Not quite checkmate, but Battersea boys just a few moves away from being grandmasters…

News at Eden Harper | 18/07/2019

Battersea Chess Club proteges are being tipped for the top after impressing one and all in a unique match against a star-studded team of grandmasters.

As a one-off, the Battersea Chess Club hierarchy decided that they would allow their team to be made up of aspiring professionals when they took to the chess board to face the all-conquering Wood Green outfit (they can earn up to £300 a game) in a 10-a-side London Chess League encounter which unfolded at the Citadines Hotel in central London.

To get an idea of the task ahead for the youngsters, if we were to use a football analogy it would be much like Spanish giants Barcelona taking on the minnows of Bognor Regis Town -- you get the picture (for clarity, we're talking massive underdogs). For Wood Green, you see, is a team packed with professional players who have kept their set-up at the top of the game for many, many years. And as well respected as Battersea Chess Club is (they have a rich history dating back some 134 years), they are no match for the Wood Green elite.

Okay, so we're not talking Bobby Fischer versus Garry Kasparov here, but a sense of perspective is very much needed to consider the challenge facing the juniors. But hope springs eternal, seemingly, in light of the rather excellent display the youthful team put up against their illustrious and very gracious opponents. With an average age of just 12, the Battersea team -- every one of whom is an England junior international -- did themselves and their club proud; that was the general consensus.

Ultimately, they lost 9-1 but two of the youngsters came away with draws and, given the circumstances, that kind of counts -- in this climate and against this fearsome force -- as a victory. A morale victory at the very least. Jacob Watson, aged 17, from Kent, held grandmaster and former England captain John Emms, while, Luca Buanne -- aged just 11 -- also drew in an exhausting 89 moves with Essex champion Richard Pert.

Ones for the future? Well, yes, when you consider that Shreyas Royal (tipped for the very top) Denis Dupuis, Shlok Verma and Sohum Lohia were all born in 2009. And they got the recognition they deserve; an example of which came when Brian Smith, Wood Green’s sponsor was reported to have sighed: “I’ve never seen eight grandmasters crying before.”

Meanwhile, Battersea’s Central London League captain Chris Beckett is reported to have said: “Just to say again many thanks to everyone who turned out to play and support as Battersea’s team of young all-stars gave the might of Wood Green’s galacticos the fight of their lives.”

Not quite checkmate from the Battersea starlets, but definitely well done all round!