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The Independent Culture
AT THE weekend, the Swedish Grandmaster, Jonny Hector, was playing chess in Hamburg for my beleaguered Bundesliga team Lubeck (he scored a win on Saturday and a hard-fought draw with Robert Hubner on Sunday). Such is the life of the professional chessplayer that by Monday afternoon he had travelled home, taken a flight to Stansted and a train to York to play in the top group of the York Viking Chess Festival at Lady Anne Middleton's Hotel.

Organised by Adam Raoof, and running from 13 to 22 December, it consists of several sections led by the "Vikings": the current British Champion, Julian Hodgson, Hector, Israeli Emil Sutovsky, Ukrainian Alexei Barsov, another Swede, Tiger Hillarp-Persson, and Scot Jonathan Rowson, whose mystery sponsor has arranged several matches for him, and is funding this event.

There's also a 10-player Challengers' tournament with Keith Arkell the top seed and notably including the US Women's champion Irina Krush, who will be in action in Hastings at the start of the next millennium; another (weaker) 10-player "Masters" event; the York Open - a nine-round Swiss; an under-150 tournament; and next Saturday, a five-minute tournament.

Two of the three games in the first round - Hillarp-Persson v Hodgson and Hector v Rowson were drawn while Barsov won as White against Sutovsky. But all three were tough, including Hector's immediate resumption of hostilities after the weekend below.

Although Black got an Isolated Queen's Pawn after the sequence initiated by 8...cxd4!, his easy development more than compensated for this. I wondered for a while about 21 c3 - when 21...dxc3?? gets mated after 22 Qd8+! - before realising that 21...d3! is good for Black. For example, 22 h3 Re2 23 Qxd3 Qxd3 24 Rxd3 Rxb2 25 Rd7 h6 gives him an excellent game. 32 Rxd4 was very interesting. Black can sidestep with 32...Rb6!? 33 b4 Kxg5 33 cxd4 Kxg5, but I wondered about the pawn ending after 32...Rxd4 33 cxd4 Kxg5. My first attempt led to a fascinating draw: 34 Kd3 Kf5 35 Kc4 Ke6 36 Kc5 h4 37 Kb6 g5 38 Kxb7 Kd7 39 Kxa6 f5 40 b4 g4 41 fxg4 h3 42 gxh3 f4 43 b5 f3 44 b6 f2 45 b7 f1Q+ 46 Ka7 when Black has no checks (!), but 46...Qa1 47 b8=Q Qxa4+ leads to perpetual check.

Jonny Hector v Jonathan Rowson

York Vikings (round 1)

French Defence

1 e4 e6

2 d4 d5

3 Nc3 Bb4

4 e5 c5

5 Bd2 Ne7

6 a3 Bxc3

7 Bxc3 Nbc6

8 Nf3 cxd4!

9 Nxd4 Nxe5

10 Nxe6 Bxe6 11 Bxe5 0-0

12 Bd3 Nc6

13 Bg3 Qf6

14 Rb1 Bf5

15 0-0 Rfe8

16 Bxf5 Qxf5

17 Qd2 Re6

18 Rfe1 Rae8 19 Rxe6 Rxe6 20 Rd1 d4

21 a4 h5

22 f3 Qc5

23 Bf2 Qc4

24 b3 Qc5

25 h4 Qe7

26 Kf1 a6

27 Qg5 Qxg5 28 hxg5 Kh7 29 Bxd4 Rd6 30 c3 Kg6

31 Ke2 Nxd4+

32 cxd4 Kxg5

33 d5 Kf6

34 Ke3 Ke7

35 a5 Rg6

36 Rd4 b6

37 Re4+ Kd8

38 Rf4 Ke8

39 Re4+ 1/2-1/2