Independent Pursuits: Chess

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THE NEW season of the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) began last weekend with some splendidly blood-curdling chess. The favourites, Slough, put out a massive team headed by Hebden, Miles, Bogdan Lalic and Mikhail Gurevich to defeat North West Eagles 8-0 and Bigwood (a reincarnation of the current champions Midland Monarchs) 51/2 -21/2, and lead the 12- team league with 4 match points and 131/2 game points ahead of Barbican I 4 (10), Richmond 4 (91/2), Bristol I 3 (10) and Wood Green I 3 (91/2)...

There was some serious transfer activity during the closed season, with the most notable being Mark Hebden, who left Midland Monarchs to join Slough while Luke McShane moved from Richmond to Bigwood.

I've also moved, from Invicta Knights (Maidstone) to Wood Green. My new team drew the first match four all against Home House but then beat the BCM by 51/2-21/2. One of the most entertaining games of the weekend was this completely chaotic battle from our first-round match. John Emms is an increasingly strong and very sensible grandmaster, but he was almost totally bamboozled by the the recently resigned England team captain David Norwood's zany play.

In an English Opening Norwood's 3 d4 looks odd, but is quite well based since although he loses time with the queen, White hopes to set up a bind. 8 Nh3 continued the strategy but after 8... Na5 White was under immediate pressure. Perhaps he could have tried 9 c5, since if d6 10 cxd6 Nc4 11 dxe7 Qxe7 is far from clear. But after 10 b3 d5! he was already in trouble.

Having missed that 12 e4 loses to Nxe4!, Norwood decided to jettison his queen for two pieces and a pawn. But 15 Bb2 was very odd - why not castle? Emms missed various wins; one of the cleanest was 26... e5! and if 27 Nxe5 Qxe2+ 28 Kxd4 Qxf2+ etc. But he was still fine until, unsure whether he'd completed 40 moves, he banged out 41... a2?: 41... Kf6 42 Ra6+ Kg5 should win. After 42 d6 White was doing well and he could also have tried 43 Rxe7+. In the final extraordinary position both sides must keep on repeating. Of course, if 48... Qxa7?? 49 Ne6 is mate!

White: David Norwood

Black: John Emms

4NCL 1998 - Home House

vs Wood Green

English Opening

1 g3 c5

2 c4 g6

3 d4 cxd4

4 Qxd4 Nf6

5 Nc3 Bg7

6 Bg2 Nc6

7 Qd2 0-0

8 Nh3?! Na5

9 Qd3 Qc7

10 b3 d5!

11 cxd5 Bf5

12 Qd2 12 Ne4

13 Nxe4 Bxe4

14 Bxe4 Bc3

15 Bb2 Bxd2+

16 Kxd2 Qb6

17 Bc3 Rac8

18 Rac1 Rfd8

19 Nf4 Nc6

20 Nd3 Nd4

21 Bg2 Rxc3!?

22 Rxc3 Qa5

23 Rhc1 Qxa2+

24 Ke3 Nf5+

25 Kf3 Nd4+

26 Ke3 Nxe2?!

27 Rc8 Rxc8

28 Rxc8+ Kg7

29 Rc7 Ng1

30 Rxb7 a5

31 Be4 f5

32 Bf3 Nxf3

33 Kxf3 Qa3

34 Ke3 Kf6

35 Rb6+ Kg7

36 Rb7 Kf6

37 Rb6+ Kf7

38 Kd4 Qa1+

39 Kc4 a4

40 Ra6 a3

41 Ra7 a2?

42 d6 Ke8

43 d7+ Kd8

44 Nc5 Qf1+

45 Kd5 Qd1+

46 Kc6 Qd6+

47 Kb5 Qb8+

48 Kc6 Qd6+