WHAT THE PAPERS SAY

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.

Paul tops the leaderboard - 12/03/2019

Nathanael Paul has taken the lead in the battle to be crowned Shropshire's king of chess, moving half a point clear in the county's individual championship.
Paul beat his Newport team-mate Nick Rutter, who is the county's highest graded regular player, to set up a head-to-head in the fifth round of the seven-round tournament with Telepost's Nigel Ferrington, the county's second highest graded regular player. Paul is on 3.5 points, while Ferrington, Rutter and Adrian Zdanowski are all on three, so it remains all to play for.

Shrewsbury C are looking good for promotion from division three, with their whitewash of a shorthanded Telford B seeing them two points clear with two matches to go to the end of the Shropshire Chess League season.
If they do go up, and if Shrewsbury A are demoted from division one – which looks highly likely – it will mean the county town club has both its A and C teams in division two, while its B team will be in division one. This will set the scene for some awkward decisions as normally a club would field its strongest players in its division one team, but B-teamers will feel they are in the top division on merit and might not take kindly to any A team interlopers being slipped in.

The Church Stretton club has moved to a new venue, the Kings Arms in the town's High Street, which is about 30 yards down the road from the Bucks Head, it's previous venue.

More Congress Success - 05/03/2019

Kate Walker of the Shrewsbury-based Telepost chess club grabbed some glory with an impressive joint win at the Warwickshire Chess Congress.
Kate, who was competing in the Intermediate section for players with a grading of under 140, was one of four winners equal on four points. Her own grading is 119, so she was up against some stiff opposition.
Newport's Athar Ansari also punched above his weight, coming equal sixth on three points in the strongest section, the Open, where many of the players had a FIDE rating of over 2000. His own is 1909.

A question which arose at the recent mid-season meeting of Shropshire Chess Association was – does Ludlow Chess Club still exist?
Ludlow quit the county's chess league at the start of the season in a protest. It followed a ruling by an association disputes panel which rejected Ludlow's claim that one of their players had been "poached."
Also at the start of the season the club moved to a new venue at the Church Inn, Ludlow. However, the meeting heard that repeated attempts to contact the club since by email had gone unanswered, with the upshot that nobody knew whether or not it was still going – which is relevant as the Ludlow club still appears on the Shropshire Chess Association website.

In the latest round of league action, Newport B lost some momentum in their bid to take the Division Two title as a defaulted board cost them dear against Wellington A, with the result a draw. Newport were lucky that Wellington were significantly under strength, otherwise the no-show could have been even more costly.
Newport are now neck and neck with Maddocks B and are topping the table by the slimmest margin on "goal difference."

Newport just Nick it - 26/02/2019

League leaders Newport A fielded a star player in the Nick of time in more ways than one as they put struggling Shrewsbury A to the sword in Shropshire Chess League.
Nick Arkell, the brother of Grandmaster Keith Arkell, was nominated as one of Newport's team at the start of the season, but up to last week had played in no league matches at all, leaving the team in jeopardy of breaking a newly-introduce rule which says nominated players must play at least three times during the season. The rule is designed to stop teams nominating players who never actually play and are essentially phantoms, which would give teams much greater flexibility in the way they field the rest of their squad.
With just three league fixtures to the end of the season, had Nick Arkell not turned out for the match against Shrewsbury, then Newport would have been deducted a penalty point. They avoided that fate, and will need to field him for all their remaining matches, as they face a deduction for each Arkell no-show there may now be.
Newport ran out 4-1 winners – hardly surprising with a line-up of International Master Lawrence Cooper on top board, and then Nick Rutter, Nick Arkell, Nat Paul, and Ian Jamieson. However, Shrewsbury's Peter Kitchen reports: "Bizarrely, it was probably one of our best team performances of the season. At 10.20, the score was still 0-0. "We played really well. Jim Wilkinson was an exchange up against Ian Jamieson, Francis Best was a pawn up against Nick Rutter, and Mark Smith had a piece for three pawns again Nat Paul."

Peter Kitchen also reports on latest action in the Four Nations Chess League: "I captained Celtic Tigers 2 at Daventry in 4NCL division four south. It's the same division as Shropshire 2 & Shropshire 3. My team is very close in the table to Shropshire 2 in the pack just outside the promotion places. On the Saturday night we feared we may end up drawing each other the following day – happily that didn't come to pass.
"I outgraded both of my opponents and got a win and a draw. On the Saturday I held a difficult ending to draw a 52-move game lasting five hours as black against Daniel Finn, graded 148, which helped secure the team a 3-3 draw against Sussex Martlets 3. On the Sunday I beat Imogen Dicen with the white pieces – she played to mate, so this one took four and a quarter hours and 84 moves. That put the team 3-1 up but we ended up drawing again, this time against Warwickshire Select 2.
"So that was nine and a quarter hours and 134 moves over the two days. Draining!"

Grading system under review - 19/02/2019

Changes at the top of the chess world could see Shropshire's players having to get their heads around what for many will be an entirely unfamiliar grading system.
Grades are an assessment of players' strength based on their results, and determine the order in which players are fielded in teams, and who can enter what competition. In Shropshire Chess League the English Chess Federation system is used, and the span of gradings in the county is from 24 to 215.
But now the ECF is considering moving to a four-digit system to bring English chess into line with the ratings system used in most of the rest of the world. A consultation period is under way which ends on March 15.

In the county's latest league fixtures, Newport B continue to make the running in the second division, maintaining their lead at the top with victory over Shrewsbury-based Telepost B, while at the other end of the table another defeat for Oswestry B may have destroyed their lingering hopes of avoiding the drop.

This week sees a rare mid-season meeting of Shropshire Chess Association which will look at various issues, including response to the new incremental time controls which were introduced at the start of the season.
Previously players had 95 minutes to complete all the moves of the game which meant, if players were down to their last few seconds, things could be frantic. Under the incremental controls players get an extra 10 seconds every time they make a move, removing the need for a mad flurry.

Ted Eales wins oldest trophy - 12/02/2019

Ted Eales is the reigning king of Shrewsbury chess after being presented with what may be Shropshire's oldest surviving sporting trophy.
Eales won the Shrewsbury championship – an internal five-round competition at Shrewsbury Chess Club – with a score of four points.
He was presented with the trophy by club veteran David Everington who said: "One of the last winners before the space for more shields ran out, in the 1940s, was Hans Lobbenberg who was the managing director and one of the founders of Corset Silhouette which employed hundreds of local women at their Harlescott factory from the wartime era until the 1960s. 
"Hans was a German Jew who got out just in time before the Second World War.  He had been a radio operator in the German Air Force in World War One but became a very popular figure in Shrewsbury, still fondly remembered by his employees.
"The trophy dates back to the 1895-96 season and might be the oldest competitive trophy in Shropshire – unless anyone can beat that."

In the latest league games, Maddocks A and Telepost A have narrowed the gap on Division One leaders Newport A, although they still have a four point cushion, while things remain tight in the promotion race in Division Three, with just three points between the leading four teams.

Shropshire chess moves - 05/02/2019

Shropshire chess players have been enjoying success on their travels, with Athar Ansari of Newport chess club winning a grading prize in the Open at the Stockport Rapidplay, taking home £40.
There were successes too at the Coventry Rapidplay, where Tony Preece of Maddocks chess club won a grading prize in the Major, taking home £7.50, and Newport's Nathanael Paul coming joint third in the Open, winning £15.
Paul said: "I was leading outright going into the last round but unfortunately lost in a very close game, with Don Mason and Shabir Okhai winning the section on five out of six. "I came equal with Grandmaster Mark Hebden and FIDE Master Jonah Willow on 4.5. I'm pretty pleased though as I drew with Jonah, beat three 200-plus players including one graded 220 and only lost one game which was against Okhai."

A trio of Shropshire players – David Gostelow, Richard Bryant, and Gary White – took part in January's Gibraltar International Chess Festival, competing in the Amateurs section. Gostelow was a very creditable equal third on four points out of five, although because of a number of players on equal scores in both second and third spots he was officially classed as eighth. Bryant finished on 3.5, and White scored two. 

Latest Shropshire Chess League action has been in Division Two where leaders Maddocks B drew with Telford A to keep things tight at the top.
Wellington A, who came down from Division One at the end of last season, have looked in danger of doing a double drop but were able to field their strongest side for the first time in this campaign against Telepost C, and were rewarded with a win, while fellow strugglers Telepost B's victory over Oswestry B has also boosted their hopes of avoiding relegation.

Shrewsbury just hanging on - 29/01/2019

Shrewsbury A are staring relegation in the face in the top flight of Shropshire Chess League, and are in the embarrassing position of having their B team above them.
The two Shrewsbury outfits met in the latest round of matches and shared the points, but the bigger picture is that they are both at the bottom of the division. At least they can't both be relegated as, after the withdrawal of the Ludlow club before the season began in a protest over alleged "poaching" of a player, only one team goes down.
Shrewsbury A's Peter Kitchen said: "If we had lost the match it would have been the end of the world, but by drawing we are still in touch."
He reports that the A-teamers went into the lead when David Everington beat Mark Smith, who went astray in the Two Knights opening, in 18 moves, and there then followed two draws. Things were looking very good for Kitchen in his own game against Ile Olusegun but then a mistake as the clocks ran down turned things around, while on bottom board Stephen Priestley pressed hard against Ivor Salter but eventually drew.

Eye-catching wins of both top boards helped secure Telepost A a point against runaway leaders Newport A, who remain five points clear at the head of the division.
Nigel Ferrington beat Lawrence Cooper in a battle of chess heavyweights, but on board two it was on paper much more of a David v Goliath battle as Matthew Clark, who is graded 158, went head to head with Nick Rutter, graded 213. So it was a real feather in Clark's cap to emerge victorious.

In Division Three, things continue to be very tight, with four points separating the first five teams.

Newport surge ahead - 22/01/2019

Newport A have pulled out a huge lead at the top of Division One of Shropshire Chess League raising the question of whether they will sew up the title long before the season ends. Already they are six points clear, and ominously for the opposition they seem to be cruising towards retaining the championship without ever fielding their strongest team on paper.
There was a big fuss before the season began when super-strong Nick Arkell – brother of Grandmaster Keith Arkell – opted to continue to play for Newport, rather than join Ludlow as the south Shropshire club had been expecting.The upshot was that Ludlow withdrew from the league in protest at Newport "poaching" him, but in the event Arkell has, so far at least, not played for Newport at all this season.
Oswestry A were the only ones to upset the winning bandwagon when they drew with Newport back in October, but there was no repeat in the return fixture when the visitors scored a 3.5-1.5 victory.

Things in the second division are much closer, with Newport B and Maddocks B both on 11 points – they drew in their encounter in the latest round of matches – and Telford A and Telepost C still in the promotion hunt.

Congress highlights - 15/01/2019

One of the hidden highlights of the Shropshire Chess Congress was a stellar performance by Newport's Nathanael Paul which included a stunning draw against the Hungarian Grandmaster Laszlo Gonda.
Paul was playing in the Open section, for the very strongest players, in a field which included three Grandmasters and was one of the reasons why collectively the GMs, who would usually be expected to carry all before them – and indeed that has been the picture in past years – had a disappointing tournament.
Together with a draw against former county individual champion Nigel Ferrington, who is currently Shropshire's second highest graded player, and a win against Trevor Brotherton, Paul confirmed his ascent to the top ranks of Shropshire chess players and ended with three points out of a possible five, sharing a prize for top Shropshire player in the Open with Ferrington and Phil Zabrocki. 
Paul said: "I was just pleased that I only lost once, plus drawing with GM Gonda was a massive bonus. Hopefully there are more results like that waiting for me in the future."

Of incidental interest from the event was that Maddocks player Glyn Pugh was wearing a Fitbit device measuring his heartbeat and other parameters during his games. The results were revealing of the stress of competitive chess – the heartbeat graph looked like Mount Everest.

League action for the New Year got under way with a round of matches in Division Three, with the results seeing Shrewsbury C joining Newport C at the head of the division, but with everything still to play for in the second half of the season with six teams divided by just four points.

Meanwhile Oswestry have changed their venue for 2019. Previously they met at The Oswestrian pub in the town centre, but now meet at the Senior Citizens Club in Prince Street in the town. According to the club website the club will meet "most Thursdays" at 7.30pm.

Shropshire Congress loses it's founding father - 08/01/2019

The congress was tinged with sadness following an announcement at the start of play that the event's founding father, Jeff Cox, died over the Christmas period. As a result his son John, an International Master, pulled out of the competition.

Dr Jeff Cox, from Kynnersley, near Telford, was a leading figure in the local game who had organised the first congress in the early 1970s.
Veteran Shrewsbury player David Everington recalled: "He must have arrived in the county some time around 1970 – I think he taught physics at Wolverhampton Polytechnic – and quickly took on the secretaryship of Shrewsbury Chess Club, and quite soon afterwards of the county chess association as well.
"He had some huge achievements, including creating this tournament. I can remember that in 1975 there was a problem with the British lightning chess championship somewhere in the north of England, in which the organisers had to pull out, and he heard about it and picked it up and held it here, at Madeley Court in Shropshire.
"Under Jeff's stewardship of the county association the league expanded very quickly, from one division probably into three, possibly four – I'd have to check on that.
"He also created the summer knockout competition – playing for the Cox Trophy."

In another poignant note at the congress, Doreen Park, the mother of the late Colin Roberts, attended the event to present a cheque of £100 to Shropshire Chess Association in his memory.
Colin, a popular figure on the county scene who played in the congress and for Wellington in the league, and was a past secretary of the county chess association, died last year.
Doreen said: "He just loved chess. It was his life for many years."

Gary White stars for Shropshire - 08/01/2019

Gary White was the Shropshire star of the show as an international field of 140 players battled for a prize fund of over £3,000 in the county's annual chess congress.
That field included two Hungarian Grandmasters – David Berczes and Laszio Gonda – who flew over specially from Budapest to take part in the strongest section, the Open, where they found the competition stiff, with Berczes getting at least a little return on his investment with £75 for equal third place.
White, who plays for the Oakengates-based Maddocks club, was the only player to win all his five games over the weekend giving him outright victory in the Intermediate section, for players with a grading of under 135.
"I suppose it went all right," said White, who travels far and wide to play in tournaments. "There were some tough games, some easier than others, and I was very fortunate in my third game where I should have lost my queen but my opponent didn't see it. "I'm going to put my £300 prize money towards my trip to play in Gibraltar in two weeks' time."
The competition was played at the Wrekin Housing Trust premises in Telford, with four sections of strength.
One of the organisers, Steve Rooney, said: "We had five female competitors in the Major, the strongest showing in years and we certainly encourage as many female entrants as we can and look at ways to do that, as there's no reason why we shouldn't have such a balance in chess as in all walks of life."
Winner of the £1,000 first prize in the Open was Ameet Ghasi, an International Master from London, with Wolverhampton's Tomasz Sygnowski in second place, winning £300.
Two Shropshire players, Newport's Nathanael Paul and Phil Zabrocki of Shrewsbury-based Telepost, won grading prizes.
Winner of the Major, for players with a grading of under 170, was Graham Ashcroft of Preston, with Halesowen's Finlay Bowcott-Terry second. Among five players sharing third place were David Gostelow (Maddocks), Ian Emery (Warley Quinborne), and Matthew Clark (Telepost).
Dustin Bowcott of Halesowen was one of three players to get a grading prize.
Joint runners up in the Intermediate were Graham Shepherd (Church Stretton) and Dimitar Kirachen (Oswestry).
Winner in the Minor, for players graded under 100, was Jeff Wilson of Oldham, with Smethwick's Khalid Kahn second, and Silas Bowcott-Terry (Halesowen) and Birmingham's Ansh Agrawal among three players sharing third place.
All players in the competition, unless they took an optional bye in an early round, played five games, with 90 minutes on their clock to play all the moves, with an extra 30 seconds added to their time for each move made.

Xmas Chess Crackers - 18/12/2018

There were some fun festive chess antics at an offbeat simultaneous display organised by Newport Chess Club which saw three players take on around 20 opponents from a variety of county chess clubs.
The event, which included a buffet, saw various combinations of three taken from Trevor Brotherton, Peter Kitchen, Nathanael Paul, Gary White, Richard Archer and Chris Lewis, going round the boards in turn to make their moves, with the clocks running to ensure a cracking pace. Three rounds were played and while nobody was keeping score, the clocks proved the threesome's undoing in the first round when they lost about half their games on time, but things improved thereafter as the clock times of their multiple opponents were reduced to give a time handicap.

One notable individual result in the league was a first win for Telepost D's David Neale, an enthusiastic newcomer who only started playing chess in April. Another was a win for John Storey in Wellington A's visit to Telepost B which Storey says was his first win "for about 25 years" – it is certainly his first win since he started playing league games for the club in 2015.
And on the subject of first wins, there was a first league win of the season in the same match for Wellington top board Toby Neal, thanks to his wearing a lucky Christmas jumper, complete with jingle bells, although to avoid the jingling distracting opponent Steve Kempsell they had to be silenced by stuffing pieces of a chess scoresheet into them.

The countdown is now under way for Shropshire's biggest chess event, Shropshire Chess Congress, being held at the premises of the Wrekin Housing Trust on the weekend of January 4 to 6. Already several Grandmasters and International Masters have entered the strongest section, although there are three other sections catering for more mortal players, and a total field of around 140 is expected.

New name added to oldest trophy - 11/12/2018

Ted Eales has won the Shrewsbury club chess championship to lift what must be one of the oldest sporting trophies in Shropshire. Eales finished on four points in the internal club competition and wins the newly-polished trophy, which dates back to 1896. Equal second with three and a half points each were Peter Kitchen, Daniel Lockett and Francis Best.

Latest action in Shropshire Chess League has seen Newport B and Maddocks B open up a gap at the top of Division Two. Newport beat Oswestry B, who are propping up the division, while Maddocks defeated Telepost C, who are themselves promotion contenders.

Oswestry chess club are on the move in the New Year from their base at the Oswestrian pub in the town centre. The new venue is Oswestry Senior Citizens Club, Lorne Street, Oswestry, SY11 1ND, and club night will still be Thursday.

Successes for Shropshire players - 04/12/2018

Newport's Nathanael Paul emerged victorious in the Wrexham rapidplay chess tournament, ending the five rounds with 4.5 points and coming home with £30 in prize money.

And Shropshire's players have had success too in the opening rounds of the Four Nations Chess League. In the first round, Shropshire 1 beat Spirit of Atticus 4.5 to 1.5, and in round two beat Jorvik 3.5-2.

For the lower teams the success was more mixed. In the first round Shropshire 2 beat Watford 6-0 and Shropshire 3 saw off the Poisoned Pawns by a 5-1 scoreline, but in round two Shropshire 2 went down 3.5 to 2.5 against West is Best, and Shropshire 3 lost 5-1 to Throw in the Tal.

In the Shropshire league, the latest matches were all in Division Three, and saw the leaders Newport D defeated by visiting Shrewsbury C. Newport stay in top spot however, a point clear.

Congress details released - 27/11/2018

Details have been released about the biggest event in Shropshire's chess calendar, Shropshire Chess Congress, an annual tournament which regularly attracts around 140 players from all over the country.
It will be held from January 4 to 6 at the premises of the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford and the prize fund is over £3,000, including a £1,000 first prize in the Open section, which attracts the strongest players.
One of the organisers, Steve Rooney, said: "This year we are repeating the format introduced last year with a fourth section, so we have a FIDE-rated Open alongside an ECF-graded Major, Intermediate and Minor over five rounds between Friday evening and Sunday.
"We have had great feedback from previous congresses, but we take nothing for granted and aim to continue to improve the event and establish it as one of the best weekend congresses in the country."

In the league, wins by all Shrewsbury B's three bottom boards saw them to a victory over Oswestry A. Shrewsbury B have moved to third place, which is a little bit embarrassing for their supposed betters in Shrewsbury's A side who are now languishing at the foot of the table.

Newport show the way - 20/11/2018

Newport chess club are flying high with their teams heading every division in Shropshire Chess League.

In the top flight, reigning league champions Newport A cemented their place in the number one spot by inflicting a heavy defeat on Telford-based Maddocks A. Newport shrugged off the absence of two of their strongest players, Lawrence Cooper and Nick Arkell, to run out 4-1 winners. They are now two points clear of the nearest challengers, Telepost A, who beat Shrewsbury B in a county town derby match. The Shrewsbury A and B sides now find themselves propping up the division.
Newport B are a point clear in Division Two with a game in hand over chasing Telepost C, and Newport D are topping Division Three ahead of – who else? – Newport C.
Apart from the teams doing well, individual Newport players have shone in recent tournaments. Athar Ansari had a stellar performance in the Bolton Rapidplay tournament, playing in the Open section, which meant he was up against the strongest players.
Athar said: “Out of six games I lost one, to a player graded 214. I had a very good chance to win but he was better on time. It was a great achievement for me to come joint second winner and get £75. My best win was against Mike Surtees who has a grade of 199. This was my best performance in the Open section and now I am getting ready to play in the 2018 British Chess Championship.”

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!"

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.