2011/12 Junior Four Nations Chess League (J4NCL)

by ChessBase
3/11/2012 – Just like the adult 4NCL, the junior edition brought teams of all ages competing over three weekends in two separate divisions. The J4NCL differentiates itself by offering free structured coaching between rounds for all the children, going through games on a one-to-one basis. This season’s coaches were GM Nick Pert, IM Andrew Martin and WFM Sabrina Chevannes. Report by Mike Truran.

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Junior Four Nations Chess League (J4NCL)

By Mike Truran

Cumnor and Witney vs. Yateley Manor match in progress

This season’s competition was bigger and better than ever, with teams of all ages competing over three weekends in two separate divisions. Like its senior equivalent, the Junior Four Nations Chess League (J4NCL) has the advantage of taking place in excellent quality playing conditions in premier hotels across the UK. This season’s competition took place at Barcelo UK’s flagship Hinckley Island hotel, so parents could also have a relaxing weekend away at a top four-star hotel while their children locked horns over the chess board. And with bedrooms and meals at the usual discounted 4NCL rates it meant that a family weekend away wasn’t going to break the bank either.

Pensive play

As well as the high quality playing conditions, the J4NCL differentiates itself from most other junior events in offering free structured coaching between rounds for all the children, and the coaches also go through games on a one-to-one basis with any juniors who finish their games early. This season’s coaches (GM Nick Pert, IM Andrew Martin and WFM Sabrina Chevannes) did a fine job; on occasion the job seemed (to this observer at least) to be as much an exercise in riot control as anything else, but the coaches all came through in grand style and we had lots of compliments from parents about the quality of the coaching. Another difference from many other junior (and senior) events is that teams can enter either for the whole season or for individual weekends. Moreover, we have no rules as to who can or can’t be in a team (they can be school-based, club-based, family-based, or just a collection of friends who like playing together); even individual children without a team will be found a home somewhere. Nor do we have any age-restricted sections or age handicap rules, on the basis that (as they say in football) ‘If you’re good enough you’re old enough’. So long as they’re juniors, the more the merrier!

Friendly fun competition

When the dust settled at the end of the final weekend Cumnor and Witney finished just ahead of Yateley Manor by a single match point in Division 1. One match point behind them at the start of the penultimate round, they edged a 2½:1½ win, with your correspondent’s son ‘taking one for the team’ in the last game to finish, agreeing a draw to secure the match in a winning position but where he was short of time. Andrew Martin said after the game “You both played like old men”, which I take to be a compliment about the maturity of their playing styles rather than a comment on the geriatric nature of their play! Division 2 was just as exciting, with Northampton Juniors just edging out another of Yateley Manor’s teams, again by a single match point. Yateley Manor and Northampton Juniors deserve a particular mention for their fantastic support for the J4NCL, fielding no fewer than six and four teams respectively at the final weekend. In addition to the cash prizes on offer, the prize-giving ceremony on Sunday afternoon saw all players receive a certificate and a badge, with the top individual scorers receiving medals and winning team members being presented with medals and a trophy. So everyone got something to take home as a memento.

Three cheers for the Junior 4NCL weekend, enjoyed by all

The standard of the chess was generally excellent, and various parents commented on how much better many of the juniors were playing by the third weekend compared with the first. Children do of course improve fast at this age, but we like to think that the J4NCL coaching had something to do with it as well! Nonetheless, in any event with a range of chess playing ability some memorable moments are bound to occur: 

Children to arbiter: “Is this position stalemate?
Arbiter to children: “Well, let me see. Whose move is it?
Children to arbiter: “We don’t know!

Kids will be kids

Arthur’s opponent to arbiter: “Arthur has just put his king on that square (pointing to b7) after moving it to that square (pointing to b5)”. – Arthur (getting tearful): “No I didn’t!” – Arthur’s opponent: “I hate you!” – Arthur dissolves in tears.

Arbiter (tactfully) to two juniors who have played out well over a hundred moves at lightning speed since the start of a Q and K vs K ending (the player with the Q having forgotten about his own K, making things a touch tricky): “I think it’s time for lunch now.

Winning Team: Cumnor and Witney at the prizegiving ceremony

All part of the thrills and spills in the lower reaches of the J4NCL, and a salutary lesson for any arbiters who think they have seen it all!

It only remains for me to thank the parents and children for supporting the J4NCL, the organisers, arbiters and coaches for ensuring an enjoyable and stress-free experience for the players (although their own stress levels were on occasion sorely tested!), the John Robinson Trust for their generous sponsorship of the J4NCL, and Barcelo UK for their continuing support of both the 4NCL and the J4NCL. And now it’s on to planning for next season!

Pictures by Ray Morris-Hill

Final standings

Division 1    
Match Pts
Game Pts
1st Cumnor and Witney
2nd Yateley Manor A
3rd Yateley Manor B
Division 2
Match Pts
Game Pts
1st Northampton Junior B
2nd Yateley Manor A
3rd Northampton Junior Girls


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