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THE ENGLAND team of Nigel Short, myself, John Emms, Stuart Conquest and Murray Chandler flies out today to the European Team Championships in Batumi in Georgia, with play starting on Monday.

Two years ago, in Pula in Croatia, we were first, though only on tie- break after awful last-round jitters.

Nevertheless we were delighted, both for ourselves and for our truly wonderful sponsors, the city bankers Duncan Lawrie, who have supported the team through thick and thin since the Buenos Aires Olympiad way back in 1978.

This time, without several players, especially Michael Adams and Matthew Sadler - who has moved to Amsterdam after taking the fearfully grown-up decision to give up professional chess and take a "normal" job - it will be harder still. But of course we'll do our very best and at least the Russians, reportedly following a dispute about money after last year's Elista Olympiad, are hugely under strength with a team of Filippov, Kobalija, Malakhov, Galkin and Shariyazdanov!

There are some powerful units, though, notably Ukraine (Ivanchuk, Onischuk, Ponomariov, Romanishin, Malaniuk), who must be favourites.

Here are a couple of snapshots from Pula.

See first diagram: Black has just played 69 ...Ba2+. White is winning but owing to a new time control, which has since been withdrawn, Short mistakenly overstepped the time

Short vs Aleksandrov

limit and lost! A heavy blow - though it only inspired us.

The winning line was 70 Kc5 Bf7 71 Kd4 Ke7 (or 71 ...Be8 72 Kd5 forcing through 73 e6) 72 Ke4! Kd7 73 e6+! Bxe6 74 Ke5 after which the king goes to f6, with mayhem.

Short vs Chernin

It ended 29 Nxh5! Rxg5 30 Qxg5 Nf2+ 31 Kg1 Nxh3+ 32 gxh3 Bc6 33 Nf4 Kh7 34 e5 Bf3 35 Kf2 Qc6 36 Rc4 1-0

Chernin had, of course, foreseen 29 Nxh5! but missed 29 ...gxh5 30 e5! when:

a) 30 ...Rxe5 31 Rxg4 Re1+ 32 Qxe1 hxg4 33 Rxh8+ Kxh8 34 Qh4+ Kg8 35 Bh6 forces mate.

b) Or 30...Rd5! 31 Bc1! Rxd4 32 Qg5+ Kf8 33 Ba3+ etc.

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