The Southern Semi-Finals of the English Chess Federation National Schools Girls Chess Championships will be held on Sunday, 15th January at St Catherine’s School, Bramley. Organised by International Master, Andrew Martin, of the ECF and generously sponsored by the hosts, St Catherine’s Bramley, over 200 girls will represent 70 schools from across the south of England in under 11 and under 19 sections, all hoping to secure the coveted places in the National Final being held at the same venue in April. This is the largest gathering of female competitive chess players in English history and the enthusiasm of the participants, building since the first of these events four years ago, suggests that chess, hitherto saddled with a male dominated image, may be about to see a change for the better.
Last year’s winners of the under 19 section, Howell School, who are travelling all the way from Cardiff, in Wales, can boast a formidable team including several Welsh internationals, but will nonetheless face stiff competition from several strong rivals. However, as Andrew Martin points out, this is not all about coming top but is also a great chance for the girls to play a game they love, make new friends from across the country and simply have an enjoyable and exciting day out. Not being a knock-out competition, all teams will play every round, so every player will have the opportunity to perform to the best of their ability over several games in a well-organised tournament setting. The top two teams in each section will receive trophies and the top six will qualify for the National Finals with all team members receiving a medal for their achievement.
NSCC website – http://englishchess.org.uk/NSCC/
The host school, St Catherine’s Bramley, is an independent Church of England girls school, founded in 1885, and caters for pupils from the age of 4-18. They have a proud history of academic excellence, with a high proportion of their students being admitted to top universities, and they also put a strong emphasis on social development and the importance of serving the community. The tournament will take place in the Anniversary Halls, a facility for sports and the arts, opened in July 2011 to celebrate 125 years of providing education and service to the community.