Telepost climb back to the summit – as rivals suffer a fall

Telepost A are the new champions of Shropshire Chess League, clinching a first league title for three years and only a second in the last decade in some style. The Abbey Foregate side finished a staggering seven points clear of nearest challengers Newport A and deposed champions Maddocks A – fittingly finishing the season with crushing 4-1 wins away to Newport and at home to county town rivals Shrewsbury A. 

The win in the derby with Shrewsbury was particularly symbolic – while Telepost finished below their rivals last season, this time around Shrewsbury’s relegation had been confirmed before the two teams met after a miserable season. It means that – barring a reshuffle of divisions at the county AGM – Shrewsbury will not have a team in the county’s top flight for the first time in living memory.

The two teams’ contrasting fortunes can be at least partially attributed to the county’s top player Nathanael Paul switching from Shrewsbury back to Telepost last summer – in truth Shrewsbury never replaced him and saw a lot of their regulars suffer a drastic loss of form. The county town derby also marked the end of an era for Shrewsbury as it was club stalwart Francis Best’s final game for the side after some 25 years of service. Best, who has played a pivotal role for both his club and the county association over many years, including making a key contribution to the flourishing junior scene in the area, will shortly move away from the area.

It was a season to remember for Telford A, who marked their long-awaited return to division one with an impressive fourth place finish.

Meanwhile, Maddocks B convincingly won the division two title by eight points, with Telepost B finishing second and likely to replace relegated clubmates Telepost C in division one. Telepost E and Oswestry B were the bottom two sides and face a nervous wait to see if they will drop into division three for the 2024/25 campaign.

There has also been a landmark achievement in division three, where Newport Junior have secured one of the two promotion places. The team – one of three junior teams in the division – finished runners up to champions Maddocks C by just a single point. An honourable mention must also be made to Church Stretton A, who finished third in their first season back after an absence of a number of years.

In the rapidplay league, Telepost A have wrapped up a double by clinching the division one title before the final round of fixtures take place. They lie a massive 17 points clear of the pack, adding the rapidplay title to their league crown.   With one round of fixtures left, Maddocks B are the surprise package at the head of the chasing pack in second place, with three points covering five teams down to sixth placed Maddocks A.

Newport B won a closely-fought three-way fight for the rapidplay division two title, finishing a point clear of Telford B and two points ahead of Telepost C.

Elsewhere, Shrewsbury A made up for their relegation disappointment by completing a unique online double. First, they clinched the Shropshire Online Chess League division one title for the first time by the tightest of margins – a 2-2 draw with Oswestry A saw them finish level on points with their opponents and last year’s champions Oswestry B, with Shrewsbury winning the title on points difference. They then won the online knockout trophy – again on a tiebreak! Shrewsbury and Oswestry B drew the final 2-2 and all four boards were drawn, ruling out conventional tie breaks. But Shrewsbury were awarded the cup by virtue of having black on odd boards.

Oswestry C ensured some silverware would head to the north west of the county by comfortably winning the online division two title. They lie six points clear of Shrewsbury C, who themselves are ahead of supposedly senior clubmates Shrewsbury B with the two still due to play each other.

There has been further disappointment for Shropshire’s national chess league team, with Shropshire & Friends facing almost certain relegation to the bottom division after another difficult season. Charles Lowick Higgie’s side finished bottom of Four Nations Chess League Division 3 Bishops, and having averted relegation to division four last season due to other teams dropping out of the league they now must hope for similar fortunes next season. Higgie was joined at the final weekend of the season in Daventry by Oswestry clubmates Richard Bryant and Adrian Bailey and Maddocks duo Andrew Grillage and Glyn Pugh.

A number of local players also represented other teams in Division Three Knights and Division Four, which played at the Mercure Hotel in Telford. Peter Kitchen (Shrewsbury) and Archie Flavell (Telepost) played for Celtic Tigers’ second and third teams, Oswestry’s Rudy van Kemenade turned out for Welsh team Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg in Division Three Knights, while Maddocks pair Steve Tarr and Munroe Morrision played for War and Piece in division four.