Shropshire’s national league team endured a final weekend of the season to forget as they finished bottom of their division – but were still spared from relegation. An under-strength Shropshire & Friends side lost all three of their Four Nations Chess League division three west fixtures at Warwick, meaning they ended the season 12th and last on points difference having finished level on points with Barnet Knights B and MK Phoenix 2.
But a reorganisation of the league’s structure for next season announced in the weeks before the final round of fixtures mean no sides will be relegated. Instead, Shropshire & Friends will line up in a 40-team division three next season with division four scrapped – and with three of the weekends being held in Telford, there will be renewed hope that a stronger pool of players will be available for selection. The changes are being made due to the rising costs of venue hire and hotel rooms imposed by major hotel chains, which has seen the 4NCL’s organisers take the difficult decision to bring in a limit on the number of teams that can enter.
Shropshire endured a heavy 6-0 defeat to midtable Oxford 2 on the Saturday before losing 4.5-1.5 to another midtable side in Ashfield 1 on the Sunday. They pushed eighth place Brown Jack closer on the Monday, but lost 4-2. No-one in the squad – which included Maddocks players Andrew Grillage and Glyn Pugh and Oswestry trio Charles Lowick Higgie, Richard Bryant and Gary Slegg – managed to score more than 1/3 over the weekend. But Grillage in particular battled manfully against tough opposition on top board to secure two draws and a defeat from his three games.
They weren’t the only players with Shropshire connections in action at Warwick. Shrewsbury’s Peter Kitchen made his first national league appearances for Celtic Tigers in division four, eventually playing out two rather dour draws with the black pieces. On the Saturday he was held to a draw by the lower-rated Nigel Collins as Celtic Tigers 2 defeated Anglian Avengers 2 5.5-0.5. That victory was the first of three for the Tigers’ second string over the weekend that saw them rise from 17th to fifth in the table and secure their place in next season’s division three.
On the Sunday, Kitchen turned out in a triangular match for Celtic Tigers 3 and battled his way to a 31-move draw against David Deacon of Wessex Some Stars B as his side lost 3-2. He was joined by Telepost’s Archie Flavell, who – after enduring a four-hour train strike-induced journey to the venue – played a very mature game on his national league debut to defeat Eric Bradley of War & Piece B and help his side overturn a 2-1 overnight deficit to win 4-2. The 17-year-old Flavell only joined Telepost a month or so ago and won on his recent league debut for his club side – a very positive start to his chess playing career.
Former Shropshire player Carl Portman also played on bottom board for War & Piece A in division four over the weekend, defeating Peter Davies in a 4.5-1.5 win over The Full Ponty on the Saturday and drawing quickly with Charlie Sturt of Celtic Tigers 2 in a 3.5-2.5 loss on the Monday. Two narrow defeats in the final two rounds ensured his side finished ninth out of 34 teams.
Meanwhile, three teams will go into this week’s final round of Shropshire Rapidplay Chess League division one fixtures with a chance of clinching the title after a dramatic night of matches at Maddocks. Telepost A, Maddocks A and Newport A are all separated by just two points with three fixtures to play each at Telford this Wednesday (May 10). Maddocks A went into last week’s match night top of the table – but a 3-1 loss to Newport A brought their opponents back into contention and handed the initiative to Telepost A. Telepost drew their fixtures with Maddocks A and Newport A to take a slender one-point lead over Maddocks into the deciding night, with Newport one point further adrift.
In the main over-the-board league, Telepost C have secured runners up spot in division two without even playing. Newport B’s 3-2 loss at home to Maddocks C means they will finish third.
Shropshire Chess League division two:
Newport B 2-3 Maddocks C – D Griffiths 0.5-0.5 G Viszokai, K Thimmegowda 0.5-0.5 I Jamieson, C Poole 0-1 M Reynolds, M Price 1-0 default, B Zelauski 0-1 A Brannen
Rapidplay league division one:
Maddocks A 1-3 Newport A – A Grillage 0-1 N Rutter, W Bates 0-1 I Jamieson, T Preece 0-1 C Lewis, G Pugh 1-0 J Greenwood
Maddocks B 1.5-2.5 Telepost A – G White 0-1 N Ferrington, S Tarr 0.5-0.5 D Hilditch-Love, M Morrison 0-1 J Bashall, S Maydew 1-0 N Holmes
Telepost A 2-2 Newport A – N Ferrington 0.5-0.5 N Rutter, D Hilditch-Love 0.5-0.5 I Jamieson, J Bashall 0-1 C Lewis, N Holmes 1-0 J Greenwood
Maddocks B 1-3 Maddocks A – S Tarr 0-1 A Grillage, G White 0-1 W Bates, M Morrison 1-0 T Preece, S Maydew 0-1 G Pugh
Newport A 3.5-0.5 Maddocks B – N Rutter 1-0 S Tarr, I Jamieson 1-0 G White, C Kewis 1-0 M Morrison, J Greenwood 0.5-0.5 S Maydew
Maddocks A 2-2 Telepost A – A Grillage 0-1 N Ferrington, W Bates 0.5-0.5 D Hilditch-Love, T Preece 0.5-0.5 J Bashall, G Pugh 1-0 N Holmes