Three-figure turn out for Shropshire Chess Congress

More than 135 players took part in Shropshire Chess Congress to fight it out for biggest cash prizes in what may have been the largest field in the event’s history.

And the icing on the cake was that there was a good crop of Shropshire winners among a field including players from all over Britain.

But the strongest section, the Open, was predictably won by the only Grandmaster entrant, Stephen Gordon, who was a class apart and only dropped half a point in his five games.

The strength of the field can be judged by the fact that nine players graded over 200 took part in the Open. Only two players in Shropshire are graded over 200.

In the Major section, for players up to a grading strength of 160, which is a mid-ranking club standard, the Shropshire Star’s chess correspondent – Toby Neal of Wellington Chess Club – was one of three winners, all on four points.

The others were Nigel Holroyd and 12-year-old Ashwin Kalyana. And there was a double dose of Shropshire joy in the Minor, which was jointly won by George Viszokai of Priorslee Lions and Matthew Best of Shrewsbury, both on 4.5 points.

Joint organiser Steve Rooney said: “We had 136 playing, although some withdrew during the event. This is certainly, if not one of the biggest, one of the strongest Congresses held.”

Older players were left racking their brains to try to remember a larger entry in a competition which in some years has struggled to attract 100.

Unless they took the option of having a half point bye in one of the early rounds, all competitors played five games over the two days of the weekend in the competition held at the Wrekin Housing Trust in Telford, being paired in each round against a competitor on equal points.

Runners up in the Open were International Master John Cox, an expatriate Salopian now living in Ruislip, who was the only player to come away with anything from an encounter with Gordon – they drew – and Iolo Jones.

Top performance by a Shropshire player in the Open was Newport’s Gavyn Cooper who magically turned round what looked to be a lost game into a win in the final round.

John Footner of the Shifnal & Telford club won the prize for players graded under 170. Ivor Salter of Shrewsbury and Graham Shepherd of Church Stretton won the under-135 and under-150 grading prizes in the Major.

In the Minor, five local players were just behind the winners on four points – Roger Brown, Jonathan Newey, Chris Paul, Francis Rooney and Adrian Zdanoswki.

John Davies of Oswestry took the under-100 grading prize while Jonathan Newey of Newport and Francis Rooney of Church Stretton shared the under-115 grading prize.

By Toby Neal