Chess: Be kind to the bishop

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WHEN I was a young and impressionable junior, I watched a friend being taught how to play the English Opening. He had, until that moment, always opened 1. e4, but decided that it was time for a change, so asked an experienced practitioner of the English for advice.

'You open 1. c4', he was told, 'then, because you've blocked one diagonal for your king's bishop, you have to play g3 and Bg2. Then you do everything you can to make the bishop effective on the long diagonal, including Rb1, b4 and b5, and even a4, a5 and a6 if necessary.' The experienced player then added with great emphasis: 'And never exchange your white- squared bishop for anything less than a queen, and even then you should think about it.'

Andrew Ledger, currently playing in the 10-person Master tournament at Oakham School, seems to have had similarly good tuition. In the fourth round, he met Elena Sakhatova, a leading woman player from Kazakhstan, and was so kind to his white-squared bishop that it won the game for him. The bishop-preserving strategy with 10. Re1 and 11. Bh1 is not objectively the best. In principle, White should be happy to exchange bishops, then play f3 and e4 to leave himself with the more effective bishop.

Sakhatova was doing well until move 23, when she let herself be lured into complications. By the time 26. Qd8 happened, it was clear that she had overlooked something, and when White's bishop poked its head out with 28. Bxd5] Black took the poisoned bait with Rxa3?

29. Qxf7 threatened mate on g8, and at the end Black was defenceless against the threat of Qxg7 mate.

----------------------------------------------------------------- White: Ledger ----------------------------------------------------------------- Black: Sakhatova ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 c4 Nf6 17 cxd5 cxd5 2 Nc3 g6 18 Qa5 Nb6 3 g3 Bg7 19 Rec1 Bg4 4 Bg2 0-0 20 e3 Qd7 5 Nf3 d6 21 Nb5 Rxc1+ 6 0-0 e5 22 Rxc1 Ne8 7 d3 c6 23 Nb3 Be2 8 Rb1 Bg4 24 Nc5 Qg4 9 b4 Qc8 25 Nxa7 Nc8 10 Re1 Bh3 26 Qd8 Rxa7 11 Bh1 h6 27 Qxe8+ Kh7 12 b5 Qe6 28 Bxd5 Rxa3 13 bxc6 bxc6 29 Qxf7 h5 14 Nd2 Rc8 30 Ne6 Ra7 15 Ba3 Nbd7 31 Rc7 Rxc7 16 Qa4 d5 32 Qxc7 1-0 -----------------------------------------------------------------