WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
Read Toby Neal's Column in the Shropshire Star on Tuesdays for the latest Shropshire Chess news. Here are some recent cuttings.
If you have a news item email - TNeal@shropshirestar.co.uk.
|League rules crackdown - 18/07/2017
A crackdown is being launched in the new Shropshire chess season which will tighten up rules which have given clubs flexibility in how they field players.
The move at Shropshire Chess Association's annual meeting was largely prompted by a match last season in which, out of the blue, Ludlow A fielded a Grandmaster, Keith Arkell, on top board - quite possibly the first time ever that a Grandmaster has played in a league match in the county. Arkell has not turned out again and the upshot is a new rule which will require a team's nominated players to play for their team at least three times in a season. The aim is to stop clubs fielding here-today, gone-tomorrow players.
Another new rule addresses the vexed issue of the handful of players who are so keen that they play for two different clubs in the league. The effect of the rule will be to stop strong players who normally play in a higher division being drafted in by clubs with teams in a lower division.
A move which could have changed the number of players in league teams was defeated, so the current system of teams of five players in divisions one and two, and teams of four in division three, remains.
And a proposal to reduce the time controls for league games, so they finish earlier, was similarly defeated.
Among other points to arise at the annual meeting was a looming question mark over Shropshire Chess Congress, as one of the suites at the congress venue - the Wrekin Housing Trust premises in Telford - will no longer be available. If alternative space within the building cannot be found, it may mean a change of format or a change of venue for the tournament.
|Telepost win a trophy thriller - 12/07/2017
Telepost A have beaten Newport A in the final of the Shropshire chess Cox Trophy by the closest of margins, disappointing Newport's hopes of doing a league and cup double.
The final, which was broadcast live on the internet thanks to the use of digital chess boards, ended in a 2-2 draw on the night. But using the board countback tiebreak rule, Telepost were declared winners. A top board win for Trevor Brotherton eventually proved decisive despite a late win on time for Ian Jamieson, and Athar Ansari salvaging a 91 move draw even though a piece down for most of his game with David Hodge.
In the Minor knockout final pitting Telford A against Telepost B, which was played simultaneously, Richard Thompson's win gave Telford the early lead. Draws on boards two and four left the match depending on the top board where, with only four seconds left on his clock, Mark Keady finally resigned to Keith Tabner.
Amazingly this gave another 2-2 match result, and again Telepost emerged victorious through the board countback rule, in which the result of the bottom board is scrubbed out, repeatedly if necessary, until a decisive result is arrived at.
Shrewsbury-based Telepost had been underdogs in both matches, being outgraded on seven of the eight boards.
Detailed results were – Cox Trophy, Newport A 2, Telepost A 2: Nathanael Paul 0, Trevor Brotherton 1; Chris Lewis 0.5, John Bashall 0.5; Ian Jamieson 1, Matthew Clark 0; Athar Ansari 0.5, David Hodge 0.5.
Minor Knockout, Telford A 2, Telepost B 2 - Mark Keady 0, Keith Tabner 1; Richard Szwajkun 0.5, Steve Kempsell 0.5; Richard Thompson 1, Peter Crean 0; Stefan Tennant 0.5, John Westhead 0.5.
Shropshire players meanwhile have scored some success at the Heywood chess congress. Nathanael Paul of Newport came joint second with three others in the Major section winning him £50 with a final score of 3.5 out of five. Oswestry's Richard Bryant also finished on the same score in the Open section winning him a grading prize of £20.
Rutter survives the blitz - 27/06/2017
Nick Rutter blitzed all opposition at Newport chess club's blitz chess event, winning all his seven games despite having only three minutes on his clock.
Under the handicap system in the tournament, some weaker players had up to eight minutes to complete all their moves.
Rutter, who players for the Newport club, took the £16 pot and there was an impressive performance by another "home" player, Danny Griffiths, who was joint second, which was some achievement considering his grading of 126 - Rutter's grading is 205.
Athar Ansari shared the runner-up spot, on five points.
Gary White took the grading prize.
Meanwhile the "case of the flying pawn" dispute which arose during a rapidplay match between Shrewsbury and Priorslee Lions has been resolved by Shropshire Chess Association's appeals committee.
The incident was in a mad time scramble in the game between Olusegun Ilesanmi and Munroe Morrison in which Ilesanmi captured Morrison's last pawn, which went flying to the floor. But Ilesanmi's flag fell - he ran out of time. So had Morrison won on time? Or was it a draw because he had no mating material?
To cut a long story short the committee's decision, which is available through Newport chess club's website, is to rule it was a draw. The case was interesting in that it highlighted a common misconception that a move is completed by pressing the clock which, although generally true, there are two exceptions - when the move creates checkmate or stalemate. These automatically end the game there and then with no need to press the clock.
|Madcap summer chess coming up - 20/06/2017
Shropshire chess is going crazy this summer, with a madcap chess tournament in which random new rules are imposed in games every 90 seconds.
An alarm will sound and examples of new rules could include pieces turning into other pieces or players being required to swap places with other players.
The event is one of a series of summer activities being hosted by Newport chess club and is on August 17.
Another to tax the brains of chess players beyond the norm is on July 13, with an exchange tournament, which is a chess variant played on two chessboards by four players in teams of two.
More conventionally, there are handicap rapidplay tournaments at the club on June 29, July 27, and August 24.In the first two, players will have between three and eight minutes to complete all the moves of the game, depending on their grading strength. In the final tournament, players will have three seconds on the clock to start with, but will get extra time every time they make a move.
|Newport retain the quickplay trophy - 13/06/2017
Newport A were the class of the field as they cruised to victory in the Shropshire chess team quickplay tournament, retaining the trophy.
They beat a very strong Telepost A outfit in the final and it wasn't even close, with Newport quickly surging into an unassailable 3-0 lead in the running score over the five boards. Final result was: Newport A 4, Telepost A 1.
Newport's cause was aided by the recruitment of a guest player on top board, Nick Arkell, of Stourbridge, but even so they were outgraded overall against their Shrewsbury-based opponents, who had a strong guest themselves in the shape of Richard Bryant.
Detailed result was: Nick Arkell 1, Trevor Brotherton 0; Nat Paul 0.5, Nigel Ferrington 0.5; Ian Jamieson 1, Richard Bryant 0; Athar Ansari 1, Phil Zabrocki 0; Chris Lewis 0.5, John Bashall 0.5.
Shrewsbury beat Wellington 4.5-0.5 to take third place.
Six teams took part in the event at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford.
There was a poignant backdrop to Newport's triumph, as it came shortly after the death of one of their players, Warren Lewis, and a minute's silence was held for him before the start of play.
Warren had returned to play for Newport last season after being away for over 40 years and played several games for both the club's A and B teams before his illness. He died in hospital on June 2.
|Nick Rutter takes the crown - 06/06/2017
Nick Rutter is Shropshire's king of chess after winning the county individual championship with a round to spare.
The Newport player, who for many years has been one of the county's strongest players, was going into the seventh and final round on 5.5 points, with the nearest challengers on four points. His key victory came in the fifth round, in which he beat Telepost's Nigel Ferrington, who is Shropshire's highest graded player.
It's semi finals time in both the Cox Trophy and Minor knockout events this week. The Cox semis see Newport A at home against Ludlow A, and Telepost A hosting Oswestry A. In the Minor knockout, there is an in-house encounter between Telford And Telford B, with Wellington B travelling to Telepost B in the other match.
Sunday, June 11, sees the county team rapidplay tournament being held at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford. It looks like either six or seven teams will be fighting for glory, with the exact format to be determined when team numbers are confirmed.
Shropshire teams playing in the Four Nations Chess League will be transferring to Division 3 North for the upcoming 2017/18 season. The main reason for that is because the North venues are considerably closer for many county players.
|Newport still have double in their sights - 23/05/2017
Shropshire chess league champions Newport A are on target to do the double after progressing to the semi final of the Cox Trophy summer knockout.They saw off a competitive Shrewsbury A side, winning 3-1, and will now face Ludlow A.
Missing their top board, the county's strongest player Nigel Ferrington, Telepost A still overcame Priorslee Lions A 3-1 and will meet Oswestry A in the other semi final.
Oswestry beat Wellington A who were unable to raise a full team, arriving with just three players - they had forewarned the home team to enable them to stand down their fourth player.
Nevertheless, things at one point looked promising for Wellington, with a win by Colin Roberts and a draw by Tiago Faustino meaning that Toby Neal only needed to draw on top board to square the match - which would have meant Wellington would have progressed to the next round on the board count tiebreak rule. However Neal misplayed the position against Richard Bryant, sending it from probably winning, to probably drawing, and ultimately to definitely losing.
Newport A 3, Shrewsbury A 1 - N Rutter 1, D Everington 0; N Paul 1, F Best 0; C Lewis 1, D Lockett 0; I Jamieson 0, P Kitchen 1.
Oswestry A 2.5, Wellington A 1.5 - R Bryant 1, T Neal 0; C Lowick Higgie 0, C Roberts 1; P Lovatt 0.5, T Faustino 0.5; J Waller 1, default 0.
Ludlow A 2.5, Newport B 1.5 - J Wrench 0.5, A Ansari 0.5; R Croot 0.5, S Maydew 0.5; J Watson 1, W Lewis 0; R Woodley 0.5, S Ross 0.5.
Telepost A 3, Priorslee Lions A 1 - T Brotherton 0.5, A Zdanowski 0.5; P Zabrocki 0.5, G Pugh 0.5; J Bashall 1, G White 0; M Clark 1, S Tarr 0.
|Proposed rule changes for AGM - 16/05/2017
Moves to shake up the structure of Shropshire Chess League, reducing it from three divisions to two, failed to get off the ground at a special meeting at which all of the county's clubs were represented.
Only Priorslee Lions showed any enthusiasm for the idea, which has now been abandoned. However, a package of measures which will tighten up the rules on playing substitute players, and on players turning out for different clubs, are to go before the Shropshire Chess Association annual meeting, amid a feeling among many of those at the meeting that the current rules are too lax and prone to misuse.
Full details of the various proposals are on the Shropshire chess website. www.shropshirechess.org .
The first round of matches have now been played in the Minor Knockout competition.
Results were - Wellington B 2, Telepost E 2: M Hollier 1, S Sweeney 0; C Mace 1, D Pinnington 0; M Podlesak 0, M Ayres 1; M Walsh 0, J Cockburn 1.
Wellington win this drawn match on the board count rule in which the bottom board result is eliminated to achieve a decisive match result.
Telford B 2.5, Telepost D 1.5: R Thompson 0, G Shepherd 1; S Tennant 0.5, C Micallef 0.5; W Peck 1, D Bonner 0; R Brown 1, N Holmes 0.
Priorslee Lions B 3, Newport C 1: M Morrison 0.5, D Lovegrove 0.5; G Viszokai 1, W Gormley 0; T Preece 0.5, M Moore 0.5; M Reynolds 1, default 0.
Telepost C 1, Oswestry B 3: K Walker 0, D Kirachen 1; Q Mills 1, A Evans 0; C Micallef 0, E Stevenson 1; V Crean 0, D Bareford 1.
Meanwhile the summer team quickplay tournament has now been fixed for June 11 at the Wrekin Housing Trust premises in Telford.
Summer knockout kicks off this week - 09/05/2017
Summer knockout action begins on the Shropshire chess scene this week, with the first round of matches being played in the Minor Knockout.
This competition involves teams from the bottom two league divisions, with all matches being due to be played by Friday.
And next week sees the start of the Cox Trophy, which is the summer knockout competition for Division One teams - plus Division Two champions Wellington A, who have been thrown into the mix to make sure there are an even number of teams.
Meanwhile a question mark hangs over whether there will be a third division in the county chess league in future. A meeting is being held this week to discuss a proposed restructuring of the league which would see a reduction from three divisions to two.
The idea, which would mean more matches and an extension of the season, has had a mixed response so far.
Wellington on the up and up - 25/04/2017
Telepost D have just fallen short in their bid to secure promotion from Division Three, meaning the last outstanding issue in Shropshire Chess League has been resolved.
Telepost beat Oswestry B in a fixture which had been postponed, after their first encounter was abandoned because a medical emergency away from the boards had left players too shocked to continue.
In the rearranged match, Shrewsbury-based Telepost won 2.5-1.5, but they had needed to win by 3.5-0.5 to leapfrog Wellington B on "goal difference" to take the second promotion slot.
The upshot is that in the season that the Wellington club lost their club captain Derrick Powell, both the A team and the B team have been promoted from their respective divisions - a fitting tribute to him.
Meanwhile a special "summit" has been organised to discuss a plan which would revamp Shropshire Chess League, reducing it from three divisions to two in the process. The idea would mean more league games and a longer season, and so far has had a mixed response.
The special meeting is at the Telepost club in Shrewsbury on May 9 at 7.30pm.
|League season roundup - 11/04/2017
The final outstanding issue in Shropshire Chess League will be decided this week - the promotion battle in Division Three.
Oswestry B take on Telepost D in a replay of a match which was abandoned after a regular collapsed at the bar of Oswestry's venue, and medical teams were called. The players were too shocked to play on and the match was rearranged.
Telepost need to win, and win well, to usurp Wellington B from the second promotion slot at the head of the division.
In summary, the key points of the league season are that Newport A have retained the league title, but there was not such cheering news for Newport B, who are demoted from Division One after failing to pick up a single point.
Wellington A and Telford A are promoted from Division Two, while Telford B's loss to Wellington extinguished their hopes of avoiding relegation, and they go down with Telepost C. Newport Juniors stay up - they are believed to be the first junior team to stay up in one of the top two divisions.
Priorslee Lions B are promoted from Division Three, with the second promotion spot turning on the last game of the season this week.
Away from the league, an appeal has gone out for two more players to play for Shropshire in the final weekend of the Four Nations Chess League from April 29 to May 1. There are three games across the bank holiday weekend.
Champion show from Newport - 04/04/2017
Newport A have retained their title as champions of Shropshire Chess League in a dramatic showdown against Telepost A broadcast live on the internet. Telepost needed a 3-2 victory to clinch the league championship and went into the lead on the night thanks to a win by Trevor Brotherton over Nat Paul, who planted a knight into Brotherton's position and was ultimately unable to extricate it.
With other games being drawn, all depended on the top board which put Shropshire's strongest player, Nigel Ferrington, and third strongest, Nick Rutter, head-to-head. A win or draw for Ferrington would have taken Telepost over the winning post but after things had been fairly even for much of the game it all started to turn sour for him as the clocks ran down. He lost a bishop, but against a lesser opponent might still have had a chance of drawing. However, he only had seconds left on his clock, while Rutter still had minutes left and was not to be denied by any trickery, with Ferrington ultimately running out of time in a lost position, meaning the match was drawn.
Although both teams finish equal on 19 points, Newport take the title because of their superior "goal difference" - a repeat of last season, when Newport edged out Telepost in the same manner.
Paul said: "It was a very tense match indeed, but fortunately our two players of the season did the business for us at the end."As for his own game, he said: "To be honest, the line looked so exciting that I couldn't really help myself."
Meanwhile Division Three's promotion battle remains unresolved after drama of a different kind in the match between Oswestry B and Telepost D, which Telepost needed to win 3.5-0.5 to take the second promotion spot away from Wellington B.
Play had been under way for about half an hour at the Oswestrian pub in Oswestry when there was a commotion at the bar where a man had collapsed with a suspected heart attack. Play was suspended and medics arrived and worked to revive him.
Understandably, the shocked players had no enthusiasm to resume the match, which was abandoned, and has now been rescheduled for April 14. The man is thought to have been taken to hospital at Shrewsbury by ambulance, but the players do not know the outcome.
Live internet broadcast for title decider - 28/03/2017
Shropshire chess league's title showdown is being broadcast live on the internet as Telepost A and Newport A go head to head in a winner-takes-all encounter.
The crunch match which will decide who wins the league championship was due to have been played on Monday this week at Telepost's Shrewsbury home, but has been specially switched to the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford on Thursday, March 30, as this will mean that it can be played on digital boards, so all the moves can be followed online in real time by a countywide - and potentially worldwide - audience.
Telepost captain Matthew Clark said: "The situation is that Telepost need to win 3-2 to win the league. A Newport win or a draw means that they are champions.
"This must be one of the strongest matches in Shropshire history between two Shropshire clubs. Our team will have three players with a grading over 180, while Newport can field a team with all their players over 165. I suspect I'll be the lowest graded player involved with a grade of 154."
The match is due to start at 7.30pm, although in practice will probably begin a few minutes after then, and can be followed online through a link on www.shropshirechess.org , which is the Shropshire chess website.
In Division Two, Shrewsbury B are going to have to sweat it out after finishing their campaign in the second promotion spot. That's because Telford A inflicted a first defeat of the season on already-promoted Wellington A and are just a point behind Shrewsbury, and still have their last match to play - it's an away tie against Telepost B on Monday. With a much better "goal difference" than Shrewsbury, Telford will only need a draw to secure promotion.
|Should third division be axed? - 21/03/2017
Shropshire's chess community is being asked to mull over a potential radical revamp of the county's chess league in which the third division would be axed.
"Over the last few weeks some players have discussed this possibility with me, in fact there seems to be quite an appetite for change from some quarters, which appears mainly due to the lack of teams currently in division three," said league controller Nat Paul.
"I felt it appropriate and necessary to begin a debate on this matter well in advance of the Shropshire AGM in an effort to try and come to some sort of agreement on this matter before the annual meeting comes around."
A link on the Shropshire chess website for players and club officials to air their views is at http://www.shropshirechess.org/Miscellaneous/talking_points.htm
One of the main effects of dropping from three divisions to two would be that the two divisions would be bigger, and so players would get more chess.
Ludlow beat Newport B 3-2 to finish their first season back in Division One with 15 points and in third place.
Captain Joe Watson said: "We are cock-a-hoop. We exceeded our expectations and now look to run two teams in the league next year."
Meanwhile it's neck and neck for the league championship and by a lucky chance which stirs up the tension the two contenders, Newport A and Telepost A, go head to head on Monday in a stunning winner-takes-all climax.
And in Division Three a crucial win by Priorslee Lions B over leaders Wellington B has seen the Lions leapfrog Wellington and set up another down-to-the-wire promotion battle with the Lions, Telepost D, and Wellington B, all on 12 points with one match to go.
Mixed fortunes for Newport - 14/03/2017
Newport A have taken another step closer towards being crowned champions of Shropshire Chess League with a narrow victory over Shrewsbury A.
But there's not so good news for the Newport club at the other end of the Division One table, with their B team now definitely demoted following their tenth straight loss, this time against Priorslee Lions A, leaving them pointless.
Telepost A are now the only team who can stop Newport from taking the title. Meanwhile, in a mid-table battle, Shropshire's most geographically distant clubs, Oswestry A and Ludlow A, went head to head, with Oswestry taking the honours.
Richard Bryant of Oswestry reports: "There were some very interesting games. On board one Ludlow got an advantage out of the opening and converted it to a win; board two was a very close unbalanced match with chances for both sides; on board three Oswestry were attacking and completed the win with a lovely sacrifice; and on boards four and five Oswestry always seemed to have an edge and both were converted into victories".
Telford A had an indifferent start to the season but have found their form and their victory over Newport Juniors in Division Two gives them a good chance of promotion, as they are only a point behind Shrewsbury B but with a game in hand.
When is a move not a move? - 07/03/2017
The latest round of chess matches in Shropshire's rapidplay league ended in fireworks as controversy flared over a basic question - what constitutes a move in chess?
Shrewsbury A were in action against Priorslee Lions B, and the encounter on bottom board was between Olusegun Ilesanmi and Munroe Morrison, which Morrison had to win to salvage a match draw for his team. Realising that he was about to lose on time, Ilesanmi captured Morrison's last remaining pawn. As this meant Morrison no longer had enough material to checkmate - a pawn counts as mating material as it can become a queen - on the face of it, it ensured an automatic draw, and so a match win for Shrewsbury.
But before Ilesanmi pressed his clock, his flag fell. Did this mean he had lost on time? The view taken on the night - much to his chagrin - was that under the rules the move is not completed until the clock is pressed, and as he had not done so before his flag fell, he had not completed the "drawing move", and so he had lost.
However, there is a counter-argument that a checkmating or stalemating move immediately and automatically ends the game - otherwise somebody who checkmated an opponent could still lose on time if he or she didn't bother pressing the clock afterwards. And it seems this argument has belatedly won the day, as despite Morrison being awarded a win on the night, the Shropshire chess website records the result as a draw.
Meanwhile Nat Paul of Newport chess club is the latest Shropshire chess player to achieve success at an out-of-county event. Paul took part in the Warwickshire Chess Congress where he was joint third with five others in the Open section, with a score of 3.5 points out of a possible five.As an indication of how strong the competition was, the winner was a Grandmaster, Mark Hebden, on 4.5, and second place went to FIDE Master James Jackson, on 4. Paul took home £29 in prizemoney.
Telford B penalised - 28/02/2017
Telford B have been slapped with penalties for playing an ineligible player in Shropshire Chess League in a sentence which sees them drop to the foot of the Division Two table. Munroe Morrison had been fielded for their match against Newport Juniors, despite already having played six times for the Telford A side.
In his ruling, league controller Nat Paul declared: "Due to Munroe Morrison ineligibly playing for Telford B, his result - a draw with Tony Holdford - is therefore defaulted. An additional game point is also removed changing the original match result of 3.5-1.5 in Telford B's favour to a 2-2 draw. The Division Two table has therefore been adjusted accordingly."
Elsewhere in the division Wellington A's win over Telepost C confirms their promotion in a match notable for stand-in on board five John Storey breaking a long-standing duck, drawing against Andrew Lewis to get his first result after 15 losses. There's quite a battle for the second promotion slot, while in the top flight a win by Ludlow A over Newport A, who were looking good for the championship, played into the hands of Telepost A who move to the top of the table.
Have league rules been breached ? - 21/02/2017
A sort of "stewards' inquiry" is under way in Shropshire Chess League in the wake of a Division Two game which saw Telford B beat Newport Juniors.
Newport Juniors captain Simon Maydew and player Tony Holdford have raised with league controller Nat Paul the legitimacy of Telford B's fielding of Munroe Morrison, who has also played a number of games for Telford's A team.
Morrison drew with Holdford on the night and so his result was not pivotal to Telford's 3.5-1.5 victory.What is at issue is whether Morrison was eligible to play for the B team, and if not, what penalties should be applied. League rules do give a certain amount of flexibility in fielding players, depending on their gradings - their strength, in other words.
In Division One, Ludlow A scored a narrow victory over Priorslee Lions A, with Ludlow's captain Joe Watson reporting: "It was a very close match as expected after a draw at Priorslee earlier in the season, despite Ludlow fielding grandmaster Keith Arkell on top board then. He hasn't played for Ludlow since then, but Ludlow scored two points from the top three boards. Two comfortable draws on the top boards settled Ludlow, and Richard Croot scored the first win for the home side when Steve Tarr lost his queen for a rook. Game of the night was on board four between myself and Gary White which went our way after a thrilling see-saw struggle saw me beating off Gary's kingside attack in the last game to finish to take the match 3-2."
Wellington still not quite there - 14/02/2017
A promotion cushion of seven points, with only three games to go in the season, and yet Wellington A are still not guaranteed the step up to Division One - it's a conundrum to tax the brains of the best Shropshire chess players.
After a win against Telepost B to give them a seemingly unassailable place in one of the two Division Two promotion slots, Wellington were ready to break out the bubbly, until one or two voices pointed out that they can still be overtaken, albeit in unlikely circumstances.
The key is the Shropshire Chess League rule, fairly recently introduced, which means that a team which defaults a match without good reason will be docked a point. So if Wellington defaulted all their three remaining league matches, both Shrewsbury B and Telford A could overtake them.
Wellington lead the second division on 17 points, while Telford A beat Shrewsbury B to put them in the second promotion spot on 11 points, with Shrewsbury on 10. That match was all square with everything turning on the board five result, where a fork by Ivor Salter didn't quite work and led to his downfall against Richard Thompson.
For those looking for chess further afield, the Castle Chess Congress at the Green Dragon, Hereford, is on March 10 to 12, with prizes of £180 in each section.
Athar rocks Gibraltar - 07/02/2017
Athar Ansari is a Shropshire Rock star after a stunning double success in a prestigious international chess competition held in Gibraltar.
Ansari, who plays for Newport chess club, was a joint winner in two sections of the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival tournament - billed as one of the strongest and best in the world - and came home a cool £1,500 richer.
In the first week, playing in the Amateur A section against international competition, he scored four wins and one draw, to be one of three winners, collecting £800. Then in the second week, playing in the Amateur B section, he again scored four wins and one draw, this time being one of four winners, adding £700 in prizemoney.
"I was very pleased with my performance and my biggest win of £1,500, which comes on top of the £150 I won for joint first in the Major section of the Shropshire Chess Congress last month, so it's been a good start to the year," he said.
"I enjoyed it so much, especially the quality and standard of the Gibraltar Chess Festival, that I am going to play in 2018. My games were live so the whole world could see - this has never happen to me."
The icing on the cake for Ansari is that in the latest grading lists which are now out, his personal grading has shot up by nine points to 165 - a new grading calculated on his performances before his Gibraltar success.
He was one of a number of Shropshire players who made the trip to Gibraltar to take part, the others being Dave Gostelow, Gary White, and Jim O'Neil.
(pic courtesy Sophie Triay)
In Shropshire chess league, Newport A are looking in ominous form, stretching their lead in Division One to three points after a thumping 4.5-0.5 win over Priorslee Lions, with Ian Jamieson extending his unbeaten run to eight games.
A top-of-the-table clash in Division Three saw Wellington B beat Telepost D to leapfrog them into first place, with Wellington top board Mike Hollier still unbeaten after his return to chess after many years in September.
|Old boys reunion at Newport - 31/01/2017
Newport chess club has become the home of the comeback kings with the acquisition of two valuable "returnees" to the game.
Tony Holdford, a strong player who stopped playing competitive chess some years ago, turned out, bizarrely enough, for Newport Juniors in their encounter with Division Two leaders Wellington A.
In his home debut - he had already played in an away tie for Newport C - he was up against Tiago Faustino, and joked during the game that he had played 24 moves without agreeing a draw. That was not to last long though, as he was soon offering a draw and although Faustino played on for a few moves, his king position was so weak that playing for a win would have been very risky and he agreed to split the point.
But Holdford has hardly been away from the game any time at all compared with the club's other old newcomer, Warren Lewis, who has been away for four decades.
Nat Paul of the Newport club said: "It's definitely great to see Tony back. He left chess originally because he had lost some motivation, well he's certainly got that back. It was a terrific result drawing with Tiago. Our other new returnee Warren is also looking good. I think it'll probably take the rest of the season for his match sharpness to return, but he certainly looks a very good player. If his past chess history of around 45 years ago is anything to go by, then he certainly will be."
Wellington A's win against Newport Juniors maintains their five point lead, with Shrewsbury B muscling into second place with a victory over Telford B, while Telford A drew against Telepost C.
Shrewsbury veterans take centre stage - 24/01/2017
Shrewsbury chess players gathered before their latest Division One league encounter for a presentation to the veteran Fred Harris in recognition of his services to Shrewsbury Chess Club over many years. Fred stood down as club president at the last annual meeting. Formerly, he had been secretary, as well as performing various services at county level. He was presented with a chess-themed painting by Tony Purser. Alas, the A team were unable to follow the ceremony up with a win against visitors Ludlow A, going down instead to a 1.5-3.5 loss.
Another Shrewsbury veteran, David Everington, is edging closer to a tenth title as Shropshire's king of chess as he goes into the fourth round of the county's individual championship with a half point lead over his nearest challenger. And it is another giant that he will face in the next round in the form of Nick Rutter, who himself has lifted the tournament's E. Groom Trophy 10 times. Everington first took the title over 50 years ago. The competition runs to seven-rounds.
Meanwhile, with Shropshire not fielding any teams in inter-county competition, one way for county players to take on players from farther afield is through the Four Nations Chess League, with Shropshire teams doing well in the latest matches.
Organiser Nathanael Paul said: "Overall the weekend was a successful one for both of our teams. Shropshire 1 secured two wins. These victories were absolutely vital in terms of securing one of the top four places for the promotion pool. We are currently fourth in the Division 3 South Group B table. Those couple of wins were also against two of the weaker teams in our group, so if we end up in the relegation pool at least it's likely we'll have some valuable points from our current group leading into that one.
"The second team also continued their good play with a close defeat to Midland Monarchs 2, and then another comfortable victory in round 4. The second team are currently sixth in the table, so from now on they will be facing some very stern opposition."
Wellington take the right Rhodes - 17/01/2017
Wellington A have maintained a five-point lead in the second flight of Shropshire Chess League by beating promotion rivals Shrewsbury B in only the county town side's second loss since the opening game of the season, and against the same opponents.
The win was clinched by stand-in Simon Rhodes on bottom board, who only needed a draw against Norman O'Connor to ensure Wellington the match victory. It boiled down to a classic "opposite coloured bishops" ending in which O'Connor had a bishop, pawn, and king, against Rhodes' bishop and king - theoretically totally drawn as Rhodes could always sacrifice the bishop for the pawn, and O'Connor's remaining bishop and king would not be enough material to deliver checkmate. It was a classic in another sense, pitching O'Connor, a wily, experienced player, against an opponent quite new to competitive chess, and in the circumstances O'Connor played on as, well, you never know... But he agreed a draw when any further progress became impossible.
After an unpromising first half of the season, Telford A have rediscovered their mojo, and inflicted a second in-house whitewash over the club's B team, which also plays in Division Two. They now share second place with Shrewsbury B while Newport Juniors are a point behind but have a game in hand.
In the latest round of matches in the Rapidplay League, Newport A have maintained their 100 per cent record, and head the first division, while Newport B head the second division on points difference over Priorslee Lions B, who have games in hand.
|Risk pays off as Kate nets historic victory - 10/01/2017
Kate Walker is the queen of Shropshire chess after winning the Minor section at the county's biggest tournament - thanks to some help from YouTube.
Kate, from Shrewsbury, is the first female winner in memory, and perhaps ever, in the history of Shropshire Chess Congress, which began in the early 1970s.She went into the final round in a commanding position after four straight wins and knowing that she only needed to a draw to be guaranteed at least a share of the first prize. And it was in the bag - so long as she was careful - in just 10 moves when she played a trap in the Scandinavian Defence which she had picked up on the internet as part of her preparation.
"I looked at it on YouTube. It was a risk as I didn't know it very well, but it paid off," said Kate, who lives in Shrewsbury and plays for the county town's Telepost club.
She won her opponent Jason Madden's queen for two minor pieces and, although clearly winning, was understandably nervous about blowing her first-ever tournament win, and agreed a draw a few moves later to make sure she took the title, which in the event was shared with Simon Killarney of South Birmingham, with them both on 4.5 points.
"It's fantastic," said Kate, who is 33 and works both in learning support at Wrexham University and also on the make-up department at Tesco in Shrewsbury.
As for what she will do with the £250 prize money, she said: "To be honest I'm thinking of buying a new washing machine."
There was Shropshire joy as well in the Major section, where Newport's Athar Ansari was one of four winners, all on four points, thanks to a 19-move last round win over Shrewsbury's Matt Best, who miscalculated a sequence.
Last year five Grandmasters entered and were all joint winners in the strongest section, the Open, but this time round the two GM entrants were shut out, with Alan Merry being the only outright winner of the three sections, with a score of 4.5. Aged 20, he comes from Bury St Edmunds.
"I had quite a bit of luck, especially in round four when my opponent didn't find the correct attacking continuation," said Merry, who has recently qualified as an International Master.
Prize for best result by a Shropshire player in the Open went to Nigel Ferrington.
The event, played at the Wrekin Housing Trust premises in Telford, attracted 130 entries, with the youngest competitor being Eloise Fenwick, aged 10, who lives near Whitchurch.
Players came from far and wide - the furthest from County Donegal, and another making the trek from Glasgow.
Kate Walker's devilish trap which secured her a place among the prize money went, with Kate with the black pieces: 1 e4 d5 2 ed Nf6 3 d4 Nxd5 4 c4 Nb4 5 Qa4 check Nbc6 6 d5 Bf5 7 Na3 b5 8 cb Qxd5 8 bxc6 Qe4 chk (white has won a piece but his position has suddenly become desperate) 10 Be3 Nd3 chk (the white queen is lost) 11 Bxd3 Qxa4 12 Bxf5 12 Qa5 chk 13 Bd2 Qxf5 (and black even picks up a minor piece, leaving black with a winning advantage, although Kate played safe and agreed a draw on move 23).
Shropshire Congress fast approaching - 03/01/2017
Shropshire's biggest chess event is in its final countdown to the start of the action, with a prize fund of over £2,600 and two Grandmasters already throwing their hat in the ring.
Shropshire Chess Congress, a five-round tournament for players of all abilities, kicks off - or perhaps that should be pushes off - on Friday (January 6th) and continues over the weekend in a festival of chess being held at the Wrekin Housing Trust premises in Telford. Already well over 100 players from across Britain have signed up.
"Our feedback process last year (I.E. 2016) showed a very high level of satisfaction with 97.4 per cent of respondents rating the congress as Excellent or Very Good," said one of the organisers, Steve Rooney. "However, we are not resting on our laurels and will aim to ensure that the 2017 event is even better with excellent playing conditions, professional administration, unbeatable catering quality and value, and above all, a warm and welcoming atmosphere."
The big hitters will be playing in the Open section where entries so far include Grandmasters Mark Hebden and Keith Arkell, with Shropshire's best hope being expatriate Salopian John Cox, whose father Jeff founded the congress in the 1970s.Winner of the section will take home a prize of £1,000.
In the Major section, for players with a grading of under 160 - a good club standard - local hopes will rest on the shoulders of the likes of David Everington of Shrewsbury, a multiple county champion with a grading of 158, and Anthar Ansari of the Newport club.
Winner in the Major will get £300, as will the top placed person in the Minor, which is for players graded below 125, and in which Kate Walker of the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club will be looking to do well - her grading of 123 makes her one of the favourites.
All players play five games - unless they request a half-point bye in a round - with one on Friday night, and two on both Saturday and Sunday. In each round players are paired with an opponent on equal points, meaning that by round five on Sunday afternoon the leading players are going head to head for the big prizes.
Players are also up against the clock, having to complete all their moves of the game within 90 minutes, plus a 30-second-per-move increment. This gives a player an extra 30 seconds on the clock every time they make a move.
Newport on top of the Christmas tree - 13/12/2016
Reigning league champions Newport A are sitting pretty in the championship race with a win again Telepost A - who they pipped for the title on points difference last season - to take them to the Christmas break with a three point lead at the head of Division One in Shropshire Chess League.
And talking of breaks, how about this? Newport were fielding a "new" player in the form of Warren Lewis, who has returned to chess after... wait for it... 45 years. Lewis marked his comeback with a win over Graham Shepherd on bottom board.
Nathanael Paul of Newport said: "Before the match began the Newport A players knew that they'd be up against it against a strong Telepost A side. However, we were then surprised to see that Trevor Brotherton was nowhere to be seen as well as John Bashall, which gave us a better chance. The match was full of good games, with the early positions being quite close."
Paul was the only Newport player to lose on the night, thanks to a queen sacrifice by Phil Zabrocki completed by a checkmate using knight and rook. This took the running score to 1.5-1.5.
Paul said: "The next two games were both close, but they ended up in favour of the home side. Ian Jamieson won a piece against Matthew Clark and then swapped off into a won ending. Nick Rutter was also on top after Nigel Ferrington went an exchange down. He was also significantly down on time, which soon led to Rutter winning in a comfortable rook versus bishop ending. It was a very good match between the two similar strength sides."
Things are not going so well for Newport's B team, who are pointless and rooted to the bottom of the division after losing on their travels to Oswestry.
Telford's tense tie at the top of two - 06/12/2016
Telford A saw victory slip through their fingers as they came agonisingly close to inflicting a first defeat of the season on Division Two leaders Wellington A in Shropshire chess league.
The visitors were leading 2-1 in the running score and on the remaining boards Munroe Morrison was plainly beating Craig Murray while the encounter between Dave Gostelow and Colin Roberts was approaching a crucial stage.
With Murray's queen threatening to achieve a draw by delivering perpetual check, Morrison elected to ditch his extra piece to prevent it, still leaving him with extra pawns in a queen ending. But when Murray was able to pick up one of those extra pawns, and with Morrison's king still vulnerable to checks, a draw was agreed in what looked like only a temporary reprieve for Wellington, as over on top board Gostelow still only needed to draw to win the match for Telford.
Things were looking good on the board, with Gostelow building what seemed a crushing advantage, but were not so good on the clock where he was very short of time.
The climax came with a mad time scramble during which all his advantage on the board was lost and, more importantly, his digital clock started blinking - he had run out of time, giving the win to Roberts and meaning Wellington had achieved an unlikely draw.
Elsewhere Shrewsbury B beat Telepost C in the county town derby tie and are in second place.
Rare win for Newport at Oswestry - 29/11/2016
Reigning champions Newport A have cemented their place at the top of the Shropshire Chess League with victory over Oswestry A - their first in six years - in a match in which their players were able to squeeze wins from what looked fairly level positions.
Charles Lowick Higgie found a nice bishop move to win Chris Lewis' queen, resulting in their game finishing quite early, but then Simon Maydew and Ian Jamieson struck back for Newport. With Brian Whyte agreeing a draw against Nick Rutter on top one, it meant Newport were 2.5-1.5 in the running score and Richard Bryant would need to beat Nathanael Paul to salvage a point for Oswestry.
Nathanael says: "My game with Richard was a drawn-out affair. The game was pretty equal, after Richard had to defend from my more active pieces and pawns. However, Richard then miscalculated and allowed me to have a passed a pawn, which ultimately won me the match when I threatened winning a piece or queening the passed pawn.
"It was a good match with lots of close games, and a good win for Newport, especially as we always tend to draw away to Oswestry. In fact, Newport hasn't beaten Oswestry since 2010, in the 2009-2010 season.
It was not such a happy story however for Newport B, which went down to Ludlow A, who return to winning ways, while in the big derby game Telepost A beat Shrewsbury A 3.5-1.5.
£1,000 top prize for popular congress - 22/11/2016
A £1,000 top prize will again be on offer in January's Shropshire Chess Congress, which will follow the format of this year's event which attracted no fewer than five Grandmasters - a record.
Details of the congress, the biggest and most prestigious competition in Shropshire's chess calendar, attracting players from all over Britain, have now been finalised and it will once again be five rounds, running from Friday evening to Sunday from January 6 to 8 at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford.
The strongest players will be battling it out in the Open section, while in the Major section - for players with a grading under 160 - and the Minor, for the under-125 graded players, the first prize is £300 in each.
In league action, things remain tight in Division Two, where Telford B have leapfrogged their A-team clubmates, and Shrewsbury B have narrowed the gap on leaders Wellington A. Telford A would normally be considered favourites for promotion, but having two sides in the same division stretches resources and they find themselves in one of the relegation spots.
In Division Three, Telepost D and Wellington B are sharing top spot. Wellington's victory against Priorslee Lions B was notable in that Gary White stopped the winning run of Mike Hollier, who had won all six previous games after his recent return to the chess scene after many years. He used to play for a previous incarnation of the Priorslee side - GKN Sankey's back in the 1980s. In the final position he had two pawns on the sixth rank and a bishop against Gary's rook, but Gary sacrificed the rook for the two pawns, giving an automatic draw as a lone bishop cannot deliver checkmate.
The Lions' only win of the evening came from Michael Reynolds on bottom board, who actually won his game against John Storey twice. Fairly early on Storey left his queen under attack from a pawn and moved something else. Rather chivalrously, Reynolds said he "hadn't seen" Storey make that move - so Storey retracted it and moved his queen out of danger instead. Reynolds then went on to win the game.
|Ludlow A are starting to taste some lows - 15/11/2016
After the high of fielding a Grandmaster on top board a couple of matches ago, Ludlow A are starting to taste some lows which have sent them tumbling from their position as early leaders in Shropshire Chess League.
A below-par Ludlow were thumped 4-1 by a tough Oswestry side, with newcomer Rich Wiltshir winning on his debut with a victory over Ludlow captain Joe Watson, despite a lengthy commute from Walsall. Other wins for Richard Bryant and Dimitar Kirachen and two draws completed the mauling.
Unbeaten Newport A are now topping Division One, albeit after dropping their first point, drawing against Shrewsbury A, while Priorslee Lions A are closing in on the head of the table following a win over Newport B, who are already looking like relegation candidates.
Sadly, Shropshire chess is marking the passing of another stalwart of the game locally, Alan Bliss, a longstanding member of Shrewsbury Chess Club, who was a past secretary and president.
Early Leaders Wellington A - 08/11/2016
Wellington A are the early leaders of Division Two in the Shropshire chess league after victory over Telepost C gave them four wins in four games.
A first ever win in the league for Simon Rhodes on bottom board took them over the finishing line against a Telepost side who were heavily outgraded.
The Shrewsbury-based Telepost club is fielding no fewer than five teams in the league this season, which may well be a record. An influx of players from the recently-collapsed Church Stretton club will have been a godsend in helping to fill places.
Shrewsbury B are in second place after drawing against the talented youngsters of Newport Juniors, who started with a two-point advantage because the visitors arrived two players short. However Olusegun Ilesanmi and Tony Purser won their games, while Ivor Salter drew against Simon Maydew - the only adult in the juniors' side - to salvage the point for Shrewsbury.
Telford woes continue - 25/10/2016
Telford A's hopes of a processional route to promotion back to Division One have taken another blow with a second defeat, this time at the hands of Shrewsbury B. Telford were at least able to field David Gostelow on top board, but the visitors won on all three top boards in a 1.5-3.5 scoreline.
One of Telford's problems is that they have two teams in the same division, which makes it more difficult to draw on reserves when the A team is short. And to compound the Telford club's woes, Newport Juniors picked up their first points of the season on their travels at Telford B.
Edison Xu beat Richard Szwajkun comprehensibly after Szwajkun went wrong with the Scandinavian Defence and the game was over quickly. Zach Maydew couldn't halt Tim Skidmore's aggressive queenside attack against Zach's king which had castled queenside. Dominic Holmes was next to finish, gaining the upper hand against Andy Jones. That put the juniors in a 2-1 lead, and they wrapped things up with a win and a draw on the last games to finish.
In Division Three, Wellington B were only able to raise a team of three for their away encounter at Oswestry, and came away empty handed, but with a consolation of sorts that they had avoided a docked league point which would have come if they had defaulted the match.
GM crops up in Shropshire - 18/10/2016
A Grandmaster on board one, and the next three boards all graded over 180... was this the strongest team ever fielded in the Shropshire chess league?
Priorslee Lions captain Glyn Pugh thought it was a hoax when he heard on the afternoon of their match against Ludlow A that the visitors were going to play Grandmaster Keith Arkell and his brother.
"I honestly thought it was a wind-up and didn't tell the rest of the team. It was only when I arrived at the club and was told by Gary White and George Viszokai that the Arkells were actually there that I believed it," said Pugh.
Although it has not been unknown for International Masters to play occasionally in Shropshire league games, no Grandmaster has ever played in modern times - if ever.
But true to their name, the Lions fought hard and did not go tamely to defeat, and in fact had the last laugh - as they drew the match to get their first point of the season, meaning early league leaders Ludlow dropped their first point this season. On the night Ludlow needed only a draw from the last two games to finish to secure a match victory. But then Pugh won, leaving it all turning on whether Bill Bates could beat Nick Arkell - who had launched a savage attack - to salvage a point for the Lions.
"When Nick Arkell missed a win in the time scramble, Bill calmly grabbed a piece and defended with an extra rook to win on time. A hard-earned point," said Pugh.
A bad week for Telford - 11/10/2016
Telford A could only field a severely under strength side against Telepost C in their Division Two encounter in Shropshire Chess League, and in normal circumstances the Shrewsbury-based team's 3-2 victory would count as a big upset.
With Telford's heavy artillery missing, there were close matches throughout, and Nick Holmes clinched match victory at the end of the evening for Telepost after riding out Steve Szwajkun's counter attack.
Telepost C now are joint top of the early league table along with Wellington A, who were too strong on the night for the talented youngsters of Newport Juniors.
There was further bad news for the Telford club when their B team went down 4-1 on their travels to Shrewsbury, Telford's point coming from Windsor Peck who dug in after blundering a piece early on and ultimately landed a swindle on Mark Smith.
Meanwhile away from the board the funeral of Wellington stalwart Derrick Powell is as Telford crematorium at noon on Thursday, October 13.
Time up for Church Stretton - 04/10/2016
The bad news just keeps on coming for Shropshire chess league, with the Church Stretton club announcing that it has folded due to lack of player availability. Apart from being a sad loss to the county chess scene, as Stretton had already played two matches, their departure has meant some rejigging of the Division One table. Stretton had been on the brink of folding eight years ago, but the arrival of Steve Rooney reinvigorated the club, and there was a short-lived amalgamation with Condover Chess Club, which itself later folded.
"Losing Church Stretton is a great loss to the Shropshire league and they will be greatly missed," said league controller Nathanael Paul.
It means there has been a difficult start to the league season, with two clubs withdrawing teams from Division Three, and the sad death of Wellington club captain and long-time stalwart Derrick Powell, in whose memory a minute's silence was held before the start of play in the Wellington B v Newport C encounter.
Still, the action continues, and Ludlow have got off to an impressive start to life in the top flight after their promotion at the end of last season, beating Telepost A.
Telepost arrived a little late, so were already down on the clocks by seven minutes. New player John Wrench, who also plays for Kidderminster, had a comfortable draw with his regular French defence. Wins for Richard Croot and Bob Woodley left Ludlow needing just a draw from board one player Lee Davis to win. In the event Telepost board one Nigel Ferrington blundered in time trouble, which sealed Ludlow's victory.
Reigning league champions Newport A were pitted against Priorslee Lions A and, with the top two boards already drawn, Newport's Chris Lewis offered Glyn Pugh a draw, as he saw that Newport were on top on the bottom boards.
Steve Tarr had sacrificed a pawn and gained an attack, but Ian Jamieson was equal to the defence task and once he skewered Tarr's rooks with a bishop, it was all over, while Athar Ansari converted his material advantage against Gary White, to give Newport match victory.
We bid a fond farewell to Derrick Powell - 27/09/2016
Wellington Chess Club is mourning the loss of club captain Derrick Powell, the long-time stalwart of the club. Powell, who had fought a long battle with multiple sclerosis, was admitted to hospital with a chest infection and died on Friday.
Clubmate Toby Neal said: "Derrick's passing is an incalculable loss to the club. He was the rock on which everything was built. There cannot be a chess club in Shropshire so closely associated with one man.
"He was Wellington's beating heart for so many years - at least since the 1980s. Our thoughts go out to his wife Sheila, who, when Derrick's mobility problems became more acute, would drive him to the club and to away matches. "Without him, things at the club will never be the same."
Fixtures in Division Three get under way in Shropshire Chess League this week. Last season there were seven teams in the division, but this season Telford and Church Stretton have been unable to field teams due to lack of players, which left the prospect that the division would have too few teams to make it viable.
But the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club has come to the rescue by fielding five teams in the league for the first time in their history, including two in Division Three.
Telepost's Keith Tabner said: "This is only possible by taking full advantage of the flexible league rules which allow suitably graded players to double up - that is, play for more than one team. So for example two of our newest members, Nick Holmes and Dennis Bonner, will not only play regularly in both Divisions Two and Three, but will also each captain one of the teams.
"I feel that in future years to keep Shropshire chess moving forwards as a dynamic means of promoting this noble game, we must not only encourage new players to join our clubs, but also be imaginative in the way we structure the teams including more player-sharing across clubs and divisions. "I fear that existing players will drift away from the game if we do not provide ample opportunity to play competitive matches."
Ludlow open their account in style - 20/09/2016
Ludlow made their mark in emphatic fashion on their return to the top flight of Shropshire chess, notching up a 3-2 victory over Shrewsbury.
First to finish was the board three encounter which pitched Richard Croot against the multiple county champion David Everington. Croot essayed the Benoni Defence for the first time, and it paid dividends. "I hope it will remain a secret that I play the Benoni," he said.
A win for Ludlow stalwart Paul Munday and draws from Perry Walker and captain Joe Watson were enough to give the south Shropshire outfit victory in a tight match. It was the first Division One win for Ludlow for three seasons, after their withdrawal from competition as a mark of respect in 2014-2015 following the death of a player returning home from a match saw them drop down.
The in-house encounter between reigning league champions Newport A, and Newport B - it is believed to be the first time that club has ever had its B team in the first division - was much closer than the 4-1 scoreline suggests. Ace top board Nick Rutter blundered a piece against Athar Ansari, previously known as Athar Mehmood, and was unable to recover, while a titanic battle involving two talented juniors saw Edison Xu beat Dominic Holmes.
Oswestry have also got off to a winning start, with David Bennion setting them on their way to a narrow 3-2 victory against Church Stretton A by sacrificing a pawn against Karl Wakefield, and going on to win a piece.
In the opening game of the new season, it was late wins by Matthew Clark and Nigel Ferrington which took Telepost over the finishing line against Priorslee Lions.
Shropshire chess looks forward to new league season - 06/09/2016
Shropshire chess league action resumes next week for a new season after the summer break, with Telpost A and Priorslee Lions A having the honour of kicking off proceedings on Monday.
The close season has also seen the production of the latest gradings list - effectively the players' form book - showing who's on the up after the last campaign. Nigel Ferrington of Shrewsbury-based Telepost is now head and shoulders the county's top player, with a grading of 213, a rise of four points, and putting himself 11 points ahead of Newport's Nick Rutter.
Church Stretton's Trevor Brotherton is in third spot in the standings, at 195. Most improved player is Newport's Athar Ansari - previously known as Athar Mehmood - was has leapt 17 points, from a grading of 139 to 156. Among his recent achievements have been winning joint first prize in the ninth 4NCL Congress U-175 section, for which he received £140, and a £25 grading prize in the Shropshire individual championship. Another big improver is the youngster Edison Xu, up 14 points to 134.
With a lot of talent spread round the clubs, it is shaping up to be another unpredictable title race, although holders Newport looking the strongest on paper. Gradings are an assessment of a player's strength based on their results.
One of Shropshire's most travelled players is Gary White, of Priorslee Lions, who takes part in events up and down the county, and even abroad. He was in action in the British Chess Championships in Bournemouth, taking part in the section for players graded under 150, among others. Over nine days he played 21 games, scoring 5 out of 11 in the under-150 rapidplay, 3 out of 5 in the British under-140, and 2.5 out of 5 in the Weekend under-150, so ending up with a score of exactly 50 per cent, at 10.5 out of 21.
One of his encounters was, says Gary, one of the most bizarre games he has ever played.
"With the black pieces, I once again adopted a Dutch set-up after my opponent opened with d4. I have on numerous occasions, by far better players than me, been asked about my lack of development of pieces. This is a classic example - with the entire eight queen-side pieces ALL still on their original squares. Now, you don't see that very often!"
Playing with the black pieces against Andrew Duffell, the game went: 1 d4 f5 2 c4 Nf6 3 Nc3 e6 4 f3 Be7 5 e4 fe 6 fe Bb4 7 e5 Ne4 8 Qg4 Nxc3 9 Bd2 Nxa210 Bd3 O-O 11 Nf3 Bxd2 check 12 Kxd2 Nb4 ("completely missed Bxh7 coming, so retreating the knight was a big mistake. Rxf3 instead is winning!")13 Bxh7 check Kxh7 14 Qh5 check Kg8 15 Ng5 Rf5 16 Qh7 check Kf8 17 Qh8 check Ke7 18 Qxg7 check Ke8 19 Qg8 check Ke7 20 Qg7 check Ke8 and a draw was agreed - black is not checkmated but cannot escape the repeated checks.
When is a trophy not a trophy? - 16/08/2016
Newport chess club trio Nick Rutter, Nat Paul, and Chris Lewis, didn't have it all their own way as they staged a simultaneous display at the club, taking on around 14 allcomers.
They went down to defeat at the hands of Danny Griffiths and Toby Neal, and Simon Maydew was also winning but agreed a draw at the end of the evening because the event was overrunning.
Promising junior Edison Xu also came away with a draw. All other games were won by the trio.
Challengers arrived to find Newport players in a state of some anxiety over the "lost" Cox Trophy, which is given to the winners of the summer knockout competition. Newport had been the trophy holders, but were dethroned by Telepost A in the 2016 final in June. But Newport couldn't find the trophy to give it to Telepost, and inquiries with Telepost confirmed they had not received it.
With fears growing about the missing, or worse, stolen, trophy, it was visitor Gary White, of Priorslee Lions chess club, who took on the Sherlock Holmes role.
"It's behind your bar," he told the Newport players.
A disbelieving band of Newport players then headed for the bar to inspect their trophy shelf.
"There it is," said White, pointing to a shield on prominent display.
And when it was got down, he proved to be right, with the shield clearly being marked as being the Cox Trophy.
"Oh, we were looking for a trophy, not a shield," said Newport's Nat Paul.
Chess - but not as we know it - 26/07/2016
Madness and mayhem were the order of the day in what may have been Shropshire's first ever exchange chess tournament, with junior players proving particularly adept at this variant of the regular game.
Twelve players, in six teams, took part in the event at Newport Chess Club, with Nathanael Paul and the junior Zach Maydew tying for joint first with Simon Maydew and another junior, Edison Xu.
Exchange chess is played on two chessboards by four players in teams of two and is, so to speak, an entirely different ballgame in which, for instance, captured pieces can be returned to the board.
Organiser Chris Lewis said: "There were only a couple of players completely new to it. Most impressive was the juniors, Zach and Edison, who picked up the tactics much faster than the adults which is probably why they won.
"I'd say the players picked it up with total ease and by the end of the night were starting to understand the tricks that turn an attack into mate. It was quite interesting that everyone had a different style of play as well. Some were completely aggressive while others were playing to win material and some were just holding and letting their opponents sac. There were some totally mad games including one game when the white king was chased from b1 to c8 and wasn't then mated for about 10 moves despite being completely surrounded by enemy pieces."
More standard chess will be played in a blitz competition being held at the Newport club on Tuesday, July 26 with a start time of 7.45pm. It is a handicap tournament with strongest players getting just three minutes to complete their game, and those towards the other end of the scale being allowed a more leisurely eight minutes.
Newport blitz update - 12/07/2016
There was a "home win" in the first of a series of blitz events at Newport Chess Club, with Nathanael Paul of the Newport club outright winner with a score of 5.5, taking away prize money of £21.20.
Competition was hot, with five players just half a point behind - Nick Rutter, Athar Ansari, Colin Roberts, Ile Olusegun, and Chris Lewis.
There was an impressive field of over 20 competitors in the event which involved lightning quick time limits on a handicap system. The next blitz event is on July 26.
And tonight, Tuesday, July 12, the club is trying something completely different - an exchange tournament, a form of chess that few, if any, Shropshire players will be familiar with. Exchange is a chess variant played on two chessboards by four players in teams of two. The rules, which are on the Shropshire chess website, will need a bit of study, as they involve captured pieces being put back on the board.
Nigel Ferrington - county champion - 05/07/2016
Shropshire chess ace Nigel Ferrington has become the county's king of chess for the seventh time.
In the seventh and final round of the Shropshire individual championship Ferrington, who plays for the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club, beat Stuart Ross to ensure outright victory in the tournament with six points.
Ferrington, who has for years been among the county's highest graded players, first won the title as a joint winner in 1993 and took it again in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2012.
And he didn't have it easy, as along the way in the current campaign he beat last year's champion Nick Rutter, and drew with the 2013 champion Jamie Hopkins.
His prize is £50 and the E. Groom Trophy.
Hopkins beat Dave Gostelow to end in the runner's up spot on five points, with Rutter, Stuart Ross, and Chris Lewis finishing their campaigns on 4.5 points. Sixteen players took part in the competition, which is open to all players.
There is no let-up in chess action over the summer, with the Newport club organising several events, including a simultaneous chess challenge thrown down to allcomers by Nick Rutter, Nat Paul, and Chris Lewis, on August 9; a six-round exchange tournament on July 12; and a six-round blitz tournament on July 26.
Get ready for the blitz - 28/06/2016
With the league season over, and the summer knockouts decided, thoughts for Shropshire chess players are turning to a series of blitz competitions hosted by Newport Chess Club.
The first is Tuesday, June 28, at 7.30pm, which Chris Lewis acting as controller. It will be fast action stuff, as a handicap system will mean time limits will vary from between a lightning quick three minutes to make all the moves for the strongest entrants, to a much less frantic eight minutes for the lowest graded players. Entry fee is £2.50, and £1 for juniors.
The other blitz dates are July 26, and August 30.
Another upcoming event at the Newport club is an exchange tournament on the evening of July 12. Exchange chess is a variant played on two chessboards by four players in teams of two, and so it will obviously be a learning curve for all involved - rules are on the Shropshire chess website, www.shropshirechess.org .
July 10 sees the latest in a series of meets for informal social chess, coffee, and chat, at Quirky cafe, Shrewsbury, from 2pm onwards.
And another date for the diary is Shropshire Chess Association's annual meeting, on July 20, at 7.30pm at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford.
Nailbiting finale to summer cup- 21/06/2016
Matthew Clark clinched the Cox Trophy for Telepost with just 53 seconds to spare in a dramatic finale to Shropshire chess' summer knockout competition.
The twists and turns were broadcast live on the internet as the Shrewsbury-based club were able to get a measure of revenge over Newport who had pipped them to the post for the league championship title.
Things could not be tighter as the play unfolded at Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford. With there being draws on the top three boards, all eyes were on the game between Telepost captain Clark, and Newport's Simon Maydew, whose achievements this year have included holding a Federal Master to a draw.
The pressure was on for captain Clark as, if this game also was a draw, the tiebreak system would hand the trophy to Newport. With four draws - it would have been the first time ever that that happened - the team with the black pieces on board one is deemed the winner, which meant Newport would win in this case.
It all came down to a desperate time scramble in which Clark had little time but, crucially, Maydew had no time at all.
In the drawn games, there was a "save" by Telepost's John Bashall against Chris Lewis, who looked to be winning and appeared to have won the exchange, but Bashall generated counter-threats that were so dangerous that Lewis had to return the material and, despite being a pawn up, was unable to make progress.
Full result was - Newport A 1.5, Telepost A 2.5: N Rutter 0.5, N Ferrington 0.5; N Paul 0.5, P Zabrocki 0.5; C Lewis 0.5, J Bashall 0.5; S Maydew 0, M Clark 1.
Reviewing the season, Clark said: "The A team have won the Rapid Play League and the Cox Trophy and finished up runners up in the league and the Summer Rapid Play, so we're pretty pleased with the season. The B,C and D teams have all had good seasons as well from what I've seen. Let's see if we can win the league next year!"
Being played simultaneously was the final of the Minor knockout competition, for teams in Divisions Two and Three. Here Ludlow A beat Newport B in another game broadcast on the internet.
Full result - Newport B 1.5, Ludlow A 2.5: I Jamieson 0.5, L Davis 0.5; D Griffiths 0, R Croot 1; A Ansari 1, J Watson 0; C Paul 0, R Woodley 1.
Finals night going out live on the net - 14/06/2016
The climax to Shropshire chess' summer knockout competitions comes on Thursday, June 16, in a big broadcast finals night.
And there will be a chance for a double by the Newport club, as in the Cox Trophy final, Newport A will face Telepost A, and in the Minor knockout final, Newport B play Ludlow A.
The Cox is a knockout for Division One teams, and the Minor for teams in the other two divisions.
Shrewsbury-based Telepost will be looking to get their own back against Newport, who snatched away their hopes of winning the league championship at the end of the latest league campaign by the smallest of margins. The teams ended on the same points, but Newport took the title on "goal difference."
New technology in the form of digital chess boards will mean the finals - being held at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford - will be broadcast live on the internet, so people can watch the progress of the games and follow the moves on their computers and devices. Look out for details on the Shropshire chess website, www.shropshirechess.org - the live chess link normally appears via Shrewsbury Chess Club ( http://www.shrewsburychessclub.org ) under the chess clubs header at the top of the page.
Meanwhile a date has been fixed for Shropshire Chess Association's annual meeting. It is at the Wrekin Housing Trust, Colliers Way, Telford on July 12 at 7.30pm.
Newport are new kings of quickplay - 07/06/2016
Newport have dethroned Telepost as Shropshire's speed chess kings after the closest possible finish in the final of the county's team rapidplay championship.
As the dust settled the teams were tied 2.5-2.5. So it was tiebreak time and, under the rules of the competition, the result on the bottom board was deleted. Here Telepost's Kate Walker had defeated the eight-year-old Newport star of the future Edison Xu and, sadly for Kate and Telepost, once that result had been disregarded it meant that Newport racked up a 2.5-1.5 win on the remaining boards.
In fact the Shrewsbury-based club already knew they were on a hiding to nothing even as Nathanael Paul and Nigel Ferrington were squeezing all they could out of a bishops and pawns ending on the top board as a win for Ferrington to even the match score - which he duly ground out - was not going to be enough under the countback tiebreak system.
Newport had a little help in the competition from a guest player, William Bates of Priorslee Lions, who did not field a team. The other Newport victors were Nathanael Paul, Chris Lewis, Athar Ansari - previously known as Athar Mehmood - and the rising talent that is Edison Xu, who moved to Shropshire from China a little while ago. Six teams entered the competition held at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford, and the format was a league followed by knockout stages, with a time limit of 15 minutes per player to complete all the moves of the game. Full result in the final was - Newport 2.5, Telepost 2.5 (Newport win on tiebreak): Nathanael Paul 0, Nigel Ferrington 1; William Bates 1, Phil Zabrocki 0; Chris Lewis 0.5, John Bashall 0.5; Athar Ansari 1, Matthew Clark 0; Edison Xu 0, Kate Walker 1.
In the 3rd/4th place game, Shrewsbury beat Newport B.
Summer Chess - 18/05/16
Here comes summer - and with it come the summer knockout tournaments to keep Shropshire's chess players busy now all league action has ended.
In the Cox Trophy, for Division One teams, the shape of the semi finals is now known, with Telepost A securing their place after inflicting a heavy 0.5-3.5 defeat on county town rivals Shrewsbury A. The individual scores were: F Best 0, N Ferrington 1; I Ilesanmi 0, P Zabrocki 1; D Everington 0, J Bashall 1; M Smith 0.5, M Clark 0.5. Telepost now face Wellington A in the semi final.
Newport's semi final opponents will be Priorslee A whose place in the semis was achieved thanks to a default by Telford A.
Alas, defaults are also having an impact on the Minor Knockout Trophy, which is for Division Two and Three teams, with Newport B reaching the semis through the default of Telford C. Among other results, Wellington B held Telepost C to a draw, but to no avail, as Telepost won the tie through the countback tiebreak rule. Result on the night was 2-2 - C Murray 1, V Crean 0; default 0, C Micallef 1; S Rhodes 0, N Holmes 1; M Walsh 1, J Casewell 0. However, in the countback rule for drawn games, the result on the bottom board is ignored, and once this is done it ends up as 2-1 victory for Telepost.
Meanwhile in the individual championship Nick Rutter's hopes of at least a share of the title have been scuppered by a defeat inflicted by clubmate Chris Lewis.
And the summer team rapidplay tournament has been fixed for Sunday, June 5, at Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford. Details are on the Shropshire chess website www.shropshirechess.org .
Telepost are kings of quickplay - 11/05/2016
Telepost A are Shropshire's rapidplay champions after the final round of matches in the league for quickfire chess.
The Shrewsbury-based club finished their Division One campaign on 24 points, just a point clear of Newport A, and with the rest well behind. The climax to the season was however blighted by two no-shows, with neither Priorslee A or Wellington A fielding a team for the round of fixtures on Bank Holiday Monday - not a good choice of date, as it turned out.
Wellington and Newport B are both relegated, while in Division Two Church Stretton A and Telford A top the table to win promotion.
In the rapidplay league, players have just 20 minutes to complete all the moves on the game.
In the county individual championship there is a close battle for the title as the players enter the seventh and final round this month. Nigel Ferrington of Telepost is in pole position as he is joint leader with 4.5 points but, crucially, has a game in hand over the others. He will be facing Stuart Ross of Newport who has had a great competition and is also on 4.5 points, while the third leader is another Newport player, Nick Rutter.
Among upcoming events are the summer team rapidplay tournament, which has now been fixed for Sunday, June 5, at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford, while on the junior scene, Simon Maydew is looking to organise a chess competition for primary school children on June 25, at Old Hall School in Wellington.
Ludlow win Division Two - 19/04/2016
Shrewsbury B have stumbled at the final hurdle, going down to an unexpected defeat in the last match of the Shropshire Chess League season and seeing their promotion campaign in tatters.
Needing only a draw against county town rivals Telepost B to secure promotion on "goal difference" at the expense of Newport B - a win would have seen Shrewsbury go up as Division Two champions - they crashed to a 2-3 loss.
Shrewsbury have led the race all season, so the failure to make things count when they really mattered will be a bitter disappointment. For a long while it looked like Shrewsbury B would be promoted, while Shrewsbury A would pass them in the other direction with relegation from Division One. But a last-gasp "great escape" means that at least Shrewsbury A will continue in the top flight next season.
The second Division Two promotion spot has been taken by Newport B, making it a great campaign for the Newport club, whose A team are league champions, and whose talented juniors side have won promotion from Division Three.
Ludlow A are Division Two champions, making sure with a thumping whitewash of relegated Priorslee Lions B, who could only field three players.
It's Newport - but only just - 12/04/2016
Newport, who last won the league title in 2013, edged out Shrewsbury-based Telepost A on "goal difference" with both teams on 21 points, with last season's title holders Priorslee Lions A in third place.
"It was a tough campaign, and we are delighted to have come away with the league title, especially on such an exciting and close finish," said Nat Paul of Newport.
"We are particularly happy after some near misses in recent seasons, where we had really strong teams but let inconsistent form get the better of us. So we're ecstatic we managed to get over the line this time, particularly as we started the season on paper as second favourites, behind very strong outfit and holders, Priorslee Lions A.
"That underdog feeling definitely helped us throughout the season, especially when we had to gain two victories in the title run-in without top player Nick Rutter. Throughout the season we really had to use the depth of our squad, which is shown through our use of 11 different players. This in particular made the league victory even sweeter as it makes it a real club effort.
"The players we used throughout the season were Nick Rutter, myself Nat Paul, Chris Lewis, Simon Maydew, Athar Mehmood (now known as Athar Ansari), Danny Griffiths, Stuart Ross, Alex Taylor, Chris Paul, Edison Xu, Paul Broderick."
And it's a double joy for Newport as their juniors side has been promoted from Division Three.
Meanwhile Shrewsbury A pulled off a great escape to avoid relegation from Division One, beating already-relegated Wellington A in the final game of the season to join Telford A on 11 points, but staying up thanks to a superior "goal difference". Telford will have seen the writing on the wall after they went down to a heavy defeat against Oswestry A at the start of the week - a match in which even a draw would have kept them up.
And Wellington B, who seemed destined to make history as the first team to end the season on a minus score after being docked a point for defaulting a match at the start of the season, won their first match in the last game of the campaign to take their points tally from minus one to plus one.
Too close to call in Division One - 22/03/2016
A nailbiting finale is guaranteed at both ends of Division One in Shropshire Chess League with a neck-and-neck battle to take the championship and Shrewsbury A looking to perform an unlikely great escape and avoid the drop.
Despite the return from holiday of Nick Rutter, their strongest player, Newport A were held to a draw on their travels to Oswestry, and Telepost A took full advantage with a thumping win over relegated Wellington A. Newport and Telepost are now both on 19 points at the head of the table, with a virtually identical "goal difference", and just one match left until the end of the season.
Telepost will face reigning champions Priorslee Lions A, while Newport will entertain Church Stretton A, with all hanging on these final matches. The Lions are two points adrift and with an inferior "goal difference" but could still retain their title if they beat Telepost by a big score, and if Newport lost to Stretton by a big score.
Meanwhile Shrewsbury's win against Telford A has really turned up the heat on the Telford team, who will have to come away with something from their visit to Oswestry on April 4 to guarantee Division One safety. A defeat would mean that Shrewsbury would know just what they had to do to survive when they play in the division's final league game of the season, in which their opponents will be Wellington.
The question of if and when Shrewsbury A have ever been relegated from Division One has been answered by veteran player Eric Inglis, who said they were, about 36 years ago, bouncing back the next season.
A trip to the seaside by 17 Shropshire players proved lucrative, with five being in the prize money at the Blackpool congress. Phil Zabrocki of Telepost won all five games in the Major section, to come away with a whopping £600. In the Intermediate, Gary White won the £50 grading prize. In the Minor there were grading prizes for Athar Mehmood and Chris Paul (both Newport) and £50 also for George Viszokai.
Up and down season for Shrewsbury - 15/03/2016
Shrewsbury B are in pole position to take the Division Two title in Shropshire Chess League and win promotion to the top flight after a thumping victory over Church Stretton B leaves them three points clear.
It will give some extra fizz to tonight's (Tues March 15th) encounter with second placed Ludlow A as Ludlow need to win, both to reel in the county town side and also to keep their own promotion campaign smoothly on track.
While the B team is going for glory and promotion, Shrewsbury A look like passing their clubmates in the other direction as they need a minor miracle if they are to avoid relegation from Division One.
Veteran Shrewsbury player David Everington has been able to answer the question of whether Shrewsbury A have ever in their history not been in the top flight.
"I'm afraid there was a dim and distant occasion when Shrewsbury A slipped into Division Two, but it was many ages ago and I can't work out the exact year even though I was in the team. Even so, we got back the next season," he says.
In Division Two, Priorslee Lions B and Church Stretton B are both relegated, although the Lions had the satisfaction of a win, while in Division Three Newport Juniors have now moved into the second promotion spot, a wonderful achievement for a young side which in previous seasons has been in the lowly reaches of the league, but whose talent is now starting really to shine.
Title race could be a photo finish - 08/03/2016
With just two matches to go it's all to play for in Shropshire Chess League, with the championship battle boiling down to a scrap between Newport A and Telepost A, but with the reigning champions Priorslee Lions A still with an outside chance despite a stumble.
Again without their top player Nick Rutter, Newport nevertheless brought home the bacon on a visit to the county town, with a 3.5-1.5 victory over struggling Shrewsbury, who are now staring relegation in the face.
Finding when Shrewsbury last played in Division Two - if ever - would take some searching through the history books but they have the look of doom about them. They have two past county champions on their books, but as many a side which has a strong player pool has found, what matters is the team you can actually field.
Telepost A are just one point behind the league leaders and while Newport have two tough games left, one of Telepost's remaining fixtures is against relegated Wellington.
Meanwhile a potential dispute over Shrewsbury B's victory over Telford B in Division Two seems to have fizzled out. Telford protested about Dr Olusegan Ilesanmi playing on board one for Shrewsbury, pointing out that he had already played six times for the A team.
However, league controller Vinny Crean says he has not had any formal protest from Telford. It turns out the issue was raised pre-match, in which Vinny's advice was that summer gradings are used throughout the season, and therefore an ungraded Shrewsbury player - Ilesanmi was ungraded last summer and only received a grading in January - could continue to play in the second division until next season.
In other words, Vinny's view is Shrewsbury have done nothing wrong.
Vinny has been busy with another ruling after Telford C turned up to play Newport Juniors with only one player in a Division Three encounter. Under a new rule introduced last summer this counts as a defaulted match and Telford are docked one point, which could make the difference between them being promoted or not.
Doctor on board as B's sting Telford - 01/03/2016
Shrewsbury B have taken another step towards promotion from Division Two, but not without an element of controversy in their latest victory over Telford B, whose own promotion hopes were severely dented in the process.
At issue was the eligibility or otherwise of Dr Olusegan Ilesanmi, playing on board one for the B team. Telford protested that he had already played six times for the A team. Previously ungraded, Ilesanmi received his first grading in the new list published in January - a stonking grade of 162 which would make him a big asset to any team in the first division, let alone the second.
League rules give clubs some flexibility in fielding players for their teams in different divisions, the amount of flexibility depending on how highly they are graded. With Ilesanmi having no grading at all until recently, the Shrewsbury view was that they were perfectly within their rights to field him, and Telford played the match under protest saying they intended to take the matter further.
In the event Ilesanmi quickly drew, and despite going behind in the running score, the day was carried for the Shrewsbury cause by wins by the veteran Norman O'Connor and captain Ian Davies.
Rival promotion contenders Newport B and Ludlow A both scored victories and remain in close touch.
In Division Three, Newport Juniors continue to impress with their talented bunch of youngsters, and their 3-1 win over Telepost C has taken them within touching distance of the promotion battle.
Nat's a fly in the ointment - 23/02/2016
Nathanael Paul failed to read the script as he led his team to a victory which sees Newport A in pole position for the Shropshire Chess League championship.
Wellington A had brought a rabbit out of the hat by fielding their strongest player for decades, and perhaps ever, on top board, in the form of Tomasz Sygnowski, graded 210, recruited to the cause thanks to team member Mark Podlesak's connections to the Wolverhampton league.
With Wellington already being relegated, some pre-match negotiations resulted in a gentleman's agreement in which what was taken as the formality of Sygnowski's victory on top board - Newport were missing their strongest player Nick Rutter - would be cancelled out by Wellington defaulting bottom board, leaving the match a "fair fight" on the remaining three boards.
But it soon became clear that Paul, on top board for Newport, was not going to take on the role of being a lamb to the slaughter, and after a clever queen move which suddenly exposed all the weaknesses of Sygnowski's set-up, threatening either a back rank mate or material gain, a promising position became a winning position. Sygnowski resigned a few moves later, and results on the remaining three boards sealed Newport's win.
Telepost and reigning champions Priorslee Lions are only a single point behind Newport, and Church Stretton are in the mix too, so it promises to be a knife-edge run-in to the close of the season.
At the other end of the table, Shrewsbury A have it all to do if they are not to join Wellington in the drop.
In Division Three, Telford C share top spot but have a game in hand over Newport C, who benefited from two defaults by Wellington B, who remain rooted to the bottom of the table with a score which is making Shropshire chess history - minus one point, following a new league rule docking a point from any team which defaults a match without an exceptional reason.
IM Whytewashed in successful 4NCL weekend - 16/02/2016
Shrewsbury B have taken an important step towards securing promotion from Division Two in Shropshire Chess League by putting one of their closest rivals, Newport B, to the sword in a 4-1 away victory.
The county town outfit are now a point clear and with a game in hand over the three teams below them but with lots of points still available to be gained until the end of the season the final run-in could be a nailbiting affair.
The victory was wrapped up when Tony Purser on board five, in a winning position, had the luxury of being able to offer a draw in the knowledge that that was all the team needed to take both points.
It meant that the result of Peter Kitchen's encounter on board two against Athar Mehmood was academic, but nevertheless players gathered round to watch the climax as he came back from a precarious position to win his game and add a gloss to the match scoreline.
Despite currently standing just above the relegation zone, Ludlow A look a strong team who could yet have a big say in the promotion race and underlined it with a 4.5-0.5 victory over Telford B.
Meanwhile in the Four Nations Chess League Shropshire's teams enjoyed their most successful weekend yet, with five wins and a draw.
The third team got their first and second wins of the season - a 4.5-1.5 win against Barnet Knights 2, and a 4-2 victory against Barnet Knights 3. The second team have also put themselves into serious contention for promotion to division three as they are currently joint third. Shropshire 2 gained two 4-2 victories against Midland Monarchs 2 and Ashfield-Breadsall 2. Finally, the first team achieved a 4-2 win against Midland Monarchs 1, and a 3-3 draw against The Rookies, and the biggest individual win of all was achieved by Brian Whyte who beat International Master Lawrence Cooper.
Wellington meet their Waterloo - 09/02/2016
Priorslee Lions A have put Wellington A out of their misery by condemning them to relegation from Division One in Shropshire Chess League with four matches still to go in the season.
Wellington have struggled for players during all of this campaign and have defaulted boards in several matches, and have a solitary point so far.
The question now is who will join them in the drop, with Shrewsbury A currently looking prime candidates, but with enough games to go to save themselves and if at full strength - and that's always a big if - a side capable of giving anyone in the division a tough match.
At the other end of the division Newport A are a point clear as the title race approaches its final stages, but with all the leading contenders looking to be evenly matched, the battle could go down to the wire.
In Division Three a four-way promotion battle is shaping up and one of the contenders, Newport C, got one over on promotion rivals Telford C with a 2.5-1.5 win.
Mixed fortunes for county town rivals - 02/02/2016
Shrewsbury A were able to field a strong side against rivals Telepost A in the county town derby game but nevertheless went down to a defeat which puts them in the relegation zone in the top flight of Shropshire Chess League.
Conversely Telepost are now on equal points at the head of the table. Wins by Nigel Ferrington and Peter Crean were the difference between the teams on the night.
In Division Two Newport B pulled off a win against the odds against Ludlow A and are now in pole position for promotion. Ludlow have some of the strongest players in the division so the 3-2 win by outgraded Newport counts as a shock result and seriously dents Ludlow's own promotion chances - and in fact leaves them just above the relegation zone.
Among Newport's winners was Athar Mehmood who has had quite a start to 2016. He won a grading prize in the Shropshire Chess Congress, and now at the Nottingham rapidplay he won the Major section, for players with a grading of under 160, and brought home a prize of £100.
Telford throw title race wide open - 26/01/2016
A blunder in a frantic time scramble saw reigning Shropshire Chess League champions Priorslee Lions A snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a dramatic climax to their match against a strong Telford side.
Despite going 2-1 down in the running score, the Lions were doing well on the remaining two boards and after chalking up a full point on one of them it all came down to the encounter between Munroe Morrison and Mark Keady.
But as the clocks tick down to their final seconds, anything can happen, and in the ensuing chaos it all went wrong for Morrison and the resulting defeat sees the Lions displaced from the top of the table and their hopes of retaining the title dented. Incidentally the Lions have taken a policy decision not to adopt the league's optional new incremental time controls - which would have given Morrison the luxury of an extra 15 seconds for every move he made.
A titanic battle is now in prospect to seize the title with six teams in the mix and with no obvious favourite.
Newport A have moved to the top spot after a narrow win over Shrewsbury-based Telepost A, but with only three points separating the contenders there is everything to play for between now and the end of the season.
Although at the bottom of the chasing pack and only just above the relegation zone, Oswestry A could yet prove a surprise package coming up on the rails with three wins on the trot and having forged a beneficial partnership with Malpas & Whitchurch club, which plays in the Chester and district chess league.
Meanwhile three Shropshire teams have been in action in the Four Nations Chess League.
Latest results were - Round Three, Shropshire One 5, Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 1; Shropshire Two 4.5, Oxford Three 1.5. Round Four, Shropshire One 1.5, West is Best One 4.5; Shropshire Two 2.5, Iceni Two 3.5; Shropshire Three 2, Throw in the Tal Two 4; Shropshire Three 2 Midland Monarchs Two 4.
Grand-stand finish for congress - 12/01/2016
Five Grandmasters came, five Grandmasters played, and five Grandmasters conquered - that was the story of the strongest ever Shropshire Chess Congress which attracted 135 competitors from far and wide.
But while the first prize at £1,000 on offer in the Open section was the biggest ever, the Grandmasters had to be content to share the spoils five ways, with each taking home £290 - the individual amount was bumped up because no second or third prizes were awarded.
Two Shropshire players, Telepost's Nigel Ferrington, and Oswestry's Richard Bryant, finished the weekend tournament at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford on three points out of five, a highly creditable performance in a field which included those Grandmasters, as well as International Masters and FIDE Masters, which are the next ranks down from GM. They shared the trophy for best performance by a Shropshire player.
The GM winners were Keith Arkell, Danny Gormally, Jahongir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan, Stephen Gordon, and Mark Hebden. The latter ground out a 110-move win in the final round with bishop, rook, and pawn versus bishop and rook, making for perhaps the latest finish in the event's history as a result this year of the introduction of incremental time controls, which makes games open ended by giving players 30 seconds extra every time they make a move.
Bryant shared the under-2000 grading prize with Golam Ali.
While there was never any chance of a Shropshire player winning such a star-studded Open, Michal Bukojemski flew the flag for Shropshire and Church Stretton in the Major section, where he was one of four joint winners, on four points out of five, with each taking home £150. The other winners were Robert Clegg (Huddersfield), Ed Goodwin (Coventry), and Ben Graff (Kenilworth).
Athar Mehmood of Newport won the grading prize.
In the Minor, Roger Brown of Telford went into the final round joint leader, on four points, and agreed a draw with his opponent Chris Fraser after only six moves, ensuring they would each get either a half or a third of the first prize depending on other results - it turned out to be a half, netting them £250 each.
Third were Newport's Chris Paul, Telford's Tim Skidmore and Stephan Tennant, and David Curran of Northampton (£25 each). Nick Holmes of Telepost won the grading prize and Nottingham's Anita Somton won £50 for being top junior in the entire tournament.
One of the organisers, Steve Rooney, said: "We've enjoyed a spectacular tournament. It's been billed as the strongest in the county's history and I think it's lived up to that. We've had some very strong players and some really clever play."
Strong line-up for Shropshire Chess Congress - 05/01/2016
Over 110 players are now signed up to take part in Shropshire's biggest chess event at the weekend, which this year will be the strongest ever with a record £1,000 first prize in the toughest section.
The money has been one factor in attracting top-level competition, with five Grandmasters competing. The other factor is that Shropshire Chess Congress will not this year clash with the prestigious Hastings chess tournament, which would otherwise have tied up those Grandmasters.
The congress is at Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford and begins on January 8 - the first time in many years that there has been a Friday evening game - and continues on Saturday and Sunday, with five rounds in all.
Line-up in the Open section, which is for the very strongest players, is headed by Jahongir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan, with a FIDE rating of 2554, and the four other Grandmasters entered so far are Danny Gormally (2506), Stephen Gordon (2493), Mark Hebden (2481), and Keith Arkell (2474). There are three International Masters signed up too - Ameet Ghasi, four times French women's champion Sophie Milliet, and John Cox, an expatriate Salopian whose parents founded the congress in the early 1970s.
Nigel Ferrington, who plays for the Shrewsbury-based Telepost club, is the highest graded local entrant, with a FIDE rating of 2140.
The Major sees the return of a familiar name on Shropshire's chess scene of a few years ago. Carl Portman was part of the Coddon team which was all-conquering in the 1990s, winning six consecutive league championships. A former Shropshire individual champion, he has played of late for Banbury.
Shropshire's best hope in the Major is Chris Lewis, of Newport chess club, and in the Minor section, hopes for a local win will be mainly on the shoulders of Telford's Stefan Tennant by virtue of him being the highest graded Shropshire entrant.
There is still time to enter the congress. Entry details are on the Shropshire chess website www.shropshirechess.org .