Junior Chess info from “English Chess Forum” – and yes, they actually talk about chess! Fancy that!!

EPSCA is currently named as the English Primary Schools Chess Association

Judging from the counties and pseudo-counties that send teams to the U9Open, U11Open and U11Girls event should perhaps it be renamed The London Centric Primary Schools Chess Association?

Your thoughts?

Of course, my post was somewhat tongue in cheek referring to who takes part.

I found out recently (thanks Tim Onions) that from the entire county of Devon there were a paltry two (2) schools who bought the box of fluffy things for UK Chess Challenge.

As you may know there is no longer any requirement for schools to enter the Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge. The schools part is now not relevant.

These matters are related since the base of the pyramid for junior and EPSCA chess would have been helped massively by primary schools entering UK Chess Challenge. The base of the pyramid has been removed.

This means that rural counties such as Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire (and now Berkshire) really have almost no prospect of raising teams for EPSCA events. Hampshire just about managed it but we benefited from counties donating a couple of players.

My knowledge of the EPSCA situation north of Watford is almost zero.

I remember playing for England U11 against Wales U11, they also used run a London vs Rest of England U11 match….in all seriousness, the EPSCA England U11 team is much older than the ECF; there is a lot of history there and it is hardly a Johnny-come-lately entity.

On the broader subject: I’m sure there has been a shift over the years from teachers/parents running after-school clubs to a model where school clubs often are provided by a paid coach. The economics of this can support paid coaches in areas of London dense with expensive private schools but not in more rural areas, so rural counties have a weaker base and smaller supply of players. Of course this is exacerbated by Covid.

This may also affect the supply of players at the top end – chess may (with good reason) be viewed as a desirable extra activity by wealthy parents at London private schools, but chess is not going to replicate that lifestyle. Is it coincidental that arguably the two strongest ever English players, Short and Adams, came from Bolton and Cornwall?

Bolton School was the local elite educational establishment and had a track record pf producing chess stars. Corden and Markland had been England Olympiad players not so many years before Nigel.

In the years following Fischer, even Cornwall in particular and the West Country in general had a reasonable density of players and events. Adams is on record as saying that the diversity of styles amongst his opponents was such that being from a relatively remote part of the UK wasn’t a problem.

EPSCA is perhaps sixty years old. There was no primary school chess when I attended in the 1950s but locally at least it was up and running by the end of the 1960s.

In my memory, Short and Julian Hodgson were amongst the earliest players to make a name for themselves whilst at primary school. Were there others earlier? It would have to have been during the 1960s. In those days junior players didn’t start playing seriously until they attended sceondary school.

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