On Saturday 4th March, West Leigh attended the first round of the National Primary School Chess Championship 2017. Schools from Southend, surrounding areas and London came to Heycroft Primary school to compete for a place in the Semi-finals in Camber Sands. West Leigh sent 2 teams this year in a closely fought battle. Each team consisted of 5 players who simultaneously play against another team of 5 from another school. There were 5 rounds in total. In the first round West Leigh Team A faced Milton Hall and achieved a fantastic 4½ out of 5. While West Leigh Team B played against Prince Avenue lost 3-2. In the 2nd round, WL Team A were matched with #2 seed RA Butler and lost 1-4 while WL Team B faced Milton Hall and won 3½-1½. In round 3, WL Team A faced the Arbiter's Aardvarks (a team consisting of reserve players) while it was WL Team B who now faced RA Butler. In a very contrasting round, Team A won 5-0 while Team B lost 0-5. This contrast was reversed in round 4 as, WL Team A played #1 seed Heycroft's A Team scoring just ½ point while WL Team B played the Aardvarks and achieve 4½ points.
This meant everything was to play for in the 5th and final round as 7 teams were in contention to get a place in the Semi-finals. Both Team A and Team B had every chance to get that place and the opportunity rested on who would be their opponents. Much controversy had already taken place about how the pairings were made as they did not follow the regular Swiss tournament rules and this continued into the final round as WL Team B were paired with #1 seed Heycroft A Team. Unfortunately their defeat of 0-5 meant they did not have a chance to get that Semi-final place. The focus was now on WL Team A. Their opponents turned out to be Heycroft's B Team and after a tight match, West Leigh Team A achieved a win of 3-2. However, this result meant the Semi-final place was not a foregone conclusion. We all had to wait for the final results to come in before knowing if it was enough points to get that place. Both West Leigh teams had very tough draws and the system of pairing used meant they both fought the top seeds while the top seeds never needed to play each other. When the results came in, despite the unusual and difficult draws, West Leigh's Team A managed to get joint 4th with Prince Avenue thus securing that Semi-final place in Camber Sands. An impressive result considering the pairing system used. Team B came an equally impressive 7th place, narrowly missing out on the Semi-final entry but still received an invitation to the Plate competition also at Camber Sands. A huge congratulations to both teams who played professionally and with great commitment and enthusiasm. A big thank you to Mr Frank Gulley, our amazing chess coach at West Leigh Chess Club, who also worked tirelessly organising the event. Also, special recognition must go to Team B which was mostly comprised of players who have never even taken part in any chess tournament whatsoever. We are very proud of what all our players have achieved!