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LIKE OTHER competitive groups, chess players use numbers both to quantify excellence and as a target to aim for. In our case, of course, the numbers are ratings. For international ones, which run from 2,000 upwards, we tend to think in terms of hundreds: a "twenty-four-hundred player" is a reasonable international master (IM), a 2,500 (pronounced the same way) a very good IM or medium-to-strong grandmaster, and a 2,600 in the top hundred; there are 83 rated 2,600 or over in the January 1999 list, so I guess in terms of numbers this approximates to a "sub-four- minute miler". In or very near the top ten are the 2,700s, and the 2,800s are named Garry Kimovich Kasparov.

The English list, in contrast, starts from zero with the recognised conversion to "ELO ratings" (as they are generally still known in honour of their inventor, the late Hungarian Professor Arped Elo - "ee-lo")a question of multiplying by six and adding 600. This conversion, though, is somewhat haphazard since the ELO ratings are based on the so-called mathematical "Normal Distribution" and the English ones on a linear formula. And there is certainly a psychological difference particularly at the 2,200/200 level: for whereas a 2,200 player is a run-of-the-mill international - indeed this was the absolute rating floor until recently - 200 has always been recognised as the threshold for a really excellent national player.

It's impressive, therefore, that Barry Gale's Kensington Congress at Imperial College last weekend had no fewer than 20 200-plus players in the Open field of 47. Grandmasters Jim Plaskett and Aaron Summerscale and IM Matthew Turner tied for first on 5/6, while the under-200 rating prize was won by Paul Cawte, who is currently only 165. There were 215 players in all in five sections; in the under-145s, eight-year-old David Howell was one of three tied for first.

Many thanks to Jim Plaskett for this interesting game, which, incidentally, he dictated in its entirety to my answerphone in well under a minute.

This line more often starts with 3.Nf3 b6 4.Nc3 so I've called it a Queen's Indian. For his pawn White got development and play against Black's kingside. Lalic regained it but Plaskett defended well, and, at the end, when Bogdan offered a draw, the complete annihilation of the queenside pawns renders the game quite equal.

White: Bogdan Lalic

Black: Jim Plaskett

Kensington Open 1999 (Round 5)

Queen's Indian Defence

1.d4 Nf6

2.c4 e6

3.Nc3 Bb4

4.Nf3 b6

5.Bg5 Bb7

6.e3 h6

7.Bh4 g5

8.Bg3 Ne4

9.Nd2 Nxc3

10.bxc3 Bxc3

11.Rc1 Bb4

12.h4 gxh4

13.Bxh4 Be7

14.Qh5 Na6

15.c5 Nb4

16.Nc4 Nc6

17.Ne5 Nxe5

18.Qxe5 Rg8

19.Bxe7 Qxe7

20.Qxc7 Bd5

21.a3 Rg6

22.f3 f5

23.Qf4 Qg7

24.Rh2 Bc6

25.Kf2 Kf7

26.cxb6 axb6

27.Qc7 Kg8

28.Qxb6 Rxa3

29.Bc4 Kh7

30.Qc5 Draw agreed