Monmouth School Boys’ Prep Chess Club Newsletter – Christmas 2017

My Christmas message to the Chess Club this year was again: “There’s room for all on the Nice List” though goodness knows some boys have tested that theory. It was the first time in living memory that a Grange boy appeared on the Naughty List after he was spotted tucking into his Cadbury’s Selection Box within minutes of receiving it, despite the instruction to save it for Christmas Day. The vagabond was restored to the Nice List after his father explained that he had been ill fed at home.

It was a classic case of ‘hope over experience’ when I decided to field a team of Wise Men in the Christmas Team Competition with Harry B as captain – I can see his mother shaking her head in disbelief. A late change gave me an opportunity to represent the Polar Bears where I resumed hostilities against Edward C and Hugh M and managed two honourable draws. It was one of those days when I wore my best suit for a Royal Visit in the morning before a quick change into an Elf costume for Chess Club. The top teams were Rudolph and The Snowflakes so well done to Charlie P, Freddy P, Huw T and R for their positive contributions. After early promise Polar Express and The Reindeer came last, despite the successes of Willem C.

There was a very interesting chess story last week – I know that that sounds like an oxymoron but hear me out. A new computer programme taught itself how to play chess and within four hours was playing at a higher level than the World Champion and all computer chess programmes! We see the like of this rapid learning at Chess Club: Archie H and Alex M, for example, took part in the Chepstow tournament and qualified for the top section of the Welsh Junior Championships 2018. Luke B, Thomas V and Benjamin B were snapping at their heels.

We have many other high achievers including the dozen selected to represent Gwent in January against the counties of south-west England. These include James R, Redley T and Stephen S at U9, and at U11 good cop Max L and the ‘Alf Tupper of the Grange’ Harry D, the Tough of the Track. At Cardiff City Stadium in an event that attracted teams of 10 from 44 schools our A team came 4th and our B team came 14th. Top scorer for the A team was Kip S, who was recently seen sporting a moustache. Other big guns included Toby C who has been a terrific fundraiser for the Soldiers’ Charity and deserves a salute for that. Pictured above are some of our stars from Cardiff. Parents can keep up with all forthcoming events (and download entry forms) at http://www.welshchessunion.uk/calendar/.

It has been delightful to welcome the Prep I intake in September with many of the eager faces familiar to me from Agincourt, though there have been times – for example when they revert to a game of Tag when they should be concentrating on our Noble Game – when they have delighted me long enough. They went straight into our famous Chess Superleagues where – in a bitterly contested Premiership 5 – Charlie L, Jacob D, Harry D and Jack B took bronze, William A and Thomas R silver, with the impressive Oscar O securing gold. It was the first time since records began that we had two boys called Rufus in the same premiership: Rufus P won bronze and Rufus C silver. Unlike 2016 no-one had to be disqualified for lobbing a rook onto the adjoining board.

We did have one off-the-ball incident involving a rook: an ashen-faced Henry T brought me the chess piece and said “You’d better have a look at this, Sir.” I felt like Inspector Morse being handed a blood-stained candle-stick by Sergeant Lewis of Thames Valley Police. Henry was right – someone had written on the felt underneath the rook three unmistakeable letters: s.e.x. I was of course as shocked as Henry so I used a thick marker to quickly cover it up before the rook resumed normal duties.

In Premiership 4 Arthur S won a bronze award, with Barnaby W and Tom S winning silver, and the golden-voiced Dylan P hitting all the correct notes to win gold. Premiership 3 was notable for some epic encounters involving Jacob K and Alfie R. Alex K took silver, and whenever I see Tom C I am reminded that I have done nothing about his idea of organising an underwater chess tournament at the Sports Centre. I did once unwisely turn up for an Aqua-Aerobics session only to find that I was the only male in a class of 26.

Astonishingly a Prep I person – Frederick D – took gold in Premiership 2 alongside the seasoned Rudy D, who often discusses the finer points of the collapsing scrum as he props up the bar at Monmouth Rugby Club. Silver awards went to James W and Harrison C, whose parents are under the illusion that they are coming round to my house for Christmas lunch. Premiership 1 of course represents the highest level of intellectual achievement in the Monmouthshire and Borders area. Here John N, who gave me some advice on the best clarets for Christmas, took bronze – as did Harry T. Jack B took silver and Ivo W gold again. Looking at the snowdrifts outside my window I am hoping that this year I can be excused my annual trudge up Hatterall Ridge in order to inspect the Woodward Xmas Tree.

We enjoyed a hectic Exchange Chess tournament – a team game of whirlwind action that to the casual observer looks like a gang of four boys vying with each other to empty a box of chocolates. Reaction time is king and several teams displayed the speed of a whippet in daps, including Elliott B and Daniel W, Benjamin H and Jamie B. Jamie, at 17, is the oldest member of Chess Club and will be sorely missed when he goes to university. Nick H is a natural at Exchange Chess and he teamed up with Alex R to great effect.

A Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Knight.

Kevin Thomas