A fascinating four-team fight has broken out to avoid relegation from the top flight of Shropshire Chess League, writes Peter Kitchen.
While Oakengates-based Maddocks A are seven points clear at the top of the five-team division with five wins out of five, the remaining four teams are all tied on three points. They include reigning over-the-board champions Newport A, perennial title challengers Telepost A, Oswestry and Shrewsbury. With one team potentially getting relegated at the end of the season, all four teams are battling for every point to avoid the drop.
The latest twist in the fight for survival saw Shrewsbury and Oswestry draw 2.5-2.5 on Friday March 11 in what was Shrewsbury’s first league match at their new town centre home – the Nerdy Café in Mardol.
The visitors led twice thanks to wins for new signing Rudy van Kemenade on top board and James Joynson on bottom board. But Mark Smith made light of arriving half an hour late to defeat Charles Lowick Higgie on the black side of an Exchange Grunfeld on board three, and after Dan Lockett and Gary Slegg drew on board four Peter Kitchen held his nerve to defeat Richard Bryant on board two after an 80-move game lasting more than three hours to square the scores.
Shrewsbury remain bottom on game points scored, but there are plenty of twists to come. Oswestry will host Telepost A on Thursday March 17 before two big matches at the end of the month – a county town derby between Telepost A and Shrewsbury and Oswestry hosting Newport A.
The fight to earn promotion from division two is just as fierce. Maddocks B lead the way but only two points separate the leaders from fourth placed Telepost D. The top of the table clash between Maddocks B and Telepost B on Thursday March 10 ended in a draw. Tony Preece and Gary White won for the hosts on boards two and three, while Telepost’s winners were David Hodge on top board and Graham Shepherd on board five. Steve Tarr and Fred Bench drew their game on board four.
Fellow promotion challengers Telford A – who earlier this month defeated Telepost B – were this week aiming to go top on the road at Telepost C.
Shrewsbury 2.5-2.5 Oswestry (F Best 0-1 R van Kemenade, P Kitchen 1-0 R Bryant, M Smith 1-0 C Lowick Higgie, D Lockett 0.5-0.5 G Slegg, R Vernon 0-1 J Joynson).
Maddocks B 2.5-2.5 Telepost B (S Maydew 0-1 D Hodge, T Preece 1-0 S Kempsell, G White 1-0 J Westhead, S Tarr 0.5-0.5 F Bench, M Morrison 0-1 G Shepherd)