2011/12 4NCL or Four Nations Chess League

2/15/2012 – The 4NCL is the foremost team competition in the United Kingdom, and is open to all teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. From modest beginnings in 1993 with the participation of only six teams, the league now boasts three divisions with no fewer than 75 teams plus a recently inaugurated junior 4NCL league which already consists of eighteen teams. A bit of history and report.

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4NCL or four nation chess leagues

By Mike Truran

The 4NCL is the foremost team competition in the United Kingdom, and is open to all teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. From modest beginnings in 1993 with the participation of only six teams, the league has grown from strength to strength in its short history, and now boasts three divisions in which no fewer than 75 teams play together with a recently inaugurated junior 4NCL league which already consists of 18 teams and also an annual team and individual rapidplay championship. The league's format has changed on a number of occasions over its first two decades of existence, but for the last few years seems to have settled down into a stable format. The top two divisions comprise 16 teams of eight players, divided into two pools of eight teams of roughly equal strength for the first seven rounds; after seven rounds the top four teams in each pool combine to fight it out for the top places, while the bottom four teams in each pool do likewise - but this time to battle against relegation! The third division, played with six players per team according to a Swiss tournament format and currently comprising 43 teams in total, is split regionally between north and south for the first six rounds; all the teams then join together for the final five rounds in the quest for promotion to the second division.


Players from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and other countries come to play

Like the German Bundesliga, the 4NCL attracts players from across Europe, although we would never claim that we have anything like the sheer strength in depth of the Bundesliga given the levels of business and private sponsorship enjoyed by many German Bundesliga teams compared with those in in the United Kingdom. Unlike the Bundesliga, all matches are played centrally at one or at most two locations at a hotel or conference centre venue, usually in the centre or south of England (the exception is the northern third division, which is still of a sufficiently small scale to allow the first six rounds to be played at northern English venues). So at our two big set piece weekends over the last five rounds (including the May Day bank holiday weekend) we have no fewer than 514 players at one site (the Barcelo Hinckley Island Hotel, which on these occasions regularly finds all of its 360+ bedrooms booked by chess players). These occasions are thus a great opportunity for players from across the United Kingdom not only to cross swords in a seriously competitive league but also to renew old friendships, relax over a meal and a drink in the evening with team mates and generally to have a great time from the social as well as the chess point of view. As can be imagined, however, holding events of such a size over five weekends each season year after year poses its own logistical and organisational challenges!

The two main hotel/conference centre chains with whom we have agreements in place, Barcelo Hotels and De Vere Venues, have in no small measure contributed to the 4NCL's success over the years with the long term support they provide us. This has enabled us to keep entry fees and bedroom rates low, factors which are more important than ever at a time when the United Kingdom, like so much of mainland Europe, is suffering economically.

Third weekend - February 11th-12th, Sunningdale and Latimer Place

By Lawrence Cooper


Sunningdale Park

In Division 1a Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher (WGHK) 1 and Guildford 1 confirmed their qualification for the Championship Pool. WGHK fielded Michael Adams for the first time this season and he scored 2/2 as they beat Barbican 2 7-1 and Blackthorne Russia 6-2 to maintain their one hundred per cent record to lead the group with twelve match points. On Sunday they fielded eight grandmasters having made do with just seven & IM Lawrence Trent on Saturday.


The beautiful Berkshire countryside

Guildford 1 moved to ten match points by beating Bristol 6-2 and e2e4.org.uk 8-0. Yang-Fan Zhou played on top board for Guildford with four grandmasters playing below him. Whilst the top two remain dominant the underdogs did manage some notable scalps with Dave Ledger (Blackthorne) beating Chris Ward (WGHK) whilst Jack Rudd (Bristol) beat Tony Kosten (Guildford).

In the battle for the two remaining qualifying places Barbican 2 secured a crucial 5-3 victory against the ADs on Sunday to move to eight points and confirm their place in the Championship Pool.

The remaining place will be decided in round 7 when The ADs who have five points face e2e4.org.uk on six. The ADs had beaten Blackthorne Russia on Saturday to end the latter's hopes of qualifying. Anglian Avengers got off the mark with a 5.5-2.5 victory against e2e4 and a 4-4 draw with Bristol, whilst both Blackthorne and Bristol are on two points so all three teams will finish the season in the relegation pool.


Nigel Short played his pet 3...h6 against David Howell, but did not enjoy the same
result as against Michael Adams at the London Classic last year.

Click here for the full standings and pairings

Pictures by Ray Morris-Hill

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