A CENTRE of excellence for a card game that's rapidly improving in popularity could be about to open in Amersham.

Tournaments for the strategy game Magic The Gathering held in the Chiltern district have proved to be incredibly popular and attract hundreds of entrants.

The organisers of the Chesham and Amersham MTG Club are now hoping to open a permanent base in Hill Avenue to host and organise tournaments, in addition to weekly club events.

The club is a family-run venture led by Liz Kolb Barnetson and Francois Hauchard, who hope their planned centre of excellence can become a full-time venture.

Ms Kolb Barnetson said: "We've been running the club for about five years. It's really taken off in the area, which is just brilliant.

"We are one of the biggest clubs in the country. It's a real success story for this area. People have been travelling from all over the UK to take part in our tournaments. The Chilterns is the fastest growing area in the fastest growing country in the world.

"Having run the club we see there's an opportunity to have a business, which is great to keep Amersham thriving and it brings people into the town."

In order for the plans to come to fruition the couple have had to apply to Chiltern District Council for a change of use for the premises they wish to move in to. A decision is likely to be made by the authority by the end of the month.

Magic The Gathering is described as a mind sport that helps to encourage strategic thinking and numeracy and literary skills.

There are more than 12million registered players worldwide - with a small handful who play the game professionally - but it's estimated as many as 20million play it.

The game's UK patron is Countdown star Rachel Riley, while the country's most qualified judge, Kim Warren, hails from Chesham.

Mr Hauchard said: "In terms of strategy it's like chess but there is also a collectable card game set in a fantasy world. It's niche but for a niche mind sport it's very popular.

"There's also the social aspect. People are going out and interacting rather than being stuck in front of their Playstations. It's a way of getting out and meeting like-minded people."

The Chesham and Amersham MTG group meets on Monday nights at the Golden Eagle pub in Ashley Green and on Fridays. Sessions are held at Chiltern Hills Academy in Chesham during term time and Chesham Town Hall during school holidays.

For more details on the group go to www.facebook.com/groups/Mtgchesham/ or call 07899034266.