Another promising star for the future..

November 20, 2006

Meet the chess prodigy

It may be a game traditionally dominated by men, but one eight-year-old chess champ has proved that girls can be queen of the check-mate by trouncing her male opposition.

Anouska Nichols is making a name for herself in Norfolk’s junior chess circles and her latest triumph is taking the Norfolk under-9 chess champion title.

The Norwich youngster won her age-group outright with six wins out of six at the Norfolk Junior Chess Championship.

Anouska, a Year 4 pupil at Norwich High School for Girls, is the first girl in recent years to win a Norfolk championship which is open to boys.

She said: “I really enjoy playing chess – I practice a lot at school and at home. Boys are sometimes very hard to beat and a girl hasn’t won the competition for a long time so I am really pleased to have won all six of my games.” Astonishing figures prove that chess is a male-dominated game – 95pc of registered players in Britain are men. A noticeable exception was rising British female chess star Jessie Gilbert, who was just 19 when she fell eight floors to her death from a hotel window in the Czech Republic in July.

Despite the lack of female players at the highest level of chess, it is widely acknowledged that at primary school level large numbers of both girls and boys enjoy the game in the county. Ten-year-old Riddhi Shenoy, also a pupil at Norwich High School, almost repeated the winning performance in the under-11 championship, held at the same time at the City of Norwich School.

Despite coming equal with the winner in her competition, she was placed second on tie-break and was runner-up.

The school’s chess club leader and music teacher, Stephen Orton, said: “Altogether 10 Norwich High School girls took part in the competition. They are all very dedicated to the game and all played well. Let’s hope we can give the boys a run for their money again next year.”

Factfile:

From the Middle Ages through the 1700s, chess was a popular social pastime for men and women of the upper classes.

Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I played and Thomas Jefferson wrote several times about Benjamin Franklin ‘s playing chess in Paris with socially important women, including the Duchess of Bourbon , who was “a chess player of about his force”.

By the 1800s the chess world had become dominated by men up until the 20th century when the game became more popular with women again, although they only made up 5pc of registered tournament players.

Georgia produced some of the best women chessplayers of the late 20th century, including the first female International Grandmaster Nona Gaprindashvili , who was awarded a special title in 1978.

By the mid-1980s a number of women were competing regularly in events with men. In 1991, Susan Polgar became the first woman to earn the Grandmaster title on the same basis as the men.

But as of 2005, no woman has ever been the world champion and only a handful made it in to the top 500.

In September 2005, Susan Polgar’s younger sister GM Judit Polgar of Hungary, then rated 8 in the world by the international chess organization FIDE , became the first woman to play for the World Championship title.

The Norfolk county junior team has a match in Kettering on November 25. Any players interested should contact Stephen Orton on 01603 621184.

Have you excelled in a competition recently? E-mail kim.briscoe@ archant.co.uk or call her on 01603 772419.

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