BRAVE knights and dashing queens did battle as top players went head-to-head at a popular chess congress in Suffolk this weekend.

A hush filled the Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, as 173 competitors engaged in duals of mental agility at the town’s annual chess competition.

Top players, including Nick Pert, Suffolk’s first grandmaster, took part in the hotly-contested event which welcomed entrants of all ages.

Akshaya Kalaihalahan, the British girls’ under-nine champion, was one of three nine year olds to compete in the tournament, which also hosted players in their 80s.

Bob Jones, organiser of the congress, said: “If you love chess, you love playing chess. There is a lot of adrenaline that goes through you when you play and when you win.

“Bury has got a great reputation for chess. It is highly regarded.”

Record numbers of chess fans flocked to this year’s competition, in which they played five games over two days, with some of the matches lasting up to three-and-a-half hours.

The popular congress, which is in its 28th consecutive year, has previously been held in Bury’s Corn Exchange but this was the first year it was staged in the new �18.5million public venue.

David Gilbert had travelled from Kent to take part in the competition and said the space was the perfect setting for intense mental concentration.

“It is a brilliant venue,” he said. “It is a fantastic building. Bury is in the top bracket for a weekend chess congress.”

CJ de Mooi, a regular panellist of the BBC show Eggheads, also attended the event in his role as president of the English Chess Federation.

Mr de Mooi said Bury’s historic buildings and facilities were as much of a draw to players as the tournament itself.

“Bury is such a beautiful town,” he said. “People just love the tradition here.

“It is so historic, with so many things to see. People just want to spend time here.”