No change given - 19/09/2017
With three teams in action on the opening day of Shropshire's new chess season, Shrewsbury's Telepost club were in such desperate straits due to player unavailability that they sought an innovative solution. Would it be possible, asked Matthew Clark, captain of the A team, to play his own game earlier than the scheduled Monday match date - on Friday or Sunday?
Telepost's problem was that their short-handed A team were facing league champions Newport A in Division One, while simultaneously in Division Three there was an in-house fixture scheduled pitching Telepost C against Telepost D, wiping out any chance of them providing a sub for the A-team.
It would mean, Clark told league controller Nathanael Paul, that the A-team would have to pick an E team-strength player to play on board five and he asked in the circumstances either for his own game to be played in advance, or for the C v D team clash to be postponed until later in the week.
In response, Paul refused to sanction a postponement, and said playing an individual game early would not be possible.
In the event, Dean Pinnington turned out for the A team on bottom board and, ironically, was one of Telepost's two winners on the night, although the team went down to a 2-3 defeat.
Elsewhere Ludlow A had the dubious honour of suffering the first whitewash of the season, at the hands of Oswestry A.
Meanwhile entries for a new competition, the Minor Individual organised by Chris Lewis, close on September 30. The tournament is for players with a maximum grade of 125 and is in response to a feeling among lower graded players that they have nothing to play for in the open individual, which has no grading limit.
Newport already odds on for title - 12/09/2017
The new Shropshire chess season kicks off this week with the outcome of the championship already looking a foregone conclusion - with Newport seemingly certain to wrap up their third consecutive league title.
The reason is that Newport will field what must surely be the strongest team in the history of the Shropshire league thanks to the import of a Grandmaster, Keith Arkell, to turn out on top board.
Board two is Nick Rutter, the highest-graded regular player on the county scene, and then comes Keith's brother Nick, who has a grading of 191, which means Newport will be fielding a player on board three who is stronger than the board ones of most other teams across the county.
The Arkells' arrival has had knock-on effects throughout the Newport club. Chris Lewis, an A-team player last season, now finds himself playing in the juniors, and Athar Ansari has left altogether, playing instead for Telford A, which means he will still be seeing chess action in Division One.
There is a bit of a back story as the Arkells turned out in Shropshire chess league last season, causing controversy when they were unexpectedly parachuted into the Ludlow team for just one match.
The incident contributed to a tightening up of the rules aimed at cracking down on here-today, gone-tomorrow players. This season a side's nominated players must play at least three times each in the season, with penalties imposed if they do not.
The bad news for other league teams is that as the Arkells are both nominated Newport players, the club must be confident that they will both be playing at least three games each.
Another major development has been the revival of the Church Stretton chess club, with a team which will play in Division Two. Stretton had folded only a few weeks into last season due to lack of player availability. While the revival is excellent news for Shropshire chess, it will hurt Shrewsbury-based Telepost, which had enjoyed an influx of Stretton players looking for a new home.
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.