Chess: Painted into a corner

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The Independent Culture
'HE'S no oil painting,' said a visitor to the National Portrait Gallery to her companion last Thursday. Then she giggled and pointed at a photograph further down the same wall: 'Ooh, it's the Beatles.'

Her first comment had been directed at the picture directly beneath that of Chris Bonnington, to the left of Ted Dexter, and easily overlooked if you forget to turn left at the bust of Learie Constantine. Nigel Short, as portrayed by Barry Martin, has made it to the National Portrait Gallery, and chess has risen another rung on the ladder of contemporary British culture.

Talking of dead sheep, Nigel Short made an excellent job of preserving Jan Timman in formaldehyde when the two grandmasters met in the first round of the Amsterdam tournament, where Kasparov and Ivanchuk make up the four- man invitation event.

The opening was a sharp line of the French Defence, in which Black's 7 . . . Qb6 leads almost by force to his sacrificing a piece for a clutch of pawns. On 9 . . . cxd4, White must play 10. b4 since 10. Nxd4 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 b5 loses a piece. If Black retreats the queen after 10. b4, then 11. Nxd4 gives White a strong bind. So it has to be 10 . . . Nxb4 .

With 13 . . . g5, Timman hoped to complete the destruction of White's centre, but Short's idea of 14. Rb1 and 15. Bb5 must cast doubt on Black's strategy. By creating the possibility of Bxd7 followed by Rxb7, White dictates the play by bringing his knight back into the game via c5. 19. Qb3] confirms his advantage: 19 . . . Qxb3 20. Bxd7+ Bxd7 21. Nxb3, leaves the pawns on d4 and f4 dying.

Short's late castling comes just in time. Either 23 . . . Rxe5 or 23 . . . Bb5 would lose to 24. Qxh7 with Qh8+ to follow. The final attack begins with 27. Nh5] (when Rxh5 allows Qg8+ and Rxf7 mate) and ends elegantly with 31. Nd7+] After 31 . . . Rxd7 32. Rc8+ any king move allows Qf6 mate, and 31 . . . Rd8 loses to 32. Rxd8+ Qxd8 33. Nxe6+. Pretty as a picture.

----------------------------------------------------------------- White: Short ----------------------------------------------------------------- Black: Timman ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 e4 e6 17 Nd3 a6 2 d4 d5 18 Rc1 Qa3 3 Nc3 Nf6 19 Qb3 Qa5 4 e5 Nfd7 20 Bxd7 Bxd7 5 f4 c5 21 Nxf4 Rg8 6 Nf3 Nc6 22 Qd3 Rg5 7 Be3 Qb6 23 0-0 Rf5 8 Na4 Qa5+ 24 Nb3 Qb6 9 c3 cxd4 25 Rf2 Bb5 10 b4 Nxb4 26 Qg3 Rd8 11 cxb4 Bxb4+ 27 Nh5 Rxf2 12 Bd2 Bxd2+ 28 Qxf2 Bc4 13 Nxd2 g5 29 Nf6+ Kf8 14 Rb1 gxf4 30 Nxd4 Bxa2 15 Bb5 Rb8 31 Nd7+ 1-0 16 Nc5 Qc3 -----------------------------------------------------------------