Read Toby Neal's Column in the
Shropshire Star on Tuesdays for the latest Shropshire Chess news.
Here are some recent cuttings.

If you have a news item email - TNeal@shropshirestar.co.uk.

Gary's winning streak continues - 13/11/2018

Much-travelled Shropshire chess player Gary White is celebrating his most lucrative ever win, coming away with £800 from the week-long Isle of Man tournament.
White, who plays for the Telford-based Maddocks club and takes part in competitions around the country, and also in Gibraltar, warmed up for the Manx tournament by competing in the Crewe Congress. Playing in the Intermediate section, for players graded under 135, he was joint second, with four points out of five, and winning £75.
"That was something of a practice weekend event in readiness for the week-long tournament in Douglas, Isle of Man," said Gary.
"In the under 1750 Minor (under 140) I started rather slowly with just 1.5 points after the first three rounds - so 1.5 points behind the leaders who were on three points. But all that changed in the later rounds as I managed to win four games in a row to finish on 5.5 out of seven for joint first place and win my biggest chess prize ever of £800.
"My round seven game lasted almost six hours and was the last game to finish. Knowing all the other results meant I could work out that had I lost this game I would still be joint third and win £200, draw the game for outright third and £350, or push for the win to ensure £800
"From the 12 games played at these two congresses, I have eight wins, three draws and just one annoying loss, for an overall score of 79.2 per cent. I hope this form can continue into my league games!"


Division Two – Telepost B 0, Maddocks B 5: G Shepherd 0, R Archer 1; P Crean 0, S Maydew 1; J Westhead 0, S Tarr 1; C Micallef 0, T Preece 1; D Bonner 0, G White 1.
Wellington A 1, Newport B 4: T Neal 0, C Lewis 1; M Hollier 1, A Ansari 0; C Mace 0, S Ross 1; M Walsh 0, D Griffiths 1; J Storey 0, A Tunks 1.
Oswestry B 2.5, Telepost C 2.5: D Kirachen 1, J Bashall 0; J Waller 0, P Officer 1; S Tulett 1, Q Mills 0; J Smith 0.5, N Holmes 0.5; A Evans 0, D Bonner 1.

Shropshire Chess Scandal - 06/11/2018

Shropshire's strongest ever chess tournament was hit by scandal when a runaway leader was booted out of the competition when on the brink of winning a £600 first prize.
The 14-year-old was taking part in the inaugural Four Nations Chess League international congress in Telford and racked up an astonishing – and ultimately judged literally incredible – eight straight wins in the first eight rounds of the nine-round competition.
The schoolboy from Surrey was in the lowest section, for players with an international Fide rating of 1825 or below. But despite a personal rating of a very modest 1286 he was not only beating much stronger opposition who would normally have given him a very tough time, but blowing them out of the water.
His lead as the final round approached was already unassailable, but he was not given an opponent.
Chief arbiter Alex Holowczak said: "A thing has happened that I'm not allowed to talk about. He is not playing in the final round, so is not eligible to win any of the prizes."
While organisers were tight-lipped, there were pointed comments on the tournament's webchat feature as suspicions arose, with one reading: "Wow, this character is brilliant! Plays better than Magnus Carlsen (the world chess champion) when only rated 1200!"
One Shropshire victim of the youngster, Church Stretton's Graham Shepherd, said: "He slaughtered me."
Graham's Fide rating of 1416 is 132 under the ECF grading system with which most club players are more familiar, and his junior opponent's ECF rating is a mere 78.
Graham said he had heard various rumours from other players to explain his opponent's strong performance, but said: "To be honest, I was in such a mess I was concentrating on my game. My only thought was that he is too good for this section and should be in the Open. Personally I wouldn't accuse him of anything other than being a lot better player than me."
Later the tournament results website was amended so that the youngster was stripped of all his points and moved from the top of the table to the bottom.
On a more positive note, the Telford venue for the first-ever event, held at the Park Inn in the town centre, came through with flying colours, and the international competition attracted 10 Grandmasters – surely a record for any Shropshire chess competition – among a total of 109 entries across three sections.
"This is the first international nine-round tournament we have held, and the reason for holding it in the first place is that 4NCL is in its 25th season, so this is a celebration of the 25th season of the 4NCL.
"The reason we have chosen this venue is when we hold the 4NCL league matches it's one of the most popular ones we visit, with a good location, they like the hotel, and the playing area is very nice," said Alex.
A number of Shropshire players took part, with Newport's Nat Paul winning the under-2200 performance prize in the Open, which included his first ever win against a titled player, Fide Master Richard Britton.
In the section for players with a rating under 2050, Adrian Zdanowski of Telford's Maddocks club shared joined second place. Declared winner in the eventful under-1825 section was Joe Hirst of Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Rapidplay Success in Birmingham - 30/10/2018

Two Shropshire chess players had impressive success in a strong field at the Birmingham rapidplay tournament played at Quinborne.
Newport's Nathanael Paul was joint second with two others in the Open section with a score of five out of a possible seven, winning £50. Another Newport player, Athar Ansari, finished on 3.5 out of 7 in the same section, which included a draw with top seed Steven Jones in the final round. He shared a grading prize, and came back with £12.50 in prize money.
Players in the event started with 15 minutes to make all their moves, with an extra 10 seconds added for every move they made.

In the county chess league, Telepost B have been given one match point penalty for defaulting their away match against Newport B. The default was caused by lack of player availability.
Reigning league champions Newport A have taken an early lead in Division One after a narrow victory over Shrewsbury A.

Wellington defy the odds - 23/10/2018

Stellar results by two of the lowest graded players in Shropshire Chess League helped Wellington A beat the odds on their travels to Oswestry B.
Wellington arrived already a point down for the Division Two encounter, having been able only to field four players. With several of their strongest players unavailable Martin Walsh graded 64, and John Storey, graded 20 by some margin the lowest graded player in Shropshire stepped in on boards three and four.
The match was only really beginning to get under way when it suddenly became apparent that there was already a result on board three. Walsh had checkmated Dimitar Kirachen, who is graded 108 and has a reputation among colleagues for playing very fast.
The general pattern of Storey's games is that he plays solidly for a while and then makes a mistake which loses on the spot.
"He didn't make a mistake in three hours," said his opponent Jon Smith, who has a grading of 92.
The upshot was that they drew, and with Mike Hollier winning, and a draw on top board, Walsh and Storey's results took Wellington to a match victory which was unexpected in the circumstances.
Elsewhere Newport B chalked up a 5-0 whitewash of Telepost B, who defaulted their match, and Newport are now joint leaders of the division with Telepost C, who beat Telford A.

Two matches played – and nobody with a 100 per cent record - 16/10/2018

That's the story so far in Division One of Shropshire Chess League where every team has dropped at least a point.
Last season's champions Newport A are the early leaders. They were missing one or two of their strongest players for their encounter with visitors Oswestry A – runners up last season – who went home with a point from their draw.
Shrewsbury B scored an upset, beating a strong Maddocks A side, thanks to wins on all three middle boards.
The county town derby of Shrewsbury A v Telepost A saw the visiting Abbey Foregate side emerge with the bragging rights after a 2-3 win.

Meanwhile Division Three is shaping up for a tough promotion fight, with three teams heading the division on five points.

Another international tournament comes to Telford - 09/10/2018

International chess is heading to Shropshire with yet another major competition choosing Telford as its venue.
The Four Nations Chess League international congress, which will be celebrating 25 years of the 4NCL, comes to the Park Inn at Telford town centre from October 31 to November 4 with a prize fund of £6,900.
There will be four sections, with the top one being the Open in which there is an additional lure for Grandmasters and other Masters in the form of free entry. At the other end of the strength scale the lowest section is for players with a FIDE rating of under-1600, which is the equivalent of a grading of around 120. The tournament comprises nine rounds in which players have an initial 90 minutes on the clock, but gain an extra 30 seconds on their clock every time they make a move.
It is just the latest top chess competition to come to Telford in recent months, with the town's central location, good transport links, and available hotels no doubt being a factor for organisers.

In Shropshire Chess League, Telepost B are the early leaders in Division Two after beating Oswestry B, while in the first round of matches in the parallel rapidplay league, Newport A had a clean sweep with three wins to head the First Division.

Newport Master Class - 02/10/2018

Newport launched their "secret weapon" in their opening fixture of their campaign to retain the championship in Shropshire Chess League.
Last season Newport had the services of a Grandmaster, Keith Arkell, on top board, and his shoes have been filled by Lawrence Cooper who is "only" an International Master.
In the event he was the home side's only player to fail to win as they entertained Telepost A, although admittedly he had a super-tough opponent in the form of Nigel Ferrington, against whom he drew.

Maddocks A, as the old Priorslee Lions are now branded, got off to a storming start with a 4-1 win over Oswestry A, who were title contenders last season.
Maddocks are another team benefitting from an addition of a strong player to their ranks, this time in the form of Dave Gostelow, who previously played for Telford, while their C team is enjoying a comeback after many years of Richard Archer, who used to play for the club when, a couple of name changes ago, they were all-conquering Coddon.

Times they are a-changing - 25/09/2018

Times they are a-changing on the Shropshire chess scene, with the new league season getting under way with players having to get used to a new time control.
The move to an incremental time control was narrowly passed at the annual meeting of the county's chess association and - at least where digital clocks are available - sees an end to the old regime in which players had to complete all the moves of the game in 95 minutes.
This led to some frantic finishes, not to mention flying pieces, as players in some cases found themselves having to make moves instantly.
But now players are given an initial 85 minutes on the clock, and then every time they make a move another 10 seconds is added.
The change only applies where digital clocks are available, as they can be programmed to automatically add the extra 10 seconds. When matches are played using old-fashioned wind-up chess clocks, then the 95 minute rule still applies.

One of the early games of the season saw a rarity an endgame of bishop, knight and king against a lone king.
It came on top board in the Wellington A v Telford A encounter.
Opinions vary on whether it is worth bothering to learn how to checkmate in an ending which only happens around once in every 6,000 games, and Wellington's Toby Neal fell into the hadn't bothered category. Crucially opponent Richard Szwajkun knew it was impossible to force checkmate if he kept his king in a corner not controlled by Neal's bishop, which of course he did, and a draw was the result.

Seaside capers - 18/09/2018

Shropshire chess players do like to be beside the seaside as evidenced by their results at the Paignton congress.
Four county players entered, and Richard Bryant of the Oswestry club was a double winner.
The tournament is unusual in that players can play in separate morning and afternoon events, and Bryant shared first prize with one other player in the morning competition in the section for players graded under 180, and shared first prize with seven others in the afternoon event.
Graham Shepherd of Church Stretton almost matched his feat, sharing first prize with one other player in the morning competition for players graded under 135, and sharing second prize with three others in the afternoon competition for players graded under 150.

Shropshire players have also been in action in the 2018 Open Blitz Championship in Birmingham, including Newport's Athar Ansari, who beat a player with a Fide rating of 2164 and drew with an International Master, although he rates his best game as his loss at the hands of Grandmaster David Howell, England's number three.
"His attack was so strong that it made my head spin," said Athar.

Closer to home the Shrewsbury Town Championship has reached its climax with six players on equal points battling it out in the final round.
Peter Kitchen had "something he had prepared earlier" in his encounter with Phil Zabrocki who found himself running straight into Kitchen's homework in a French Tarrasch, with the upshot that it was all over in 19 moves after half an hour's play.
"It's a dangerous little line that can clearly catch very strong players out," said the victorious Kitchen, who had been saving it up and waiting for a victim, with Zabrocki's 13th move being the turning point.
The game went: 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nd2 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ndf3 cxd4 8 cxd4 f6 9 exf6 Nxf6 10 Nh3 Bd6 11 0-0 0-0 12 Re1 Qc7 13 Nhg5 e5 14 dxe5 Nxe5 15 Rxe5 Bxe5 16 Bxh7check Nxh7 17 Qxd5ch Kh8 18 Nxe5 Nxg5 19 Ng6ch and black resigned.
Jamie Hopkins, playing his last game for the foreseeable future for family reasons, beat Matthew Clark, and David Everington beat Matt Best, to see the title shared three ways between Kitchen, Hopkins, and Everington.

High drama surrounding Ludlow Chess Club - 11/09/2018

Shropshire's new chess season has been embroiled in high drama even before a single pawn has been pushed with the Ludlow club storming out of the league after accusing league controller Nat Paul of "poaching" a star player.
Ludlow captain Joe Watson filed an official complaint against Paul, alleging "grossly inappropriate" conduct for a league controller, which was considered by a specially convened panel at the end of last week.
Watson warned in advance that if there was not a satisfactory response, Ludlow would consider quitting Shropshire Chess League.And immediately after being notified of the panel's unanimous verdict that his complaint was not upheld, he fired off an email doing just that, following it up with an email to other captains outlining Ludlow's grievances.
With Ludlow having been due to play in one of the very first fixtures of the new season this week, the Division One fixture list has had to be redrafted.
The player at the centre of this chess "tug-of-love" is Nick Arkell, the fourth strongest player in the entire league, and the brother of Grandmaster Keith Arkell. Both brothers played last season for Newport where Nat Paul captains the A team and the pair were key in helping Newport take the league title.
In the closed season, there seemed a possibility that the Arkell brothers would switch to Ludlow.

Shropshire Chess Association publicity officer Toby Neal, who was a member of the independent complaints panel, said: "Ludlow were clearly very angry. However, they had not spoken to Nick Arkell to find out from him what happened, so the panel chairman Francis Best did.
"The panel's decision and reasons may be published in due course on the Shropshire chess website, www.shropshirechess.org , but to cut a long story short Nick told Francis that he wasn't joining Ludlow because he didn't want to join Ludlow. For various reasons it did not suit him.
"Nick said he told Joe Watson of his decision in an email on August 6. Although Ludlow tried to get him to change his mind, and even changed their club night to accommodate him, he stuck to his decision.
"He refuted Ludlow's claim that Nat Paul had 'poached' him and Nat Paul's evidence was that he had fully expected Nick to join Ludlow but then Nick contacted him out of the blue to say he was having second thoughts.
"The panel felt that players are free agents and it is entirely up to them who they play for, and in this case Nick Arkell had made a free choice to stay with Newport.
"There is a background of grievance on the part of Ludlow because when the Arkells first appeared on the Shropshire chess scene the brothers turned out for them, but last season played for Newport, and Ludlow feel Newport pinched them."

Shrewsbury Town championship grand finale - 04/09/2018

The Shrewsbury Town chess championships reach a fascinating climax this week with six players all tied on three points going head to head in the final match.
Matthew Clark's opponent is Jamie Hopkins, Peter Kitchen is doing battle with Phil Zabrocki, and Matt Best is taking on David Everington.
The championships are a five round tournament running from May to September for players from the Shrewsbury clubs.

With the new league season approaching, Ludlow chess club were left looking for a new home following the closure last month of the Feathers Hotel in the town. The new venue is an upstairs lounge in the Church Inn in the centre of the town, and Ludlow's club night remains Thursday.

Telepost win local derby - 28/08/2018

Telepost emerged with the bragging rights after winning a pre season county town chess derby match.
The Shrewsbury club based at Shelton were visitors at Telepost, based at Abbey Foregate and, with the visitors mustering just three players, the home team loaned them four players for the night to make it a seven board match. Telepost won 4-3.

Results were: Phil Zabroki 1, Mark Smith 0; Matthew Clark 0.5, Ivor Salter 0.5; Steve Kempsell 0.5,Tony Purser 0.5; John Westhead 0, Kate Walker 1; Graham Shepherd 1, Quentin Mills 0; John Casewell 1, Steve Wilson 0; Shane Sweeney 0, Dennis Bonner 1.

More success for Athar - 22/08/2018
Shropshire chess player Athar Ansari is enjoying a golden summer with success in a tournament in Manchester taking his winnings for the holiday season to over £600. Athar played in the Major section in the city's summer chess tournament in a field of 70.

"My first game ended in a draw and I was disappointed. The player wasn't so strong but was very experienced," said Athar, who played last season for Telford.
The good news was that he finished as joint winner to share the £750 first prize, coming home with £375.
This comes on top of the £250 he took home through being outright winner of the Midland Open Championship held in Telford the previous week, thanks to a perfect score of five wins in his five games, again in the Major section.

Midland Open Championship - 15/08/2018

Athar Ansari was the Shropshire star of the show at the Midland Open Championship held in Telford as he smashed the chess opposition to score a perfect score of five wins in his five games.
Ansari, who played last season for the Telford club, won the first prize in the Major section, going home £250 richer. There was also a stellar performance by the Newport junior Edison Xu, who was equal third on 3.5 points.
Joint winners in the strongest section, the Open, were Jonah Willow of West Nottingham, Steven Jones of Basingstoke, and Shyam Jagdish Modi, who does not have a club, all on four points, but the Shropshire highlight was the achievement of Telepost player Nigel Ferrington in drawing against the Grandmaster Mark Hebden. Ferrington finished on three points.
Surprisingly there were hardly any Shropshire entries in the Minor section, where first prize was shared by John Harris of Forest of Dean and Julian Hawthorne on four points, but the unaffiliated Peter Mellor was equal third, and Telford's Roger Brown was equal sixth.
The competition was held at the Ramada Hotel and there were 77 entries - respectable considering it is the height of the holiday season.

New grading list reveals it's secrets - 08/08/2018

Tony Preece is Shropshire's most improved chess player, the latest players' grading list reveals.
Preece, who plays for the Telford-based Maddocks club - it has recently changed its name from Priorslee Lions - is up 16 points in the summer grading list, to 138.
The gradings are an assessment of a player's strength based on their results, and determine in what order teams can be played, as the strongest players have to play on the top boards.
Also making double digit strides are Ludlow's John Wrench who is up 11 to 171, and Newport's Edison Xu, up 10 to 159.
Edison is still only 10, and has underlined his potential to be a star of the future by winning the Newport blitz tournament with a fantastic score of 6.5 out of 7 in a strong field. He took first prize of £21. Equal second were Chris Lewis, Phil Bull, and Richard Archer, on 5 out of 7.
The competition was a handicap, in which the very strongest players had only 150 seconds on the clock, and the weakest, eight minutes.

For those looking for further summer chess action the Midland Open Championships are being held at the Ramada Hotel in Telford town centre, from August 10 to 12. A number of Shropshire players are already signed up for the tournament, which has three sections of strength, and which will be looking for a last week surge in entries - at the time of writing there are 29.

Telford hosts Midland Open Championships - 01/08/2018

More summer chess action is heading to Telford - an indication perhaps that the town's central position and good communications are appreciated by organisers of national and regional events.
Hard on the heels of the Four Nations Chess League congress which attracted players from all over Britain, the Midland Open Championships are coming to the same venue, the Ramada Hotel in the town centre, from August 10 to 12. There are three sections - the Open, for players of unlimited strength, a section for players with a grading of under 160, and lastly a section for those with a grading under 130. First prize in the Open is £500, and £250 in the other two sections.

The inaugural Minor individual championship in Shropshire has been won by Tony Preece, of the Maddocks club, with a score of six points out of seven games. The tournament was introduced last season for players graded 125 and below, amid a feeling that in the county's "other" individual championship with no grading limit the relative minnows had little incentive as they were unlikely to score well.
Runner up was Telford's Stefan Tennant on 5.5. Grading prizes went to Ian Davies, Tony Purser, and Willie Gormley.