The White Rose of York is the symbol of the House of York and has since been adopted as a symbol of Yorkshire as a whole. During the civil wars of the fifteenth century, the White Rose was the symbol of Yorkist forces opposed to the rival House of Lancaster. This period of the English history is known as the Wars of the Roses. Ever since, the lovely flower became a symbol of the whole Yorkshire to the present. The main city of the Yorkshire area is Leeds.
What does this have to do with chess? Nothing, except for the fact that one of English teams is named White Rose. The people in charge were kind enough to invite me to take part in their wonderful 4NCL.
The British system of play is very interesting. Sixteen teams are divided in two pools of eight each. They compete in all-play round robin tournament where the four winners get a chance to qualify to the top eight and the bottom four will have to show their best in the lower pool to stay in the League. The direct encounters of between the teams in the groups count in the final eight matches.
Each team consists of eight players which have at least one woman in the squad, just like in France.
An interesting point is the eighty-point rule which means that a player who is rated 80 points below a teammate cannot play in front of him/her in the matches. On the other hand, a team which is homogeneous enough provides plenty of unpleasant surprises for their counter parts and tough moments of preparation.
Another interesting point is the wild card rule. This allows any team to add a new team member at any moment during the season. The new player does not have to subscribe in advance, he/she just appear for the weekend games to make things interesting. Saying that, it is not unusual to see at the last and decisive round a player like Ivanchuk popping up out of the blue or Judith Polgar at the female board. True, this usually happens to one of the two best teams. In this year those seem to be Guildford 1 and Wood Green.
One squad can have more than one team in the league and this allows some additional strategies. Guildford was not shy to bring a strong second team in their encounter against Wood Green. The attempt to steal points from the main rival though was unsuccessful and Guilford lost 2.5-5.5.
The weekend games on 15-16 February gathered together the cream of the British chess. Those were accompanied by almost all the best Scottish players and many more players from abroad. The lovely Hinckley Island hotel hosted the event and provided excellent conditions to all.
The White Roses managed to win both the matches and got a nice chance to qualify for the final eight upper division.