May 2019

Promotion and relegation between Divisions 1 and 2 isn’t working. There is a gulf in grading that has gotten wider over the past decade: nine of the ten Division 1 teams, at some point this season, had a higher-graded player on board 5 than the eventual Division 2 winners had on board 1. (The team that didn’t, finished four points adrift at the bottom.)

The result is promoted teams having to be persuaded to go up. I’ve heard as many grumbles over the years from teams unwillingly inserted into Division 1 as from teams unwillingly excluded. But if we have a slightly smaller Division 1, like this year’s 10, we end up relegating a Leam Lane Aces or a Jesmond Knights. I am very reluctant to make Jesmond’s first team prove they can win Division 2 with a perfect score. It would be a novelty for a week, then it would be like London Irish in the Championship.

I see the problem as one of supply and demand: when there used to be 30 clubs in the league, it was a privilege to secure one of approximately 12 places in Division 1. Now there are 12 clubs, it isn’t. Clubs who feel strongly that they should be represented in Division 1, already are, with room to spare. And so players who feel strongly that they should be playing in Division 1 are better off speaking to their club’s Division 1 captain than trying to win Division 2. In geek-speak, the algorithm that sorts players into divisions by skill is too efficient, since it operates in real-time within clubs rather than annually at the League Meeting, and a too-efficient sorting algorithm causes stratification.

I see two options:

  1. Chop Division 1 in two. Have a Premier League and a Division 1 with a strict limit of 6 teams each, playing each other twice. Edinburgh went down this road in the mid-00s when they had the same problem. There would need to be a transitional season where teams know that they’re fighting for a place in the top 6. If we simply took the top 6 teams from the season just finished, Morpeth would kill me.
  2. Make Division 1 an “Open” division. You don’t have to be promoted to it, you just enter it, but you enter it to win it (or because you like testing yourself against the top players). There is no carrot for finishing third-from-bottom. Conversely there is no stick to force the Division 2 champions to make the step up, so that team would be “pyramid champions” (of the world’s smallest pyramid) and be eligible to defend their title the following season. Optionally, Division 1 could be treated as a separate county from 2 and 3 for eligibility purposes. So if you’re a Keen Konstantinos, you can play for one club in Division 1 and another club across Divisions 2 and 3.

I would prefer option 2 over 1, because option 1 could just give you twice as many games against the same people, but I would prefer option 1 over the status quo.

Does anyone feel strongly that they want to keep the current Division 1 and not do either of those things? (Click here to leave a comment)

Chris G

Teams are invited for the inaugural North East Chess League (2019-20)

Rd 1: Sunday, October 13, 2019

Rd 2: Sunday, November 10, 2019

Rd 3: Sunday, November 24, 2019

Rd 4: Sunday, January 19, 2020

Rd 5: Sunday, February 16, 2020


6 teams of 5 players each. Five rounds, all-play-all. Games will be FIDE-rated.

Matches start 2:30pm. Time control: All moves in 90 minutes, plus 30 seconds per move

Teams will receive a total of bonus game point per match if they include a) at least 1 junior player under 18 years old; and separately b) at least one male and one female player. (0.5 bonus points for each)

The winning team will be awarded a trophy and receive medals, and there will be medals for the best individual performances.  Individual Entry fee: Free for Gold/Platinum ECF members. Team entry fee: £20.

Possible League Teams (2 per county)

(Teams can unite players from various clubs)

  1. Newcastle/Gosforth/Morpeth/Jesmond/Tynemouth (Northumberland)
  2. Forest Hall (Northumberland)
  3. South Shields/Leam Lane (Co. Durham)
  4. Durham City/Durham University (Co. Durham)
  5. TBA (Cleveland)
  6. TBA (Cleveland)

Proposed Venues (to be confirmed):

  1. Forest Hall Ex-Servicemen’s Institute, Crescent Way North, Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 9AR
  2. Darlington Cockerton Band & Musical Institute Club, Woodlands Road, Cockerton, Darlington DL3 9AB
  3. Middlesbrough/Teesside (to be arranged)
  4. Gosforth Empire Club & Institute, 32-34 Salters Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 1DX
  5. Durham (to be arranged)
  6. South Shields/Leam Lane (to be arranged)

If there are 6 venues offered (one for each team), the 5 home venues will be chosen by the public drawing of lots by July 1. It is assumed that teams will host the League free of charge, and make available tea, coffee and light refreshments.

Potential teams should contact by June 25 if they would like to enter, and if they can host a round of the League.

All nine matches have now been played in Round 1, with the best (grade handicap) giant-killing acts achieved by Tynemouth D over South Shields, Gosforth B over Forest Hall Bullets, and Forest Hall Fianchettos (average age 13!) over Morpeth B. A single-match elimination round will take place in both the Knockout and Plate by June 8. Round 3 will see a full lineup in both competitions.

Round 1

(Teams in bold qualify for the Trophy, defeated Round 1 teams go into the Plate)

Gosforth A  4-3.5 Leam Lane

Gateshead 3.5-4 Forest Hall AlphaZeros

Tynemouth D 3.5-2  South Shields

Morpeth A  4-3.5  Forest Hall Epaulettes

Forest Hall Candidates 2.5-1.5 Gosforth C

Forest Hall Fianchettos 3.5-3 Morpeth B

Alnwick 2.5-4 Jesmond

Forest Hall Bullets  3-3.5  Gosforth B

Forest Hall Desperados  2.5-3 Tynemouth B

FM Charlie Storey of Morpeth and 16-year-old James Moreby (Gosforth), the joint winners of the 2018-19 Northumberland Open Individual Championship, are to share the prestigious Zollner Viking Trophy after agreeing to forego a playoff match.

In one of the closest Zollner Championships in recent years, Storey and Moreby finished on 5/7, ahead of Tim Wall (Forest Hall) on 4.5 , and Roger Coathup (Morpeth), Yichen Han and Zheming Zhang (both Forest Hall) on 4.

At the NCA Annual General Meeting on Thursday, 16 May, Charlie and James will be presented with the silver-plated Zollner Trophy, which features a resplendent Viking warrior and dates back to 1930, when it was first won by C. W. Fallows after being gifted to the Northumberland Chess Association by Louis Zollner, the Danish Consul in Newcastle.

The George W. Sell Trophy, for the Under 170 County Championship, will be presented to a multiple former winner of the Zollner, Paul Bielby (South Shields), who scored 6.5/7, ahead of Bob Mitcheson (Morpeth) on 4.5 and Mike Smith (Forest Hall), Martin Seeber (Morpeth) and John Marsh (Leam Lane) on 4.

The Colin Gilroy Trophy, for the Under 140 County Championship, resulted in a three-way tie for first on 5/7 between Ciaran Macdonald (Forest Hall), Eddie Czestochowski (South Shields) and Bill Noble (Gateshead). The trophy will be awarded to the winner of an all-play-all playoff match, which is currently underway. In joint fourth place were Dave Stebbings (Gosforth) and Weiming Xu (Forest Hall) with 4.5.

Also being presented with trophies will be the winners of the three Northumberland League Divisions.

Division 1 winners, Forest Hall A, will be joined by Division 2 winners Tynemouth B and Division 3 winners Gateshead.

The AGM will also feature the election of officials to the NCA Executive Committee. All members of the NCA are entitled to attend and vote at the meeting, which will take place at Forest Hall Ex-Servicemen’s Institute, starting at 7:30pm. Anyone wishing to volunteer for one of the positions on the Executive should contact the NCA Secretary, Tim Wall, before the meeting at:

Now that the season has finished, the final standings for all the divisions can be announced. Well done to all teams involved.

Division 1

The only team who stands undefeated across all three divisions are the winners for division one, Forest Hall A claimed victory with 17 Match Points. Gosforth Empire made sure they didn’t claim a perfect season by drawing against them in their second match of the season. Runners up for division one was South Shields A with 13 Match Points. See the table below for the final standings.

Team NamePlayedWinsDrawsLossesGame PointsMatch Points
Forest Hall A98103117
South Shields A96122713
Durham City952229.512
Leam Lane Aces94232410
Tynemouth A9414239
Gosforth Empire925220.59
Morpeth A931524.57
Forest Hall B9234177
Jesmond Knights913519.55
Morpeth B901891

Division 2

Tynemouth B claimed the division 2 title with 6 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss. Tynemouth C narrowly finished runners up by a single point. See the table below for a full list of the standings.

Team NamePlayedWinsDrawsLossesGame PointsMatch Points
Tynemouth B96212614
Tynemouth C953127.513
Forest Hall C95222712
South Shields B951323.511
Gosforth Ivy9333259
Newcastle University932318.58
South Shields C9315217
Forest Hall D9225186
Gosforth Salters9036183

Division 3

With only one loss during the season Gateshead have claimed the title for division 3. The whole season was extremely close, with second and seventh place only being 1 point apart. Forest Hall E claimed runners up on Game Points narrowly placing ahead of Leam Lane B and South Shields D. See the table below for the final standings.

Team NamePlayedWinsDrawsLossesGame PointsMatch Points
Forest Hall E95132611
Leam Lane B935123.511
South Shields D95132311
Tynemouth D942323.510
Morpeth C950422.510
Gosforth Woodbines9324228
Forest Hall F9216215
South Shields E900990

Gary Cornwall 1-0 Brian Towers
Chris Smith ½-½ Dave Patterson
John Morton 1-0 Chris Sayers
Lewis Self ½-½ Eddie Czestochowski
Joe Murray 1-0 Jay Steel

Tuesday 30th April 2019