Default spells doom for national online chess glory hopes

Shropshire’s online chess agonisingly missed out on claiming the title of the top team in Britain – losing the 4NCL Online division one final by the narrowest of margins. A costly top board default by grandmaster Keith Arkell saw Shropshire & Friends 1 slip to a 2-1.5 defeat to Wessex Some Stars A. 

The default was caused by Arkell’s game in a top European grandmaster tournament in Sitges in Spain over-running – he was still hard at battle when his online game was due to start. Shropshire actually won two of the three remaining games to tie the scores at 2-2 thanks to victories for captain Charles Lowick Higgie and Mehmet Altinsoy – but a default carries a half-point penalty, which condemned the county side to defeat. The next season is due to start in January, and it is hoped Shropshire & Friends and Telepost Dark Knights will enter teams once more. In addition, Shropshire Juniors secured a respectable midtable finish in division 3 group B of the 4NCL Junior Online League.

Meanwhile, entries for Shropshire’s annual chess congress have almost hit the 100 mark, with two weeks to go until the tournament. Players from as far afield as London, Cardiff, Exeter and Halifax are among those who have signed up for Shropshire Chess Congress 2024, along with a healthy contingent of local players. Organisers will now be hoping for one final surge of entries ahead of the tournament, which will run from January 12 to 24 at Wrekin Housing Trust’s headquarters close to Telford town centre. A limit of 150 entries has been set across the competition’s four sections.

So far, 98 entries have been confirmed. Thirty-two players have entered the second tier major section for players with an ECF rating under 1900 and the same number have entered the bottom minor section for players rated below 1500. The intermediate section (under 1700 ECF) has 27 entries and the top tier open section has 17. For more details, visit

The county’s junior scene has received a further boost with the launch of the first ever Shropshire Primary School Championships. The first two “zonal” events were held at HLC Primary in Telford and Highley Primary School in the weeks before Christmas. Eight teams entered across the two events, and the winners HLC Tigers and Clee Hill will compete in the grand final in the spring for the chance to win the Alan Shaw Trophy. Alan Shaw was well known throughout Shropshire Primary Chess running a very successful academy in Dothill for many years and coaching numerous players who still compete in the leagues today

The top 3 teams at each zonal received a medal funded by Shropshire Chess Association. Every participant also received a certificate. Organiser Chris Lewis said entries were still being sought for a planned north Shropshire zonal event in Prees on January 25 and a similar event in Shrewsbury, with a date and venue yet to be confirmed.