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Inter-School Chess – The Road to State Finals

Inter-School Chess – The Road to State Finals

19-Oct-2017

Back in February, the Queensland Inter-School Chess Championships kicked off with preliminary rounds throughout the state. These events continued into terms 2 and 3, with various formats being used depending on the region.

The numbers for the first three terms have been excellent and show just how popular chess has been with students and schools.

Term four is where it all heats up though, with the Queensland Inter-School State Finals which were held over the 13th to 15th October.

QLD Girls Inter-School State Finals

Friday the 13th saw the Girls Inter-School State Finals being held at Salisbury State School. With 105 girls in attendance it was a fantastic day of chess.

In the primary division, Kings Christian College was the overwhelming favourite with four players who regularly attend Inter-School and other events on the team. Regular top schools Somerville House and Somerset College had some good players, but lacked the depth of previous years.

True to form, Kings (pictured above) had cleaned up the opposition, with the tournament wrapped up before the final round. This is the first time in close to 10 years that a Girls team from a school other than Somerset or Somerville has won a Girls State Title. 2nd position went to Somerville House with Macgregor SS sneaking into 3rd.

In the secondary division, it was expected to be a battle between Somerset and Brisbane Girls Grammar (BGGS). In the early round, BGGS edged ahead by a point and managed to hold that advantage from round 2 until the end of round 5 where both teams became joined on 14.5/20. Whilst the battle was still between these teams, Kings weren’t too far back in 3rd with 12 points and were looking to capitalise on any slip ups.

Round 6 saw no change, with BGGS and Somerset (below) remaining tied on 16.5. Kings on the other hand moved up to 15 points to get that little bit closer. Anything could happen in the final round! With two direct match ups between Somerset and BGGS, these were the critical encounters. With all other team members of both sides winning, cue the tension. In the end, it was both Somerset Girls who won their games to push Somerset ahead at the end of the day, defending the title they won last year. BGGS finished 2nd and will have a very good chance next year as unlike Somerset, they keep all their top team. Kings finished 3rd on count-back from Somerville.

One of the highlights of the day were the nine girls who participated from far flung regions such as Cairns and Townsville (there were also two girls from Toowoomba). It is certainly hoped in future that this number will continue to grow! Trinity Anglican School from Cairns took home the regional prize after another solid performance in this tournament.

As soon as the Girls Inter-School Finals were over, it was off to Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) in order to set up the venue for the weekend’s event. Finally finishing around 5.30pm, we were just about ready to roll the next morning!

 

QLD Inter-School State Finals

 

An early start greeted players on the Saturday 14th October, with registration kicking off from 8.30am –  there were even some keen parents and students at the venue by 7.45am!!

This year the scoring system was changed from Game Points (sum of all individual scores added for a team score) to Match Points (teams must win 2.5 games or better to win the match). This was done to a) create more of a team feeling, but also to reduce the chances of teams with a softer draw leap-frogging others in the final round.

In the Secondary division, Churchie were the top seeds by a massive 800 rating points (sum of top 4 players ratings) over Somerset and Brisbane Grammar in 2nd and 3rd spots. As such they were expected to win the tournament, but of course could not be expected to have it all their own way.

Round one went essentially according to seeding, with the only upset being a draw between Shalom College and St Joseph’s College of Toowoomba. Round two saw Somerset 2 nearly grab a draw with Churchie on the top board in a closely fought encounter. Most other games went according to seed, except St Joseph’s again drawing with a higher rated James Nash SHS and Townsville Grammar taking out Shalom.

Round three saw Churchie account for the 4th seeded Brisbane SHS whilst Somerset 1 accounted for Brisbane Grammar 1 – both relatively easily. The big surprise was on board three, where Townsville Grammar destroyed Somerset 2!

By the time we commenced round four, it was already after 5.00pm – it had been a long day! As per previous years, the 4th round was a critical one, with the top seeds going head to head. Somerset fancied their chances going into the game with Churchie, and indeed all the games were very hard fought. However, despite being pushed for over a couple of hours, it was Churchie who won the battle to edge clear at the end of day one. Brisbane Grammar took apart Townsville Grammar on board two, whilst Brisbane SHS defeated Brisbane Grammar 2 on board 3.

At the end of day one and with just two rounds remaining, Churchie were out in front on 8, ahead of BGS 1, Somerset 1, Kings CC and Brisbane SHS all on 6. Top regional schools were Townsville Grammar and James Nash SHS on 4.

Sunday morning saw an early start for secondary with an 8.30am game – particularly painful if players were coming from Gold or Sunshine Coasts! Churchie continued their march to the title with a win over Kings, whilst BGS 1 defeated Brisbane SHS and Somerset 1 took care of Somerset 2. Townsville Grammar took the lead in the regional stakes with a win over Toowoomba Grammar.

The final round saw old foes Churchie and BGS lock horns at the top. BGS looked like they may just get a draw until an odd-looking draw offer on board three determined there wasn’t anything to play for on board 1 which was still in a tense struggle. In any case, Churchie won the board 1 game, and thus secured the points over BGS – meaning a clean sweep of six wins to comfortably win the tournament. On board two, Somerset 1 split the points with Brisbane SHS to claim 2nd position, with BGS 1 still finished in 3rd place despite their loss to Churchie.

Townsville Grammar won again, to finish =3rd overall and claim the regional title, with St Stephen’s of Mareeba (FNQ) taking 2nd place and Shalom College 3rd.

In the primary tournament, a massive 38 teams took part, setting a new record. Top seeds were Somerset 1 and Robertson 1 who were expected to fight it out for the title. Other seeds Kings CC 1 and Macgregor SS 1 were also considered strong teams but slightly less was expected of them.

In round one, as usual, games went according to seed for the most part. The big exception being Darling Heights SS drawing with BGS on board five! Round two was much of the same, with the seeds dominating their games, although some of the lower ‘seeds’ were beaten by lower rated opponents.

Round three saw the action heat up with the regular tournament players and their teams starting to be matched up. The top four teams of Somerset 1, Robertson 1, Kings CC 1 and Macgregor SS 1 were all quite comfortable in their games, however down on board five, Somerset 2 upset BGS while next to them Darling Heights again drew with a higher rated team in TSS.

In round four it was Somerset v Somerset on board one, with the top team accounting for the 2nd team as expected. Robertson 1 and Kings 1 split the points on board two in a hard-fought game, as did Macgregor 1 and surprise packets Kings 2 on board 3! Nudgee College drew with Nundah SS and Darling Heights took another scalp, defeating Robertson 2.

Come the end of day one, and Somerset led with 8 points from Robertson 1, Macgregor 1 and Kings 1 all on 7. A further six teams were on six points, with Our Lady Help of Christians (OLHOC) leading the regional standings.

The key match-up of Somerset 1 and Robertson 1 headlined round five. Somerset used all of their experience to avoid any slip-ups though and took out the match comfortably. Macgregor did likewise on board two as they took out Kings 1. On lower boards, Macgregor 2 took out the higher rated Jindalee, Darling Heights again upset another team in Somerset 2 and OLHOC continued their push for the regional title defeating Toowoomba Grammar 1 thought Trinity Anglican School kept the pressure on demolishing TSS.

Heading into the final round, Somerset 1 led by one point from Macgregor 1 who they now played. The only other teams in the hunt were back a further point (OLHOC, Macgregor 2, Darling Heights). Knowing that a draw would win the title, Somerset looked a little nervy, and indeed were in lots of trouble with Macgregor looking in better positions in the majority of games. Board one and two were the first to finish with a win each which left boards three and four. Somerset looked dead and buried – board four was an opposite colour bishop ending (usually drawn) and board three was easily winning for Macgregor – and Macgregor were starting to celebrate, until a momentary board blindness meant a dropped piece and then pawn….suddenly Somerset were back in the game. Board three was drawn soon after, and then we had Somerset pushing hard for a win on board four. Eventually it was realised that there was no way through and a draw was agreed – giving Somerset the title when it had looked gone at one stage!

Surprise packets OLHOC kept their winning streak alive with a win on board two to claim =2nd and the overall regional trophy with an outstanding display. Macgregor finished 2nd on count-back overall with Robertson claiming 3rd on count-back. Regional 2nd place went to Freshwater CC of Cairns and third was Trinity Anglican School also from Cairns (trifecta for FNQ!).

 

With that we reached the end of another year of Inter-School chess in Queensland. It’s been a huge year and a lot of fun to be involved with. For the winning teams (Kings CC – Primary Girls, Somerset – Secondary Girls and Primary Open, and Churchie – Secondary Open), even more work now gets done with those teams working hard to prepare for the Australian Schools Teams Championships in Sydney on December 2 and 3.

In the lead up to these events there will likely be a push to play in as many events as possible to get match hardened, whilst also numerous coaching sessions to hone the skills.

For the regional teams, they have had to head back home from their own Grand Final. For some of these students it’s the first time they’ve been on a plane. For others it’s the first chance to see a big city and maybe even go to places like Southbank and use a CityCat Ferry. One of the greatest benefits the players get out of the weekend is the chance to have their games analysed by Gardiner Chess coaches. This ability to be able to learn and soak up knowledge is massive for these kids and undoubtedly improves them as players and thus will help improve the level back in their school and region too.

One of the other great things about chess is the friendships that develop amongst players from different regions. Hopefully they’ll be able to come back and play again next year! The students all learn to be able to take their time and think carefully about their moves, learning about consequences and  that there isn’t a rush all the time. Seeing a student pick up the 50 moves magazine and begin analysing the games on a board was something fabulous to watch – the students just love being there and soaking it all up.

For those headed to the Australian Schools Teams Championships – all the very best and do Queensland proud. For those teams that came along and participated over the weekend, thank you for your hard work throughout the year and we hope that you had a great time. And for everyone else, we’ll be back once again next year with the tournaments in your region so we look forward to seeing you soon!

 

The Gardiner Chess Team

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