"I remember my days at school vividly and with great affection. Bolton School has a great tradition in the liberal arts. I've always acted for the love of it and this first love was inspired at Hopefield, the school theatre."

Sir Ian McKellen - Actor and Old Boy

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Chess Grandmaster Returns to Bolton School

Friday, 18 February 2011

Chess Grandmaster Back at Bolton School

Nigel Short, the UK's most renowned chess player, returned to Bolton School to help celebrate one hundred years of competitive chess at the school.  Having left the independent day school in 1981 as a child prodigy and the youngest International Chess Master in history, he went on to become Britain's strongest Chess Grandmaster of the twentieth century.  Upon his return he talked to pupils about his meteoric rise in the chess world and about his recollections of life at Bolton School.  He then played thirty of the School's best junior chess players in the Great Hall.  The event was chaired by CJ de Mooi, famous as a television "Egghead" and President of the English Chess Federation.

"It has been amazing to revisit Bolton School and to be transported back in time" said Nigel. "I have to admit to not being the best of students here and to not getting the best of exam results.  Lots of things are the same but there are some excellent new developments like the Arts Centre, which was a draughty swimming pool when I was last here!  The School has always had a good reputation for chess and has won the English Schools' Championships three times in the past. Chess is my passion and it is a delight to be here promoting the game to the next generation.  Alas, it is a minority sport, not like football or tennis but there are more chess boards than cricket bats in the country and I am trying to cultivate that interest.  In my time I was the youngest International Master, beating Bobby Fischer's record, but there has recently been an explosion in the number of Masters and the title is not what it was.  That said, I am pretty uncomfortable with the title and prefer Dr Short, which I became after being given an honorary degree by the University of Bolton.  I am still ranked as third best player in the country and chess has been my life - I am pretty much unemployable in any other capacity.  There is money to be made in chess.  If you were world champion, you could expect to be a millionaire.  It will be a good day at the office if I manage to win all my games today, I will certainly be trying very hard.  I am not at all nervous.  Ordinarily I would expect to lose 2 or 3 games."  Before the chess games began, he wished the contestants good luck, but not too much!

Prior to the games, Thea Simpson, aged 10 of Bolton School Junior Girls said: "I am a bit nervous but I am confident that I can do well."  Luke Cavanaugh of the Junior Boys' School also admitted to being nervous but said: "I think I will do well, I play most weekends and I am trying to get into the England team."

Mr Philip Britton, Headmaster of the Boys' Division, said: "It's been an absolute pleasure to welcome Nigel Short back to Bolton School.  He is one of many of our alumni who have visited us recently, other household names include Sir Ian McKellen, Mark Radcliffe and Ralf Little.  The pupils really enjoy meeting these famous Old Boys who have gone out into the world and made a difference.  It truly inspires them.  Chess clubs have existed at the school for 100 years and we have a long tradition of success at chess, both regionally and nationally.  Chess develops powers of concentration and strategic thinking, it is a wonderful antidote to screen-based entertainment which so fixates the modern world.  Nigel's visit has thrilled the boys and girls and, as someone that studied here himself, made them realise that through hard work and dedication, anything is possible."

Despite some valiant efforts from school chess players, Nigel won all 30 games within 3 hours. 

Nigel played a further simultaneous display on the following morning at Bolton School against thirty local junior chess players in an event organised by Manchester Chess Federation.  This was again preceded by a talk about his experiences as a chess grandmaster. 

Nigel was born in 1965 and first attracted press attention aged ten when he beat Viktor Korchnoi in a simultaneous exhibition.  Aged 14 he became, at the time, the youngest International Master in chess history and, two years later, he came second to Garry Kasporov at the U20 World Junior Championship.  In 1985 Nigel became Britain's first ever candidate for the World Championship and in 1993 lost in the final to World Champion Kasporov in the title match in London.  Since then he has remained active at the highest levels of competitive chess, but has also become a chess columnist, commentator and a coach for promising young talent.  He has lived in Athens, with his Greek wife, for the past 17 years but, through chess, he travels extensively.  He has visited 94 countries and in the past year has been to many remote destinations, including Nicaragua, Cuba, Lithuania, Thailand, Angola, Uganda and Ethiopia. 

Any local youngsters interested in taking up chess, should contact Julian Clissold of Manchester Junior Chess on 01204 852036 or j_clissold@btinternet.com

Read the Bolton News story here.

Watch the news item clip on BBC North West Tonight.

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Nigel Short

Old Boy Nigel Short is back at the school and playing chess!

Mr Britton, Headmaster, welcomes Nigel Short and CJ de Mooi, President of the English Chess Federation

Nigel begins the simultaneous display games