CHESS

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The trouble with the young players of today is that they are so materialistic. Is there a single player of our modern generation who can claim to have survived, as I once did, a game in which seven queens were sacrificed? And not just offered for sacrifice, but accepted! Yes, mercilessly slaughtered in the heat of the battle. "Impossible," do I hear you say? Far from it. Let me show you.

The occasion was the final round of the championship of Tashkent just 50 years ago this month, to which I had been invited to compete hors councours in view of a twinning arrangement then in place between the chess clubs of Tashkent and Cheltenam Spa. I was conducting the black pieces against a burly Uzbekistani whose name, for the moment, eludes me. I needed only a draw to capture first prize.

After numerous vicissitudes, we reached the diagram position, when he banged down the move 1.Qe5.

The threat was 2.Qh8+, and if I attempted to prevent it by retreating my queen to d8, then a check on b2 would spell doom for me. There was nothing for it but to give up my queen.

So I played 1...Qa5+! 2.Kxa5 Kb7 creating my own threat of mate by promoting the pawn on e1. He continued quickly with 3.Qb2+ Ka7 then sank into thought as he realised that the planned 4.Qxe2 would lose to 4...Nd2 followed by mate on b3 or c4. Slowly, however a big grin overtook his massive jowls, and he slammed down the moves 4.Qb8+! Kxb8 5.Ka6. There quickly followed 5...e1=Q 6.g7 and then, since 6...Qg3 loses to 7.e7, I played 6...Qa5+! 7.Kxa5 Kb7 8.g8=Q e2.

Again I had kept him at bay through the threat of e1=Q mate. There was nothing for it but for him to surrender another queen: 9.Qa8+! Kxa8 10.Ka6 e1=Q 11.e7. By now, however, his smirk had gone and my next moves came as no surprise: 11...Qa5+! 12.Kxa5 Kb7.He had no alternative to 13.e8=Q when I was able to renew the threats of mate on b3 or c4 by playing 13...Nd2! Again he had no choice: 14.Qa8+ Kxa8 15.Ka6.

The final moves came quickly: 15...Nxc4 16.f6 Ne5 17.f7! Nd7 (or 17...Nxf7 18.a5 and stalemate is not to be averted) 18.f8=Q+! Nxf8 19.a5 and a draw was agreed.

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