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BENJAMIN Franklin, in his essay The Morals of Chess, praised the character-building qualities of the game with a list of the noble features that may be developed by playing chess. His inventory ends, however, with a highly dubious item. Through chess, says Franklin, we may learn not to be discouraged by present events. For, in his version of the game, you never can tell what surprise might turn up to save an apparently hopeless situation.

In fact, once you become good at the game, it teaches you the exact opposite: that one mistake can lead to hours of suffering and inevitable defeat; that there is no room for rose-tinted optimism in the assessment of one's chances; that there is no alternative to sober realism.

To put old Ben's morality to use, you have to look at it from the other side of the board. For the truth is that, no matter how good your position may seem, it can never be blunder-proof. Today's game, a horror story from the British Championship, underlines that message.

After 18. Rh8+] White must have mentally chalked up his victory, but a series of casual moves, beginning with 21. Nf4, led first to difficulty then defeat. Even when you are winning, you have to play well sometimes.

White: C Ward

Black: A Summerscale

----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 d4 d5 21 Nf4 Nf8 2 c4 c6 22 Bb2 Bg5 3 Nc3 Nf6 23 Nh3 Bf6 4 e3 e6 24 Rd1 Rd7 5 Nf3 Nbd7 25 Ba3 Bxd4 6 Qc2 Be7 26 Qa4 Rdd8 7 b3 0-0 27 Qxa7 Rd7 8 Bd3 dxc4 28 Qa4 Ra8 9 bxc4 c5 29 Qb3 Bc6 10 0-0 cxd4 30 Qg3 e5 11 exd4 b6 31 Bxf8 Rxf8 12 Ne5 Bb7 32 Kh1 Bxf2 13 Re1 Re8 33 Qb3 Be3 14 Re3 Nf8 34 Re1 Rd2 15 Ne2 N6d7 35 Qxe3 Rxg2 16 Rh3 Ng6 36 Qe4 Bxe4 17 Bxg6 hxg6 37 Rxe4 Rxa2 18 Rh8+ Kxh8 38 Rxe5 Rf1+ 19 Nxf7+ Kh7 39 Ng1 Rff2 20 Nxd8 Raxd8 White resigns -----------------------------------------------------------------