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ON SATURDAY, I examined the recent match in Hamburg between Peter Leko and Dmitrij Bunzmann, eventually won by the heavy favourite Leko 4-2 but after Bunzmann put up stiff resistance in the first half. At almost exactly the same time, another match was in progress between the originally Kazakh, nowadays French, grandmaster Vladislav Tkachiev and grandmaster Alberto David from Luxembourg.

Coincidentally, the rating difference of 104 points in this contest, held in Cannes between 15 and 23 October, was just one point less than that in Hamburg. But whereas Bunzmann was still level after three of their six games, David was already in trouble after two and could more or less have been counted out halfway through, after four of their eight games.

One of the prerequisites for successful match play is a reasonably solid - or at least successful - opening repertoire as Black. But David in the odd-numbered games tried successively the King's Indian, Neo-Grunfeld, Benoni and Queen's Gambit Meran, losing every one; two of them, games 3 and 7, in 20 and 22 moves respectively.

Hardly the basis for successful action, but things would surely have been different had David converted a large - almost certainly winning - advantage in game two. His failure to do so clearly affected him badly, leading directly to the debacle in game three where he resigned very early, in utterly dire straits. My own feeling is that Tkachiev in fact finished the match off when he switched in game 4 from the Ruy Lopez, with which he had suffered in game 2, to the Centre Counter: thus wrong-footing David at the one moment when he might have still tried to fight back.

As far as I can see, this is an opening that Tkachiev hadn't played in tournaments at all until this year, when he used it a couple of times, scoring just 0.5/2. But it worked like a charm in Cannes.

In game 6, David switched to 8 Ne4 after which 8 ...Qd8 9 Ng3! is supposed to be rather strong, but got nothing much after Qc7 9 Nxf6+ gxf6 10 Qe2 Nd7 11 0-0-0 0-0-0. Just 10 moves later they agreed a draw bringing the score up to 4.5-1.5 and so guaranteeing Tkachiev the match victory.

David tried the English 1 c4 in game 8 but agreed a draw after just 11 moves.

13 ...Bb4! was surely very upsetting for White in this match situation. It had all been played before, up to move 17. White tried the possibly slightly better 17 Rxb7 in a game of Nataf vs Waitzkin at the Mermaid Beach Club in 1999 but also drew quickly.

White: Alberto David

Black: Vladislav Tkachiev

Cannes 1999 (Game 4)

Centre Counter

1 e4 d5

2 exd5 Qxd5

3 Nc3 Qa5

4 Nf3 Nf6

5 d4 c6

6 Bc4 Bf5

7 Bd2 e6

8 Nd5 Qd8

9 Nxf6+ Qxf6

10 Qe2 Nd7

11 d5 cxd5

12 Bxd5 Be7

13 Bc3 Bb4

14 Bxb4 Qxb2

15 0-0 Qxb4

16 Rab1 Qa4

17 Bxb7 Rd8

18 Qe3 0-0

19 Nd4 Nb6

20 Nxf5 1/2-1/2