B Team’s Promotion Hopes Dashed – But a Fine Season’s Performance

Shrewsbury B missed out on promotion to the first Division and a possible title against the odds in agonising fashion in the final game of the Division 2 season. Having led the field for almost all the season, Telepost B denied Ian Davies’ side a famous season with a hard-fought win in the final game, the title going instead to a Ludlow side strengthened by several highly-rated players joining from other clubs with Newport B joining them in gaining promotion to the top flight, so congratulations to those two sides and best of luck in the first division next season.

With “captain fantastic” Ian running away to Scotland and duo Mark Smith and Dan Lockett unavailable (and Peter Kitchen also unable to fill in), club stalwart Fred Harris, despite his retirement from league chess some years ago, agreed to fill in on board 5 for stand-in skipper Tony Purser in light of the importance of the match. The visitors, on the other hand, were at full strength and held a significant grading advantage on all boards except top board.

However, in the first game to finish the hosts took the lead. It was on board 5, where Fred was facing the rapidly improving Kate Walker. After a fairly cagey opening from both sides the game appeared roughly level, before a sequence of two or three inaccurate Queen moves and recapturing with the wrong piece suddenly meant Kate’s position was looking difficult, with Fred now controlling the only open file and his Queen pinning Kate’s Rook on her exposed King. A virtuoso display of sparkling attacking chess followed as Fred doubled his Rooks, forced Kate’s King onto the third rank and got his Knights hopping in, threatening checkmate and forcing Kate to give up her Queen for a Rook and Knight. While that can often be enough to hold a draw in an endgame, in this case her Rook and Bishop were trapped on their home squares and Fred’s Queen was centralised and active, meaning Pawns were going to drop off with regularity and so Kate resigned.

Next to finish was board four where Tony was facing Alisdair Benjamin. After missing an opportunity for a cheap trick winning a Pawn out the opening, Tony still established a promising position. However, Alisdair found a series of strong moves and put Tony under severe pressure. Although it looked as though he might find some fantastic defensive resources, eventually Tony was forced to lose several Pawns and succumbed to the pressure, losing the endgame. Shortly after, the match turned further as Norman O’Connor lost on board two to John Westhead. A seemingly fairly level position had gradually slipped away, with Norman also running low on the clock, and John established a dangerous attack with his Rook swinging out to the middle of the board.

This meant that Shrewsbury needed one and a half from the remaining two games in order to get promotion, and two wins to net the title. It looked as though the game on board three between Ivor Salter and Peter Crean was going to end in a draw – it was a King and Pawn ending with level Pawns and symmetrical structure. However, Peter’s King was more active and the pressure told and, although there may have been a draw at some point earlier, Ivor demonstrated afterwards that it was lost earlier than we had thought. That meant that the match was lost and there was only pride to play for on top board between this season’s superstar Dr Ile and Telepost’s Keith Tabner. Keith seemed to have pressure throughout the game in the White side of a kind of odd Saemisch King’s Indian/Czech Benoni hybrid but Ile rode it out, won a Pawn and showed exemplary technique to convert the endgame.

So overall, a fine season for the B team nonetheless which exceeded all expectations. Now onto the Minor Knockout!

Matthew Best, On-site reporter

So Near, Yet…

The B team has moved towards touching distance of promotion to Division 1 after our 4.5-0.5 win over already relegated Church Stretton B. We are now 3 points clear of our 2 nearest rivals with 2 matches left.  A forgone conclusion you might think, yet it could still all go horribly wrong (forever the optimist!) as we face the very strong Ludlow A and then Telepost B in our last match. The match between Telepost B and Newport B could even see us promoted without even playing, should Telepost win. Even a draw should do it for us because of our superior board count difference but, as every football manager will tell you, you can’t rely on other results (especially if you’re a Shrewsbury Town fan!) It’s also looking likely that we will only have 3 players available  for our last game but I’m working on it! Would be a real shame if that was the case AND we needed to win or draw.

I got the ball rolling after my opponent (who played the opening really well) dropped a piece (pin) and then later another piece (misread the position). I tried to mate him with Rook, Bishop and Knight on an open board and so nearly did (it’s quite difficult) until he resigned. Ile proved too strong for his opponent on 1 and then Tony got a draw on 5 after reaching a totally blocked position against his opponent who was making his comeback in chess after 30 years!

Performance  of the night must go to the vastly improved Shane Sweeney who took Norman all the way to an endgame position where I’m sure he could have held out for a highly creditable draw, but just a couple of tiny errors and Norman was in to promote his pawn and Shane resigned. Mark had a highly tactical position in his match towards the end with pins and potential sacrifices abounding. After cleverly  building up overwhelming  pressure against his opponent’s King a neat manoeuvre  forced the win of the Queen or mate. I always enjoy watching these sort of games as I stand there thinking what I would do only to see the players find a much better move (so unfair). It’s almost like a form of tactical training.

So crunch week is nearly upon us and we will certainly give it our best shot. Fingers crossed, watch this space!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

Another Win, Another Controversy.

The B team remains on top of Division 2 after a narrow victory over Telford B on Friday night by 3-2, but not without  a moment of controversy  even before a pawn was pushed!

After a newspaper column stating the supposedly “raised eyebrows” caused by my decision to play Spanish student Celia on board 1 against Telepost B, I was informed by the Telford team that, as far as they were concerned, Dr Ile was ineligible  to play for us, as he had already appeared 6 times for the A team, even though he was officially classed as ungraded until January when he received  a grade of 162.  I therefore  intended to play him on board 1.  I stated that this was perfectly alright and was then informed that the League Controller  had also told them it was acceptable as well!   The opposing team stated that they would play the match only under protest and, indeed, they intended to take it to a higher level.  After this amicable tête-à-tête, the match started!

Before I knew it, the Doc. had agreed a draw and was gone.  Ivor then drew on board 4, but Mark’s superb run came to an end shortly after when he uncharacteristically  blundered a piece and came under a strong attack.  2-1 down then with Norman and me still playing.

My French Defence set up was going well and then I played what I thought was a clever move by winning a pawn in the centre, and discovering an attack on my opponent’s Knight, only to find it was my Knight that was in imminent danger.  After the game ended, we both agreed that the result might have been very different, had he not left me off the hook. I felt sure that this was correct but, after analysing it in depth at home, I found that it was safe all the time, so, just as I thought, it was a clever move!  I was a Pawn up but it was proving very difficult to break through, until my opponent forgot about a discovered check which won me the exchange and, after a tense struggle, the point.

I only saw the end of “Storming Norman’s” match in which he produced a beautiful  mating net around his opponent’s King: worth the admission money on its own!

So we await to see the outcome of Telford’s protest, but I can safely state that, should it be upheld, I shall well and truly eat my hat!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

B Team Marches On

The B team went back to the top of division 2 this week after a superb 4-1 away victory against leaders Newport B. This brings our total tally against them to 9-1. We are now a point clear of our two nearest rivals and 2 points clear of third place and with a game in hand on all of them. Ludlow A lurks menacingly in the background, 3 points behind (same number of matches as us), so it is still all to play for and the final run to the end of the season promises to be an exciting, nail-biting affair.  Could this be our year?

Mark continued  his great run of form on board 1 by forcing resignation  from Danny Griffiths after winning the exchange in a Centre Counter game and obtaining dangerous mating threats.  After spending the whole of the weekend preparing the Albin Counter Gambit, my opponent  then, of course, opened with the London system, about which I knew absolutely  nothing!  All that shuffling about of the pieces must have helped though, as I first isolated his d-pawn, ganged up on it and then won it. After swapping the final pair of Rooks my Knight and King were too strong against his Bishop and King as I went about picking off his pawns.  Norman then drew on board 3 (I barely saw any of this game – sorry Norman!)

Tony, on board 5, had a totally  won position but knowing that the draw gave us victory, offered one which was immediately accepted. I think he just wanted an early night!

Peter Kitchen was appearing for us on board 2 and, by all accounts, was in a pretty precarious position at one stage against Athar Mehmood and rapidly running out of time.  I think Athar must have sacrificed a piece for a couple of Peter’s King side pawns, as he seems prone to do. Peter staged a comeback as everyone watched (always nerve-racking that, isn’t it?)  It was all very tactical at this stage, with Peter proving to be the better tactician by winning his opponent’s Queen and forcing resignation.

Next up is Telford B at home.  Only 4 games left; watch this space!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

Second Whitewash (Sort of).

Your illustrious B team secured its second 5-0 win of the season when we played Priorslee B on Monday 11th January. Priorslee did default two boards in all fairness, but that’s not our problem!

Ile secured the 2 points after first winning a piece and later forcing his opponent either to lose his queen or resign. The Priorslee captain chose the latter option.  Mark then neatly checkmated George Viszokai with his heavy pieces on the h-file but all the real action was going on on my board where, after a disappointing Congress, playing stodgy, soulless chess, I decided to “go for it” with the King’s Gambit.  It was like watching Tal, Alekhine and Fischer all rolled into one (he said modestly – ed), as I steamrollered my way down the board, even sacrificing a Bishop and a few Pawns on the way, to eventually give mate with Queen and Rook. Of course, Mark immediately pointed out that I had missed a quicker mate, to spoil my thoughts of being World Chess Champion. There’s always someone isn’t there!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

B Team Half Time Report

A very successful first half to our season has now come to an end and we stand on top, leading by one point, but like last season we all know how quickly that can change. I, for one, am under no illusion that it will, so let’s congratulate  ourselves on what we have achieved so far.

The Spanish Armada has now sailed back home, but this time undefeated, and the team owes our senorita Celia a huge debt of gratitude for helping to put us there. She will be very much missed but things go on and we must make sure that all of her efforts were not in vain as we commence the second half. It was a bit like Shrewsbury Town F.C. having Ronaldo on loan for the first half of their season and now heading League 1.

We will also be losing the services of Dan and Mark shortly, as they step up into the A team, so it’s going to be a long, hard struggle but our main priority must be to avoid relegation and 4 more points will probably  see us do that. So, well done to everyone and a particular thank you must go to Dr Ile who, along with Celia, formed a memorable partnership and, whatever happens in the future, we will always remember some special nights of chess created by those two.

Merry Christmas.

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

Shrewsbury’s Galacticoes!

A never to be forgotten  night of chess was played out at the Telepost club on Monday night (7th December) when the B team took on the leaders, Telepost B, and took both points after a dazzling finale.

Celia was given the honour of playing board 1, as it was her last appearance  for us and she has done so much for the team and club since she has been here.

Mark, playing on board 3, was first to finish after missing out on a winning attack and then having to settle for a draw. My game on board 5 against Andrew Lewis was the complete opposite. A bit like watching paint dry would be a fair assessment  of proceedings but still it was nice to see him again. Yes, you guessed  it, Andrew offered me a draw and, seeing no way through without messing it up, I agreed. Dan, on board 2, found Peter Crean on good form and was eventually overcome to lose and make it 2-1 to Telepost.

Ile, on board 4, was rapidly running out of time with less than five minutes left on his clock and I could see no way through for him.  Similarly, Celia was also running out of time in what, to me, looked like a dead drawn position with two pawns and a bishop each against Keith Tabner. Ile, showing great calmness and belief managed to checkmate Kate on the back rank with less than a minute left! None of us could quite believe that he had done it. 2-2 then.

All eyes now focussed on board 1, where it looked as though Celia was going to run out of time and the match would be lost. But by now we should know better than to underestimate our Senorita’s fantastic chess ability. I, for one, stood there spellbound as she displayed amazing endgame skill to force her opponent back and back, pick off both his pawns, while Keith was desperately trying to stop her and run her clock down.  But Celia was having none of that and was playing every move instantly, because she knew exactly what she was doing.  It really was great to witness as she relentlessly forced Keith onto the back rank, Queened one of her pawns and checkmated him. Applause rang out from everyone there.

What a fantastic way to end her time with the team. She really does have a great chess future ahead of her. GRACIAS CELIA!

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

Deadly Duo Do It Again!

On another memorable  night of chess, the B team pulled of a dramatic 3-2 win over the strong Ludlow A team to elevate us into second place in the division, just behind our next opponents, Telepost B. We could conceivably go into the Christmas break as leaders.

Norman got the ball rolling on board 4, when he and his opponent agreed a draw because neither could make any headway. The less said about my abject attempt to play the Dutch defence the better. I think it’s time to consign it to the dustbin.  All credit to my opponent, who played some nice moves, including a delayed rook sacrifice, which completely tore my position to shreds.  From hero to zero you might say!  Mark on board 1 was playing L. Davis, a 183-graded recent recruit to Ludlow’s team, a daunting task for anyone in the second division.  However, he secured a highly creditable draw after matching his opponent all the way and having a slightly  better position at the end.

With the score at 2-1 to Ludlow, all attention now turned to the Deadly Duo once again, namely Celia and Ile, of course, playing boards 2 and 3 respectively. They were playing two very strong and experienced  players, so to do what they did was pretty remarkable. Celia was first to finish and for someone aged 14, her play is so calm and precise. On the front foot from the start she outwitted her opponent with some nice attacking play and then kept it all together after he made the slightest of errors, to force her passed pawn through to make it 2-2. Ile’s game was looking like a draw, but his time was rapidly running out and I, for one, feared the worst. His opponent then surprisingly  lost the exchange and Ile, again like our Senorita, showed remarkable calmness and precision to give the exchange back, so he could march his passed pawn to queen, had his opponent not graciously  conceded the game and the match at this point.  Applause all round and a nice ‘high-five’ from Celia for the Doc. Brilliant stuff.

Ian Davies, B Team Captain

A Team Seconds Spring Surprise!

On account of the unavailability of four regular A team players, no fewer than three members of the B team were drafted in to take on the mighty Newport A, plus Peter Kitchen, who is currently out of chess action normally, because of work and family commitments.  A team regular, Mark Smith, found himself elevated to board one in the absence of most of his usual colleagues.

I was first to finish after playing some of the best chess I have in a long time, by completely  crushing my opponent with the Grand Prix attack which, on a very stormy, windswept night (thought the windows were going to come out at one stage), got us off to a great start.  Just what all captains should do!

Things then started to go downhill, as Mark on board 1 was a pawn down to the ultra strong Nick Rutter, and Peter on board 3 was rapidly running out of time and also a pawn down to Chris Lewis (although  the incremental  time control was in operation).  Both eventually lost and it looked as if we and the windows were both going to be blown away.  So it was a case of, “Send for International Rescue.”  This, of course, came in the form of Celia and Ile, playing  boards 2 and 4 respectively.  Dr Ile, who mentioned that he would have been happy with a draw earlier on, now knew that it was all or nothing.  After going through a little stressful period (don’t we all), he settled down to the task in hand and played superbly to outwit his opponent.

All was now down to Celia, and what a cool customer our Senorita is!  In a very complicated endgame, which, to me at least, looked lost, as her opponent, Nathanael Paul, had two very strong looking passed pawns on the a-file, ready to race up the board (but again what do I know?)  The 14 year old Spaniard showed remarkable endgame skill to let Nathanael do just that, but also queened her own pawn at the same time.  The game and match were drawn to end a memorable  night.

Ian Davies, Acting A Team Captain (thanks Ian and team – Francis)

 

B Team Gets There in the End

A strong B team line-up saw off the challenge of Church Stretton B in our away fixture to them on 12th November but only by the narrowest of margins: 3-2.

This shows why I must try and select the strongest possible team while it is still possible, unfortunately  leaving out some players who would otherwise get to play (this may even include me if I think it’s the right thing to do for the team!)  The time will come later on in the season when we will really be struggling even to get 5 players, so these are vital points to be won now.  I hope everyone understands.

I was first to finish after stupidly agreeing to a draw.   Afterwards, Celia, and even my opponent, showed me what I should have done to practically force the win.  In my defence, I did it after scanning the other games and thinking a draw would win us the match.  The draw was partly justified when both Norman on board 4 and Celia on board 3 swept aside their opponents shortly afterwards.  Another draw was all that was needed then and the points were ours but the night was yet young!

Daniel on board 1 was really struggling,  both positionally and on time, his opponent having a very dangerous  passed pawn.  Mark, on 2, was also a piece down against Graham Shepherd but he also had 3 passed pawns about to set off up the board as compensation.  Overall, it was looking decidedly dodgy. Daniel succumbed  to the inevitable, so all eyes turned to Mark. After Graham managed to swap Queens and a pair of Rooks, the game looked up to me at least (but what do I know). After losing all three passed pawns and facing one himself, he withdrew his king into the corner and, because Graham had the wrong coloured bishop, Mark was able to force the vital draw.  Very cool calm and  collected, I must say.

The very strong Ludlow A up next.

Ian Davies, B Team Captain