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Megan Richards: CSC Pupil of the Year 2014

Occasionally you'll surprise yourself with how well you can play, and beat an opponent with a rating that is hundreds of points above your own. This happened to me at the South Wales Open, when I caused something of an upset, netting a win against a player who out graded me by considerably more than 500 points.

This was not the result of hours of preparation. In fact, I only entered the tournament at the last minute. However, I do think my success would not have been possible without the increase in my playing strength resulting from my attendance at Baltic Summer Chess Camp that was held in Riga, Latvia for four days in mid-August.

I had the chance to go on this by winning the Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) Pupil of the year Award. I was completely shocked to be chosen for this, and I was so excited as I knew I would be mixing with some amazing players who would be able to teach me a great deal.

On the first night I and all the other chess players from England went to a restaurant called the Lido with CSC tutor John Foley. It was incredible experience being able to sample new cuisines and see another way of daily living.

Throughout the week I got involved in many different activities within the chess camp. I enjoyed playing in a simul against FIDE trainer Verners Putka on the second day, despite loosing the game. That evening there were more games of chess, as I participated in a club rapid play tournament. Players from the UK had some success, with Jonathan Pein – son of IM Malcolm Pein – taking home a prize for a third place.

The experience of being at this chess camp was incredible; playing against players from around the world certainly opened my mind up to new ideas on the chessboard. During my time there I really grasped the importance of putting myself in my opponent’s shoes every time they made a move. I also understood that I should not be afraid to make tactical moves against stronger opponents, and I learnt to play the Latvian Gambit (it begins with the moves 1. e4 e5 2.  Nf3 f5).

On the third day we were all extremely fortunate to have a talk from Mikhail Tal’s coach Vladimir Kirillov. We were taught about what Tal was like as a youngster and discovered he was adamant he would play Botvinnik as a young child.

We also played a blitz tournament and the RTU Open Tournament. These were great experiences and being involved in them has certainly increased my knowledge about various openings styles of playing and how passionate I feel about chess. Within the chess camp we got the opportunity to learn new openings, play people from around the world and experience new people.

Having the opportunity to play in another country has definitely benefitted me in an extremely positive way. These benefits are ones which I think would not be possible in a local camp. Being able to play people from other countries and to be in their environment was an eye opener for me and a real privilege.

Another incredible memory I have, which I will always remember, is the people I met and the friends I made. Everyone I met approached me with such enthusiasm and friendliness, that I really didn’t want to leave as they are people I shall always remember and hope to see again.

I do think to go on this once in a lifetime experience you must have a real passion for the game and be open to new ideas, whether it is openings, your style of playing or even your attitude. Everything should be taken in to account. I’m sure once you’ve decided that your perfect for the place then I 100% recommend you apply for this award because it truly is an experience I will never forget and I have the CSC Charity and Malcolm Pein to thank for that.

Megan Richards Cardiff 14

Junior chess activities are generously supported by a

 grant from the

Welsh Assembly