Top flight beckons for Harborough Chess Club

The winner’s trophy was secured with 11 wins and three draws from 16 matches
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Market Harborough are chess champions of Division Two in the Leicestershire and Rutland League, a year after relegation from the top flight.

The winner’s trophy was secured with 11 wins and three draws from 16 matches, it was enough to see off an unfancied Ashby side, who had got the better of Harborough when the teams met in March.

Despite the team’s success, key players were missing for much of the season, meaning Harborough reserves and untested new recruits had to make up the numbers.

Daniel Savin (player of the year) and Romilly Ilersic (first team captain)Daniel Savin (player of the year) and Romilly Ilersic (first team captain)
Daniel Savin (player of the year) and Romilly Ilersic (first team captain)

One such new member, Daniel Savin, was undefeated for the First Team and has recently been voted player of the year by the club, having only moved to the area a few weeks before the start of the season. Club secretary, René Butler, said: “There was a bit of a scramble between us and another club to get Daniel to join. Once we signed him, all four of our teams were keen to get him in their side.

“Daniel is a very natural player who seems to spot tactics without much trouble, but more importantly, he’s proved himself to be a true club man, travelling to the likes of Loughborough, Melton and Ashby after he’s finished a long, gruelling shift at work. He played something like 34 games in the season. It is unlikely any player in the club’s history has matched that, and we’ve been going since the early 1950s.”

Towards the end of the season, Harborough also unearthed Pat McHale, a player who had not pushed a piece in more than 25 years. McHale recorded two impressive wins and a draw in his three games for the First Team. McHale and his teammates must wait until September to be presented with their winner’s trophy.

There were mixed fortunes elsewhere, with the Second Team finishing bottom of nine teams in Division Two, while the Third Team recorded a respectable mid-table finish in Division Three, having been promoted last season.

Harborough also entered the Northamptonshire League for only the second time - their debut season was cut short due to Covid - finishing runner’s up in the John Robinson trophy and winning three from 12 matches in a strong, single division.

Team captain George Gowers fielded no fewer than 18 different players throughout the season, providing game time for the club’s keen new members and lower-rated players. Gowers even resisted the temptation to put out the strongest possible line-up in the John Robinson final, opting for a balanced team, he said: “It was great to see so many players from the club take part in our Northants season.

"We drew from players at the club of all strengths to form the team, many of which would not ordinarily be playing together. There were some tough match-ups, particularly on the higher boards, which provided many learning experiences and the odd upset.”