Lockdown enables brothers to join forces at chess for the first time

It forced families across the country apart for several months in the name of public safety – but the lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 has actually helped two brothers to form an unlikely alliance over the chess board.

Peter and John Westhead recently played in a competitive chess match for the same team for the first time ever. They played for Telepost C in a Shropshire Online Chess League division two fixture against Shrewsbury B earlier this month – a competition that only came into existence due to the suspension of over-the-board chess due to Covid restrictions.

It is an alliance that would be very unlikely to have been made under normal circumstances – older brother Peter, 69, lives in Beverley on Humberside and has been based in Yorkshire for many years. Younger brother, John, who plays for the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club and will celebrate his 65th birthday on Thursday, initially enlisted his brother’s help to play for Telepost in the Five Counties League and then persuaded him to help the club out in Shropshire online matches.

There was to be no fairytale ending for the Westheads – Shrewsbury B won the match on April 7 2-1, with Peter losing to Mark Smith on top board and John drawing with Stephen Priestley on board two. While John is a well-known face in Shropshire chess circles as he has played regularly for Telepost for many years, Peter’s chess career has been somewhat more sporadic. John said: “He (Peter) used to play for a Keighley team many years ago, but has not played for a team since then.  He did come down to Shropshire to play the Wrekin Congress with me a few years ago, but plays much of his chess on the internet now – though he does play the odd congress. He’s not really that keen on team chess, so only really joined Telepost as an online member to help me out as I was struggling to get a team together.”

Meanwhile, just days remain for Shrewsbury and Telepost players to sign up to play in this year’s Shrewsbury Town Championship. Entrants – who must be members of one of the two county town clubs – have until the end of the month to declare an interest in playing in the competition. Organiser Paul Billington has confirmed this year’s competition will revert to being played over-the-board this year, although people wishing to participate online only are encouraged to contact Mr Billington.  The tournament will be a five-round Swiss played over the summer months, and the winner will be declared Shrewsbury town champion. There will also be prizes for the best placed player rated under 1700 and under 1400. For more details email p.billington1@talktalk.net or call Mr Billington on 07849 203603.

In league action, Shrewsbury look almost certain to finish bottom of Shropshire Ches League division one after a narrow 3-2 loss at Newport A. Owing to their inferior points difference, Shrewsbury could be consigned to the wooden spoon before they play their final match. They currently lie two points adrift of Telepost A and Oswestry. Their latest defeat came despite a shock victory for Shrewsbury’s Peter Kitchen over one of the county’s elite in Nick Rutter on top board. Kitchen made up a grading deficit of more than 300 points to defeat Rutter after 77 moves – and with just 27 seconds of thinking time remaining on his clock – in a complex ending with a and h-pawns where his bishop proved more powerful than Rutter’s knight. The match was played under a “hybrid” format, with four matches played over the board and board two played online owing to player illness.

In division three, Maddocks C have cut Telford B’s lead at the top of the table to two points thanks to a narrow 2.5-1.5 win over Newport C. George Viszokai and Ian Jamieson picked up the all-important victories.

In Shropshire Online Chess League, Shrewsbury B are now six points clear at the top after a 2-1 win over Telepost D, extending their unbeaten run to 10 matches in the process. But Newport Juniors and Telford do have games in hand.


Division one:
Newport A 3-2 Shrewsbury – N Rutter 0-1 P Kitchen, C Lewis 0.5-0.5 D Lockett (played online), F Best 0.5-0.5 S Ross, D Hilditch-Love 1-0 M Smith, T Holmes 1-0 R Vernon

Division three:
Maddocks C 2.5-1.5 Newport C – M Billington 0.5-0.5 A Jones, G Viszokai 1-0 D Lovegrove, I Jamieson 1-0 C Parker, K Verma 0-1 M Price

Online division two:
Newport A 2-1 Oswestry C
Telepost D 1-2 Shrewsbury B
Telepost C 1-2 Shrewsbury C
Telepost B 0-3 Telford A.