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The Independent Culture
THE FINALS of two national competitions, the County Championships and the National Club took place last weekend at Uppingham School, in Leicestershire.

The County finals were first with six gradated sections on Saturday 26 June. In the Open, Cambridgeshire, led by Grandmaster Jonathan Mestel, outgraded Kent by 10 points or so on every board. Although the difference was approximately the same throughout, it was at the top where it made itself felt with seven decisive games ending 6-1 in Cambridge's favour. Cambridge also made the odd extra half point on the bottom nine for a decisive final tally of 11-5.

All the other five matches - apart from the bottom section under 100 where Surrey beat Lancs 8-4 - were much more exciting, with Herts beating Bucks 8.5-7.5 in the "Minor Counties", and victories by the same score for Essex v Devon under 175 and Cambs v Herts under 125; while at under 150 it was eight all, with Warwicks defeating Lancs on board count.

The National Club finals took place the next day. In the final itself, the powerful Wood Green team boasting two grandmasters - Emms and Levitt - and two international masters - Pein and Littlewood - easily defeated Ilford by 4-2 for their third successive victory and their seventh since 1987. Cambridge, however, remain overall record holders with 11.

Charlton won the Open Plate on tie-break after a three-all draw with Hounslow. The other results were: Major - Guildford beat Eastbourne 3- 2; Major Plate - Southampton won on tie-break 2.5-all v Ashfield; Intermediate - Maidstone beat Bedford 3-2; Intermediate Plate - Cosham beat Rose Foregrove 3-2; Minor - Ashfield beat Basingstoke 3-2; Minor Plate - Crusaders beat Waltham Forest 3-2.

This fine attacking game cemented Wood Green's victory. In the opening 7...f5 8.gxf5 gxf5 9.Qh5+ is the critical theoretical line. I'm not sure whether I really believe Sowray's splendidly imaginative 11..c5!? - even the straightforward 13.Qxd6 is far from clear to me - but it certainly creates activity for the pawn.

15.Nb5 was better, though Black can fight with fxe4 16.Nxd4 exd4 17.Bxd4 Be6. Certainly not 18...exf3? 19.Nxf3 when White is splendidly organised. If 20.cxb5 Nd5!, while 20.g5 Nh5 only invites the horse to cause trouble.

If 26.Bxc3, Rxa2+ wins the g2 bishop. At the end it's mate next move after 30.exd5 e4.

White: Michael Twyble

Black: Peter Sowray

National Club Final 1999

Modern Defence

Averbakh Variation