Four Nations Chess League :: 1998/1999

<< [ Information || Division 1 || Division 2 || Statistics ] >>



Basic data

Four Nations Chess League 1998/1999
(see all-time tournament summary)
Dates: October 1998 - May 1999
Cities: Rounds 1-2: Warwick, IBM
Rounds 3-11: Birmingham, The Grand Moat House Hotel
Tournament Director: Mr. Chris Dunworth (ENG)
Chief Arbiter: IA Richard Furness (ENG)
Teams participating: Division 1: 12 (3 down)
Division 2: 14 (3 up)
Total 26 teams from 20 clubs.
Simpsons in the Strand rebranded to Home House
Players participating: Division 1: 171 (incl. 24 GMs, 29 IMs, 5 WGMs, 28 FMs, 4 WIMs and 1 WFM)
Games played: Division 1: 528
Division 2: 616
Competition format: Division 1: Eight board round robin.
Division 2: Eight board eleven round (not Swiss).
Final order decided by: 1. Match points; 2. Game points
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours followed by 20 moves in 1 hour followed by 30 minutes to finish the game.
Website: 4NCL
Other websites: 4NCL Rules 1998/99
Round by round reports
Preview of the Last Weekend
Downloadable game file: Division 1:
Division 2:

Tournament review

ON TUESDAY I analysed the extraordinary game between David Norwood and John Emms in the Four Nations Chess League last weekend. Since then I've spoken to John, who worked on it both himself and with Frans Morsch's Fritz program.

It turns out that even after his incautious 41st move, Emms is still winning, and since it's such an amazing position I'm correcting my original thoughts now.

As I said on Tuesday, Black could now have won fairly easily with 41... Kf6 42 Ra6+ Kg5. Instead, unsure whether he'd made the time control, he bashed out 41... a2? which considerably complicated matters. Now, he'd originally thought that at worst he could bail out with 42... Qf6? 43 Rxa2 Qxd6 missing that after 43 d7! the pawn is indirectly protected by the knight fork on e5. As a result he has to take a draw with 43... Qe6+ 44 Kc5! (44 Kc3 Qc6+ 45 Kb2 Qd5! 46 Kc2 Kf6 is good for Black) 44... Qd6+ 45 Kc4 Qe6+ 46 Kc5 with a repetition.

The game ended in a spectacular repetition: 42... Ke8 43 d7+ Kd8 44 Nc5 Qf1+ 45 Kd5 Qd1+ 46 Kc6 Qd6+ 47 Kb5 Qb8+ 48 Kc6 Qd6+ ½-½. But the right line was 42... Qb1!! 43 d7 Qc2+ 44 Kd4 e5+!! (see game analysis).

I've just got room for a miniature from the same match. It's most unusual for an international master to lose in just a dozen moves, the more so as White, and without having committed any gross tactical blunders. But Ali Mortazavi's 6 h4 was exceedingly optimistic and after the excellent retort 6... c5 - the classical recipe of meeting a flank attack with central play - his position started to unravel.

10... Qd5! turned out to be exceptionally strong. Resignation wasn't premature, since after 13 b3 Black can choose between 13... Qxc5 14 f3 Nb4! and 13... a6 14 Nxd4 Nxd4 15 e3 Nxc2 16 Kxc2 Qxc5+ -+

* * *

The favourites Slough further set their mark on the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) at the weekend with two victories which left them a massive four points clear after six of the eleven rounds.

A seven-one win against Richmond on Saturday was followed by the much tougher match against my club, Wood Green, on Sunday - who had done ourselves no favours with a lackadaisical performance against Wessex resulting (just) in a 4-all draw, but were still clear second.

Playing Black, I was happy to accept when Tony Miles offered me a draw still in the opening. Further draws followed with a single Slough victory but the match still seemed close after three hours or so since we had pressure on a couple of boards, especially Malcolm Pein's. In repeating moves in a much superior ending to reach the time control, however, Pein did so once too often, allowing Colin McNab to claim a draw. (His misery was complete, poor man, when he learnt that, minutes earlier, his beloved Liverpool had let in two late goals to be ejected from the FA Cup by Manchester United.)

After about five hours' play there were just two games left, in each of which we were the exchange up and in each of which we were in serious trouble. Although both were saved the final result was an honourable but conclusive defeat, 3½-4½.

Slough now have a perfect 12/12 and 38½ game points out of 48 ahead of Wood Green 8/12 and 27/48, Invicta Knights 8 and 25½ and Barbican I 8 and 24; while last year's champions Bigwood (Midland Monarchs as was) have 7 and 29½.

This is Miles's crisp win on Saturday. Black usually plays 4 ...Bb4+ in this rather obscure line. In the game, he quickly fell behind in development though 7 ...dxc4 8 Qxc4 Nd6 9 Qxb4 e4 was rather more challenging. Certainly not 13 Qd1?? Ne3+.

14 ...Bxc3?? was a gross blunder though 14 ...Bb7 is pretty grim after either 15 Rd1 Bxc3 16 bxc3 when the black squares are very weak or 15 Bxd5 Bxd5 16 Nxd5 Qxd5 17 Rd1 with a dangerous initiative. At the end if 15 ...Qxd5 16.Rd1.

* * *

WITH JUST three rounds over the bank holiday weekend of 29-31 May remaining, the favourites Slough now look certain to win the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

The sponsor Nigel Johnson's grandmaster juggernaut last weekend demolished two further obstacles. On Saturday they brushed Barbican aside 6½-1½; Sunday saw Invicta Knights (Maidstone) trapped in the headlights. At full strength, Invicta would have had a reasonable chance of causing an upset, but without Matthew Sadler who was "Bundesliga-ing" with Michael Adams and me, and John Nunn in Monaco, they too were rolled over 5½-2½.

This left Slough with a perfect 16/16 match points and 50½/64 game points. And with only the three bottom teams, BCM, Wessex and Home House, left in their path, they have every chance of an unprecedented perfect match record.

The fight for second place is still fairly open, though following two good victories last weekend against Richmond and Barbican, my team, Wood Green, are now two match points clear of the pack.

This delightfully clean game is from Sunday's match. In the opening Black should maybe try to make some trouble with, eg 9 ...Qa5+ to induce 10 Kf1 and the perhaps Nd7 (maybe 10 ...g5 11 Bg3 first ) threatening 11 ...Nxe5 and 12 ...Nd2+.

Undisturbed, White gained a pleasant space advantage with 13 c5. The excellent 15 Bxg5! retained the knight in a position where Black's pair of bishops was useless. But 17 ...g6 may be an improvement when if 18 g5!? Bxg5! 19 fxg5 Qxg5+ 20 Kh1 Qxe3 21 Rf4 e5! (not 21 ...g5? 22 Rg1! threatening 23 Rg3!) 22 dxe5 Qxe5 isn't too clear.

Quite rightly, Levitt spurned 18 gxf5 Bxf5 19 Bxf5 exf5 20 Qxf5 when 20 ...Qe7 gives counterplay. Certainly not 20 Be2? Bxg5! 21 fxg5 f4. White got a huge kingside bind and 26 ...b6?! followed by capturing on c5 only helped him - instead 26 ...b5 looks better, if vile. If 29 ...Rb8 30 Qxa7 wins a pawn for nothing. I wondered about 33 ...a6 but 34 Bxa6 Ra8 35 Qb7! Qxb7 36 Bxb7 Rxa5 37 Bxc6 is easy. If 34 ...Rb8 35 Qxb8! Bxb8 36 Rxb8 followed by 37 Rb7 leaves White a piece up.

At the end, 41 Nxf5+ exf5 42 Bxf5 Qxf5 43 Qxd8+ Ke6 44 Qxe8+ Re7 and eg 45 Qxc6+ Kf7 46 g6+ etc wins trivially but Levitt preferred the more aesthetic 41 Bd1! - to prevent ...Bh5 - when there's absolutely no defence to the triumphant transfer via h1, f2 and d3 of the knight to e5.

* * *

THE FINAL three rounds of this season's Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) took place over the long weekend. In the first division, the runaway leaders Slough fielded a relatively weak team which scored only three match points - a win against bottom-placed Wessex, but then a loss against the revived Home House who, despite a last-round victory against Wessex, still went down and a draw against BCM.

Nevertheless, Slough won with a round to spare, ending up on 19 match points and 63 game points ahead of my own team Wood Green, who made 18 (and 57).

There followed Bigwood 14, Invicta Knights 13, North West Eagles 12, Barbican I 11, Richmond 10, BCM 9, Bristol 8, Home House 7 (37), Barbican II 7 (36.5) and Wessex 4.

The greatest drama, though, was in the second division promotion battle. White Rose, sponsored by Silvine, won the division quite easily on 18 match points. Towards the end of the session, Guildford, on 15 match points, were assured of promotion but the final place was between Coulsdon and Purley, and Wood Green II.

Just one game remained which the Coulsdon top board, the league's originator Chris Dunworth, had to win. A crowd gathered and at one point, admittedly from an obscured viewpoint, I rushed out to tell the troops that our top board Norwegian Bjorn Tiller had mate in one.

Not so! But Tiller held on and eventually, despite Dunworth's very brave efforts, won on time in a position which had already turned in his favour.

The top scorer in the first division (and I presume overall) was my team mate, the Daily Telegraph columnist Malcolm Pein, who made an outstanding 9/10. This is how he disposed of his opponent on Sunday.

The provocative 10 ...Nh5 is trendy since if 10 ...d5 11 cxd5 cxd5 12 Bg5 dxe4 13 fxe4 Nbd7 14 Ndb5! is very good for White. Not 12 ...d5? 13 g5! but 12 ...h5 13 g5 Nh7 is normal - Pein developed the bishop on e3 rather than f4 so that in that case f3-f4 is readily available.

12 ...a6 was recently recommended in a book - but you shouldn't believe everything you read, particularly in chess opening books. The splendid 14 Nc2 which stops ...b4 prepares to hit d6 and prophylactically defends the e3 bishop more or less refutes it.

14 ...Be6 came after 50 minutes' thought! If 15 ...Bxc4 16 Bxc4 bxc4 17 Qxd6 Nfd7 18 Na3! is also quite awful. At the end if 22 ...Rad8 23 Nxe8 Rxe8 (23 ...Rxd4 24 Nxf6+) 24 f4 Ned7 25 e5 Bb4 26 Bf3 wins a whole piece.

/ Columns by GM Jon Speelman, "The Independent", October 1998 - May 1999 /