Junior chess

The N.C.C.U. is responsible for running individual and team competitions for juniors at the Under-18 level. It is felt that the Union covers too great an area for it to deal with basic coaching and this is left to the various counties to deal with in their own areas and in their own ways. The primary stages of various other national competitions (EPSCA Tournaments; UK Chess Challenge, England Junior Squad events, etc.) are similarly handled at the county level. ( In the last 4 years all the English Junior Squad Championships have been held in the North ; 1996-7 in North Shields, 1998-9 in Liverpool)

Firstly the N.C.C.U. Individual Junior Championship for the handsome Spencer Chalice. The winner also has his entry to a suitable British Championship paid for by the N.C.C.U. This event is organised in turn by each of the counties at a nominated Congress. In 1999 the competition was held at the Heywood Congress in Lancashire and was won by Stewart Haslinger of Formby. In the previous year at the Durham County Congress, Martyn Jones, at 12 years of age, became the youngest ever winner of the Championship. Merseyside will be responsible for the 2000 Championship. (See part 10 for a complete listing of all NCCU Junior Individual Champions).

The N.C.C.U. Under-18 Team Championship is run as jamboree tournament between teams of 12 and played on the first Saturday in March. Again this event is organised by each of the counties in turn. The winning team represents the North in the National Finals, usually played in the Midlands at the end of March. The highest placed eligible team can also take part in the National Minor Counties Championship. The 1997 Championship, organised by Cumbria, was held in Carlisle and won by Northumbria. The 1998 championship was organised for Durham at Sunderland and won by Yorkshire. Lancashire organised the 1999 event at Lancaster which was won by Northumberland. There is as yet no trophy for this event but it is hoped that we will have one before next years event which is again the responsibility of Merseyside.

A Girl’s Under-18 Tournament is similarly held, usually taking place on the same day as the Junior event, this time for teams of six. Few counties seem to enter this event – last year Northumbria beat Yorkshire in a straight match and this year Cumbria beat Yorkshire (rather unsatisfactory match where neither county could produce a full side).

The EPSCA National Schools Championship Semi-Final – an event involving some 600 young players – is held each year at Pontin’s in Prestatyn. Preliminary zone tournaments were held this year in Bolton, Liverpool, Rotherham and Sunderland. Megafinals for the UK Chess Challenge are held in Lancaster, Liverpool, Rotherham and Sunderland.

Interest in the NCCU U18 jamboree tends to fluctuate, and efforts must be made to regain the former glory of the competition. Between the period 1967-1977, Lancashire U18 Boys won the U18 NCCU boys jamboree 10 out of 11 times, and won the English U18 competition five times in the same period.

Perhaps with players of the calibre of Jeff Horner, Paul Littlewood and  Jonathan Mestel these results were not such a surprise!

In 1975 we find that Lancashire and Yorkshire held a massive junior friendly over 93 boards! Of particular interest in this match were the Lancashire players on boards 29 (Malcolm Pein, later to become an International Master) and a certain Nigel Short on board 39, later to become a Grandmaster and to challenge Garry Kasparov for the world title in 1993!