HSC’s Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moments series is continuing – here’s the fourth entry in Group Six. This article recounts the Chess team’s national glory in 2002. This will compete against three other moments in Group Six. Vote in our Twitter poll on Friday to decide your favourite moments – the winner will progress to the quarter-final stage!
In a tradition as old as time, whenever Hampton reach a national football final, swathes of young men in black and gold attend to support their School. In 2019, over 700 travelled to Shrewsbury to watch the First XI win the ESFA U18 Cup; the story is a similar one across the numerous other finals the School have partaken in.
At each final, one chant resounds across the stadium every time: “National Chess Champions, you’ll never sing that”, the Hamptonians cry to the opposition fans. The success the crowd are referring to is the British Open in 2002, where Hampton’s formidable Chess First VI won the national title.
After self-proclaimed disappointment despite winning the plate a year previously, the First VI were looking to achieve Cup success better in the 2001/02 national competition with a team mixed with the exuberance of youth yet plentiful experience too.
Drawn against perennial challengers Tiffin in the preliminary round, Hampton swept aside the competition, winning all of their matches to set up a tie against Yately Manor. Given the British Open’s youth handicap (sides with younger players are given a points advantage), Hampton had very little room for manoeuvre against their much younger opponents.
It mattered little – the First VI came through the test to ensure a quarter-final against favourites St. Paul’s. It was an extremely tight affair, and Hampton’s lower boards were needed to come to the side’s rescue as St. Paul’s looked to thwart their challenge. It took a stunning performance from Nicholas Moon, who hammered the St. Paul’s player – an England junior representative.
It meant that Hampton were now only two matches from glory, but the Oakham team that stood in their way were a formidable force. The only team in the competition to award scholarships, Oakham could boast Russian young stars. Hampton were visibly nervous and fell behind 2-1 early on.
But Hampton’s trademark tenacity came to the fore, and wins from Ross Mooring and Murugun Thiruchelvam gave the First VI a 3-2 lead. It left Nick Kingston-Smith needing only a draw to send Hampton to the final, and that’s exactly what he did.
The opponents standing in the way of Hampton and national glory were RGS Guildford. Against their perpetual foes, the First VI produced a unified, professional performance to take victory and give Hampton their first ever national title. British Open success was just reward for an exceptional season under the stewardship of Dr Harris and Mr McBay.