NSCC Team Chess Challenge 2019

Team Chess Challenge Final, Imperial College – Wednesday 3rd April 2019

Fourteen teams contested the Final of the Team Chess Challenge, now in its sixth year.  Neill Cooper invented the format of this event in 2014.  The idea is that many schools can field a team of only four chess players and the rapidplay time limit (ten minutes per player plus a two second increment) means that exciting, fast chess is guaranteed and five rounds can be accommodated in about three hours.  The Swiss format also means that teams find their own level and many matches are closely contested; the Final is decided by game points (rather than match points) so every game counts and the contribution of the lower boards is just as important as that of the stronger players.

The first round was seeded according to rapidplay gradings and so perhaps it was not too surprising that four teams scored the maximum four points: Eltham College, Millfield School, Royal Grammar School Newcastle (top seeds) and Westminster School. Westminster demolished Eltham by a maximum score in round 2 whilst RGS did almost as well, defeating Millfield 3.5 – 0.5. A large gap opened up after round 3 when RGS disposed of Westminster 3 – 1 and they cruised to victory thereafter, defeating Nottingham High School 3.5 – 0.5 and Eltham College by the same margin to retain their title with the highly impressive score of 17.5/20, a point more than they achieved last year. Millfield finished second (15) but sum-of-progressive scores were needed as a tie-break to allocate Westminster the trophies for third place, ahead of Eltham and Nottingham HS, all on 11.5.  The fact that just 3.5 game points separated ten of the fourteen teams emphasises how closely the event was fought:

1st – Royal Grammar School Newcastle (17.5/20)
2nd – Millfield School (15)
3rd – Westminster School (11.5 – SOP 42)
4th – Eltham College (11.5 – SOP 38.5)
5th – Nottingham High School (11.5 – SOP 38)

6th – Wilson’s School (11); 7th – Mill Hill County High School (10 – SOP 34); 8th – Chepstow School (10 – SOP 27); 9th= The King’s School in Macclesfield (9 – SOP 23), Torquay Boys’ Grammar School (9 – SOP 23); 11th – Bolton School Boys’ Division (8.5); 12th – Westcliff High School for Boys (8); 13th – Southend High School for Boys (5); 14th – Greensward Academy (2.5)

Thanks are due to: the hosts of the afternoon qualifying events from which the finalists had emerged; Imperial College who hosted the event once again and provided excellent refreshments; Professor Jonathan Mestel GM who entertained everyone with a talk on two tricky positions where underpromotion and stalemate traps abounded; Stewart Haslinger GM, who like Jonathan also works at Imperial, presented the trophies; Chris Howell as Chief Arbiter; Chepstow, Wilson’s and Westminster for providing the equipment; last – and certainly not least – Neill Cooper for masterminding this very enjoyable event once again.

— John Swain (Assistant Arbiter)

Scroll Up