By Dusan Stojic
Inter-school chess tournaments are a highlight for every kid passionate about chess, regardless of playing level or age. It’s no surprise given the combination of the immense size of the field, the rivalry between the schools, and comradery that comes with playing for a team.
Queensland Inter-School Chess Championships
The Chess Association of Queensland has appointed Gardiner Chess to run the official Queensland Inter-School Chess Championships. There are different tiers of competition, from regional, to city, to state-level.
Gardiner Chess covers inter-schools from Gold Coast and Brisbane, to Emerald, Mt Isa and Cairns. All up, in Term 2 this year, there was a tournament for each of the 16 (!) regions in Queensland (and Northern NSW – pictured Below). There are typically hundreds of kids from many schools that play in each competition. There are in total about 3,000 kids that play these competitions each term.
My own experience in helping organise the Queensland Inter-Schools has validated my firm belief that chess is a unique teaching tool for students. It has all the drama and character-building of playing competitive sport, but it also has in-built tools for intellectual stimulation and development.
A case in point is the Wide Bay South regional tournament held the other week in Maryborough. Kids from regional areas have less tournament experience and tend to be lower rated than the kids from the densely populated cities of Brisbane-Gold Coast. But what the regional kids lack in experience, they make up for with enthusiasm. For many regional kids, that interschool tournament was a very rare opportunity to test themselves against other high-level chess kids.
The top teams from each region play in a final round in Term 3, and the top from these will compete in the Queensland State Finals in Term 4. The Queensland champions, one from Secondary Open, Secondary Girls’, Primary Open and Primary Girls’, will play at the ultimate challenge at the Australian School Teams Championships.
Above – Students compete at the Brisbane South Primary comp.
History of Australian Inter-School Chess
Australian Schools Teams Chess Championships was planned in 1997 by Graeme Gardiner, after an idea suggested to him by Ralph Kajet. Following the growth of chess in schools in Queensland and other states, a National championship was a natural step forward and it started in 1998.
The first two competitions had a Primary and Secondary championship, and further two “all-girls” championships for the Primary and Secondary were added in 1999. This four-tournament style was featured at all annual competitions since then.
Queensland teams have historically performed brilliantly (Ed: Especially in the girls comps!), and many teams have gone on to win the Nationals in various categories.
Worongary State School girls’ teams featuring Alexandra Jule and Amy Evans won three successive Primary Girls’ titles in the early years, whilst teams from Saint Stephens College featuring Karina and Michelle Mowles won three titles in the secondary girls comp.
Above – A division of the QLD Inter-School State Finals
Anglican Church Grammar School, led by David Smerdon (at the time an IM and now a Grandmaster and Australia’s number 2 ranked player) won three successive Secondary Open titles from 2000-2002. This team was the strongest ever produced from Queensland. It was not as strong though, as the team from Melbourne High a few years later which included three International Masters.
Worongary State School, featuring Sam Grigg and Shaun Curtis, won the Primary Open at Mt Buller in 2004.
In 2005, the Somerset College team led by Kelvin Finke won the Primary Open.
Over the years, Connie Pizzato’s teams from Somerville House have won several Primary and Secondary Girls’ competitions with teams that featured Chiara Pizzato and later Leteisha Simmonds.
More recently Somerset College won the Secondary Girls’ with a team that included two sets of sisters, Jessica and Danielle Kinder, and Maxine and Sophie Tan.
In December 2016 Somerset College’s team led by Oliver Yang won the Primary Open in Perth. Also last year, Somerset placed second in Primary Girls’ and third in Secondary Girls’.
Why Chess Inter-Schools Matter
Although I have personally played in hundreds of tournaments in my chess career, some of my most memorable moments have been when I played in Inter-Schools. I vividly remember the great times with my teammates, as well as with my friends from other schools. Moments of victory are just as memorable as moments of bitter defeat.
The single time that I went to the Nationals was especially memorable. After winning the Victorian State Championship, we finished equal first, but second on tie-break behind Sydney Grammar.
For some lucky kids, representing their school at a high level will be one of the highlights of their schooling years. But for most, these competitions will be a fun way of meeting friends from other schools, while learning valuable life lessons.