By Jake O’Reilly
From the classrooms of Hanworth Road to the European Chess Championship, Alex Lapidus’ short chess career has already played host to an accumulation of victories against some special opponents.
The daily life of a Year 8 pupil is enough of a challenge without the added status of being 7th in Britain U13 chess but this is the reality he faces.
Alex joined Hampton in 2021 and has taken giant leaps for Hampton chess. He cemented his status as an asset for the school, being the only first year in the first team for chess, following in the steps of former Hamptonian Koby Kalavaaran who was U16 Britain chess champion. He met with Hampton Sports Chronicle writer Jake O’Reilly to tell us how he did it.
What was your first memory of playing chess?
My first memory playing chess was when I was 4, and I was at my chess academy, and I got mated in 4 moves!
What has been your favourite win at Hampton?
Well, it was when I beat the first team captain. However, the captain did have less time than me, but it is still my favourite win at Hampton.
Do you remember the first time you represented the first team?
Well it was at the first co- curricular fair, and I was told that in order to get into the first team I would have to beat the first team captain. Before the match the first team captain told me that if I were to beat him I could get into the first team. I did lose the first game but we were evenly matched for the second, with both of us being in fairly even positions. Even though we hadn’t finished the game, we still had to end it because it was the end of lunch.
Who has been your toughest opponent whilst playing for Hampton?
I would have to say my toughest opponent was a player I faced from another school who was in the year above me. He was a very very strong chess player and I had managed to draw with him for the majority of the match, but in the end he managed to checkmate me. It was a very exciting game!
What has been your longest winning streak whilst playing for Hampton?
My longest winning streak was five games unbeaten which managed to span over five months!
How did you feel starting a new secondary school, coming out of a pandemic, and then becoming the only first year in the chess team?
I mean starting a secondary school is hard enough without being in the first team, and then playing my first tournament for the chess team came with a lot of pressure, but after I played in it, I found it far more fun and less pressured.
Do you have any chess tournaments coming up?
I had a lot of chess tournaments in November, including an U14 inter-school chess tournament. Coming up however, I don’t know when they are but there sure is a lot of them!
Alex, if you had the chance to meet any chess player past or present who would it be and why?
I would have to say Garry Kasparov, because he created a new style of chess, which included aggressive counterattacks. He was also an extremely strong chess champion and still to this day, even though he is an inactive player, his feeder rating is third best in the world.
Who was the first person who really inspired you to get into and start playing chess?
My dad. Even though he wasn’t a professional chess player, he still taught me chess and got me really involved into the sport, which allowed me to beat him when I was only six years old!
For any Hampton boys who may be reading this, could you recommend them anywhere they could play chess inside of school?
Well even if you don’t have that much experience it’s always good to try out online chess platforms, and slowly practise. Inside of school however there is a chess club that allows you to play with your friends, play with people you haven’t met, find new friends and, if you want to, try and play a first team player like I did.