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Entry forms are now published for the 2021 Northumbria Masters (August 26-30), which is going ahead over-the-board at a brand new Covid-secure venue, Marriott MetroCentre in Gateshead. The congress, generously supported by Chess in Schools and Communities, includes a GM norm all-play-all and an IM norm all-play-all, as well as the Northumbria Masters (Open to all); Challengers (Under 2000); Major (Under 1750); and Minor (Under 1500).

For more details and to download the entry form, please go to: https://northumbriamasters.com

The North East Online League is a new initiative, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, to allow players in the region to continue playing club matches in an easy-to-access league that combines the Northumberland, Durham and Cleveland County Association areas.

Matches are played online on Lichess.org, between teams of 4 players. The time control is 45 minutes plus 15 seconds per move. All matches are played on Tuesday evenings at 7:30pm, with an interval of 2 weeks between rounds. Requiring players to be ECF Members or Supporters before playing their first game in the NEOL enables the games to be ECF Online Rated, and has also helped to boost 2020-21 ECF membership figures from the region. Season 1 – October to December 2020 The first season attracted a total of 20 teams of four players each from 12 different ECF-afffiliated chess clubs throughout the North East: From Northumberland: Morpeth & Tynemouth (playing in combined teams); Forest Hall, Gosforth, Jesmond, Tynedale, Newcastle University and Jesmond. From Durham: Durham City and Bishop Auckland. From Cleveland: Thornaby and Billingham Synthonia. These teams were organised into 3 divisions, with 6 teams each in Divisions 1 & 2, and 8 teams in Division 3. A total of 5 matches were played by all of the teams, and only 3 boards were defaulted out of a total of 200 games.

There won’t be any more action in the 2019-20 league season, since it’s clear clubs won’t be in a position to welcome guests before the ECF memberships expire at the end of August.

Our constitution says we must hold a League Meeting in September to decide the composition of the leagues for 2020-21, and that proposals for rule changes be submitted a certain time in advance, league delegates be elected, etc.

Notice is hereby given that, unless a cure for the virus is found within the next fortnight, the business of the League Meeting will be held over to the next Extraordinary General Meeting, whenever that may be. An EGM may be called at 21 days’ notice for a purpose stated in advance.

The question of who finishes in the promotion and relegation places is moot, because the 30 teams won’t all be back up and running at the same time. My light pencil sketch of the 2020-21 season involves a 5-match fixture list starting in December or January, with teams allocated to divisions of about 8 on the basis of average grade (Open, U170 and ???) No team will be penalised for declining to play league games while CoViD restrictions are in place.

The ECF has issued a further statement on coronavirus, making the suggestion that all evening chess leagues be suspended.

Notwithstanding that “it is for individual leagues to decide on their own policy and the ECF cannot make decisions for those organisations”, there is clearly an unacceptable legal risk to any volunteer-run organisation that chooses to carry on in the face of such a suggestion by the national governing body.

Therefore, I will no longer expect the following matches to be played on their scheduled dates:

Tynemouth C vs. Gateshead 17th March
Forest Hall E vs. Alnwick 18th March
Gosforth Salters vs. Tynemouth D 23rd March
Leam Lane Bullets vs. South Shields D 24th March
Gosforth Woodbines vs. Forest Hall E 30th March
Morpeth C vs. Forest Hall F 8th April
Alnwick vs. Gosforth Centurions 8th April
South Shields D vs. Forest Hall F 16th April

While it might seem odd to target league matches and allow friendly club nights to carry on, I think the key is that we make sure no-one feels compelled to attend their local club by the prospect of losing league points. Assuming the virus affects Britain the same way it affected Italy, Spain and France, we should probably expect the coming club night to be the last before the venues are asked to close.

Keep calm and wash your hands. My lichess.org handle is Hazyshade, what’s yours?

John Wall J ½-½ Hanif Zaman
Steve Bowey ½-½ Mez Benmaamar
Jeff Baird ½-½ Shawn Edgar Miranda
Jeff Bentham 1-0 Mohammed Alsharif
David Evans 1-0 Default

Friday 13th March 2020

Edward Dodds ½-½ Zheming Zhang
Chris Izod 1-0 Mark Younger
Andy Trevelyan 1-0 Ravi Wariyar
Robert Archer 1-0 Mike Smith
Jesus Urresti 1-0 Mehdi Mazerei

Thursday 12th March 2020

Ian Maughan ½-½ Martin Seeber
Christopher Sayers 0-1 Robert PC Mitcheson
Dave Campbell ½-½ Geoff Loxham
Ben A Wood 0-1 Alan Welsh
Asanga Gunasekera 0-1 John G Horton

Sunday 12th April 2020

David Wrigley 1-0 Stuart Skelsey
Tim Wrigley ½-½ Ciaran Macdonald
Derek JE Harris 1-0 Morgan French
Dave W Humphreys 0-1 Weiming Xu
Jonny Kearney 0-1 Ian R Rook

Thursday 12th March 2020

Konstantinos Delinoudous 1-0 Chris Goodall
Kevin Rowden ½-½ John Liddle
Dave Patterson 0-1 Ray Devenney
Dave Campbell ½-½ Jack Erskine Pereira
Eddie Czestochowski 0-1 Mark McKay

Monday 9th March 2020