It is estimated that around 7,000 teams participated in the primary open qualifying stages throughout Australia. This included over 200 teams from 35 schools on the Gold Coast, and nearly 1,000 teams from around Queensland.
It is quite the rarity to see a school represent Queensland in more than one of the four sections at the Australian Schools Teams Chess Championships. However, Somerset College was the sole Queensland representative team in three of the sections: primary open, primary girls and secondary girls. However, an even greater phenomenon is for a school to place in all three of these sections.
On 1 December, shortly after the Christmas holidays began, 12 Somerset College students (although Anneliese McConnell and I had technically graduated) journeyed across the country to the city of Perth to compete in the most prestigious school chess competition in Australia. The primary open team of Oliver Yang, Eason Wang, Jason Li and Charlie Liu had managed to scrape into the competition narrowly qualifying in the state championships. Meanwhile, the primary girls (Lyanna Chan, Jennifer Yeung, Melody Yang and Sophia Ahern) had come third the year before and with an even stronger team looked to place even higher this year.
The tournament consists of five rounds completed over two days. Players have an hour aside with ten additional seconds given for each move. Consequently, each game will normally last for over an hour with some games taking over three hours to reach a result. It is astounding to think that students as young as nine, such as Sophia Ahern, are able to use their brains to recognise patterns and foresee moves for several hours a day.
As always, the final round is always the most exciting and tense part of the weekend. Leading into the last games, the primary boys were coming first, however, they were matched to play Kaleen Primary School from the ACT who were placed second behind them. The secondary girls team was tied second and were playing off against Abbotsleigh from New South Wales for the second place trophy. Meanwhile, the primary girls needed to have a strong finish to secure their position in second place.
As the clocks ticked down and pieces were captured one by one, the coaches became more and more anxious regarding the final outcome for all three teams. After the primary girls convincingly won their final round, it was clear that they had unquestionably secured second place, one place above their standing the previous year. Following a draw in the final round for the secondary girls team, Somerset was drawn with Abbotsleigh for total rounds won, individual rounds won and their result in their match against each other. In order to separate them, the arbiters had to utilise the fourth tier of count back and unfortunately, Somerset was placed third by the narrowest of margins.
Nevertheless, the primary boys, who never cease to amaze us, became the new national champions after Charlie Liu and Jason Li defeated their opponents in the final round. This was an incredible effort considering they had placed sixth the year before.
Following my final time wearing the Somerset uniform and representing this wonderful College, I cannot express how proud I am of all the students that competed, particularly the maturity and sportsmanship displayed by the younger students. I thoroughly enjoyed my week in Perth where the group bonded over trips to the zoo, local movie theatre and city to watch the Christmas lights. All of this could not have been possible without the time and effort invested by Mr Graeme Gardiner and the enthusiasm and passion shown by Mr Shaun Curtis, Mr Michael Darcy and Mr Doug Williams, which inspire all of us each and every day. It saddens me that I may not be there to witness the future success for chess at Somerset, especially the growing support for girls chess, but I know that with the help of these incredible coaches that there is more trophies to come.
- Elizabeth Kay, Year 12 2016
The four girls in the secondary team were Elizabeth Kay, Anneliese McConnell, Mayuri Yamaguchi and Talia Varcoe.
Special mention needs to be made of James and Stephanie Kay, who were not competing, but gave wonderful support to the younger members of the teams. In fact, there was a warm family feeling around the group, with several parents and grandparents involved. The movie 'Queen of Katwe' went on general release the day that we arrived in Perth, and the entire group went along to watch. Set in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, the story was of a mother's struggle to bring up her young family, and her daughter's rise from illiteracy to an international chess master. It was a very moving true story, and was the first chess movie to get the chess details absolutely spot on. Many in our group were quite emotional.
It was Queensland’s turn to host both the Australian Open and Australian Minor Championships for adults and juniors, and these were held at Churchie (Anglican Church Grammar School) in the school holidays. James Kay performed well above his rating in the Open, which bodes well for the future. Eason Wang, Ben and Rafael Atia participated in the Minor, and each defeated several strong adult players.
It was also Queensland’s turn to host the Australian Junior Championships, and these were also held at Churchie, immediately after the Australian Open. There was a record number of entrants (316).
Oliver Yang came agonisingly close to becoming Australian Under 12 Champion. He tied for first with a very strong junior from Melbourne, having defeated that player in the regular round. The rapid tie-break went 1-1, the lightning tie-break 1-1 again, and unfortunately Oliver lost the Armageddon play off. The pressure to make good moves for an entire game with only four minutes thinking time is hard to imagine. The class Oliver showed in accepting this defeat was impressive. He also came second in the lightning competition, whilst his sister Melody won the girls under 10 problem solving competition, and came second in the lightning.
All the other Somerset students who participated gave a very good account of themselves. These were Kabilan Manuneedhi, Mayuri Yamaguchi, Jennifer Yeung, Lyanna Chan, Nikita Rubis, Jason Li, Eason Wang, Anson Qu, Kenny Ming, Ben Atia, Rafael Atia, Edward Zhang, Melody Yang, Jack Walker and Sophia Ahern.
- Secondary: Wednesday 22 February at Somerset College, The Great Hall
- Primary: Wednesday 8 March at Caningeraba State School
- Gold Coast Tin Cup Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 February at King's Christian College (venue to be confirmed)
- Junior Masters Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 March (venue to be confirmed)
- Doeberl Cup at the Australian National University in Canberra at Easter. Gardiner Chess is once again taking a group to Australia’s premier weekend tournament. To participate please contact Mr Gardiner.
Congratulations and best of luck to our Captains of Chess for 2017, Kevin Song and Talia Varcoe.
Students in Years 1 to 6 may elect to enrol in co-curricular chess in groups of one, two or three. Senior students may enrol in the after-school group. In each case, enrolment is via My Somerset Community. The free lunchtime club, located in the chess room, which is upstairs in the Knowledge and Information Precinct, is open every day for students of all ages, from Year 1 and up. For those students who wish to extend themselves, there are regular opportunities throughout the year.
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