess Association (EPSCA) exists “to advance the education of primary school aged children by teaching, supervising and developing the playing of chess by those children.”
E.P.S.C.A. holds three annual team championships for member associations – Under 9, Under 11, and Girls Under 11.
The U11 Girls Championship is for teams of 12, plus reserves. Unlike the Under-9 and Under-11 championships, there are no qualifying stages, but Sussex usually compete in a local “4-Counties” match kindly organised by EPSCA’s Nigel Dennis before the final in March.
|Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Total|
Torrin Bell, Laura Borland, Elena Currah, Leah Douglas, Elizabeth Finn, Sanjana Karthikeyan, Charlotte Kay, Eloise Kay, Grace Lamb, Lauren Manchester, Maya McMahon, Lydia Munn, Ruby Nunns, Amelie Rees, Sophie Rees, Ruby Rayment, Evie Seddon, Polina Shchepinova
The 2016 EPSCA U11 Girls final was held in Cheadle Hulme, near Manchester, presenting Sussex parents and supporters with a considerable logistical challenge. A planned team dinner on Friday became a long drawn-out affair, as parents kept arriving late into the evening with various tales of motorway woe. We also heard that Sussex coach Jonathan Tuck had unfortunately been taken ill and would miss the final.
Spirits were revived on Saturday by a hearty breakfast and, thanks to the accommodating staff of the local Premier Inn, the girls were able to get some valuable last-minute practice before setting off for Cheadle Hulme School. The event was to consist of nine teams, and we were aware that every point would have to be hard-won in a high-quality competition. For Sussex’s very young team – only two of the 16 girls are in year 6 – the target was to improve on last year’s 6th place and perhaps achieve a podium position.
Reserves often get a poor deal at EPSCA finals, but we were delighted to find that this was not the case at Cheadle Hulme. Barnet, Lancashire, Wey Valley and Manchester had all brought several reserve players, and the reserve tournament was held in the main playing hall with a very efficient dedicated controller. Maya, Ruby, Sanjana and Sophie were joined by Amelie and Charlotte as ‘unofficial reserves’, and Maya and Sanjana went on to secure equal first position and book prizes with scores of 3/3. There were several games of exceptionally high quality, and the Sussex girls enjoyed the tournament so much that all four official reserves declined the chance to be ‘promoted’ to the main team as substitutes in round 3! Competition for places in the 2017 Sussex girls team will again be fierce…
In the main competition Sussex’s boards 1-12 got off to a slow start in round 1, scoring 6.5/12. Barnet and Notts proved to have formidable teams, and one or two half-points slipped away towards the close of this round. Equal 4th place was a little disappointing, but it was pointed out that the 2012 team had started with 6.5 points and then rallied to finish with bronze medals. We also felt that a slightly less daunting line-up of opponents (only one game vs Barnet!) promised better for round 2.
This proved to be the case, as the team’s score improved significantly to 8.5/12. Ruby, Lydia and Lauren continued their perfect starts, and Elena bounced back from a first-round loss with an attractive victory. Polina, Laura and Grace, who had all drawn in the first-round, also secured their first wins. Ruby’s win was against Lancashire, who had been in third place after round one, and with results falling favourably elsewhere we learned that Sussex had progressed to third place, only 2.5 points behind Notts.
The team managers were concerned that fatigue would be a factor in the final round – but we need not have been! Perhaps the sight of snow falling outside proved inspirational? Or perhaps the brownies shared out to celebrate Eloise’s 10th birthday? For whatever reason, Sussex saved the best to last and scored an outstanding 9.5/12 in round 3. Lauren notched up our only victory against Barnet of the day, to achieve a perfect 3/3, and she was joined in this maximum score by Ruby, who as in round two was able to win from an unpromising position. Laura and Grace finished undefeated, and both Elizabeth and Leah, who had been faced with Barnet and Notts in the first two rounds, bounced back to finish with a win. Alas, Notts also performed strongly in this round, so Sussex were unable to close the gap, but the team’s excellent closing performance was comfortably enough to secure third place and Sussex’s first medals in this competition since 2013.
The atmosphere in the team room throughout the day was excellent and very supportive; nobody would have guessed that the 16 Sussex girls attend 15 different schools and have only met through Sussex Junior Chess. That they were able to have so much fun at this event is of course due to the amazing support provided by parents, siblings and relations, who took days off work, undertook the long journey to Manchester and warmly encouraged the girls through thick and thin. We believe that Sussex is unique in this level of family participation. Catherine and Tom would also like to record their sincere gratitude for the gifts organised for them as team managers. Due to a lack of resources at other counties, Mark Currah, Rob Kay, Sandra Manchester and David Munn all spent the whole day on their feet as board stewards in the playing hall; our thanks to them on behalf of SJC and EPSCA. The Sussex squad has benefited greatly from a range of SJC coaches over this season, but we would particularly like to mention Cassie Graham for her successful efforts to inspire the girls. .
We extend our congratulations to Barnet, who finished as deserving winners after an amazing clean sweep in round two, and to Notts. We are very grateful to Julian Clissold and his Manchester colleagues and Peter Purland for providing such a picturesque venue and an immaculately-run event. Sadly we now have to say goodbye to Polina and Leah as Sussex U11 team members, but we wish them well in their change of school over the summer and in their senior school chess careers. For the rest of the squad, the challenge will be to see whether we can improve further on a bronze medal position in 2017. One thing we can be sure of: Sussex girls chess will continue to be great fun.
Catherine and Tom
It has become traditional for our U9 and U11 Girl squads to warm up for their respective zone matches later in the month with a friendly practice match. This year that took place at our training day in Bexhill.
The boys were missing a few of their regular players, but the girls put in a tremendous display to win the Sir Patrick Moore Trophy for the first time.
Thanks to Tom Borland and Catherine Finn (Girls team) supported by Cassie Graham; and to Anthony Higgs (U9 Boys) supported by Mike Forster.
|Round 1||Round 2||Total|
|Sussex U9 Boys||7½||4½||12|
|Sussex U11 Girls||12½||15½||28|
Elena Currah, Leah Douglas, Elizabeth Finn, Eloise Kay, Grace Lamb, Lauren Manchester, Maya McMahon, Lydia Munn, Ruby Nunns, Sophie Rees, Ruby Rayment, Evie Seddon, Polina Shchepinova, Torrin Whiting
This year the traditional multi-county U11 girls’ friendly was replaced by a head-to-head match between Sussex and Barnet, one of the strongest chess-playing regions in England. The match was hosted by Sussex at Copthorne Prep School and was played over ten boards and two rounds.
Sussex were Black on all boards in round one and got off to a flying start, with quick wins by Leah and Torrin. The other games were more even contests, but Sussex prevailed in the majority of cases to post a first-round lead of 6.5-3.5. There were particularly impressive wins on the higher boards by Elizabeth and Ruby Nunns, an excellent fightback by Elena and dogged defence by Grace, enough to secure a draw. Lydia won a particularly exciting game in which there were at one point a remarkable number of pieces en prise on both sides.
The Sussex team was rejigged for the second round, to enable all the girls to play at least once in the top 10 and to ensure that no player met the same opponent twice; we also had to cope with the loss of Lydia, who was unfortunately taken ill. Unperturbed, the Sussex girls put in another commendable performance to secure a 6-4 win in this round and a 12.5-7.5 victory in the overall match. Highlights of this round were a rapid win for Grace, some excellent attacking chess by Sophie, a second demonstration of Elena’s endgame technique, another immaculate and assured win by Ruby Nunns and, in the last game to finish, a well-deserved win by Polina. Ruby Rayment also secured a point when her unlucky opponent ran out of time as she appeared about to deliver checkmate. Also unlucky was Evie, who had achieved a winning position on board 5 but saw all her hard work undone by just one mistaken king move.
This was a very encouraging result for the Sussex girls, and it bodes well for the annual match against the U9 boys’ team in Bexhill. We are very grateful to Copthorne Prep School, for providing such an attractive venue, and to our visitors from Barnet, for providing strong opposition in an event which was played in a most friendly spirit.
Thanks also to Jonathan and Trevor for their help and insight over the course of the afternoon and to all the parents who, as well as supporting their daughters, assisted with carrying equipment, setting-up and catering tasks.
Catherine Finn & Tom Borland