AN 11-year-old chess prodigy has earned a place in a national squad after coming second against adults in a tournament.
Niall Ali, a Year 7 student at Westcliff High School for Boys, took on a host of adults at the Southend Chess Congress, which is open to all ages.
He earned the David Wood Memorial prize for the best junior and £100 prize money.
He is now looking forward to testing himself as part of the England junior chess squad.
He said: “I was very pleased to win the awards. I’ll be heading off to play international matches in Russia next year, so I can’t wait.”
Niall’s fascination with chess began three years ago when he won a primary school tournament when in Year 3.
The current Essex under-11 champion, he will head into this year’s British junior championships in Aberystwyth, Wales, with a good shot at the under-12 title.
Niall added: “I used to play against my dad at home and I started beating him, so I decided to enter the school tournament.
“Since then, I’ve had a coach for two hours a week and I train with puzzles every night.”
Niall’s parents are in discussions with a Mercedes dealership in Thurrock and hope to set up sponsorship for their son to cover tournament costs.
The whole family has the chess bug now, with mum, Samantha, setting up clubs across the county with the help of Niall’s coach, Richard Harding.
Mrs Ali said: “Niall has done really well. We’re very proud of him.
“He’s punching well above his weight in adult competitions, but he works extremely hard at it.
“He has a good chance at the British championships in Aberystwyth and it’d be great to have a junior champion in the area.
“I had no involvement in chess before Niall started, but he is so dedicated, reading 15 puzzles a night and always practising – something