Schools and communities across Shropshire are enjoying a boom in the popularity of chess – to the delight of those running the game in the county. New groups for aspiring junior players have been established at Highley Primary School and Lacon Childe School in Cleobury Mortimer, as well as a junior club at Market Drayton Library. It follows hot on the heels of the establishment of a junior chess club in Ludlow in recent months.
These groups have now been given extra support by Shropshire Chess Association, which has sold each group chess sets at a discounted rate to support each group’s work to get more youngsters playing the Royal Game. The role of each group is especially crucial as none of the towns and villages involved have a senior league club in their immediate vicinity – meaning the clubs are the only local outlets for the juniors. SCA has now sold 10 discounted chess sets to Highley Primary School and 10 to Lacon Childe, while donating a further four to the junior club in Ludlow. Two chess clocks have been donated to the club in Market Drayton.
Chess enjoyed a rise in popularity across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, in part due to the success of the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit but also due to more people playing the game online. While many clubs in London, for example, have enjoyed booming membership since Covid restrictions were lifted, success has been more mixed in Shropshire. The Shrewsbury-based Telepost club has enjoyed a huge rise in membership and attracted a substantial new tranche of junior members, while other clubs are in the process of enticing back old players and trying to maintain their existing membership.
Chris Lewis, SCA county junior organiser, said: “The association is very pleased to support the growth of chess in schools across the county. Most league players started off by playing chess in school and so hopefully these sets will give many more kids the opportunity to begin their chess journey. The association continues to offer discounted equipment and support to all schools and junior clubs across Shropshire with full details available on our website.” Visit www.shropshirechess.org for more details.
Meanwhile, Telepost A have laid down a challenge to Maddocks A as a three-way title race develops to find the rapidplay champions of Shropshire. Telepost won all three of their matches as hosts of the latest evening of Shropshire Rapidplay Chess League division one fixtures to open up a six-point gap over Maddocks. But they must sit out this week’s fixtures at Newport, giving Maddocks the opportunity to close the gap further. Newport A are just one point adrift of Maddocks and will also hope to have their say as they look to keep pace with the leaders.
Matches are played at a much quicker time control of 20 minutes’ thinking time for all moves – not unlike quicker forms of cricket such as T20. Telepost’s success at the latest evening was built on a fine individual performance by Phil Zabrocki, who won all three of his games on board two. He had a little fortune against Newport A’s Ian Jamieson, as he misplayed a promising position and then Jamieson resigned in an apparently winning position. But he then uncorked a fine exchange sacrifice against Peter Kitchen in the final match of the night to help his team edge to a narrow 2.5-1.5 win over town rivals Shrewsbury A. Telepost’s top board Nigel Ferrington also had a fine night with 2.5/3, including a win in the clash of the county titans against Newport’s Nick Rutter.
Chris Lewis also enjoyed a fine night with 3/3 on board three for Newport as they won one and drew one of their three matches. His side were left to rue an early error from Rutter in the clash of the county titans with Ferrington as they lost their big match with Telepost A 2.5-1.5.
Shrewsbury A had a solid night with two draws and a narrow defeat to Telepost to show for their efforts, and they remain firmly in midtable. Nathanael Paul and Kitchen both scored 1.5/3.
Telford A had a tough night against strong opposition, but did pick up a creditable draw against Shrewsbury – a match they were unfortunate not to win – to edge further clear of bottom-of-the-table Maddocks B. Stefan Tennant was their top performer of the night with 2/3 on bottom board.
Rapidplay League division one:
Newport A 2-2 Shrewsbury A – N Rutter 1-0 N Paul, I Jamieson 0-1 P Kitchen, C Lewis 1-0 F Best, D Griffiths 0-1 D Lockett
Telepost A 3.5-0.5 Telford A – N Ferrington 1-0 T Neal, P Zabrocki 1-0 R Szwajkun, M Clark 0.5-0.5 D Hollands, D Hodge 1-0 S Tennant
Newport A 1.5-2.5 Telepost A – N Rutter 0-1 N Ferrington, I Jamieson 0-1 P Zabrocki, C Lewis 1-0 M Clark, D Griffiths 0.5-0.5 D Hodge
Shrewsbury A 2-2 Telford A – N Paul 1-0 T Neal, P Kitchen 0.5-0.5 R Szwajkun, D Lockett 0.5-0.5 D Hollands, R Green 0-1 S Tennant
Telford A 1-3 Newport A – T Neal 0-1 N Rutter, R Szwajkun 0-1 I Jamieson, D Hollands 0-1 C Lewis, S Tennant 1-0 D Griffiths
Telepost A 2.5-1.5 Shrewsbury A – N Ferrington 0.5-0.5 N Paul, P Zabrocki 1-0 P Kitchen, M Clark 0-1 F Best, D Hodge 1-0 R Green).