4NCL Div 1        P    W    D    L    GP    MP 
1 Slough          4    4    0    0    27    8 
2 Wood Green      4    3    1    0    19.5  7 
3 Barbican I      4    3    0    1    17    6 
4 Invicta Knights 4    2    1    1    17    5 
5 Bigwood         4    2    0    2    19.5  4 
6 Barbican II     4    2    0    2    15.5  4 
7 Bristol         4    1    2    1    15    4 
8 Richmond        4    2    0    2    14.5  4 
9 Wessex          4    1    1    2    13    3 
10 NW Eagles      4    1    0    3    10.5  2 
11 Home House     4    0    1    3    12.5  1
12 BCM            4    0    0    4    11    0 

As the Four Nations Chess League approaches its half-way point, on 23rd and 24th January, the enormously powerful Slough team look to be runaway winners. In their first round they demolished NW Eagles 8 - 0 and so far only one of their players has actually lost a game and that against Bigwood (formerly Midland Monarchs) when Harriet Hunt defeated Jovanka Houska. In that match the Slough top 4 were Bogdan Lalic, Michael Gurevich, Mark Hebden and Tony Miles, a quartet of Grandmasters capable of challenging any chess club in the world. Wood Green also have an impressive side, with Grandmasters, including two-and-a-quarter British Champions (Speelman and Miles have both won the title outright and Emms shared it up to the tie-break two years ago) in their tied match against Home House.

Apart from their heavy defeat at the hands of Slough, Barbican I have had a fine season so far, beating Home House with greater ease than at one time appeared likely. Indeed, in that match Barbican lost only board 1 and 2, but managed 5.5 from the bottom 6. It is something of a surprise that Home House have not fared rather better, with Julian Hodgson, David Norwood and Michael Hennigan amongst their players. Barbican II have started well after last season's promotion, losing to their own first team and Bristol but winning well against the bottom two sides. Indeed, there was some confusion over the win against British Chess Magazine, as BCM apparently fielded an ineligible player in an over-the-board 4 - 4 tie. BCM are appealing against the decision which gave the match to Barbican II 5 - 3.

As Jonathan Rogers remarked, the Barbican Club has the distinct look of an Essex County side about it, with Jonathan himself as well as Gary Kenworthy, David Sands, Michael Twyble and Andrew Lewis all participating. Having said that, in the 4NCL players from almost anywhere can turn up anywhere. Thus Karl Mah represents Bristol and Eddie Dearing plays for White Rose, which is nominally a Yorkshire based team.

The next two rounds are to be played in Birmingham on 23rd and 24th January. On the Saturday, Slough play Richmond and Wood Green play Wessex, which on paper give the appearance of fairly straightforward matches. However, on the Sunday they meet each other in a clash which could decide the title. Barbican I should score two more wins, against NW Eagles and BCM. Barbican II have their work cut out on the first day as they meet Bigwood, but NW Eagles should be beatable.

The following game was played in round 4.

Crouch,C (Barbican II) (2410) - Norwood,D (Home House) (2535) [A42] Rd4-Birmingham (4.1), 22.11.1998

1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3 e5 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8 7.f4 Nd7 8.Nf3 c6 9.Be2 f6 10.0-0 Nh6 11.fxe5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 fxe5 13.b4 Be6 14.b5 Nf7 15.Bg4 Bxg4 16.Rxf7 Bf8 17.Bg5+ Kc8 18.Be7 Bh6 19.Bd6 Be3+ 20.Kh1 Bb6 21.c5 Ba5 22.Bxe5 Re8 23.Bf6 Bxc3 24.Bxc3 cxb5 25.Rxh7 a5 26.Rf1 Be6 27.Be5 Bc4 28.c6 bxc6 29.Rc7+ Kd8 30.Rd1+ Bd5 31.Bg3 1-0