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4NCL 2010-2011 5th weekend 30th April -2nd May 2011, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire - by Lawrence Cooper




Mickey Adams (green top) vs. Luke McShane (½-½)

alongside team colleague David Howell

 about to move against Jon Ludvig Hammer (1-0).

The final weekend saw all three divisions playing at one venue, the Northern League merged with Division Three and titles, promotion, relegation and European Club Cup places were up for grabs.


The destination of the title inevitably came down to the final round encounter between defending champions Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher 1 and Pride and Prejudice. P&P had the advantage on game points which meant as the teams both had 12 match points that a 4-4 draw would suffice.


The match was surprisingly one sided despite the teams appearing to be evenly matched. Board one saw a hard fought draw where Luke McShane had some initiative against Michael Adams but black was able to liquidate and hold. David Howell won on board 2 against Jon Ludvig Hammer after gaining a clear advantage in the early middle game due to black’s exposed king and weakened pawn structure.


Division One Championship Pool:


Board 3 was a fifteen move draw as Emmanuel Berg fell an hour behind on the clock trying to find a plan against Sergei Tiviakov’s 3…Qd6 Centre Counter. Gawain Jones easily converted a positional advantage into extra material after a seemingly quiet opening where black made a couple of questionable decisions. Board 5 saw an interesting tussle between Nick Pert and Glenn Flear where black had an extra pawn but white had some space.


As someone who prefers to grab pawns and worry about compensation later I was more convinced by Glenn’s position throughout the game. Mark Hebden had a nominal edge against Pia Cramling but black always looked secure on board 6. Board 7 started quietly but then exploded into life before the time control. John Emms, as black, was allowed a dangerous passed e pawn which Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant was unable to stop. Sophie Milliet played an enterprising gambit against Neil McDonald but he gave up material which allowed Sophie to play without risk having an extra pawn in a rook and opposite coloured bishop ending which Neil was able to hold. This meant that Pride and Prejudice won the match 6-2 and secured their first 4NCL Division One title. Congratulations to the team and to Claire Summerscale, their manager. Their team has changed a lot since they first set foot in the 4NCL. Initially a team that fielded mainly women, then juniors they have now evolved to a team that regularly fields three of the England team and a number of other experienced English GMs with a foreign female player.



Bd8: Neil McDonald vs. Sophie Milliet, (½-½).


The earlier rounds of the weekend had seen WGHK1 win a tough match against Barbican with Luke McShane winning against Jonathan Parker on top board which combined with wins on boards 5 and 8 helped them to a 5-3 victory despite Max Devereaux winning against Ketevan Arakhamia. Pride and Prejudice were able to overtake them on game points though as they scored heavily against White Rose and




Lateefah Messam-Sparks

  (White Rose 1).

White Rose clinched third place with an impressive win against Cheddleton by winning the bottom two boards (wins for Paul Townsend against Paul Wallace and Lateefah Messam-Sparks against the much higher rated WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni from Luxembourg) and showing great resilience in some of the other games with Colin McNab holding a knight and pawn ending against Danny Gormally in the last game to finish. This victory, coupled with their win against Betsson in round 8 ensured they clinched a European Club Cup place and they finished with a creditable 4-4 draw with Barbican. They have clearly had a great season and have managed to finish above teams with far bigger budgets and higher rated players.


Cheddleton finished their first season in the top flight in fourth place and Jonathan Hawkins secured his first GM norm after a great result on top board which included wins against Parker, Gordon and Conquest. He has made huge progress in the last couple of years and I won’t be surprised to see him making more norms in the near future. The team also added Elisabeth Paehtz and Richard Pert to the team for the final weekend to ensure a good finish.



Bd6: Pia Cramling vs. Mark Hebden (½-½).


Of the other teams had an outstanding first season in the initial group stage and Yang-Fan Zhou gained yet another IM norm which he can add to his collection. He should become a ratified IM at the next FIDE meeting in June and is likely to have a rating around 2450 in July. He is still only sixteen and is an outstanding talent who I hope can keep improving and fulfil his potential. He is also a great role model to the other juniors and I hope his results will help inspire them to keep playing.


I should also thank David Howell for his work with Yang-Fan and hope this will continue. I was also pleased to see Ameet Ghasi return to international chess for the first time in five years and a draw with Elisabeth Paehtz and a win against Richard Bates was a very encouraging comeback. His only loss came against Sergei Tiviakov.


Both Betsson and Barbican finished slightly lower than expected but were involved in a number of close matches which could have gone either way whilst Guildford had a good final weekend to avoid last place.




Peter Sowray

  (Wood Green HK 2).

The top three teams qualify for the European Club Cup in 2011 although as WGHK have already turned down their place this means that P&P, White Rose and Cheddleton are currently the three teams able to take up places. At the time of writing only White Rose have confirmed their intentions so it is still possible that Betsson will get a chance to play and I am aware that e2e4 are also interested should enough teams turn down the opportunity.


Division One Demotion Pool:


The demotion pool was mostly about relegation but Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher 2 beat Cambridge to top the pool despite having to play their joker as I was asked to fill a vacant board leaving Brian Smith free to look after Pia Cramling’s daughter.


Congratulations also to Peter Sowray who secured another IM norm.


The crucial relegation battles were realistically between ADs, Barbican 2 and Oxford. Sophie Tidman continued her fine run of form for Oxford. She started the weekend on 4/6 and performing at 2293. She won on Saturday against Pandora’s Box and drew a complicated game against IM Craig Hanley leaving her assured of a norm if she played anyone rated over 2235 or a draw against anyone lower. Sadly, she was unable to do this and lost to Jana Bellin. Her rating performance was still 2240 for the season and probably her best career result to date.


I hope to see her playing more as she remains one of our strongest women. Sadly for Oxford their 4-4 draw in round 9 against Pandora’s Box was followed by defeats to WGHK2 and in the vital eleventh round they were overpowered 6½-1½ by the ADs so not only did they miss out on norms for Sophie and David Zakarian but they also fell into the bottom four meaning they will play in Division 2 next season. Barbican 2 secured their escape by winning in rounds 10 and 11 and Chris Dorrington made his first IM norm whilst Kanwal Bhatia narrowly missed out on her first WIM norm.


Division Two Promotion Pool:


Jutes of Kent recruited GM Luis Galego from Portugal and IM Bjorn Thorfinsson and this enabled them to win all three matches to move from fifth to top the division albeit round 9 was only 4½-3½ against Poisoned Pawns. Bjorn lost to Andrew Dunn and Luis was held to a draw but wins by GM Simon Williams, WFM Aly Wilson and Alexis Harakis saw them home.


Barbican Youth were the team to slip out of the promotion places although as Barbican 2 survived they would not have been able to take promotion anyway. Anglian Avengers had a great season and finished second only on game points to Jutes. Their strength in depth enabled them to draw 4-4 with Bristol despite taking only ½ on the top four. Their last round 4-4 draw with Wessex also led to Wessex finishing seventh whereas a 4½-3½ victory to Wessex would have seen them finish fourth by half a game point! Guildford 2 therefore took fourth place ahead of Wessex whilst Bristol secured third by winning against Barbican Youth.


Both Jutes and Bristol look well equipped to establish themselves in Division 1 whilst it will be interesting to see how Anglian Avengers fare, they have certainly been one of the success stories of this season. Guildford 2’s chances may largely depend on how strong their first team is.


Division Two Demotion Pool:


The demotion pool saw AMCA Dragons, Kings Head and White Rose both win in round 9 to virtually secure their survival.


AMCA won 5½-2½ against Cambridge 2 with James Holland amongst the winners on board 3, Kings Head whilst White Rose 2 win against 3Cs left Cambridge and 3Cs with too much to do and despite both winning in round 10 they finished with a 4-4 draw and were both relegated along with Sambuca Black Sheep and Poisoned Pawns 2.


South Wales Dragons topped the pool on 11 match points.



Division Three:




Brown Jack vs. Spirit of Atticus.


Division 3 saw the 8 northern teams joining up for the final weekend meaning Bradford DCA Knights and The Spirit of Atticus carried forward points from the first four weekends to head the table.


Brown Jack defeated Bradford 4-2 in round 9 whilst Atticus won 3½-2½ against Wessex 2 thanks to a win by John Carleton on top board. There were also wins for Celtic Tigers, Oxford 2, 2 and the Braille.


Round 10 saw promotion for both Bradford & Atticus as Brown Jack were unable to make their rating advantage tell against Atticus and David Robertson secured the only decisive result on board 5. Bradford won 4-2 against Celtic Tigers with Ben Hague defeating Ryczard Maciol on top board and their were also wins for 2, FCA Solutions and the Braille.




Peter Richmond and Timothy

Headlong (Brown Jack).


Round 11 saw Brown Jack join the top two northern sides in Division 2 next season as they overcame Warwickshire Select 2 thanks to wins from Mike Truran, Richard Haydon and Pablo Padilla Cabero. 2 needed to win against Atticus but despite heavily outrating them on the bottom 5 and securing a draw on top board they were held to 3-3 with James Jackson the only winner. This enabled FCA Solutions who won 4-2 against Oxford 2 to claim the fourth remaining promotion place ahead of Celtic Tigers by half a game point! e2e4 also finished on 16 points but were 3 game points behind the Celts.


On behalf of the players and officials I would like to thank the Barcelo Hotel in Hinckley for hosting the weekend and enabling us to hold all three divisions at the same venue.




PGN Games:


Photos: © SConnor for 4NCL

Table data: Dave Thomas and Neville Belinfante




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