IM Jonathan Rowson of Aberdeen has recorded a grandmaster norm with an unbeaten score of 7/9 in the Four Nations Chess League.

The final matches were played over the May bank holiday in the Birmingham Moat House.

  Rowson, 21, scored his first GM norm when he won the Hampstead International in October last year. Scotland’s top young player needs one more high scoring performance to join Paul Motwani and Colin McNab as Scotland’s 3rd grandmaster.

Over the course of the season Rowson faced three grandmasters, achieving draws against John Emms, Neil McDonald and Stuart Conquest. However it was the ruthless demolition of IM class opponents which accounted for Rowson’s norm score.

4NCL round 9

White: Jonathan Rowson (Midland Monarchs, 2485)

Black: Simon Knott (Barbican, 2350)

Opening: Grunfeld Defence

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Na4!?

This incredible move was invented in 1996 by the Armenian IM Ashot Nadanian. Chess teachers spend a lifetime teaching their pupils not to put their knights at the edge of the board (a knight on the rim is dim) and not to move the same piece twice in the opening. Here we have top players offending against basic opening principles just to get two pawns abreast with e4 next move. 5 e4 is normal but Black can exchange without loss of tempo by 5…Nxc3,that’s why Na4 is played.

Despite the endorsement of the Rowson home laboratory 5 Na4 is very hard to believe. The most aggressive reaction is to “punish” White immediately with 5...e5 – Black thereby gets some more opening maxims on his side – “counter a demonstration on the wing with a reaction in the centre”. Nadanian counsels against this move, “Black has to act energetically. This does not mean…he should “refute” White’s unusual fifth move at once with 5…e5,” but his analysis is not completely convincing after 6 dxe5 Bb4+ 7 Bd2 Ne3! 8 fxe3 Bxd2+ 9 Qxd2 Qh4+ 10 g3 Qxa4 11 Qd4 Qa5+ 12 b4 Qa3 and Black looks to be doing well. If 13 e6 0-0 14 exf7+ Rxf7 15 Bg2 Nc6 16 Bxc6 bxc6 17 Qd8+ Rf8 18 Qd2 Bg4 or 13 Bg2 0-0 and what about that White pawn structure?

6 e4 Nb6 7 Be3 e5 8 d5 0-0 9 Nf3 c6 10 Nxb6 axb6 11 Bc4

Black’s lack of ambition has ceded White a comfortable edge.

11…b5 12 Bb3 Na6 13 0-0 Nc7 14 dxc6 Qxd1 15 Rfxd1 bxc6 16 Rac1 Be6 17 Rxc6 Bxb3 18 axb3 Ne6 19 Kf1 Nd4 20 Bxd4 exd4 21 Rc5 Rfe8 22 e5 Rad8 23 Rxd4 Rxd4 24 Nxd4 Bxe5 25 Nc6 Bxb2 26 Rxb5 Re6 27 Rc5 h5 28 b4 Ba3 29 Rc3 Rxc6

Black prefers to give up the exchange rather than defend against the passed pawn but the endgame is hopeless despite the symmetrical pawns.

30 Rxc6 Bxb4 31 Ke2 Kf8 32 Kd3 Be1 33 Rc2 Kg7 34 Ke4 Ba5 35 Ke5 Bd8 36 Kd6 Bg5 37 Kd7 Bf4 38 h3 Be5 39 Ke8 f6 40 Rc8 h4 41 Rd8 f5 42 Rd7+ Kf6 43 Kf8 g5 44 f3 Bc3 45 Rd5 Ke6 46 Rb5 Bd4 47 Kg8 Kf6 48 Kh7 Be3 49 Kh6 Bc1 50 Kh5 Be3 51 Rb8 Kf7 52 Rh8 Bc1 53 Rh7+ Kf6 54 Rh6+ Ke5 55 Rg6 Black resigns.

Rowson had an easy time disposing of the experienced IM Nigel Povah earlier in the season.

4NCL round 4

White: Nigel Povah (Guildford, 2325)

Black: Jonathan Rowson (Midland Monarchs, 2490) Opening: Trompovsky

1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 e6 3 e4 c5 4 e5 h6 5 Bh4 g5 6 Bg3 Ne4 7 c3 cxd4 8 Qxd4 Nxg3 9 hxg3 Nc6 10 Qe3 b6 11 Bd3 Qc7 12 f4 Bb7 13 Nf3 0-0-0 14 Nbd2 d6 15 Nxg5 dxe5 16 Nh3 Rg8 17 0-0-0 Bc5 18 Qe2 Rxg3 19 Nf1 Rgg8 20 f5 Nd4! 21 cxd4 Rxg2 22 Nf2 Bxd4+ 23 Qc2 Qxc2+ 24 Bxc2 Rxf2 White resigns.

Despite the title the 4NCL is mainly a collection of England’s top teams. Lack of sponsorship has prevented a Scottish team entering the competition. However the prospect of challenging opposition has encouraged a number of Scotland’s best players to sign for English clubs.