News 2015 English Schools Team Problem Solving Championship


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English Schools Team Problem Solving Championship
Written by Brian Stephenson   
Article Index
English Schools Team Problem Solving Championship
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4
Round 5
All Pages


This welcome new event in the junior chess calendar was first suggested to me by Phill Beckett, the ECF’s Deputy National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator, who works alongside Neill Cooper, who is the ECF’s National Secondary Schools Co-ordinator and Manager of Schools Chess. Phill approached me at the Sheffield Chess Congress last year where he was working as an arbiter and I, after receiving all the entries as Congress Secretary, was enjoying some peace and quiet. He proposed that I prepare a sheet of simple chess problems that he could hand out to the players at junior chess congresses to see if there was any interest in chess solving. He specifically requested that I include some ‘mates in one’, something that I wouldn’t have considered myself, but then I do not have much experience of setting chess problems for solving by juniors. I prepared two such sheets, including two ‘mates in one’ that I had to compose especially. My thanks must go to Michael Lipton, who very kindly selected some suitable ‘mates in two’.

Phill reported that he thought there had been enough interest shown for us to stage a chess solving competition alongside the ECF Team Chess Challenge at Imperial College in April. His plan was that we provide five rounds of 30 minutes each to run alongside the team rapid-play taking place in the adjoining room, so, a week or so before the event I prepared material to that specification. Luckily, I finally remembered that there had been a few ‘mates in one’ published in Chess in 1935, so I didn’t have to compose any. At the annual residential weekend of the BCPS in Nottingham, the weekend before this event, having asked other composers for ‘mates in one’, I was reminded of another large source of same, so we will be provided for in future years.

Neill and Phill had decided that this would be a team event rather than an individual one. As far as I know, this is the first time a solving competition with conferring teams has been attempted.

So, very early on the morning of 22nd April I boarded the National Express coach to London.


Events at Imperial College started at 11:00 and I arrived a little after that. In one room GM Jonathan Mestel was giving a clock simultaneous to some very strong juniors and having a tough time of it. In the ‘solving’ room things were very quiet as the competitors had been given an hour to compose a chess problem of any type with any theme they liked. Nigel Dennis (a BCPS colleague) and I walked around and offered words of advice to the five teams. I saw mates in 2, mates in more, a helpmate in 2 and even an endgame study! At the end of the hour I collected in their efforts and will look at them with interest in due course. If necessary I will provide advice and hopefully five sound chess problems will emerge and I hope to publish them here in another news item.


Before the start I explained that teams could hand in their solutions early if they wished and that time spent would be used to break any ties. I then advised them strongly that if they did this, they should check their answers carefully as I wouldn’t be handing their answer sheets back for second thoughts. Not all of the teams took this advice. Phill warned the teams about talking loudly and inadvertently giving answers away to other teams.

Round one was meant to be easy, and so it almost proved. First up were The Abbey School in just four minutes and a perfect score. Second up were Hampton, a minute later and also with a perfect score. Third up were Westminster, but they got the first one wrong. Fourth up were King’s School, Grantham in ten minutes but with no mistakes. Last to finish were Portsmouth High, who got just one wrong and took 19 minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised to note that the room was very quiet. I suspected that it was quieter than the room in which they were actually playing chess.

The ‘mates in 2’ in round 2 were more challenging. Even so, Hampton handed in in just 7 minutes. Sadly for them, they got the third one wrong. Grantham, Westminster and The Abbey School took longer and got full points. Portsmouth took 15 minutes, but only got the first one right.

The third round, the selfmates, is where Grantham started to pull ahead. They were the only team to score full points, and took just 22 minutes. Hampton and Westminster handed in earlier, but each dropped a point on the second problem.

The fourth round, the helpmates, saw Grantham maintain their perfect score and they handed in in 25 minutes. All the other teams took full time but dropped points, with Westminster just missing the second solution to the third problem.

Nobody handed in early in the fifth round and nobody got full points. The top score came from Hampton, but it wasn’t enough to catch Grantham up and so King’s School Grantham won by 8.5 points, scoring 70 out of 75. A very worthy effort. Their teacher afterwards admitted that they had been preparing by solving chess problems, so their first place was well-deserved. The last I saw of them, as everybody left Imperial College, they were headed towards King’s Cross Station, to pay homage at platform 9¾.

The detailed results table is below. The columns shaded in green record the time taken. The problems set, and their solutions, can be found in the following five pages. After that there is a selection of photographs taken at the event by Phill Beckett.

King's School Grantham5551055527555225.05.05.0255.05.00.03070.0114
Hampton School55555507545185.00.05.0305.05.02.53061.590
Westminster School055755522545152.55.02.5305.00.00.03054.0104
The Abbey School Reading555455516543222.50.00.0305.00.00.03049.5102
Portsmouth High School5051950015001240.00.00.0300.00.00.03016.0118

Round 1 - 3 'mates in one'

1.1 Barry J da C Andrade

Chess, 1935



1.2 Barry J da C Andrade

Chess, 1935



1.3 Barry J da C Andrade

Chess, 1935



Round 2 - 3 'mates in two'

2.1 Michael Lipton

The Problemist, 2009



2.2 John Rice

The Problemist Supplement, 2000



2.3 Barry Barnes

The Tablet, 1964



Round 3 - 3 'selfmates in two'

3.1 Cyril S Kipping

Allgemeine Zeitung Chemnitz, 1926



3.2 Talip H Amirov

Bilten, 1963



3.3 Edward Boswell

The Chess Amateur, 1925



Round 4 - 3 'helpmates in two'

4.1 Michael McDowell

The Problemist, 2009


H#2 (2 solutions)

4.2 Christopher J Feather

Thèmes-64, 1971


H#2 (2 solutions)

4.3 David Shire

Problem Observer, 1990


H#2 (2 solutions)

Round 5 - 3 assorted problems

5.1 David Shire

British Chess Magazine, 1974



5.2 Edward Boswell

Springaren, 1955



5.3 Christopher Jones

Problemesis, 2005


H#2 (2 solutions)


The Abbey School composing King's School Grantham Composing Hampton School composing Portsmouth School composing Westminster School composing Abbey School solving King's School Grantham solving Hampton School solving Portsmouth School solving Westminster School solving The winning team with Jonathan Mestel and their teacher Phill Beckett
Last Updated on Sunday, 26 April 2015 13:16
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