REFUGEES turned a three-day Cumbria county chess tournament into something of an international event when it was held at Ulverston's Ford Park House almost 20 years ago.

The Mail, on February 29 in 2000, noted: "Three Kosovo refugees, who had made their temporary home at the nearby old Ulverston Victoria Lower School complex, competed in the major section of the tournament.

"The three Kosovars were Skendar Jupoli, Sylejman Ramadani and Khemil Koxha and according to event organiser Mike Mason all three acquitted themselves well, with Khemil winning one of the smaller prizes."

The eventual champion was Carlisle player Steve Barnes with Norris Kirkby, from Barrow, winning the novice section from  10-year-old Finn Mason, a pupil at Croftlands Junior School, in Ulverston.

The article noted: "The only woman competitor at the event learnt to play chess while she was ill in hospital.

"Mary Jones, from Parklands, Askam, picked up the game on a magnetic board in a ward at Furness General Hospital.

"She is now a member of Barrow Chess Club and on the England correspondence chess team."

Youngsters contested the Under-11 Furness District Chess Championships at Sacred Heart Junior School, in Lumley Street, Barrow, on Saturday, January 15 in 2000.

The Mail noted: "Chess is becoming increasingly popular in the county, with many junior schools setting up their own clubs.

"Sue Hodgson, chess coach at Sacred Heart, regularly takes classes of up to 40 children, who all devote their lunch hour trying to master the game."

She said: "We have started playing friendly matches with a few of the other schools in the area."

Nine schools provided a total of 59 players for the district contest.

In May 2000 the Ulverston Chess Club won the Cumbria Junior Chess League for the first time since the competition started in 1927.

The winning team was Finn Mason, David Maiden, Philip Wilson and Sophie Mason.

Furness Schools Chess Association held the finals of its 25th anniversary junior championships at Victoria Junior School, Barrow, in June 1999.

The individual winner was 11-year-old Joseph White, from Sacred Heart School and the team prize went to Croftlands Junior School, Ulverston.

An article on June 10 noted: "The championship was established in 1975 by Barry Sanders, formerly headteacher at Abbotsmead, who was himself a former county champion at senior level."

The Mail, on February 23 in 1999, described the growth of interest in the game at Croftlands Junior School, Ulverston.

Its chess club had 25 members and a waiting list of others keen to take part in 3.30pm sessions every Monday.

The club was run by Mike Mason, of Conishead Priory and he was preparing pupils for the Saitek UK Chess Challenge - which had 35,000 entries from schools all over the country.

Mr Mason said: "Chess is encouraged at junior level by about 15 schools in the Furness area.

"It's only a game but it's good in terms of pattern recognition and other things that education is about.

"The game is competitive without being overly-aggressive and it's a great leveller."