ONE OF the most intriguing first-round ties at the Fide world championship last weekend was the battle between Alexander Khalifman from St Petersburg, and the Indian Dibyendu Barua.

Though dismissed by most observers in advance as no contest, it turned out to be nothing of the kind after Barua won a nice positional game as White. But Khalifman clawed his way back into the match in the second game and won as White in the first tie-break game (25 minutes each, plus 10 seconds a move) before weakening in the second with qualification in sight.

So they had to go down to a pair of games at 15 minutes plus 10 seconds per move.

The first of these, with Barua as White, was drawn, leaving Khalifman the task of converting the the white pieces: a particularly noticeable advantage against Barua. For Barua, a fine player but with a weak opening repertoire, is that rare bird amongst chess professionals: a heroic defender, with the temperament and ability to defend painfully passive positions for long periods without blanching.

Khalifman duly got his advantage and it eventually transformed into this classic good knight vs bad bishop endgame.

By now, all the other tie-break games were over, so watched by a good selection of the world's top players, whose reactions ranged from "very unpleasant for Black/ lost", through "nasty but should be drawn", to, in the case of one top-20 player (who shall be nameless) "why is he [Khalifman] bothering to play it on?", Khalifman set to grinding away.

These were the final 36 moves of the game:

White should definitely have forced through f5 as soon as possible so 54 Kd2! Ke7 55 f5! must have been better when 55 ...gxf5 would transpose to the game while Bxf5 56 Nxa6 Kf6 57 Nc5 Bc8 58 Ke3 g5 59 a6 Bxa6 60 Nxa6 must surely be winning for White.

Later I suspect that 66 ...Bf5 67 Ne3 Ke6 68 Kg3 Kd6 would hold but after 69 f5! the position looks lost and Barua, in bad time trouble, soon fell into zugzwang.

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54 Kd3? Ke7

55 Ke3 Kf6

56 Kf3 Bg4+

57 Kf2 Bc8

58 Ke3 Kf5

59 Kf3 Kf6

60 Nd3 Bg4+

61 Kg3 Bf5

62 Nc5 Bc8

63 Nb3 Bg4

64 Kf2 Bf5

65 Nd2 Bc8

66 Nf1 Be6?

67 Ne3 Kf7

68 Kg3 Kg7

69 f5! gxf5

70 Kf4 Kf6

71 Nc2 Bd7

72 Ne1 Bc8

73 Nd3 Be6

74 Kf3 Ke7

75 Kg3 Kf6

76 Nc5 Bc8

77 Kf4 Kg6

78 Ke5 f4

79 Kxf4 Kf6

80 Kg3 Kg7

81 Kf3 Kg6

82 Nd3! Bg4+

83 Ke3 Be6

84 Nf4+ Kf5

85 Nxh5 Kg4

86 Nf4 Bf7

87 Nd3 Be6

88 Nc5 Bc8

89 h5 1-0