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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 02:28 GMT 03:28 UK


Piece of cake for chess girl

Stephanie Hale has been making the right moves

Those who think policemen are getting younger are in for a shock - the world's youngest national chess player is just four years old.

Stephanie Hale, of Chigwell Row, Essex, has entered the record books after playing in the National Mini Squad Tournament.

The BBC's Emma Simpson reports
Her success has even made relatively grown men cry - a boy of nine burst into tears after she beat him in a match.

Stephanie started playing chess when she was two and played her first tournament aged three and a half, with the set-up changed so she could reach the board.

With no under-fours league for her to compete in, she has to play children aged six and seven at the Essex Junior Chess Club.

[ image: Rival: Briton Ruth Sheldon was world under-14 chess champion in 1993]
Rival: Briton Ruth Sheldon was world under-14 chess champion in 1993
There is no chess coach in her area, so her mother Sue, a teacher and chess player, takes her on a one-and-a-half-hour journey to Southend for lessons.

"She grew up with the older children playing chess. When she was two she set up a chess board correctly and knew the moves of all the pieces. From the age of two and a half she was playing games," said Mrs Hale.

"When Stephanie beat a nine-year-old boy he was very upset. He burst into tears and just couldn't understand how someone so young had beaten him," she added.

The child prodigy has not yet won a championship but has been awarded Saltek Chess Computers' player of the month, awarded by chess expert Leonard Barden who spotted grandmasters Nigel Short and Michael Adams.

"Stephanie is the youngest player we have yet discovered," he said.

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