The future’s bright as Hollands wins title on congress debut

Sam Hollands completes his final round victory against Amitesh Purushothaman of Coventry Chess Academy to secure a share of first place.

Teenager Sam Hollands was the county’s shining light as he won one of the top prizes at Shropshire Chess Congress. The 14-year-old, who plays for the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club, shared first place in the Minor section of the competition – an especially impressive performance considering it was his first ever weekend tournament.

Hollands won his first three games of the section – for players graded under 1500 ECF – before drawing with top seed Nigel Gardner (Crewe) in round four. But he won his final round game to ensure a share of the top prize.

Hollands originally joined Telepost before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and has been honing his skills at Shropshire Junior Chess Club since September 2021. He rejoined Telepost for the start of the current season – and while riding the crest of a wave from his congress success also won his league match for his club a few days later.

Several other county players enjoyed a competitive weekend of action at the tournament, which was held over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Wrekin Housing Trust’s headquarters in Telford. In the top Open section, Shrewsbury’s Nathanael Paul was the top performer. He finished on 3/5 for a share of sixth place, losing only to the tournament’s eventual winner – FIDE master Jonathan Blackburn of the Cheshire-based Alsager club.

A number of players were in the running for honours in the Major section for players graded up to 1950 ECF – but Richard Bryant (Oswestry) defeated Francis Best (Shrewsbury) in the final round to claim a share of fourth place. Telford’s Stefan Tennant and Newport’s Shane Greenwood both picked up grading prizes in the Intermediate section for players rated under 1750ECF. These are prizes awarded to the highest finishers under a certain grade within a section – Tennant won an under 1665 prize and Greenwood was the highest placed finisher rated under 1629. Likewise, in the Minor Oswestry pair Stephen Tulett (under 1425 prize) and Alf Evans (under 1389 prize) won grading accolades.

It was the first time the tournament had been held since 2019 owing to the pandemic. In total, 146 players from across the country entered across the four sections, and the Open field included an international master in former Shropshire board one John Cox. The top two boards in each section in each round were broadcast on the internet using live boards, adding increased interest from those who couldn’t attend the event.

Chris Lewis, one of the competition’s organisers, said: “With a three-year gap and a train strike, we didn’t know what level of support we would get – so the organisers want to thank all the participants. 146 entrants surpassed even our most optimistic expectations. Some great chess was played over the weekend and the live boards always provide an additional level of interest. Congratulations to all the prize winners and we look forward to running the event again in 2024.” Mr Lewis also thanked Wrekin Housing Trust for allowing use of the premises and Edgmond Village Hall for extra tables and chairs.

Meanwhile, Newport A are the new leaders of the top flight of Shropshire Chess League. They beat Maddocks B 4-1, while reigning champions Maddocks A saw their 100 per cent start ended as they were held to a draw at Shrewsbury A. It was a particularly decent result for Shrewsbury as they were missing their first choice top two boards through unavailability.

Telford A continue to set the pace in division two and started the new year with a thumping 5-0 win over Telepost D.

In Shropshire Online Chess League, Shrewsbury B held their club’s A team to a draw for the second time this season in division one, Ivor Salter picking up the shock result of the night by beating Peter Kitchen. Oswestry A’s 4-0 win over a depleted Telepost A included a 13-move “miniature” by Adrian Bailey against the unfortunate Martin Ayres.

Congress results (Shropshire-based players):

Open (out of 23 players): 6= N Paul (Shrewsbury) 3/5; 14= R van Kemenade (Oswestry), A Ansari (Maddocks), N Ferrington (Telepost) 2/5; 20= S Maydew (Maddocks) 1.5/5.

Major (out of 40): 4= R Bryant (Oswestry) 3.5/5; 8= G White, G Pugh (both Maddocks), D Hollands (Telford) 3/5; 17= F Best (Shrewsbury), T Preece, S Tarr (both Maddocks), T Neal (Telford), M Clark (Telepost) 2.5/5; 28= A Bailey (Oswestry) 2/5; 33= T Holmes (Newport), J Holyhead (Telepost) 1.5/5; 39= J Bashall (Telepost) 0/5 (withdrew after one round).

Intermediate (out of 43): 6= S Tennant (Telford), S Greenwood (Newport) 3.5/5; 11= K Walker (Telepost) 3/5; 13= J Westhead (Telepost), R Szwajkun, R Brown (both Telford), G Slegg (Oswestry) 2.5/5; 33= S Wilson (Telepost), G Viszokai (Maddocks), K Grice (Oswestry) 1.5/5; 41= I Salter (Shrewsbury) 0.5/5.

Minor (out of 40): 1= S Hollands (Telepost) 4.5/5; 6= S Tulett (Oswestry) 3.5/5; 10= N Holmes (Telepost), A Evans (Oswestry), R Barton (Telford) 3/5; 13= C Pileggi (Telepost), M Price, P Broderick, D Lovegrove (all Newport), I Jamieson (Maddocks) 2.5/5; 27= S Szwajkun (Telford), C Bethune (Telepost) 2/5; 36= A Jones (Newport), M Ayres (Telepost) 1/5; 38= H Hrubis (Telford) 0/5.

Sam Hollands with his medal for finishing joint first in the Minor section.

Shropshire Chess League division one:

Maddocks B 1-4 Newport A – S Tarr 0-1 N Rutter, S Maydew 0.5-0.5 I Jamieson, M Morrison 0.5-0.5 T Holmes, M Billington 0-1 S Ross, G Viszokai 0-1 P Love

Shrewsbury A 2.5-2.5 Maddocks A – F Best 1-0 A Grillage, M Smith 0.5-0.5 G Pugh, D Lockett 0-1 T Preece, S Priestley 1-0 S Tarr, I Salter 0-1 M Morrison

Shropshire Chess League division two:

Telepost C 3-2 Telepost E – K Walker 1-0 C Bethune, J Holyhead 0-1 C Pileggi, V Crean 0-1 S Hollands, N Holmes 1-0 M Ryan, D Bonner 1-0 G Humphreys

Telford A 5-0 Telepost D – M Keady 1-0 A Brims, R Parry 1-0 S Sweeney, T Neal 1-0 M Ayres, R Brown 1-0 J Casewell, R Szwajkun 1-0 default

Maddocks C 2-3 Newport B – I Jamieson 0-1 J Greenwood, M Reynolds 0.5-0.5 D Griffiths, A Brannen 1-0 default, K Verma 0.5-0.5 D Lovegrove, D Gostelow 0-1 C Poole

Online league division one:

Shrewsbury B 2-2 Shrewsbury A – M Smith 0.5-0.5 N Paul, S Priestley 0.5-0.5 F Best, I Salter 1-0 P Kitchen, R Vernon 0-1 D Lockett

Oswestry A 4-0 Telepost A – C Higgie 1-0 M Clark, M Altinsoy 1-0 C Pileggi, B Whyte 1-0 J Casewell, A Bailey 1-0 M Ayres

Online league division two:

Newport A 2.5-0.5 Oswestry C – A Jones 0.5-0.5 K Grice, M Price 1-0 J Smith, C Parker 1-0 A Evans