England’s chess kids won a record 14 medals last weekend when the island of Rhodes hosted the European Schools Age Group Championships, followed by the Fide World Rapid and World Blitz Championships. Seven gold, one silver and six bronze medals put England second in the medal table, one gold behind Turkey but one ahead of Ukraine.
The result owes something to Netflix’s Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit, the inspiration of Magnus Carlsen as an active and likeable world champion, but also to the pandemic when schools were closed and internet chess offered unlimited free play at fast paces. The young talents were able to hone their skills over several months with thousands of speed games.
Two seven-year-olds featured in this column have recently been multiple winners. Kushal Jakhria won two golds and a bronze, while Bodhana Sivanandan scored a triple gold and won all 24 matches she played.
The English Chess Federation has arranged for Jakhria and Sivanandan to receive daily coaching via Skype in Rhodes from former British GM champion Jonathan Hawkins whose online junior club at Lichess has over 700 members.
The England girls have won five of the seven gold medals as the ECF’s campaign to attract more female entrants gains momentum. A helpful contact is She plays to win, which offers free online coaching and support for girls starting at the beginner level. The ECF would like a sponsor for women’s chess to stimulate further progress.
Alireza Firouzja, the brilliant 18-year-old who rose to world number 2 last fall, is back in action this week after a mysterious five-month absence from competition. The former Iranian, who now represents France, is one of four general managers using the Superbet Classic which has just started in Bucharest as a warm-up for next month’s candidates in Madrid.
The first round in Bucharest included the duo Fabiano Caruana against Firouzja, the two big favorites of the Candidates. No fireworks, just a careful draw of 29 hits per rep.
Manx Liberty, the Isle of Man team sponsored by Chess.com, took a narrow lead over arch-rivals Wood Green in the penultimate weekend of the 4NCL domestic league. ) with only weaker opponents still to play.
Then the Londoners lost to their own second team, Wood Green Youth, giving Manx the lead. Wood Green Youth’s decisive points were scored by women, as England No 1 and online commentator Jovanka Houska outplayed rising England GM Ravi Haria late in the game, while Katarzyna Toma beat GM Neil McDonald by a dynamic attack. The final 4NCL weekend will take place on June 25-26.
England No 2 GM Gawain Jones played for Munich in the German Bundesliga last Saturday, where he won based on the rare concept of turning a heavy Scotch Game into a queenside castling attack weapon.
Jones returned home for Monday’s 4NCL game where Yorkshire’s Chessable White Rose took on league leaders Manx but was overwhelmed as Latvian legend Alexei Shirov got creative in an entertaining game that is well worth a look.
3814: 1 Qxb6 Nxb6 2 Rxe7+! Kf8 (Kxe7 3 Bg5+ is similar) 3 Kd8+ Ke7 4 Bg5 mate.