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It has long been established that strong players are luckier than weaker ones, but I believe I am the first to have identified the crucial nature of this aleatoric advantage. What consistently happens in the games of the best players, I have found, is that moves played for one particular reason early, turn out much later in the game to serve an even more important purpose. And you will rarely see a better example of the process than the following game.

White: Michael Adams

Black: Sergei Tiviakov

Round 3, Fide World Championship, 1997

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nc6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Bf1 Bg4 8.d3 g6 9.Nbd2 Bg7 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Nxf3 0-0 12.d4

The opening has not gone well for Black. His 7...Bg4 was designed to prevent the white pawn's advance to d4, yet it has now reached that square anyway, and Black has had to concede the bishop pair.

12...cxd4 13.cxd4 Rc8 14.Qb3 Rc7

After 14...b5 15.a4! Black is left with a weak pawn however he plays.

15.Bf4 Nd7 16.Rad1 Qb8 17.h4!

Why this? Perhaps White wished to deter his opponent from the plan of ...e5, Kh8 and f5, when a quick h5 could embarrass him; perhaps he envisaged playing g3 and Bh3; or perhaps he intended g3, but his hand alighted on the h-pawn by mistake. Whatever the reason, it turned out to be a very useful move.

17...e5 18.dxe5 dxe5 19.Be3 Qe8 20.Qa3 Qe7 21.Qxe7 Nxe7 22.g3 h6?

A poor move. 22...Re8 is better.

23.Rd6 Nc8 24.Rd2 Nf6 25.Rdd1!!

The most difficult move of the game.

25...Nxe4 26.Bxh6 Bxh6 27.Rxe4 f6 28.Rc4! Re7 29.h5! (See diagram.)

A delicious piece of softening up, made possible by White's 17th move.


Faced with the choice between this and the ugly 29...g5, Black goes for the one with the extra pawn.

30.Nh4 Rh7 31.Bh3

White is in complete control.

31...Ne7 32.Be6+ Kg8 33.Rc7 f5

Now 34.Rxe7 Rxe7 35.Ng6+ is strong, but Adams finds something still stronger.

34.Rdd7! Bg5 35.Ng6+! resigns.

35...Nxg6 36.Rxh7 is mate.