As the world went into lockdown last year, many activities moved online – and arguably none more successfully than chess.
The Eton ‘A’ team played the school’s first ever online match in April 2020, defeating a team from South Carolina 6.5-1.5 in a friendly. Buoyed by the result and subsequent enthusiasm, Eton entered the ‘World 20/20 Chess League’. Pupils competed against over 100 teams from all over the world. In their first match, Oli S twice defeated an International Master (IM), a magnificent achievement.
The team went on to claim some extremely impressive results, beating several university sides including Edinburgh, Reading, Konstanz and Leeds. They also played matches against Harvard Business School and Oxford University, where they fell short but fought extremely valiantly, and overall finished in the top half of the table.
At the same time, Dr Moston ran House Chess online and set up Zoom calls for pupils to join and discuss their games with Eton’s renowned coach Mr Sujoldzic. The increase in both participation and ability of the pupils is and continues to be remarkable. Earlier this year, a record 32 pupils played a friendly match against Petts Wood & Orpington Juniors. Pupils also took their own initiative, setting up weekly arenas which anyone could join, and it is no surprise that this commitment and dedication was rewarded in their results and achievements.
Notably, Year 9 pupil Freddie C-M increased his rating by 757 points in less than one year, turning him from a basic beginner to one of Eton’s top players
When school returned for the 2021-2022 academic year, the induction for the new Year 9 cohort saw a huge turnout and several of them have already gone on to represent the school when House Chess resumed in person.
The Ivan Gromov League, set up by Dr Moston, was successfully launched with several schools participating along with Eton as a ‘Hybrid Chess event’. Here, students would meet up in person to play online matches as a team, which created a great environment for learning and team spirit.
Ivan Gromov was a huge Chess enthusiast from Russia who tragically passed away while still a student at Eton, and this league endeavours to build on his legacy and love of the game. As soon as the world gets back to a semblance of normality, Eton hopes to take its first ever Chess tour to Moscow.
Just last week, Eton sent a team of 12 to Wadham College, Oxford for their first in-person friendly match in two years against a strong Oxford University team.
Player Aman G told the Press Office, ‘This was an exciting match because over the past two years many of the matches had been shifted online and so this was a unique opportunity for us to play in the first in-person game in a while.’
Ultimately, Oxford’s experience prevailed as they performed to their ability, although several Eton pupils achieved some great individual upsets and all acquitted themselves with fine performances against their illustrious opponents.