The colourful and warm late spring followed by glorious weather in the summer provided many chess parents with a welcome respite from the tedium of traversing the country in pursuit of the many EPSCA National Finals, Delancey Terafinals and England final saloon qualifiers and play-off that feature so heavily in normal times as the season reaches its climax. Copthorne Chess Club did its best to keep our players engaged, running weekly Lichess practice sessions that ran from the end of the spring term, through the Easter holidays, and throughout the summer term and summer holidays. With so many of our Copthorne girls involved in the Sussex U11 Girls’ squad training sessions as well, it was a pleasure to see so much improvement in the playing strengths of all those involved, and both and girls alike deserve to be congratulated for their effort and commitment.
Online tournaments have provided an opportunity for some competitive play, but suitable tournaments have been rather thin on the ground for juniors. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when Middlesex, one of the strongest chess counties, announced they would hold their 2020 Girls Chess Championships online. This was the first ‘girls-only’ tournament to take place since late 2019 and although we discovered it just days before, many of our Sussex Girls’ squad participated, including a significant number from Years 2 and 3 for whom this was their first opportunity to play a graded tournament. In the U7 section, Copthorne’s Zeel S and Sienna M did brilliantly, finishing 2nd and 4th respectively behind the red-hot favourite, the UK #1 ranked Emily Bryant. Sienna, who suffered some internet problems during the early stages, remained focused and tenacious in her play and deservedly won a special Arbiter’s award. The U9 section featured three Year 4 girls ranked in the top-10 by the ECF with grades between 60 and 70, but this didn’t faze a determined Maddy L who fought splendidly coming 4th and winning the Top U8 Girl medal. In the U11 section, Copthorne helped Sussex put a marker down for the EPSCA U11 Girls Inter-County National Finals that have just been confirmed by the ECF for Oxford in March 2021. Amelie R won the event with 5.5/6, Seha K (Sussex) finished 3rd with 4.5/6, Niamh G had a great 4th place with 3.5/6, and Natalie V-H finished a very creditable 9th.
Adi G and Avyanna S continue to impress in the online Delancey activities they are both enthusiastically involved in. Avyanna recently played in the finals of the Delancey U8 Mixed Blitz tournament and won Gold for Top U8 Girl, a great achievement against strong opposition. Adi, meanwhile, has similarly been taking on juniors from across the country in solving a special variant of chess puzzle which even chess engines can’t solve. These puzzles require great lateral thinking, and many have been set as a challenge to the chess community but have often taken decades to eventually solve. Adi’s prize was a stunning Isle of Lewis chess piece and my personal favourite, the Knight.
Closer to home, East Grinstead Chess Club were kind enough to host a double-header over two weekends (25th October and 1st November) against Crowborough Chess Club. Copthorne provided almost half of the 20 children involved with Adi, Amelie, Rafe C and Sorcha C representing Crowborough whilst Aidan B, Natalie V-H, Niamh and Taran S represented East Grinstead. Although Crowborough got the final nod, the real winners were the children for whom an opportunity to play over-the-board chess in a great venue (The Bookshop) against players they haven’t been able to meet with for so long was something of a treat. As Copthorne children often had to play each other, the individual results are not especially important, but Adi, Aidan, Amelie and Rafe all won both their games. There was even time for a few friendlies, including one where Euan B who is in Reception played Natalie from Year 6.