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Britain’s 4NCL (Four Nations Chess League) has been monopolised by a single team for almost a decade now.

Guildford last lost a match in 2012, since when the Surrey players have won 79 encounters and drawn just two. They often score at least 7-1 over eight boards, and even single game defeats are rare.

They had just one game loss in the entire 2018-19 season, and in last weekend’s matches, which launched the 2019-20 fixtures, Guildford crushed Cambridge University by 8-0, then Barbican, the City of London team, by 7-1.

England’s national team, which won medals at the 2019 world and European championships, form Guildford’s core players along with highly rated GMs from France. Continuity also counts. Roger Emerson and Nigel Povah, the managers and sponsors, are experts with successes of their own.

Guildford’s hegemony faces a double challenge this season. Manx Liberty, based in the Isle of Man, has a nucleus of GMs who played for Trier in the Bundesliga, and is now sponsored by the website Chess.com. Manx lost to Guildford in the 2019 final round after a close match, and is set for a fresh attempt with a reinforced squad.

Yorkshire-based White Rose, the strongest team in the North, has new backing from Magnus Carlsen’s Chessable learning site and hopes to field elite GMs from India and the US who teach there in the later 4NCL rounds.

It promises to be a competitive season.

2350

Can you work out White’s bizarre three-move winning tactic in this (see graphic ) apparently drawn rook ending?

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