Wood Green Hilsmark wins all its 4NCL matches, clinches title comfortably
This season the 4 Nations Chess League's first division was won comfortably by Wood Green Hilsmark 1, who won all their matches and probably by the greatest margin in 4NCL history. The team was able to call on players such as Michael Adams, Jonathan Rowson, David Howell and Nick Pert, and almost always were able to field 8 grandmasters in their team.
Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) Final Weekend Report: 5-7 May 2012
By IM Lorin D’Costa
The final weekend of the 4NCL took place at the Barcelo Hotel, in Hickley Island (no, surprisingly not a real Island-it’s very near to Leicester, in what we call the Midlands of England and therefore not near any water at all) spanning three days, to include Bank Holiday Monday. The final weekend is always played on this bank holiday weekend, since it allows rounds 9, 10 and 11 to be played out.
The final weekend saw the divisions being split into two groups – the championship pool, where the top 4 teams after 7 rounds from each of pool A and pool B joined together (and carried their points forward against the teams that came through and with them) and the bottom 4 joined together to make the demotion pool. Then the teams would play in the final 4 rounds the other 4 teams from pool A or B, depending on which one they started in.
The teams in the championship pool were playing for the title, and the teams in the demotion pool were scrapping not be in the bottom 4 teams, meaning a drop to division 2. As you would expect, this meant there were plenty of key clashes to make or break a team’s season-be it to get promoted, stay up, or even win the top division.
The 4NCL in action
The first division was won comfortably by Wood Green Hilsmark 1, who won all their matches and I believe won by the greatest margin in 4NCL history. They were able to call on players such as Michael Adams, Jonathan Rowson, David Howell and Nick Pert, and almost always were able to field 8 grandmasters in their team.
The 4NCL rules state that a team must contain at least one female, and so they were able to call on Swedish GM Pia Cramling rated 2481 and GM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant rated 2434 throughout the season. Wood Green Hilsmark defeated my team, Barbican 1, on the final day with a 5.5-2.5 scoreline to clinch the title.
Second were Guildford 1, who actually outrated Wood Green Hilsmark when they played each other all the way back in round 4 (see our previous report), but were beaten 5.5-2.5. Third place went to White Rose 1, who had an outstanding final weekend; I believe they also broke a record in their round 9 win against Guildford 1, when they managed to beat 4 of the Guildford grandmasters in the same match. This included a shock on board 7 where Jean-Luc Weller, rated just 2074, defeated GM Jim Plaskett (2480) and IM Richard Palliser downing former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. Both games are included below.
4NCL 2011-2012 | Championship pool | Final standings
|1||Wood Green Hilsmark 1||5½-2½||4½-3½||7-1||5½-2½||7½-½||7-1||5½-2½||42½||14|
|3||White Rose 1||3½-4½||4½-3½||3½-4½||3½-4½||4½-3½||5½-2½||5½-2½||30½||8|
|5||Barbican 4NCL 1||2½-5½||3-5||4½-3½||3½-4½||5-3||4-4||6-2||28½||7|
|6||Jutes of Kent||½-7½||2-6||3½-4½||5½-2½||3-5||4-4||4½-3½||23||5|
|7||Barbican 4NCL 2||1-7||4-4||2½-5½||2-6||4-4||4-4||3-5||20½||3|
Unlike in other foreign leagues, such as in the Netherlands and Germany, where they play one game on a weekend but spread over many weekends, the 4NCL play on both Saturday and Sunday but have only 5 weekends over the whole season. This makes it possible for norm opportunities without having to give up too many weekends or any time off work.
Three players took advantage of this and made norms-congratulations to IM Richard Palliser, who made a GM norm, and to FM Michael White and Sam Franklin, both making IM norms. Especially the latter, who rated just 2179, played exceptionally well and was one of the reasons why the Barbican second team had their best season in the 4NCL first division to date.
It could be argued that the 4NCL doesn’t have the strength it used to have a few years back, where the top teams would be loaded with big gun GMs right throughout the team, but maybe we are seeing a resurgence again since the top 2 teams have top grandmasters again, and its now commonplace to see some 2500+ players representing board 1 in the second division as well. I even bumped into 17-year-old Dutch GM Robin Van Kampen, who was hired to help Sambuca Sharks (yes, you read that correctly….) win promotion to the first division, which they achieved by coming fourth in the division 2 championship pool.
The other promoted teams were AMCA Dragons, Warwickshire Select and South Wales Dragons; the last 2 teams having had top division experience before and could be somewhat dubbed as ‘yo yo clubs’ though they will be hoping to establish themselves in the top division next year.
Many chess fans will hope to see the likes of Adams, Short and the other strong grandmasters participating regularly in the 4NCL as they have done this season, but of course this depends on the continued sponsorship that we have seen. Long may it continue!
Here we see some action from the final weekend, including many quick wins and finishes.
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