On Wednesday 29 th June 2022 the unthinkable happened in Stoke, a High School chess tournament took place! Four high schools brought teams to compete to decide who would be Stoke High Schools Chess Champions 2022. In total, 36 students enjoyed their first taste of competitive chess, all having to use logic, critical thinking and reasoning skills in every game to try and get the better of their opponents.

Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) a few years ago had provided free sets in order for the schools to kickstart their clubs. This investment is now being reaped as the new era of chess players starts to enter competitive play. The charity prides itself on introducing as many children to the game because of the social and academic benefits it brings. With the beginning of tournament play and possible school on school matches in the making the pupils will start to want to improve quicker than their rivals and should be chomping at the bit for new strategies and techniques.

A huge credit must go to Mr L. Brown of St. Thomas More’s Catholic Academy (STMCA), who was a product of a school chess club himself, for his dedication in running a club for years and being able to host such a prestigious event. Making use of the 6 th form area the tournament ran in excellent conditions while still making it possible for spectators to watch from the sidelines. Clearly STMCA is a school on the up when willing to provide time and space to extra-curricular activities and enhance the social awareness of the pupils it cares for.

Such has been the success of chess clubs in High Schools around Stoke it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to suggest you could have 10 schools entering teams totalling near 100 pupils (the next target). Many schools weren’t ready to send a team as they don’t know what to expect, but with the local newspaper turning up and the positive feedback from other chess club leaders who did attend I can see this event spiralling out of control! A big thank you to the teachers who did bring their pupils, finding cover and organising transport is never easy.

It was a team event over 4 rounds with 20 minutes total for the games to complete and then adjudicated if still unfinished. There was a clear first place with Birches Head Academy scoring 13/16 points, 2 nd went to Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews A and 3 rd went to Blythe Bridge Rooks on tiebreak from STMCA A team. All individuals received a certificate of participation and winners' medals were provided by CSC with Birches Head taking home the trophy and this year’s bragging rights.