CHESS / Fast pawn gives Knights victory

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The Independent Culture
THE inaugural season of the Four Nations Chess League ended in victory for Invicta Knights of Maidstone, who edged past favourites Barbican, by beating them in the final round.

The aim of the league's founder, Chris Dunworth, was to attract top players to club chess by providing a well-funded competition played in excellent venues, run on the lines of the professional leagues of France and Germany.

With only six teams, the first year can be considered little more than an experiment, but its success may be measured by the credentials of the crucial last-round match between Invicta Knights and Barbican. The teams included four grandmasters (one female) and seven international masters. Next season, the number of teams is expected to double.

The top-board game between Matthew Sadler (Invicta Knights) and Bozidar Lalic (Barbican) provided the best entertainment of the final round. The pawn sacrifice played by Sadler in the opening has been achieving good results for White recently. Black's defences are strained by pressure on the b-file, combined with an advance of the white centre pawns.

Lalic put his faith in counter-attack, pushing his extra pawn as fast as it would go. After 14. Rxb7 Rd8 White would regain his pawn but lose the initiative - 15. Rxe7? loses to Qa3. So Sadler chased Black's queen and played for attack, but 17. Rb1 must be a mistake. The queen is driven where she wants to go, behind the passed pawn, and White's rook absents itself from the queening square. With tactics such as 27. Rxc5 Qxd1] working in Black's favour, the queen proved to be a cumbersome blockader.

Sadler eventually overstepped the time limit with eight moves still to go, and Lalic, driving the express a-pawn home to victory, spent only 40 minutes on the entire game.

White: Sadler

Black: Lalic

1 d4 Nf6 18 Ne5 Bxe2 2 c4 g6 19 Qxe2 a4 3 Nc3 d5 20 Qa2 a3 4 cxd5 Nxd5 21 Rfd1 Qa4 5 e4 Nxc3 22 Qa1 a2 6 bxc3 Bg7 23 Rbc1 f6 7 Nf3 c5 24 d6 exd6 8 Rb1 0-0 25 Nc4 Nd7 9 Be2 cxd4 26 Nxd6 Nc5 10 cxd4 Qa5+ 27 e5 Nb3 11 Bd2 Qxa2 28 exf6+ Kg8 12 0-0 a5 29 Qe5 Nxc1 13 Bc3 Bg4 30 Qd5+ Kh8 14 Ra1 Qe6 31 Re1 Ne2+ 15 d5 Qb6 32 Kf1 a1=Q 16 Bxg7 Kxg7 0-1 (time) 17 Rb1 Qa7