Bid to create “FA Cup of chess” as sport enjoys an unprecedented boom

Team knockout competitions will be moved into the regular season in a bid to create the “FA Cup” of the Shropshire chess calendar. The opening rounds of both the Cox Trophy and Minor Knockout will be played between Shropshire Chess League fixtures before Christmas, with the semi finals during the spring and the finals at the end of the season.

The proposal was agreed at the recent Shropshire Chess Association annual general meeting, which also heard about the huge growth in junior chess in the county over the past year that has seen more than 30 young players join established clubs and many junior clubs set up in communities around the county. Ambitious proposals were also announced by the county’s head of junior chess Chris Lewis to create a raft of new posts – including a new junior chess committee – to capitalise on the current boom of interest in chess and help encourage people of all ages and abilities to take up the game.

Trophies were also handed out to league and cup winners during the evening at Telepost Social Club in Shrewsbury, which attracted more than 20 people representing all of Shropshire’s senior chess clubs.

In recent years, the team knockout competitions have been held during the summer months. But many teams have suffered through lack of availability, especially with players going on holiday. The latest proposal, put forward by Nick Holmes and Lewis, is aimed at rejuvenating the competitions. Both the Cox Trophy for division one clubs and the Minor Knockout for lower division sides will continue to be played over four boards rather than five for the league. The plan was agreed with an amendment stating that unrated players must have played a league match for their club before playing in either of the knockout competitions.

Unprecedented progress for junior chess over the past year – described by Lewis as “the most incredible year for junior chess” – was also celebrated during the meeting. Dozens of juniors have not only started playing the game but have now joined established clubs and started playing competitive matches. Telepost has led the way and has 13 juniors signed up, and Newport has followed their lead and attracted 16 members of their own while Telford has also signed up a handful of youth players.

The annual UK Chess Challenge Megafinal in Wellington attracted a massive increase in entries when it was held in June, and a handful of Shropshire juniors competed in the northern gigafinal in Manchester. Shropshire Junior Chess Club, which meets in Shrewsbury on Saturdays, is heavily oversubscribed and new junior clubs have been established at community libraries in Ludlow and Market Drayton. A junior county team also recently took on a Potteries team in Market Drayton, going down to a narrow defeat. Special thanks were given to Lewis for his hard work promoting and organising junior chess activities.

The meeting was told by SCA president Matthew Clark that chess in the UK was going through its biggest boom since the 1972 World Championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, and that it was vital to capitalise on it. It was agreed that new posts will be set up to help entice more people to play the game on a regular basis. Lewis will become the county’s head of junior chess and a committee set up to help take on some of his workload. In addition, it is hoped that a head of senior chess, head of amateur chess and a head of women’s chess will be set up, along with an outreach committee to help set up clubs in towns without one. Other ideas include a ChessFest committee, rapidplay tournament organisers and a safeguarding officer.

There were also further discussions on the night about the use of ratings to determine board order in team matches, eventually resolved when it was agreed captains must use the latest monthly ECF rating lists. There was also a lively debate on blue badge holders being able to play in over-the-board competitions online.

2022-23 Trophy Presentations

Matthew Clark (right) presents the Shropshire Chess League division one trophy to Maddocks A captain Tony Preece.
Tony Preece collects the Shropshire Rapidplay League division one trophy for his Maddocks A team.
Tony Preece (Maddocks A) receives the Cox Trophy.
Chris Lewis of Newport A is presented with the Summer Quickplay trophy.
 Telford A captain Richard Szwajkun receives the Shropshire Chess League division two trophy.
Richard Szwajkun collects the Minor Knockout trophy on behalf of Telford A (the final took place a couple of days after the AGM between Telford A and B)
Graham Shepherd collects the Shropshire Rapidplay League division two trophy for Telepost B.
Nathanael Paul is presented with the County Individual trophy for becoming the champion of Shropshire.