Britain’s Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) has rapidly responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by setting up a successful online version that provides a model for other nations.

Its entry of 172 teams, far above expectations, has been seeded in five divisions, with matches every Tuesday evening. The top teams have an unfamiliar look since Guildford, whose elite grandmasters dominated the over the board league for the best part of a decade, are absent.

Games are played on, a free and well organised site where you can be paired against an opponent within a few seconds. This Tuesday I watched Pia Cramling, the Swedish legend who is probably the strongest western European woman player of all time, in action for the top seeds ChessPlus Alpha. Black in a Sicilian Defence, Cramling outclassed her rival and checkmated at g2 on move 34.

Chess fans can watch the global elite in action again this Saturday evening in the opening round of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, featuring the world champion and seven of his major rivals.


Tavernier v Grodner, Charleville, France 1952. Can you find White’s best choice here? In the game as played, White got it wrong. The position comes from The Complete Chess Swindler by David Smerdon (New in Chess, £21.95) an Australian grandmaster’s guide to saving lost positions by a mixture of looking for tactical moves and exploiting the opponent’s psychological weaknesses.

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