Katoomba High School’s intermediate chess team has taken out the divisional championship, finishing the inter-school competition on top of the table.
The five young players won every match of their division in the tournament run by the NSW Junior Chess League.
They then defeated another divisional winner — Terra Sancta — in the knock-out round and have the chance to become regional champions if they beat James Ruse Agricultural College later this week.
The team of five — Lisa Huang, Ira Dudley-Bestow, brothers Kalang and Milo Morrison-Jones (all in Year 9) and Twingle Daniel (Year 10) — have finished second in the past two years and are keen to secure top spot.
“We’re quietly confident,” said Kalang Morrison-Jones.
The competition requires strong commitment, with home and away matches after school on Fridays for 10 weeks. Katoomba defeated Blue Mountains Grammar, St Paul’s Grammar at Cranebrook, St Dominic’s at Kingswood, Penrith Selective High and Kingswood High in its division.
The three boys on the team have been playing together since Year 7. The girls started a year later. They find it challenging and stimulating and regularly practise during their lunch break, up to four times a week.
Ira Dudley-Bestow said he loved chess, partly because he’s good at it, but also because “there’s no luck in it, unlike a board game. Chess involves skill.”
Ira’s dad, Ian, a member of Katoomba’s P & C, has been active in helping to set up competitive chess at the school and comes in to help the students hone their skills when he can.
Katoomba High has won the schools crown before — way back in 1988. The current team was thrilled to receive a good luck message from one of the veterans of that win, Paul Salisbury, who received an OAM this year for his work with
tsunami victims in Japan.
Mr Salisbury wrote to the team: “Back in those days, we took on and defeated the much-vaunted James Ruse on a number of occasions. Sure, they may have topped the HSC list from time to time, but on the chess board they were no match for the mountain men.”
The chess club was an example of the breadth of opportunities available at Katoomba High, a school representative said.