CHESS

ETCETERA
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The Independent Culture
IT WAS a good Hastings, but far from a great Hastings. The English flag was kept flying proudly by Stuart Conquest, who shared first place with Bogdan Lalic and Alexander Khalifman. Young Stuart thus finally gained revenge for the defeat we suffered 933 years ago at the hands of his ancestor Norman.

But enough of the jesting. Here is the game that deprived England of an undivided first prize.

White: Bogdan Lalic

Black: Stuart Conquest

Hastings 1995-6

1.Nf3 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 c5 4.e4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 Ng4 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1 Ne6 10.Rc1 b6 11.Qd2 Bb7 12.Be2 0-0 13.f3 f5

I have never been a fan of this "hold back the centre and nibble round the edges" strategy. Black may gain a certain illusory initiative, but has no way of returning sanity to his pawn structure.

14.exf5 gxf5 15.Nd5 Qe8 16.0-0 Qf7 17.b4 f4 18.Bf2 Ng5 19.h4!?

Kicking the knight back at the cost of a pawn weakness.

19...Ne6 20.Rfe1 Kh8 21.Bd3 Rae8 22.Bc2 Rg8 23.Kf1 d6 24.Qd3 Be5 (see diagram)

Black seems solid in the centre and ready to launch an attack against g2, but White's reply disabuses him.

25.Rxe5! dxe5 26.Re1 Nd4

Instead 26...Qg7 27.Rxe5! Qxg2+ 28.Ke2 leaves Black in deep trouble.

27.Rxe5 Nxc2 28.Qxc2 Bxd5 29.cxd5 Rc8 30.Qd2

With a pawn for the exchange, the black f-pawn vulnerable and the bishop heading for d4, White has enough.

30...Rg7 31.Bd4 Kg8 32.Bb2 Qg6

Sneakily threatening Qb1+.

33.Re4 Rf7 34.Be5 Qh5 35.Bxf4 Qxh4 36.Kg1 Rg7?

Throwing in the towel. 36...Qh5 was essential when Black can still fight. Had he perhaps calculated only 37.Be5 Qg5?

37.Bh6! Qf6 38.Bxg7 Kxg7 39.Re6 Qh4 40.Qe3 Kf7 41.Re4 resigns.

As Qf6 loses to Rf4, the e-pawn must fall, and with it Black's empire.

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