THE HISTORY OF A CHESS CLUB Continued...
Keith Tabner takes up the story....
My Shifnal Years
1982 to 1987 I played chess for Shifnal in Shropshire league division
1. NALGO were of course one of our rivals in those days. I remember
one match played in December 1983. Colin Roberts and I had adjourned
games which we had to win as NALGO were leading the match 2.5 - 0.5.
We declined the inevitable draw offers which meant that we had to travel
to Shrewsbury a second time to finish the games. Our team had an analysis
evening at Shifnal looking at both games before, later in the week,
we headed for NALGO clutching the envelopes containing the sealed moves.
On arrival my opponent John Bashall grabbed his envelope, ripped it
open and said, "I thought so, I've written down the wrong rook
move. I resign!" Fortunately Colin also won his game after a few
moves so we headed all the way back to Shifnal with some reward for
our time and effort. That result helped deprive NALGO of their first
league title. They finished runner up to the Stirchley team led by
1982 and 1983 county champion John Blore.
NALGO top board James Clarke gained some compensation for the club
by winning the county championship in 1984 before heading to university
the following year. I'm told he was later graded 200+ while playing
In 1985 the club left NALGO to move to Old Shrewsbury Bowling Club.
I well remember the inaugural "simul" in August 1985 at OSBC
organised by Joy Mukherjee with Indian grandmasters Thipsay and Barua
playing 20 boards each against players from all over Shropshire. Dibienda
Barua scored 17 wins 3 draws and 0 defeats. I was well pleased with
my best game prize for a draw which so nearly scored the full point.
One month later it was my Shifnal team of Parry, Copley, Roberts, Tabner,
and Elwell which won the summer cup, beating GKN in the final.
In 1986 OSBC as they were now called again finished league runner up,
this time to a Telford team with John Footner on board 1. Again OSBC's
own top board, Paul Mukherjee won the individual crown. My records show
a draw with Brian Holland who was a founder member of the NALGO club.
He was also grading officer for several years (I still have copies of
grading lists in his copperplate handwriting) and for some years he
wrote the chess column in the Shropshire Star.
In late 1987 my job took me to Newtown in mid-Wales. I was sorry to
leave the Shifnal Chess Club but I took with me many happy memories.
My departure must have inspired my former team-mates - they went on
to win the summer cup that year and the league title in the following
Meanwhile in 1987 OSBC were paying the price for recruiting so many
high quality junior players. Paul Mukherjee, Humphrey Dunn, and Ivor
Bundilis all left to go to university. Another young player Nigel Ferrington
now had his first appearance on the grading list after half a season
in the B team. With an opening grade of 148 the club realised that they
had unearthed another strong player.
To Newtown Chess Club
I discovered a small chess club in Newtown. Hosted by Mr Grant, a local
businessman, the club offered social chess and even the chance to play
electric organ (much to the annoyance of the other players). Over the
next few years I played an occasional friendly game, appeared for Powys,
and even played for Wales against Ireland in Cardiff. I did miss playing
regular league chess however.
In 1988 I decided to travel to Shropshire to play the occasional game
in the Shropshire League. All of the Shropshire clubs were a long way
away but the nearest was either at Oswestry or Shrewsbury. I initially
paid my Oswestry membership fees but it quickly became clear that they
did not want me at their club. I bumped into Bill Clarke who invited
me to join Telepost which had apparently moved as a chess club from
OSBC in that year. I could only play in a handful of home games as so
much travelling was involved but it did begin my long association with
Into The Fridge
From 1988 onwards the Telepost Club general membership, and especially
Clive Beaman, made the chess section feel welcome. The clubhouse itself
at Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury however was somewhat dilapidated. Most
chess matches were played in a back room with minimalist heating.( I
felt quite at home following my Shifnal days upstairs at the Jerningham
Arms.) Multiple layers of warm clothing were essential to survive the
rigours of a winter season chess match. Several poor unsuspecting opponents
were put to the sword as the numbing effects of frostbite took over
There was some improvement in the mid 1990's. Amongst the chess fraternity
the Telepost Club was known as the fridge. This was mainly due to the
bracing temperatures, but also because an old fridge had been abandoned
in the chess room! The excellent publicity for Telepost in the Shropshire
Star chess column (now written by Toby Neal) was avidly read by club
members. However headlines about a tough match played in "the fridge"
caused both amusement and action. Some new wall heaters miraculously
appeared in the room. Even so it still took many months before references
to matches played "at the fridge" were dropped.
A New Era Begins
1989 was a low point for Telepost chess club, which, only the previous
year had had two teams in Division 1 (though the B team was relegated).
Nigel Ferrington had gone to university and the supply of junior players
had dried up. Senior players such as Joy Mukherjee and Gordon Thomas
were not keen to play regular over the board chess. For the first away
match of the 1989-90 season captain Bill Clarke took only two other
players (Dave Bryan and John Bashall) to play at Telford. Reluctantly
he withdrew the A team from the league, leaving just the B team in Division
Dave Bryan had moved to the district from Liverpool in 1987. In 1990
the division 2 team was renamed Telepost A and Dave took over the captaincy
from Bill Clarke. A new era had begun. Neil Allen was an improving young
player and Nigel Ferrington became the first university post graduate
to return to the chess club. The team won promotion to Division 1 in
1992 and the following year in 1992-93 finished as runners up to the
strong Coddon team.
The Seven Year Quest
In the 1993 county individual championship three players initially tied
for first place. The subsequent play off eliminated David Everington
to leave our own Nigel Ferrington joint winner with Trevor Brotherton.
Nigel thus followed in the footsteps of James Clarke (1984) and Paul
Mukherjee (1986) to be the club's third county champion (a feat he was
to repeat in 2001). Later that year Bill Clarke invited me, (I had just
moved back to Shropshire from Mid-Wales), to re-join Telepost and replace
himself in an A Team which already included Nigel Ferrington (top board),
John Bashall, Dave Bryan (captain), and Neil Allen (transport manager
- amazingly none of the top three players could drive!). This completed
a line up which would be unchanged for seven years. But would it be
strong enough to put silverware on the empty Telepost trophy shelf?
Since 1992 the county league had been dominated by the all conquering
Coddon team. Telepost now joined Shrewsbury and Newport in pushing them
hard, but runners up remained the best achievement for the next three
years. At about this time Bill Clarke migrated to Kent and so never
saw his club lift a trophy. He had done his work well however and laid
the foundations for future success.
When the 1996-97 season finished Telepost A were well clear at the
top of the league, and announced in the Shropshire Star as champions!
This was somewhat premature however as Coddon had a long list of adjourned
games which they had held back while waiting to see what was needed
to retain their title. If they could win every single one of them they
would equal Telepost on points and just pip them on games won. A tall
order indeed, but two months after the end of the season they had done
just that and kept their crown by the narrowest of margins! (This farcical
situation resulted in the introduction for future seasons of an allegro
finish on the night for all games).
Telepost A gained some revenge in the 1997 summer cup beating a full
strength Coddon A in the semi-final before beating Telford A in the
final to at last lift a major trophy!
Coddon's six year domination of Shropshire chess was now over. Several
players left the club with two of them, Trevor Brotherton and Carl Portman,
moving to our neighbours and arch rivals Shrewsbury. Thus in 1998 it
was Shrewsbury who took the league title, although Telepost did retain
the Cox Trophy (summer cup) for a second year.
The Great Flood
The winter of 1998 was a dramatic one for the club, and indeed much
of the country. Torrential rains caused the River Severn to break its
banks. The clubhouse and much of Shrewsbury were flooded. As the waters
were rising John Casewell and Brian Holford valiantly waded into the
clubhouse and rescued the chess equipment. We were fortunate to have
the use of alternate premises at Town Walls as it would be many months
before a dry and fully refurbished clubhouse could be used again at
Abbey Foregate. The good ship Telepost rose from beneath the waves eventually
and from 1999 onwards the club has had the benefit of first class facilities.
The fridge is now but a distant memory.
The 1998-99 season saw Carl Portman and Richard Archer, another ex
Coddon player, move to an already strong Newport team led by Nick Rutter.
Although Telepost A drew both league matches with them, it was Newport
who just pipped us to that elusive title by one point, before going
on to complete the league and cup double. Were we doomed never to win
the league? The only consolation was that in completing the double over
Shrewsbury we began a long period of dominance over our local rivals.
For several seasons they would out grade us on paper but be unable to
win the head to head clashes (apart from one summer cup-tie when they
crushed us 5 - 0!). Carl Portman, having won the championship with three
different clubs, suggested he might join Telepost to take another title
with the next champions. In fact he migrated to Germany but his words
would prove prophetic.
Champions At Last
In the 1999 - 2000 season an unchanged Telepost A team at last won the
league championship! This was an amazing feat because the team hadn't
played as well as in previous years. While Nigel Ferrington (board 1)
and myself (board 5) scored heavily the other three scored only 50% or
less. Nevertheless the league trophy was now on display in our clubhouse
for all to see. It had taken seven years for this team to reach the top
so, to celebrate the occasion, I booked a trip for us all to see our fellow
champions Manchester United play Fiorentina at Old Trafford (Beckham,
Batistuta, Bashall, and Bryan - all superstars!)
Even a second flood in 2000 has failed to prevent the Telepost chess
section going from strength to strength and attracting new members.
Richard Bryant joined from Oswestry in 2000 to become a formidable board
2, followed later in 2002 by Steve Rawlins on board 3. This strengthened
the A team which has successfully held onto the league title for the
following three years, with a league and cup double in 2003. Nigel Ferrington
became county individual champion for the second time in 2001, a fitting
reward for his consistently high quality performances. The B team captained
by Neil Allen was promoted to Division 1 in 2002 and is holding its
own in the top flight. The C team captained by John Casewell were Division
3 champions in 2003 (but still await their trophy which can't be found?!).
The club even ran a D team in 2002 when increased membership allowed.
Perhaps we should invest in a new trophy cabinet.
But that's all history now. We must move forwards into
another new season…………….
Keith Tabner 24/07/2003