Guildford 1 wins 4NCL

by André Schulz
5/13/2019 – Last week saw the finale of the 2018/19 season of the 4NCL in Great Britain. Guildford 1 was dominant and won all bouts during the season. Second was the new team from the Isle of Man: chess.com Manx Liberty, a team that two years ago left the German Bundesliga ("Buexit"?). | Photos: 4NCL

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The 4NCL has been around for 20 years and the term "Four Nations" refers to the four countries of the United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland plus Ireland. 

Recently, however, there's a new team that plays under the flag of the Isle of Man. Unlike most other teams that are very British, "chess.com Manx Liberty" is largely international. The Isle of Man also belongs to none of the Four Nations, but is, like the Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey also, so-called Crown Dependencies — self-governing territories. The three islands will therefore not leave the EU even if Britain somehow manages to make its decision to leave in the distant future because thy have never been part of the EU. Many millionaires have their legal residencies here and enjoy the freedom of being outside the national tax jurisdictions of EU countries. 

Dunworth Cup"Chess.com Manx Liberty", however, is a team with an ex-pat history, because it is essentially the team that once played as SG Trier in the Bundesliga sponsored by Dietmar Kolbusch. After the 2016/17 season, the team withdrew as a result of disputes with the Bundesliga, and the formerly Trier team now plays as Isle of Man in the 4NCL — and successfully. Right from the start, the team took second place in the team competition.

The booming 4NCL now consists of a whole series of staggered leagues. The first two divisions are played in an identical format: 16 teams are divided into two groups of eight teams and play in a team round-robin. Thereafter, the top four teams of the two groups form a Master group. The last four teams continue in the relegation group. In the two new groups, the teams only play against the teams they have not played against in the preliminary rounds and retain the points tally against the teams that they have already played. The winner of this group also earns the Dunworth Trophy (pictured) awarded annually to the Division 1 champs.

The first two divisions play together in the same location. On a weekend, several competitions are held. All in all, there were five game dates. The competitions are held on eight boards, with the additional rule that at least one board must be occupied by a woman. The 2018 season ended last week on the English Bank Holiday. 

David Howell, who plays for Cheddleton (left)

Once again, Guilford's team proved invincible, winning the title (and prize money) with the maximum score of 14 points from seven matches. The team is unbeaten in seven years of competition with an astounding score of 77 wins and two draws in that time.

Guildford plays with some of the best British players such as Gawain Jones, Michael Adams, Luke McShane, Matthew Sadler and Nick Pert. If needed, the team management can add a few foreigners, for instance, Laurent Fressinet, Etienne Bacrot, Romain Edouard or Jorden van Foreest. Guildford 1's top female player over the past seven seasons has usually been Ety Stefanova. However, in the 2018/19 season, because of Ety's new-born daughter, her absence has been covered by Sophie Milliet and Elisabeth Pähtz. Hou Yifan, who studies in England, also plays occasionally. In fact, during the final weekend, Guildford was able to call on Hou Yifan, after her Oxford University exams, while Stefanova, Pähtz and Milliet joined the end-of-season festivities in the team of Guildford 2.

Jones was absent at the finale as he was busy winning the TePe Sigeman tournament in Malmö.

Given this roster, the dominance of the team is not surprising, as most matches were not even close — at worst they won by 5:3!

Nick Pert

Preliminary rounds

Division 1A

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Guildford 1 5-3 7-1 7-1 7½-½ 7½-½ 7½-½ 7½-½ 49 14
2 Wood Green 3-5 5½-2½ 3½-4½ 6½-1½ 8-0 7-1 5-3 38½ 10
3 Barbican 4NCL 1 1-7 2½-5½ 6-2 5-3 6½-1½ 4½-3 5½-2½ 31 10
4 White Rose 1 1-7 4½-3½ 2-6 4½-3½ 6-2 5-1 5½-2½ 28½ 10
5 Alba ½-7½ 1½-6½ 3-5 3½-4½ 4-4 4-4 4½-3½ 21 4
6 North East England ½-7½ 0-8 1½-6½ 2-6 4-4 4½-3½ 4-4 16½ 4
7 Oxford 1 ½-7½ 1-7 3-4½ 1-5 4-4 3½-4½ 4½-3½ 17½ 3
8 West is Best 1 ½-7½ 3-5 2½-5½ 2½-5½ 3½-4½ 4-4 3½-4½ 19½ 1

Division 1B

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Chess.com Manx Liberty 1 4½-3½ 5-3 6-2 4½-3½ 7½-½ 5-3 6-2 38½ 14
2 Cheddleton 1 3½-4½ 5½-2½ 5-3 7½-½ 6-2 7-1 6-2 40½ 12
3 Guildford 2 3-5 2½-5½ 4-4 7-1 5½-2½ 6½-1½ 5½-2½ 34 9
4 Blackthorne Russia 2-6 3-5 4-4 4-4 3½-4½ 5½-2½ 4-4 26 5
5 3Cs 1 3½-4½ ½-7½ 1-7 4-4 3½-4½ 6-2 5½-2½ 24 5
6 Celtic Tigers 1 ½-7½ 2-6 2½-5½ 4½-3½ 4½-3½ 3½-4½ 4-4 21½ 5
7 Wood Green Monarchs 3-5 1-7 1½-6½ 2½-5½ 2-6 4½-3½ 4½-3½ 19 4
8 Grantham Sharks 1 2-6 2-6 2½-5½ 4-4 2½-5½ 4-4 3½-4½ 20½ 2

Master group

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Guildford 1 6-2 6½-1½ 7-1 7½-½ 5-3 7-1 6½-1½ 45½ 14
2 Chess.com Manx Liberty 1 2-6 4½-3½ 3½-4½ 5-3 6½-1½ 6½-1½ 6-2 34 10
3 Cheddleton 1 1½-6½ 3½-4½ 5½-2½ 5½-2½ 4½-3½ 7½-½ 5-3 33 10
4 White Rose 1 1-7 4½-3½ 2½-5½ 3½-4½ 4½-3½ 2-6 5½-2½ 23½ 6
5 Guildford 2 ½-7½ 3-5 2½-5½ 4½-3½ 4-4 4½-3½ 4-4 23 6
6 Wood Green 3-5 1½-6½ 3½-4½ 3½-4½ 4-4 5½-2½ 5½-2½ 26½ 5
7 Barbican 4NCL 1 1-7 1½-6½ ½-7½ 6-2 3½-4½ 2½-5½ 6-2 21 4
8 Blackthorne Russia 1½-6½ 2-6 3-5 2½-5½ 4-4 2½-5½ 2-6 17½ 1

Relegation group

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 3Cs 1 6-2 5½-2½ 3½-4½ 6-1½ 3½-4½ 5½-2½ 6-2 36 10
2 Wood Green Monarchs 2-6 4½-3½ 4½-3½ 2½-5½ 5-3 5½-2½ 6-2 30 10
3 Grantham Sharks 1 2½-5½ 3½-4½ 4-4 6-2 5½-2½ 4½-3½ 5½-2½ 31½ 9
4 Celtic Tigers 1 4½-3½ 3½-4½ 4-4 3½-4½ 4-4 4-3 4½-3½ 28 8
5 Oxford 1 1½-6 5½-2½ 2-6 4½-3½ 4½-3½ 3½-4½ 4-4 25½ 7
6 West is Best 1 4½-3½ 3-5 2½-5½ 4-4 3½-4½ 4-4 3½-4½ 25 4
7 North East England 2½-5½ 2½-5½ 3½-4½ 3-4 4½-3½ 4-4 4-4 24 4
8 Alba 2-6 2-6 2½-5½ 3½-4½ 4-4 4½-3½ 4-4 22½ 4

Games of Division 1

 

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson

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Topics: 4NCL 2018/19

André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 5/15/2019 02:41
In a previous version of this article Guildford's impressive unbeaten run was erroneously given as 75 unbeaten matches. This was corrected. And David Howell plays for Cheddleton, not Guildford.
Hammerchewer Hammerchewer 5/14/2019 12:42
The fourth nation is Ireland not just Northern Ireland. Dublin-based Gonzaga (but with a few players from abroad) have been promoted from Division 2 and will be the first Irish team to play in the first division next season. Some Irish players in recent seasons have been playing for other first division teams; will they now switch?
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