Monday, June 18, 2007

The Chessplaying Hughes Family (and Dog)

This article caught my eye because of the mention about "training up the dog" to play chess – he’s black and white too, just like my Spencer was. But the story is about a chessplaying family and one in particular, Rhian Hughes, who played on the Scotland Women’s Olympiad Team in Turin in 2006. The dog, as far as I know, does not play. Living Saturday, june 16, 2007 'We were going to train up the dog' FAMILY MASTERS Parents Jeremy and Brenda Hughes, with Lloyd, 17, Owen, 14, and Rhian 13. LAST summer in Turin, Rhian Hughes, then 12, became the youngest player ever to represent Scotland at Olympiad level. She already has a host of chess trophies to her name, but her best supporters are her first opponents: her family. The chess board on the coffee table of the Hughes' Edinburgh home is clearly not just for show. Jeremy Hughes, an academic renal physician, is also Chess Scotland's director of youth events. His wife Brenda has coached children's chess, and Lloyd, Owen and Rhian make up three-quarters of the chess team at James Gillespie's High School. "I knew there was a reason why we should have had four children," Jeremy laughs. "To have a chess team!" "We were going to train up the dog," Brenda adds. "He is black and white, after all!" Although it looks as though chess is in the blood for the Hughes, Lloyd was actually the first member of the family to play seriously. "I'm dyslexic and we were advised that chess might help my concentration," he says. "We moved to Seattle and I carried on playing there, it was a real hotbed of chess." Rhian was just five when she won her first tournament. Brenda says: "We had taken her brothers to a tournament and she asked if she could play along with the little ones. And then she won the big trophy." By the time she was 11, she was representing her country in international events. Brenda was astonished, when she went with Rhian to a competition in Montenegro, to see the upper echelons of female chess: players who could double as models, sporting the latest fashions. At Olympiad level, however, pressure on players is intense. Jeremy says: "It's not cold and calculating, it's an emotional game, incredibly tense and nerve-racking. There are moments when it's high pressure, like a poker game, suddenly the stakes are very high. People deal with it in different ways." "I get nervous for Rhian, but she's as cool as a cucumber," says Brenda. Rhian shrugs. "I get nervous before the game, but once I'm in it, it doesn't really bother me. But if I've been playing for ages and I make a stupid mistake where I throw it all away in one move, I get annoyed." She practises regularly, doing chess puzzles, learning theory and improving her tactics. Lloyd says: "Dad and I test new things with her. She normally beats us, but she can learn something new, and it's easier playing a person than a computer." Lloyd still enjoys playing, but stopped competing seriously in the last three years in order to concentrate on his school work. He helps organise tournaments and coaches younger players. "It's great helping them to surpass my own standard," he says. Owen tends to prefer practising with his band. Jeremy and Brenda emphasise that they are anything but pushy "chess parents". "We've always said to Rhian it's up to her. We've said that to all three of them. Owen does play but it's not a passion." Here are Rhian’s results from Turin: Hughes Rhian 0 SCO Rp:1703 Rd. SNo Name Rtg FED Rp Pts. Res. Bo. 1 138 WGM Igla Bella 2288 ISR 2238 6,5 w 0 3 2 411 Stolarczyk Anna 2036 POL 1670 2,5 w 0 3 3 419 Arosemena Bethania 0 PAN 1548 3,5 s 1 3 4 376 WFM Franco Beatriz 2048 COL 2053 2,5 w ½ 3 6 364 Mokgacha Keitumetse 0 BOT 1778 5,0 w 0 3 8 71 WFM Zepeda Cortez Sonia Guadalupe 2036 ESA 1985 3,5 s 0 3 11 143 Chierici Marianna 1922 ITA 2022 7,0 s 0 3

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