Chess Jon Speelman

IT WAS High Noon - or rather, High 9am - in Cologne on Sunday as the two top teams, Porz from Cologne and my own team Solingen, both still with a perfect 14 match wins, fought it out in the final round of the Bundesliga.

Sadly, we lost, by 5-3. The Porz captain Wilfreid Hilgert had sprung a surprise on us by secreting two players, Ulf Andersson and John Van der Wiel, at his home during the Saturday match before unleashing them on us.

He also always arranges for Rafael Vaganian to play White against us. Last year I managed to hold him but this time Jeroen Piket had a bad day and after some somewhat limp draws on the other boards, just before the time control we were one down with only the top two boards still going.

See diagram. The game staggered on: 38 g4? Bxg4:

(38 ...Ndf3+! 39 Kh1 Nxh3! 40 gxh5 Nf2 was mate!)

39 Bxg5 Nf3+ 40 Kg3 Qxg5 41 hxg4 Qh4+ 42 Kxf3 Rf8+ 43Ke4 Qxg4+ 44 Nf4.

Black: Loek Van Wely

White: Matthew Sadler

With the match position desperate, Matthew heroically spurned the draw with 44 Ke3 Qg3+ 45 Ke4 etc.

44 ...Rc8+ 47 Kb6 f3 48 Ra7?

He could have tried 48 Bxf3 Qxf3 49 Ra7

48 ...Rb8+ 49 Ka5?.

49 Kc6 was still a draw. Matthew had missed Loek's next, which threatens mate.

49 ...Qg5! 50 Rxg7+ Qxg7 51 Qxg7+ Kxg7 52 Bxf3.

and Van Wely eventually won the game. When Yusupov could later only draw, Sadler's bravery was retrospectively validated.