Two wins from two offers national league survival hope

Shropshire & Friends have given themselves a huge chance to avoid relegation from division three west of the Four Nations Chess League after securing two crucial victories. Coming into the latest weekend at Daventry bottom of the table, Charles Lowick Higgie’s side beat fellow strugglers MK Phoenix 2 5-1 on the Saturday before dispatching higher-rated opposition in the form of Barnet Knights B 4-2 the following day. It means Shropshire have pulled out of the drop zone as they bid to avoid falling to the national league’s lowest tier. They must avoid finishing in the bottom two to stay up, and there are just three rounds to go at the final weekend.

Maddocks pair Andrew Grillage and Glyn Pugh and Oswestry duo Richard Bryant and Adrian Bailey all won their games against MK Phoenix, while Lowick Higgie drew. Against Barnet Knights, there were wins for Lowick Higgie, Pugh and Bryant, while Bailey drew and Grillage lost his game on top board. Captain Lowick Higgie said his side had hit “top form” at a crucial time, having started the season with one win and five defeats from their first six matches.

Meanwhile, Oswestry’s Rudy van Kemenade picked up a win and a draw playing for Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg in division three east. He drew with Roger Lancaster with the white pieces in a 4-2 win over Watford A on the Saturday, before beating Nathan Weersing with black on the Sunday in a 3.5-2 triumph over Poisoned Pawns. The Welsh side still has an outside chance of claiming one of the two promotion spots at the final weekend on the early May bank holiday.

Back at a local level, Shrewsbury A pulled off a stunning upset as they came from behind to beat arch-rivals Telepost A in their own back yard in the Shropshire Chess League county town derby. Victories for captain Francis Best and Nathanael Paul on the top two boards helped Shrewsbury overturn a 2-1 deficit to claim the local bragging rights – and leapfrog Telepost in the division one table. 

The achievement was all the more remarkable as Shrewsbury were missing three players and were outrated on every board. It means they have taken three points off Telepost in a league season for the first time in many years after the reverse fixture at Shrewsbury’s Nerdy Café home before Christmas finished as a 2.5-2.5 draw.

While Shrewsbury A were moving into third place, Newport B kept up the pressure on inactive leaders Maddocks A by defeating lowly Telepost B 4-1. Chris Lewis, Ian Jamieson and Thalia Holmes all won in the “engine room” of the team from boards two to four, which meant it was a losing return to his old club for Shane Greenwood who lost to Jamieson on board three.

Meanwhile, Oswestry A were unable to put daylight between themselves and the relegation zone as they were held to a 2.5-2.5 draw by second bottom Maddocks B. Van Kemenade and Lowick Higgie won for the hosts, with Simon Maydew and Mark Billington replying for the visitors. It means the two sides are separated by just two points with four matches still to play, with Telepost B a further two points adrift of Maddocks B.

In division two, the three sides chasing inactive leaders Telford A all won their games on their travels – but still face an uphill struggle to catch the Dawley-based side. Telepost C remain the closest challengers after a 4-1 win at Maddocks C, but are still four points behind Telford A with just two games left to play. Telepost C will host already-promoted Telford A on April 17, when a point for the visitors will be enough to seal the title.

Telford B remain third after a 3-2 win at Telepost E, but have played a game more and will need a favour from their A team for a chance to catch Telepost C in second place. Newport B are two further points back after a 3-2 triumph at bottom side Telepost D.

Despite not being in action over-the-board, Telford A still had success to enjoy after wrapping up the Shropshire Online Chess League division two title.  They drew with closest challengers Shrewsbury C to seal the title – but were denied victory by an extraordinary finish in the game between Roger Brown and Tony Purser. Telford’s Brown somehow contrived to miss checkmate-in-one and stalemate Purser’s king all in one move – despite having two extra queens on the board. Shrewsbury veteran Norman O’Connor secured the result of the night with a spectacular demolition of Telford’s top board Mark Keady in just 19 moves. Shrewsbury C remain favourites to finish second, but still need a point from their final game against Oswestry C to make sure.

Latest scores:

Shropshire League division one:

Telepost A 2-3 Shrewsbury A – N Ferrington 0-1 N Paul, P Zabrocki 0-1 F Best; M Clark 0.5-0.5 D Lockett, J Bashall 0.5-0.5 I Salter, F Bench 1-0 R Vernon

Newport A 4-1 Telepost B – N Rutter 0.5-0.5 D Hilditch-Love, C Lewis 1-0 J Westhead, I Jamieson 1-0 S Greenwood, T Holmes 1-0 P Billington, D Griffiths 0.5-0.5 S Wilson

Oswestry A 2.5-2.5 Maddocks B – R van Kemenade 1-0 S Tarr, C Lowick Higgie 1-0 G White, R Bryant 0-1 S Maydew, A Bailey 0.5-0.5 M Morrison, G Slegg 0-1 M Billington

Shropshire League division two:

Telepost D 2-3 Newport B – J Gough 0-1 P Love, A Brims 1-0 A Jones, S Sweeney 0-1 C Parker, M Ayres 0-1 C Poole, J Casewell 1-0 M Price

Telepost E 2-3 Telford B – S Greenwood 1-0 J Footner, S Hollands 1-0 S Tennant, P Billington 0-1 R Thompson, C Pileggi 0-12 R Barton, C Bethune 0-1 S Szwajkun

Maddocks C 1-4 Telepost C – M Billington 0-1 T Brotherton, G Viszokai 0-1 K Walker, I Jamieson 0-1 J Holyhead, J Hill 1-0 N Holmes, K Verma 0-1 D Bonner.

Online league division two:

Telford A 1.5-1.5 Shrewsbury C – M Keady 0-1 N O’Connor, R Brown 0.5-0.5 T Purser, S Tennant 1-0 R Vernon

Oswestry C 1.5-1.5 Newport A – S Tulett 1-0 A Jones, J Smith 0.5-0.5 D Lovegrove, A Evans 0-1 M Price