Monday, 19 December 2011

4th and 5th at Christmas

The unbeaten record for the B team fell in the final match before Christmas with a 2.5-1.5 loss to Newport C. The match got off to a quick start with a win for Francis Rooney on board 1 within 30 minutes. But Newport's junior Jonathan Newey levelled the score later on with a win on board 3 and after Adrian Thorpe lost on board 2, it was down to home captain Tom Williamson to try and win his match. Despite being an exchange up, Tom couldn't quite find a way through and agreed a draw which saw the team's first defeat of the season after five straight draws.

Meanwhile the A team suffered their third successive 4-1 defeat, this time at the hands of Shifnal & Telford A. Top board Trevor Brotherton was forced to pull out at the last minute which meant everyone shunted up a board and Eric Elwell valiantly turned out at short notice to play on board 5. The only win came for Graham Shepherd on board 4. It was always going to be a tough run-up to Christmas with the final three matches against strong sides, and the A team will be aiming to get a good start again when the second half of the season starts in January.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Another tough one

A second trip to Shrewsbury in five days saw the A team suffer its second successive 4-1 defeat. This time it was Telepost A who, although without some of their top players, managed to grind out four wins.

Earlier in the evening it looked as if we might get something from the match. Karl Wakefield chalked up yet another win on board three against John Bashall to put us in the lead but Graham Shepherd lost his game to equal the scores. Board five was a bit of a rollercoaster with Francis Rooney who had stepped up as A team reserve, in a battle against John Westhead. Francis' early clever tactic on h7 misfired when he got his bishop trapped but for the second successive game he managed to create lots of activity for his rook in the endgame and his two passed king side pawns eventually forced John to give back the piece. With just K and R v  K, R and N, Francis turned down a draw as his opponent was perilously short of time. But in effort to keep the pressure up he moved a little too quickly himself, and fell foul of a knight fork which led to checkmate seconds before the flag fall.

This left boards one and two to finish, and both Trevor Brotherton on board one and Steve Rooney on two were well behind on the clock and eventually both lost on time.

It certainly felt a lot closer than a 4-1 defeat should, but it's the results that count! Onward to the final A team fixture before Christmas agains Shifnal Telford A on 8 December.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Double header at Shrewsbury

The A and B teams travelled  to Shrewsbury for their latest league matches although it was only the B team that came away with any points.

A tough match was envisaged against the title holders and league leaders Shrewsbury A and a tough match is what we got. A very quick 'grandmaster' draw on board one between Trevor Brotherton and Jamie Hopkins gave Stretton half their total points with only Graham Shepherd getting a draw on board five, although Gerald Link battled hard to salage something but eventually lost his central isolated pawn and resigned in a lost king and pawn ending. Earlier Karl Wakefield had chased his opponent's king around the board but couldn't quite pin him down and eventually succumbed to a fork and lost the game. Least said about Steve Rooney's game the better!

The B team fared better and got their fourth draw from four matches! Captain Tom Williamson held his opponent Eric Inglis for a half point and Stretton moved into the lead when Adrian Thorpe's king-side attack broke through against Matthew Best. This left board one and four with Francis Rooney on top board trying to keep his rooks active enough to counter a two pawn deficit, and Chris Pimm-Jones on board four a piece up with a B and N against opponent's N.

It didn't end as expected though. Francis managed to stifle Ian Davies' pawn on the 7th rank and then started to pick up his opponent's pawns. With just a few minutes left on his clock, Ian offered the draw which was accepted by Francis, although by that point he may have been winning but was happy with the draw thinking that board five was safe. However disaster struck with another fork on bottom board that left both sides with K, N and 2 pawns. Chris slipped up in the final stages conceding the opposition and ending up facing K and two pawns against lone king. So 2-2 and yet another draw!

Shresbury A 4 Church Stretton A 1
J Hopkins 0.5, T Brotherton 0.5
D Everington 1, S Rooney 0
F Best 1, G Link 0
P Kitchen 1, K Wakefield 0
N O'Connor 0.5, G Shepherd 0.5

Shrewsbury C 2 Church Stretton B 2
I Davies 0.5, F Rooney 0.5
M Best 0, A Thorpe 1
E Inglis 0.5, T Williamson 0.5
A Purser 1, C Pimm-Jones 0

Friday, 11 November 2011

Late win clinches B-team draw

A fine win by Adrian Thorpe on board 3 clinched a draw in yesterday's home match for the B team against Oswestry B. A knight down in the middlegame, Adrian conjured up an attack which eventually saw him get two pawns, then a bishop back with a dangerous passed pawn on the 6th rank. His opponent Alf Evans eventually faltered as his clock got down to the last few minutes and lost another piece before resigning. It's always highly pressured when you're the last match left and your team-mates are watching the excitement, but Adrian kept his cool and calmly took the point which left the final result at 2-2

Earlier Chris Pimm-Jones lost on board 3 while Francis Rooney won on board 1. Captain Tom Williamson's position looked lost for some time as he was well down on material, but his continued niggling and back-rank mate threats seemed to un-nerve his opponent for a while but eventually it came to nought, leaving Adrian to salvage the draw.

Next week there is a double-header at Shrewsbury with the A team taking on league leaders Shrewsbury A, and our B team playing their C team in division 3.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Scoreline flatters in latest A-team win

This week's home match victory against Wellington A was a lot closer than the 4-1 scoreline suggests.

An early win for Gerald Link on board three put the home side in the lead and Karl Wakefield made it 2-0 when he eventually ground down Derrick Powell's resistance in an ending an exchange up. Board 5 went Wellington's way however as Graham Shepherd faced Deli's Ogundipe's onslaught which left him with a cramped position which eventually crumbled.

The final two boards were at this stage fairly level, but as Wellington were 2-1 down their top two, Colin Roberts and Toby Neal, decided to throw caution to the wind in an attempt to win both boards. Going for a full point without any real advantage is always a risky proposition however, and the result was a win for Church Stretton's Trevor Brotherton on board 1, followed by captain Steve Rooney who checkmated his opponent in his second successive time scramble on board 2.

The result puts Church Stretton in third place in division 1, although there are some tough remaining games before Christmas against the top two, Shrewsbury A and Telepost A, and fourth place Shifnal & Telford A who have a game in hand.

Church Stretton A 4 Wellington A 1

T Brotherton 1, C Roberts 0
S Rooney 1, T Neal 0
G Link 1, J Lenton 0
K Wakefield 1, D Powell 0
G Shepherd 0, D Ogundipe 1.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Title challengers Newport held to a draw

With the return of some of their former stars from university, Newport A look a formidable side in this season's Division 1 with many tipping them as title challengers alongside Shrewsbury A and Telepost A.

However Church Stretton A refused to roll over in spite of a major difference in grades. Newport's five boards averaged an ECF grade of 172, compared to Stretton's 152, but the match ended 2.5-2.5 with Trevor Brotherton holding county number one Nick Rutter to a draw, Steve Rooney beating Gavin Cooper and Karl Wakefield winning against Tony Holdford.

The match produced plenty of interesting games (always a major distraction to those of us who like to watch progress on other boards between our own moves!) Trevor played a sharp line against Nick's Semi Slav with a g4 pawn sacrifice, resulting in open files, hanging pieces and severe complications. Honours were even in the end but it was certainly an exciting one to watch and hopefully the game score will be available here soon.

Karl wasn't aware of his opponent's predilection for the King's Gambit but saw off the Bishop's version of the gambit nonetheless. Karl accepted the gambit and steadfastly refused to relinquish the pawn on f4, eventually supporting it with a pawn chain. Tony managed to eat up a whole hour's more time than Karl in the middlegame but still couldn't find a way to get his attack going. Calmly lopping off pieces, Karl took the full point gratefully.

Gerald Link was eased out of a king and pawn ending on board three and Graham Shepherd, who had been under niggling pressure for much of the game also succumbed.

The agreed draw on board one set the match up for a thrilling finale as Steve Rooney and Gavin Cooper battled it out. With rooks and minor pieces on the board in a fairly even position Steve offered a draw, despite knowing this would lose the match as it was difficult to see a way to get the win. Gavin decided to plough on, understandable perhaps given the grading difference that he reckoned he could cope with the final time scramble better. Gavin had taken about 15 minutes extra at this point and with less than ten minutes to go, started moving almost instantaneously. The position then simplified and he allowed Steve, playing black, to gain a passed b pawn which proved to be stronger than Gavin's king-side majority. The tables now having turned, Gavin offered a draw which Steve politely refused sensing victory. A final flurry of moves ended with Gavin resigning one move from checkmate with lone K against K and Q and less than a minute on both clocks.  Phew!

Newport A 2.5 Church Stretton A 2.5

1. N Rutter 0.5, T Brotherton 0.5
2. G Cooper 0, S Rooney 1
3. N Paul 1, G Link 0
4. A Holdford 0, K Wakefield 1
5. C Lewis 1, G Shepherd 0.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

B team hold leaders to draw

The B team's second match saw them take on Shifnal & Telford C who had kicked off their season with two straight wins to lead Division 3. But on this occasion the match points were shared. Graham Shepherd and Tom Willamson both drew and Francis Rooney won on board two after his opponent's flag fell.

Francis said that his opponent ended up with a strong position but lost because he had spent too much of his clock time on trying to see off the Sicilian Dragon onslaught on his queen-side castled king.

The result puts Church Stretton B in a three-way tie for third place. Next match is home to Oswestry on 10 November.

Shifnal & Telford C 2 Church Stretton B 2

1. R Brown 0.5, G Shepherd 0.5
2. S Ross 0, F Rooney 1
3. T Skidmore 0.5, T Williamson 0.5
4. J Sloan 1, J Carless 0.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Draw for first B team match

The newly-relaunched B team drew 2-2 against Telepost D in their opening Division 3 match. Early losses on boards 1 and 4 were countered by wins for captain Tom Williamson and Chris Pimm Jones.

Church Stretton B 2 Telepost D 2

1. F Rooney 0, S Sweeney 1
2. T Williamson 1, D Pinnington 0
3. C Pimm-Jones 1, G Lyon 0
4. J Carless 0, A Cliff 1

A-team lose tight match to Priorslee Lions

A closely-fought home match against Priorslee Lions A resulted in a 3-2 defeat for the A team. A win for Karl Wakefield on board four and draws for Trevor Brotherton and Graham Shepherd were balanced by losses on boards two and three. There are likely to be quite a few of these evenly-matched contests as the season progresses.

Church Stretton 2 Priorslee Lions A 3

 1. T Brotherton 0.5, G Pugh 0.5 
 2, S Rooney 0, W Bates 1 
 3. G Link 0, J O'Neil 1 
 4. K Wakefield 1, A Tunks 0 
 5. G Shepherd 0.5, J Tunks 0.5

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Perfect start for Stretton A

Church Stretton A scored a 5-0 win against Ludlow in the opening match of the season. With a sizeable grading advantage on all boards, the home team were favourites and fortunately managed to convert all the points.

Graham Shepherd was the first to finish against an opponent playing his first competitive match. Graham got an early material gain and never looked back. Karl Wakefield made it 2-0 winning his bishop and pawn ending and Gerald Link made it 3-0 shortly after.

On board 2, Steve Rooney's opponent unfortunately touched his king when planning a king move but realised that the square he was looking at was not safe. But having touched his king he had to move it, and was a bit alarmed to realise that in fact the king had no safe squares. His next move allowed  a knight fork so he promptly resigned, making it 4-0.

The Ludlow team then had quite a wait before they could get back down the A49 as top board Joseph Watson was holding Stretton top board Trevor Brotherton in an intriguing middlegame with Watson's knight occupying an outpost contested by Brotherton's bishop, plus the other major pieces on both sides. As the clock ticked down however, Trevor's strength in quickplay finishes clinched the point. having turned down a couple of draw offers, Trevor finally made it a 5-0 whitewash when his opponent slipped up in the queen and pawn ending.

Here is a critical position from Trevor's endgame. Both players were short of time but his opponent tried to simplify with a4, missing the back rank check followed by bxa4 winning a clear pawn.

This left the intriguing prospect of whether white's c pawn or black's e pawn would roll forward first. But with less than five minutes each and with queens on the board neither king found it easy to hide. Trevor won a second pawn and with it the game following a slip when his opponent missed a check which forced the queen exchange leaving nothing to fight back with.

Best of luck to Ludlow in the rest of the season, and onward to our next encounter - Priorslee Lions A at home in two weeks, when the B team also get their season underway against Telepost D.

Church Stretton A v Ludlow
1. T Brotherton 1, J Watson 0
2. S Rooney 1, R Woodley 0
3. G Link 1, A Wright 0
4. K Wakefield 1, P Munday 0
5. G Shepherd 1, D Meikle 0

Monday, 19 September 2011

Social chess at Condover

Condover Chess club meets fortnightly on Monday evenings at 8pm for social chess in a nice venue at the sports and social club in the village. The club is organised by John Casewell and Church Stretton players are very welcome - and vice versa!

The dates for the autumn are:
10 October
24 October
7 November
21 November
5 December.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Trevor's clean sweep

He came, he played, he conquered!

Trevor Brotherton acheived a whitewash of his opponents in the club simul last Thursday. Some welcome guests from Telepost boosted the numbers to make it 10 boards against Trevor but eventually every single one conceded.

The best game was played by Francis Rooney who caused Trevor a good deal of problems in the middle game and should probably have got at least a draw. Trevor thought he was a little fortunate to win that one, but they all count!

Let's hope he makes similar short shrift of our league opponents this season.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Season kicks off with South Shropshire derby

Now back in the first division after a few years' break, the A team's season starts on Thursday 29 September with a home game against South Shropshire rivals Ludlow who were also promoted last season. The newly-relaunched Church Stretton B team starts its season on 13 October with a home fixture against Telepost D.

The first event of the season takes place this Thursday (15 Sep) with a simul by our A team board one Trevor Brotherton.

The fixtures for the season are shown in the table on the right.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Boost for Stretton's new season

Church Stretton's A team will get a big boost in the coming season with the return of Trevor Brotherton to take the board one slot.

Trevor has played for Stretton before and was part of the 2007-08 side which ran Telepost right down to the wire for the division one title, just missing a title victory on points difference. He has decided to return to Church Stretton following three years with Shifnal & Telford, last season as A team captain.

"We are delighted that Trevor is returning to Church Stretton for the coming season," says A team captain Steve Rooney. "Having won the division 2 title last year and with it promotion to Shropshire's top division, it will be a big boost to have one of the county's biggest hitters on board one for us."

Church Stretton is planning to run two teams for the coming season with Tom Williamson running the B team in division 3, and club nights will resume on Thursdays from the beginning of September at the District club venue in Essex Road.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Season's end

Our final match against Shrewsbury B was re-arranged to accommodate Shrewsbury lack of players and was eventually played at Telepost this week. Our generosity in re-arranging our home fixture was not repaid unfortunately as Shrewsbury put an end to our unbeaten season taking the match 3.5-1.5.

An early loss on board three started the trend as Tom Williamson's queen paid the price for venturing into Ian Davies' position and became trapped. On board five Francis Rooney went two pawns up but at the cost of giving his opponent a bishop pair which eventually proved fatal. However Karl Wakefield on board two managed to hold a draw with some good tactics after Dan Lockett had earlier been a piece up, apparently without even realising it!

The tie was sealed as Chris Pimm Jones' valiant defence in a rook and pawn ending finally came to an end, leaving Steve Rooney to do his usual trick of keeping his team waiting for a lift home before eventually grinding out a win on board one.

It would have been nice for the team to have remained unbeaten, but the more important objective this season has been to ensure games for as many players from the squad as possible. We have had the benefit of 12 players turning out for Church Stretton this season and we have managed to play all 12 games without fielding the same line-up twice!

The positive outcome has been that we now expect to run a second team next season which will join the third division while Church Stretton A will take on the county's top teams in division 1.

It will be a tough task in the top division and if we had a transfer budget, we would now be using it to nab one or two of the county's finest to bolster our squad. In the absence of that however we can promise a pint of real ale or two for any potential stars who are willing to help Stretton's challenge!

Club nights continue on Thursdays. See you there.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Division 2 champions!

Church Stretton were confirmed as Division 2 championship this week with a 3-2 away win at Ludlow. There is one more league match to play but we are now five points clear and have sealed the title.

The Ludlow tie got off to a good start with an early win for Francis Rooney on board five, who deployed the King's Gambit to good effect and whilst the king-side attack faded, he transferred into a won ending helped by three successive knight forks sweeping up his opponent''s pawns.

The match was levelled when Adrian Thorpe lost on board three amid some complications. Steve Rooney and Graham Shepherd on boards one and two both turned down earlier draw offers and went on to win, sealing the victory, while Chris Pimm Jones made his opponent Paul Munday work hard to find a checkmate against a lone king as his clock flag teetered on the brink.

Look forward to seeing members at the final league match at home next Thursday (14 April).

Monday, 28 March 2011

Prize double for Rooneys at Hereford congress

Church Stretton's Francis and Steve Rooney both came away from the Hereford congress last weekend with prizes. Francis took third place in the Minor (U120) and the U100 grading prize, while his dad Steve was equal first in the Open.

Francis (photographed below with the other Minor prizewinners) was undefeated and finished on 3.5 points including 2 wins against higher-graded opponents. He could easily have finished in second place but for a bizarre end to the final game in his section when a local Hereford player resigned because he couldn't cope with the pressure of everyone watching, just when his opponent had managed to squander all of his advantage and create a dead-drawn position.

Steve finished on 3 points - not normally enough to win a prize, never mind a share of first place - but the section was a low-scoring affair and was a much weaker field than you'd normally find at an Open. The event suffered from a very low entry overall, perhaps because of the clash with a 4NCL weekend.

It is a well-run congress however at a good venue and the organiser is hoping to run it again next year and if so, maybe more Shropshire players will be tempted to take part.

On the up!

A home win against Telepost C clinched promotion for Church Stretton.

Graham Shepherd was captain for the match and he and board one Karl Wakefield secured draws, while Gerald Link, Eric Elwell and Chris Pimm Jones got the wins needed for a decisive 4-1 victory.

Two games left, including an away tie on 5 April at Ludlow which will probably decide the division 2 title. Ludlow have been gifted another 5-0 whitewash as Shifnal & Telford conceded their long-postponed fixture, which is likely to see both South Shropshire teams in division 1 next season. Shrewbury B are still in contention however and will be our guests for our final match of the season on 14 April.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Good result at Telford

Our trip to Shifnal & Telford saw us chalk up another win to take us 3 points clear at the top of Division 2, at least for the moment ...

It was another line-up we haven't had before - will we get to the end of the season without playing the same team twice?

An early win for Gerald Link on board four got us off to a good start, which was soon followed by Karl Wakefield winning on board two when Andy Jones' position crumbled under the pressure of two pins. A draw was agreed on board three between Graham Shepherd and Roger Brown which left the two Rooneys to finish.

Francis on board 5 was a piece ahead but his opponent had better activity and gradually used his initiative to grind out a win. Steve Rooney on board one turned down a draw, which would have clinched the victory, but got the full point when Windsor Peck's flag fell in what was then a completely winning position for the Stretton captain.

Three games to go.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Squad strengthened by returning players

Two of the club's former stalwarts were welcomed back into the team for the away match at Oswestry. Karl Wakefield and David Williams played their first matches for some time, but clearly haven't got too rusty in the meantime as both chalked up wins in a 5-0 whitewash.

The return of Karl and David has reinforced our "squad" approach to this season - we have played eight matches and haven't fielded the same line-up more than once.

Tom Williams looked like he was heading to the bar very early on after winning a queen for a knight in a dozen moves but his opponent Alf Evans created a solid defensive phalanx around his king. Tom decided to play the long game and take his time in breaking through, which he eventually did after Graham Shepherd and then Karl Wakefield won their games. David Williams made it 4-0 when he became the third player in the team to win an exchange of rook for minor piece, and then a fifth win was had on board one by Steve Rooney.

Looks like we are definitely in the promotion race now!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Newport doubled

We managed to secure the double against Newport B in a 3-2 home win in the latest league match.

Newport have had a tough season and are yet to get any points, but they ran us pretty close in a hard fought match.

Eric Elwell and Adrian Thorpe snatched early wins but Newport levelled the match by winning on boards 4 and 5, leaving Steve Rooney to grind out a win in the face of some stubborn resistance by Steve Cooper.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Holding the draw

The first league match of 2011 resulted in a draw in a home tie against Shifnal & Telford B.

Graham Shepherd and Gerald Link won comfortably on boards 1 and 2, and draws for Tom Williamson on 4 and Francis Rooney on 5 sealed the win.

Onward and upward!