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It's only March, but 1995's best game has already been played, according to Colonel Polhill.

Want to play the best game of the year? Win the Oscar for the Most Outstanding Sacrificial Display with the Black Pieces? Forget it. The prize has already been bagged by a Russian chappie, Vadim Zvyagintsev.

White: R Cifuentes

Black: V Zvyagintsev

Wijk aan Zee 1995

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2

A rather namby-pamby sort of move, designed to avoid the head-to-head confrontation of 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5.

6...b6 7.Be2 Bb7 8.0-0 Be7 9.Rd1 0-0 10.e4 dxe4 11.Nxe4 Qc7

Black appears cramped, but nothing can stop him freeing his game with c5.

Want to play the best game of the year? Forget it. The prize has been bagged by a Russian chappie, Vadim Zvyagintsev.

White: R Cifuentes

Black: V Zvyagintsev

Wijk aan Zee 1995

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2

A namby-pamby move, des-igned to avoid the head-to-head confrontation of 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5.

6...b6 7.Be2 Bb7 8.0-0 Be7 9.Rd1 0-0 10.e4 dxe4 11.Nxe4 Qc7

Black appears cramped, but nothing can stop him freeing his game with c5.

12.Nc3 c5 13.d5 exd5 14.cxd5 a6 15.Nh4 g6 16.Bh6

Having forced the weakening g6, then rushed into the heart of the enemy camp with Bh6, White must have been feeling pleased with himself, but his intended attack never gets off the ground.

16...Rfe8 17.Qd2 Bd6 18.g3 b5 19.Bf3 b4 20.Ne2 Ne4 21.Qc2 Ndf6 22.Ng2 Qd7 23.Ne3 Rad8 24.Bg2?

This consolidating move is a decisive mistake. 24.Nc4 was the right way to play.

24...Nxf2! 25.Kxf2 Rxe3!

The point of the previous sacrifice. Now 26.Kxe3 Ng4+ 27.Kd2 Nxh6 leaves Black with a splendid game.

26.Bxe3 Ng4+ 27.Kf3 Nxh2+ 28.Kf2 Ng4+ 29.Kf3 Qe6!

Bravo! And if Black intend-ed this when making his 24th move, then several more bravos. My guess is that he played the first sacrifice knowing he could force a draw with 29...Nh2+(since 30.Ke4 Qf5 is mate), then stopped to think if there was anything better when he arrived here. Some players would hesitate before gambling on an attack when a rook behind, but what's a rook when your opponent's king is surrounded by drafty open spaces?

30.Bf4 Re8 31.Qc4 (see diagram)

Meeting the threat of 31...Bxd5+ 32.Rxd5 Qxd5+ 33.Kxg4 Qh5 mate, but running into something much more brilliant.

31...Qe3+!!

I am not a man to dispense exclamation marks lightly, but this splendid combination, obvious though it may be to an experienced eye, deserves them for the piquancy of the game's final position.

32.Bxe3 Rxe3+ 33.Kxg4 Bc8+ 34.Kg5 h6+! 35.Kxh6 Re5!

A delightful final touch. Nothing can now prevent Bf8 mate.

White resigned.

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