The league fixtures for the 2017-2018 season popped into my Inbox this afternoon. At first glance, although the total number of teams remains the same as started last season, there is quite a shake-up. The emergence of Strand Chess Club, already strong in both quantity and quality, appears to have been the catalyst for the makeover.
Division One has gained three teams, two from Strand plus Civil Service moving up to play with the big battalions to make a total of eight. Instead of each team playing all its rivals four times, this season it will be a double-rounder only. Total number of matches reduce by two to 14, but in my opinion the benefits of losing an unwieldy bye and a greater variety of competition more than offset that. Of course those who like the league season to go on forever will be disappointed.
Instead of two further divisions, as was the case last season, there will be a large second division of eleven teams that will be organised in 2 phases. Divison 2 will start with an all-play-all with teams playing each other only once. Then there will a separation into two merit-based sections and it looks like this will require a longer league season than in Division 1 - better news here for the maximilists. My understanding is that the precise organisation of Division 2 after the "separation" will be clarified at a later date.
Belfast South 1
Queen's University 1
Belfast South 2
Queen's University 2
Queen's University 3
Queen's University 4
Presumably the Belfast South Division 1 and 2 teams will continue to play respectively under the monikers "The A-Team" and Kelly's Heroes". No word on whether the newcomer, Strand CC, has any colourful names planned for its quartet.