West Midlands Area League
The Covid-19 pandemic originated in China probably in the last part of 2019. The spread of this respiratory infection was declared a global health emergency late in January 2020 and the first UK cases were detected about the same time. In February, more and more case were reported in England and hospital intensive care capacity was full leading to calls for the Government to take action in early March. Several clubs had already closed their doors by the second week in March and WCA suspended all play in the Worcestershire League on 14 March. A week later the UK Government imposed a ‘lockdown’ prohibiting all but essential travel.
Nigel Towers (Redditch) took up the challenge to get Worcestershire players online after the country closed down for the Covid-19 pandemic. His work was supported by WCA when Worcestershire CA officials urged clubs to field teams in an online league. Although Nigel was not able to replicate the missing Worcestershire over-the-board league, he widened the net by asking clubs in neighbouring leagues to participate. The league is independent of Worcestershire Chess Association. The league organising committee was: Nigel Towers (Redditch), Rob Sutton (Worcester) and Stephen Woodhouse (Greenlands).
The first 'practice' matches using a four-board team playing two rapidplay games with the same opponent were played in mid-April. Players’ and clubs’ responses were favourable and the first league matches were played on 16 April 2020. There were sufficient team entries that the league was run with two divisions. The online league was run for four seasons starting April 2020 and finishing in May 2021.
Greenlands, Redditch, Stourbridge, and Worcester City from Worcestershire were joined by an off-shore guest, the Isle of Wight Chess Club organised by former Worcestershire team captain John Wrench and eight clubs from outside the county for the first season: Coventry Chess, Mutual Circle, Rugby, Solihull, South Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and Warwick University.
South Birmingham were first league champions, Warwick University Division 2 champions. Worcestershire teams payed second fiddle to clubs from the south Birmingham conurbation.
Sutton Coldfield were league champions and Solihull runners-up. Coventry Chess won an exciting Division 2 contest winning the championship on tie-break from Isle of Wight. There were eight teams in Division 1 and 10 in Division 2.
Hereford joined the league in Division 1, which had six teams, but were outclassed. Sutton Coldfield retired from the division without being able to complete all their fixtures. Redditch were League Champions and runners-up were Solihull in a tight finish. Warwick University Alumni were Division 2 champions. There were six teams in Division 1 and eleven in Division 2.
Longbridge were league champions with Solihull runners-up. Division 2 champions were South Birmingham. Six teams competed in Division 1 and eight in Division 2.
Information about fixtures and results in the league is maintained on the English Chess Federation’s League Management System. The information on LMS is used by team captains to set up and report results of West Midlands Area League matches. Instructions to enable captains to send and accept challenges on chess.com is linked from here.
The full rules can be viewed linked from here. Players must be members or supporters of the English Chess Federation. To join or re-join the federation please use the link here. Briefly, matches have four boards and each player has two games on one evening (one as white and one as black) against the same opponent using the chess.com platform and a time control of 15 minutes plus 10 seconds increment from move 1. The captain of the 'home' team is responsible for issuing the match challenge and the opponent team captain for accepting a challenge. Each of the two matches played between the same two teams on an evening are scored separately in terms of match points and teams winning on aggregate in the evening get a bonus of one point. A match win is scored as 2 points, a draw as 1, and a loss as 0. At the end of the season tie-breaks between teams with equal number of games points are made using game points. Players must adhere to the fair-play rules of chess.com and the English Chess Federation (see below). The results of games are sent for online grading by the ECF on a monthly basis.
The policy document is available linked from here.
The league has adopted the safeguarding policy of the English Chess Federation linked from here.