Hanif Khan can’t get enough of chess.

The 11-year-old has only been playing the ancient game for a year – but has already taken the scalps of several teachers at his school, Park Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in Bowling Park, Bradford.

To Hanif’s delight, the school introduced the game to pupils in March this year during activity sessions. The move has proved an unprecedented success with staff amazed at the impact the game has had on pupils’ academic results and confidence.

So much so that Park Primary PRU, which caters for children who have been excluded or are in danger of being excluded from a mainstream setting, hosted its own chess tournament yesterday which pitched pupils against peers from Lower Fields and Southmere primary schools.

About 35 youngsters played five games each, picking up points along the way for victories. And Hanif, to his school’s delight, finished on top.

He said: “I have playing for a while now – it’s fun because you can play with each other’s pieces. It feels great to win – I didn’t lose a game. I can even beat some of my teachers. Chess really helps you focus.”

Pupils took part in the tournament, believed to be the first in the country held in a pupil referral unit, after receiving some last-minute tips from chess supremo Gerry Walsh, president of the English Chess Federation, the game’s ruling body.

Mr Walsh, a chess arbiter or referee and a friend of grandmaster and former chess World Champion Garry Kasporov, said he had been particularly impressed by the Bradford pupils’ performance.

He said: “Chess is out there just waiting to be discovered.

“The kids here have got good thinking heads – you can see them thinking carefully about each move and considered the impact it will have.

“Chess is competitive, it helps team-building, it makes you think and it improves concentration skills – it is perfect preparation to help them in their exams.

“And the good thing is I can see the talent is there just waiting to be discovered.”

Anne Carter, a special educational needs co-ordinator at Park Primary PRU said she had been “staggered” by the impact chess had had on her pupils’ all-round education.

She said: “Playing chess has helped improve pupils’ confidence, self-esteem and concentration. It’s absolutely staggering when you consider the children we have got at the school.

“I am amazed at the difference it has made to the children and am amazed at the way they have performed at the tournament today.”

Mrs Carter contacted the English Chess Federation (ECF) in the spring after hearing about the body’s plan to give ten chess sets to every school in England.

Experts then put her in touch with Bradford chess coach Charles Wood, who runs the Renaissance Chess Academy. Launched in the city a year ago, it visits deprived areas to involve disadvantaged children in the game.

The results have been startling – the group now has 4,500 young people from eight to 24 years of age on its books – including pupils who have joined the respective chess clubs at Park Primary PRU, Southmere and Lower Fields primaries.

Ultimately, Mr Wood wants to unearth the game’s Holy Grail – a West Yorkshire-based grandmaster of the game. And he believes Park Primary PRU could have such a talent waiting to be discovered.

“This is the first PRU to get involved in chess development and to hold a tournament like this,” he said. “If they wanted to, pupils could play chess for Bradford, then Yorkshire and end up playing for England.”

Mr Wood hopes yesterday’s tournament will be the first of many involving Bradford schools in years to come. He hopes to help set-up 40 chess clubs in district-based schools next year and use the game to help some of the social problems schools are often forced to deal with.

Hanif, Bradford’s first Renaissance Academy Under-12 schools’ champion, is backing the move. “Chess is a game for everyone,” he added. “More people need to get involved.”

e-mail: dan.webber @telegraphandargus.co.uk