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.

County team qualifies for national finals - 24/03/2020

Shropshire's chess team for players with a grading of under 120 has qualified for the national county finals in its first year of competition.
Against Midlands opposition, the team ended the season in joined second place with three wins, one draw, and one loss, against eventual winners Leicestershire.
Captain Dennis Bonner said: "Nottinghamshire won their last game by default against Staffordshire, as the latter couldn't field a team, which gave Notts the same points as us, seven points. As we had a slightly worse for/against points than Notts, we were judged to be third. But that does mean that we will go through to the national county finals, which will be held at some future date, when this virus finally goes away."

Shropshire league chess was suspended last week, and another casualty of the crisis has been the Shropshire individual competition, which had been reaching its climax.

Shropshire Chess is suspended - 17/03/2020

All matches in Shropshire Chess League have been suspended because of coronavirus – and the season may be written off altogether.

Shropshire Chess Association president Francis Best said: "I have been in discussion with the general secretary, Matthew Clark, and league controller, Adrian Zdanowski, regarding the operation of evening league chess during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.  
"We have also been approached by a number of Shropshire players, expressing views and seeking guidance on our approach to this matter. In addition, we have sought advice from the English Chess Federation and other county leagues where we have contacts.
"The current advice is that it is for local leagues to decide, but the suggestion is that play is suspended for a period.

"A sensible period to allow for the progress of the virus to be monitored and reviewed in line with developments in Government policy might be for the next three weeks with the policy being reconsidered at the end of that period. However, we have already seen that policy can change much more rapidly than that and it is likely in my view that this period will be extended.
"It has therefore been decided that all fixtures in the Shropshire Chess League from  Monday, March 16, will be deferred.  At this stage, we do not know whether the remaining fixtures will be played or whether the season will have to be abandoned altogether.
"As always in these situations, many will be disappointed with this decision. Equally, a number of people involved in our local clubs have already felt the need to absent themselves from chess on account of advice received in respect of their own underlying health situation."

The virus had already been having a practical effect on one of the traditions of chess etiquette, that of shaking hands before and after a game. In recent Shropshire matches some players have preferred not to shake hands, with one or two bumping elbows instead.

Season ends on a high for county team - 10/03/2020

Shropshire's chess players have completed a successful first season on their return to inter-county competition after some years away with a 7-5 win against Staffordshire.
Dennis Bonner, captain of the team, which is for players with a grading of under 120, said: "There were wins by Richard Thompson, Phil Love, Malcolm Price, James Holyhead and myself, and draws by George Viszokai, Daniel Hilditch-Love, Nick Holmes, and Paul Billington.
" Congratulations to Malcolm Price with four wins in four games, and Richard Thompson, who won all three games he played for the team this season.
"This game completes our under 120 fixtures. We are currently in second position and must await the result of the match between Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire on Saturday to determine if we finish second in the under 120 group."

Meanwhile Shropshire Chess Association is on the lookout for a new president. Francis Best, who currently holds the post, gave notice some time ago that he intends to stand down at the end of his current term. Anyone interested in following in his shoes can get in touch with him.

Newport A are on course to retain their league title after a narrow win against Oswestry A, who fielded two new players – both of whom won on on the bottom boards, although wins by the strong top three for Newport carried the day.

Telepost's double push for promotion - 03/03/2020

Telepost B have moved closer to the promotion spots in Division Two of Shropshire Chess League after beating Shrewsbury A whose own hopes of making the step up have taken a severe knockback. Wins by Trevor Brotherton on top board and Kate Walker were the key to Telepost's victory in this county town derby.
With Telepost C heading the division, the prospect has increased that both Telepost's B and C teams could be promoted. In the remaining fixtures of the season the C team will face tough battles against strong sides, while the B team has what looks on paper at least an easier route.

In Division One Maddocks B are in deep relegation trouble after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Telepost A who had that man again – Trevor Brotherton – playing on board two, meaning he played for two different Telepost teams in different divisions in the same week.

Oswestry B's win against Telepost D in the third division means they are now equal on 11 points with their C team clubmates, who are in second spot on "goal difference".

Top boards shine v Lincolnshire - 25/02/2020

Against-the-odds wins on the top two boards were the highlights of Shropshire chess players' trip to take on Lincolnshire, coming away the wrong end of an 8-4 scoreline.
With Lincoln heavily outgrading the travelling Salopians, in a match played at a neutral venue at Syston, near Leicester, things were always going to be difficult, but Nathanael Paul on top board felled a player with a grading of 207, and Ian Jamieson on board two brought down a player graded 198, despite being 30 grading points weaker.
Gary White brought a third Shropshire win, and there were draws for Adrian Bailey and Stefan Tennant. 

A number of players who have not been seen for years have returned to Shropshire league chess this season, and the Division Two encounter pitching Telford A against Wellington A saw some of them in action. Richard Parry and Glyn Randle are turning out these days for Telford, and Mark Podlesak was fielded for Wellington for the first time after a long break for health reasons.
All three won, and defeat for Wellington means Telepost C now have the cushion of two points and a game in hand at the head of the table.

A blow for the county team - 18/02/2020

Shropshire's chess players battled Storm Dennis, with driving wind and rain, to fulfil an away fixture against Leicestershire, but were not rewarded with victory.
Dennis Bonner, captain of the county team for players with a grading of under 120, said: "All our players made it, which was a fine commitment.
"We suffered our first defeat, losing very narrowly 6.5 to 5.5. We were outgraded in nine of the 12 boards. "There were wins by George Viszokai, Daniel Hilditch-Love, Nick Holmes, Malcolm Price and James Holyhead with a draw by Martin Ayres.
"Leicestershire are now top of the table with four wins out of four. We are playing our last game versus Staffordshire on March 7."

In the latest round of league action there was a notable draw for Tony Preece of Maddocks B, whose grading is 148, against Brian Whyte of Oswestry A, whose grading is 190.
In Division Two, Telepost C fielded Trevor Brotherton, who is among Shropshire's top players and unbeaten in the league this season, on top board for their encounter against struggling Newport C and his win was instrumental in their narrow 3-2 victory which puts them at the top of the table. Brotherton has completed an unusual hat-trick this season, as he has appeared for Telepost A in Division One, and within the space of four days last week was fielded for both Telepost's B and C teams, which play in Division Two.

Wellington A are in second spot after victory over a shorthanded Shrewsbury C.

In the rapidplay league, in which players have only 20 minutes on the clocks, next round of Division Two matches was due at Brewood on February 25, but the venue has been double booked and the fixtures are being rearranged.

January Grading List produces some surprises - 11/02/2020

Andy Grillage has shot from bottom board in the Wellington chess team line-up to top board in the space of only half a season after making a spectacular entry to the latest grading list, the playing "form book".
Grillage, who has returned to Shropshire from years away in Malta and had not played competitive chess since the 1990s, has been fielded as an ungraded player in Wellington's team, but in the latest list gets a grading for the first time – and his grading of 167 makes him the club's strongest player.
Gradings are an assessment of a player's strength based on their results.
Another ungraded player making a storming entry into the listings is Adrian Bailey, of Oswestry club, who comes in at 146.
Among players seeing double-digit rises in their playing strength are the junior Daniel Hilditch-Love, of Newport, who goes from 105 to 118, and James Birch, of Shrewsbury, up from 96 to a grading of 107.

In Shropshire Chess League, Maddocks A are keeping in touching distance of reigning champions and league leaders Newport A, who have been boosted by the return for the first time this season of Athar Ansari. Wins for both teams in the latest round of matches mean there is no change at the top, with the Telford-based Maddocks club two points behind.

In Division Three, the lead of Maddocks C is less comfortable following defeat at the hands of Oswestry C

New venue but no joy for county team - 04/02/2020

Shropshire's chess players were shot down 7-9 as they took on Warwickshire in a match played in a new venue – RAF Shawbury.
With a notice by the guardroom giving the terrorist threat level as severe, the players had to park off site, go through security precautions and be escorted in groups on the base, which brought a number of practical problems. Glyn Pugh had to drive back home to Telford to get acceptable ID, and was one of only three home winners, the others being Steve Tarr and Pete Kitchen.
The encounter was played in the Aries Club, named after a series of long distance pioneering flights from Shawbury, but the prospect of the games going the distance disappeared when it became clear that the venue was only available until 5pm.
With the match due to start at 1pm, but in fact delayed over half an hour, it was clear that normal county match time limits would not work. Acting Shropshire captain Nat Paul, in consultation by mobile phone with the Warwickshire captain – who was stuck in traffic – agreed a time limit of 90 minutes for all moves in the games.
Shropshire draws came from Nat Paul, Richard Bryant, Graham Shepherd and Brian Whyte. Warkwickshire defaulted two boards.

Telepost C have moved to the top of Division Two in Shropshire Chess League thanks to a narrow win over Shrewsbury C, and Wellington A crashing to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Shrewsbury A.

Narrow defeat for county team - 28/01/2020

There was honour in defeat for Shropshire's chess players as they went down 7-5 against Nottinghamshire in a match played at a neutral venue at Newcastle-under-Lyme. In this inaugural season of the county's return to inter-county competition an old problem cropped up with struggles to raise a team, and at one point it looked as if Shropshire would only be able to find 10 players.
With Charles Higgie stepping into the role of captain for the day, in the end 12 players were fielded for a Shropshire team which was outgraded on every board but one, including by 43 grading points on top board and 39 grading points on bottom board, where Daniel Hilditch-Love was able to secure one of two draws for the Salopians, the other coming from Peter Kitchen.
Wins came from William Bates – a rare appearance, as he has only played once in the league this season – Ian Jamieson, Chris Lewis, and Stefan Tennant.

In the Shropshire chess league, a top-of-the-table clash in Division Three saw Maddocks C cement their lead with a win over rivals Oswestry B.

County U120 team still unbeaten - 21/01/2020

After their return to county competition this season after years away, Shropshire's team for players with a grading under 120 remains unbeaten after victory against Derbyshire.

The Salopians travelled to the Rolls-Royce Club at Derby where they achieved a 6.5 to 5.5 victory thanks to wins by Richard Thompson (Telford), Daniel Hilditch-Love, Phil Love and Malcolm Price (Newport), and Paul Billington and Martin Ayres (Telepost), plus a draw from Paul Broderick of Newport.
The match rested on the last game which Paul Billington won with a king and pawns ending. The team have now scored two wins and one draw, and are next in action away at Leicestershire on February 15.

In Shropshire, a grading of 120 is roughly a playing strength of B team standard and below.

Daniel is a rising star of Shropshire chess, as demonstrated by his latest result in the league, in which he drew with Wellington A's top board Tiago Faustino, who with a grading of 168 is on paper over 60 points stronger than Daniel, who is surely going to see a big rise in his rating when the next gradings are published. The youngster's draw was however the only consolation for Newport C as they lost on the other boards.

The Shrewsbury club have a ruck of players with not too many grading points between them but it was still a feather in the cap of the C team to achieve a draw against the A-teamers in their in-house derby.

In fact such derbies were a feature of the latest round of league matches, with Maddocks A beating Maddocks B in Division One to keep up the pressure on league leaders Newport A.

Newport kick off the new year - 14/01/2020

Shropshire Chess League leaders Newport A were run close by their lowly B-team clubmates in their first match of the new year.
Naturally the B-teamers were outgraded on every board, and heavily on the top three boards where they went down to defeats.
But the strength gaps were rather closer on the bottom boards, where the rising star Daniel Hilditch-Love, and Phil Love, chalked up wins, leaving an overall scoreline of 3-2.

Reigning champions Newport A are now four points clear of Telford-based Maddocks A, who have a game in hand, while the club's B team is propping up the rest of the division.

Maddocks C lead the third division where a big promotion fight is in prospect in the second half of the season.

Shropshire Congress - but visitors take away prizes - 07/01/2020

Shropshire players were shut out of the top prizes in their home tournament as around 140 players took part in the county's annual chess congress.

As the five-game competition held at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford moved into its final round, hopes of a local win in one of the four sections rested on the shoulders of Telford's Richard Szwajkun, who was among three players on 3.5 points in the Intermediate section. However things went awry and he was beaten in the crunch final game. “I made a mistake early on. I pushed a pawn and lost two pawns for it, and then I ran out of attacking material. I made a mistake, so I can't complain,” he said.

But there was some Shropshire cheer thanks to George Viszokai, one of the oldest players in the competition, who plays for the Telford-based Maddocks club, and Peter Mellor, originally from Telford but now living in Liverpool who had come back “home” to take part. Both finished with four points, giving them equal third place in the Intermediate. “I'm pleased. I played very well today and won both my games,” said Viszokai, speaking on Sunday, the final day of the weekend tournament.

Joseph McPhillips of Bolton won the Open section, which is for the strongest players, with 4.5 points, scooping the £1,000 top prize. Marcus Harvey of Wood Green was second.
Four players on four points shared first prize in the Major section – David Stephenson, Graham Ashcroft, Tim Lane, and Robert Clegg.
Winners of the Intermediate on 4.5 points were jointly Alan Woollaston and Chris Fraser.
The only player to score a clean sweep by victory in all five games was Oliver Davies, of Alsager, who was outright winner of the Minor.

In a break from practice in previous years, there was no presentation ceremony – with many players having come from far away, experience has shown that they like to start making their way home rather than hanging around waiting for all games to finish.

Strong field for Shropshire Chess Congress this weekend - 31/12/2019

A field of players of master strength will descend on Shropshire this weekend to take part in the county's chess congress – a prestigious annual tournament which attracts over 100 competitors from all over the country. The tournament at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford runs from Friday to Sunday and competitors will take part in four sections, covering all playing strengths.

The top players will do battle in the Open, where first prize is £1,000. In other sections, first prize is £300. All players play five games – although they do have the option of taking a half point bye in one round – and in each round are paired against somebody on the same score, meaning that by the final round the contenders for the prizes are going head-to-head in a crunch finale.

With Grandmaster Stephen Gordon among the super-strong entrants in the Open, chances of a "home win" in the top section are distant, although International Master John Cox, an expatriate Salopian whose father founded the congress in the 1970s, always makes a point of taking part and is in with a shout.

Among the pool of regular Shropshire players, Nathanael Paul of Newport chess club will be hoping to put in a good performance after a run of impressive results in various competitions. His most recent was joint second in the Open section of the Coventry Rapidplay, winning £62.50. Another Shropshire player to shine at that event was Tony Preece, who was joint third in the Major section.

County U120 team makes a winning start - 17/12/2019

In their debut match Shropshire's new team for players graded under 120 scored a 7-5 win against Worcestershire in an encounter played at the Telepost chess club in Shrewsbury. Winners were George Viszokai, Richard Thompson, Daniel Hilditch-Love, Paul Broderick, Malcolm Price, and Paul Billington with draws from Dave Lovegrove and Martin Ayres.
“It is a fantastic start for us in our county start up season,” said Dennis Bonner, the non playing captain.

Both teams were below strength in the key Division One league match between Newport A and Telepost A in which Newport won to open up a three point lead.
Newport's Chris Lewis reports that first game to finish was that between Stuart Ross and Paul Officer, in which a fork of knight and queen quickly decided the issue in Ross' favour. Nigel Ferrington then ground down Nat Paul who went wrong in the opening and found himself in an awkward pin which Ferrington exploited to win a pawn, and then swapped pieces to get to a winning endgame. With the next two games drawn, things hinged on the last to finish, that between Lewis and Graham Shepherd.
“With Graham very low on time I took a big risk pushing for the win in the knowledge that a win would almost knock Telepost out of the running for the league title. I pushed my king up the board and prayed I wouldn't get mated,” said Lewis. He escaped checks from Shepherd's queen and managed to force through a pawn to convert to a queen, winning the game.

Telepost flying high in division two - 10/12/2019

Telepost are riding high in the second flight of Shropshire chess with both the B and C teams in the promotion mix.

Telepost C scored an impressive victory over a strong Telford side and are now in equal top spot in Division Two, while the club's B team came within a whisker of inflicting a first defeat of the season on Wellington A.

Wellington got out of jail after going 2-0 down in the running score with the Shrewsbury-based visitors looking on course to get all they needed from the remaining three games to secure a match victory. In the end it all boiled down to Andy Grillage needing to beat Keith Tabner to salvage a point for the home side, but the prospects did not look good in a position which in normal circumstances would surely have been agreed a draw.
For the sake of the team, Grillage played on in the hope something would turn up, and was rewarded when he caught out Tabner in a tactic which won rook for bishop. Nevertheless Tabner still had two dangerous-looking bishops and seemed on the brink of delivering checkmate, but Grillage had it all under control and brought home the full point to draw the match.

Shrewsbury B found themselves shorthanded in their clash against Oswestry A in Division One and it soon became apparent why Olusegunso Ilesanmi was not there when he got in touch saying he was in Newport - due to a mix up, he had thought they were playing there. With there being no prospect of him getting to Oswestry in time, Shrewsbury had to default his board, and in the event went down 4-1.

Newport chess club will be holding a Christmas blitz event on December 19. It is open to all players, and mince pies will be provided.

Master Class in Shrewsbury - 03/12/2019

International Master Lawrence Cooper scored a thumping 14.5 -1.5 victory when he took on 16 Shropshire chess players in a simultaneous event.

Three players – Nathanael Paul, Ian Jamieson, and Kate Walker – were able to achieve draws in the display at the Nerdy Coffee Co in Shrewsbury, but Cooper said the most interesting game was his against John Westhead, who put up a good fight and was last to finish. His was judged best game. Dewi Roberts, who has only been playing chess for a few months, won best game by an ungraded player, and Ryan Wood won best junior game.

Jamieson, who plays for Newport, was fresh from victory in the Wrexham rapidplay thanks to a perfect score of five straight wins.

And although Paul had to make do with a draw against Cooper in the simultaneous display, only a few days earlier he had beaten him in a match in the Birmingham League. It was a back and forth game with Paul attacking the queenside and Cooper on the kingside. But with the clocks mistakenly set without the 10 second increment both players were under huge time pressure. Paul eventually was able to threaten mate down the a-file and with that threat secured a piece, which was enough to win.

Honours were shared when title contenders Maddocks A took on reigning champions Newport A in the Shropshire league on Monday, with a strange symmetry to the result, with Newport winning on top two boards, a draw on board three, and two against-the-odds wins by outgraded Maddocks players on the bottom boards.

Crunch match coming up - 26/11/2019

Monday will see one of the key matches of the season in the Shropshire Chess League when the Oakengates-based Maddocks club plays host to league leaders and reigning champions Newport A. Maddocks have their tails up after a narrow victory over Telepost A in which wins by Glyn Pugh and Gary White were the key. They are now breathing down the necks of Newport, just a point behind, so a win on Monday would see them leapfrog the leaders.

Shrewsbury B's encounter with Newport B was a tense and close affair, with three quick draws leaving matters in the balance until the end, as the final two games went the distance. Shane Greenwood, who used to play in Cumbria years ago and had a grading back then of 170-odd, invested a lot of time on the opening and although he caught up on the clock was destined to end up losing on time against Peter Kitchen. Francis Best then sealed the victory for Shrewsbury by beating Danny Griffiths in a rook and pawn endgame in a game which lasted for 70 or so moves.

While Shrewsbury B are proving competitive in the top flight, their Shrewsbury A colleagues who were relegated last season are finding things tough in Division Two and unless things improve are potentially at risk of the dreaded double drop. When they faced county town rivals Telepost C, Kate Walker, Shropshire's top woman player, beat Daniel Lockett on board two to help Telepost on the way to victory, with Shane Sweeney scoring their other win.

Success for county team - 19/11/2019

Shropshire's open team made a triumphant return to the county chess circuit after many years away, scoring a 9-7 victory over Worcestershire in a match played at Alvechurch.
The win which took the team over the finishing line to victory was by David Gostelow, and other wins came from Nat Paul, Charles Higgie, Chris Lewis, and Stefan Tennant, with draws from Brian Whyte, Ian Jamieson, Richard Bryant, Peter Kitchen, Mike Hollier, Andy Grillage, Paul Officer, and Gary White.

Three Shropshire players took part in the Birmingham congress – Kate Walker, James Holyhead and Nat Paul – and all won prizes.
Walker came joint first in the section for players graded under 160, winning £125, Holyhead came third in the under 120 section, winning £50, and Paul came joint third in the section for players with a FIDE rating of under 2200, winning £25.

In the latest league action, reigning champions Newport A have opened up a three point lead at the head of Division One, although their victory over Oakengates-based Maddocks B included an upset on top board in which Nick Rutter, the county's strongest player, was felled in 44 moves by Tony Preece, the weakest board one in the division.
Tony says it is by a long way his best ever win, having only previously beaten opponents who are graded 170 or lower – his own grading is 148, and Rutter has been over 200 for years. 

International Master comes to Shrewsbury - 05/11/2019

Shropshire chess players will get a chance to play an International Master in an event organised by Telepost's Kate Walker on November 27.
Lawrence Cooper will be taking on allcomers in a simultaneous display at Nerdy Coffee in Mardol, Shrewsbury, at 7pm. Price for entry is £5 on a first come, first served basis. There are 15 spaces, although six have already been filled by Nerdy Coffee Co chess members.

Gary White has chalked up more success on his travels, this time in the Scarborough Chess Congress. White, who plays for the Oakengates-based Maddocks club, was joint winner of the Intermediate. He took a half point bye in the first round due to long drive and then had four straight wins.
Among other Shropshire players taking part in the congress was Francis Best from the Shrewsbury club, who won a grading prize in the Major section.

And Jamie Hopkins and Trevor Brotherton are the joint chess champions of Shrewsbury after finishing equal on four points in the five-round Shrewsbury Town Championship. The tournament is for players at the two chess clubs in the county town, Telepost and Shrewsbury. Three players were in the runners up spot on three points – Mark Smith, Phil Zabrocki, and Matthew Clark.

In latest league action, Telepost A have drawn level with Maddocks at the top of division one after a draw with Shrewsbury B in which the standout result was a win by Olusegun Ilesanmi over Nigel Ferrington on top board. If anything the match outcome was a let-off for Telepost who were not at full strength and were actually outgraded on all of the rest of the five boards.

A grand time on the Isle of Man - 29/10/2019

Shropshire chess player Nathanael Paul became a "grand master" of sorts as he picked up winnings of a cool grand at a big chess tournament played on the Isle of Man.
Paul, who plays for Newport, actually brought home a total of £1,125 – £825 for being a joint winner in the long play event and another £300 for outright victory in the rapidplay.
"The most I had ever won before was £250, I think," said Paul, one of three Shropshire chess players who took part, all of whom were in the money. "The three of us played in two amateur tournaments, a long play and rapid event. I came joint first with three others in the long play Major section with Dave Gostelow winning a grading prize. Gary White came joint fourth in the Minor, and then I came outright first in the Major rapidplay." In cash terms, Gostelow won £100, and White over £200.

And Kate Walker has achieved yet more chess success by winning all her recent matches in the Four Nations Chess League's first women's league and with her Wood Green team winning the trophy. In Shropshire league, Kate plays for the Shrewsbury-based Telepost team.
Meanwhile Shropshire chess now has its own Facebook page, set up by Kate, to complement the main website ( www.shropshirechess.org ). The Facebook page is at fb.me/shropshirechess .

Shortage of B's proves decisive - 15/10/2019

Promoted Shrewsbury B paid the price of being two players short on their travels to league champions Newport A in Shropshire Chess League.
Despite their B team status the Shrewsbury side have a strong playing pool, a quirk of many of the club's players being roughly of the same strength, and had they been able to field their full team would have been tough opponents for Newport, who were missing their super-strong top board Nick Rutter. And in fact the result over the three boards which were played was a 1.5-1.5 draw, but Shrewsbury's two defaulted boards took Newport to a 3.5-1.5 win.

The Oakengates-based Maddocks club have the challenge of fielding two teams in Division One which will inevitably stretch playing resources, but are doing fine at the moment as Maddocks A have moved to the top of the table thanks to a win over Newport B.

One of the stories behind that headline is the continuing impressive performance of the Newport junior Daniel Hilditch-Love. While his own grading is 105, he drew against Gary White who is graded 141, and in Daniel's only other match in Division One during this campaign he drew against Chris Lewis, whose grading is 170.

Wellington clinch a narrow victory - 8/10/2019

An under strength Wellington A came back from a 2-0 deficit to clinch a narrow victory over Shrewsbury A and share the early top spot of Division Two in Shropshire Chess League.
The fightback started on board one where David Everington showed that even a multiple county champion can overlook that his queen is under attack, and then Wellington newcomer Andy Grillage sacrificed rook for knight – he was already an exchange up – to reach a winning endgame and level the running match score. So it was then all down to the action on board two, where Dan Lockett made what must have been a very tempting draw offer to Wellington's Mike Hollier. Hollier turned it down to press for a win, and it looked to have backfired when Lockett wove a mating net. However, as Lockett administered the coup de grace, he suddenly realised that Hollier had a check which not only averted mate but won the game.

There was bad news as well for Shrewsbury C, who similarly went down to a 3-2 defeat on their travels across town to Telepost C, who are now joint leaders of Division Two.

Reigning league champions Newport A got their campaign off to a winning start in their in house derby against Newport B.

Kate Walker, who is the ladies' champion in her category in the English Chess Federation Grand Prix competition, popped down to her Telepost club to show the trophy which, to her delight, she gets to keep.

 

Incredible Edison - 1/10/2019

Shropshire youngster Edison Xu has shot up to an incredible fifth place in the Open section of the English Chess Federation Grand Prix, putting him hot on the heels of some Grandmasters. Edison is now the second strongest player in England in the under-13 age bracket. And his grade has shot up to 182 – in April of last year he was "only" 149, which is still a very strong showing for a boy who was born in 2007.Edison plays for Newport chess club but local league players are being spared having to face him at the moment as he is at Magdalen College School in Oxford. The Grand Prix is a running competition with cumulative scores in qualifying events.

In Shropshire Chess League, the tables mean little at this early stage but for what it's worth Maddocks A lead Division One after a draw against Shrewsbury B, who despite their B team status are still a strong outfit. Maddocks went ahead through Adrian Zdanoswski's victory over Peter Kitchen and looked good to win on board three, only for Glyn Pugh to slip up in a winning rook and pawn endgame against Ted Eales to level the score. The visitors went back ahead when Dave Gostelow beat Francis Best on board two, and when Shrewsbury captain Mark Smith let slip a promising position to only draw with Tony Preece, Maddocks looked set to be on their way to victory. But Dan Lockett beat Gary White in the deciding game. Curiously, all three matches in the latest round in Division Three were all draws as well. Oswestry C and Maddocks C are early leaders.

Conundrum for Shrewsbury - 24/09/2019

Here's a Shropshire chess problem – what do you do if your A team has been demoted to Division Two, and your B team has been promoted to Division One?
It was something for the Shrewsbury club to scratch their heads about as they faced exactly that situation going into the new season. In the rare occasions it has happened in the past, clubs have usually simply made their B team in effect the A team, so that their strongest players continue to play in the first division.
Shrewsbury have taken the approach that their B team players have won the right to play in the top flight, and have drawn up their teams accordingly. Peculiar circumstances have meant that the predicament hasn't actually made that much difference for Shrewsbury, as so many of their playing pool are broadly of similar playing strength.

In the latest league games, Shrewsbury C were in an in-house derby against Shrewsbury A, with unsurprisingly the A-teamers emerging victorious. Yet when Telepost B took on Telepost C, it was the C-teamers to win the bragging rights, with a narrow win.

In the top flight, Oswestry A have gone down to their second defeat on their travels to Newport B. It will have been a big disappointment as, although Newport have strength in depth, it was a match in which they would have fancied their chances.

Shropshire player tops the charts - 17/09/2019

Shropshire chess player Kate Walker – dubbed "Killer Kate" by her clubmates – has proven herself among the best women chess players in England by winning the English Chess Federation's women's Grand Prix in her category. Kate, who plays for Shrewsbury's Telepost club, was top in a field of 20 in the section of the competition for players with a grading between 120 and 139.
With a personal grading of 126, Kate's performance was head and shoulders above a number of contenders who were stronger on paper. The Grand Prix is a year-long competition based on players' results in qualifying events.

Two Newport chess players are revealed as Shropshire's most improved under the new grading list as the league season gets under way in earnest.Leading the charge is the junior Daniel Hilditch-Love, with an impressive 22-point rise in his grading. Daniel is now graded 105. Athar Ansari also sees a double-digit rise, from 166 to 179. Gradings are an assessment of playing strength based on results. Leading the county rankings are Nick Rutter, another Newport player, on 204, and Telepost's Nigel Ferrington on 201.

Making a return to the Newport chess club after a quarter of a century away was Andrew Grillage, although it was not a happy homecoming from Newport's point of view as he was playing for visiting Wellington A and his win contributed to Wellington's 5-0 whitewash of Newport C. Andrew is a former Newport player who last played in Shropshire in the 1990s, but then lived and worked in Malta and has recently returned.  

A new chess club, called the Nerdy Chess Club, is starting on October 2. Dennis Bonner of the Telepost club said: "It is at the bottom of Mardol in Shrewsbury and started as a board games club and will now be extended to chess from October 2. There will be a kids' club from 4pm to 6pm and 13-plus from 6pm to 10.30pm, each Wednesday."

New season is underway - 10/09/2019

Hostilities have commenced for the new season in Shropshire Chess League with a new league controller, penalties for late starters, and a brilliancy prize on offer for the best game of the campaign. And the big issue will be whether there is a team which can halt the juggernaut that is Newport A, serial winners of the league championship, who last season also won all other available trophies to boot.
Other contenders will be encouraged by the fact that this season Newport's nominated line-up does not include three star players – Grandmaster Keith Arkell, his brother Nick, and International Master Lawrence Cooper – whose use, albeit occasional, had proven somewhat controversial.

In their opening matches, Telepost A and Maddocks A have both served notice that they will be fighting at the top, with thumping wins.

In the wake of a decision by Shropshire Chess Association's annual meeting, home teams which fail to set up chess sets and clocks in time for a prompt 7.30pm start in league matches will face what is in effect a time penalty – the clocks will be set as if the match had started on time.

A new trophy is being introduced in memory of the former general secretary and Wellington player Colin Roberts, who died last year. The Colin Roberts Memorial Trophy will be a brilliancy prize, for the best game by a Shropshire player in any competition during the course of the season, excluding blitz, rapidplay, and internet games. It has been made possible thanks to a £100 donation in his memory by his family.

New league controller is Adrian Zdanowski, who has succeeded Nathanael Paul in the role.

Some Shropshire players have been limbering up for the new season by taking part in various summer events. Richard Szwajkun was second in the Minor section of the Leyland Chess Congress, while a number of  Shropshire players took part in the weekend's UK Open Blitz Championship in Birmingham, including Athar Ansari, who was 11th in a field of 80.

Bryant shines in 4NCL Congress - 23/07/2019


Richard Bryant was the local success story as he won one of the top prizes at the 22nd 4NCL Congress held in Telford.

Bryant was one of five players to share first place in the Major section of the tournament for players with an international FIDE rating below 2000. The Oswestry player, who was one of several Shropshire-based players competing among the 160-strong field – had to do it the hard way after suffering a shock opening round loss with the white pieces to Steven Potter of St Helens. But he then reeled off four straight victories to finish on 4/5, earning £190 in prize money.
Bryant was the only prizewinner among the "home" competitors – but several others came close, particularly in the Major section.
Newport's Ian Jamieson was in contention throughout, but lost his final round game to Martin Burns to finish on 3/5. Phil Zabrocki of Telepost and Maddocks' Dave Gostelow were both unbeaten to finish joint third on 3.5/5.

In the elite Open section – which featured grandmasters Keith Arkell and Mark Hebden – Shropshire's players found the going tough.
Lee Davis – who has previously played for Ludlow – and Newport's Athar Ansari were the leading scorers with 2.5/5. Steve Tarr of Maddocks scored 1.5/5 – including a spectacular victory over Sam Herring in round four – while Newport pair Chris lewis and Stuart Ross scored 1/5.
The section was won by Hebden, while Arkell could only manage 3.5/5 for a share of ninth place, admitting afterwards it had been a very tough and competitive tournament.

In the Major section, former Shrewsbury player Ed Goodwin finished on 3/5, but others struggled.
  Shrewsbury's Peter Kitchen shared 32nd place on 2/5, suffering two chastening defeats to lower rated juniors. Tony Preece of Maddocks started well but finished on 1/5, where he was joined by Telepost's Graham Shepherd.

In the Minor section for players with an English Chess Federation rating under 135, George Viszokai (Maddocks) and Newport junior Daniel Hilditch-Love were the top scorers with 3/5, finishing joint 12th.
Roger Brown (Telford) and Kieran Lappin, who has represented Ludlow, scored 2.5/5, Kate Walker (Telepost) scored 2/5, and Ian Jamieson (Maddocks) scored 1/5.

Report by Peter Kitchen

Chris Lewis wins blitz handicap - 16/07/2019

Chris Lewis was the winner of his own tournament in the first of the summer blitz chess competitions hosted by Newport chess club. Lewis, who organised the event, scored 6.5 to take first prize of £15, winning six games and drawing his seventh. Bill Bates was second on 6, and Tony Preece in third spot and winning the grading prize for players graded under 150. Other grading prizes went to Rajeev Raghaven, Nick Holmes, and Dan Hilditch-Love.
The event was a handicap, with the strongest players having just three minutes to make all their moves, and less strong players having as much as eight minutes.

Newport's Athar Ansari is celebrating an impressive success at the Golders Green rapidplay tournament, which is FIDE rated. Taking part in the Open in the London event, he was joint winner.
"I played three FIDE Masters, the strongest of whom was rated 2294," said Athar. "This was my best performance, to win the Open section in London."

Athar and other Shropshire players will be involved in more chess action in Shropshire this weekend, with the Four Nations Chess League congress being held at the Ramada Hotel in Telford town centre from July 19 to 21, with a total field of around 150.
A number of Grandmasters have entered and will compete in the Open, which is the strongest section. Several Shropshire players have entered this section – Chris Lewis, Nathanael Paul, and Stuart Ross, all from the Newport club, and Steve Tarr, from Oakengates-based Maddocks.
In the section for players with a FIDE rating of under 2000, Shropshire entries include Athar Ansari and Ian Jamieson (both Newport), Oswestry's Richard Bryant, Peter Kitchen from Shrewsbury, Tony Preece (Maddocks), and Graham Shepherd (Telepost).
And in the section for those graded under 135, Shropshire hopefuls include Roger Brown (Telford), Kate Walker (Telepost), and George Viszokai (Maddocks),

County teams to be re-established - 09/07/2019

Shropshire is making a return to the fray in inter-county chess competition after several years away.
At least two teams, an Open, and a team for players graded under 120, will be fielded next season, run by Matthew Clark and Dennis Bonner respectively. And Roger Brown is hoping to run a third team, for players graded under 140. The proposal was given the nod at the annual meeting of Shropshire Chess Association.
Shropshire dropped out of inter-county competition because there was nobody to run the teams, and also trouble finding enough players – 16 are needed for the Open team.

Among other headlines from the meeting are that home teams which fail to set up chess sets and clocks in time for a prompt 7.30pm start in league matches will face what is in effect a time penalty – the clocks will be set as if the match had started on time – and a new trophy is being introduced in memory of the former general secretary and Wellington player Colin Roberts, who died last year.
The Colin Roberts Memorial Trophy will be a brilliancy prize, for the best game by a Shropshire player in any competition during the course of the season, excluding blitz, rapidplay, and internet games. It has been made possible thanks to a £100 donation in his memory by his family.

Among more controversial resolutions were a proposal that a nominated Division One player must play in at least half the matches, or face a penalty – a move to stop clubs nominating players who then do not play regularly. That was passed, but a move to strip Division Two or Division Three champions of the championship trophy if they decline promotion was narrowly defeated.

League controller Nat Paul has stepped down, to be replaced by Adrian Zdanowski, and Munroe Morrison is being lined up to take over as president from Francis Best.

Meanwhile Telepost's Kate Walker, who has acquired the nickname "Killer Kate," has been in the prizes again, winning joint first at the North Wales chess congress at Llandudno, taking home £200.

And the first summer blitz event at Newport chess club is being held on Thursday, July 11 , at 7.30pm for a 7.45pm start.