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Lords Debate Chess in Schools

"Chess Notes" from County Down Spectator, 11 Dec 2003

In recent discussions in the House of Lords, the Government stated that it was committed to encouraging the playing of Chess in Schools. The government has already provided funding to the British Chess Federation to develop programs in schools including a handbook showing how chess can be used to raise levels of motivation and achievement. Interestingly, studies in New York, USA have shown that just by learning and playing chess, children make significant improvements in other curriculum subjects. Lord Addington said "Chess should be integrated into the curriculum".

It was also revealed that Chess is the only sport or leisure activity to receive funding directly from the government rather than through a Sports or Arts Council. Perhaps this explains the difficulties Ulster Chess faces in developing the game in the province. Despite the clear benefits of playing chess for children, the government say they are "not sure who is in charge of chess ... it certainly is not ... Her Majesty's Government" placing the onus firmly with "chess players themselves"!

Lord Harrison said Chess appeals to young people "because it is artistic, logical, sociable, vandal-free, and a clash of skills, wills and ideas". Bangor Chess Club and several secondary schools in Bangor and Holywood offer children access to this noble sport. Although support for the game is strong in North Down, there is much more can be done to promote the game and the life-skills it helps develop. From 7:00pm on Thursday evenings, Bangor Chess Club run a junior club for youngsters of all ages. Visitors are always welcome.

Carnegie

The Carnegie Team visited Clifton House on Tuesday to play the prime league contenders. Seriously out-gunned again on all boards, Carnegie were in for a hard-time.

On board 1 Eddie Whiteside opened against the current Ulster Champion Tom Clarke. Eddie was rapidly pushed back into a difficult defensive position and after 10 moves was forced to resign an unplayable position.

Mark Newman defended resolutely on board 2. In a tense positional battle, neither player was able to gain advantage until the end-game approached. Slowly Mark was able to marshal his remaining pieces into an attacking formation but time was running out. In the end, Mark accepted a draw with only 10 minutes left on his clock.

Board 3, James O'Fee opened with White. In a bizarre move, his opponent sacrificed a piece to gain an attack but instead, immediately offered a draw! In such an unclear position, James agreed to share the honours. The post-mortem showed James may have had good winning chances.

Alan McConnell on board 4 championed his Caro-Kann as usual. Tonight he struggled against fierce opposition, constantly on the defensive with no respite. But with careful play he was able to restrain White's onslaught, dragging the game into a draw.

Mark Seidman's opening was met with aggressive and uncompromising play. Black took Mark into unfamiliar territory, castling on the Queen's side. Mark forced the queens off but after a dubious sacrifice, an innocent pawn push forked Mark's Knight and Rook. With a piece down, Mark was unable to recover, conceding the game.

Carnegie lost the match 1.5 - 3.5 giving Clifton House the honours as league leaders even with a game in hand. Captain Mark Newman was uncharacteristically silent after the match. Despite reasonable performances from a stable team, Carnegie languish at the bottom of the league. This was the team's last match for 2003; perhaps the Christmas break will give the them time to regroup and bounce back in January for the rest of the season.

Winston

Winston travelled to Fortwilliam on Wednesday expecting a good result. Unfortunately regular board 2 Ken Browne was unavailable and lower boards had to move up bringing in Owen Wilson on board 5.

On Board 1, Evan Bell opened with his familiar Trompovsky. Evan soon gained a pawn advantage but Black responded effectively forcing a draw.
Richard Morrow moved up to take Ken Browne's place on board 2 as Black. Richard responded with a Sicilian evidently playing into the hands of his opponent. White continued aggressively with a very sharp attack. Richard struggled to find counter-play and nursing a passed pawn capitulated late in the middle-game.

Gary Johnston's game on board 3 started slowly with neither side wanting to commit to attack prematurely. Eventually Gary launched his Queen's pawns forward bringing his Queen and black Bishop over attacking Black's castled King down the a-h diagonals. When Gary's Queen made check from close quarters, Black's King was trapped and fell soon afterwards.

Regular Board 4, David Symington opened into a Queen's Pawn game and entered the middle-game with a slight positional advantage and good prospects. Black coun\240tered well regaining balance and forced a draw.

Board 5, Owen Wilson opened strongly with a sharp King's pawn game. Exchanges remained balanced into a pawn end-game. However, Black had positional advantage with a passed pawn which proved too much for Owen's defences.

The final score was 2-3 in favour of Fortwilliam. A close result; Winston fail to pick up any bonus points keeping them in the bottom half of the league but with a match in hand.

Templar

Templar entertained Bombardier on Thursday's club night. Anticipating strong opposition and wanting to claim points from their league rival, captain Drew Ferguson stepped down to bolster top boards with an extra player. The result was another close call decided on a late finish on board 2 with Templar trailing and needing a win from Martin Rogers to draw the match.

Martin Moorcroft defended on board 1 against a strong Alapin Sicilian challenge. Martin was feeling the pressure demanding careful and precise play. Earlier successes in the season had sharpened his play and he was able to force a draw.

Mike McKimm moved to board 3 to make room for Martin Rogers. Mike responded with Benko's Gambit to White's Benoni. Declining the gambit, White gained position after a few exchanges. His opponent was able to capitalise on faster development to launch a successful attack through Mike's vulnerable Queen's side.

David Grzymek opened on board 4 with a Queen's pawn game. After forceful play from both sides, both pairs of Rooks ended up facing each other on the c file. The exchange looked even and both players agreed a draw. Subsequent analysis revealed a win for Black so an excellent result for David; good call!

Board 5 Philip Todd opened with Black, forced into a French Exchange and a stodgy position. With no way forward for either player, Philip reluctantly accepted a draw.

After 4 games, Templar were trailing by one point. Martin Rogers' game on board 2 would decide the outcome but the team needed a win to claim any bonus. Martin had gained a positional advantage into the end-game with his King's side pawns advancing toward promotion. With a Knight-Rook against a Bishop-Rook, Martin was able to manoeuvre his resources into a cohesive fighting unit. This was enough to maintain a slight edge and his opponent's time was running out. In nerve-wracking style, Martin shunned forceful moves to claim the game when Black's flag finally fell.

A sigh of relief for Templar when Martin's win gave the team share of the drawn match. Templar are able to hold their tiny margin at 2nd slot in the league. However, its unlikely Templar will be able hold their position with 3 challengers only half a point behind them and a miserable match in prospect against league leaders Fisherwick. Fisherwick already dominate Division 2 with a 6 point lead, almost unassailable even at this early stage.

This Weeks Fixtures

Carnegie get a deserved rest this week while Groomsport travel to Civil Service on Wednesday. Groomsport call up Martin Rogers from Templar to replace absent Albert McCarter. Templar were due to visit Fisherwick on Wednesday but were forced to ask for a postponement after losing 3 top boards and unable to find enough replacements. The match has been rescheduled for early January. Winston entertain RVH Ravens on Thursday' s club night; an important match to win and lift the team into the middle rankings.

Next Weeks Fixtures

In the final league fixtures for 2003, only Division 2 teams play so both Carnegie and Groomsport have a free week. Winston travel to Fisherwick on Wednesday while Templar, back at full-strength, entertain Hillsborough at home on Thursday.

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