Four divisions, 41 teams and over 300 players will soon collide in a maelstrom of broken pawns and splintered boards (ok I might be over egging it somewhat but there are some very competitive Bristolians’ out there). Thats right its the start of the 2017/18 Bristol & District Chess League!
Last season Downend & Fishponds Chess Club walked to three of the four available titles so it remains to be seen whether they can continue to hold on to all the silverware. Here are my top picks for the coming season.
Last year Downend cantered into Christmas on the back of eight straight wins which meant that even when they took their foot of the gas in the second half of the season they could still cruise to the title. However, putting last year to one side, in recent times the top division has been very close and its interesting to note the lesser teams are also getting stronger, meaning dropped points away to Bath, University, Clevedon and the B teams is a distinct possibility.
- Champions – Clifton A: Out of the mix in the last couple of seasons but still a very strong side with strength across their top 12 boards. Consistency could drive them to the top.
- Runners Up – Downend & Fishponds A: The summer has not been kind and they are not the powerhouse of last year with lots of big money transfers to the London leagues. Whilst always dangerous, I can’t see them bringing their top game every week.
- Dark Horses – Horfield A: Have been sniffing around the title and I often feel are the Bristol chess equivalent of Liverpool FC. They were great in the 80’s, beat the big clubs all the time and then lose to Barnsley. But one of these years…
Will International Master Chris Beaumont help Clifton steal the title back of Downend?
Or will the sassy, free flowing attacking style of Horfield finally deliver a first league title since 2001?
Perhaps the bloodiest of the Divisions with high quality chess littered with late night blunders. I love Division 2, quirks and all! Notoriously hard to call each year unless a big name club dropped out of Division 1 the year before, here are my predictions:
- Champions – South Bristol B: A strong squad that can turn out week in, week out will ensure that South Bristol B will compete in every match this year. You won’t see many default points and that can be the difference in the long bloody slog that the quest for the Division 2 title can become. South Bristol B by a whisker!
- Runner Up – North Bristol A: A club on the up, North Bristol have a new name and a raft of new players. Think Manchester City FC circa 2008. I don’t believe they will have the ability to sculpt a title winning squad in their first season since big change arrived at the club but they will hound their neighbours from South of the river all the way and might just get rewarded with a place at the top table in 2018/19.
- Dark Horses – Cabot: Simply because Bedminster is surely the sleeping giant of the Bristol Chess scene?! With the rest of the division taking lumps out of each other, Cabot could easily cruise along in the chasing pack until the closing days of the season. Ones to watch, mark my words!
With a new stadium this year, will Cabot CC rise up to be the powerhouse of chess Bedminster has needed for so long?
The trickiest Division to predict in my opinion given the almost yearly injection of fresh blood as clubs promote from their junior ranks and new starters typically add to the element of the unknown. Anyway here we go…
- Champions – Yate A: Maybe its just me but I struggle playing Yate A. Well drilled, strength from Board 1 to 6, never give up. All the attributes of a side that can have the stamina and grit to dig out a title push. They are nearly always in the top 3 of the division and its about time they sealed the silverware.
- Runners Up – Keynsham: Relegated from Division 2 last year, Im predicting an instant return for this little club to the South East of the city. Experienced league players who will likely be unfazed against any juniors or newcomers to the league means I predict Keynsham will tick over the points nicely. Only strength in depth makes me question whether they can claim the Division 3 title.
- Dark Horses – Hanham: There are atleast four other clubs in the Division who on their day could string a run of results together but I’m going to plumb for Hanham based on their experience in the Division. They have been in the Division for a while without threatening so maybe this could be their year.
With only 9 teams and a raft of equally matched teams, Division 3 could be a very hard league to predict this year.
A massive 12 teams are competing this year in Division 4 which is encouraging signs for the strength of the league and the clubs more junior / newcomer ranks.
- Champions – Downend F: Simply because Downend & Fishponds have one of the best setups in the league for junior chess, I have to go for the team that will be coached and watched over by the talented folk at Downend. Im thinking Alan Hansen “you win nothing with kids” era Manchester United FC. Go for it!
- Runners Up – North Bristol B: As already stated, they have a raft of new players and grand ambitions. Expect them (or their C team) to push all the way.
- Dark Horses – University B: Always an unknown quantity depending on freshers week so it would be daft not to consider the University B team from throwing a spanner into the works of the Division 4 title.
North Bristol Chess Club could well prove to be the “elephant in the room” in this years chess season (Ahem)
So there we go! We will check back at the end of the year to see how many of my 12 predictions came true. I hope you have enjoyed our (slightly tongue in cheek) review of the upcoming season and are feeling as excited as I am about your clubs and your own chances. If you have any predictions of your own then please leave them in the comments below.
Good luck to everyone playing this year!
Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.