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.