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THE SECOND session of this season's Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) took place last weekend at the Moat House Hotel in Birmingham. Now in its sixth year, the league has expanded to 30 teams, with 12 in the top division and 18 in the second, and as always there was keen competition in both.

Going into the weekend only two teams, Slough and my own club Wood Green, had a perfect 4/4 match points. Both won comfortably on Saturday (6-2 against Richmond and Bristol I respectively): but on Sunday, while Slough were cruising to a 7-1 victory against North West Eagles, we faced Bigwood I against whom, especially in their previous incarnation as Midland Monarchs, we have tended to do very badly.

Although the match started well for us, things changed in the scrambles before the first time control; and, by the time a car-load of us left at about 4pm after five hours' play, we feared the worst. But we rallied, notably owing to Alex Baburin's win in a tough rook ending against Jonathan Parker, for a final score of four all.

So Slough now lead with 8/8 match points and 24 game points ahead of Wood Green 7 (21.5), IKHH 7 (18.5); Bigwood and Richmond both 5 (17); Bristol 4 (14.5), Barbican 3 (16), Guildford-ADC 2 (15); Silvine White Rose and The AD's both 2 (12.5); North West Eagles 2 (12) and Wood Green 2nd Team 1 (11.5). In the second division South West Dragons are two points clear on 8 (21.5), ahead of Barbican II 6 (19) and Perceptron Youth 6 (17.5).

This brutally pretty game, played on Saturday, was shown to me by the loser David Norwood himself. Remarking (he writes in The Daily Telegraph on Saturdays) that "at least it's good for a chess column", he gallantly even encouraged me to publish it.

The idea of 7 ...d5! is known and indeed the new Fide world champion, Alexander Khalifman, used it a couple of years ago - but with the knight already on c3 and the bishop back on f1 - to defeat James Cobb in a European Club match.

9 f3 is natural but too optimistic - 9 f4 was correct. The vicious sacrifice 9 ...Nxg3! was very unpleasant. 11 Bf2 was better, though Bxb2 12 Nd2 Qe7+ is still strong for Black. As played, unfortunately Norwood's original intention of 13 Nd2 loses at once to 13 ...d4! If 22 Rxa1 Rxe3+! whereas 23 Bxc5 would run into Rac8 24 Bd4 Bxc3! 25 Bxc3 Re3+! 26 Kxe3 Qxg3+ etc.

White: David Norwood (IKHH)

Black: Alan Norris (Wood Green II)

Modern Defence

1 g3 g6

2 Bg2 Bg7

3 d4 d6

4 e4 e5

5 Ne2 Nc6

6 Be3 Nf6

7 h3 d5!

8 dxe5 Nxe4

9 f3 Nxg3

10 Nxg3 Bxe5

11 Kf2 Qh4

12 f4 Bxb2

13 Bxd5 Bxa1

14 c3 0-0

15 Qb3 Ne7

16 Be4 Nf5

17 Bxf5 Bxf5

18 Nd2 Be6

19 Qc2 Bd5

20 Nf3 Bxf3

21 Kxf3 Rfe8

22 Bd4 c5!

23 Bf2 Qf6

24 Rxa1 Qc6+

25 Kg4 f5+