Chess at The Abbey Senior School

The Abbey has had some very impressive chess players over the last 15 years.

The most successful was Louise Head who went on to continue playing chess, while studying Physics, at the University of Warwick. It was there she was appointed President of the University Chess Society (2018-19) when they won the English Chess Federation club of the year award.

As an individual player she won the English Women’s Chess Championship in 2017 and 2019 and was a member of the England Women’s team at the 2018 World Chess Olympiad. When Louise left The Abbey, Helen Archer-Lock took Louise’s place as the number 1 player for the team and she generously gave coaching to younger students.

Our highest ranked player now is Mia (Lower V) and she is joined by Jigya (Lower V), Shree (Lower IV) and Prisha (Lower V) in the present team.

The Abbey Chess club normally runs every week at lunchtime. The club is open to all years and all abilities. Students learn how to play chess or improve their skills by playing games on a regular basis. Each student is matched with a student of her own standard if possible.

The annual House Chess competition also takes place during club time. Each House has a team of four players, ranked on ability, and they play the other Houses over several weeks during the Spring term.

The Abbey chess team enters various competitions during the year. One of these is the ECF Secondary Schools Rapidplay Chess Tournament held each year at Eton College and the Abbey team were the best performing girls’ school for three years in a row. Also, an Abbey team has now qualified for the U19 section of the National Girls
School Team Chess Championships Finals in 5 of the last 6 years which is a great achievement. The team has usually finished in the top six schools in the country and one was runner up in 2013 by just half a point. All the students can feel very proud of their performances as they were playing
against the best girls’ schools for chess in the country.

This term ‘Over the Board’ chess between schools is not allowed due to coronavirus restrictions but the Abbey team entered the first ‘She Plays to Win’ Secondary Schools Online League, a UK girls chess project encouraging girls to get involved with chess. They came 6th out of 16 schools which included St. Paul’s and North London Collegiate. There will be further matches next term.

With the release of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, a group of sixth form students have become very interested in Chess and they are now running a flourishing Chess Club every Wednesday lunchtime and they are keen to enter some online tournaments. Sofea Azamtu has taken the lead in organising their club. Mr Hills

Sofea, in Sixth Form, has been busy organising the Chess club, alongside Mr Hills. Hear from her about what she enjoys about Chess and why it has become so popular recently:

‘Chess has always been an admirable game to me, one that has intrigued me yet I never quite had enough motivation to learn to play. Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ gave me that little push I needed to show me that chess is not simply a slow game only for those with a natural aptitude, but rather an extremely interesting game of tactics, skill and perseverance that anyone can play. This realisation seems to have been shared amongst many other Abbey girls – and the world for that matter, allowing for a new chess sixth form chess club to be formed.

Every Wednesday, a large group of us meet to battle wits and have fun with this game, whether it be through playing or watching a match, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I cannot wait to see how our chess skills

Jigya, in Lower V, is another fellow chess enthusiast who has enjoyed attending the Chess Club at lunchtime:

I first learned to play chess when I was 7 years old and I’ve enjoyed playing it ever since. Chess is a game of logic and it really helps with tactical thinking and I think that playing it has really helped me with logic and problem-solving. I really enjoy going to tournaments with the school as I love the general atmosphere and I get to play against many great chess players. I love learning new chess moves and tactics which helps to improve my chess skills constantly.

For students interested in learning Chess and joining the school’s club, there could be an opportunity for The Abbey to bring in a Chess coach to help students further with their chess skills. Do get in touch with Mr Hills if this has been of interest to you.’

Dino is an experienced chess coach and currently works at Eton College and runs a popular junior chess club in Caversham. Dino has been an advocate of chess since his young age. He firmly believes that with the proper training, nurturing and mental discipline of chess, young people can be prepared for adulthood and life challenges. He has been coaching young adults, ages 5 to 18, as well as coaching Berkshire and England juniors.

Many of his students have become members of the England national chess team and some have later qualified for the Junior European and World championships. Amongst his current students are the holders of the UK Under 9 and French Under 10 Championship titles.

Dino’s style of coaching ensures that pupils are in an  environment where they can learn, can draw conclusions for themselves and are encouraged to ask questions. In other words, students are empowered to become better decision makers. Focus is on the thinking process, emotional intelligence, and highlighting positives in order to keep motivation high and feeling a sense of self achievement.