It’s forever been a game that has struggled to dispel its traditionally stuffy image. Even today, when people think of chess clubs many will conjure up images of middle-aged men sitting in the corners of social clubs huddled over chess boards in near silence. And while there’s no denying that the game retains many of its traditional virtues, when it comes to those playing the times are a-changing.
More women and juniors are playing the game across Britain and the world – and nowhere else is that more clear than here in Shropshire. Shropshire Juniors Chess Club’s team is in a strong position to gain promotion in its first season in the national junior online league. The team lies eighth out of 32 teams in division five of the 4NCL Junior Online League with one round to go – and the top eight going up.
Some of the club’s conveyor belt of talent is also making the transition to senior chess. Sam Hollands, Charlie Bethune and Rohan Easton have joined the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club, with Hollands and Bethune making appearances for the club’s E team in division two of Shropshire Chess League. Both Bethune and Hollands picked up victories as Telepost E secured a surprise 3-2 derby win over senior clubmates Telepost D last week.
The juniors have joined along with promising teenager Dan Hilditch-Love, who assists at the junior club and has transferred from Newport to play top board for Telepost B in the county’s top flight. Another of Telepost’s members is Kate Walker, who has made a name for herself in recent years on the weekend congress circuit picking up a number of top prizes in the face of very strong competition.
Nick Holmes, a spokesman for the club, said Sam had rejoined the club after gaining experience with Shropshire Juniors, and that the youngsters were being mentored by club member Paul Billington and being given the opportunity to gain experience of over-the-board competitive chess. He added the club was delighted to welcome a “true new generation of players” which he said was a “promising show of health for the club and the game”.
Shropshire Juniors have won their past two 4NCL Junior Online League matches 4.5-3.5, with Hilsmark Juniors 1 their latest victims. Rudi Bedford won both of his matches, while Hollands picked up a win and a draw and Henry Bedford picked up one win. The team’s final fixture will be played on December 1.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in league action it was a great week for the Telford club in Shropshire Chess League division two. Telford A made it four wins out of four, going two points clear at the top of the table thanks to a 4-1 win over Newport B. And Telford B also enjoyed a big win, winning a local derby away at Maddocks C 4.5-0.5.
Shropshire Chess League Division Two:
Telepost E 3-2 Telepost D – P Billington 1-0 J Gough, M Ryan 0-1 A Brims, C Pileggi 0-1 S Sweeney, C Bethune 1-0 J Casewell, S Hollands 1-0 M Ayres
Telford A 4-1 Newport B – M Keady 1-0 D Griffiths, R Parry 1-0 P Love, T Neal 0-1 J Greenwood, J Footner 1-0 A Jones, R Brown 1-0 C Parker
Maddocks C 0.5-4.5 Telford B – M Billington 0.5-0.5 D Hollands, G Viszokai 0-1 S Tennant, M Reynolds 0-1 R Thompson, J Hill 0-1 R Barton, K Verma 0-1 T Skidmore
Shropshire Online League Division Two:
Oswestry C 2-1 Newport A – K Grice 1-0 A Jones, S Tulett 0.5-0.5 M Price, A Evans 0.5-0.5 W Gormley
Shrewsbury C 1-2 Oswestry C – N O’Connor 0.5-0.5 S Tulett, A Purser 0.5-0.5 J Smith, R Vernon 0-1 A Grocott-James