Nathanael’s the new number one

Nathanael Paul has reached the summit of Shropshire chess after becoming the county’s highest-rated player for the first time.

Paul’s English Chess Federation rating rose 21 points on the April list to 2138 after an impressive March that saw him win four and draw one of his five competitive games. It has helped Paul, who is currently top board for Shrewsbury, overhaul the long-time top two of the county Nick Rutter (Newport) and Nigel Ferrington (Telepost). Ferrington was among Paul’s scalps in the past month as Shrewsbury clinched a surprise 3-2 league derby win against Telepost – with Paul’s win the deciding board.

It marks a remarkable turnaround for Paul, who joined Shrewsbury last year from Telepost after taking a break from the game. His first competitive game back last summer was a surprise loss to Telepost’s James Holyhead in Shrewsbury Town Championship – but he has since gone on to play a key role in helping Shrewsbury become a competitive force in the top half of division one of Shropshire Chess League again. He has scored 6/8 on top board with just one defeat in the league, helping to transform Shrewsbury from perennial strugglers in recent years to a side currently holding a top three berth.

Nathanael Paul with the Shrewsbury Town Championship trophy which he won in 2021

Rutter remains number two on the county list with a rating of 2129, while Ferrington has dropped from number one to number three, now rated 2122. Athar Ansari (Maddocks – 2078) and Trevor Brotherton (Telepost – 2058) are next on the list.

Meanwhile, Maddocks A have taken a huge step towards reclaiming their Shropshire Chess League crown after a crushing win over Newport A in their top-of-the-table division one clash. The Oakengates side returned down the A518 with the points after an impressive 4.5-0.5 victory. It has given them a three-point cushion over Newport with a game in hand. It means a win over third-placed Shrewsbury A, who they will entertain in the next match on April 27, will confirm a second successive title.

Maddocks got off to a flyer when Newport’s Phil Love blundered a piece early on against Glyn Pugh on board four, with the Maddocks captain quickly wrapping up the win to give his side a 1-0 lead. Thalia Holmes and Phil Bull drew their encounter on board three, but any hope of a Newport fightback was soon snuffed out. Ian Jamieson uncharacteristically lost the exchange through a tactical error and resigned instantly against Andy Grillage on board two, and Tony Preece wrapped up the match on board five when his attack broke through against Danny Griffiths. On top board, Newport’s Chris Lewis had earlier turned down a draw offer from Nick Walker owing to the match situation. But in pushing for the win, Lewis took a few risks and a miscalculation threw him on the back foot. Walker converted his advantage smoothly to add extra gloss to the scoreline.

Shrewsbury A did their best to maintain pressure on the top two with a 4.5-0.5 win of their own at bottom-of-the-table Telepost B. Shrewsbury welcomed back Peter Kitchen for only his second league appearance of the season and his first since the reverse fixture in November – but Rob Nield held him to a draw to avert the whitewash for the hosts. Paul got revenge for his defeat to Daniel Hilditch-Love back in November with a swift triumph on top board, and there were also wins for Francis Best, Mark Smith and Dan Lockett.

Telepost A remain rank outsiders in terms of the title in fourth place, but kept their hopes mathematically alive by beating relegation-threatened Maddocks A 3.5-1.5 away. Phil Zabrocki and John Bashall picked up the key wins, and the three remaining games were all drawn. Maddocks top board Steve Tarr will have been pleased to follow up his win over Ferrington in the reverse fixture with a draw this time around.

Attention will now return to the rapidplay league, with two evenings of division one fixtures to be played over the next two weeks. This week’s fixtures were taking place on Monday (April 3) at Telepost, while Newport will host the next round on Tuesday (April 11).

In the online league, Oswestry B have opened up a surprise three-point gap over their club’s A team to steal a march in the division one title race. The Bs beat an under-strength Telepost A 3-1, and despite playing a game more than the As they could wrap up the tile with a win in their final match against Shrewsbury B on April 13.

In division two, Newport A have pipped Shrewsbury C to runners-up spot after a surprise 3-0 win over champions Telford A. Shrewsbury had been in pole position to claim second place, but saw their four-match unbeaten run ended by Oswestry C. The county town side could yet finish bottom of the closely-fought four-team division if Oswestry get a point from their final match against Telford.

Latest results:

Shropshire Chess League division one:

Telepost B 0.5-4.5 Shrewsbury A – D Hilditch-Love 0-1 N Paul, R Nield 0.5-0.5 P Kitchen, K Walker 0-1 F Best, S Kempsell 0-1 M Smith, J Westhead 0-1 D Lockett

Newport A 0.5-4.5 Maddocks A – C Lewis 0-1 N Walker, I Jamieson 0-1 A Grillage, T Holmes 0.5-0.5 P Bull, P Love 0-1 G Pugh, D Griffiths 0-1 T Preece

Maddocks B 1.5-3.5 Telepost A – S Tarr 0.5-0.5 N Ferrington, G White 0-1 P Zabrocki, S Maydew 0.5-0.5 M Clark, M Morrison 0.5-0.5 D Hodge, M Billington 0-1 J Bashall

Online league division one:

Telepost A 1-3 Oswestry B – M Clark 1-0 R van Kemenade, A Brims 0-1 P Lovatt, J Casewell 0-1 P Fisher, default 0-1 J Smith

Online league division two:

Newport A 3-0 Telford A – A Jones 1-0 M Keady, D Lovegrove 1-0 S Tennant, M Price 1-0 T Skidmore

Oswestry C 2-1 Shrewsbury C – S Tulett 1-0 N O’Connor, J Smith 0-1 T Purser, A Evans 1-0 R Vernon