Shropshire’s 4NCL struggles continue after fourth straight defeat

Shropshire & Friends are once again facing a fight against relegation after losing their first four Four Nations Chess League division three matches of the season. The county side were outgunned 4.5-1.5 by the Rookies in round three, and disappointingly lost 4-2 to Brown Jack in round four in a match they would have hoped to get something out of. It has left Charles Lowick Higgie’s team 11th out of 12 teams in the Division Three Bishops pool, with the bottom two of each of the division’s two groups almost certain to be relegated come the end of the season in May. 

Despite the first four rounds being held at Telford’s Mercure hotel, there have been no home comforts for Shropshire. They will play their next fixtures over the weekend of February 10 and 11 at Telford, before travelling to Warwick for the final two weekends of the season. Shropshire were fortunate to receive a reprieve last season when they finished bottom of their pool, but avoided relegation due to other teams withdrawing.

On the Saturday, Glyn Pugh (Maddocks), Richard Bryant and Adrain Bailey (both Oswestry) picked up draws, but Andrew Grillage (Maddocks) and Higgie (Oswestry) lost on the top two boards, while Gary Slegg (also Oswestry) was defeated on bottom board. The following day, Higgie won on board four and both Grillage and Pugh picked up draws. But defeats for Chris Lewis (Newport), Bailey and Bryant condemned them to another defeat.

A smattering of other county players also turned out for teams in division four over the weekend. Munroe Morrison (Maddocks) suffered an uncharacteristic loss with the black pieces to Duncan MacDonald as his War & Piece A team lost 4.5-1.5 to ToBeDecided. But he bounced back in style the following day with a fine attacking win over Harriet Haslehurst as Crowthorne B were dispatched 4.5-1.5.

Shrewsbury’s Peter Kitchen and Telepost’s Archie Flavell also turned out for Celtic Tigers 3. Flavell enjoyed a superb weekend on board three, winning with black against Sophie Mehta in a 3.5-2.5 win over She Plays To Win Young Stars A on the Saturday, and drawing with Ethan Parker – who hails from Wem but currently studies in Manchester – the following day in a 3.5-1.5 win over Apprentice Woodpushers. Team captain Kitchen, who has played little this season owing to work commitments, found the going tougher against strong junior players on board one. He lost with white to 16-year-old Tarini Jayawarna on the Saturday, but bounced back by comfortably holding the highly-rated 11-year-old Mahin Rughani to a draw with black the following day.

Both Morrison’s War & Piece A and Kitchen and Flavell’s Celtic Tigers 3 have made excellent starts to the season, lying sixth and seventh in the table respectively with three wins and one defeats from their first four matches. In the case of the Tigers, it is the best start their third team has ever made to a 4NCL campaign.