Last weekend’s English Open and Women’s Championships at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, turned into a clash of generations between the established grandmasters and IMs (international masters) and the fast-rising GenZ players in their twenties, teens and even pre-teens. At the final count, the old hands emerged with the trophies and titles, while the new talents showed that their time is not far off.

The English Championship is a recent event, now in its third year. Michael Adams was the top seed and clear favourite, and the Cornish grandmaster, 51, duly took the £1,500 first prize with 6/7, half a point ahead of IMs Marcus Harvey, 26, and Matthew Wadsworth, 22. 

Adams scored his best win against the No 2 seed Ameet Ghasi in the penultimate round, but had anxious moments at the start, when 13-year-old Stanley Badacsonyi was drawing easily until a late blunder, and at the end, when Jonah Willow, 20, missed a likely winning chance.  

Kushal Jakhria, aged just eight, scored 3.5/7, which included one game that he defaulted when unwell. A pupil at London’s Pointer School, he is No 2 in the world for his age, behind a Russian who scored 5/9 in the Moscow Championship. Jakhria is improving fast, and his latest performances are already close to 2200 master strength. Chess currently has zero government support and he lacks a sponsor, so his exceptional talent is being backed by the John Robinson Youth Chess Trust and by the ECF’s Accelerator Programme. 

The women’s championship began with a bizarre moment when Katarzyna Toma, the No1 seed and the only WGM in the field, fell into a one-move checkmate in the second round. Nina Pert, 15, led, but was overhauled by Toma in the final rounds, and the favourite took first prize and the title by half a point with 5.5/7. Pert shared fifth along with Ruqayya Rida, 11, and Anusha Subramanian, 13, in a tournament where more than half the competitors were schoolgirls.

Bodhana Sivanandan, eight, is the world No 1 girl for her age, and recently gave her first simultaneous exhibition. Although not at her best at Kenilworth, she still finished ninth with 4/7.

The current global chess boom, with millions of online games taking place daily and record memberships for major chess sites, has been more limited in the UK, although interest has been stimulated by Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit and by the work of She Plays to Win, which offers free online coaching for girls by an international master. How it develops in future may depend on whether the current generation of talents can match their 1970s predecessors, who went on to make England the No 2 chess nation after the then Soviet Union.

 Puzzle 2522

White mates in two moves, against any defence. (by Bernadus Postma, 1971). This looks easy, but it defeats many solvers.

For solution, click here

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article