WHEN Nicola Jackson's grandfather taught her a few chess moves over Sunday lunch, little did he know just over a year later the primary school pupil would be outsmarting opponents nearly twice her age.

Eight-year-old Nicola, from The Avenue, Chester-le-Street, was recently named Durham County Girls' Under-15 Chess Champion. She scored so highly in her under-nines category that she achieved more points than those competing in leagues way above her age group.

The diminutive queen of chess has devoured chess books and honed her skills at chess clubs ever since her grandfather, Andy Carroll, explained to her how the game worked and showed her a few basic chess moves.

Mr Carroll, also from Chester-le-Street, said: "She got a chess board and when she came up here for Sunday lunch she said, 'granddad, give us a game of this,' and so I showed her the basic moves and she's gone forward from there.

"It's been just over 12 months that she's been playing. But she loves it. She gets all the books and reads them. I can read them, but she understands them. It's absolutely great for an eight-year-old."

Nicola practised at a chess club run at her school, Bullion Lane Primary in Chester-le-Street, and when that disbanded she began to attend a club at Durham School, Durham City.

When she started entering competitions, she quickly progressed from winning rosettes to winning trophies.

Mr Carroll said: "She loves competitions and she loves the competitiveness.

"She's progressed from the first time she competed to getting better and better. She started off with rosettes, then medals then trophies. She said to me, 'I think I'm finished getting rosettes, don't you granddad?'"

* James Armstrong, eight, from Waldridge Park in Chester-le-Street won the under-nines trophy at the Durham County Chess Championships, which were held at Red Rose Primary School in Chester-le-Street.