Elite on the way as “Premier League” of chess to land in Shropshire

Some of the world’s top chess players are set to appear in Shropshire this weekend as the top two divisions of the Four Nations Chess League roll into town. The likes of Armenian super GM Gabriel Sargissian, former world number two Alexei Shirov and England’s youngest ever international master Shreyas Royal are among those who could be turning out for teams at Telford’s Mercure Hotel on Saturday and Sunday. They will also be joined by Shropshire & Friends, who will be competing at the same venue in their pool of division three.

The 4NCL is effectively the UK’s national league, and has been held in Telford on an on-off basis over a period of several years. But its continued presence in Shropshire is a definite boost for the county – not only are elite players on show, but in the past the 4NCL’s presence has also given more local players an opportunity to compete on the national stage, with Shropshire at one point entering three teams.

It comes as the game is enjoying a real boom across the county – particularly on the thriving junior scene. Two more zonal tournaments have been held in the inaugural Shropshire Primary Schools Chess Championships. The West Shropshire zonal was held at St Lawrence Primary School in Church Stretton, attracting a team from the hosts and three from St Laurence Primary in Ludlow. It was St Laurence A who emerged victorious, winning all six of their matches.

Meanwhile, the North Shropshire Zonal held at Prees Primary School was won by Myddle Primary School, whose team won four and lost one of their five matches. They narrowly edged out Broseley B, while other teams entered included Broseley A, St Mary’s (Shawbury), Prees and Broseley C. The winners of the four zonal events will compete in the county final to play for the Alan Shaw Trophy, named after one of the leading forces in junior chess going back some 30 years.

 Francesca Evans Jones, aged 10, playing for Myddle Primary in the north Shropshire Zonal of Shropshire Primary Schools Chess Championships. Francesca won all of her games.

In addition, Shropshire’s junior team performed well above expectations in the English Chess Federation Online County Championships. Despite being up against far bigger and more established counties with a far greater pool of talent, the Shropshire team defeated Hampshire 4-0 en route to finishing a very creditable fifth.

Elsewhere, Shropshire & Friends 1 made a successful start to the ninth season of the 4NCL Online competition as they look to make up for last season’s grand final heartache. Charles Higgie’s side defeated Jurassic Coast 3-1 in their opening division one fixture thanks to wins for American imports Dan Avery and Frederick Rhine. They were this week taking on Dundee City B in the second round. The Shropshire side reached the national final last year, only to narrowly lose to Wessex Some Stars A. In division two, Shropshire & Friends 2 defeated Hebden Bridge B 2.5-1.5 but Shropshire & Friends 3 lost 2-1.5 to Stroud All Play after defaulting a board. 

Local league fixtures have also resumed following the Christmas break, and Telepost A have a three-point lead over Newport A at the top of Shropshire Chess League division one. Newport’s Ian Jamieson put in a contender for game of the season with a spectacular queen sacrifice that led to checkmate over Dan Lockett in a 4-1 win over struggling Shrewsbury A, while Telford A have climbed out of the relegation zone thanks to a fine 3.5-1.5 win away to an Oswestry A side who have started the new calendar year with three straight defeats.

Maddocks B and Telepost B are setting the pace in division two as both seek an immediate return to the top flight.  Incredibly, seven of the nine teams in division three can lay claim to being in the race for promotion – Maddocks C have a three-point lead at the top with Shrewsbury B holding second despite a post-Christmas wobble that saw them lose their first two matches of 2024.

Latest results:

Shropshire Chess League division one:

Newport A 3-2 Oswestry A – N Rutter 1-0 R van Kemenade, C Lewis 1-0 C Lowick Higgie, I Jamieson 1-0 R Bryant, J Greenwood 0-1 A Bailey, D Griffiths 0-1 J van Kemenade

Telford A 1.5-3.5 Maddocks A – D Hollands 0.5-0.5 N Walker, R Parry 0.5-0.5 G Pugh, T Neal 0.5-0.5 P Bull, R Szwajkun 0-1 T Preece, S Szwajkun 0-1 S Maydew

Oswestry A 2-3 Telepost A – R van Kemenade 0-1 N Ferrington, C Lowick Higgie 0.5-0.5 D Hilditch-Love, R Bryant 1-0 D Hodge, A Bailey 0.5-0.5 M Clark, J van Kemenade 0-1 F Bench

Telepost C 1-4 Telepost A – D Hilditch-Love 0.5-0.5 N Paul, K Walker 0-1 N Ferrington, J Holyhead 0-1 D Hodge, N Holmes 0.5-0.5 M Clark, D Bonner 0-1 F Bench

Newport A 4-1 Shrewsbury A – N Rutter 1-0 O Ilesanmi, C Lewis 1-0 P Kitchen, I Jamieson 1-0 D Lockett, P Love 1-0 M Smith, C Parker 0-1 S Priestley

Oswestry A 1.5-3.5 Telford A – R van Kemenade 1-0 D Hollands, C Lowick Higgie 0-1 R Parry, R Bryant 0-1 T Neal, P Fisher 0-1 R Szwajkun, J van Kemenade 0.5-0.5 R Brown

Division two:

Telepost B 2-3 Maddocks B – M Clark 0.5-0.5 S Tarr, S Kempsell 0.5-0.5 G White, J Westhead 0-1 S Maydew, A Flavell 1-0 M Morrison, S Wilson 0-1 I Jamieson

Telford B 2-3 Telepost E – J Footner 0-1 S Hollands, R Brown 0.5-0.5 G Shepherd, S Tennant 1-0 C Pileggi, R Thompson 0.5-0.5 A Brims, T Skidmore 0-1 J Bashall

Oswestry B 0.5-4.5 Newport B – P Fisher 0-1 D Griffiths, J Smith 0.5-0.5 P Love, G Slegg 0-1 C Parker, P Sadler 0-1 M Layton, A Grocott-James 0-1 A Jones

Telepost E 2.5-2.5 Telepost B – S Hollands 0-1 T Brotherton, G Shepherd 0-1 S Kempsell, C Pileggi 0.5-0.5 J Westhead, V Crean 1-0 A Flavell, A Brims 1-0 S Wilson

Newport B 2-3 Maddocks B – P Love 0.5-0.5 S Tarr, M Layton 0-1 G White, D Griffiths 0.5-0.5 S Maydew, J Handscomb 0.5-0.5 M Morrison, C Parker 0.5-0.5 M Billington

Oswestry B 2-3 Telford B – J van Kemenade 0.5-0.5 R Brown, M Smith 0-1 S Tennant, J Smith 0-1 R Barton, G Slegg 0.5-0.5 T Skidmore, A Grocott-James 1-0 S Szwajkun

Division three:

Telepost D 2.5-1.5 Shrewsbury B (C Bethune 0.5-0.5 I Davies, S Sweeney 0.5-0.5 I Salter, J Casewell 1-0 T Purser, M Ayres 0.5-0.5 R Vernon

Shrewsbury B 1-3 Newport C – O Ilesanmi 0-1 M Layton, I Salter 1-0 default, R Vernon 0-1 A Jones, M Green 0-1 M Price

Church Stretton A 1-3 Shrewsbury B – J Lear 1-0 T Akinruli, D Mitchinson 0-1 D Edwards, T Williamson 0-1 I Salter; T Wilson 0-1 R Vernon

Rapidplay division one:

Telford A 0.5-3. Telepost A – T Neal 0-1 N Ferrington, R Szwajkun 0.5-0.5 N Paul, R Parry 0-1 P Zabrocki, S Tennant 0-1 D Hodge

Telepost B 2-2 Maddocks B – D Hilditch-Love 1-0 S Tarr, S Greenwood 0-1 M Morrison, K Walker 1-0 S Maydew, D Bonner 0-1 M Billington

Maddocks B 1.5-2.5 Telford A – S Tarr 0-1 T Neal, M Morrison 0.5-0.5 R Szwajkun, S Maydew 0-1 R Parry, M Billington 1-0 S Tennant

Telepost B 2.5-1.5 Telepost A – D Hilditch-Love 1-0 N Ferrington, S Greenwood 0.5-0.5 N Paul, K Walker 0-1 P Zabrocki, D Bonner 1-0 D Hodge

Telepost A 2-2 Maddocks B – N Ferrington 0-1 S Tarr, N Paul 1-0 M Morrison, P Zabrocki 1-0 S Maydew, D Hodge 0-1 M Billington

Telford A 2-2 Telepost B – T Neal 0-1 D Hilditch-Love, R Szwajkun 0-1 S Greenwood, R Parry 1-0 K Walker, S Tennant 1-0 D Bonner

Online division one:

Telford A 1-3 Oswestry A – M Keady 0-1 C Lowick Higgie R Brown 0-1 R van Kemenade, S Tennant 1-0 P Fisher, R Thompson 0-1 S Tulett

Oswestry B 2-2 Shrewsbury A – F Rhine 0.5-0.5 F Best, D Arond 0.5-0.5 O Ilesanmi, A Bailey 0-1 S Priestley, M Altinsoy 1-0 D Lockett

Online division two:

Oswestry C 1.5-1.5 Shrewsbury C – K Grice 0.5-0.5 R Green, A Grocott-James 0-1 T Purser, A Evans 1-0 R Vernon