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Civil Service off to flying start as new league season gets underway

(B&D League 2017/18 Week 1) Civil Service are the Week 1 leaders of Division 1 after they thumped The A Team.

The Belfast and District League is back for the 2017/18 season, and there's a new club in the mix as Strand, based in the Strand Arts Centre on Holywood Road, have four teams competing. Originally a junior club running on Sunday afternoons, Strand became a fully-fledged league-playing club after a number of Ballynafeigh players moved over. Their first team already look like a genuine threat in the race for the Silver King, with the likes of 2044-rated Nikhil Joshi, 2013 Ulster Champion Mike Redman, 2017 Bunratty Challengers winner Mikhail Pavlov and two-time Ulster Masters winner Calum Leitch on the panel. Their second team are no slouches either, with the likes of Ulster Intermediate Champion Modestas Razbadauskas and Daniil Zelenchuk, fresh from Ireland's Robinson Cup-winning team, on hand. Last but not least, with their third and fourth teams packed with enthusiastic juniors anything can happen in Division 2.

Disappointingly, there will be no QUB teams this season as they withdrew after a dispute over which division their second team were to play in - hopefully their best players can find clubs this season, and the club returns to the league next season. Civil Service had been given a Division 1 spot ahead of QUB 2 despite finishing behind them, but with a number of strong players joining towards the end of last season, as well as the anticipated return of David McAlister to regular league play, the Stormont outfit look more than ready to take on the big beasts of Division 1.

Defending champions Ballynafeigh 1 won't quite be as strong as last season, but with 12 Ulster Championships between their first two boards - three for David Houston and nine for Steve Scannell - they can never be written off. Overall, the Ormeau Road club are down from seven teams last season to a more manageable four, with two each in Divisions 1 and 2. Muldoons 1, 2015/16 winners and just 1.5 points behind last season, cannot be ruled out either.

The league format this year is a seven-team double round robin Division 1 and an eight-team single round robin Division 2, with the top teams playing off for the John Strawbridge Cup while the rest battle for the Division 3 Plate. The lateness of QUB's withdrawal meant that fixtures could not be rescheduled - for this reason, there will be two matches in Division 2 in some weeks and three matches in others.

With that said, here's how week 1 of the new season went down;

Division 1

 

  • Ballynafeigh 1 P-P Strand 1
  • Muldoons 1 P-P Ballynafeigh 2
  • Civil Service 4.5-0.5 The A Team

 

Civil Service are the early leaders as they proved their Division 1 credentials by easily seeing off The A Team. The teams were closely matched on the top four boards, but apart from a draw for Graeme McCormick against the returning David McAlister it was one-way traffic. The other two scheduled matches were postponed.

PlayedPoints
Civil Service 1 6.5
The A Team 1 0.5
Ballynafeigh 1 0 0
Ballynafeigh 2 0 0
Muldoons 1 0 0
Strand 1 0 0
Strand 2 0 0

Division 2

 

  • Strand 3 0.5-4.5 Bangor
  • Strand 4 0-5 Kelly's Heroes

 

Strand's third and fourth teams suffered heavy defeats as Kelly's Heroes emerged as early leaders with Bangor close behind. Kelly's Heroes looked determined to make up for their relatively poor campaign last season, never really playing a part in the Strawbridge Cup chase, as they whitewashed Strand 4. Bangor looked all set to match the Malone Road side, as they were nearly 500 point per board favourites against Strand 3, but Mike McKimm (1330) was held to a draw by Louie McConkey (937), one of many enthusiastic youngsters filling the Strand ranks.

PlayedPoints
Kelly's Heroes 1 7
Bangor 1 6.5
Strand 3 1 0.5
Ballynafeigh 3 0 0
Ballynafeigh 4 0 0
Fruithill 0 0
Muldoons 2 0 0
Strand 4 1 0