Nathanael Paul is the new king of Shropshire chess – and has made history in the process.
Paul, who plays for the Newport club, won the county’s individual championship in a competition interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. Not only is it the first time he has won, after a consistent rise to the top ranks of the county chess scene, it is the first time in Shropshire chess history that the individual title has been won on the back of games played on the internet.
When the crisis blew up in March players still had three rounds to play in the seven-round competition. In the summer it was decided to complete the tournament by playing games online. Internet chess is not everybody’s cup of tea and a number of competitors dropped out. Going into the final round Shropshire’s highest graded player, and reigning champion, Nick Rutter was in the lead on five points and victory over Steve Tarr would have won him the title, but he fell foul of Tarr’s pet Sicilian Dragon opening. Paul, on 4.5 points, beat Matthew Clark to leapfrog Rutter and be crowned the new champion.
With face-to-face chess still clearly some way off, the groundwork is being done to set up an online chess league in the county. It will be discussed at a special meeting for players and club secretaries on Zoom on September 23.