Westergate girls were chess queens in 1980

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This group of girls had every reason to smile – they had just pulled off the school chess world’s equivalent of David v Goliath.

It was January 1980 and they all attended Westergate Comprehensive and Community School and had just beaten the mighty Dorothy Skinner High School, in Brighton, to qualify for the final of the Sussex Girls under-16 chess championships.

The team’s captain, Mandy Hepworth, who was just 11-years-old at the time, was lauded by the school’s chess teacher as “one of the hottest properties in junior chess”.

His name was Peter Barton and, according to the report published in the Observer on January 25 1980, he had masterminded something of a chess resurgence at Westergate.

Some 50 youngsters at the school were playing chess proficiently and 10 of them were girls.

Even though junior chess was somewhat dominated by boys at the time, Mr Barton was confident his girls could deal with any challenge thrown at them by anyone – and he had high hopes for Mandy.

He told the paper: “For a girl she has remarkable ability and we would hope to enter her for the British junior championships later this year.

“In the past it has always been a boys’ game but, if you can catch the girls when they are young and keep their enthusiasm, there is no reason why they cannot go on to become masters.”

Pictured from left: Melaine Wright, 11, Mandy Hepworth, 11, Lesley Glen, 11, Deborah Baxter, 12, Gail Curryer, 11, and Tracey Redding, 12.

Does anyone know if the girls won the final? Did Mandy make it to the British junior championships?

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