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The Independent Culture
The first weekend of the Four Nations Chess League, hosted by Eagle Star, produced some highly entertaining games between some of the country's top teams. The "Midland Monarchs" team and the British Chess Magazine, with two grandmasters apiece, looked the strongest sides, but after two rounds the lead is held by Witney, whose lower boards conceded only one draw in eight games. Here are two Witney wins:

In the first, Black plays a mildly disreputable opening and follows it with a distinctly dubious plan of 9...b5 and 11...b4. Chris Baker punished this odd mix of passivity and aggression, launching a powerful attack with 17.e5! - just the square Black thought he had well protected. The mating finish is nice.

White: C Baker

Black: R Phillips

1 e4 e5 12 axb4 Nxb4

2 Nf3 d6 13 0-0 Rb8

3 d4 exd4 14 Rfe1 Re8

4 Qxd4 a6 15 Bc4 Nd7

5 Bg5 Nc6 16 Qf4 Bf6

6 Qd2 Be7 17 e5 Bxf3

7 Nc3 Nf6 18 exf6 Bxd1

8 h3 0-0 19 Bxf7+ Kxf7

9 Be2 b5 20 Re7+ Kf8

10 a3 Bb7 21 fxg7+ Kg8

11 Rd1 b4 22 Qf7 mate.

The next game sees a neat variation on an old theme. Everyone knows the instant mating pattern of f6, Qh6 and Qg7 mate, and most also know the trick of meeting Kh8 and Rg8 by Qxh7+! and a mate on the h-file with a rook, but White's 22.Rf3! in this game is a novel way of getting the rook in place.

After 23.Re5 the threat is Qxh7+ followed by Rh5 mate (the g-pawn is pinned by the bishop). Black's 24...Qe3!? was an ingenious attempt to escape. It's what Cambridge players used to call a 50 percenter: 25.Qxe3?? loses to 25...d4+. After White took with the rook, however, there was no hope.

White: C Cobb Black: J Rudd

1 e4 c5 16 Rae1 Bf8

2 Nc3 Nc6 17 f5 dxe5

3 Nf3 e6 18 Bxf8 Rxf8

4 d4 cxd4 19 f6 e4

5 Nxd4 Nf6 20 Qd2 Kh8

6 Nxc6 bxc6 21 Qh6 Rg8

7 e5 Nd5 22 Rf3 exf3

8 Nxd5 cxd5 23 Re5 fxg2+

9 Bd3 g6 24 Kxg2 Qe3

10 0-0 Bg7 25 Rxe3 d4+

11 Qe2 0-0 26 Rf3 e5

12 b3 d6 27 Kf2 Bxf3

13 f4 Bb7 28 Kxf3 Rae8

14 Ba3 Qb6+ 29 Ke4 Re6

15 Kh1 Rfd8 30 Qg5 1-0

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