Thanks to an impressive total of 193 entries for the Masters (Open), Challengers (Under 2000), Major (Under 1750) and Minor (Under 1500) tournaments, we have now reached the maximum capacity for players in the public events at the Marriott MetroCentre.

Anyone still wishing to enter any of these public events should write to Tim Wall, the Congress Director (, stating their FIDE and ECF ratings, and the tournament they wish to enter. They will be placed on a last-minute waiting list, and contacted if a place becomes available.

Please note: applications to join the waiting list will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

NEWS UPDATE: August 5, 2021 – A total of 167 entries have now been received for the Northumbria Masters Congress. Only another 11 places are available for the public events (Masters Open, Challengers Under 2000, Major Under 1750 and Minor Under 1500).

Entries To Close Soon

Once these places have been taken up, entries will be closed on the website and applications will only be taken to join a waiting list to enter.

Final All-Play-All Places

We expect to announce the final place in the GM norm all-play-all (a 2380+ GM norm seeker) and the final place in the IM norm all-play-all (a 2200+ IM norm seeker) in the next few days.

Anyone interested in taking up the final GM norm and IM norm all-play-alls places may apply in confidence to: Tim Wall (

Junior Bursaries – No More Applications

PLEASE NOTE: No more applications for The John Robinson Youth Chess Trust junior bursaries for Under 21 players are currently being accepted. The players receiving the bursaries will be notified in the next few days.

The Northumbria Masters Congress is nearing its capacity of 180 players, and the last two dozen or so places are expected to be filled in the coming days. Once maximum capacity is reached, entries will be closed and players enquiring about entry will be put on a waiting list.

As of August 3, a total of 153 entries had been received for the Northumbria Masters Congress, including:

  • The following players for the GM norm all-play-all: GMs Tamas Fodor Jr (HUN), Matthew Turner (SCO) & Alexander Cherniaev (RUS); IMs Ravi Haria, Peter Roberson, Matthew Wadsworth & David Eggleston (all ENG); FMs Marcus Harvey (ENG) & Conor Murphy (IRL). There remains 1 player to be confirmed (2380+ required, any nationality). Interested players should contact Congress Director Tim Wall (
  • The following players for the IM norm all-play-all: IMs Peter Large (ENG), Andrew Muir and Roderick McKay (both SCO); FMs Jonah Willow, James Moreby, Harry Grieve (all ENG), Iain Gourlay (SCO), Yichen Han (NED); and Shreyas Royal (ENG). The final player is expected to be confirmed in the next few days.
  • 59 entries for the Northumbria Masters (Open), including 4 Grandmasters (Danny Gormally (ENG), Marian Petrov (BUL), Peter Wells & Keith Arkell (both ENG); 2 International Masters (Brandon Clarke and Mike Basman – both ENG); and 3 FMs – Murad Abdulla (SCO), Peter Sowray and Rafe Martyn (both ENG).
  • 38 entries for the Northumbria Challengers (Under 2000).
  • 12 entries for the Northumbria Major (Under 1750).
  • 26 entries for the Northumbria Minor (Under 1500).

Entries for the 2021 Northumbria Masters Congress are coming in rapidly, with a total of 87 players now signed up.

With 40 days to go before the Congress, we are on track to reach close to the maximum capacity of 170 players at the venue, the Marriott MetroCentre in Gateshead,

To ensure your place in the Congress, book your entry and accommodation now to avoid disappointment.

Here is a summary of the entries to the various tournaments so far:

Grandmaster norm all-play-all

In the GM norm all-play-all, 3 GMs are now confirmed: Tamas Fodor Jr (HUN), Matthew Turner (SCO) and Alexander Cherniaev (RUS). Joining them are IMs Ravi Haria, Matthew Wadsworth, Lawrence Trent and David Eggleston (all ENG), and FMs Marcus Harvey (ENG) and Conor Murphy (IRL). The tenth player is still to be confirmed.

The average opposition for all norm seekers in the GM all-play-all will be 2434+, making the GM norm 6.5/9.

International Master norm all-play-all

In the IM norm all-play-all, 2 IMs are confirmed: David Fitzsimons (IRL) and Peter Large (ENG). The 5 FMs playing are Jonah Willow, Harry Grieve and James Moreby (all ENG), Iain Gourlay (SCO) and Yichen Han (NED), and also playing is WGM Katarzyna Toma (ENG). The latest entrant is CM Shreyas Royal, whose rating recently crossed the 2300 threshold. The tenth player is still to be confirmed.

The average opposition for all norm seekers in the IM norm all-play-all will be 2325+, making the IM norm 6/9.

Northumbria Masters (Open)

In the FIDE-rated Northumbria Masters tournament, open to all players, there are 23 entries so far. Two GMs, Danny Gormally and Keith Arkell (both ENG), and 1 IM, Andrew Muir (SCO) have already signed up to play.

GMs, IMs, WGMs and WIMs are entitled to free entry to this event.

Northumbria Challengers (Under 2000)

In the FIDE-rated Northumbria Challengers tournament, for players rated Under 2000, there are 20 entries so far.

Northumbria Major (Under 1750)

In the ECF-rated Northumbria Major tournament, for players rated Under 1750, there are 9 entries so far.

Northumbria Minor (Under 1500)

In the ECF-rated Northumbria Minor tournament, for players rated Under 1500, there are 17 entries so far.

The Northumbria Masters is pleased to announce that the John Robinson Youth Chess Trust has agreed to provide a number of bursaries for players under the age of 21 entering events at this year’s congress.

The John Robinson Youth Chess Trust, a registered charity established from the estate of the late well-known arbiter John Robinson to help develop chess among young chess players, has provided a grant to cover Under 21 players’ entry fees to events in the Northumbria Masters Congress.

To be eligible, players should have been aged under 21 on 1st January, 2021, and be either resident in England or eligible to represent England. Players in any tournament (GM norm All-Play-All, IM norm All-Play-All, Northumbria Masters Open, Challengers, Major or Minor) may apply. Applications should be made by email to the Congress Director, Tim Wall, at:

The bursaries, matching the player’s entry fee, will be paid at the end of the congress on completion of the tournament.

Northumbria Masters Congress Director Tim Wall said: “We are extremely grateful to the Trustees of the John Robinson Youth Chess Trust for making this generous grant. These bursaries, available to young players under the age of 21, can make a big difference to young players, and in these difficult economic times every assistance is very much appreciated.”

This is the third time the John Robinson Youth Chess Trust has supported the Northumbria Masters, having previously made grants for the event in 2018 and 2019.

We are very pleased to announce that the Northumbria Masters is back, and is one of the first major UK events helping to restart over-the-board chess this year as we gradually recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The entry form for the 2021 Northumbria Masters Congress has now been published, and can be downloaded here:

The safety and wellbeing of all chess players and their families is our first concern, so we are happy that our brand new Covid-secure venue, Marriott MetroCentre in Gateshead, is fully equipped to deal with all your needs.

As well as a spacious 330 square metre playing hall, the European Suite, there is a dedicated analysis room nearby. Four large projector screens will allow players to observe the top games in the GM & IM All-Play-Alls and Masters tournaments from anywhere in the playing hall.

The Marriott MetroCentre has 150 luxurious rooms for you to stay in and relax, and we are encouraging players to stay at the hotel and enjoy playing chess again in comfort and style.

A special group room rate is being offered by Marriott MetroCentre of £60 per room (single occupancy) and £70 per room (double occupancy), including breakfast and free Wi-Fi.

The hotel has an extensive bar and restaurant area, including some seating outdoors, offering a full breakfast, lunch and dinner service.

There is also an excellent Fitness Club at the disposal of all guests, with indoor pool, gym and fitness rooms, plus spa and sauna.

Marriott MetroCentre is also less than half a mile from the MetroCentre shopping and leisure complex, where you can find cinema screens, a bowling alley and various other leisure facilities to keep all the family happily occupied.

And of course, the Marriott MetroCentre is perfectly situated for short excursions to the historic city of Durham, Newcastle City Centre, Hadrian’s Wall and the Beamish Open-Air Museum – all within 30 minutes’ drive away. (We have allowed the possibility for players to take up to 3 half-point byes in the first 6 rounds of the congress, so that they and their families and friends can take a break and enjoy these fantastic local tourist attractions.)

Key highlights in this year’s entry form:

Brand new venue:

Marriott MetroCentre,
Marconi Way, Gateshead NE11 9XF

Accommodation can be booked directly with Marriott Metrocentre

Special group room rate (including breakfast):

£60 (single occupancy)

£70 (double occupancy)

Book your group rate here for Northumbria Chess Masters

Please note: Special room rate is only available when you book before July 29. After that date, higher room rates may apply.


Thursday 26th August – Monday 30th August, 2021 (Bank Holiday weekend)

Additional tournaments:

GM norm All-Play-All (10 players, by invitation only)

IM norm All-PLay-All (10 players, by invitation only)

Minor (Under 1500, ECF-rated only)

New ECF Rating system:

The English Chess Federation has now switched to a FIDE-style 4-digit rating system. All 3-digit ECF grades have now been converted into 4-digit ratings.

Rating bands:

The rating bands of the tournaments are:

Masters – Open to all players, regardless of rating (FIDE-rated, eligible for title norms)

Challengers – Under 2000 FIDE & ECF Rating (FIDE-rated)

Major – Under 1750 ECF & FIDE Rating (ECF-rated only)

Minor – Under 1500 ECF & FIDE Rating (ECF-rated only)

Date of age qualification (for various prizes):

Now January 1, 2021 (this simplification fits in with FIDE, which publishes just the year of a player’s birth)

Ways to enter:

1) Online at:;

2) By email to timpeterwall@gmail.comwith a copy of the entry form. You will be sent details of how to pay by bank transfer; or

3) By post with an entry form and cheque payable to ‘UK Chess Events Ltd’ to: Tim Wall, 8 Whitfield Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 7LJ, UK.

For more information, including for players wishing to play in the All-Play-All GM norm & IM norm tournaments, Tel./WhatsApp: +44 (0) 750 372 2366 or e-mail:

Final preparations are underway for the announcement that the 2021 Northumbria Masters will be going ahead on Thursday 26th to Monday 30 August at a brand new venue, the Marriott MetroCentre in Gateshead.

Final details are still being worked out with the hotel, which is currently gearing up for the next stage in the easing of lockdown restrictions on May 17. As soon as these arrangements are finalised, the entry form will be published and downloadable via this website, and on the ECF and FIDE Calendars.

This announcement should be made by May 17 at the latest.

All tournaments will be 9 rounds over four and a half days, played at the time control of 90 minutes for all moves, plus 30 seconds per move.

There will be 4 tournaments open for the public to enter: Masters (Open); Challengers (Under 2000); Major (Under 1750) and Minor (under 1500).

Those wishing to enter the tournaments, or to make a hotel room booking at the Marriott MetroCentre at the special rate negotiated through the Northumbria Masters, are kindly asked to wait until this formal announcement is made. All room bookings should be made via this website to secure the special rate.

Thank you for your patience. Hopefully, we will all see each other over the board very soon!

Tim Wall

Tournament Director

Northumbria Masters

For its second reborn edition, the Northumbria Masters left the famous Chillingham Arms to move to a bigger venue – remaining a major hit.

“I’m coming home, Newcastle,

Ye can keep yer London wine,

I’d walk the streets all day all neet,

For a bottle o’ the River Tyne.

I’m coming home, Newcastle,

I wish I’d never been away,

I’d kiss the ground for the welcome sound,

Of me mother saying, ‘Hinny, howay!’”

(“Home, Newcastle” by Ronnie Lambert)

As a junior chess player in the North East of England in the recession-era 1980s, first on Teesside and then in Newcastle upon Tyne, I quickly got used to the idea that to play in big tournaments, you had to travel to London, far-flung seaside resorts or other places mostly in the south of England.

Events such as the Lloyds Bank Masters were all expensive away fixtures, and the epicentre of UK chess seemed a long way away. Almost in desperation, I started organising international tournaments in Newcastle in the mid-1990s.

I felt that, while we didn’t have the strongest players in the world, we could at least ‘bring coals to Newcastle’ and help young local players to get the chances they were lacking.

Sense of Camaraderie

I started with my local pub, The Chillingham Arms, asking the manager after a boozy quiz night whether we could hold a chess event in his upstairs function room. Much to my surprise, the room hire was just £10 a day, and a series of great tournaments took place.

To say they were run on a shoestring would have been a big understatement, as they were literally organised from entry fees and the odd helpful donation from The Friends of Chess and then-BCF International Director David Sedgwick’s budget.

The titled players (and pretty much a majority of the other players, as I vaguely recall) simply stayed in local players’ homes. Among the future stars staying in mine and my friends’ spare rooms, on sofas and even on floors in sleeping bags, were such luminaries in the making as Jacob Aagaard, John Shaw and Danny Gormally.

Lara Barnes, now the ECF Chief Arbiter, was cutting her teeth in her first tournaments as an arbiter, and among the youngsters playing their first international tournaments were a certain future British champion, Gawain Jones, then aged 9, and Indian superstar commentator Tania Sachdev, then aged 10.

Nine-year-old Gawain Jones (front row, second right) played his first international tournament at the 1996 Northumbria Masters.

It is the most horrible cliché, but it was true to say, as the Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch put it,“We were poor, but we were happy.”

A number of players made their first IM norms, including Danny Gormally and even myself – how I managed that while also organising a tournament is a complete mystery to me.

The events, some all-play-alls, some Swisses, were a bit rough and ready, but they were great fun. Not to toot my own horn too much, but even today everyone I speak to remembers those events with great affection.

It was not just the chess, but the camaraderie, the atmosphere and the feeling that we were all mucking in together.

Kevin Keegan & The Sniper

One occasion that particularly sticks in my memory was over Easter 1996, when future ‘Sniper Master’ Charlie Storey was trying to win some long endgame upstairs in the pub, while downstairs in the bar what seemed like hundreds of Newcastle United supporters were roaring as the Premier League title literally slipped from their grasp, and ill-fated manager Kevin Keegan uttered his immortal “I would love it if we beat them…” rant against Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson.

We chessplayers oscillated between watching the epic football match downstairs, and Charlie’s heroic attempts to win his endgame upstairs…

My Years in Exile

Then, six months later, my time in Newcastle came to an abrupt halt, as I was lured away down south to London to work for Murray Chandler’s British Chess Magazine.

Three years later – somewhat bizarrely – I went further afield to the great chess nations Azerbaijan and Russia, where I became a mainstream media journalist and editor.

Ironically, in the great chess cities of Baku and Moscow, due to my work schedule I had little time for the game – despite in 1999 interviewing a 12-year-old Teimour Radjabov, and once enduring an epic, all-night vodka drinking marathon with Russian Grandmasters at the 2014 Sochi World Championship match.

Some 20 years later, like the Geordie expat brickies from the classic TV series ‘Auf Wiedersehn, Pet,’ it was finally time for me to ‘Come home, Newcastle’ in 2016.

Much as I had enjoyed an interesting and mostly fulfilling career working abroad, it was a highly emotional change in my life. The feelings that I experienced, as an economic migrant ‘exiled’ from the North East, have of course been experienced by many millions elsewhere, but there is nothing like returning home – and finding, like Michael Caine in the classic 1971 Newcastle noir gangster film ‘Get Carter,’ that so much of that old world had gone forever, even while some of the old places and faces remained the same.

Except I and my Newcastle friends were just much, much older. Almost like, as in the words of the ‘Coming Home’ song, “Ah might as well ha’ been in jail…”

Putting the Band Back Together

About a year after I’d come back to Newcastle, it was none other than Charlie Storey who suggested in an offhand comment, “Why don’t you hold another international tournament?”. The seed of an idea of ‘putting the band back together again’ took root, and I asked the manager of the self-same Chillingham Arms if his upstairs function room was available for a chess event.

I was again pleasantly surprised to learn that the room hire was just £25 a day this time… and in February 2018 the reborn Northumbria Masters took place in the pub, with seven GMs and 11 IMs in a strong field of 50 players.

Once again, the event benefited from the great work of Lara Barnes, and this time new sponsors were found, including the Liverpool-based company Capital Bridging Finance Solutions, the ECF, The John Robinson Youth Chess Trust, and the Friends of Chess. The budget was far bigger than in the 1990s, but in modern terms it was still an event on a shoestring – and it was only made possible by the efforts of a group of local volunteers, who again put up titled players in their homes and ferried them to and from the tournament each day.

The Big New Venue

This year, the 2019 Northumbria Masters in late August was an altogether grander affair, with a great new venue, Novotel Newcastle Airport, organised in conjunction with Bridge Overseas/Guaranteed Events Ltd.

Novotel Newcastle Airport, the new venue for the 2019 Northumbria Masters.

This meant we could expand the number of players to 120 in four different sections, reaching maximum capacity in a large conference suite. The playing conditions were excellent, and all the players could enjoy a full trestle table per board to themselves and their opponent.

Like the 2018 and 1990s events, there was a great diversity in the makeup of the tournaments, with players from 11 different nations taking part. The Masters field of 52 players again was very strong, including a total of six GMs and six IMs. It was particularly pleasing to see some of the ‘original band members’ from the 1990s Northumbria Masters, GM Danny Gormally and FM Charlie Storey, back in action in the 2019 event.

The top seed, German GM Alexander Donchenko, got off to a flying 3/3 start, sharing the lead with newly titled Australia GM Justin Tan, who is a medical student in Edinburgh. The chasing pack on 2½/3 was led by GMs Roeland Pruijssers (Netherlands), Danny Gormally, Andrei Maksimenko (Ukraine), and Alexander Raetsky (Russia), along with IMs David Eggleston and Stephen Mannion.

Top seed Alexander Donchenko (2618, Germany) finished second equal this year with 7/9 – the same score that he won with in 2018.

The surprise player in the score group was England junior Armaan Gogia, who with a FIDE of 1754 was surely the most underrated player in the tournament.

The biggest upset in the early rounds was achieved by Newcastle’s 11-year-old Dutch-born wunderkind, Yichen Han, who defeated IM Alan Merry with a wicked swindle in round 2.

The middle rounds saw more jockeying for the lead between the GMs.

In the fourth round, Donchenko drew with Tan, allowing Pruijssers and Maksimenko to catch up on 3½/4. By the end of round 6, Donchenko and Gormally shared the lead with 5 points.

It was then that the top Dutchman, Roeland Pruijssers, took charge, showing great stamina and energy to finish with three straight wins, winning the tournament with an impressive 7½/9.

Despite starting with a draw (an inadvertent Swiss gambit), he was confident and solid throughout, deploying his favourite Dutch Leningrad to notch up wins against Gormally and Raetsky.

Donchenko came close to repeating his triumph at the 2018 Northumbria Masters, where he won with 7/9. This year his score was the same, but this time it was only good enough for equal second.

Joining him on ‘+5’ was Alan Merry, who bounced back from his early calamity to score a one-sided win over Gormally in the final round to clinch his prize.

The players in the Masters showed a great fighting spirit, with hardly any quick draws, even among the grandmasters. The event was also marked with a very friendly atmosphere, and this was typified by the impromptu blitz evening that took place after the last round, as Roeland Pruijssers, Alexander Donchenko and Justin Tan headed into Newcastle City Centre, joined by local club players Jose Grueso, Asa Bayram, Jack Erskine-Pereira and myself, and we played often-hilarious games of ‘Hand and Brain’ until the wee hours in a downtown bar.

The FIDE-rated Challengers (Under 2050/180 ECF) and Major (Under 1825/150 ECF) tournaments were also well supported, with many club players travelling to Newcastle over the Bank Holiday weekend.

It was particularly pleasing to see some 30 juniors playing in the 9-round FIDE-rated tournaments, many with the support of bursaries from the John Robinson Trust.

One notable local triumph was that of Alex Brodie, a Forest Hall clubmate of mine, who despite not being active recently in league or congress chess, won the Major unbeaten with the outstanding score of 7/9, despite being one of the lower rated players in the event.

To me, the success of this year’s Northumbria Masters showed that it is entirely possible to organise strong and attractive international tournaments in a city a fair way away from London.

To quote the baseball film Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come.

The ‘Chess Holiday’ Experience

One of the things that seemed to go down very well at this year’s event was the tourist excursions I organised for families and players who wished to take up to three half-point byes.

Two carloads of chess tourists enjoyed walking around the historic Durham Castle and Cathedral, the Vindolanda Roman Fort along Hadrian’s Wall, and – my personal favourite – Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland.

Against the backdrop of the Northumberland cliffs, after we toured the castle, we sat cross-legged on picnic blankets to watch as a richly-comic, open-air performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was performed by an all-female quartet of cycling actors, the aptly-named Handlebards.

Players and their families saw an open-air performance of The Tempest by The Handlebards at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland.

I should, perhaps, offer a word to the wise for other would-be international tournament organisers in regional centres such as Liverpool, Leeds, Exeter and Norwich – It can be a huge undertaking, and one that requires quite some efforts from a team of dedicated volunteers to make it work.

But the payoff is the huge amount of positive feedback we have received about the event from players and families who would like to return next year.

I am glad to say that preparations are already well underway for next year’s Northumbria Masters, with the provisional dates of August 27-31, 2020.

We are hoping to include more excursions for players and their families, to make it again an enjoyable chess holiday – at the same time as being a serious and prestigious international chess festival.

These are likely to include a visit to Alnwick Castle, the famous location of the Harry Potter films…

For me, personally, the renaissance of the Northumbria Masters is about more than just retying the knot of history. It is hopefully a way in which chess at all levels can be revived in the various regions of the country – and serve as an example to other local organisers: If you build it, they will come.

The superb new venue for the 2019 Northumbria Masters – Novotel Newcastle Airport, Ponteland Lane, Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 3HZ – is situated just 400 metres from the A1 motorway and is 5 miles from Newcastle train station.

Please note: Although the hotel is Novotel Newcastle Airport, in fact it is 3.2 miles from Newcastle International Airport.

How to get to the venue:

By Car

Novotel Newcastle Airport is on Ponteland Road, Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 3HZ.  Travelling Northbound on the A1 (M), take the 2nd exit at the Kenton Bar Roundabout, onto Ponteland Road (B6918) and after 200 metres Novotel Newcastle Airport is on your right.

Travelling Southbound on the A1 (M), take the 4th exit at the Kenton Bar roundabout, again taking Ponteland Road and after 200 metres the hotel is on your right.

From Newcastle City Centre, take the A167 to Kenton Bar roundabout.

From Newcastle International Airport, take the A696 Southbound to Kenton Bar roundabout.

By Metro

From Newcastle Central Station, take the Green Line metro (to the Airport) to Kingston Park. Turn right onto Brunton Lane. Walk along Brunton Lane for 10 minutes (past Asda and Currys PC Word) and you will come to Novotel Newcastle Airport.

From Newcastle International Airport, take the Green Line (to South Hylton) to Kingston Park. Novotel is 10 minutes’ walk along Brunton Lane.

Facilities at Novotel Newcastle Airport:

  • Ample free car parking (register your car at Reception as a visitor to Northumbria Masters)
  • 126 en suite rooms
  • Restaurant and café, featuring international cuisine
  • Licensed bar
  • Picturesque picnic area adjacent to the hotel
  • Close to shopping, cafes and restaurants
  • 10 minutes’ walk from Kingston Park metro
  • Check-in from 14:00, checkout time 12:00
  • Free WiFi available
  • Laundry service
  • 24-hour reception


 Novotel Newcastle Airport Ponteland Road Kenton

Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 3HZ 

Tel: (+44) (0) 191 2140303

You are cordially invited to a special lecture by Russian Grandmaster Alex Raetsky at Forest Hall Chess Club on Friday 30 August, from 7pm-10pm. GM Alex Raetsky, a highly acclaimed chess coach and author, is in Newcastle for the Northumbria Masters (at Novotel Newcastle Airport, 23-27 August).

The lecture – ‘Chess Secrets from Russia‘ – will be aimed at club players of all ages and standards. Last year, Alex’s entertaining and instructive talk was described by club members as “the best ever.”

As a taster, here is an interview with Alex, where he talks about the chess festival he has organised in Voronezh, Russia, for the last 23 years:

The cost of the lecture is £10 per person (£8 for Under 18s / unwaged / OAPs), payable on the door. To book your place in advance, please write to me at:

We look forward to seeing you there!