Four Nations Chess League :: 1995/1996

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Basic data

Four Nations Chess League 1995/96
(see all-time tournament summary)
Dates: November 1995 - May 1996
Cities: Rounds 1-2: Cheltenham,
Rounds 3-4: Abergavenny, Wales
Rounds 5-6: Birmingham,
Rounds 7-8: Hertford,
Rounds 9-10: Newcastle,
Rounds 11-13: Warwick
Tournament Director: Mr. Chris Dunworth (ENG)
Teams participating: 14
Players participating: 218 (incl. 16 GMs, 21 IMs, 3 WGMs, 30 FMs, 4 WIMs and 1 WFM)
Games played: 728
Competition format: Eight board round robin.
Final order decided by: 1. Match points; 2. Game points
Website: 4NCL
Downloadable game file: (only 170 games are available)

Tournament review

I've said it before, and I shall, no doubt, say it again: you don't win many games by playing good chess; the way to win is by playing bad chess - only you have to play it very well.

Today's game, from a match in the Four Nations Chess League last weekend, is a fine example. Black's pawn-grabbing, development-neglecting, queen- over-working opening was quite bad enough without 9...Qg6?. When White called his bluff with 10.Bd3!, Black saw that 10...Qxg2 11.Ke2 would be disastrous, so opted for a semblance of solidity with 10...Qd6 and 11...f6. Then White began to get carried away.

Any patient preparation of f4 will lead rapidly to a winning attack, but in playing 14.f4 and 15.Rae1, White must have overlooked the clever 15...Nbc6!. With 16.dxc6 met by Qxd3, Black was suddenly back in the game.

He would never have won so convincingly if he had played more correctly in the opening.

* * *

It is 20 years since Tony Miles ignited the English chess explosion by becoming our first grandmaster. In those two decades, England rose from nowhere to become the second strongest chess nation and the only serious challenge to the old Soviet Union. Miles's own fortunes were less smooth, including a period during which he changed his chess allegiance to the United States. Recently, however, he moved back to England, and last weekend even turned up playing on top board for Slough in the Four Nations Chess League.

The seventh round of this year's competition was played in Ware, sponsored by the local NatWest bank, and attracted nine grandmasters and 19 masters. With a 7½-½ victory over Richmond, Slough moved up to second place, a point behind last year's winners, Midland Monarchs. Miles's own contribution was a characteristic blend of subtlety and force.

Black's strategy is set with 9...Bc5 and 12...e5: he will play to swap black-squared bishops, exchange his other bishop for a white knight on d5 and leave himself with a strong knight against a restricted bishop. White's 27.f4 smacks of impatience and gives Black objects of attack on the K-side. Miles finishes neatly with 43...Nh5! when 44. Qxh5 loses to 44..Ra3+. In the final position, White is mated after 45.Kxh5 g6+ 46.Kxh6 (or 46.Kg4 Ra4+) Qh4+.

* * *

Luke McShane, England's 12-year-old super-prodigy, notched up his second grandmaster scalp last weekend. Playing for Richmond in the 4 Nations Chess League, he beat Jonathan Levitt with a surprise mating finish in an endgame. Although the end came through a blunder by Levitt, McShane played the whole game with great maturity. When 12-year-olds beat grandmasters, you expect short tactical accidents, not an early queen exchange and delicate manoeuvring.

Black had the advantage after 24...Rxc4, but lost his way after executing the correct plan of b5, a5 and b4. 38...Rcb8 would have been better than 38...Nxb4, and 41...Rb8?? was fatal. He is mated after 42...Kf8 43.Rxf7, or 42...Kg7 43.Rxf7+ Kh6 44.Rh7, or 42...Kh8 43.Rxb6 Rxb6 44.Rxf7 followed by Rh7.

* * *

Come friendly pawns and drop on Slough, It's fit for top grandmasters now.

Yes, Slough have won the 4 Nations Chess League, after overwhelming and overtaking last year's champions, Midland Monarchs, with the strongest club side ever seen in Britain. What connection grandmasters Miles, Adams, Speelman, Hebden, Hodgson and Lalic have with the town of Slough is not very clear, but somehow they have united under its banner and won the league with 11 victories and two draws in their 13 matches. For the first time, Britain now has a team that can compete in the European Club Championship with some hope of success.

The most striking game from the final round of the 4NCL was Jonathan Speelman's victory over Graeme Buckley. When Speelman plays weird opening lines, it is often good advice not to try to refute it. Boldly meeting his weirdness head on only gives room for his imagination to work, as this game shows.

/ Columns of GM W.Hartston, "The Independent", February - June 1996 /