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Final Weekend Preview

Divisions 1 & 2

The tenth season of the 4NCL reaches its conclusion during May with divisions 1 and 2 playing their last three rounds during the early May holiday weekend and Divisions 3 and 4 following suit three weeks later.

Although odds-on favourites Wood Green 1 have a 2 match point and an enormous game point advantage, they have yet to play fourth-placed Betsson (Round 9) and second-placed Guildford-ADC 1 (Round 11). In earlier years the crucial matches have often seen the appearance of world star wildcards such as Morozevich, Almasi, Svidler, Bologan and Korchnoi. What will the Wood Green-Guildford match produce? A third important encounter occurs in round 10 when Barbican 4NCL 1 (3rd) play Betsson (4th).

Perceptron Youth (4 points), Bristol 1 (2) and South Wales Dragons 1 (1) are firmly entrenched in the relegation slots, but although they are in bottom place and without a win, even South Wales Dragons are not without a chance of survival. Wins against relegation rivals Bristol in round 9 and Perceptron in round 11, together with a victory against lowly ADs in round 10 might enable them to retain Division 1 status. Both Perceptron and Bristol have more difficult tasks, especially the former who have the misfortune of meeting both Wood Green 1 and 2 in the next two rounds. Bristol play fourth-placed Barbican 4NCL 1 and sixth-placed Richmond who have had good results recently following the acquisition of the Russian Rotchev (3.5/4 including a win on his debut against Grandmaster Mestel).

The battle for promotion from Division 2 is very close and the fight to avoid relegation to Division 3 even closer. At the top, North West Eagles 1, Numerica 3Cs 1 and Warwickshire Select lead the way with 14 match points each and Eagles have a slender advantage in game points, the chess equivalent of goal difference. None of the leading three teams are assured of promotion since fourth-placed Poisoned Pawns 1 have the opportunity of toppling Numerica in round 10 and Warwickshire Select in round 11. With Eagles and Warwickshire meeting in round 9, Poisoned Pawns have a further opportunity to close the gap.

North West Eagles were one of the six founder members of the 4NCL in 1993 but lost their Division 1 status three years ago. Poisoned Pawns experienced one season in the top flight in 2000-01. Neither Numerica 3Cs nor Warwickshire Select has previously reached the top level, indeed the Warwickshire team only came into the 4NCL three years ago to replace a team which unexpectedly withdrew. Last season they won Division 3 and this season have reached their challenging position without having a single grandmaster or international master in their team.

Four teams - Athenaeum 1 (4 points), South Wales Dragons 2 (3), ADs 2 (2) and Kings Head (2) - are the contenders for relegation to Division 3. During the closing three rounds there are no fewer than four matches between these teams. Each plays two of its relegation rivals. Apart from these key encounters, White Rose 1 has an important role to play with matches against both Dragons and Kings Head. The battle for promotion from Division 3 is even closer, but more of that anon.

Richard Furness (4NCL Chief Arbiter)

Division 1

Pride and Prejudice
Barbican 4NCL 1
White Rose 1
Guildford-A&DC 1
Cambridge Univ. 1
The ADs
Barbican 4NCL 2
Oxford 1
Pandora's Box Grantham
S. Wales Dragons
Guildford-A&DC 2
Poisoned Pawns 1
Jutes of Kent

Division 2

Sambuca Sharks
Warwickshire Select 1
e2e4.org.uk 1
Barbican 4NCL Youth
AMCA Dragons
Kings Head
Poisoned Pawns 2
Anglian Avengers
Wessex 1
Celtic Tigers 1
Bristol 1
White Rose 2
Brown Jack
Guildford-A&DC 3
FCA Solutions 1

Division 3

Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg
Sambuca Black Sheep
Cambridge Univ. 2
Wessex 2
Warwickshire Select 2
KJCA Kings
FCA Solutions 2
The Full Ponty
Sussex Smart Ctls.
e2e4.org.uk 2
Nottinghamshire 1
Nottinghamshire 2
Oxford 2
AMCA Rhinos
Braille Chess Assoc.
AMCA Hippos
Glos. Gambits
Bristol 2
KJCA Knights
Guernsey Mates
Bristol 3
e2e4.org.uk 3
Beauty and the Beasts
Celtic Tigers 2
Oxford 3
Guildford-A&DC 4
AMCA Cheetahs