A Grand night in the rapids


Telepost have moved to within two game points of leaders Mad Wolves after winning the second Shropshire Rapidplay Arena with the help of some high-powered new recruits. Captain Nat Paul took up the gauntlet thrown down by Mad Wolves' team selection for the first Arena, which included a number of high-graded players from beyond the Shropshire borders. Nat went on a recruitment drive that brought in GM Keith Arkell, who has longstanding connections to county clubs, and 2140-rated Don Mason.

Keith was the highest-scoring player on the night, with 28 points, backed up by a superb 26 from Phil Zabrocki, well known for being partial to the fast stuff. With four other players in the top ten on the night, Telepost amassed 121 points to Mad Wolves' 97. There were plenty of spectators for a competition that is fast becoming the most competitive and innovative of the new online scene. The next Arena in the five-night series is on March 25th.

Action in the league centred on Division 3. Both our teams suffered heavy defeats on 19 Feb - in the case of the D team this was a top-of-the-table clash against a Shrewsbury C team including two players who feature regularly in Division 1 in normal times. That Shrewsbury brought out their strongest team of the season so far can perhaps be seen as a compliment to the D team's form. They regained some ground in the table by taking the club derby with Telepost E 2-1 earlier this week, the match decided in a dogged encounter between John Casewell and Mark Randell that went the full distance.

It was another night of hard knocks in the Five Counties on Tuesday. Telepost A went down 4.5-1.5 to leaders Uxbridge A, the solitary win coming from the in-form Phil Zabrocki. Telepost B had the same score against Maidenhead B, the win this time coming from James Holyhead. Further evidence that the teams of juniors are progressing fast.

A good response to John Casewell's proposed individual league format for the next Dark Knights competition means there are likely to be two divisions of seven players each, to commence in April after the conclusion of the Winter Swiss. Nat Paul retained his White Knight status at the top of the Ladder for a fourth month. Some of the big hitters remain lurking on the lower rungs.

Dennis reported back from his survey that there was general enthusiasm for online activities to continue once OTB play resumes. John C pointed out there were considerable benefits to online for players with limited mobility, and that spectating opportunities were enhanced, especially as seen in the Rapidplay Arenas. The mix of OTB and online will need to be discussed once the resumption of real-world shoving of wood and plastic in draughty halls is confirmed, but Dennis welcomes any further thoughts and ideas.

Lastly, a new-look Shropshire Chess website launched this week at its usual address, Please send any feedback and ideas for further features to the editor, Nick Holmes.

Derby double-header for A team


Two encounters in two days against Oswestry/Malpas left Telepost A in top spot in Division 1 of the Shropshire League, and on level terms with their border town rivals in the Five Counties. Monday's 3.5-0.5 league victory, including wins for Nat Paul, Phil Zabrocki and Richard Archer and a draw for Matthew Clark, left them one point clear of Newport at the halfway point in the season and gave a healthy boost to their points difference.

On Tuesday, a six-man A team took on Malpas and Friends in Five Counties Division 1 - captain Matt Clark reports:

There was a lot of excitement surrounding this match this evening. Telepost and Malpas fly the flag for the West Midlands and the North West in the 5 Counties Chess League, competing with strong southern teams, such as Uxbridge and Maidenhead.

8 of the players had been involved in last night’s Telepost-Oswestry match in the Shropshire online league, so we were all well prepared for the local derby.

Board 2 was a quick draw and Richard Archer, making his debut in the 5 Counties League, was the first player to score a full point on board 3. Matthew Clark secured a 2nd win on board 5, so Telepost went into a 2.5-0.5 lead. However, all three remaining boards looked good for Malpas, so they looked set for the match win. Malpas did indeed win boards 4 and 6, so the whole match hung on the Board 1 game.

In a time-scramble, Nat managed to conjure up a draw in a tense King and Pawn ending, so in the end honours were even and the match was tied 3-3.

The whole evening was a great advert for internet Chess and we look forward to a match vs. League leaders Uxbridge A on Tuesday 2nd March.

Sadly Telepost B couldn't follow suit in the Five Counties, going down to a heavy 5-1 defeat against St Albans Early Knights A. John Westhead saved the whitewash blushes against a team of seemingly rapidly improving youngsters.

The win for John was a comeback after a hard fought loss the previous evening to Dennis Bonner in the Telepost B v C derby match in Shropshire League Division 2. John's B team took the overall victory, however, with Steve Rooney forcing through a central pawn against Rob Nield and "killer" Kate Walker merciless in taking apart Nick Holmes.

Some compensation for Nick was a first-ever win against the Morra Gambit, against Matthew in the Telepost Ladder. The other Telepost Dark Knights competition, the Winter Swiss, reached the end of round 4:

Nat Paul 0.5 - 0.5 Richard Archer
Phil Zabrocki 1 - 0 John Westhead
Bill Clarke 0 - 1 Rob Nield
Keith Tabner 1 - 0 Dennis Bonner
Matthew Clark 1 - 0 John Casewell
Mark Nightall 1 - 0 Peter Crean
Kate Walker 1 - 0 Martin Ayres
Shane Sweeney 0 - 1 Steve Rooney
James Holyhead 1 - 0 Nick Holmes
Mark Randell - bye

Round 5 has been drawn, matches to be played by 18 March.

Significant recruitment behind the scenes means that next week's Rapidplay Arena 2 promises to be one of the highest-graded encounters in Shropshire outside the annual Congress, with Telepost taking on the challenge set by Maddocks' all-star Mad Wolves team. To find out more, follow this link to watch the fireworks of the 3/2 arena format, Wednesday 24 February, 7.30pm.

With so much online activity - some players have as many as four matches in a week - club secretary Dennis Bonner has begun a consultation on whether and how online competitions should continue once over-the-board chess returns. Discussion so far has been on the WhatsApp group, but Dennis would welcome views from any members. Email him with your thoughts.

Debuts and drama


It's rapidplay, but not as we know it. The online replacement for the Shropshire Rapidplay League began last week with the first of five arena nights featuring a 3/2 format and, as it transpired, some very competitive action. Telepost fielded a strong team and took an early lead before being overhauled by a "Mad Wolves" team, loosely based around Maddocks and featuring a number of very strong players from beyond the Shropshire borders. Star players for Telepost, who eventually finished second on the night, were Richard Archer, who amassed 24 points from 15 games, and Nigel Ferrington, with 22 points from 16 games. Some 288 games were played in total, amongst a field with an average rating of 1933.

In the regular league, Telepost B faced a tough double header of two games in four days. Their 2-1 loss to Shrewsbury B included a win from Keith Tabner, while a second defeat, 3-0 to league leaders Newport B, featured a welcome league debut from Steve Rooney. Kate met her nemesis Dan Hilditch-Love, who had also been the only player to beat Nigel in the rapidplay. One to watch!

Nigel made his own league debut in a top-of-the-table Division 1 clash between Telepost A and Newport A, which finished 2-2 and left Telepost top of the table by one point at the midway point of the season.

Tuesday 2 Feb was a night of drama in the Five Counties competition, with both our teams emerging 3.5-2.5 winners in matches that went to the wire. For Telepost A, captain Matthew Clark rebounded from a couple of painful losses in individual competitions with a sweet Morra Gambit win, and Steve Rooney, in another debut, fought out a highly complicated four minor pieces and loads of pawns ending to secure a vital draw. That was all the sweeter for being against Maddocks' Dave Gostelow, playing for opponents Maidenhead. Mark Nightall then secured the win in another complex ending. Meanwhile, Telepost B's match came down to the last board, with John Casewell taking one for the team with a sneaky draw offer that worked, and garnered the points.

All the individual competitions, both club and county, are in full swing now. If you like your chess exciting and unpredictable, take a look at this top-board clash in the Winter Swiss between Nat and Rich, in which Nat somehow sneaked a perpetual draw. The large audience on the night were kept well entertained:

Martin makes his mark


On a very busy night both on and off the board on Monday 18 Dec, Telepost E captain Martin Ayres secured a fine win against Jim Wilkinson of Shrewsbury C, graded a full 50 points in old money above Martin. In a Queen's Gambit Declined, Martin withstood a determined C pawn push by Jim to emerge a piece up and secure the win. The strong Shrewsbury side would grace the top half of Division 2, let alone Division 3, and teammates Bill Clarke and Mark Randell also had fine games against Dan Lockett and Ivor Salter, but Shrewsbury eventually took the tie 2-1.

Meanwhile, in the same division, Telepost D scored an excellent 3-0 win over Newport C to join Shrewsbury at the top of the table. Shane broke through with a knight against Dave Lovegrove to mate on the back rank, unsurprisingly gaining time on his clock in the process, while James went a piece up against Willie Gormley and made it count with some very nice knight manoeuvres. The real drama came on the last board to finish, with captain John Casewell finding a delightful minor piece mate against Malcolm Price as both players went in and out of the red on the clocks, surviving on wits and increments.

Concurrently, there was a similar time scramble in the final match of the third round of the Winter Swiss between John W and Dennis, this one ending in a very hard-fought draw, as we belatedly discovered that the Five Counties new season was due to start the next day - cue plenty of post-match cobbling together of players and an excellent effort to sort out two teams ready for the following evening.

Full results for round three of the Winter Swiss:

Richard Archer 1 - 0 Rob Nield
John Westhead 0.5 - 0.5 Dennis Bonner
Phil Zabrocki 1 - 0 Matthew Clark
Steve Rooney 0 - 1 Nat Paul
Kate Walker 0 - 1 Keith Tabner
Peter Crean 0 - 1 Bill Clarke
Martin Ayres 0 - 1 John Casewell
Nick Holmes 0 - 1 Mark Nightall
Mark Randell 0 - 1 Shane Sweeney
Bye James Holyhead

The fourth round has been drawn, matches to be played by 18 Feb.

Having garnered two teams for Tuesday evening, and with James Holyhead in place as captain of Telepost B, the new Five Counties season began with a tough task for Telepost A in Division 1. They faced the winners of the previous season, British Bangla Chess Association A, whose weakest player was graded 1908. Phil and Matthew got draws and the opponents defaulted one board, but British Bangla still edged the fixture 4-2. But with a number of new recruits to the Five Counties team, captain Matthew Clark is determined that we will show we can compete amongst such lofty company. For the B team, it was as though the previous season had never ended, a 5.5-0.5 win against Hatch End A taking them to the top of the Division 2 table, where they spent most of last season. With the top two boards from last season's team now in the A team, it will be interesting to see how we fare across the season as a whole.

The Shropshire Rapidplay League has now been confirmed as starting next Monday, 25 January. It will consist of one division, after a lack of interest from other clubs in division two, played as five rounds of a 3/2 two-hour arena format.

Lastly, but definitely not least, some lockdown reading for you. If you've wondered what it's like to play a sustained, high-level online competition, have a look at Kate Walker's new report on the British Championships, played over the Christmas and New Year period. Kate was one of three Telepost players in the Championships and her report gives a great insight to both the technical and psychological challenges of a unique tournament.

Newport foil second trophy bid


Telepost were pipped at the final hurdle in their bid for a second trophy of the season, the New Year Team Quickplay Trophy. Replacing the normal Summer Quickplay event, which fell victim to the pandemic, the event was held on Lichess on Sunday 10 January and featured five teams playing a seven-round qualifier followed by semi-finals and final.

With team captain Matthew Clark unable to play at the last moment, Nigel Ferrington stepped in for his first appearance in a team event for the club since the suspension of over the board chess. Fielding county champion Nat Paul on board two, Telepost had a strong team, and did well to top the group stage of the competition ahead of a Newport team that included IM Lawrence Cooper, and high-graded turnouts from Shrewsbury and a combined Wellington/Maddocks team.

Telepost progressed to the final after a draw against Shrewsbury in the semi-final - the rules of the competition putting the higher placed team from the qualifying stage through. The outcome of the final against Newport went down to the last match, with the scores 2-2 as Nat tried to find a way past Newport's Gavyn Cooper. With a couple of the 20 minutes allowed left, Nat's king was trapped behind a pawn blockade and eventually undone by Cooper's rook breaking through to the back rank. Honours to Newport, with the 3-2 win. Player of the tournament for Telepost was Richard Archer, with a superb 7/7 on board 4, backed up by Phil Zabrocki and Kate Walker, each with 5.5/7.

Archer was to the fore in another New Year event, the Telepost Dark Knights Rapid, which took place on Monday 4 Jan, with nine players competing in a 5/3 format. After losing his first game, Rich went on an unbeaten run of six games to overtake early leader Phil and win the event. All involved enjoyed the event, intended partly as a familiarisation for the upcoming Shropshire Rapidplay season. It now looks as though that competition will be of one division only. Details to be announced soon.

Telepost Take Five


After a tense 3.5-2.5 final-round win against Hatch End Telepost have been crowned champions of Division Two of the Five Counties Online League. Captain Matthew Clark reports:

I am delighted to report that Telepost have won Division 2 of the Five Counties Online Chess League. This will mean that we are promoted to Division 1 for the next season, which will start in January.

Throughout the season we won 7 matches and drew 1, remaining undefeated across the full fixture list. Player of the season was Nick Holmes, who scored a remarkable 7.5/8.

Man of the match in the final match against Hatch End was John Casewell, and it was fitting that John should secure the final win to seal our promotion.

The full squad was: Phil Zabrocki, Matthew Clark, Kate Walker, John Westhead, Nick Holmes, Dennis Bonner, James Holyhead, Nat Paul and John Casewell.

Congratulations to all involved - as club secretary Dennis Bonner remarked on the night, it shows real strength in depth with the team comprised of players from across our regular league teams.

In the league, our Division Three teams were in action this week. Telepost D's 2-1 win over Shrewsbury D places them in second spot on points difference, while Telepost E suffered a narrow loss to Newport C.

Congratulations to Kate Walker, who reached the finals in the Women's Championship section of the Caplin British Online Championships. She is now in the midst of the seven-round main event, playing some of the country's strongest players. You can follow her progress, and that of Nat Paul and James Holyhead in other British Championship events here.

You can also hear of her progress and plenty of other bits and pieces on the new Telepost Dark Knights WhatsApp group - contact Dennis if you'd like to join. A reminder too of the Dark Knights New Year Rapid Arena, to be held on 4 January, ahead of the new Shropshire Rapidplay season. All welcome whether intending to play in the league or not.

Finally, after this most unusual year, season's greetings to all our members as we look forward to the resumption of over the board club life at some point in the new year.

Festive Simul sees Shane shine


Another busy week has seen plenty of action at club, county league and national level for Telepost players.

Wednesday saw our Christmas Simul, with County Individual Champion Nat Paul taking on 10 players, including two Shropshire League guests, in what proved a very enjoyable evening. Players were able to watch all the games as they played and there was plenty of kibbitzing both in the tournament chat on Lichess and via Teamspeak. Bill Bates scored an early win for the challengers and then did his best to distract Nat, who still secured an excellent seven wins before a couple more losses in the final time scramble, to Kate and Dennis. Special mention goes to Shane, who kept Nat very busy with a 118-move epic. Club regulars won’t be surprised to learn that despite this Shane finished with 10 more minutes than he started with! Our thanks go to Nat for taking on the challenge.

If Monday night had been over the board it would have been one of those nights when it was standing room only at the clubhouse, with three of our teams in action. Telepost A dropped their first point of the season with a draw against Maddocks A, but remain top of Division One, while Telepost B are joint top of Division Two after an excellent draw against title favourites Wellington A. Telepost C are propping up the same division after a 3-0 reverse against Telford.

The second round of the Dark Knights Winter Swiss concluded:

Bill Clarke 0 - 1 Richard Archer
Keith Tabner 0 - 1 John Westhead
Rob Nield 1 - 0 Peter Crean
Dennis Bonner 0.5 - 0.5 Steve Rooney
Mark Nightall 0 - 1 Phil Zabrocki 1
Nat Paul 1 - 0 Nick Holmes
Matthew Clark 1 - 0 James Holyhead
Shane Sweeney 0 - 1 Kate Walker
Martin Ayres 1 - 0 Mark Randell
John Casewell - bye

Round 3 has been drawn and you can find details of match dates as they are arranged on Kate’s calendar.

At a national level, Nat Paul, Kate Walker and James Holyhead are all taking part in the Caplin British Online Championships. At time of writing, Nat is on 2/3 and James 1/3 in the Championship Qualifier and Kate 2/3 in the Womens Qualifier, with her next opponent the top seed WFM Maria Emilianova. You can follow the progress of all three here.

Tuesday 22 Dec sees the final round of the Five Counties Championship, with Telepost taking on Hatch End, seeking the win that would guarantee the Division Two champions' spot. You can watch the match on Lichess by searching for our players (PhilZabrocki, Budapest23, Bikejohn, telenick, Wheathill and SalopianBlade43), starting at 7pm.

Finally, another festive event for your diary - a club rapid arena to be held by Telepost Dark Knights on Monday 4 January at 7.30pm. Format is as the forthcoming Shropshire Rapidplay league, with a 5/3 time control, so a good chance to give this variety of chess a try.

Trophies past and future


Trophy presentation in a time of covid

As Telepost C sort of received their trophy for last season's Division 2 success (see pic), our teams continued the chase for this season's silverware this week.

Telepost got back to winning ways in the Five Counties and now need a draw in their final match in Christmas Week to be crowned Division Two champions. The 5-1 win against Surbiton B increased an already healthy points difference.

The Shropshire league is in full swing now and the A team sescured a fine 3.5-0.5 win against Shrewsbury to move two points clear at the top of the Division 1 table. It looks like a very competitve division, though, with a number of strong ex-Shropshire players turning out for various clubs. In Division 2, Telepost B beat Oswestry 2-1, including a win for James Holyhead playing up from Telepost D, while Telepost C lost 2.5-0.5 to a very strong Wellington side who must rank as early contenders for the title.

The Dark Knights have now extended their invitation to the Christmas Simul to include any Shropshire players. After a useful test event we settled on a 50/15 time limit for challengers (60/15 for Nat) and random colours. Email John Casewell ( by Tuesday 15th December if you'd like to play. The event itself is at 7.30pm on Wednesday 16th Dec, on Lichess.

The AGM on Thursday - which featured the trophy "presentation" pictured - agreed to the proposed Rapidplay arena format and to a January team Quickplay event. Let Dennis know if you'd like to play in either or both. Minutes of the AGM are here.

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