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A WEEK before the 86th British Championships opens in Scarborough, an even more venerable event, the 106th Scottish Championship, is drawing to its close at George Heriot's School in Edinburgh.

The tournament was opened on 17 July by Gavin Strang MP, at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, in an elaborate ceremony that included his ceremonially playing 1 e4 on a replica Lewis chess set on behalf of the defending champion John Shaw, from Kilmarnock; Shaw subsequently won against Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant.

It is the strongest Scottish Championship ever, with three grandmasters - Paul Motwani (rated 2,465), Colin McNab (2,428) and an English guest, Aaron Summerscale (2,440), and six international masters (including Shaw and Arakhamia) in the field of 20 who are contesting a nine-round Swiss.

Introducing an Englishman may appear odd, but this is to provide the minimum three grandmasters needed for GM norm opportunities - particularly with the top seed, IM Jonathan Rowson (2,490) in mind; he requires one more norm for his grandmaster title.

Pipped at the post last year by Shaw - defeat by whom initiated his disastrous finishing run after he had started with 5.5/6, Rowson also began well this time with a win against Graham Morrison, revenge against Shaw himself (see below) and a draw against Summerscale. A further victory against Neil Berry and a draw against McNab brought him up to 4/5 equal with Summerscale and half a point ahead of Motwani, NcNab and Berry.

Against an Accelerated Dragon, Rowson chose a somewhat hybrid system, playing the normal "Yugoslav Attack" moves Be3, f3 Qd2, Bc4, Bb3 but then opting to castle short rather than long, as in the Yugoslav proper.

Shaw reacted pugnaciously, moving his knight around to c5 to attack the bishop. The crisis came after 20 Rf3 when Rowson recommended 20 ...f6 as a tougher defence. For example if 21 Nd5 Qxa4 (21 ...Bxd5 22 Rxb3 Bxb3 23 Qxa5 should be good for White ) 22 Nxe7 (22 Nb6 Qb5 23 Nxc8 Rxc8 looks fine for Black) 22 ...Rce8 looks very playable.

A move later, the paradoxical 21 ...h5 22 Rxh5 (if 22 Qg5 Qxb2) 22 ...Rh8! (but not 22 ...gxh5? 23 Qg5+ Kh7 24 Qxh5+ Kg7 25 Qg5+ Kh7 26 Re3 forcing mate) was also quite possible.

But with 21 ...Rh8?? Shaw chose the worst of all worlds and after Rowson forced the king to g8 and opened the f file, mate was already inevitable.

White: Jonathan Rowson

Black: John Shaw

Sicilian Accelerated Dragon

1 e4 c5

2 Nf3 Nc6

3 Nc3 g6

4 d4 cxd4

5 Nxd4 Bg7

6 Be3 Nf6

7 Bc4 0-0

8 Bb3 d6

9 f3 Bd7

10 Qd2 a5

11 a4 Rc8

12 0-0 Nxd4

13 Bxd4 Bc6

14 Rae1 Nd7

15 Bxg7 Kxg7

16 f4 Qb6+

17 Kh1 Nc5

18 f5 Nxb3

19 cxb3 Qxb3

20 Rf3 Qb4!?

21 Rh3 Rh8??

22 Qh6+ Kg8

23 fxg6 fxg6

24 Rf3 Qd4

25 Ref1 Qg7

26 Qh3! 1-0