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.
| Cox Trophy final goes to the wire - 20/07/2010
League champions Telepost A have clocked up a double by beating Wellington A in the final of the Cox Trophy tournament in a match in which shortage of time was a significant factor in almost all of the games.
Richard Bryant led the way for the champs with a win on second board over Toby Neal, but all four other boards went to the wire.
Dele Ogundipe was already under great pressure from Keith Tabner when he suddenly realised that he had only three minutes left on his clock. He duly lost on time, albeit in a difficult position.
Derrick Powell was similarly under pressure from John Bashall, but in a position in which a lot was yet to be resolved. Powell too saw his flag fall, taking Telepost into a 3-0 lead, securing them match victory.
Dave Bates was pressing for a win in a pawns endgame against Colin Roberts. But endgames are funny things, and after a series of exchanges clarified the position it suddenly became apparent that Roberts had a winning position, and Bates resigned.
All eyes then turned to the top board, although the outcome was academic in terms of the overall match result. Nigel Ferrington and Vikas Sharma became embroiled in a mad time scramble. By definition, a lot can happen fast in these, and for Ferrington it saw his previously promising position deteriorate into a lost position, his defeat leading to a 3-2 score, making it seem that the match was rather closer than it actually was.
| Major changes agreed at the AGM - 13/07/2010
Shropshire's chess league is moving to save the planet by cutting teams in the third division from five players to four, meaning travelling sides will be able to fit comfortably into just one car. But the main motivation for the move, which is being introduced as a trial next season, is to try to cut down on the high rate of defaulted games in the league's lowest division.
Startling figures produced by John Casewell at Shropshire Chess Association's annual meeting showed that there had been a 17.8 per cent default rate in games in division three last season. He said he had two keen youngsters in his squad at Telepost C and if they turned up to a match to find they had no opponent it could be "pretty soul destroying."
"Having five players can involve two vehicles, and petrol costs are rising. Having just four players could help," he told the meeting. And he thought that the move could generate one or two extra teams in the division.
Nick Rutter said: "Whether you like it or not, the number of players is declining in chess. Either we're going to find division three getting smaller, or have a reduction in the number of players."
But Eugene Raby questioned what would happen if a team of four got promoted, to play in a division with five-player teams. "It's a can of worms," he said. However, the meeting voted 15-3 in favour of the move.
The other big headline from the AGM is that the Cox Trophy in 2011 will, as a trial, be a one-night knockout event played at a rapid time control. This move came from Toby Neal, who said there had been 11 defaults or withdrawals in this year's tournament and the idea was to see if a new format would revive enthusiasm.
Francis Best said: "It's clear that the traditional format hasn't really worked very well. I'll support it and try it for a year." The motion was carried by 12 votes to three - after which Fred Harris, who opposed the change, said: "You're all mad."
Lastly, there was rare positive news in the filling of officers' posts. The vacant general secretary's spot has been filled by Glyn Pugh, and Francis Best becomes president in place of Iain Wilson, who had given notice that he was stepping down.
Bryant wins Grand Prix and local players shine at Chester - 06/07/2010
| Could the next match be final for the Cox Trophy? - 29/06/2010
League champions Telepost A have reached the final of the Cox Trophy summer knockout and are in pole position to do the double. They put away a short-handed Shrewsbury B side in the semi final and will now face either Wellington A or Ludlow A, who are due to meet on Thursday.
Result was Telepost A 4, Shrewsbury B 1: N Ferrington 1, default 0; R Bryant 0.5, N O'Connor 0.5; J Bashall 0.5, D Lockett 0.5; J Westhead 1, I Davies 0; P Zabrocki 1, I Salter 0.
Potential changes to the Cox Trophy will be discussed at the annual meeting of Shropshire Chess Association on July 7. A motion has been put forward which would turn the competition into a one-night knockout tournament, with a probable time control of 10 minutes per player per game. The proposal has arisen because of a high number of withdrawals and defaults - 10 this competition - pointing to a lack of enthusiasm for the current format.
It promises to be a long night, because other motions on the table include proposals for zoning of league games, a motion calling for league teams to be reduced from five players to four, and proposed changes to the rules governing the use of players between teams within the same clubs. And there will also be the usual hunt for people willing to fill officers' roles, with the general secretary post remaining vacant, and president Iain Wilson having given notice last year that he will definitely be standing down.
The meeting is at Shifnal & Telford chess club's venue at the Nedge Tavern, Stirchley, Telford, at 7.30pm.
Meanwhile Shifnal & Telford chess club is resuming its series of summer quickplay competitions, which are open to allcomers. The first is tomorrow (June 30) at 7.30pm and thereafter the competitions will take place fortnightly. Entrants will be allocated time limits according to their grade/experience. The entry fee will be £2 and all entry fees will be returned as prize money.
| Rutter in chess seventh heaven - 22/06/2010
Nick Rutter has become the king of Shropshire chess after winning the county championship for the seventh time. He secured the title by drawing with Shrewsbury's David Everington, who himself won the title for six years in a row in the 1970s, but whose name has been absent from the trophy since 1985.
The crunch game was played at Shrewsbury chess club on the same night as England's encounter against Algeria, but in this case was enlivened in the form of an early "goal" with Everington winning a pawn and seemingly having a promising position. But then a subtle mistake saw Rutter bounce back strongly. It was the right psychological moment for him to offer a draw, and having lost his extra pawn and facing a long struggle, Everington agreed, with the upshot that Rutter, who was already half a point ahead in the seven-round tournament, cemented his championship victory.
There had been some speculation about what opening system Everington would use from his extensive locker, and in the event he chose the so-called London System - a set-up of d4, Nf3 and Bf4 which is considered pretty bombproof and avoids any fireworks black might try. Everington set a tempting trap early on which Rutter took care not to fall into, but then won a pawn thanks to a neat tactic. However, his advantage proved short-lived.
Here is the game with annotations from Everington, who had the white pieces.
1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 Bf4 c5 4 e3 Qb6 5 Nc3! c4 (5...Qxb2 6 Nb5 Na6 7 Rb1 Qxa2 8 Ra1 Qb2 9 Rxa6 is a bit hair raising and Nick was right not to risk it) 6 Rb1 e6 7 a3 Bd6 8 Ne5 Nbd7 9.Bxc4! (after some exchanges this leaves white with quite a lot of pressure) 9...Bxe5 10 dxe5 dxc4 11 exf6 Nxf6 12 Be5 Qc6 13 Qf3 Qxf3 14 gxf3 Ke7 15 Rg1 Ne8 16 Rd1 (16 Rg4 was a bit better) 16...f6 17 Bc7 (Not just a cheap trap - if 17...Nxc7 18.Rxg7 check - but meant to keep the bishop active on the black squares. After 17 Bg3 e5 it would be shut out) 17...Bd7 18 Ke2 g6 19 Ba5 Bc6 20 Bb4 chk Kf7 21 Ne4 Kg7 22 Nc5 Nc7 23 Nxb7 (Simply winning a pawn, but black now gets some activity, as often happens) 23...Nd5 24 Nc5 e5 25 Ne4? (Perhaps white's first bad move. 25 Bd2 and 26 Be1 keeps the extra pawn and holds things together although it would be a gruelling struggle to convert the advantage) 25...Rhb8! (white's position begins to fall apart) 26 Nd6 Nxb4 getting back the pawn and about to win more. In the circumstances of the tournament Nick offered the draw which gave him the championship. In the circumstances of the game White took it!
From comments on the radio on the way home it sounds as if this draw was more entertaining than England's at the football!
| Andrew Martin simul enjoyed by all - 15/06/2010
Shrewsbury's Peter Kitchen and Coddon's Andy Tunks were the Shropshire heroes of the hour as International Master Andrew Martin took on 19 of the county's players in a simultaneous display. Kitchen won his game and Tunks drew - everybody else lost.
Apart from being master strength, Martin is a renowned national coach, and the simul at the Trinity Primary School at Ford came after a morning during which conducted a coaching session for Shropshire Junior Chess Academy. While none of Shropshire's elite players took part, he faced a mix of ages and abilities in a successful event.
Kitchen, the Shrewsbury Chronicle chess correspondent, said: "I know it was only a simul, but it's not a result I'll forget for a very long time! I don't think I'll ever play a game when I don't develop my c8 bishop until move 31!"
Here is the game with Kitchen's annotations. As with all Martin's opponents, he had the black pieces.
1e4 e6 2d4 d5 3 Nd2 Nc6 4 Ngf3 Nf6 5 e5 Nd7 6 Nb3 (A positional option, other moves here include Bd3 and Be2) 6...a5 7 Bf4 Be7 8 Bb5 Na7 9 Bd3 (White could have tried snatching a pawn with Bxd7check and Nxa5. But after 9 Bxd7 chk Qxd7 10 Nxa5 b6 11 Nb3 Ba6 black has the more coordinated pieces and has stopped white from castling. White's best move was 9 Be2, as on d3 the bishop is open to a fork after ...c5) 9...b6 10 0-0 c5 11 c4 Nc6 (I did also consider Ba6 here, with the possibility of swapping off my 'bad' bishop for his good one) 12 cxd5 exd5 13 dxc5 bxc5 14 Bb5 Qb6 15 a4 Nb4 16 e6 (This was a surprise. The last few moves I have consolidated my centre and I have threats of c4 and Nd3 on the horizon at a suitable point. The move played activates white's pieces momentarily and targets the pinned knight on d7 but at the cost of a pawn) 16...fxe6 17 Ne5 0-0 (Possible because the f4 bishop is hanging. Now I'm OK) 18 Qg4 Nxe5 (I did consider Nf6 but I'm a pawn up and exchanging a couple of sets of minor pieces only helps. I used my first pass (I was allowed three) here) 19 Bxe5 Bf6 20 Rae1 c4 (Now I'm threatening to follow up with Nd3 with queen, rook and knight all hitting f2, with a chance of the other rook swinging across to the kingside too. White's supposedly good bishop is also locked out of the game. White's reply is somewhat forced but the knight can still do some damage) 21 Nc1 Nc2 22 Re2 Nd4 23 Re3 Nxb5 (I'm not sure this was necessary. The bishop wasn't going anywhere and I could have continued to solidly improve my position. But it does destroy white's queenside, and I can pick up the doubled b-pawns when i choose - I leave them alone for a few moves to improve my pieces - although I still don't develop the c8 bishop) 24 axb5 Ra7 25 Ne2 Bxe5 26 Rxe5 Raf7 27 Qg3 Qxb5 28 Nd4 Qxb2 29 Nf3 c3 30 Ng5 c2 (I used my second pass now just checking things over - he has to cover the c1 square before taking my rook) 31 R5e1 Ba6 32 Nxf7 Bxf1 (This may well be inaccurate. Rxf7 is a little cleaner as his rook isn't going anywhere. Now I have to be careful not to drop a piece) 33 Nh6 chk Kh8 34 Qd6 Qf6 35 Ng4 Qf4 36 Qc5 Bxg2 (Again I'm not sure this is the cleanest move - I have to watch the threat on my f8 rook. Ieuan Fenton playing on the next board afterwards suggested Bc4. But with the move played white is four pawns down, and he called it a day)
| Teen in title mix - 01/06/2010
Nathanael Paul is vying with old hands David Everington and Nick Rutter for the title of king of Shropshire chess as the county individual championship moves towards an exciting climax.
The teenage Paul is on 4.5 points - a tremendous performance already for a player with a grading of 131 - and a win in his last round match against Toby Neal could see him share the title. But that would depend on the result of a fascinating Everington v Rutter encounter, with Everington currently on 4.5 points, and Rutter a half point ahead. Both are former champions. Rutter last won in 2005, but amazingly it's 25 years since Everington last won the title. There was a time when he virtually made it his own, being county champion for six consecutive years in the 1970s. As Shropshire's highest graded player Rutter will be the favourite, but Everington has been in form and has the shots in his locker which could upset his illustrious opponent's game.
The round six match between Rutter and his clubmate Tony Holdford was an epic in which Holdford came close to winning. Rutter had the white pieces. Annotations from tournament bulletin.
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Bd7 5 c4 Nc6 6 Nc3 Nf6 7 Be2 Be7 8 O-O h5 9 Nxc6 Bxc6 10 Bf3 Ng4 11 Bxg4 hxg4 12 Qxg4 Kf8 13 Nd5 Rh4 14 Qe2 Qd7 15 f3 Re8 16 Qf2 b6 17 Ne3 Bf6 18 Ng4 Bd8 (winning would be the sacrifice 18... Rxg4!! 19 fxg4 Rxe4 threatening Bd4 as well as Rxg4 and white's position is terrible) 19 h3 Qe6 20 b3 Bd7 21 Bb2 Qg6 22 Rae1 Rh5 23 Re2 Bh4 24 Qd4 Bxg4 25 fxg4 Rhe5 26 Rf5 Bf6 27 Qd3 R5e6 28 Bxf6 Rxf6 29 e5 Rfe6 30 Ref2 Rxe5 31 Rxf7 check Qxf7 32. Rxf7 chk Kxf7 33. Qf3 chk Ke6 34. Qb7 Kd7 35. b4 Re2 36. Qxa7 Rb2 37. Qa4 chk Kd8 38 c5 Ree2 39 Qa8 chk Kd7 40 cxb6 cxb6 41 Qb7 chk Ke6 42 a4 Rxb4 43 Qc8 chk Ke7 44 Qc6 Rbb2 (an interesting try is 44... g5 then black would play Re5 to defend everything) 45 h4 (the problem for black is he cannot take the g-pawn as the pawn ending would be lost for him) Ke6 46 Kh2 Ke5 47 Qc3 chk Ke4 48 Qf3 chk Kd4 49 h5 d5 50 g5 Re3 51 Qf7 Ree2 52 Qxg7 chk Ke4 53 Qxb2 Rxb2 54 g6 and black resigned as the pawns can't be stopped.
The only thing worse than losing in chess is resigning and then finding that you could have drawn. It happened to John Whittaker against Glyn Pugh. Whittaker had the black pieces and, again, annotations are from the tournament bulletin:
1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Bf4 e6 4 c4 Bb4 check 5 Nbd2 Ne4 6 a3 Nxd2 7 Nxd2 Bd6 8 Be5 Bxe5 9 dxe5 c6 10 e4 dxe4 11 Nxe4 Qa5 chk 12 Qd2 Qxe5 13 O-O-O O-O 14 Bd3 f5 15 Ng5 Na6 16 Rhe1 Qf6 17 f4 Nc5 18 Bc2 b6 19 Re5 Ba6 20 Qe2 Rad8 21 Rxd8 Rxd8 22 Nxe6 Re8 23 Bxf5 Nb3 chk 24 Kb1 Bxc4 25 Bxh7 chk Kf7 26 Qh5 chk (26 Ng5 chk would win immediately) 26... g6 27 Bxg6 chk Qxg6 chk 28 Rf5 chk and John loses his queen so resigns. However, it is, remarkably, a draw i.e. Ke7 29 Qxg6 Bd3 chk 30 Ka2 Nc1 chk 31 Ka1 Nb3 chk and so forth, drawing by forcing a threefold repetition of moves.
International Master in Shropshire - 25/05/2010
Wellington A were due to take on Shifnal & Telford C in the second round, but their players turned up to find Shifnal & Telford's venue, The Nedge Tavern at Stirchley, closed due to a water leak. Shifnal & Telford only learned of the problem themselves at the last minute and were not able to contact all the Wellington players in time to warn them.
The Minor knockout is due to start this week, but again there have been withdrawals. Church Stretton A say they are not taking part because new rules on grading bar most of the team. Oswestry A have also pulled out.
| Summer chess gets underway - 27/04/2010
Chess action is turning to the summer knockout competitions which start next week with one or two changes in the rules. And as round one games in the Cox Trophy have to be played during the week beginning May 3, it will mean that many players, whose club night is a Thursday, will be playing on the night of the general election. The pairings are on the Shropshire chess website.
Most significant rule change is that A teams must comprise a club's strongest players. This follows the raising of eyebrows last season when Telepost A withdrew from the competition - and then all that club's A-team players turned out for the B team.
The Minor knockout competition begins in the week beginning on May 24.
Wellington's Vikas Sharma was among competitors at Staffordshire congress, and was runner up in his section, winning £80. "I am much happier about my good performance this time. I had a very bad time in Shropshire congress few months back," he said.
Meanwhile the county individual tournament is moving towards is final stages, with the draw having been made for the sixth round of the seven-game competition. Currently in the lead on four points are Nick Rutter, who will face Newport clubmate Tony Holdford, and Wellington's Toby Neal, who will face multiple county champion David Everington. However the field is very close, and a host of unfinished games complicate the issue. Eugene Raby, for instance, is on three points but with an outstanding game to play.
The Wellington club, meanwhile, has found a new venue to replace the Railway on Mill Bank, which closed unexpectedly. It is now at the Oddfellows Arms in Wellington High Street.
| Problems ahead - 13/04/2010
With the smoke having cleared at the end of a tough season, it's time to have an overview - and look forward to problems on the horizon.
Telepost A were head and shoulders above the rest of the field and are league champions. Oswestry A, who faded in the second half of the season, are relegated, along with Shifnal & Telford B, who had made a flying start but then began to feel the effects of gravity.
Telepost B will be joining the A-teamers in the top flight next season, while Coddon B are also up, shouldering out Church Stretton on "goal difference" for the second promotion spot from Division Two.
With Telepost and Coddon clubs both having two teams in Division One next season, they may face some of the problems that beset the Shifnal & Telford club this season, as their strength-in-depth will be sorely tested.
Newport B and Shifnal & Telford C are down from Division Two, while Oswestry B and Shifnal & Telford D take a step up from Division Three - a case of a D team leapfrogging a C team.
Now for those problems...
For the last few months Shropshire Chess Association has operated without a general secretary, and will also shortly have no president either, as Iain Wilson gave notice long ago that he did not intend to stand again. He is now appealing to clubs to come up with people to fill the roles ready for the association's annual meeting in June.
"So far I have not heard of anyone expressing an interest in either role. Certainly no one has approached me with any nominations," he said. "I would be grateful if you could make club members aware of our plight and try to encourage people to come forward to fill the roles.
"Alternatively, as both posts ideally require a broad understanding of the Shropshire chess scene, it may be that people already holding posts might wish to be nominated, as long as volunteers can be found to replace them in their present work."
| Coddon survive amid late drama - 06/04/2010
Shifnal & Telford B are down and Coddon A stay up after a night of high drama in which the knife-edged Division One relegation battle was at last settled in the final games of one of the tightest of seasons.
Shifnal & Telford almost achieved "mission impossible" by scoring an unlikely draw against league champions Telepost A which, for a few hours at least, gave them hope that they had done enough to survive in the top flight. But then news came through that fellow strugglers Coddon A, who were on equal points, had beaten Wellington A on the same night, which meant all their heroic efforts had been for nothing, and they become the first team in Shropshire league history to score 12 points over the season and still be relegated.
In fact Shifnal & Telford B almost scored a shock win over the champs, although as things turned out even this would not have been enough because their inferior "goal difference" to Coddon would still have seen them relegated.
Stefan Tennant reports: "We were doing all right, and were winning 2.5 to 1.5 and Richard Thompson was the last to finish. He got a smashing game and turned down a drawn against Keith Tabner and then suddenly lost on time. He was kicking himself because it meant the team only drew when we could have won. He said: 'Oh bother. I'm sorry captain. I hope Wellington have won tonight.'"
In this hope he was disappointed.
Wellington had half been expecting the super-strong Simon Fowler to make a rare appearance in Coddon's crucial game, but he did not show. The tone for the match was set by Nathanael Paul's quick victory against Neil Sampson. Dele Ogundipe had a hopeless endgame against Gary White and Andy Tunks bounced back from the exchange down to generate threats which overwhelmed Toby Neal. On top board Glyn Pugh was, if anything, slightly better in a rooks and pawns endgame against Vikas Sharma, but things clarified into what both agreed was a drawn position.
Shrewsbury A, who spent almost all the season as relegation candidates, have finished as runners-up thanks to a smooth win against Shifnal & Telford A.
David Everington reports: "John Footner scored a very nice positional win for the home side with the Bf4 variation of the Queen's Gambit but the rest of the visitors were in good form with Francis Best reaching a season-long score of 9 out of 11 after his comprehensive demolition of Iain Wilson's Sicilian Defence."
Everington had time to notice Nigel Ferrington's opening in the other match played at the venue that evening.
"Against Gareth Edwards, Nigel played the ancient Schulz-Mueller Gambit (now called the Halloween Gambit) - 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Nxe5!? which ended in a draw after some crowd-pleasing stuff!"
Meanwhile, Oswestry B are promoted from Division Three as champions, and are joined in the step up by Shifnal & Telford D.
|Windsor rules ok - 30/03/2010
Shifnal & Telford B have staved off the prospect of being perhaps the first team in the history of Shropshire chess to be demoted as a result of breaking league rules after a successful appeal against a complaint about their use of the veteran Windsor Peck.
League controller Vinny Crean initially upheld the complaint - by whom has not been disclosed - and was planning to dock the side points. With Shifnal & Telford B already in a provisional relegation spot, that would have sent them down no matter what the result of their last-gasp encounter against league champions Telepost A tomorrow (Weds). But the Shifnal & Telford club mounted a spirited defence of their actions, with the upshot that Vinny has accepted that what was done was legal after all.
It means Shifnal & Telford B could still give themselves a chance of survival if they win or draw tomorrow. The substance of the complaint was that Peck played for Shifnal & Telford B in two games after he had already played more than two games for Shifnal & Telford A.
Players graded under 135 - and Peck's grading is 134 - are allowed to play up into a Division One team without restriction, the idea being to give clubs maximum flexibility in using players. There is an exception to the rule, when the two teams are playing in the same division. In that case, if the player is fielded for the higher team more than twice, he or she then becomes" tied" to that higher team and cannot play again for the lower team. Vinny's initial view was that the use of Peck had fallen foul of this provision.
However, in an updated ruling, he says: "I have now received from the Shifnal & Telford secretary an alternative interpretation of Rule 9. I accept his argument that 'teams' in the Rule 9c proviso refers to the lower team for which the player nominally plays and the higher team for which he has made an appearance, and does not necessarily refer to both higher teams in the same division.
"Furthermore, the President (Iain Wilson) has stated 'We considered the possibility of a club having two higher teams in the same division, both drawing on a player nominated for a lower team. Discussions at an AGM led to a decision that in such circumstances each team would be regarded as mutually exclusive, allowing for a player to be used by the higher teams in the way Windsor was used"
Vinny adds: "It is to be regretted that this was not then incorporated into the rules. I now accept that Windsor Peck's appearances may be regarded as within the rules and no penalties will be applied."
Meanwhile the boys were back in town for Newport A, who for the first time were able to field their young star players. Tom Pym, Gavyn Cooper and Alex Taylor are on their Easter break from university. Shrewsbury A were on the receiving end, and Newport's victory means they are now safe from relegation.
|Gillespie keeps his cool - 23/03/2010
In a tense encounter between Shifnal & Telford A and Wellington A, Richard Gillespie had the coolest nerves of all.
The last game of the night to finish, Gillespie was left in a must-win situation against Wellington's Neil Sampson to stave off a match defeat. Although he had a winning position at the board, the flags were hanging for both players and tension levels soared among his clubmates watching in suspense. It was Sampson's flag which fell first. But Gillespie appeared at first not to notice and, to the anguish of those spectators, played on with just seconds left on his own clock. Had he also run out of time, it would have been a draw - a result which would have doomed Shifnal & Telford to a match defeat. Then, almost casually, Gillespie said to Sampson: "Your clock's gone" and his teammates breathed a sigh of relief.
Meanwhile in the same room at the same time another drama was being played out in a dog-eat-dog battle between Newport A and Shifnal & Telford B. Despite rumours that Newport might field super-strong Tom Pym and Gavyn Cooper, neither appeared and, indeed, Newport were a player short. But all who played won in a 4-1 victory.
On the county scene, Shropshire's under-160 side went down 5-11 against Staffordshire at Shifnal. Wins came from Gary White, Stefan Tennant, and Windsor Peck, with draws from Iain Wilson, Steve Tarr, Graham Shepherd, and Roger Brown
|Relegation battles in Division One - 16/03/2010
The smoke has cleared somewhat in the nerve-jangling relegation battle in Division One after a "Big Week" round of crucial games saw some teams at last able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Oswestry A are now the first team to be definitely relegated, and the choice of those to join them has narrowed down to three, who are all on 11 points.
And it is Shifnal & Telford B who must be favourites for the drop as they face league leaders Telepost A in their final match in which only an unlikely win would gave them a chance.
Shrewsbury A's victory over Coddon A continued their run of wins and ensures them of survival as even if their 13 points is matched their "goal difference" will keep them up.
David Everington says: "Ray Cox opened the score with a very nice piece sacrifice against Gary White which ultimately led to an ending of queen versus rook and knight which can be drawn but, crucially, Cox, with the queen, had an extra pawn which decided things.
"Peter Kitchen played a typical wild attack against Andy Tunks' Sicilian Defence and had the Coddon player on the ropes until a very neat rook sacrifice in Kitchen's time trouble gained a draw. It might not have been sound but was excellent practical chess to exploit a time advantage."
| Title Toast to Telepost - 09/03/2010
Telepost A have clinched the league championship - but in this extraordinary season the title race has been a sideshow to a relegation scrap which continues to involve every other team in the first division.
Shrewsbury-based Telepost beat Newport A and then Wellington A, the only team which could have caught them, went down against Shrewsbury A, meaning Telepost are an unassailable five points clear at the top.
Oswestry A suffered a devastating blow in their bid to stay up by missing the opportunity to score a crucial victory over a visiting Shifnal & Telford B outfit which turned up without their top board, and also missing two regular players. Three wins gave Shifnal & Telford a 3-2 victory which cements Oswestry's position at the foot of the table and means they have got it all to do if they are to survive.
Shifnal & Telford A travelled to Coddon in a Telford derby match with only four players but, unlike their B side, were unable to overcome the disadvantage.
Iain Wilson reports: "We could have won the match. Trevor Brotherton beat Glyn Pugh. Windsor Peck missed a win against Nathanael Paul and had to settle for a draw. Richard Gillespie was queen for rook up against John Tunks but had to return the sacrifice and accept a draw with both players short of time. I missed a winning queen sac against Andy Tunks in a peculiar double-edged game and instead chose a line that led to immediate resignation. So we lost 3-2."
Shrewsbury A have continued their winning streak with a 3-2 win over Wellington A. Wellington started badly when Dele Ogundipe was a no-show on board five, so after the regulation hour his Shrewsbury opponent Ray Cox went home, only for Ogundipe, who had been delayed by work, to turn up a short time later. Sadly for him it was to no avail as under league rules the game had already been defaulted.
The result turned on the top board where Vikas Sharma was left in a must-win situation against David Everington to salvage a point for Wellington. Everington had sacrificed his queen in the opening for good compensation, and the ending resolved into Sharma's queen and five pawns - two of which were connected passed pawns - to Everington's rook, bishop, knight and four pawns. All was decided in a mad time scramble. After mistakes by both players, Everington ran out of time while trying to mate Sharma with rook and king against lone king. As Sharma did not have mating material, it was a draw - a result which sealed the win for Shrewsbury.
|Rutter and Sharma serve up a treat - 02/03/2010
Shrewsbury B have missed out on the chance to move into the Division Two promotion hunt after going down to a 3-2 away defeat at Ludlow A. With Coddon B and Telepost B drawing in their top-of-the-table encounter, Shrewsbury are two points adrift but, with plenty of points still up for grabs by the end of the season, will have opportunities to make up the deficit.
In Division Three, Oswestry B have cemented their place at the top of the table with a narrow win over nearest rivals Shifnal & Telford D. Shrewsbury Juniors have moved into third spot in unhappy circumstances after a no-show by Wellington B for their latest match handed them a 5-0 default.
Incidentally the Wellington club have been dubbed by one wit "Wellington Wanderers" after their latest venue troubles. Their venue, The Railway Inn on Mill Bank in Wellington, has unexpectedly closed down - temporarily, according to Punch Taverns. As a result Wellington A will play their "home" match against Shrewsbury A on Friday at Shrewsbury's venue, and this will probably be the pattern until the situation becomes clear.
For connoisseurs of top level, highly complicated chess, the recent encounter between Newport's Nick Rutter and Wellington's best player Vikas Sharma was a treat, with both players doing a twostep down a highly theoretical road in the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defence. Sharma, who knows the variation well, took only five minutes for the first 22 moves while Rutter, who was out of "book" on move 20, used up around 40 minutes on his clock to that point. And it was Rutter who saw his way through the complications most clearly when Sharma made a mistake on move 23. Afterwards Sharma reflected ruefully that he had made exactly the same mistake in the same position in a game around four years ago, but had forgotten about it.
"I remember there is a line where Black plays Kd8 and then Qb6 and Kc7 - something like that. This is one reason I played 23...Kd8 intuitively, not doing in-depth calculations of each variation," said Sharma.
"In the post game analysis, we found that Black is OK after 23... Bxg7 24 fxg7 Rg8. I praise Rutter's calculation ability in this game. He was out of book on move 20 and played very accurately till the end."
Here's how the game went, with Rutter with the white pieces: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 (This multi-purpose move is the signpost of the Najdorf variation) 6 Bg5 e6 7 f4 Be7 8 Qf3 Qc7 9 O-O-O Nbd7 10 g4 b5 11 Bxf6 Nxf6 12 g5 Nd7 13 f5 Nc5 (If black is feeling brave he can grab the pawn and play 13...Bxg5 check 14 Kb1 Ne5, but after 15 Qh5 black's situation looks awkward) 14 f6 gxf6 15 gxf6 Bf8 16 Rg1 h5 17 Rg7 b4 (As Vikas doesn't take the rook, we can assume that white would have gained full compensation had he done so) 18 Nd5 (A standard piece sacrifice to expose the black king) 18...exd5 19 exd5 Nd7 20 Nc6 Bb7 21 Re1 check Ne5 22 Bh3 Bxc6 23 dxc6 Kd8?? (The losing move) 24 Rxe5 dxe5 25 Qd5 check Qd6 26 c7 check Kxc7 27 Rxf7 check Be7 ("Forced. While playing 23... Kd8, I overlooked 28 Rb7 mate after 27... Kb6. I calculated only 28 Qb7 check, which is winning for black," explained Vikas.) 28 Rxe7 check Qxe7 29 fxe7 Rae8 30 Qc5 check and black resigned as checkmate is looming.
The story has now emerged from Shrewsbury A captain David Everington of his team's dramatic win against league leaders Telepost A.
Everington says: "Ray Cox tried to get out of his unbeaten but drawing run by sacrificing a piece against Keith Tabner but, as he wryly admitted, it made his position worse and he took a draw. "Peter Kitchen lost a pawn to a neat little tactic in the late opening but kept plugging away and was rewarded with a blunder which caused Richard Bryant to resign in the face of imminent mate. "Steve Rooney defended well with a pawn down against Dave Bates and produced a dead drawn ending of opposite coloured bishops only to lose on time.
"Francis Best steadily pressured an isolated pawn and won the ending nicely against John Bashall. The evening ended with me on top board winning a long ending by leaving pieces en prise while picking off my opponent's pawns and then promoting two of my own in quick succession, sacrificing the first one to snuff out Nigel Ferrington's own advancing pawn on the seventh."
| Shock for league leaderss - 23/02/2010
Shrewsbury A have continued their stunning revival by scoring a shock victory over league leaders Telepost A in the county town derby match.
David Everington's win over super-strong Nigel Ferrington on top board, and Peter Kitchen's giant-killing act over Richard Bryant were the key, with Francis Best scoring the third win over John Bashall. Shrewsbury's victory has a two-fold impact. It keeps the league championship alive - a win for Telepost would have effectively wrapped things up barring an unlikely series of results. And it means that Shrewsbury, who looked destined for the drop after an appalling first half to the season, have now scored three wins in a row which have lifted them out of the immediate demotion spots. However, as only three points separate the bottom six teams in Division One, every match until the end of the season is going to be a crunch match.
Newport A have also lifted themselves out of the bottom two after beating a Wellington A team which was virtually at full strength. The match was played at Newport's venue as Wellington's venue, The Railway Inn on Mill Bank, closed suddenly, leaving them homeless. According to Punch Taverns the pub was reopening at the end of last week, but if there are problems Wellington's two sides may be forced to play their remaining home matches at the opposition's venue.
Shifnal & Telford B made a storming start in the early part of the season despite being, on paper, one of the weakest teams. They have been feeling the unwelcome pull of gravity of late and now find themselves only just off the bottom, although with a game in hand over Coddon A, one of four teams on nine points.
Telepost B have increased their lead in Division Two thanks to a default by Shifnal & Telford C.
There was another default in Division Three, with Wellington B conceding against Ludlow B
| Narrow defeat for County U160's - 16/02/2010
A wipeout on the top four boards cost Shropshire dear as they went down to a 7-9 home defeat against Leicestershire.
While the Salopians on the lower boards held up well against opponents who were higher graded, the defeats at the top swung the match. The encounter at Shifnal was for county players grader under 160.
Wins came from John Westhead, Richard Thompson, Richard Gillespie and George Viszokai, with draws from Andrew Tunks, Glyn Randle, Eugene Raby, John Tunks, Stefan Tennant, and Roger Brown.
Two results in Division Two will have an important influence on the promotion battle. Telepost B have put away Church Stretton, taking the Shrewsbury-based club to the head of the table, ahead of Coddon B, who beat Newport B in the latest round of matches. With Shrewsbury B the only other team in touch with the two leaders, it looks like a three-horse race.
In Division Three, Shifnal & Telford D's win against Wellington B means they are only two points adrift of leaders Oswestry B, with a game in hand.
Up in Division One, tomorrow (Wednesday) is going to be a big night for Shifnal & Telford as the club's A and B teams, which are both in the top flight, both have matches on the same night, which will stretch resources to the limit.
They will be facing desperate opponents. Oswestry A find themselves at the bottom of the table due to inferior "goal difference" to the three teams above, which include Coddon A, the team in action tomorrow against Shifnal & Telford's B team.
No time to relax for Bill Evans - 07/02/2010
| Zabrocki's winnings ignite Minor dispute - 19/01/2010
A prizewinner in the Wrekin Chess Congress has had a block placed on his winnings following a complaint about his entry into the lowest section of the tournament, the Minor.
Phillip Zabrocki was joint runner up in the Minor with four points out of five, and was due to receive £37.50. But one of the competitors, Eugene Raby, who has recently returned to competitive chess, angrily protested that he should not have been allowed by organisers to play in the Minor.
"I find it personally disgusting, so much so that I may never play this game again for anyone," said Raby.
The problem stems from the fact that Zabrocki has played competitive chess so infrequently that he has no grading. Players who have not played for a few years are assumed to have got weaker - and at issue is whether Zabrocki's downward drift would have legitimately put him in the Minor section. Ungraded entrants are supposed to give all relevant details of their past playing strength, and there is a reminder on the congress entry form for them to do so, so that organisers can judge which is the best section for them to play.
It may be relevant then that Zabrocki's was a telephone entry and he may not have realised that he was required to volunteer this information.
Principal organiser Richard Thompson says: "I tried to get his grading details from the English Chess Federation, but drew a blank. Maybe I misspelt his name - easily done, you might think. Anyway, he didn't give me all the relevant information himself, so I am entitled to withhold his prize money. He will not be allowed to compete in the Minor next year. Incidentally, Eugene is wrong in crediting him with a current rapidplay grade of 173 - it was in 1998 - but doesn't alter the fact that he should not have been in the Minor, which decision was based on the information he gave to me."
In the league, leaders Telepost A have gone down to the second defeat of the season to their bogey team, Wellington A. It was not without controversy as in the time scramble in the John Bashall v Neil Sampson encounter, Sampson made an illegal move, moving his king into check. Bashall then claimed an extra two minutes on his clock. An angry Sampson said "Well, if that's how you want to win..." and walked out. The game did not affect the match result but Wellington A have asked league controller Vinny Crean to clarify what is the correct procedure in such situations in case it arises again.
Meanwhile Vinny has reminded clubs to ensure matches start on time. "I have had grumblings from several captains about home teams not having the boards and clocks set out by 7:30 or thereabouts. Please consider teams that have travelled long distances, arrive on time and are having to stand around for sometimes up to half an hour before the home team is ready to start," he said.
| Wrekin Congress Report - 12/01/2010
Shropshire's finest were frozen out of the big prizes at the county's biggest chess event, with all three sections in the snowbound Wrekin Chess Congress being won by “outsiders” who had braved the winter weather in search of plunder. A number of competitors cried off due to the conditions, and some others who started the tournament withdrew during it for the same reason.
Over half of the 96 who managed to make it to the weekend tournament at the Madeley Court Centre in Telford were from out-of-county. Northwich, Warley, Stafford, Stourbridge, Rugeley, Lichfield, Holmes Chapel, Birmingham, Newcastle-under-Lyme... all were represented in the prize list and took a share of the loot totalling over £1,000.
The winner in the strongest section, the Premier, had travelled all the way from Colwyn Bay. He was David Jameson who secured the £200 prize with a final round win over Newport's Gavyn Cooper, which took him to a score of four out of five.
All players in the competition, unless they opted for a half-point bye in one round (a popular move on Saturday night), played five games, three on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Shropshire players were completely shut out of all the other moneywinning positions in the Premier too, although as only five of the 25 contenders were from the county, it is perhaps not surprising. The best “home” performer was Shrewsbury's Francis Best, whose score of four in the Major for players of intermediate strength would have been enough to win in some previous years, but he had to be content with equal second, half a point behind Martyn Harris of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Graham Shepherd of Church Stretton shared the prize for best performance by a player graded under 140, earning £12.50 for his efforts.
Champion in the Minor was Rugeley's Paul Jackson on 4.5. Oswestry's Alf Evans and Newport's Richard Szwajkun shared a under-105 grading prize, and Peter Mellor of Telford-based Coddon shared the prize for best junior performer.
Principal organiser Richard Thompson, of Shifnal & Telford Chess Club, said: ”I think that under the circumstances it's gone extremely well.The atmosphere seems to have been good. It was a bit sad we lost about 10 entrants or so because of the weather. There were others who did not enter because of the weather, and some withdrew half way through. Everybody enjoyed themselves and that's the main thing.”
He also praised the efforts of the caterers who were a “scratch team” who came in at the last minute.
| Will outsiders dominate Wrekin Congress? - 05/01/2010
Shropshire's premier chess event the Wrekin Chess Congress being held this weekend is in danger of being hijacked by hordes of "outsiders". Only around 35 of the 75 entries so far to the two-day tournament are from Shropshire players. Although entries can be received right up to the day of the tournament, organisers would have normally have expected around 50 from "home" players at this stage.
The lack of support from local players for their own tournament has been a bugbear in the past, and was one of the reasons why Church Stretton's Graham Shepherd stepped down as organiser a few years ago.
The 75 entries are also about 30 down on last year's total, although this may change as some players don't make up their minds to enter until the last minute.
Prize fund for the congress at Madeley Court Centre, Telford, is over £1,000, and big names already signed in for the action include Lawrence Cooper, one of the "outsiders" in search of plunder. Cooper will be favourite in the top section, the Premier, which is for players graded up to 210 there are no Shropshire players graded higher. Local big-hitters looking to upset his steamroller include Nigel Ferrington, Richard Bryant, Gavyn Cooper, and "star of India" Vikas Sharma.
Upper grading limit for the Major section is 160, which will catch in the net many players who in past seasons would have played in the Minor section (for which the grading limit is 125), the reason being that a national rebasing of the grading system this season to combat years of grading "deflation" has seen many players see their grades increase dramatically.
All players will play five games over the weekend, starting at 10am, 2.15pm, and 6pm on Saturday, and 10am and 2.15pm on Sunday, although they may request a half-point bye in any one of the first three rounds.
In each round after the first they are paired against an opponent on equal points, so that in each round the leading players go head to head. Rate of play is 36 moves in 90 minutes, followed by a 15 minute quickplay finish.
Top prize in each of the three sections is £200, with £100 for runners up, and £50 for the third placed player. There are also various grading prizes and prizes for juniors.
Spectators are welcome at the event. Entry forms are downloadable from www.shropshirechess.org and further details are available from Richard Thompson on 07850 375826 .
| Mid-term report - the story so far - 22/12/2009
Which teams are going into the Christmas period full of cheer and which will feel like drowning their sorrows?
With the season at its half way point, Telepost A are looking strong with a three point lead at the head of Division One. It has helped their cause that they have been able to field their “big two” of Nigel Ferrington and Richard Bryant for every match so far.
Breathing down their neck has been the surprise package of the campaign, Shifnal & Telford B, who were promoted from Division Two at the end of last season. Their A team colleagues have recovered from a poor start, but will lose the services of John Footner in the new year.
Meanwhile Shrewsbury A have had a miserable time and have been unable to get into their stride at all, while Newport A made a strong start but, as expected, the loss of key players through university studies has seen them drift lower.
Telepost B lead Division Two but it's far too early to start counting any chickens, especially with the talent available at some of the chasing teams, while Oswestry B are looking too good to stay in Division Three, although the youngsters of Shrewsbury Juniors scored an impressive result by holding them to a draw.
League chess resumes in the week beginning January 4 meaning, rather unusually, players will be in action again in advance of the Wrekin Chess Congress, the biggest event in the county chess calendar, which is at the Madeley Court Centre on January 9 and 10.
In the county individual championship, Coddon's continually improving Nathanael Paul made a bit of a name for himself by claiming the scalp of Richard Bryant in round one, and showed it was no flash in the pan in the latest round by achieving a draw against David Everington who, back in the 1970s, won the county championship title for six years on the trot.
Everington, as black, played the challenging Latvian Gambit 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5 which, according to the theory books written by grandmasters, is dodgy for black. The upshot of that assessment, of course, is that many club players with the white pieces don't see any need to learn anything about this “bad” opening. It means that when actually faced with it, they are improvising as early as move 3, while their opponent knows all the lines and tactical possibilities of the gambit, which can be a priceless advantage which turns a so-called “bad” opening into a very dangerous and effective practical weapon at club level.
Here is the game: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5 3 exf5 d6 (More common is 3...e4 with the potential for mayhem and hair-raising complications, but Paul says Everington wanted to try something different) 4 Nc3 Bxf5 5 Bc4 Nf6 6 d3 c6 7 h3 d5 8 Bb3 Bd6 9 Bg5 Nbd7 10 Qd2 O-O 11 Nxd5 cxd5 12 Bxd5 check Kh8 13 Nh4 Bg6 14 Nxg6 chk hxg6 15 O-O-O Qb6 16 Bc4 Nh5 17 f3 Bc5 18 Qe1 Ndf6 19 g4 Bf2 20 Qxe5 Rae8 21 Qb5 Be3 chk 22 Bxe3 Qxe3 chk 23 Kb1 Nf4 24 Qg5 Nh7 25 Qb5 Qe5 26 Qa4 a6 27 Bb3 Nf6 28 a3 N6d5 29 Rde1 Qxe1 chk 30 Rxe1 Rxe1 chk 31 Ka2 Ne2 32 Bxd5 Nc1 chk 33 Ka1 Nb3 chk and as black forces a draw through threefold repetition, a draw was agreed at this point.
| Shropshire juniors shine in London - 15/12/2009
Young Shropshire player Athar Mehmood has added to his trophy cabinet by becoming the English under-14 rapidplay chess champion for 2009. Athar, who plays for Newport, took part in the English Junior Rapid Chess Championship at the London Chess Classic and scored 4.5 out of six. His trophy and prize was presented by Grandmaster Michael Adams. The Classic comprises a number of chess events, including a tournament which has attracted some of the world's strongest players.
And Athar was not the only Shropshire player to come away with some glory.
Nathanael Paul, of the Coddon club, reports: “My dad and I both played in the weekend chess classic” in the London Chess Classic. My dad Chris played in the under-120 section and won a grading prize of £40 for getting 2.5 out of 5, and I came joint second with 4 out of 5. I won £75, which I was very happy about. I had three wins and two draws.”
Shifnal & Telford B have been surprise high flyers in the first part of the league season, but their loss against title favourites Telepost A has meant that their colleagues at Shifnal & Telford A have now almost caught up, thanks to a win over struggling Shrewsbury A in a match which could have gone either way.
Shrewsbury captain David Everington reports: “The most notable game was on board two where Peter Kitchen uncorked what looked like a completely new pawn sacrifice against Dave Gostelow's favourite Lowenthal Variation of the Sicilian Defence but then missed a tactical point and ended up losing when he might have won.
”On board one I pushed one of Shropshire's best, Trevor Brotherton, for most of the game but got outplayed in a time scramble when both of us were down to a couple of minutes. Francis Best had an excellent win against Iain Wilson's Sicilian Defence but, for the visitors, John Footner demonstrated high class play in winning against Steve Rooney's Benko Gambit.
”The Kitchen-Gostelow Game went: 1e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cd 4 Nd4 e5 5 Nb5 a6 6 Nd6 check Bd6 7 Qd6 Qf6 8 Qd1 Qg6 (all seen many times before) 9 Be3! (The new idea) 9...Qe4? 10 Nc3 Qb4 11 a3! Qa5 (If 11...Qb2 12 Na4 wins the queen) 12 b4 Qd8 13 Nd5 Kf8 14 Bb6 Qh4 15 Bc5 chk Nge7 16 Nb6 Rb8 17 Bd6 Qe4 chk 18 Qe2? (A great pity. Black is in all sorts of trouble after 18 Be2! Qg2 19 Bf3, but now he is winning after 18...Qd4 and went on to convert his advantage).”
| County turn on style to buck losing trend - 08/12/2009
Shropshire's open team ended a five-match losing run dating back at least 18 months with a resounding 11.5-4.5 win in a derby game against neighbours Worcestershire. Captain Peter Kitchen says: “While we were favourites going into this match we certainly weren't expected to win by such a large margin. Ten of our 16 players won, with three draws and three defeats (only one with the black pieces). The final scoreline is testament to the battling qualities of certain individuals, with both Brian Whyte and John Footner grinding out wins in games lasting nearly five hours despite the match having long been decided.
”Other notable performances included Nathanael Paul winning on what I believe was his debut for the county first team on bottom board. Nigel Ferrington maintained his perfect record on top board his opponent Jeremy Fallowfield had played 11 and won 11 in all competitions this season but Nigel ended that record with a win of his own. It was also great to see Jamie Hopkins back in action although he lost his game on board four. It looked very tight for much of it despite Jamie not having been anywhere near a chess piece for around eight or nine months.”
There was also personal satisfaction for Kitchen in scoring his first win for Shropshire at any level and against a county where he grew up and learned to play the game. ”We still don't know where we need to finish to secure a place in the national knockout stages but this will have done us no harm. Our final match is away to Lincolnshire in March, and if we can get a strong team out hopefully we¹ll get the result we need.”
Wins came from Nigel Ferrington, Trevor Brotherton, Richard Bryant, Brian Whyte, David Everington, Glyn Pugh, John Footner, Peter Kitchen, Geoff Lee, and Nathanael Paul, and draws from Nick Rutter, Dave Gostelow, and Colin Roberts.
In the league, Telepost B have racked up another win and look strong at the head of Division Two, and Shifnal & Telford C scored their first win of the season over a Church Stretton side which, although a player short, were still tough opposition.
A national shake-up in chess gradings to counter years of “grades deflation” has been reflected by a general raising of the bar in all three sections of the Wrekin Chess Congress, which is at the Court Centre, Madeley, on January 9 and 10. Maximum grades for the Premier, Major, and Minor sections are now 210, 160, and 125 respectively. Entry forms are available through www.shropshirechess.org, the Shropshire chess website.
Gillespie makes a B-line to lift Shifnal - 01/12/2009
| Telepost ring up hot line to summit - 24/11/2009
Shrewsbury-based Telepost B have moved to the head of division two with a victory over nearest rivals, Telford's Coddon B. Wins by John Bashall on top board and Steve Kempsell were decisive, with all the other encounters ending in draws.
The dearth of any other league results gives an opportunity to have a look at a couple of games in the individual championship, where the first round has seen a number of David v Goliath encounters.
One of these was the game between Coddon's George Viszokai and Shrewsbury's David Everington, who has won the championship many times in the past. There was however to be no giantkilling on this occasion as Viszokai, with the black pieces, fell into a classic mating net: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Bg5 c6 5 cxd5 exd5 6 e3 g6 7 Bd3 Bg7 8 Nf3 Be6 9 O-O O-O 10 Ne5 Qc7 11 f4 Nfd7 12 Rc1 c5 13 Qf3 Nb6 14 Nb5 Qc8 15 Rxc5 Nc6 16 Rfc1 Bxe5 17 fxe5 Qd7 18 Bh6 Rfb8 19 Qf6 and black resigned.
In another of the encounters, the very strong Glyn Pugh was up against Derrick Powell who, although much weaker on paper, was dubbed by one defeated opponent recently as a ‘wily old fox' as he can be very resourceful defensively, his Achilles heel being a tendency to get into time trouble, which has lost him many a game. However, the relatively generous (compared to the league) time controls in the individual championship seem to suit him as Pugh was faced with fighting on literally into the early hours in his efforts to grind out a win, finally being forced to swallow a draw after an 84-move marathon.
But, according to tournament organiser and game annotator Nick Rutter, Pugh could have effectively wrapped things up at move 21.
Here is the game up to that point, with Pugh with the white pieces.
1 e4 e6 2 Nc3 c5 3 g3 Nc6 4 Bg2 a6 5 d3 Ne5 6 f4 Nc6 7 Nh3 Nge7 8 Be3 Nd4 9 O-O Nec6 10 Qd2 Nb4 11 Rac1 a5 12 a3 Nbc6 13 Qf2 Rb8 14 Nd1 b6 15 c3 Nb3 16 Rc2 a4 17 f5 f6 18 Qe2 Ne5 19 d4 Nf7 20 e5 Be7 and here, at move 21, Pugh played Qg4. But, according to the tournament bulletin, an alternative move would have been winning. Can you see it?
| Shrewsbury break their duck - 17/11/2009
Shrewsbury A have finally broken their duck with a resounding whitewash of a short-handed Wellington A team. Captain David Everington said Shrewsbury had moved “from the ridiculous to the sublime” with these first points of the season. ”The match was desperately tough despite a board 5 win by default,” he said. ”Philip Makepeace was under immense pressure from Wellington's star top board but managed to wriggle out of a hopeless-looking position to score a famous victory.
”Toby Neal was pressing hard on board 2 but, with a pawn up in a rook and knight ending, drifted into a probable drawn position and promptly gifted the exchange to his grateful opponent. ”Derrick Powell put up a tremendous defence against heavy pressure from Peter Kitchen and only lost in mutual time trouble. Francis Best completed the whitewash, winning nicely with the Tarrasch Variation against John Lenton's French Defence.” In fact Francis Best pointed out afterwards that all top three boards turned out to be similar endings of rook, knight, and pawn.
Meanwhile Shifnal & Telford B have continued to be the surprise package of Division One, chalking up another win, this time over Oswestry A.
Shropshire's open team went down to a 6.5-9.5 defeat against Leicestershire at Shifnal in their first match of the season. Captain Peter Kitchen said: “With the two teams extremely closely matched in terms of grading it was no surprise to see nine of the 16 games finishing as draws. But Leicestershire quickly opened up a three point lead, and despite excellent wins for county individual champion Nigel Ferrington on top board and debutant Vikas Sharma on board three we never really looked like clawing it back.
”Three defeats on the bottom four boards certainly didn't help our cause, although three of our five defeats were in extremely close and hard fought games. ”Unfortunately Trevor Brotherton, who would have been board three, had to withdraw on the day through illness, but in any case Leicestershire were worthy winners.”
Nathanael Paul has now sent in the scoresheet from his stirring victory against Richard Bryant in the first round of the county individual championship. Paul had the white pieces.
1 e4 e6 2 d4 c5 3 d5 exd5 4 exd5 d6 5 c4 Nf6 6 Bd3 Bg4 7 Nf3 Nbd7 8 Nbd2 Ne5 9 Be2 Nxf3 check 10 Nxf3 Be7 11 O-O O-O 12 h3 Bd7 13 b3 a6 14 Bb2 b5 15 Qc2 h6 16 Bd3 bxc4 17 bxc4 Qc8 18 Rae1 Bd8 19 Re2 Nh5 20 Nh2 Nf4 21 Re3 Nxd3 22 Rxd3 Bf5 23 Rg3 f6 (Bryant, the higher graded player, is playing for a win, and therefore rejects the possibility of forcing a draw by 23...Bxc2 after which Paul would have had to play 24 Rxg7 and take a draw by perpetual check) 24 Qd2 Kh7 25 Bc1 Ra7 26 Ng4 g5 27 f4 Raf7 28 fxg5 fxg5 29 Rgf3 Bg6 30 Rxf7 chk Rxf7 31 Rxf7 chk Bxf7 32 Bb2 and here Bryant resigned, no doubt because Qc3 is coming, although computer analysis shows it would not be fatal.
Nathanael Paul's stunning victory -10/11/2009
| Dramatic encounter at Newport - 03/11/2009
There was high drama in the Newport A v Wellington A encounter when, only a few moves into the game, a message was passed to the top board, at which Nick Rutter immediately collected his things and said: “My wife's been in an accident. I have to leave.”
He then swiftly departed and, naturally under the circumstances, how the result of his game against Vikas Sharma should be called was not uppermost in his mind. And other players were not sure what rule, if any, applied in such a situation. The options ranged from the outrageous that is, Wellington claiming it as a win by default or on time to voiding the game, with calling it a draw somewhere in between.
The nearest parallel I can think of is from years ago, when a player had an epileptic fit during a game.
At the end of the match myself, as Wellington captain, and Tony Holdford agreed simply to call it a void game, as if it had never happened, although I notice the result as posted on the Shropshire chess website gives it as a draw, which presumably means it will count for grading purposes.
Feedback from Newport players was that Nick's wife had broken her wrist in a sporting accident.
The match result turned on the last game to finish, that between young Athar Mehmood and Wellington sub Dele Ogundipe. It was clear to spectators that Ogundipe must win, unless he blundered. Athar tried to give him every opportunity to do so, but Ogundipe did not oblige and his victory takes Wellington to a rather unexpected spot at the top of the table. However, as their star player Sharma wants to take a break from chess for a couple of months, this can be interpreted as a promising start in their battle against relegation rather than a realistic fight for the championship.
Despite his loss, Athar has had compensatory glory elsewhere. Taking part in the Staffordshire junior congress, he was the under-14 champion, and playing as part of the England junior squad in Poland, he turned in the best performance among the English players.
”I have had an invitation to represent England in the Czech Republic in March 2010,” added Athar.
Meanwhile Shrewsbury A's disastrous start to the season continues, with another loss, this time in the county town derby, while reigning league champions Shifnal & Telford A find themselves in a provisional demotion spot while, a little embarrassingly, the club's B team are riding high in the table.
| Promising start for county - 20/10/09
Shropshire's new-look under-160 side got off to a promising start with an 8-8 draw against their traditionally strong Greater Manchester opponents. But it could have been even better, had the Salopians not defaulted the bottom two boards.
A national rebasing of the entire grading system has meant that players in the under-160 team would, in most cases, have been playing in under-120 outfits last season. Wins came from Geoff Lee, Gareth Edwards, Steve Tarr, Windsor Peck, and Nathanael Paul, and draws from John Westhead, Peter Crean, Eugene Raby, Gary White, Richard Thompson, and Roger Brown.
It was not so happy news for the county's under-140 team, which went down 12-4 to Warwickshire, in a match played at Trinity Primary School at Ford, near Shrewsbury. Shropshire's three defaults may be an indication that the raising of the gradings bar has meant that the pool of players available for lower-graded teams has shrunk somewhat.
There were some bright spots though, with Maisy Pugh claiming the scalp of a 128-rated opponent on her county team debut. Graham Shepherd and Ian Davies also scored wins, and Athar Mehmood and Vincent Crean got draws.
In the league, these are worrying times for Shrewsbury A, who find themselves pointless and at the foot of Division One. Their latest defeat came at the hands of Shifnal & Telford B who, Shrewsbury captain David Everington concedes, fully deserved their slightly unexpected win. Everington himself lost on top board with the double-edged Tarrasch Defence, just as Oswestry's Brian Whyte did earlier in the season.
”Geoff Lee played the whole game very accurately. In the last game to finish Steve Rooney, with seconds left, came close to saving a half point when he managed to set up his king in a stalemate position but ran out of the time needed to sacrifice his remaining rook. Shrewsbury now have to think about getting off the bottom of the table,” said Everington.
Newport A still head the division, but the going is going to get tougher for them as a couple of their student players have now departed for their studies. Coddon A ended their perfect record, pegging them back to a draw, with a notable win on top board by Glyn Pugh over Nick Rutter, and important draws against highly experienced opponents by Andy Tunks and Nathanael Paul.
The Wellington A v Oswestry encounter was notable for the first defeat of Wellington's Indian star, Vikas Sharma. The impressive Brian Whyte, as white, played a line in the Grunfeld Defence all ‘book' he explained later in which he allowed a queen swap which deprived him of his castling rights. But within only a few more moves he got a complete stranglehold on the position, with rooks doubled on a central open file and two very powerful bishops. Sharma found himself with a tragi-comic position in which he had plenty of pieces and pawns and yet was unable to move anything.
|Exciting times in Division Three - 13/10/2009
Wily old veterans, up and coming youngsters, and novices trying their hand in competitive chess joined the fray this week as action in Division Three finally got under way. The delay in the start of the season was caused by the folding of a couple of teams over the summer, resulting in the division being short of teams, and therefore fewer games to be played. However, it has meant that a ‘late entry' has been able to get in on the act in the form of a newly-created Ludlow B team.
Division Three is the division in the Shropshire chess league which is closest to the grass roots, with a wide mix of folk getting stuck in. It is the starting point for those new to the game, and is also the division in which most children play, with some teams being made up almost entirely of juniors.
Some of the most entertaining battles come when a hungry youngster is pitted against an experienced veteran, and the enthusiasm, adventure and aggression of the youngster has to be countered by the older player dipping into his or her bag of tricks built up over the years. A typical technique is to try to make the game so boring that the young pup self-destructs through impatience and irritation. Even when all is lost, all may not be lost there has been a least one instance in which an older player has survived with a lone king against a king and queen, through the youngster not knowing the correct technique of delivering checkmate.
In Division Two, Telepost B have made a flying start with two straight wins. Leading the Telepost attack in the latest encounter, against Shifnal & Telford C, was John Bashall, one of the strongest players in the division. In fact Bashall is actually a past A team player whose form, and therefore grading, has slipped in recent years, making him a very dangerous ‘wolf in disguise' player.
Playing board one over at Newport B in their match against Shrewsbury B was young Athar Mehmood, who has been making a name for himself with good performances in various congresses, including the Wrekin congress, where he won the Minor section. He was up against an opponent who really likes to mix it, Mark Smith, and the result was a draw, although the overall match result was a convincing win for the Shrewsbury outfit.
|Flying start for Newport - 06/10/09
Newport A have got off to a flying start to their campaign, with two straight wins, their latest victims being reigning league champions Shifnal & Telford A. But is it a flash in the pan? Newport are one of those teams which blow hot and cold. They can field a very strong side on occasions when all their best players are available, but at other times when their stars are away on their university studies have to rely heavily on reserves. Last season they only escaped relegation on ‘goal difference'.
Oswestry A have underlined their status as the dark horses of the division with a victory against Shrewsbury A. Shrewsbury's David Everington reports: “It was a good performance by Oswestry. Simon Hughes won convincingly with a Sicilian Defence in a long game on board one although Peter Kitchen on board two had a very good game at one point but eventually lost on time.
”Mark Smith, who was standing in as a reserve, gave Shrewsbury some consolation when Gareth Hampson played a Grunfeld Defence which just happens to be Smith's favourite and one he knows very well.”
Promoted Shifnal & Telford B racked up a win against fellow ‘promotees' Wellington A, whose only consolation came on top board, where Steve Tarr was unable to hold back the steamroller which is Indian player Vikas Sharma. Tarr played the Sicilian Defence, which Sharma attacked with the Alapin variation, in which white plays an early c3. Tarr soon found himself with an inferior endgame before making a mistake which decided matters.
Meanwhile league controller Vinny Crean is facing yet another organisational headache, although this time it's a good headache, if there can be such a thing. He has allowed a very late entry in division three, in the form of a second team from the Ludlow club, Ludlow B.
”This is excellent news for promoting chess in the county, but quite some work for me!” said Crean. Happily a late start in division three, where the season's matches don't kick off until next Monday, has given a bit of time for the necessary adjustments.
Also soon to start is the county individual championship, in which players vie for individual glory. Anyone wanting to take part should let organiser Nick Rutter know
|Problems mount for Crean - 29/09/09
Any hopes that new league controller Vinnie Crean might have harboured that he would be able to ease in gently into his post have been cruelly dashed by a number of organisational crises.
With two teams folding in the pre-season period, he was left with eight teams in divisions one and two, but only five in division three and the only way out of this imbalance he could see was ‘de-promoting' the Shifnal & Telford D side. This did not exactly go down well at the Shifnal & Telford club, whose D-teamers had fought so hard to gain promotion from division three at the end of last season. The solution eventually reached is that Shifnal & Telford are to try to raise another team to play in division three, where the season starts next month.
Promoted Shifnal & Telford D are playing in division two redesignated as Shifnal & Telford C a team which was demoted from division two at the end of last season.
And if all that isn¹t enough to have Vinnie scratching his head, he has faced another problem, as Shrewsbury C has now folded. Captain Ian Davies has had to step down because of work commitments and other C-team players have cut down on their chess. It has meant off course that all Shrewsbury C fixtures in division two are now scratched.
Eugene Raby popped in to his club at Coddon during the Coddon A v Oswestry A clash, and one of the games in particular caught his eye, and so he has sent in the scoresheet for interest.'All seemed a tight contest in the early stages except for the game between Andy Tunks against Brian Whyte. I was totally bemused by how Andy's opponent, graded 178, collapsed after just 17 moves. Andy Tunks, I feel, is a breath of fresh air who plays a very sharp game and I feel sure we will be hearing more from him in the future,' said Raby.
Whyte essayed the Tarrasch Defence, perhaps hoping to wrongfoot Tunks because it is not so often played as other lines, being considered by the experts to be less solid, but in compensation offering black active piece play. But Tunks must either have done his homework on Whyte¹s favourite openings, or simply known how to play against the Tarrasch, as his first nine moves were all ‘book'.
1 d4 e6 2 Nf3 d5 3 c4 c5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 g3 Nc6 6 Bg2 Nf6 7 O-O Be7 8 Nc3 O-O 9 Be3 cxd4 (Whyte blinks first. The preferred ‘book' move here is 9... c4) 10 Nxd4 Re8 11 Qd2 Na5 12 b3 Be6 13 Rac1 h6 14 Bf4 Ba3 15 Rc2 a6 (Whyte wants to stop a knight landing on b5. But the knight is going in a surprising direction) 16 Nb1! (Simple retreats like this can be the most difficult moves to see) Bf8 17 Bc7 and Whyte resigned, as the bishop fork means he loses a piece.
| New signings boost Wellington - 22/09/09
Debut wins by two newcomers helped promoted Wellington A to victory over former league champions Telepost A in their first match of the season in Division One.
Vikas Sharma, Wellington's ‘star of India', claimed the scalp of county champion Nigel Ferrington on top board, while Colin Roberts bettered Richard Bryant, which is no mean feat, especially as Bryant outgrades him significantly.
Sharma, who hails from Mumbai, has been working in Telford for the past few months, and was making his league debut for Wellington as was Roberts, who has switched from the Shifnal & Telford club. Both players are invaluable additions to Wellington. But there is a fly in the ointment as there is a possibility that Sharma could be transferred to Worthing, and in any event he may have to return to India before the end of the season. And, for work reasons, Roberts is only available for Wellington's home games.
Reigning league champions Shifnal & Telford A got off on the winning trail with a 3-2 win over their B side, while Newport A, who have been hit in the past by absent stars being away on university duties, were able to field Gavyn Cooper, which helped them on their way to a 3.5-1.5 win over Shrewsbury.
Shrewsbury's consolation was a nice win by Francis Best against Alex Taylor's unusual line against the Sicilian Defence 1 e4 c5 2 d4 cd 3 Qxd4.
Newport players also had success at the Leek Congress, where they won the team prize of a digital clock. Those involved were Gavyn Cooper, who was joint first in the top section with 4 out of 5 (three wins a draw and a half-point bye), Chris Lewis, who was joint winner of the middle section with 4 out of 5 (four wins and one defeat), and Sellick Davies, who was joint second in the minor section with 3.5 out of 5.
A simultaneous display by International Master Lawrence Cooper at the Coddon club was hit by the England v Croatia match, but was an enjoyable night for those taking part.
Andy Tunks reports: “Glyn introduced Lawrence to everyone, who played ten boards. The two juniors Athar Mehmood and Nathanael Paul both played exceptionally well and put up strong resistance but both lost out in the end. There were two draws on the night, from Glyn Pugh (Coddon) and David Pritchard (Walsall Kipping).”
| Your chance to play an International Master - 25/08/09
Shropshire's chess players are being given the chance to limber up for the forthcoming season by taking on one of the strongest players in the Midlands - International Master Lawrence Cooper.
Cooper will be giving a simultaneous display - that is, playing lots of opponents at once at the Coddon Chess Club, Donnington, on September 9. It will be an opportunity for Shropshire to gain revenge on Cooper, who is from Staffordshire, for the thumping defeat he inflicted in a similar event three years ago. He took on 24 Shropshire players at the Darwin shopping centre at Shrewsbury, raising money for a children's cancer charity. The result was: Cooper 23, Shropshire 1. Cooper won all but two games, those being drawn. The two players who managed to draw against him that day were Nick Rutter and John Westhead.
However, a good turnout of top Shropshire players could see an improvement on that result, as Cooper's grading is 209, and Shropshire's finest are not all that far behind. Rutter himself, and his Newport colleague Tom Pym, are rated at 200 in the latest grading lists. In fact there are six players in Shropshire now ranked 190 or over. It is also a rare chance for more mortal Shropshire players to pit their wits against an International Master in which, even if they lose (the most likely outcome!), it is good experience.
In a simultaneous display a top player moves round the boards constantly, making a move at each one in turn, until all games are completed.
The event is at 7.30pm and anyone wanting to play should contact Andy Tunks by text (07533686312) or e-mail (email@example.com) to confirm their attendance. Cost is £5, payable on the night.
| Shropshire's chess champion - 04/08/09
Nigel Ferrington is Shropshire's chess champion for the fifth time after an exciting climax to the county's individual championship.
Ferrington, from the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club, drew in his last game in the seven-round tournament to reclaim the title he first won in 1993. He ended the competition on 5.5 points exactly the same as Richard Bryant and Nick Rutter. However Ferrington takes the £50 prize and the trophy by virtue of having had a ‘harder road' on his trail to victory he beat three former county chess champions, David Everington, Trevor Brotherton, and Rutter.
Brotherton might have leapfrogged Ferrington to claim the glory had he won his last round game, but up against his old rival Rutter, he came off second best on this occasion.
Taking second place in the competition is Bryant, the only player to have upset Ferrington¹s progress, inflicting on him a bruising 17-move defeat in round six.
Ferrington's opponent in the last round was Simon Hughes, who has been claiming scalps of several top players. Against Ferrington's habitual Sicilian Defence, he played the Closed Variation the variation Bryant had himself used to beat ‘Fezza'. In fact the first five moves were exactly the same, but on move six Ferrington, no doubt after doing some homework, varied with Rb8 (he had played e5 against Bryant), and next move Hughes played Nf3, whereas Bryant had chosen Nh3. Neither player gained the upper hand as the game unfolded and they agreed a draw at move 26.
Here is the complete game, with Hughes with the white pieces.
1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 Nc6 5 d3 d6 6 f4 Rb8 7 Nf3 b5 8 O-O b4 9 Ne2 Bg4 10 h3 Bxf3 11 Rxf3 Nd4 12 Nxd4 Bxd4 check 13 Kh1 Nf6 14 Qe1 Nd7 15 e5 dxe5 16 c3 bxc3 17 bxc3 e4 18 dxe4 Bg7 19 e5 O-O 20 Rd3 c4 21 Rd4 Qc7 22 Ba3 Nb6 23 Rad1 Rfd8 24 Qd2 Rxd4 25 Qxd4 f6 26 exf6 and a draw was agreed.
Challenger Brotherton was never going to have things easy against Nick Rutter, who for years has been in the highest echelons of Shropshire chess, and they have had some titanic battles over the years. It was a simple tempting pawn advance which proved Brotherton's undoing, turning a solid position into one that crumbled before his eyes.
Here is the game, with Brotherton with the white pieces, and annotations from Rutter.
1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 3 b3 Bf5 4 g3 Nf6 5 Bg2 Nbd7 6 Ba3 h5 7 h4 Ne4 8 d3 Nef6 9 O-O Bg4 10 Nbd2 e6 11 Bxf8 Nxf8 12 Ng5 N8d7 13 f3 Bf5 14 e4 Bg6 15 d4? (White was well on top, but the advance leaves the d-pawn too weak) Qb6 16 c5 Qb4 17 Nb1 e5! (and now black is winning, because white's d and c pawns are too weak) 18 exd5 Nxd5 19 Re1 O-O-O 20 dxe5 Qxc5 check 21 Kh1 Ne3 22 Rxe3 Qxe3 23 Na3 Nxe5 24 Qf1 Qc5 25 Nc4 Nxc4 26 bxc4 Rd4 27 f4 Kb8 28 Nf3 Qxc4 29 Nxd4 Qxd4 30 Rd1 Qf6 31 Qe1 Bf5 32 Qd2 Re8 33 Qa5 g6 34 Kh2 Qe7 35 Kh1 Be4 36 Rd2 Bxg2 check 37 Kxg2 Qc7 38 Qc5 a6 39 Qd4 Qe7 40 Qb6 Qc7 41 Qc5 and black went on to win.
Grading prizes were awarded to Toby Neal (under 140), John Westhead (U120), George Viszokai (U100), and Dave Lovegrove (U80).
| Ludlow laid low - 28/07/09
Wellington A have moved into the final of the Minor knockout competition in historic circumstances thanks to the first chess match in the county ever being cancelled through swine flu. Wellington had been due to face Ludlow A in the semi final, but Ludlow cried off a few hours before the match.
”Two of them had swine flu, and I think they were maybe one short anyway,” said Wellington captain Derrick Powell. “They not only had to cancel for that day, but could not play the following week either, so they have conceded the match.”
He said a message was left on his answerphone on the day of the match, which he picked up about an hour before play was due to start.
There has been some ‘slippage' in the playing of matches in the competition, and Wellington are still awaiting confirmation of who they will meet in the final, which should have been played in the week beginning July 20.
Vikas Sharma from India, who is working in Telford for six months or so, was winner of the latest summer quickplay tournament hosted by the Shifnal & Telford club. He won all six games. Second was Richard Swajkun on 4.5 and third Jason Kenderdine on 4. Next tournament is on August 5.
| Three-way battle to be county's king of chess - 14/07/09
Shropshire's individual championship is moving to its climax, with three players in with a shout of taking the title of the county's king of chess.
Nigel Ferrington has beaten Trevor Brotherton, which means both of them now have five points, with just one round of the seven-game tournament left. It means that one of them will be champion unless they both lose their last game, in which case Richard Bryant will be champion.
At first sight it would seem that Brotherton has the more difficult task, as he is facing Nick Rutter, who has consistently been at the top of the county chess tree. Ferrington though cannot count his chickens. He faces Simon Hughes, who is on paper an easier game, but who has had an excellent tournament and has the ability to punish anyone who underestimates him.
Bryant scored a very nice win over Ferrington in the penultimate round. To beat a player of Ferrington's experience and strength in just 17 moves is pretty special. Here is how Bryant, with the white pieces, did it with a snap attack almost straight out of the starting blocks.
1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 Nc6 5 d3 d6 6 f4 e5 7 Nh3 Nge7 8. O-O O-O 9 f5 gxf5 10 exf5 Bxf5 11 Rxf5 Nxf5 12 Be4 Nfd4 13 Qh5 f5 14 Bd5 check Kh8 15 Ng5 h6 16 Qg6 Nf3 check 17 Bxf3 and Ferrington resigned.
To balance things up for Nigel, here's his win over Trevor Brotherton. Ferrington had the white pieces.
1 e4 d6 2 d4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 Be3 a6 5 Qd2 Nd7 6 Nf3 c6 7 O-O-O b5 8 e5 d5 9 e6 fxe6 10 Bd3 Qa5 11 Kb1 e5 12 dxe5 Nxe5 13 Nxe5 Bxe5 14 Bf4 Qc7 15 Bxe5 Qxe5 16 Rhe1 Qd6 17 Qg5 Bd7 18 Be2 Nf6 19 Bf3 O-O-O 20 Qe3 Kb7 21 Qxe7 Qxe7 22 Rxe7 Rde8 23 Rde1 Kc7 24 Rxe8 Rxe8 25 Rxe8 Bxe8 26 b4 Kd6 27 Ne2 Bd7 28 c3 Bf5 check 29 Kc1 Be4 30 Bxe4 Nxe4 31 f3 Nf6 32 Kd2 c5 33 a3 Nd7 34 Nc1 Nb6 35 Nb3 Nc4 chk 36 Ke2 cxb4 37 axb4 Ke5 38 g3 Kd6 39 Nc5 d4 40 cxd4 Kd5 41 Kd3 Nb2 chk 42 Kc2 Nc4 43 Kc3 Ne3 44 Nxa6 Nf5 45 Nc7 chk Kc6 46 Ne8 h6 47 Nf6 Kd6 48 Kd3 Ne7 49 Ne4 chk Kc6 50 Nc3 Nf5 51 Ke4 Nd6 chk 52 Ke5 Kd7 53 g4 g5 54 Kf6 Ne8 chk 55 Kg6 Nc7 and white won a few moves later.
| Controversy at the AGM - 07/07/09
Players claiming a draw in quickplay finishes will effectively be able to press an ‘Ask Vinnie' button under a potentially far-reaching rule change adopted at Shropshire Chess Association's annual meeting. It may make new league controller Vinnie Crean = fresh blood elected into the post at the meeting = a busy man in his first season at the helm.
How things will pan out in the new season remains to be seen. But if the shakeup leads to a deluge of draw claims of variable merit, poor Vinnie is going to have some major headaches, and league tables will, because of unresolved matches, be permanently out of date. Vinnie, with a personal grading of 75, will have the responsibility of ruling on games in which, in the vast majority of cases, the combatants will be stronger - sometimes very much stronger players than himself.
Players down to their last two minutes can stop the clocks and claim a draw on the grounds that their opponent can't win, or isn't trying to win. The current league practice is to then play on and see what actually happens, ideally with the captains or experienced players observing. The onus is on the claimant to convincingly demonstrate the draw by their sound defence in actual play.
The change agreed at the AGM is “to adopt Appendix D of the FIDE laws of chess”. It means players down to their last two minutes can stop the clocks, claim a draw, and submit it to the league controller, without further play a step back towards the old days of adjournments and adjudications. Vinnie will then have to rule whether it is a draw or not. Usually there is a fee for dragging in an arbiter, to discourage frivolous claims. However, Shropshire players will be able to do it for free.
The main business of the AGM was proposals to firm up and clarify the use of reserves, the result of hours of toil and behind-the-scenes consultation, and which led to further prolonged debate at the meeting. As things turned out, the proposals foundered.
After long debate with little progress, a vote was taken on the principle of making changes. The result was a 13-13 tie, at which point Iain Wilson followed the common practice of chairmen in such situations, and used his casting vote in favour of the status quo.
| Much to do at the AGM - 23/06/09
Shropshire Chess Association's annual meeting is rarely a quick affair, but next month's AGM is shaping up to be a marathon session with involved and contentious issues on the table. During the league season there was rumbling dissatisfaction in some quarters about the way the rules governing the substitution of players were being interpreted. Telepost's Keith Tabner has even gone so far as to suggest that there has been an element of ‘matchfixing' going on.
Now a number of proposed amendments to the rules have been tabled by Church Stretton's Steve Rooney.
Currently the league rules are framed in such a way as to allow clubs some flexibility in the way they use their players. The motive behind this is to help clubs who may struggle to field full teams. Rooney's amendments - they can be studied on the Shropshire chess website, www.shropshirechess.org - aim to clarify the rules as they apply to the use of reserves.
It is probably fair to say that the club which has principally been in the firing line for criticism has been Shifnal & Telford, the league champions. As the senior officers of Shropshire Chess Association are all from the Shifnal & Telford club, they have found themselves in the awkward position of being judges in their own cause. For this they can hardly be blamed, as the Shifnal & Telford club has long felt that other clubs should be doing more to pull their weight in filling key officer posts. Indeed, it was Shifnal & Telford members who were behind last year's unsuccessful proposal to ‘fine' clubs who did not put forward nominations for officer posts.
The AGM is on July 1 at 7.30pm at The Nedge Tavern, Stirchley, Telford Shifnal & Telford's venue!
In the matter of actually playing chess, rather than administering it, Telepost B have made it to the final of the Cox Trophy summer knockout. In fact Telepost B are wolves in sheep's clothing Telepost A withdrew from the competition at its start, and this has meant that the A team players have been available to turn out legitimately for the B team. Their opponents will be either Shifnal & Telford C or Shrewsbury A.
A notable debut in the first round of the Minor Knockout tournament was that of Vikas Sharma on top board for Wellington B. Vikas is over from India and working in Telford for six months and although Wellington were not certain what his FIDE rating of 2022 worked out as under the English grading system, they knew that it meant he was, to say the least, pretty useful, and consequently put him on board one, where he duly won against the experienced Ian Davies.
Proud Athar looking to grasp England chance - 26/05/09
| Mellor makes winning move - 12/05/09
Shropshire junior Peter Mellor has scored a magnificent success in the Nottingham Congress, winning the top junior prize in the section for players with a grading of under 100. Mellor, who plays on board one for the county junior team, scored 3.5 points out of a possible five.
Meanwhile the Cox Trophy summer knockout competition has got under way, with round one games due to have been played last week. Past experience has shown that some clubs have trouble raising teams for the competition as, unlike in the league, players are not allowed to play for more than one team.
Oswestry A have already withdrawn from the tournament.
Details of all the first round results are not yet in, but Wellington A are through to the next round after the narrowest of defeats over Shrewsbury Juniors.
Things looked bleak for Wellington, who had been expecting to field a full side, when only two players turned up. Some frantic phone calls revealed that one absentee had thought the game had been defaulted, another seems to have forgotten, and a third was simply uncontactable.
Nevertheless two of those who were awol made the dash to Shrewsbury and the outcome of the match was a 2.5-2.5 draw. However the tiebreak system then came into play, in which the results on the bottom boards are discounted until a decisive result is reached. As Wellington had defaulted and so lost on the bottom board, discounting that result gave them a 2.5-1.5 win, and they go through.
Oswestry's Graham Ives has completed an extraordinary statistical analysis of all league games played in the season just finished, giving an interesting insight into players' own ‘vital statistics'. It is available through www.shropshirechess.org, the Shropshire chess website.
| Individual championship too close to call - 05/05/09
Shropshire's individual championship is moving towards its climax with no clear frontrunner emerging so far.
Three players, Trevor Brotherton, Glyn Pugh, and Nigel Ferrington, are all on four points moving into the penultimate round of the seven-game tournament. However, Brotherton and Ferrington both have outstanding games, the results of which could prove crucial in giving them the edge.
Pugh and Brotherton go head-to-head in the sixth round, while Ferrington meets Richard Bryant, who is on 3.5 points, and will be a tough test as he has a good record in tournament play.
As ever, the games among the top players are likely to turn on small mistakes, rather than outright blunders. Here's an encounter from an earlier round between Ferrington and David Everington, both former county champions, in which a couple of inferior moves by Everington turned a potentially winning position into a losing one. The annotations are from tournament organiser Nick Rutter. Everington had the white pieces.
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bg5 dxc4 6 e4 0-0 7 Bxc4 c6 8 e5 Nd5 9 Qb3 Nb6 10 Be2 Be6 11 Qc2 Na6 12 Bxa6 bxa6 13 Be3 Nc4 14 0-0 f6 15 Ne4 Nxe3 16 fxe3 Bf5 17 Qc4 check Qd5 18 Qxd5 chk cxd5 19 exf6 Bxf6 20 Nxf6 chk exf6 21 Rac1 Rac8 22 Rc5 Rxc5 23 dxc5 a5 24 Nd4 (both players thought black was lost here, but a couple of white mistakes turn things around) 24...Rc8 25 c6?! (25 Nxf5 gxf5 26 Rc1 costs black more time to win the pawn while white gets at the kingside) 25...Kf7 26 Nxf5? (with the pawn on c6, Rc1 makes more sense) 26...gxf5 27 Rc1 Ke6 28 Kf2 Kd6 29 Kf3 Rxc6 30 Rxc6 chk Kxc6 31 Kf4 Kc5 32 h4? (losing. 32 Kxf5 Kc4 33 Kxf6 Kd3 34 Ke5 is at least a draw) 32...Kc4 33 h5 Kd3 34 h6 a4 35 Kf3 Kd2 36 Kf4 Ke2 37 Kxf5 Kxe3 38 Kxf6 d4 39 Kg7 d3 40 Kxh7 d2 41 g4 d1=Q 42 g5 Qd7 chk 43 Kh8 Qd8 chk and white resigned.
With the league season over, team chess action is continuing. This week sees the start of the Cox Trophy summer knockout competition, and the Minor knockout starts in the week beginning June 8.
Surprisingly, there were no winners in our fun competition to spot Nick Rutter's ‘move of the season' in his game against Bob Simpson. The stunning move instantly defused Simpson's threats and quickly took Rutter to a win, which in turn gave Newport A victory over Telepost B. Ultimately this meant Telepost B were relegated instead of Newport.
Here is the Simpson-Rutter game in its entirety, with Simpson with the white pieces (and annotations by the players).
1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e3 Bg4 4 Nbd2 c5 5 Be2 e6 6 Ne5 Bxe2 7 Qxe2 Qc7 8 00 Nc6 9 Ndf3 Bd6 10 Nxc6 bxc6 11 b3 cxd4 12 exd4 00 13 c4 Ne4 14 Be3 f5 15 c5 Be7 16 b4 Rab8 17 Bd2 Bf6 18 Rfe1 f4 19 Rab1 e5 20 dxe5 Bxe5 21 Nxe5 Qxe5 22 Qd3 Qf6 23 f3 Nxd2 24 Qxd2 Rbe8 25 a3?! (Better would be a4 or b5) 25...d4 26 Rxe8 Rxe8 27 a4 Re3 28 b5 Qg6 29 Qa2 check Kf8 30 b6 axb6 31cxb6 and it was in this position that we set our 'what happened next' competition.
31... Re2! (The threat of checkmate forces what follows, allowing Rutter to snaffle up the dangerous advance pawn, and derailing Simpson's hopes) 32 Qxe2 Qxb1 chk 33 Kf2 Qxb6 34 Qd3 g6 35 Ke2? (35 a5!! would probably lead to a draw) 35...c5 36 g3 Qb2 chk 37 Qd2 Qxd2 chk 38 Kxd2 Ke8 and Simpson resigned.
| Newport's narrow escape - 21/04/09
Newport A have escaped the drop from Division One in dramatic fashion, sending down Telepost B in their place who are on equal points but have an inferior ‘goal difference'.
Newport needed to beat Oswestry A by 0.5-4.5 to guarantee being able to stay up and, with Tom Pym and Alex Taylor seemingly struggling, the prospects looked bleak.But both those games turned around and the upshot was that they got just the 0.5-4.5 result they needed, meaning that Telepost B's 4-1 victory over already-relegated Church Stretton was to no avail.
However, it was a special move in a previous match that gave Newport a fighting chance of staying up.
With the scores tied 2-2 in the encounter between Telepost B and Newport, Bob Simpson, with the white pieces, had the pictured position against Newport's Nick Rutter. With Simpson having a pawn close to queening, Rutter had his back to the wall.
Can you see the move Rutter made which defused the immediate threats?
And, for a change, we're going to make a competition out of it. As a prize, we're giving a chess book donated by Mrs Val Lindley of Madeley. It comes from the chess library of her late husband Bryan, who set up Stirchley Chess Club in the 1970s, and was also heavily involved in primary schools chess and for that reason we¹re restricting entries to under-11s.
Guess what Rutter played, and then send the move to: Toby Neal, Chess Column, Shropshire Star, Ketley, Telford, Shropshire TF1 5HU, giving your age and postal address. The winner will be drawn from a hat.
The prize will be one of Mr Lindley's old books, appropriate to a junior player.
Meanwhile Richard Bryant's success on the congress trail continues. The Telepost player's latest glory came at the Bolton Easter Congress, where he shared first prize in the Major section - it was a five-way split with a score of four points out of five.
| Shifnal and Telford are champions at last - 14/04/09
They did it! Shifnal & Telford are celebrating their first ever league championship title after overcoming the realisation of a nightmare in the big deciding game against Coddon A.
Shifnal & Telford, who had to win to take the title, were able to field their strongest side for months. But their faces dropped when they discovered that Coddon were for the first and only time this season fielding the county's strongest player, Simon Fowler, who was on his Easter break from university.
But Fowler's win was Coddon's only one of the night, and Shifnal & Telford fought through to a 3.5-1.5 victory.
Captain Iain Wilson takes up the story of the match: “Just before the start I was quietly confident of victory as we were able to field our best five players for the first time since December 10, coincidentally against Coddon.
”That confidence was undermined when Simon Fowler entered the room, meaning that Coddon were drafting in the county¹s highest graded player for what I believe is his first and only match of the season. I don't normally have much time for conspiracy theories but I'm not too old to change!
”With Simon pushing all the Coddon players down a board we were left with arguably only one banker bet my game against Nathaneal Paul. By move 15 I had won his queen for two minor pieces but promptly forgot everything I have ever learned about consolidating an advantage, got into huge difficulties and was relieved when he offered a draw out of the blue when checkmate looked to be available.
”On board four, Colin Roberts had a complicated game in which his king was practically surrounded by enemy pieces but fortunately his own forces were breaking through to force a win against Andy Tunks.
”On three, Dave Gostelow was a pawn up in a rook and pawn endgame against Gary White and calmly went about increasing his advantage to put us 2 points up. Then John Footner beat Glyn Pugh on board two to win the match.
”Trevor Brotherton then immediately resigned his game against Simon to give us the match 3.5 to 1.5.
”So we have won the championship for the first time since Shifnal and Telford combined to form one club about eight or nine years ago. We have to go back to the late 1980s for the last success by Shifnal and to the mid 1980s for the last success by Telford.”
It is also the first time Wilson has captained a league championship-winning side.
Here are a couple of the crucial games, firstly Colin Roberts' win, as white, against Andy Tunks: 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 f5 4 d3 Nf6 5 Bg2 Bc5 6 e3 f4 7 exf4 0-0 8 Be3 Bxe3 9 fxe3 exf4 10 gxf4 d6 11 Qd2 Bg4 12 Nf3 Nd7 13 0-0-0 Nb4 14 d4 c6 15 a3 a5 16 Rdg1 Nb6 17 axb4 axb4 18 Nb1 Ra119 Qd3 Qa8 20 Nfd2 Qa2 21 Be4 Be2 22 Qxe2 Na4 23 Bxh7 check Kxh7 (Roberts says Kf7 was the only move to survive, but leaves black heavily down on material) 24 Qh5 chk Kg8 25 Rxg7 chk Kxg7 26 Rg1 chk Kf6 27 Ne4 chk Ke6 28 Rg6 chk Kd7 29.Rg7 chk Kd8 30.Qg5 chk and black resigned in view of ...Kc8 31 Nxd6 chk Kb8 32 Rxb7 chk Ka8 33 Qa5 mate.
And here is Iain Wilson's ‘lucky escape' against Nathaneal Paul, who had the white pieces: 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 f4 e6 4 b3 a6 5 Nf3 b5 6 Bb2 Bb7 7 Ne2 Nf6 8 Ng3 Be7 9 d4 cd 10 Nxd4 Qc7 11 e5 Nxd4 12 Qxd4 Nd5 13 Bd3 Bc5 14 Qe4 Nc3 15 Bxc3 Bxe4 16 Bxe4 Rd8 17 0-0-0 0-0 (“Or more accurately z-z-z-z, as I now nod off,” comments Wilson)18 Bd2 d5 19 Bd3 b4 20 Rhf1 Qa5 21 Kb1 Qb6 22 Rf3 a5 23 Rdf1 Ra8 24 Nh5 g6 (“With only 15 minutes left I at last see the danger.”) 25 Nf6 check Kg7 26 Rh3 Rh8 27 f5 h5 (“I must stop Bh6 mate.”) 28 R1f3 Bd4 29 Nd7 Qc7 30 fg fg 31 Rhg3 Rh7 (“Nathaneal now left the room for 10 minutes and returned to offer a draw, which I quickly accepted. A bishop capture on g6 followed by his black-squared Bishop coming to g5 and f6 would have been curtains.”
|Leaders must go for title kill - 07/04/09
Shifnal & Telford club face the most important match in their history tomorrow (WEDS) an encounter against Coddon A in which victory is the only option if they are to win their first ever league championship.
A 4-1 win by reigning champions Telepost A in the county town derby against Shrewsbury A has seen them go one point clear at the top of the table and their superior ‘goal difference' means that Shifnal & Telford are now in a win-or-bust situation. While they inflicted a heavy defeat on Coddon early in the season, they can take nothing for granted. One nightmare scenario for them would be an appearance of Coddon's Simon Fowler, Shropshire's strongest player who has been absent for many months through university studies.
Although Telepost's score against Shrewsbury was emphatic, it was nonetheless a dramatic match.
Shrewsbury's David Everington reports: “Nigel Ferrington managed to checkmate Philip Makepeace with perhaps five seconds left on his clock. On board two, after a hair-raising game arising from a Modern Benoni in which the Shrewsbury player gambled with an early f4 and f5 attack, Dave Bates finally lost when his opponent was about to run out of time. Both games illustrated that, in these extreme circumstances, chess can actually be faster than table tennis!”
Things have been no less exciting at the other end of the Division One table where Telepost B and Newport A were in a crunch survival battle to see who would Church Stretton in the drop.
”Newport turned up with a team of superstars all their guys from uni were back,” reports Telepost's Keith Tabner.
Tom Pym demolished John Bashall on top board and Gavyn Cooper proved too strong for captain Crean on board three. Telepost turned the tables on boards four and five where John Westhead and Steve Kempsell overturned Chris Lewis and Alex Taylor to square the match at 2-2.
”This left everything depending on the board two clash between Bob Simpson (white) and Nick Rutter who by now each had queen, rook and five pawns in a tense endgame.
”A crowd of spectators crammed into the small room watching enthralled as Simpson's passed pawn reached the sixth rank looking very strong. Could this be the shock result of the season? But then Rutter, very much the father figure in this young Newport team, produced a stunning move that no-one else had foreseen. Suddenly all the pieces were en prise. But as the shocked gallery analysed the position it became clear that this was indeed a brilliancy worthy of winning the match. Black emerged with a winning pawn structure and white resigned a few moves later to give Newport a crucial 3-2 win.
”Both teams, now level on points, have a match left to play but Newport have the vital better ‘goal difference'. What a pity that either team has to go down.”
Telepost keep title quest alive - 31/03/09
Telepost ring in for Shifnal showdown - 24/03/09
The 25th move by Francis Best in his game in the Shrewsbury A v Shifnal & Telford A encounter has been dubbed the ‘move of the season' by Shrewsbury's David Everington. Best, who has been among Shrewsbury's form players this season, has provided the following commentary for that game against Colin Roberts, which gives an interesting insight into how a strong and experienced player reads a game as it unfolds.
Best had the black pieces
1 c4 e6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 d3 Bb4 check 5.Bd2 Bxd2 chk 6 Nxd2 c5 7 Ngf3 Nc6 8 00 00 9 Rc1 d4 10 Nb3 Qe7 11 Qd2 e5 (With this move, I am committing to action in the centre and on the kingside. The centre is secure and black has a slight space advantage. White usually aims for queenside play in this kind of setup but never gets anything off the ground in this game) 12 Na5?! (I am not convinced by this move. The queen achieves nothing on her own and I get to complete my development and challenge white¹s star piece, the g2 bishop, with a gain of time) 12... Nxa5 13 Qxa5 b6 14 Qd2 Bb7 (14...e4! leads to lines much as happen in the game. Delaying this allows white to play 15 e4, stopping this break, although black is probably still slightly better and has prospects on the kingside with the ...f5 break in due course) 15 Qg5?! (15 e4! was the move. White's bishop is buried alive but it's much harder for black to make progress. The move played looks like an impressive show of force but amounts to nothing quite quickly) 15... Rfe8 16 Nh4 h6 17 Qd2 (The white queen has no decent alternative e.g. 17 Qf5 e4! 18 dxe4 Nxe4 19.Rfe1 g5 20 Nf3 Rad8 leaves black dominating) 17... Bxg2 (It's a matter of taste whether to exchange bishops before advancing the pawn. I worked on the basis that white would miss a defender on the kingside more than I would miss the attacker) 18 Kxg2 e4 19 h3?! (I was expecting 19 Nf5 although after
19... Qe5 20 Qf4 Qxf4 21 gxf4 Re6 black is clearly better) 19... Qe5 (Centralising the queen and hoping either to provoke weaknesses or to pursue a direct attack or both!) 20 Kh2 (Colin was worried about getting the knight trapped, so the king provides a bolthole) 20... Qh5 (With ideas of ...g5 and ...Ng4 chk) (21 f3 At this point, I thought for quite a while, not seeing an immediate breakthrough. Although ...e3 looks very cramping, I thought it would be quite possible for the position to become blocked and progress very difficult to make. Taking the f-pawn potentially gives white the open f-file for counterplay, so... ) 21... exd3 22 Qxd3? ( I was surprised when Colin played this as. At the very least, black will get crushing pressure down the e-file) 22...Re3 23 Qd2? (23 Qd1 was necessary, although white's position is still very difficult) 23... Rae8 24 Rf2 Qe5! (The oscillation of black's queen proves surprisingly effective. White has no good move available now) 25 Rc2? (But this loses the house, because of... ) 25...Ne4! 26 f4 (A final try. 26 fxe4 loses quickly e.g. 26...Qxg3 chk 27 Kh1 Qxf2 28 Nf3 Qf1 chk 29 Kh2 R8xe4 30 Qe1 Rxe2 chk 31 Rxe2 Rxe2 chk 32 Qxe2 Qxe2 chk) 26... Qh5! (Keeping the pressure on e2, as well as maintaining the fork, so Colin resigned here)
Shifnal close in for first league crown - 17/03/09
| Promotion for Wellington - 10/03/09
Wellington A have secured promotion to Division One with a nailbiting 3-2 win over Shrewsbury B.
On the face of it, the decisive result was on top board, the last game to finish with the scores tied on 2-2. Both players were short of time. Things had turned against Shrewsbury's Daniel Lockett, but he still had enough material to make mischief. Crucially, however, he was down to his last seconds, while opponent Toby Neal had a couple of minutes left on the clock. Consequently Lockett resigned.
It was, though, the efforts of Billy Ives which have made all the difference for Wellington. In their last two matches they have been faced with defaulting the bottom board through shortage of players. But Ives, who is so new to competitive chess that he is still ungraded, and has turned out this season from time to time as bottom board for the club's B team, came in at the last minute on both occasions. And he has won both times, securing the A team all-important 3-2 match victories.
The league championship battle meanwhile is incredibly tight, with just two points separating the leading four teams. Shrewsbury A's 4-1 win over struggling Church Stretton keeps them well in the running. Shrewsbury's David Everington says the match was littered with errors. ”John Whittaker pushed the wrong pawn to let Ray Cox fork his king and rook and resigned - Cox having opened with the Evans Gambit.
”Tom Williamson picked up a free piece from Ian Davies but later agreed a draw as he was running out of time. Francis Best continued his run of good form with an excellent win against Graham Shepherd but the game of the match was on board one where Steve Rooney continued his recent good form against Philip Makepeace. The Shrewsbury star sacrificed the exchange in the early middlegame to get some squares for his pieces but was rocked by a counter-sacrifice of a whole piece which opened up his king to a lethal-looking attack.
”He somehow found a defence which will be being analysed for days by both sides. Rooney kept on top and in the end, with a probably winning advantage of rook and five pawns against bishop, knight, and two pawns, accepted a draw when Makepeace was close to setting up a fortress position with Rooney's time running out.”
League controller Richard Thompson has made an official ruling on an issue raised by Shrewsbury's Ian Davies, who asked: “Can you clarify if a player with a grade of 113 can play for two different teams in the same division.”
Thompson's response can be summarised as “yes, so long as rule 8d is complied with.” Rule 8d states that if a player is used for a ‘higher' team on three occasions, he or she becomes tied to that higher team in other words, cannot play for the ‘lower' team for the rest of the season.
| Lee grading row rumbles on - 03/03/09
We're innocent! The Shifnal & Telford club have exonerated themselves after conducting an internal investigation into the ‘Geoff Lee affair'. And they have even come up with a suggested headline for this week's column ‘High Fliers No Longer Under Attack,' in a negative echo of last week's headline. Whether that would be accurate is another matter, although league controller Richard Thompson, just back from holiday, says he appears not to have received any complaint about the use of Geoff Lee.
”I've had no time to examine this, but so far, it doesn¹t appear that I need to,” he says.
To recap, Shrewsbury C had called for a ‘clarification' after claiming that Lee had been used as if an ungraded player, playing without restriction for Shifnal & Telford's B and C teams, which are both in Division Two. They say they checked and Lee has a grading of 113, which would curtail his use in this way.
In the meantime Shifnal & Telford's Iain Wilson and Stefan Tennant have conducted their own investigation, and say they regard the club as being innocent. They say that Lee played for the C team at the start of the season, but stepped up to the B team on his third occasion of playing for that higher team, and has not played for the C team again.
Meanwhile more information has come to light on another bone of contention, the two postponements of the Shifnal & Telford A v Shrewsbury A match. This matter had been raised by Telepost's Keith Tabner.
It turns out both matches were postponed at the request of Shifnal & Telford A, once because the fixture clashed with a tie in the Wolverhampton league, and on the second occasion because they could not raise a team.
An unhappy Tabner points out that Church Stretton A defaulted a match earlier in the season because they could not raise a side and now might be relegated for, Tabner says, complying with the rules.
Thompson says: “My line is that if two captains agree to a postponement or rearrangement of a match, I have no problem with it, provided all matches are completed by the scheduled end of the season, and that matches between two teams from the same club are played as close as practicable to the start of each half of the season.”
Turning to matters actually over the chess board, Shropshire made a promising start in their open championship match against a higher graded Staffordshire side, with wins by Nick Rutter and Philip Makepeace helping keep the issue alive with a 4.5-4.5 running score, until the visitors' class told in the other games, winning them all. The eventual score was Shropshire 4.5, Staffordshire 11.5.
Shropshire winners were Nick Rutter and Phil Makepeace, and draws came from Brian Whyte, Dave Gostelow, Toby Neal, Ieuan Fenton, and Gareth Edwards.
High flyers come under attack - 24/02/09
| Shifnal & Telford A Setback- 17/02/09
Shifnal & Telford A's hopes of taking the league championship title have suffered a knockback with defeat at the hands of Oswestry A, who have repeatedly proven themselves to be tough opposition for even the best clubs.
Three teams now head Division One on 15 points, with Oswestry in fourth place poised to take advantage of any slip-ups by the leading pack.
In another important game in the title race, Shrewsbury A could have been expected to win comfortably against Telepost B, but were without their star players Phil Makepeace and Peter Kitchen. The upshot was, reports David Everington, a bruising encounter in which Telepost can claim to have been mugged.
”Reserve Ivor Salter was a piece down to Telepost's Gordon Thomas but managed a surprise draw with some tenacious play,” he said.
”Ray Cox drew, while Mark Smith lost to leave us 2-1 down. Then Francis Best, in a difficult-looking position, uncorked a diabolical trap to win Peter Crean's queen for rook and knight. The two pieces can sometimes hold the draw but this wasn't one of those positions. The match was decided when John Bashall, who had been on top for most of the game, dropped a piece in a severe time-scramble and resigned when his opponent was about to promote a pawn with the remaining minute enough to force mate.”
In Division Two, Shifnal & Telford B faced rivals Wellington A in a crunch top-of-the-table match. With Wellington 2.5 - 1.5 in the lead, captain Stefan Tennant found himself in a win-at-all-costs situation against Wellington's Dele Ogundipe. On the plus side, he enjoyed a material and positional advantage, but the position on the clocks was less comfortable, as he was down to his last 10 minutes. However, he quickly proved this was all the time in the world, and his win salvaged a draw in the match and means there remains a terrific promotion scrap.
Incidentally, the Derrick Powell v George Viszokai dispute is rumbling on, as Powell says he intends to appeal against league controller Richard Thompson's decision to award the game to Viszokai. Powell had stopped the clocks with less than 20 seconds left, claiming that Viszokai was unable to win.
Thompson's ruling it can be viewed on the Shropshire chess website at www.shropshirechess.org was that Viszokai not only could have won, but was trying to do so, and he also makes the important point that stopping the clocks is not a ‘magic wand' for players short of time to be used in a last ditch attempt to save them from the consequences of their poor time management.
| Controller calls time on clock stopping - 10/02/09
A rising ‘stop the clocks and claim a draw' trend in the Shropshire league has been firmly knocked on the head by league controller Richard Thompson in his ruling in a disputed game between Derrick Powell and George Viszokai. He has thrown out a draw claim by Wellington B captain Derrick Powell and awarded the game to Viszokai, with the consequence that Coddon B now win the match 3-2.
Powell was down to 20 seconds or less when he stopped the clocks, causing some controversy and confusion, claiming that Viszokai was unable to win. The position with Powell, as black, to move, was that white had king on e3, bishop on d3 and pawns on a5, f4, and g5. Black has king on d6, rook on g7, and pawns on e6 and g6.
Thompson points out that the old system of adjudication in which an expert predicted the result based on best play by both players has been abolished. The rule now is that a draw can be awarded if the opponent cannot win by ‘normal means.'
”This rule is not to be seen as a magic wand allowing a player a miraculous escape from the inevitable consequences of his poor time management,” says Thompson.
He judges that Viszokai could win by normal means and whether Powell could stop him is irrelevant as he was out of time.
The second issue is whether Viszokai was trying to win, rather than simply shuffling about aimlessly. Under the rules Powell should have submitted a scoresheet, but did not, and Viszokai only submitted his last five moves. But Thompson says of those five, three were pawn advances which, in his view, proves he was trying to win.
The lesson for players seems to be a reminder that chess is a game in which the result is properly reached by playing things out over the board, not by stopping the clocks and running to the ref. And being short of time is not a get-out-of-jail card quite the reverse.
Newport's Athar Mehmood is the third most improved rapidplay junior for this season in Britain, his grading rising from 78 to 116. His latest glory was equal first in the Minor section of the Stockport Rapidpay, coming back to £90.
Shrewsbury A have had a welcome but difficult win over Oswestry.
Top board star Philip Makepeace was at one point the exchange down to Brian Whyte but managed to turn things around to get a perpetual check, and Francis Best won against the strong junior Ieuan Fenton with the underrated Albin Counter Gambit. Peter Kitchen continued his tremendous run on board three with a winning attack against Keith Grice's Sicilian Defence while Simon Hughes for the visitors made the score respectable by winning a very tense game with the Benko Gambit against Shrewsbury¹s David Everington.
|Quickplay dispute sees chaotic finish - 03/02/09
After a decade of reasonably smooth running, problems associated with the quickplay finish in Shropshire league games are suddenly coming thick and fast.
A Division Three match between Wellington B and Coddon B ended in chaos and controversy when, with the score poised at 2-2, Wellington's Derrick Powell stopped the clocks in his game against George Viszokai on which the match result was turning and claimed a draw.
”George had about 50 minutes left and I had about 10 or 20 seconds,” said Powell.
”I stopped the clocks and claimed a draw. The Coddon players were a bit outraged and a big discussion followed. They said we should play on.”
But with only a few seconds left on his clock, Powell was not inclined to do so, and it became a bit of a free-for-all for analysis.
”It was chaotic. George was saying there was a lot of play left.”
The matter is now being kicked upstairs to league controller Richard Thompson, with Powell officially submitting a draw claim. For those who want to make their own judgment and play things over at home, Powell, who has the black pieces and is to move, has a rook on g7, king on d6, and pawns on g6 and e6, while Viszokai, with white, has bishop on d3, king on e3, and pawns on f4, g5 and a5. Powell says his intended move was e5.
Players can stop the clock when they are down to their last two minutes and claim a draw on the grounds that their opponent is making no effort to win in other words, cynically running them out of time or that the game cannot be won by normal means (whatever that means). It is on the second ground that Powell is making his claim.
League officials have a tricky decision. The quickplay rules seem to assume that a player will stop the clocks with two minutes left, giving ample time for an arbiter (in league games, the team captains) to watch play to see how things develop. Powell however has only a few seconds left and as Powell and Viszokai are captains of their respective teams, they were hardly in a position to act as arbiters of their own game.
Another “quickplay situation” arose in the match between Shifnal & Telford B and Shrewsbury C where Glyn Randle was pressing for a win with a rook and pawn against a lone rook. In the time scramble he lost the pawn, but his opponent almost immediately lost his rook. However, Randle's flag fell before he could administer the coup de grace, leaving both players unsure what to do.
Shifnal & Telford's Iain Wilson said: “I stepped in to advise that it was a draw as the player with time left on the clock did not have mating material. This verdict was initially challenged by Shrewsbury's captain, though soon accepted. In case others encounter this situation, FIDE rules article 6.10 includes the words: ”However, the game is drawn, if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player's king by any possible series of legal moves, even with the most unskilled counterplay.” So even a single enemy pawn still on the board would have meant defeat for Glyn.
| Manchester still greater - 27/01/09
It was the same old story for Shropshire's first team in their encounter with Greater Manchester - long journey there, followed by a thrashing over the board, and then a long journey back. But captain Peter Kitchen drew some positives from the 12.5-3.5 defeat at Cheadle against a side which, as always, outgraded the Salopians, albeit not as heavily as on some previous occasions.
”We competed on many of the boards only to lose the vast majority of close games,” he said.
”Nick Rutter was the star performer with a superb win on top board with the black pieces. That drew us level at 2.5-2.5 for 15 glorious minutes but we didn't pick up another score until the score was 11-3. Brian Whyte battled hard for a draw on board three and Toby Neal also performed well to draw on board 10. Former Telepost player Steve Povall marked his return to county action with a draw on board 12 and was unlucky not to win, while Iain Wilson and Peter Kitchen picked up solid draws as black.
”Nigel Ferrington, Philip Makepeace and John Footner all had chances in their games but on the day nothing went our way.
”Simon Hughes put up a strong fight on his county debut, and on bottom board Peter Mellor put up a spirited fight on his first appearance for the team before losing. With the Manchester team on paper looking a little weaker than expected we had hoped to run them close, but their class shone through and in the end we were well beaten.”
In the league, the match between Newport B and Wellington A turned on the final game involving Steve Szwajkun and late substitute David Wright, which was one of those nightmare rook endings with pawns trying to queen. Szwajkun, needing to win to salvage the match for Newport, pressed hard but Wright found an effective drawing method, subjecting Szwajkun's king to endless checks and stopping it supporting the pawn to the queening square.
There was an element of fortune in the Wellington win, as Newport captain Dave Lovegrove offered a draw to Dele Ogundipe when a bishop to a pawn up in the endgame. It was an offer Ogundipe could not refuse!.
Following a three month trial period last year, a new club for social chess has been formed at Condover. It meets once a fortnight at the village social club on a Monday from 8pm onwards. The intention is to run from October through to the end of March. The next two sessions are on January 26 and February 9. Details from John Casewell on 01743 871172
| Time for debate on move to stop clocks - 20/01/09
An incident in the match between league leaders Shifnal & Telford A and relegation zoners Church Stretton A has prompted a rumbling debate among the Shropshire chess community.
When Stretton's Graham Shepherd, a highly experienced and knowledgeable player, was down to his last two minutes he stopped the clocks in his game against Iain Wilson and claimed a draw on the grounds that Wilson was unable to win.
Given that the Shropshire league uses a quickplay finish, it is surprising that this doesn't happen more often, and its rarity may explain why many players are unsure what the rule is to deal with such situations. In a tournament, an arbiter would be called, but of course in club matches no arbiters are present.
What Wilson and Shepherd did turns out to have been a model for others to follow. They played on with experienced players watching and, in the event, Wilson won the game over the board.
Shropshire Chess Association general secretary Colin Roberts says: “As a league we agreed while I was league controller that the captains (or if the captains were involved, two competent players) would act as arbiter. On the rare occasion this comes up this system has worked. Their game followed the correct procedure and achieved the correct result.”
But when can a player who is short of time successfully claim a draw? The rules are designed to protect players from being run out of time by opponents who shuffle their pieces about aimlessly, but are also designed to give attacking players that is, the ones who are not claiming the draw a fair chance to make a genuine winning attempt.
After all, it's not their fault that their opponent is in time trouble!
Roberts says the quickplay finish rules can be accessed through the Shropshire chess website, www.shropshirechess.org, using the link to the FIDE chess rules.
A number of players have asked Wilson what the position was when Shepherd claimed a draw. Unfortunately he left his note behind. As a matter of interest the opinion of former county champion Trevor Brotherton, who was playing in the same match, was that although it was an ending of “opposite coloured bishops” (often drawn, according to theory books) there was plenty of play left, plenty of room for error and it was difficult to defend in practice. Except in positions which are obviously dead draws, the rule of thumb seems to be play on and see what happens over the board.
Leaders prove too strong for Stretton hosts - 13/01/09
| Athar is Wrekin star - 05/01/2009
Young Athar Mehmood was the star of the Wrekin Chess Congress, blowing away the opposition with five straight wins to become outright victor in the Minor section.
The 12-year-old from Wellington, who is a pupil at Wrekin College, is an England junior international and already has 25 trophies under his belt, and on his way to victory claimed the scalps of three higher graded players.
Athar, a regular for Newport chess club, played in swashbuckling style to emerge victorious in his final game, and so win the section.
”I sacrificed my knight to get an open file for my rooks and queen. I was attacking down the file, and two pieces down, but I got his queen in the end. His king was in the corner and his queen could not move anywhere,” he said, adding that he had not yet decided what to do with his £200 prize money.
Athar was the only player in the entire competition, with a field of 107 playing in three sections, to win all his five games.
Runners up in the Minor were Nathanael Paul, who plays for the Telford-based Coddon club, Stephen Cooper (Newport), and Philip Zabrocki (Shrewsbury).
There was another good news story from the ranks of Shropshire's young talent, as 17-year-old Ieuan Fenton, from Nesscliffe, was outright winner in the Major section, with a score of 4.5 out of 5.
Reflecting on his performance in the tournament, he said: “It was amazing. I played the best chess I have ever played. I just did not make mistakes. It just clicked.”
Ieuan, who plays for Oswestry, secured his victory by agreeing a draw in the final round.
”It was an easy draw. I just blocked the position and offered the draw. I think I had a better position, but I was not taking any chances.”
Four players shared second place, of whom two were locals - Geoff Lee (Shifnal and Telford) and Toby Neal (Wellington). The other two were Brandon Clarke (Littlethorpe) and Mike O'Mahoney (Prescott).
In the strongest section, the Premier, Shropshire's finest were against some heavy artillery from “away”. Winner was Russell James, of South Birmingham, with a score of 4, and the six runners up, half a point behind, included three county players Nigel Ferrington (Telepost), Gavyn Cooper (Newport), and Trevor Brotherton (Shifnal and Telford).
The under-175 grading prize went to Simon Hughes of Oswestry, and the prize for best junior in the tournament not winning another prize went to Peter Mellor, of Coddon.
The event was held at the Court Centre, Madeley, Telford, on Saturday and Sunday.
Sponsorship has come from R.E. & C.O. Alman Pharmacies of Church Stretton, Much Wenlock, and Woodside.
Shifnal & Telford A go top - 16/12/2008
A rare “grandmaster draw”- 09/12/2008
Impressive win for county team - 02/12/08
| Snoozing Roberts awakes to perk up Wellington bid - 18/11/08
It was almost one of those nights for Wellington A as they started their Shropshire Chess League encounter against Shrewsbury B with one of their best players - Ibiye Roberts - mysteriously missing. And as the minutes ticked by tension rose with his continued non-appearance and it seemed that there was going to be a repeat of his no-show against Shrewsbury C at the end of last month, which was a key factor in the Wellington team's shock 3-2 defeat on that occasion.
Captain Toby Neal broke off from his own game to leave messages on Roberts' voicemail. But after half an hour it seemed the writing was on the wall and, with Derrick Powell of the Wellington B team there watching the games and apparently available to act as a sub, Neal started inquiring of the Shrewsbury opponents if anybody knew the rules on substitution.
General opinion seemed to be that a substitute would have to be played in grading order, which would bar Powell from Roberts' board two slot. But in any event, Powell ruled himself out. Having already turned out twice for the A team, a third appearance would have meant he would be tied to playing for the A team for the rest of the season - not a happy position to be in when you're the B team captain!
So the A-teamers had resigned themselves to defaulting one board when, all of a sudden, almost three-quarters of an hour after the match had been due to start, Roberts walked in and started proceedings against opponent Mark Smith who, like most chess players, far prefers to play a game rather than sit around doing nothing while a no-show opponent defaults and yields a free point.
At the end of the match Roberts apologised for his lateness and indicated the reason by putting his hands together by his cheek. He had nodded off! Apparently he had missed the earlier match against Shrewsbury C for the same reason.
As things turned out, his game clinched Wellington victory. In an endgame in which Smith had queen, bishop, and a handful of pawns, and Roberts had a lone queen, but a potential avalanche of pawns, Smith pragmatically seized an opportunity to force a draw by perpetual check. The half point took Wellington to an unassailable 3-1 lead.
Last game to finish was that between Mark Billington and Norman O'Connor. With time on the clocks running out, Billington won an important pawn but the wily O'Connor had a dangerous position in which he could have punished any slips in time pressure.
With the match already won, Billington agreed a draw, giving Wellington a 3.5-1.5 margin of victory.
Ieuan - The Wizard of Os . - 11/11/08
| New skipper on board but Shropshire checked. - 04/11/08
Shropshire's chess players drew some credit in adversity despite a heavy defeat at the hands of a very strong Warwickshire team.
It was something of an achievement that new captain Peter Kitchen, making his debut in the captain's role, was able to field a team at all, with several top players being unavailable for various reasons, and also some late cry-offs through illness.
The score in the encounter at Shifnal was 12.5-3.5 to the visitors.
”We had just the one winner, the returning John Cox on top board. It was a real bonus getting John turning up he came from London to play,” said Kitchen.
”On board 14, Gareth Edwards' dad had been ill in hospital and died the day beforehand, but he insisted on turning up and got a very creditable draw against a person over 40 grading points higher than him. He is graded 122, and his opponent was 165.
”John Bashall and John Westhead answered late SOSs to play. We had an awful lot of players missing. Jamie Hopkins, who would have been on board two, and Andy Tunks, were both hit by a bug 24 hours beforehand. And we were missing people like Simon Fowler, Tom Pym, and Gavyn Cooper, who are all at university, while Philip Makepeace is on half term, and Nick Rutter is on holiday.
”I want to thank everybody who did turn out and gave it a good go.”
Shropshire was massively outgraded on the lower boards so, not surprisingly, it was on the top boards where the grading difference was not so great that the Salopians managed to get most points.
Behind John Cox's victory on board one, Trevor Brotherton and Nigel Ferrington on boards two and three drew, as did John Footner on board five, Colin Roberts on board eight, and Gareth Edwards on board 14.
| Shifnal Storm to Summit as Late Games Seal Win - 28/10/08
A 4-1 victory over Oswestry has seen Shifnal & Telford A propelled to the top of Division One, jostling side by side with Telepost A, who are equal on six points, thanks to a walkover against Church Stretton A.
Shifnal & Telford's Iain Wilson says the match was closer than the scoreline suggests. ”The last two to finish were Trevor Brotherton, whose opponent blundered a piece in a desperate two-sided timescramble, and myself, whose opponent lost on time but could have claimed a draw as I was unable to make progress in an endgame with opposite coloured bishops,” he said.
With Philip Makepeace and Francis Best both away Shrewsbury expected a tough match against Telepost B, and got one.
Shrewsbury's David Everington reports: “Substitutes Dan Lockett and Eric Inglis both played well to draw their games but, at the end, the result was clinched when Peter Kitchen very accurately transposed a rare ending of two bishops on each side into a won pawn ending with Bob Simpson handicapped by doubled pawns on his kingside against white's queenside pawn majority.”
| Oswestry rejuvenated - 21/10/08
Telepost A and Shifnal & Telford A are the early leaders in Division One with a rejuvenated Oswestry side only a point adrift. But how times change for former champions Newport A. Having lost several top players to university duties, they have yet to pick up a point.
Three games and three wins is the equation for three teams leading Division Two Shifnal & Telford B, Shrewsbury B and Wellington A, while Coddon B's 4-1 win over Wellington B has ensured them a one-point lead at the top of Division Three.
Away from the league scene, pairings have been made for the first round of the individual championship, which gives players from lower divisions a rare chance to take on some of the top players in the county game. A total of 21 players have entered this season and the first round has to be completed by November 15.
Naturally one of the highest graded players will be favourite to take the title Nick Rutter (graded 189), Jamie Hopkins (180), Trevor Brotherton (177), and Nigel Ferrington (173).
| Quinton woes for Salopians - 14/10/08
Shropshire's chess team for players graded under 125 went down to a 9-7 defeat against Warwickshire in an encounter at Quinton.
The Salopians were outgraded on the lower boards, and this was where the result was decided, with Shropshire only achieving 3.5 points on boards seven to 16. Wins came from Gareth Edwards, Stefan Tennant, John Tunks, Derrick Powell, and George Viszokai, and draws from John Whittaker, Andy Tunks, Glyn Randle, and Ian Davies.
Meanwhile Shropshire's Richard Bryant is topping the leader board in the English Chess Federation grand prix and is looking to improve on his impressive fourth place last year in the category for players graded 150 to 174. The grand prix is a competition which compiles players' performances in various chess congresses over a calendar year, ending on May 31. In his section Bryant has a running score of 537 points, 170 higher than his nearest rival.
| Promising start for Oswestry - 7/10/08
Promoted Oswestry A have made a promising start to the season, with a draw at Coddon A being followed up by a 3-2 win at home over Shrewsbury A.
Oswestry's fortunes have fluctuated over the seasons, but they are now on the up thanks to an influx of new blood including, crucially, a couple of real big hitters.
Keith Grice, of the club, said: “We have been most fortunate recently with Brian Whyte, our board one, moving to Ellesmere from Bolton, graded 175 at that time. He is now 170. He played for us last season and was a big factor in our promotion success recording 11 wins, one draw and one loss from his games.
”Then Simon Hughes just wandered in to our club from the Wrexham area and played a couple of games for us last season. He is not really on the radar as he has not played much in recent years. Although currently ungraded he is playing to around 170 and may prove to be stronger.
”Ashley Peile also turned up from across the border Four Crosses and is a dentist. He has also recently returned to chess and is ungraded but plays in an exciting attacking style. While not in the same grading bracket as the above, he is a promising prospect.
”Because of these new players and some more new recruits who are less experienced or new to chess we have been able to enter a B team this year. This is being run by Richard Farrall who has made it possible by his enthusiasm for the game and his coaching of the newer players. Oswestry chess does appear to be on the up and we hope to encourage and welcome anyone in the area who wants to play.”
Shrewsbury's David Everington said it had been an excellent performance by Oswestry who might have scored even more but for hard struggles by Shrewsbury's top two in eventually sharing the points.
He added: “Peter Kitchen's win, as black, started from the unusual opening line, in the Scotch Game 1 e5 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 ed 4 Nd4 Nf6 5 Nc6 bc 6 Bd3 which he had seen in Shrewsbury's previous match in the game Rutter-Everington. He had ‘booked up' in the meantime and took full advantage to win quickly.”
Oswestry B, a team new to the league, had its first match against another team making its debut, Shifnal & Telford D, which comprises entirely new members to that club who are also new to matchplay. The team from the border won 3-2.
Here is a quick game from board two in that match with Shifnal & Telford's Jason Kenderdine playing white, and Oswestry's Richard Farrall black (a little confusingly, it was recorded in a mix of both algebraic and descriptive notation). 1 d4 e6 2 c4 f5 3 e3 Nf6 4 Bd3 Be7 5 Nc3 O-O 6 Qc2 Qe8 7 b3 Qg6 8 f3 d6 9 Bb2 a6 10 O-O-O Bd7 11 Nh3 Nh5 12 g4 Nf6 13 Nf4 Qf7 14 gf ef 15 BxP BxB 16 QxB Nbd7 17 Rhg1 Rad8 18 Ne6 Qh5 19 Rxg7 check Kh8 20 QxQ NxQ 21 RxB Rfe8 22 RxR chk RxR 23 d5 Kg8 24 Rg1 chk Kf7 25 Ne4 Ndf6? 26 NxN NxN 27 Rg7 mate.
| Newport slump in early shocker - 30/09/08
Newport A crashed to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Shrewsbury A in their first match of the new season despite fielding three of the top eight players in Shropshire.
And the prospects for the season for the 2005-6 and 2006-7 league champions look bleak as for the rest of the campaign they will be without super strong Tom Pym, the big hitting Gavyn Cooper, and the very useful Chris Lewis, who will be away, respectively, at Warwick, Durham, and Nottingham universities. Newport were particularly disappointed as they were fielding their strongest team, as Pym, Nick Rutter and Cooper are in the county's highest flights.
Cooper was Newport's only victor, wrapping up a comfortable victory over Francis Best on board three, while Rutter was unable to make headway against David Everington and drew, and Chris Lewis spent three hours trying to wear down Norman O'Connor but, again, drew.
Everington's take on the result was: “This was an astonishing result against the strongest possible Newport team, while Shrewsbury were missing Ray Cox for whom Norman O'Connor stood in with good effect. The first result was by Shrewsbury debutant Phil Makepeace who scored a crushing win against junior international Thomas Pym in only 21 moves, exactly the number taken by Peter Kitchen to beat Tony Holdford's customary King's Gambit a little later in the evening.”
A short-handed Church Stretton made Shifnal & Telford A work hard for their victory, and Stretton had a bitter pill to swallow as the decisive victory came from Trevor Brotherton a former Stretton player who joined Shifnal & Telford this season.
Shifnal & Telford's Iain Wilson says: “With Church Stretton bringing only four players and having lost most of last year's team, the result may have seemed a foregone conclusion. Yet this was a close, hard-fought match. My default win on board 5 was soon cancelled out as, first, Dave Gostelow and then John Footner lost. But Colin Roberts' extra bishop and passed pawn levelled the match, leaving all riding on the board 1 clash. Here Karl Wakefield seemed to be holding out for a draw until Trevor Brotherton risked all to switch queen and bishop to the kingside and break through for a win.”
Incidentally Shifnal & Telford have acquired the services of Geoff Lee, graded 113, and formerly of Newcastle-under-Lyme, who won the Minor section of this year's Wrekin Congress.
Meanwhile a new chess club is being formed at Condover by John Casewell, initially to play social chess. Its first meeting is on Monday, October 6, at 8pm, at Condover Sports and Social Club. All are welcome. The club will then meet on the first Monday of each month.
More details from Casewell on (01743) 871172.
County mourns brave Bradley
| Simon Fowler nears landmark - but Market Drayton close
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 16/09/2008
Shropshire chess ace Simon Fowler is on the brink of joining the elite “200 club” of players who reach the super-strong grading strength of 200.
Only a handful of county players have ever scored a double century in the grading stakes gradings are an assessment of a player's strength based on their results although there have from time to time been 200-plus players from away who have had a few games on the county scene before moving on. Fowler, who plays for the Telford-based Coddon side but was largely absent from league chess last season because he is at university, was graded 195 when the lists were published around July. However, the lists are subject to some last-minute corrections and Simon is the only Shropshire player to see his grading revised and it has been revised upwards, to 199.
With the league season due to start shortly, Church Stretton chess club's participation has been assured after a crisis when captain Graham Shepherd resigned and there was no-one to replace him. The A team is being captained by Steve Rooney who has played for Shrewsbury for the past nine years but now lives in Church Stretton.
”Graham Shepherd has been a stalwart of the Church Stretton club for a long time and he is keen to continue playing without having the responsibility of being captain,” says Rooney. ”There was a real prospect of the club not fielding any teams as no-one had come forward to take over from Graham. As I live on the doorstep, it makes sense for me to switch to Church Stretton and help maintain its league presence. We are really looking forward to the coming season and although it looks like we may have lost our top board with Trevor Brotherton moving to the Shifnal & Telford club, we believe we can compete in Shropshire's premier league.”
Church Stretton will also run a regular Thursday club night at its Church Stretton & District Club venue to enable casual games on nights when there are no matches (7.30pm start). Chess players of all levels in the Church Stretton area are welcome. For more details call Steve Rooney on 01694 723724.
There is though sad news from Market Drayton, where the club has closed. Market Drayton secretary Ray Thomas has explained that they are down to only four players. Five are needed for a league side and with holidays, work commitments and so on, would have even fewer. It is a sad loss of a club which was started up by a small band of enthusiasts and proved tough opposition in the lower divisions.
‘Fine’ Shropshire chess clubs?
Just how old are Shropshire's chess trophies?
Tabner's happy to re-visit the past
| Ferrington wins it as Telepost take trophy
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 15/07/2008
Telepost A have done the double after a cliffhanging victory against Shifnal & Telford A in the Cox Trophy summer knockout final, which comes on top of their league championship title.
Telepost's Keith Tabner reports: “Both Telepost and Shifnal & Telford were at full strength. It was probably the strongest team the latter have fielded for many years with Trevor Brotherton on top board, and Gareth Edwards, graded 141, on board five.
”Jamie Hopkins and Trevor drew quickly. Colin Roberts and David Bates drew, and then Dave Gostelow and Richard Bryant drew if all five games were drawn Telepost would lose as we had three whites (i.e. games with the white pieces) to their two.
”I battled on against Gareth Edwards on board five for 48 moves before agreeing the endgame draw, leaving the match in the capable hands of Nigel Ferrington on board two, who had just swapped his rook for John Footner's knight and bishop. Some half an hour later this proved enough for the only win of the night 3-2 to Telepost and a league and cup double to celebrate!
”It was Nigel who scored our only win (against Thomas Pym) in the previous round at Newport. What a star!
”Incidentally I have played Gareth Edwards before, though he had forgotten. It was 35 years ago in the Wolverhampton league.”
Mehmood's six of best
Shropshire juniors performed strongly at the regional finals of a national chess competition in Manchester.
The children were taking part in the Gigafinal of the UK Chess Challenge, the third stage of a competition which involves a total of around 70,000 children from across the UK. The star result was Athar Mehmood's six wins out of six to take first place in his under-11 section and qualify for the national Terrafinal next month.
”The event was held at the University of Manchester and each of the juniors played six games against tough opposition from across the Midlands, the North, Scotland and Northern Ireland, scoring one point for a win and a half for a draw.”
The Shropshire results were (points out of six):-
Under-9 girls, Laura Newey (Shrewsbury Junior Chess club) 2; under-9 Boys, George Downs (Castle House school) 1.5, Akash Srinivasan (Old Hall school) 1.5.
Under-11 boys, Athar Mehmood (Old Hall school and Newport chess club) 6, Terrafinal qualifier;
under-12 girls, Angelica Dean (Shrewsbury Junior Chess club) 3.5; under-12 boys, Matthew Best (Shrewsbury Junior Chess club) 2.5, Sam Skubala (Oswestry school) 2.
Under-13 girls, Katherine Lovejoy (Shrewsbury Junior Chess club) 3.5; under-13 boys, Jonathan Newey (Shrewsbury Junior Chess club) 3, Francis Rooney (Shrewsbury Junior Chess club) 3.
Under-15 boys, Sam Eardley (Adams Grammar) 3, Christopher Lovejoy (Shrewsbury Junior Chess club) 3.
Under-17 boys, Alex Taylor (Adams Grammar and Newport chess club) 2.5. Under-18 boys, Chris Lewis (Adams Grammar and Newport chess club) 3.5.
Shropshire junior chess co-ordinators are Francis Best and Steve Rooney.
Rooney said: “This is a fantastic competition that encourages children of all abilities to get involved in chess. We are very proud of our juniors who all performed very well at the gigafinal. It is very easy for schools to take part and we hope that many more Shropshire schools will take part next year.”
More details on the event at www.ukchesschallenge.com
| Players getting "better" so fast
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 08/07/2008
Many Shropshire chess players are about to see a dramatic leap in their gradings under a nationwide correction in the gradings list.
”We are all going to be better chess players,” joked county gradings officer Nick Rutter as he outlined the developments to the annual meeting of Shropshire Chess Association.
He explained that over some time there had been severe grades deflation grades are assessments of players¹ strength based on their results which particularly affected grades of juniors and those at the lower end of the gradings scale.
”Junior grades in general are much lower than they should be. The size of the correction is likely to be quite enormous at the lower end and the latest I have heard is that a grading of 100 will change into something like 130.
”Roughly speaking, the highest players in the county will see their grades go up by about 10.”
The next set of gradings which are due out shortly will comprise two grades an official grade based on the old system, and a preview of the new grade, which is likely to be much higher, and will come into force the following season.
When the higher grades come in, they could have a major impact on eligibility to play in some county teams, as some players will, more or less at the stroke of a pen, become too strong for them.
”The under-100 team may find it has lost half its players,” said Rutter.
Among other major points to come out of the meeting, the league season is going to be extended starting earlier and finishing later.
Tonight (TUESDAY) will see the final of the Cox Trophy summer knockout, which will see Shifnal & Telford A take on Telepost A. Shifnal & Telford expect to be at full strength, so the result will be close.
In the Minor knockout competition, Newport B beat Telepost B 2-3 to go through to the final.
Martin Patterson, captain of the Newport B side, said: “We had an ace in the pack with Gavyn Cooper and it made a difference. It was quite legal as he has only played one game in Division One as he has been at uni, and they have broken up for hols. Four games in Division One are allowed in the rules.
”Gavyn beat John Bashall, Steve Cooper beat Peter Crean, Dave Lovegrove lost to John Westhead, I beat Dave Adderley, and a junior, Mark Richards, lost to Vinnie Crean.
”It was a great result. There were two sets of fathers and sons playing, with Peter and Vinnie Crean, and Steve and Gavyn Cooper. That does not happen very often in chess.”
| Shropshire chess clubs could face fines
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 01/07/2008
Shropshire chess clubs face being slapped with £50 fines if they fail to pull their weight in the organisation of the county game under controversial and drastic proposals to be debated at a special meeting in September. The move has been prompted by the collapse of some areas of the county game because nobody is coming forward to run them. And some clubs are doing a disproportionate amount of the organisational work while others are providing few, or hardly any, officers or county captains.
Next season Shropshire may be absent from county competition because nobody is willing to serve as a county team captain, and the season after that the Shropshire league itself may stop functioning, as league controller Richard Thompson who himself took up the post as a last resort to keep things going has served notice that he intends to step down.
Things came to a head at the Shropshire Chess Association annual meeting, which was itself poorly attended.
While there are 10 clubs and 22 teams in the league, most of the key league positions have been filled by just one club, Shifnal & Telford, which has provided the president, general secretary, league controller, and county team captains, and also organises the Wrekin Chess Congress.
Thompson put forward a plan by which every club should provide one officer for each team that club fields in the league. And should they fail to come up with the required officers, they would be penalised one league fee league fees were put up to £50 per team at the meeting for every “officer shortfall”.
”If we don't do something, we won't be running any county teams at all. And this time next year, if nobody replaces me, we won't be having a league,” said Thompson.
”How else do we do it? Do we let the whole thing crumble?”
Association president Iain Wilson said: “What we need to convey to clubs is the gravity of the situation. We can't continue if we don't have enough people coming forward. End of story. If clubs don't respond, we are dead.”
The idea had a mixed reception with some, like general secretary Colin Roberts, pointing out that a system of penalties against struggling clubs did not sit well with the association's aim of promoting chess.
The association is now appealing for clubs to send representatives to the crunch EGM being held in September which will decide whether to go ahead with the plan.
County chiefs in move to resolve grading dispute
Rutter storms ahead but it's a tough road
| Clubmates go head to head
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 22/04/08
Telepost clubmates Jamie Hopkins and David Bates go head to head in the fifth round of the Shropshire individual championship which is reaching its crucial final stages.
Both players are on three points in the seven-game competition, although Bates does have a game still outstanding.
In fact there continue to be a number of unfinished games in the tournament, which makes the picture a little complicated as positions could change depending on the results in those games.
Colin Roberts, on two points but with two unfinished games will face Trevor Brotherton, on three points, while Nick Rutter, with 1.5 points in the bag but two games outstanding, faces Nigel Ferrington on two points, but with one game still to finish.
Also in the leading group is Richard Bryant, with three points, who does battle in round five with Tony Holdford, on 2.5.
One of the interesting facets of the tournament for competitors is that the games of the players are published in a tournament bulletin provided, of course, they remember or bother to send them in.
Among the latest published games is the encounter between John Whittaker and John Tunks who, while not among the ranks of the county's strongest players, are capable of giving anyone a hard game.
Tunks, with the black pieces, had a position which was already starting to creak when he made a mistake which brought the game to a quick conclusion.
Here is the game, with annotations based on those in the tournament bulletin:
1 e4 c5 (the Sicilian Defence, which is popular at all levels of chess) 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cd 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Bc4 e6 (we are in one of the myriad of variations of the Sicilian) 7 Bb3 Be7 8 0-0 0-0 9 f4 b5 10 a3 Qc7 11 Kh1 Nc6 12 Be3 Nxd4? (the tournament bulletin suggests Na5 instead) 13 Bxd4 Bb7 14 Qf3 Bc6 15 Rae1 Qb7 (black is taking aim at the e4 pawn) 16 Qg3 g6 17 Qe3 a5 18 f5 (black is in big trouble already) 18... Nxe4?? (after a long thought, looking mostly at 18...e5, Tunks blunders, overlooking 20 Qh6. But 18... e5 doesn't work either, because of 19 fg hg 20 Qh6. Note the part played by the bishop on b3, pinning the f pawn) 19 Nxe4 ef 20 Qh6 and checkmate cannot be prevented, so Tunks resigned.
| John Footner wins quickplay
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 15/04/08
John Footner was winner of the first quickplay evening held at the Shifnal & Telford club, a bit of fun thrown open to allcomers, taking advantage of the club's spacious venue.
Richard Thompson reports: “We had a good evening with 14 competitors, including two from Coddon and six who have been coming to the club for a week or two and haven't played any competitive chess against other humans using clocks.
”Everybody enjoyed the evening, and the newcomers were most enthusiastic.”
Footner won with a score of five out of six. Runner-up was Andy Tunks, and third was shared between Iain Wilson and Steve Tarr.
”We gave prives to the two best newcomers, Kenny Butler-Smith and Jamie Beddoes. We hope these names will become very familiar in the months and years to come.”
Next quickplay evening at the club's venue the Nedge Tavern at Stirchley is on April 23 and all are welcome.
Meanwhile new league champions Telepost are out on the town tonight (TUESDAY) to celebrate their victory.
They are having a chess and curry night for club members. This will comprise a fun lightning handicap all-play-all competition, to be awarded titles like “Pawn Vinderloo” or “Bombay Duck”, followed by a meal at the Shalimar restaurant in Shrewsbury.
| Drayton D-day-promotion rests on final fixture
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 08/04/08
A clash on Thursday between Newport Juniors and Market Drayton will determine the last remaining issue in the Shropshire Chess League the Division Three promotion battle.
A win or a draw for Drayton will ensure they join Shifnal & Telford C in moving up to Division Two next season, at the expense of Shrewsbury C, who are on equal points with Drayton at present but with a better “goal difference”.
To round up elsewhere, Telepost A have taken the championship, although Church Stretton A came through strongly on the rails in the final stages and have missed out through their inferior goal difference.
Other potential contenders were hampered because for one reason or another they lost the services of some of their best players for all or most of the season.
Last season's champions, Newport, were for instance without young stars Tom Pym and Gavyn Cooper, while another stalwart from their championship campaign, the former Jamaican national champion Ryan Palmer, has moved to America.
University studies deprived Coddon of Simon Fowler, who is Shropshire's strongest player, while Shrewsbury's strongest player, John Parrott, took a break from chess. Shifnal & Telford's bulwark, John Footner, was away for the second part of the season.
At the other end of Division One, Wellington A and Ludlow both found the going far too tough and are relegated.
The Shrewsbury-based Telepost club is also celebrating the promotion of their B team from Division Two, and are joined on the way up by Oswestry. Coddon B and Wellington B are relegated.
Now that the league is all over bar the shouting, the Shifnal & Telford club, which meets at the Nedge Tavern in Stirchley on Wednesday evenings, is reviving summer quickplays for allcomers, which were begun last year.
The first is tomorrow night, and there will be six rounds, with the action starting at 7.30pm. Time limits will vary on a handicap system to give weaker players a fighting chance. There is a small entry fee, which will go towards the prizes.
| Telepost A are crowned champions
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 01/04/08
Telepost A are crowned Shropshire league champions after rivals Church Stretton A were unable to achieve the whitewash victory they needed in their final match to grab a share of the title.
Stretton had needed to win on all five boards against a weakened Newport A, and things started well when they went 2-0 up.
But then in a battle of the young turks Newport's Alex Taylor got a forced draw against Louis Graham Louis had no way of getting out of it and Stretton's dream was over.
”We were very pleased to get as close as we did after our start of the season, when we had had one point from the first three games,” said a philosophical Stretton captain, Graham Shepherd, who is incidentally stepping down from the captain's role.
”We knew we had to win 5-0, but we failed dismally, I'm afraid. We won 3.5-1.5 1.5 points short.
”Newport came with a weakened side. The story of the match was that Karl Wakefield won fairly convincingly against Sellick Davies, and then Gerald Link won after a bit of a struggle against Joe Pym, having rook against knight and bishop, and took us 2-0 up.
”But then Alex Taylor got a forced draw against Louis. There was nothing Louis could do.
”Nick Graham won against Chris Lewis and, right at the end, when it did not matter, Trevor Brotherton was trying to beat Nick Rutter. It went into an endgame of knight and bishop and equal pawns. Trevor sacced the knight to get two pawns, and was trying to queen a pawn, but could not.”
In the final seconds of the game Newport's Rutter mated Brotherton's lone king with a knight and bishop a rarely seen checkmate and an impressive demonstration of Rutter's chess knowledge and skill, especially when he only had little time left on his clock.
Shrewsbury-based Telepost now take the title, which ends a bit of a jinx for their captain Richard Bryant. Since 2000 Telepost have won the league championship five times, missing out in the years 2004, 2006 and 2007 the years Bryant was captain.
He certainly played a captain's role in breaking the team's duck under his rule his personal record over the season was 11 wins, three draws, and not a single loss.
At the other end of Division One, relegated Wellington A ended their season with a 3-2 win against Shifnal & Telford A.
One of the most depressing things in chess is to work hard and play well to build up a potentially winning position, and then make a slip which sees the advantage suddenly disappear. It was a feeling I inflicted on Colin Roberts in our board one encounter. Roberts was winning pawns and smoothly going through the gears when, to the surprise of both of us, a sacrificial counter-attack made out of desperation more than calculation completely turned the tables.
With Roberts playing white, the game went: 1 c4 d5 2 cd Nf6 (against Nigel Ferrington a while back I had tried the very ropey 2... c6 but he quickly proved it was a giveaway rather than a gambit) 3 Nc3 Nxd5 4 e4 Nb6 (after the game Roberts pointed out that Nxc3 would transpose into the Grunfeld defence, in which, as it happens, he is something of an expert) 5 d4 g6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 Qd2 0-0 8 Rd1 Nc6 9 Bb5 e5 10 Nge2 a6 11 Bxc6 Nc4 12 Qc1 Nxe3 13 Qxe3 bxc6 14 de Qe7 (delusional white is simply winning a pawn...) 15 f4 (...which is now protected) 15...Rb8 16 Rd2 Bh6 17 Qf2 f6 18 ef Rxf6 19 0-0 Be6 20 Rfd1 Rbf8 21 g3 Bg4 22 Qd4 Be6 23 Qa7 R6f7 24 Nd4 Bh3 (this turns out to have been an important move) 25 Nxc6 (Another black pawn goes west but, amazingly, this natural-looking move puts white on the path to disaster. Any quiet consolidating move would have probably cemented victory) 25...Qf6 26 Qc5 Bxf4! (it began to dawn on me that this move, which I had been looking at for some time as a way of going down in a blaze of glory, would put white¹s king in real danger) 27 Rd2? (capturing the bishop was better, but white would still be in some trouble) 27...Bd6! (what Colin didn't see. He was expecting Be3. It's now all over bar the shouting) 28 Rxf6 Bxc5 check 29 Kh1 Rxf6 30 Ne5 (“I'll let you do a pretty mate” he said) 30... Rf1 chk (and now we see how important Bh3 was) 31 Rxf1 Rxf1 checkmate.
| Title ambush almost sinks Telepost bid
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 25/03/08
Title-chasing Telepost A were the victims of a spectacular chess ambush which took them literally seconds from a defeat which could have left their championship ambitions in ruins.
The plot by opponents Coddon A involved a ruse involving two cars, a decoy player, and the shock fielding on top board of Simon Fowler, the county's strongest player, who has been absent from the Shropshire chess scene all this season because he is at university.
A shell-shocked Telepost just managed to scrabble a draw, when a win would have cemented the title. The result means rivals Church Stretton A need a 5-0 win against Newport A in their final game on Thursday to end the season on equal points and “goal difference” with Telepost, which would presumably mean a shared title.
A Stretton whitewash of Newport is a tall order, although it might be some encouragement that Newport struggled to field a full team against relegated Wellington A earlier this month and, short of several top players, actually lost.
Coddon's Glyn Pugh reports on the ambush thus: “The Coddon team turned up in two cars. The normal boards 3, 4 and 5 arrived first and the Telepost team thought nothing of it. They set up in another room, only raising eyebrows when the second car arrived with Simon Fowler, William Bates and myself meaning the normal board 5, John Tunks, was only supporting and not playing.
”Board 4 was decided by a blunder, with Richard Bryant beating Gary White, shortly to be followed by William Bates' win against Nigel Ferrington in a wild game. At this stage I had gained a pawn advantage against Dave Bates and Simon was on top against Jamie Hopkins. Only Keith Tabner had an advantage against Andy Tunks.
”Simon duly pushed home his advantage, while Dave Bates managed to go a pawn up, but only in a drawish position and Keith started swapping off. Time was becoming an increasingly important factor and Dave Bates went from a minute advantage to a minute deficit, but had to keep moving. He finally agreed a draw with less than two minutes on his clock to my two-and-a-half minutes, thus leaving Telepost's fate in Keith Tabner's hands against Andy Tunks.
”Moves flashed out with only seconds to spare. Andy's clock fell first, with Keith only having seconds left himself. Telepost scraped a drawn match, and likely the title. Relief was visibly evident.
”Defeat would have meant any Church Stretton win would have given the title to Church Stretton.”
One of the match highlights was William Bates' victory against Nigel Ferrington. Ferrington is a former multiple county champion but Bates, on paper a much weaker player and playing with the black pieces, had him on the ropes after only 11 moves.
The game went: 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 ed ed 4 c4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Be7 6 Bd3 Bg4 7 Qb3 0-0 8 Qxb7 (The highly experience Ferrington will of course have been aware that in some positions the b7 and b2 pawns are laced with poison. But, there again, there are some positions in which they can be safely captured) 8...dc 9 Qxa8 (In for a penny, in for a pound) 9...cxd3 10 Be3 c5 11 d5 Qb6 (The white queen is now stuck in the corner while black closes in on the white king. Ferrington's situation is critical) 12 b4 Qxb4 13 Bd2 Nbd7 14 Qxa7 Ne4 15 Rb1 Qd4 (Ferrington's position is already resignable) 16 Nxe4 Qxe4 check 17 Kf1 Be2 chk 18 Nxe2 dxe2 chk 19 Ke1 Qxb1 chk 20 Kxe2 Qxh1 21 Qxd7 Bf6 22 Qc6 Qxg2 23 Qxc5 Qe4 chk 24 Be3 Rd8 25 d6 (making mischief with this pawn is white's last hope) 26...Qe5 26 f4 Qxd6 and, with the last hope now gone, white resigned.
Time Stands Still
| David Bates Leads
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 04/03/08
David Bates has claimed the scalp of former Shropshire chess champion Nigel Ferrington and is now top scorer in the county individual championship, with three wins from three games.
But having seen off one super-tough opponent, his reward is facing another in round four Nick Rutter.
Rutter has one point, but two uncompleted games. In fact, quite a few players in the seven-round tournament have games still to complete, making the overall picture rather confusing.
In round two Ferrington was paired against David Everington, who has himself won the championship on several occasions in the past.
Everington lost quickly when he discovered to his cost that his ambitious play had a flaw.
Ferrington had the white pieces and the game went: 1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 d5 4 cd Nxd5 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 d3 Nb6 7 0-0 Be7 8 a3 0-0 9 Nc3 Be6 10 b4 a5 11 b5 Nd4 12 Bb2 Bb3 13 Qc1 Na4 (turns out to be a mistake) 14 Nxd4 Bg5 15 e3 exd4 16 Nxa4 de 17 Qc3 and black resigned as the threat of checkmate on g7 means he must lose the bishop.
In the league, table toppers Telepost A are still unable to stretch away from Church Stretton A and all now hangs on their final two matches of the season, in which they both face opponents who are capable of upsetting the form book.
But if Division One is now a two horse race, Division Two is a full race meeting with five runners all vying for the glory. Leaders Telepost B need to win both their last two games to secure the Division Two championship, but unfortunately for them both games are against hot rivals they meet Church Stretton B tonight, and then face Shrewsbury B in a county town derby on March 14.
In Division Three, there's another two horse race, with Market Drayton only a point ahead of Shifnal & Telford C.
*A junior chess beginners day is being held on Saturday, March 8, from 10am to 3pm, at the Trinity School, Butts Lane, Ford. Children will need to bring a packed lunch.
It is aimed at any junior who wants to learn how to play, or get better at chess. The sessions will be aimed at 7-11 year olds. The day will cost £10 but this includes a hardback copy of “Chess for Children” which normally retails at £9.99.
To register, parents or guardians should contact county junior chess organisers Francis Best (01743 821220) or Steve Rooney (01694 723724), who are running the day.
| Table Toppers Totter
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 26/02/08
League leaders Telepost A are hanging on by the skin of their teeth at the top of Division One under intense pressure from Church Stretton A.
The Shrewsbury-based outfit could only draw against Shifnal & Telford A, while Stretton racked up a 4.5-0.5 win over Coddon A.
Telepost's Richard Bryant reports on the drawn match that it was “a toughly-fought contest which could have gone either way right up to the end of the evening. I was slightly relieved to leave with a point as this means Telepost are still top of the league even if our once strong lead has dwindled.”
Shifnal & Telford's Iain Wilson's take on it was: “Table Toppers Totter! Could Shifnal & Telford draw twice this season with Telepost? Early signs were not good. Telepost took the lead through Richard Bryant, and seemed to be level or winning in the other games. But the tide began to turn.
”Colin Roberts secured the draw he had sought all evening. Richard Thompson gained a draw despite having lost the exchange. Dave Gostelow agreed a draw in a better position but with the clock ticking away. Meanwhile, the middle game complications on board 4 cleared to reveal my rook gobbling up seventh row black pawns and setting up a checkmate win. Job done! Draw gained!”
In Division Two, Telepost B and Oswestry are neck-and-neck, but watch out for third-placed Shrewsbury B, who are a point behind but with two games in hand.
And it's still all to play for in the Division Three promotion battle, with Market Drayton and Shifnal & Telford C in the top spots but with Shrewsbury C still with a realistic shout should they falter in the last few games of the season.
| Chess has it's Appeal
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 19/02/08
Just how good a player is Vinny Crean? And, in particular, how much has his game deteriorated in the wake of his two-year sojourn in Australia and New Zealand, from which he has now returned and is back in Shropshire league action?
It is a question which has required a ruling from top local chess officials following a complaint, presumably by a rival team, about Vinny's continued use in the Telepost C team.
After receiving the complaint league controller Richard Thompson banned Crean from playing in the C team again this season.
However, Telepost took the matter to the “House of Lords” of Shropshire chess the rules and disputes committee which has allowed their appeal, with the upshot that Crean has been given the go-ahead to keep playing in the C team.
Central to the point in dispute was how strong a player Vinny now is. Having been away from chess for so long, he no longer has a grading an assessment of a player's strength based on their results.
Before he took his trip Down Under, he was graded at 101.
League rules allow for players graded under 90 to play in a club's teams in Divisions One and Two as many times as they like (unless the club has two teams in Division One). The aim of the rule is to help clubs which struggle to raise a team, because it gives them the flexibility to draw on a pool of weaker players without limit.
If, though, the substitute player is graded over 90, he or she can only play for the higher team twice. The third time, they become a member of the higher team, and are not allowed to play for the lower team again that season. Crean had played for the Telepost B team (in Division Two) five times and Telepost C (Division Three) five times.
In dealing with the issue, league controller Thompson said some allowance must be made for rustiness, but added: “It is a grey area, but in my view, Vinny is definitely the wrong side of it. A drop of 12 grading points for just one season is too many.”
He ruled that Crean was now tied to Telepost B and could not play again for the C team.
The crucial factor in the success of Telepost's appeal against this ruling was evidence, based on his results so far, that Crean is significantly weaker than he was. He himself estimates that he is playing at a grading strength of around 78, and after investigating, grading officer Nick Rutter confirmed that he is playing at an under-90 standard at present.
| Church Stretton Blow Title Race Wide Open
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 12/02/08
Church Stretton A have blown the championship race wide open with a victory over Division One leaders Telepost A who seemed to be running away with the title.
Having once had a five-point cushion, the Shrewsbury-based side now have Stretton breathing down their necks, just two points adrift following the south Shropshire team's 2-3 away victory.
The issue was decided on the top board, where two of the big hitters of Shropshire chess, Nigel Ferrington and Trevor Brotherton, who are both multiple past winners of the county individual chess crown, squared up. This time Brotherton carried the day, and with it the match.
Telepost's Richard Bryant reports: "Unfortunately we suffered our first loss of the season. The four draws hide some very hard-fought games. They could have easily led to a win for the Telepost players, but such hopes were dashed by good defensive play by the opposition.
"Congratulations to Church Stretton on their victory, but I hope it will not stop Telepost taking the championship."
Third place Shrewsbury A's hopes of taking advantage of Telepost's slip were wrecked by a defeat against Shifnal & Telford A
Shrewsbury's David Everington reports: "Telford got their revenge for the earlier season loss to us. Colin Roberts started well with a virtually won position around move eight and nine after I misplayed the opening, a line in the Sicilian. Then, as often happens, he started using too much time trying to find the most precise winning line and it came down to a time scramble when he finally forced a back rank mate around move 55.
"Francis Best gave Dave Gostelow a hard game on board two but finally went down as the flags were close to dropping. Steve Rooney might have missed a win in his pawn ending against Iain Wilson but simply didn't have time to work out the complexities and agreed a draw.
"Richard Thompson won for the visitors with his pieces swarming around Ian Davies' king despite the latter getting a pawn on the seventh rank. Ray Cox salvaged something for Shrewsbury as his excellent form continues in his first season back in the game for a year or two."
| Shrewsbury's Bees are Buzzing
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 05/02/08
Shrewsbury B are heading the promotion race in Division Two after a hard-fought victory over struggling Coddon B, but have four teams breathing down their necks.
Although only a point ahead of the chasing pack, Shrewsbury do have the advantage of a game in hand.
Telepost A meanwhile continue to head the first division and have a four point cushion, and in Division Three it's boiling down to a battle between Shifnal & Telford C and Market Drayton.
Shrewsbury A have given themselves an outside chance they are five points adrift of taking the league title with a 3-2 victory over Newport A, who are formidable when at full strength.
Shrewsbury's David Everington reports: "After taking just half a point from our last two matches against Newport A, we felt a bit like Spurs against Arsenal after this surprise result albeit that the home side was missing Thomas Pym.
"Peter Kitchen found himself facing Tony Holdford's favourite King's Gambit and defended with Bobby Fischer's idea of 3...d6, but a promising Black attack fizzled out to a draw early in the evening.
"Ray Cox quickly got a pawn on to f7 against Joe Pym but the young Newport player defended very accurately to force a drawn position. While Nick Rutter was gradually grinding me down on board one, Steve Rooney and Norman O'Connor (standing in as reserve for Francis Best) clinched the points for the visitors."
| Changing Times
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 29/01/08
There was an interesting 'gambit' in the encounter between two wily veterans in the Shrewsbury B v Wellington B match in Division Two.
It was a late start and people were still milling around. According to eye witnesses Norman O'Connor was getting fed up with waiting and decided to get things under way, and started his clock in the absence of his opponent, Wellington captain Derrick Powell, who was chatting and still getting things organised. When Powell sat down he picked up the ticking clock and looked at it, apparently with a rather puzzled expression. Deciding that the clock was not on the correct side of the board, Powell put it down again on the other side which meant all the time elapsed now counted against O'Connor!
Things were quickly sorted out. To cap it all, the clock played a decisive role in the game that followed.
"He lost on time. I had him by the throat, mind you," said Powell.
Incidentally under the international rules of chess it is up to the arbiter to decide on which side of the board the clock is placed. As there is no arbiter on hand in Shropshire league game, presumably it is a case of 'anything goes'
Shropshire beat Lincolnshire in the Midlands Counties Chess Union minor championships at Spondon, near Derby.
The teams were broadly evenly matched gradings-wise and Shropshire¹s winners in the 9-6 victory were Nick Rutter, Nigel Ferrington, Colin Roberts, Glyn Pugh, and Alex Taylor, with draws from Nick Graham, Philip Makepeace, Gareth Edwards, Toby Neal, Steve Tarr, Iain Wilson, John Westhead and Andy Tunks.
One game, involving captain Windsor Peck, has gone to adjudication. Peck, who was down to his last seconds on the clock, stopped the clock and claimed a draw in a position where his opponent, white, to play, has Ra4, Kf5, and pawns on g4 and h5. Peck has Kg8, Nh7, and pawns on g7 and h6.
Some analysis by various players immediately after the game found no obvious way for white to break through.
Back to the league, and table-toppers Telepost cruised to a 4.5-0.5 win over struggling Wellington A. Top board Jamie Hopkins gave Toby Neal the bird in their encounter and thought the game merited publication which, being his defeated opponent, I do grudgingly!
Hopkins played 1 f4, the unusual Bird¹s opening, which theorists treat with suspicion as it weakens white¹s king¹s position. But familiarity counts for a lot, and Jamie knows the opening well, while I had never played against it before.
The game went: 1 f4 e5 (This is called From¹s Gambit, the only response I vaguely knew. It is supposed to be quite good though.) 2 fe d6 3 ed Bxd6 4 Nf3 (If it¹s black¹s lucky day, white will play something like 4 Nc3, and lose at once to 4Qh4 check 5 g3 Qxg3 chk 6 hxg3 Bxg3 mate) 4Nf6 5 d4 0-0 6 Qd3 Bg4 7 Bg5 (Jamie said this strong pin had to be prevented by h6) 7Š Qe7 (Again Jamie, with his better understanding of the opening, said the queen was misplaced here. The aim is of course to stop e4) 8 Nbd2 h6 (Too late!) 9 Bxf6 gxf6? (A desperate attempt to stop the black-squared bishop being swapped off. But it gets swapped off anyway and I¹m left with a shattered king¹s position) 10 Nc4 Bf4 11 g3 Bg5 12 h4 b5 13 Nxg5 (The beginning of the end already! If bxc4, 14 Qh7 mate) 13Šf5 14 Ne5 hxg5 15 Nxg4 fxg4 16 hg f5 17 gxf6 Rxf6 18 Qxb5 Qe4 19 Bg2 (A move that can only be made after deep calculation) 19ŠQxg2 20 Qe8 check (After the game Jamie¹s colleagues gleefully pointed out to him that Qg5 check won quicker. It¹s easy when you¹re watching!) 20...Kg7 (If Rf8, Qg6 mate) 21 Qh8 chk Kf7 22 Rh7 chk Ke6 23 Qe8 chk Kd5 24 Qe5 chk Kc6 25 Qxc7 chk Kd5 26 Qe5 chk Kc6 27 Qc5 mate.
| Church Stretton Close the Gap
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 22/01/08
Church Stretton A have closed the gap a little on table-toppers Telepost A with a good win over Shrewsbury A in which Gerald Link must take a lot of the credit. It was a beautiful piece of play which saw Link steer himself to victory in a king and pawns ending against Peter Kitchen.
Shrewsbury, who are no longer the force they once were, did well to hold their higher graded opponents of the top two boards and, while Steve Rooney constructed a neat and unstoppable mating attack against Graham Sheperd, Ray Cox suffered his first loss of the season to Karl Wakefield's ferocious Morra Gambit. The upshot was a 2-3 victory to Stretton, a team which was not long ago promoted from Division Two, but which has benefited from an influx of strong players and is proving able to punch its weight in the top flight.
On the county scene, Shropshire's under-100 team went down to a narrow defeat against Staffordshire Bulldogs that county¹s under-100 A team in an encounter at Brewood cricket club.
The Salopians were outgraded on every board, so the 7-5 loss was an honourable one. Shropshire's winners were Roger Brown, Derrick Powell and Martin Patterson, and draws came from Andrew Jones, Paul Broderick, Alan Pickles, and Steve Szwajkun.
| Fried Liver for George
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 15/01/08
One of the stars of the recent Wrekin Chess Congress, Telford's George Viszokai, found himself left with the bitter taste of fried liver as he went down to defeat against David Everington, a former county champion, in the Shropshire individual championship.
The seven-game competition is now moving into its third round with Jamie Hopkins and Richard Bryant in the lead, both with two wins under their belts, although the situation is complicated as there are many games still unfinished.
Hopkins and Bryant play each other in this round, and among other heavyweight clashes Nick Rutter crosses swords with Trevor Brotherton, and David Bates will face Nigel Ferrington.
Viszokai won a veteran's prize in this month's congress but the experienced player found himself bamboozled by Everington early on when he fell victim to a variation on the so-called 'Fried Liver attack'. This attack is normally seen in some variations of the Two Knights Defence, but Everington conjured up a similar position in the Ruy Lopez opening he played against Viszokai.
Here is the game, with Everington with the white pieces. Annotations are adapted from the tournament bulletin.
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 (Encouraging white to show his hand with the bishop as it may now be his last chance to play Bxc6, as black plans to follow up with b5, breaking the pin) 4 Ba4 (Although it looks as if white could win a pawn by 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 Nxe5, black wins it back easily after Qd4 and gets a better position to boot) 4...Nf6 5 0-0 b5 6 Bb3 d6 7 Ng5 (Looks better than it is!) 7... d5 8 ed Nxd5 (A mistake, but played in Luckis-Rossentto in 1944. Instead black should have played Nd4! and there would be no way for a white advantage) 9 Nxf7! (Just like the old Fried Liver attack of the Two Knights Defence) 9... Kxf7 10 Qf3 check Qf6? (This simply loses, but so does 10... Ke6 11 Nc3 Nce7 12 d4 c6 13 Bg5 and white is well on top) 11 Bxd5 chk and black resigned a few moves later.
Shropshire's chess clubs are always looking for new players and particularly prized acquisitions are strong players from yesteryear who are returning to the game after years away.
Among the latest potential recruits to the Shifnal & Telford club is Tony Barnes who used to play for GKN Sankey now Coddon but gave up years ago, although he temporarily resurfaced over a decade ago to win the Shropshire Minor event with five wins out of five.
Now retired, he is keen to get back into the game, and the club thinks he will fit easily into second and third division chess and quickly get into first division chess.
| County Double Header
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 18/12/07
Things were somewhat crowded as Shropshire's first team and the county under-100 team both discovered they had simultaneous fixtures at the regular Shifnal venue.
But although the under-100s started an hour later than the first teamers, and there were some worries because the respective captains had no idea where the second set of chess sets was, all went reasonably smoothly in the end.
The under-100s had a narrow 6.5-5.5 victory over Staffordshire Terriers so called to avoid A and B teams as the Staffordshire outfit now draws its players largely geographically, with the Terriers being mostly from the north of the county.
The match was played at Shifnal Scout and Guide headquarters and captain Roger Brown says: “A week beforehand I phoned Windsor Peck, the first team captain, to see if I could borrow the sets to use for the match. It was then that we realised that we were both playing at home. This is not too much of a problem as we just about have the space. The main issue was that the Open team had arranged to start at 1pm and the U100 to start at 2pm.
”As it worked out, I believe the start time differences did not cause a problem. The U100 teams crowded into a smaller room to do the formal announcements and were then able to go into the main room quietly and begin the match.
”The other issue was that neither Windsor or I knew were the second set of county chess sets was. It was quickly discovered that the sets were still held by the previous year's U100 captain. He brought the sets from Shrewsbury on the day of the match.”
In the match there was an exciting climax, with the score at 5-5 with two games remaining.
”Neil Sampson and I both appeared to have the upper hand both outgunning our opponents by one pawn in pawn and rook endings. Neil won his game and I offered a draw in my game soon after, which was accepted, so a win for Shropshire,” said Brown.
Shropshire winners were Neil Sampson, Dele Ogundipe, Andrew Jones, and Sellick Davies, with draws from Roger Brown, Richard Gillespie, Paul Broderick, Alan Pickles and Steve Szwajkun.
Incidentally the open team result is not yet in.
Meanwhile a rallying call has gone out among Shropshire chess players to support the Wrekin Chess Congress, which is rapidly approaching.
It is the biggest event in the Shropshire chess calendar and is being held at Madeley Court Centre on January 5 and 6. Entry forms are downloadable from www.shropshirechess.org, which is the county chess website.
Wrekin Congress Rapidly Approaching
| County Individual Championship is Underway
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 04/12/07
Shropshire's individual championship has got under way with 24 players bidding to become the king of Shropshire chess.
The seven-round tournament is a rare chance, at least in the early rounds, for B and C team players to clash swords with some of the strongest players in the county game. Contrary to what you might expect, they generally relish the prospect.
Weaker players naturally tend to make more frequent, and more serious, mistakes than their stronger opponents, and once they cut down on them they stop "losing" games and start to force their opponents to "win" them.
And even the best players can drop a clanger indeed, if nobody ever made a mistake, then nobody would ever lose.
One of the David v Goliath encounters in the first round saw Nick Rutter, a former county champion who is graded 182, facing John Westhead, who is graded 117. As often happens, it was a mistake by the underdog which brought things to a rapid conclusion.
Here is how things went, with annotations adapted from the tournament bulletin. Rutter had the white pieces.
1 e4 e6 2 Nf3 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 d4 c5 6 Bg5 Be7? (Although this looks a natural move, it is Westhead¹s first mistake which Rutter punishes quickly. 6...Qb6 or 6...Qa5 would leave the white bishop pointing at thin air and begin black¹s counterplay) 7 Bxe7 Qxe7 8 Nb5 Qd8 (Westhead stops 9 Nc7 check but has to endure what¹s coming in its place) 9 Nd6 chk Ke7 (now Westhead cannot castle, and his king is uncomfortably placed) 10 Ng5 cd 11 Qxd4 Nc6 12 Qh4 Qa5 chk 13 c3 f6 14 Qg4 (This is a bit risky as black has many options in this position) 14...Ndxe5 (unclear is 14...fxg5 15 Qxg5 chk Kf8 16 Qf4 chk Ke7 17 Qf7 chk Kd8 18 Qxg7 Rf8 and white has compensation for the piece, but the assessment is unclear) 15 Nxc8 chk Raxc8 16 Qxe6 chk Kd8 (White¹s idea was to play Rd1 here, but then black plays Nf3 chk followed by Re8, winning the queen) 17 Qd6 chk Ke8 18 Qe6 chk Kd8 19 0-0-0 Nb4 20 a3 Rxc3 chk 21 Kb1 (if 21 bxc3, then 21... Qxa3 chk and Rutter would be struggling to avoid an early bath) 21... Rc6? (Again, it looks a natural move, but it is a fatal mistake. In contrast the hard-to-see 21...Qa4 would be very tricky for white with the continuation 22 Rxd5 chk Nxd5 23 Qxd5 chk Kc8 24 bxc3 Rd8 and probably leads to a draw) 22 axb4 (now white wins material) 22... Rxe6 23 Nxe6 chk Ke7 24 bxa5 Kxe6 and Westhead played out four more moves before resigning.
In the league there was a big derby game between Shrewsbury A and Telepost A in which the heavy artillery of the Telepost outfit proved decisive.
Shrewsbury's David Everington said: “We were heavily outgunned by the higher-graded Telepost team but made a better fight of it than the score suggests in losing their first match this season.
”Francis Best launched a fierce attack against Nigel Ferrington's Sicilian Defence but the Telepost player, seemingly under great pressure for much of the game, came up with a superb defensive performance, finding good moves throughout.
”Ray Cox saved the whitewash with another good performance on board five and remains unbeaten this season.”
Telepost's Richard Bryant commented: “After about an hour I was fairly optimistic that we were likely to win but when the final two games were completed giving such a large victory even I was astonished.”
| Order is Restored
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 27/11/07
Slowly but surely the organisational gloom which had afflicted Shropshire chess at the start of the season is lifting as arrangements fall into place to keep things running.
Richard Thompson has stepped forward to take the role of league controller, but that still left a lot of uncertainty in county matches which was underlined when one tie was organised independently by two well-intentioned folk, on different days and at different venues.
However, Roger Brown has now taken on the role of the captain of the under-100 A team that is, the team for players graded under 100 while Francis Best and Steve Rooney are already dealing with things for the B team, who are the juniors.
The open team is under the captaincy of Windsor Peck, but Windsor is also acting captain for the under-125s, where the post is vacant.
Things haven't been so good in terms of results, and the under-100 team had an agonisingly close defeat against Worcestershire.The encounter was at Webheath Village Hall in Worcestershire and the outcome was a 6.5-5.5 victory for the home team, with Shropshire¹s winners being Roger Brown, Derrick Powell, Richard Szwajkun and Bryan Brown, and draws from Paul Broderick, Sellick Davies, and Steve Szwajkun.
The junior outfit Shropshire under-100 B team were heavily outgraded in their match against Staffordshire Bulldogs, who are the Staffordshire A team, but there was still some cheer in two good wins by Jonathan Newey from Shrewsbury and Huw Davenport from Newport, together with a well-deserved draw by Mark Richards of Newport.
Joint captain Steve Rooney said: "Many of the other matches were hard-fought with the juniors putting up good resistance including Peter Mellor of Coddon on board 1 who had winning chances in the final time scramble but his opponent eventually clinched it."
The Shifnal & Telford club's teams have enjoyed mixed fortunes lately.
Iain Wilson reports: “The B team lost heavily to a full-strength Shrewsbury B but has since drawn with Oswestry. The C team were a board short against Shrewsbury Juniors but still managed a draw and then beat Newport Juniors. The Wolves League team are leading Rugeley 3.5-0.5, with a likely win and draw from the adjourned games, and have since beaten Bushbury B.”
| A New League Controller Is Appointed
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 20/11/07
Richard Thompson has stepped forward to take on the vacant post of league controller, filling an organisational vacuum which was proving a severe handicap to Shropshire's league chess scene.
Thompson has “reluctantly” agreed to take on the role for the rest of the season “and maybe a season or two more.” He has been emailed some instructions on what to do by the previous league controller, John Casewell.
It means a break for league secretary Colin Roberts who has been doing heroic work keeping results and the chess website organised while the hunt for a permanent league controller continued. Meanwhile Vinnie Crean, the website wizard who did so much to keep things running smoothly, is back from his spell in Australia his work permit was running out and no doubt will find his shoulder being tapped for some expertise and advice.
All in all it amounts to a chink of light in what had been a rather gloomy start to the league season.
Matches have continued as normal, and Shrewsbury-based teams are heading all three divisions.
Shrewsbury B are being pressed hard by Church Stretton B in Division Two. The Stretton club was struggling for players a couple of seasons back but an influx of top talent in the A team the Grahams and Trevor Brotherton has clearly had knock-on benefits for the B-teamers.
Shrewsbury Juniors are still without a win in Division Three but are leading the rest of the division in terms of matches played. For some reason they have completed four, and all the rest only two.
Another Missing Trophy is Found
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 13/11/07
Missing Shropshire chess trophies are continuing to come out of the woodwork or, more precisely, out of dusty attics.
First the missing Cox Trophy turned up safe and well, and then Ray Cox found a long-lost trophy for Shropshire Juniors, which had not been seen for 35 years, while clearing out his attic.
That inspired Iain Wilson to have a look in his own attic and, lo and behold, out has come a wooden shield for the Shropshire Schools Chess Under-18 Championships, bearing the names of winners from 1973 to 2003, albeit with a gap from 1985 to 2002.
Wilson said: “The trophy came into my hands for safekeeping when I was county secretary in the 1990s and was not awarded at the time because of a lack of organisation of chess in Shropshire at senior schools level. But in 2002 Simon Fowler was riding high in the Wrekin Congress so it seemed a good idea to put it to use. The same happened with Tom Pym in 2003. Unfortunately, the trophy is now full, though possibly a few more shields could be added on an inner row.”
In the league, Telepost A are the early leaders but were held to a draw by Shifnal & Telford A, which has allowed Shrewsbury A to move within a point with a 4-1 victory over Wellington A.
Wellington's only point came from Ibiye Roberts on board two, despite arriving 35 minutes late after a confusing encounter with Shrewsbury¹s roundabouts.
David Everington sealed the victory for Shrewsbury with a win on top board over Toby Neal, for whom it was an unwelcome first his first ever loss on time and Steve Rooney put the icing on the cake with a comfortably won endgame over Stefan Tennant in a game in which, to the puzzlement of spectators, both players still had 10 minutes left on their clocks even after all the other games had finished.
In Division Two, Shifnal & Telford B beat Newport B in a match which saw Tim Skidmore draw on his debut outing.
|Is it Chess or Chaos?
The consequences of the organisational vacuum at the top of Shropshire chess were thrown into sharp focus when a county under-100 match was, with the best of intentions, independently organised by two different people, at different venues and on different days.
It was quite late in the day that the duplication was discovered by chance, and corrected. The match was that of Shropshire under-100 A team, versus the Shropshire under-100 B team, which is the junior team.
Currently the A team is without a captain and organiser, and this was at the root of all the confusion that followed.
Windsor Peck, the county first team captain, stepped into the breach and got a team together for the tie, which was earmarked to be played at Shifnal on a Saturday. Unknown to him, one of the junior organisers, Francis Best, was also doing his bit to make sure the match went ahead. He too was organising teams and his match was set for a Tuesday at Shrewsbury. Nobody realised anything was amiss, even though several players were contacted by both ‘acting captains' asking them to play.
It was only at the 11th hour that these two parallel chess universes became apparent through a phone conversation.
In the event, it was Best's Tuesday match at Shrewsbury which went ahead, and Peck's Saturday match at Shifnal was knocked on the head.
”It was genuinely a misunderstanding. At the time I was a little put out. When you have done a lot of work you like to see it bear some fruit,” said Peck.
Some good may come out of the mix-up.
Best said: “What we were hoping was that a ‘proper' A team captain would come out of the match, and that may have happened, as somebody has said they would be prepared to do it if somebody else would help them. I said to people on the night that it might be the last match they were playing for the A team, which would be a great shame in the wake of their success last year.”
In the match itself, the A team won 9.5-2.5.
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 06/11/07
|Shropshire v Leicestershire
A late comeback against the odds secured Shropshire a hard-fought 8-8 draw against Leicestershire in the Midlands open championships.
With three games left to complete and with the Salopians two points down, things were looking bleak. Iain Wilson's opponent was pressing confidently for a win, David Hollands' position was crumbling, and on top board Simon Fowler was in a knife-edge rook and pawns endgame.
And as the clocks ticked down to their final minutes and seconds, it was clear the result was going to go down to the wire.
As he watched Wilson's game, Colin Roberts jotted down a question of three words win, save, lose? Wilson's position seemed one of desperate defence, although he did have a passed pawn, albeit one which was unable to run as it was being closely marshalled. However, in the opinion of one or two spectators, despite appearances, he was potentially winning.
That will have to be a matter of post-match analysis as eventually Wilson's opponent abandoned his own hopes of winning and a draw was agreed.
Attention then turned to Hollands' game, where things were rather more clear cut. He was obviously losing. The clock came to his rescue, with his opponent running out of time.
It meant Shropshire had clawed back one point and now Simon Fowler on top board had to win his game to save the match. Both he and his opponent were down to their last seconds. While his opponent had two connected passed pawns, the crucial factor was that Fowler's rook had shut his opponent's king out of the action, while his own king was able to move freely.
His opponent's flag fell simultaneously with Fowler cementing his winning position on the board, and meant the match finished all square.
Shropshire winners were: Nick Rutter, Colin Roberts, John Footner, Chris Lewis, Simon Fowler, and David Hollands, and draws came from Toby Neal, Ibiye Roberts, Peter Kitchen and Iain Wilson.
Meanwhile Colin Roberts has been ensuring the league continues to function in the absence of a league controller, and has established a degree of automation in compiling the league tables on the chess website. Toby Neal Shropshire Star 16/10/07
|Shropshire Chess Crisis Deepens
Shropshire chess is stumbling towards its most shambolic start to a league season in memory next week in which fixtures will be played but anybody wanting to view league tables will face a DIY task.
Despite repeated appeals, nobody has come forward to fill the post of league controller, which will plunge the county game into a “dark age” in which there will be no league tables, only limited results information if any posted on the chess website, and potentially no collection of information for grading purposes.
Further, there will be nobody to keep tabs on rearrangements of fixtures or make decisions on any disputes.
”It's a pretty sad state of affairs. There are the best part of 200 players in the county. We all want the league to continue, but nobody will come forward as league controller,” Shropshire Chess Association president Iain Wilson told the association's council meeting.
”I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm not sure there's the reservoir now of people just playing chess and dying for the opportunity to do more for the game.”
The crisis will hit immediately as at least two clubs have A, B, and C teams scheduled to play on the same night at the start of the season. As they do not have enough players to turn out three sides simultaneously, they will be seeking to rearrange fixtures. Without a league controller, it is possible that anarchy will reign in such situations captains and club secretaries will be entirely on their own.
The gloom is more general, with the Darwin chess festival, a showcase of chess in Shrewsbury held at the Darwin shopping centre, folding this month because nobody is organising it. There will be no Shropshire teams for players graded under 125 or under 100, because nobody has volunteered to be captains, and the Oswestry rapidplay, which has been held for well over 20 years, is folding because of a lack of an organiser.
And, not for the first time, a piece of Shropshire chess silverware has mysteriously disappeared the Cox Trophy is missing.
”It seems chess is in a bit of the doldrums generally,” commented Oswestry¹s Keith Grice.
On a brighter note, January's Wrekin Chess Congress is safe, as is the county individual competition.
As things stand, with the recording of league results uncertain, these may turn out to be the only Shropshire chess tournaments which will count for grading purposes, with league games effectively being only “friendlies”
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 25/09/07
|Crucial Chess Council Meeting
Shropshire chess officials meet tonight (TUESDAY) in a crunch meeting which will determine how badly affected the coming season will be by an organisational crisis in the county game.
At the annual meeting of Shropshire Chess Association earlier in the summer several key posts went unfilled, including the crucial position of league controller, and the captaincies of the under-125 and under-100 teams.
Tonight¹s association council meeting will hear if there has been any progress in finding volunteers to fill the posts.
Fixture lists for both league games and county games have already been drawn up. The league season is fast approaching and presumably matches will be played, whether or not there is anybody administering the league.
But will there be any league tables?
At county level, the absence of team captains will have a clear consequence with nobody running the teams, the teams will effectively fold, denying county competition to Shropshire players with a grading of under 125.
The meeing is at Telepost Chess Club, Railway Lane, off Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, at 7.30pm.
Meanwhile the Shifnal & Telford club are thinking of expanding the scope of their operations at their new venue, The Nedge, at Stirchley.
Some folk at The Nedge have mentioned to the chess players that although chess isn¹t really their bag, they are interested in other games like war gaming or backgammon.
And that has led to the chess club wondering whether they could not use the large function room at The Nedge as a sort of games centre, with a host of people playing chess, bridge, backgammon, draughts, Go, or whatever.
It has been canvassing the views of members before deciding how to proceed.
Toby Neal Shropshire Star 18/09/07
| Thomas Pym is County Champion
Tom Pym has become one of Shropshire's youngest county chess champions with an impressive victory in the Shropshire individual tournament.
Tom, 17, who plays for the Newport club, scored wins over some of the strongest players in the local game to take the title, culminating in a victory against former champion Nigel Ferrington in the seventh and last round.
The teenager, memorably once dubbed "Terrible Thomas" by David Everington after a heavy defeat, finished on six points out of a possible seven, his one loss being to his 18-year-old rival, Simon Fowler.
Although Simon also finished the tournament on six points, Tom becomes county champion with its £50 first prize under the "sum of progressive scores" tiebreak system, which essentially weighs up who had the toughest task over the seven rounds.
Simon is runner up, and Nigel Ferrington is third. The under-140 grading prize goes to Windsor Peck, while Chris Lewis takes the under-120 grading prize. The under-100 grading prize was shared between Andrew Lewis and Dave Lovegrove.
Best game prize goes to the encounter between Nigel Ferrington and Gavyn Cooper, which ended up a draw after a tremendous tussle. Here it is, with Ferrington with the white pieces. The annotations are from the tournament bulletin.
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Bc4 Bg7 7 h3 O-O 8. O-O Nxe4 9 Nxe4 d5 10 Nb5 dxc4 11 Qxd8 Rxd8 12 Nc7 (Black loses the exchange but this is fully compensated by the bishop pair and black¹s dynamic position) Na6 13 Nxa8 Bf5 14 Re1 Rxa8 15 c3 b5 16 Bg5 e5 17 Nd6 Bd7 18 Be3 f5 19 f3 Bc6 20 a4 bxa4 21 Nxc4 Nc7 22 Na5 Be8 23 Bc5 Nb5 24 Rad1 a3 25 Bxa3 Nxa3 26 bxa3 Rc8 27 c4 Ba4 28 Rb1 e4 29 Re2 Bd4 check 30 Kh2 Bb6 31 Nb3 exf3 32 gxf3 Rxc4 33 Nd2 Rc3 34 Rb4 Bc6 35 Rc4 Rxc4 36 Nxc4 Bxf3 37 Re7 Bf2 38 Ne5 Be4 39 Nd7 Bd4 40 Kg3 h6 41 Ne5 g5 42 Nf7 Bg7 43 Rxa7 (This was Nigel's sealed move but the rook is unsafe on this square) Bd5 44 Nxh6 chk (Necessary as other knight moves allows black to play Be5 followed by Bd4 chk winning the rook) Bxh6 (A difficult position the two bishops may beat the rook with best play, but it¹s very hard and white has good practical chances of a draw) 45 Rd7 f4 chk 46 Kh2 Be4 47 a4 Bf8 48 a5 f3 49 Kg3 Bb4 50 Rd1 Bxa5 51 Rf1 Bd8 (51... Kg7 might win) 52 Rxf3 Kg7 53 Rc3 Kg6 54 Rc4 Bd5 55 Rc5 Be6 56 Rc6 Kf5 57 Rxe6 Kxe6 58 h4 gxh4 chk 59 Kg2 Kf5 60 Kh1 Kg4 61 Kh2 Bc7 chk 62 Kh1 and a draw was agreed.
The depth of the crisis in the organisation of Shropshire chess will become clear at the Shropshire Chess Association council meeting next week.
Several key posts are vacant. They include that of league controller raising the question of how the league will be able to function in the coming season and also the captaincies of the under-100 and under-125 teams. Without captains these teams, which provide such good experience for youngsters and up-and-coming players, will die.
The meeting is at Telepost Chess Club in Railway Lane, off Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury, on September 18 at 7.30pm. - Toby Neal Shropshire Star 11/09/07
|Chess aces set for a revival of summer series
Shifnal & Telford chess club are planning to take advantage of their brand new venue to revive a series of summer quickplay tournaments.
The club now meets at the Nedge Tavern at Stirchley in Telford.
Richard Thompson of the club said:"³We have plenty of space in the room and are intending, albeit a little late, to revive the series of summer quickplays that were held in past years by Shrewsbury and Coddon. We'll be holding the first on Wednesday, July 25, at the club. The format will be six rounds in each evening.
There will be varying time limits, most probably 12 minutes for those graded under 100, 10 mins for 101 to 125, eight minutes for 126 to 150 and six mins thereafter. Entry fee is £2, which will all go in prizes. Everyone is welcome."
Meanwhile David Bates has withdrawn from the Shropshire individual competition due to work pressures, and this could have a bearing on the outcome of the tournament, as Tom Pym and Simon Fowler each get a default win against him.
Organiser Nick Rutter says: "This means that Simon finishes on five out of six, but the result of the championship now depends as follows:
If Nigel Ferrington beats Tom, then Nigel is champ. If Nigel and Tom draw, then Simon is champ.
If Tom beats Nigel he then needs to beat Trevor Brotherton to be champ otherwise Simon is."Toby Neal Shropshire Star 17/07/07
|A.G.M. - Shropshire Chess in Crisis
Shropshire chess faces the prospect of a number of regular events on the chess calendar being scrapped because of a lack of people to organise them.
Six posts went unfilled at Shropshire Chess Association¹s annual meeting, the most important of which being that of league controller, which will throw the administration of the league in the new season into doubt.
John Casewell stood down from the role after four years, but said he was prepared to give help, support and guidance to a newcomer to the post.
However, when it was opened to nominations at the meeting, there was silence.
The same was true of the Oswestry rapidplay and the Darwin chess festival as well as the post of captain of the side for players graded under 125; under-100 captain; and Midland Counties Chess Union delegate.
However, the meeting was not particularly well attended and it is possible that volunteers will yet come forward to save the day.
This year¹s inaugural winter knockout competition will be the first and last. It was organised so that players could get in more chess, but in the event enthusiasm was distinctly lacking.
Organiser Derrick Powell said: There were 15 defaults out of 24 possible entrants. Several clubs were not at all interested and the remainder struggled to find teams.
The winning team, Telepost B, reached the final by playing only one game.
Derrick recommended the competition should be scrapped, and this was agreed.
On a brighter note, the Wrekin Chess Congress seems secure.
The meeting also heard that a national report on the integrity of the grading system the system by which players¹ strengths are assessed based on their results had found that grades were deflating. For instance, somebody who, 20 years ago, was graded around 70, is today graded around 50.
And MCCU officials want the body to become a company limited by guarantee, the main benefit of which would be that if anybody took legal action against it, it would be the company rather than officials and delegates who would be liable.
This prompted a discussion at the meeting about what circumstances might lead to legal action against a chess official and whether it was likely to happen. - Toby Neal Shropshire Star 26/06/07