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The Independent Culture
YESTERDAY, I reported on the powerful Wood Green team's victory in the final of the "Eastman Cup" (London Club Knockout Championship). But strength in club chess is very much relative. Even with the addition of myself Wood Green would not have much hope of competing with the two heavyweights of the German Bundesliga: Solingen, for whom I have been playing as seventh in the line-up - they start with Michael Adams, Yusupov and Matthew Sadler - or the arch-rivals Porz from Cologne, who beat us yet again last season: Lutz, Van Wely, Khalifman . . . Even these two giants, full of world-class players, would not have been guaranteed victory in the Russian Club Championships which have just taken place.

Nine clubs from all over Russia took part in an all-play-all competition from 16 to 24 May in St Petersburg, with six players from a list of seven playing in each match. In the end "Ximik" Belorechensk, with all grandmasters - Dreev, Tregubov, Kotsur, Malaniuk, Poluljahov, Beshukov and Galkin - were first on 31.5/48, ahead of "Siberia" Tomsk (starring Zvjaginsev, Pigusov . . .) 31, and the powerful "Petersburg Kings" (Khalifman, Sakaev . . . ), surely the pre-tournament favourites, on 29.

The "Ximik" top board, Alexei Dreev, made the best score, not only on board one but also overall - 6.5/8. Here is how he defeated the St Petersburg top board.

In a highly theoretical Grunfeld, Black had a couple of opportunities earlier to capture on d4, but White would always have obtained excellent compensation at the very least.

If 17 ...Bxd4 18 h5 is obvious and very dangerous though a line like Bxb2 19 Rc2 Qxd1 20 Rxd1 Be5 21 hxg6 Bd6 is far from clear. In any case, Black should probably have tried something "risky", since as played White got a pleasant clear advantage.

Not 22 ...gxh5? 23 Rg3+! but 22 ...g5 looks like an improvement, and if 23 Rxc8+ Rxc8 24 Rg3 Rc5 25 Be3 Re5! preventing 26 f4?? in view of Rxe3! 27 Rxe3 Bd4. Khalifman instead sought solace in the opposite coloured bishops which, it's true, tend to lead to a draw without other pieces; but the presence of the rooks rendered Black's task practically hopeless. Khalifman lost on time at the end but he was gone, anyway.

White: Alexei Dreev

Black: Alexander Khalifman

Grunfeld Defence