Five members of the Celtic Tigers 1 team – including French grandmaster Matthieu Cornette and Polish international master Karina Szczepkowska – were on their way to the final round of fixtures in the Four Nations Chess League at the Telford Centre hotel when disaster struck just 45 minutes before the match was due to start.
Team manager Chris Skulte was forced to concede his game by default against North East England – a match where both teams needed a result to avoid relegation from the top flight of English chess.
One of the players – Latvian Ritvars Reimanis – needed to win his game to achieve an international master norm – the first step towards gaining the IM title.
But the remaining four players made it to the venue in time to play their matches after another team member John Quinn doubled back to pick them up.
With the exception of Skulte, the players arrived 10 minutes after the round had started.
According to the league’s rules, games are forfeited if a player is an hour late arriving – and the Tigers were handed a one game point deduction for defaulting a board at short notice.
The story had a happy ending, as the Tigers won Monday’s match 4-3 to retain their place in division one for the first time in their history.
Cornette quickly set about getting the Tigers back in the match, defeating Shrewsbury-based Nigel Ferrington of the Telepost club on top board. Reimanis also picked up the win he needed.
Several of the Tigers’ squad had flown in from across Europe to play at the final 4NCL weekend, which ran from Saturday to Monday, and had been staying in Shrewsbury to commute to matches.
Mr Skulte, who had travelled up from London, said: “It was so frustrating. It was the final round and the team needed a result to stay up so it was the last thing we needed. It felt like the gods were against us.
“We were fortunate that John had taken two of the other players and he was able to double back and pick the rest up.
“We got a few horns beeped at us while we were waiting, but fortunately it all worked out.”
Eight of the 11 division one and two matches have been played at Telford over four weekends since January.
The national league attracts some of the best players in Europe – England’s number two Michael Adams and number three Luke McShane both turned out for champions Guildford 1 over the weekend.