Four Nations Chess League :: 1994/1995

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Basic data

Four Nations Chess League 1994/95
(see all-time tournament summary)
Dates: 1994 - 1995
Cities: Rounds 1-2: Liverpool,
Rounds 3-4: Cheltenham,
Rounds 5-6: Bridgend, Wales
Rounds 7-8: Slough,
Rounds 9-10: Birmingham,
Round 11: Bolton
Tournament Director: Mr. Chris Dunworth (ENG)
Teams participating: 12
Players participating: 183 (incl. 4 GMs, 18 IMs, 2 WGMs, 27 FMs, 4 WIMs and 2 WFMs)
Games played: 528
Competition format: Eight board round robin.
Final order decided by: 1. Match points; 2. Game points
Time control: N/A
Website: 4NCL
Downloadable game file: (only 30 games are available)

Tournament review

One of the more encouraging developments in British chess over the past year has been the growth of the "4 Nations Chess League". In its first season, which began in 1993, the 4NCL could have been accused of geographical misrepresentation - Englan d was the only nation represented. This time, with the number of teams doubled, the inclusion of "Na Fianna" and "South Wales Dragons" leaves the competition only one nation short of its self-description.

The 4NCL was formed with the intention of upgrading club chess in Britain. Good local sponsorship would enable matches to be staged in luxurious surroundings and entice our best players back from the French and German leagues.

To judge by last weekend's round at the Heronston Hotel in Bridgend, East Glamorgan, the plan has succeeded. Three grandmasters, ten International masters and two Women Masters pushed their pawns alongside those of less exalted club players, and a relaxing, competitive time was had by all.

After six rounds, the lead is shared by British Chess Magazine, Midland Monarchs and Witney, each with five wins and one loss. Jonathan Mestel's win against Andrew Harley helped the British Chess Magazine team to a heavy victory against Covent Garden.

White's relatively unambitious opening tempted Black into some aggression of his own, but 15.Bxd5 should have set alarms ringing around his king. Unable to castle, he had to find a way to challenge the bishop on d5. 17...Be6 or Bc6 look natural; instead 17...b4? gave Mestel the chance of a neat combination ending in a 19th century style king hunt. 17.f5! left no time for 17...bxc3, when 18.Qh5+ g6 19.fxg6 wins on the spot. As the game went 19...Bxf5 forced White into a sacrifice that must have been a pleasure to make. At the end, Black's king is helplessly caught in the firing line of White's entire army.

/ GM William Hartston, "The Independent", January 26th, 1995 /

* * *

The 4 Nations Chess League completed its second successful season with the final round of its Premier division at the Bolton Moat House. The title was taken - surprisingly, but in the end convincingly - by Midland Monarchs with Slough and Wood Green second and third. The British Chess Magazine team, led by the grandmasters Murray Chandler and Jonathan Mestel had started as favourites, but ended in a disappointing sixth place.

Here are two cautionary tales from the last round. The first shows that you can never relax when a bishop is pointing at your h-pawn. With 20...Rxf6 losing to 21.Bxh7+ Kxh7 22.Qh5+ and 23.Qxe8, Black took with the pawn, but resigned on seeing that 21.Bxh7+ Kxh7 22.Qh5+ Kg7 23.Qg6+ Kh8 24.Rc3 forces mate. The fatal mistake was 19...Qb8. Instead 19...Qb7 would have kept Black alive.

The next game is another salutory warning against taking b-pawns with your queen. When playing Black, you can, with accurate defence, get away with one extravagance in the opening, but having lurched forth with 4...g5, it was too much to gamble on 6...Qb6 also.

Black's decision not to take the a-pawn at move nine was questionable, but when he captured it three moves later, it was nothing short of reckless.

White's winning combination was very elegant. 14.Rxb4! preserved his knight on d5 and 15.Ne5! completed the destruction. 16.Qxe5 threatened both Qxh8 and Rxf8+ followed by Qxe7 mate. At the end after 17...Ke8 White can mate with Nc7 or Bh5, but would surely have taken the elegant finish with 18.Qf7+ Kd8 19.Qxf8+!

/ GM William Hartston, "The Independent", May 30th, 1995 /