As I write this hundreds of schools up and down the UK will be entering the Delancey UK Schools’ Chess Challenge 2014. This is the world’s largest chess tournament with over 50,000 children from over 1,500 schools participating each year. International Master Mike Basman founded it in 1996 and it has been going strong ever since.
There are four stages. The first stage starts in January at the school and involves 7 rounds played during the Spring Term at the school chess club. Children can win badges, gold spots and mascots, and the overall tournament winner will receive a trophy. In addition, players that get enough points will qualify for the second stage – an area MEGAFINAL in May. There are also opportunities to progress further to reach higher standards of play at regional and national level (GIGAFINAL and TERAFINAL).
Why is it so popular? There are probably a number of reasons, such as:
- A structure that enables the most inexperienced players to compete at the early stages as well as testing the finest at the later stages
- Inexpensive – the first stage costs as little as £1 per pupil depending on the number of children entering per school
- Gives many players their first tournament experience without them having to travel as the first stage happens at their school
- The allure of prizes, which all players are able to obtain, which encourages participation for all, not just the most able, and gives everyone something to play for
- The positive effect it has on interest in chess at schools – schools entering end to see the numbers attending their existing chess club expand
- The positive effect it has on improving the quality of play at school chess clubs – encourages players to concentrate harder and take games more seriously
- Growing recognition in primary schools that chess is beneficial in many ways to children’s brain development – studies have shown it can raise IQ, creativity, memory, problem solving skills, reading skills and concentration, and it exercises both sides of the brain, more here
The deadline for entries into the 2014 Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge is 13 December, 2013 (later entries incur a penalty fee). Get in if your school hasn’t already!