Telford quick off the mark to claim rapidplay crown

They’ve endured a difficult couple of years – but members of one of Shropshire’s traditionally strongest clubs at last have something to smile about.

Telford A have won the 2021/22 Shropshire Rapidplay Chess League division two title, coming out on top after a fierce and closely fought battle with Telepost B and Newport B. The competition was played over a single night at Telepost Social Club in Shrewsbury last week, after it proved difficult to arrange league fixtures throughout the regular season as usual due to the impact of Covid-19.

It was a much-needed filip for Telford, who were relegated from the Shropshire Chess League’s top flight in 2018 and haven’t mounted a strong challenge to return since. The club has represented Shropshire with distinction in the Wolverhampton and District Chess League for many years, and has previously been declared champions of Shropshire on five occasions – including three years in a row from 1985 to 1987. But their last league title was back in 2009 under the combined Shifnal & Telford name, and they had flirted with relegation for a number of years before eventually dropping down to division two.

At the rapidplay event, Telford went into their final round match with Telepost with both sides level on five points – and Newport a point adrift. After Telford took a 2-1 lead, Ryan Benten saw them home by holding an equal bishop and pawn-ending to secure a draw. The 2.5-1.5 victory saw Telford finish unbeaten on seven points out of a possible eight.

The competition was only open to players with an ECF grade of 1640 or below and five teams entered. Players had 15 minutes of thinking time for all of their moves. Newport B came second a point adrift of the winners, with Telepost B settling for third on five points ahead of Maddocks C and Telepost C, both on one point.

Chris Lewis, the tournament controller, said: “This was something of an experiment in grade-restricted local competition reflecting the changes forced upon the leagues by Covid. The fielded teams were very evenly matched which resulted in three teams still in the running for the trophy in the final round. Congratulations to all teams and especially Telford, the new division two rapidplay champions.”

Meanwhile, Maddocks A will launch their defence of the Shropshire Chess League division one title with an inter-club derby with newly-promoted Maddocks B. The opening top flight fixtures will be held on the week starting October 10, and will see Telepost A take on promoted clubmates Telepost B and Oswestry A host Newport A.

Division two fixtures will start a week earlier, and opening matches will see a club derby between Telepost C and Telepost D and also pit Telford A and Telford B against each other. Telepost E will host Newport B in the remaining fixture. This year’s league will feature two divisions of seven teams, and will be the first time in many years that the competition will not be played out across three tiers.

Rapidplay controller Chris Lewis presents Telford captain Ryan Benten with the trophy
The winning Telford team, (left to right) Steve Swajkun, Stefan Tennant, Ryan Benten and Dave Hollands