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David Matthews Associates

Borders Primary Chess Championships

by Craig Pritchett

Tom Lawson, a retired Galashiels youth worker, organised his 25th Borders Primary Chess Championships in the Focus Ability Centre, Galashiels (22nd February 2008). Supported by a great team of teachers and non-teaching volunteers, including members of Selkirk chess club, and with 18 schools and 72 participating school-children, who all got a day out of the classroom to do battle on the chessboard, the setting was celebratory. (Photo of the prize giving, with left to right adults Ron Smith, David Matthews and Tom Lawson)

Tom undertakes periodic chess teaching visits to most of these schools. These championships, always held about this time of year, are the high point of the season.

In recognition of Tom’s landmark quarter century of devotion to Borders primary school chess, the media and Borders TV came out in force.

The CakeApart from the children, as ever, startlingly lucid and clear in expressing their positive views about chess, the TV crew focused most on Tom and a marvellous celebratory chess cake. The event earned a 4 minute prime-time slot on Borders TV news the following Monday. (Photo right of the cake and below, youngest player, Graeme Walker and the oldest arbiter Jean Johnston, cutting the cake)

For some years now, Tom has been supported by David Matthews, a sponsor from south of the border. David originally answered a plea for support by Tom in a local Borders paper. He said he’d love to help, but would Tom be happy with an English sponsor? Of course!! David turns up at the event annually and gives out the prizes. He simply believes that chess is an excellent pursuit for children. And he has a huge admiration for Tom’s hard work, enthusiasm and meticulous tournament direction.

Cutting the CakeTom is now getting a little bit older, but he wouldn’t tell the children his age, so I won’t here either. After 25 years, he feels he should start to take more of a back seat in the event. Moves are afoot to ensure that his good work continues.

Another attendee, Ron Smith, the Convener of Borders Council and a retired teacher of some 35 years standing, spoke warmly of the occasion and expressed Council commitment to play its part in enabling these valuable championships to continue.

This year, for the first time, the event was accredited as a qualifier for the Chess Scotland national schools championships (for both individuals and teams). As a result, all players achieving a 50% score (over 40) received a letter of invitation to play in the Scottish Individual Schools Championships in Edinburgh on 30th March.

The top two schools teams, St Mary’s Prep school, Melrose and Earlston Primary, will be invited to play in the team championships in Dunblane on 18th May. In addition to competing in 10 rounds of Allegro chess during the day, the competitors also participated in a chess quiz, won by St Mary’s, and a problem solving competition, won by Balmoral Primary.

The scoring system, 3 for a win, 2 for a draw and 1 for a loss, is also interesting - designed to ensure that no player can suffer any “0”s.

Top results: Premier teams: 1. St Mary’s; 2. Earlston; 3. Stow. Major teams: 1. Balmoral; 2. Lauder; 3. Philiphaugh. Minor teams: 1. Newton St Boswells; 2. Glendinning Terrace; 3. St Boswells. (Photo of St Mary's team: (left to right) Oscar Doherty, Iona Kerr, Robert Dobie and Callum Crawford.)

Leading individual scores: Boy – Cameron Moffatt; Girl – Iona Kerr.


Craig Pritchett

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