Chess: Young players take charge

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The grandmasters are having a rough time at Oakham. Lined up as cannon-fodder for a group of hungry young players chasing their own grandmaster titles, Glenn Flear, Stuart Conquest and Colin McNab managed only half a point from their three games in the second round. Flear's loss to Peter Wells was particularly entertaining - and instructive too.

An early a6 has been popular in the Slav Defence recently. Black prepares b5, to gain space on the Q- side, and waits for Nf3, when Bg4 lets Black exchange his troublesome bishop. With pawns on white squares and that bishop gone, Black's game becomes completely harmonious. That is the theory, anyway, but it didn't quite work out in practice.

After 9. h3, Black appeared to have second thoughts. The thematic reply is 9 . . . Bxf3 10. Bxf3 Nbd7. He may have been afraid of 11. e4 (though Bb4 looks a good reply), but if that is the case, Black should have played 8 . . . Nbd7, reserving the option of developing the bishop to e7 or b4. White's 10. Ne5 and 11. Nxe2] is an intelligent continuation, realising that the knight has little future on c3 and re-routing it to the K-side.

Though Black's game is solid, his problem lies in the absence of any active plan. While White always has the possibility to increase his space by playing for e4, and can keep Black under pressure by maintaining the tension in the centre, Black is effectively stuck where he is, unable to instigate exchanges or create activity, without accepting serious weaknesses.

Black's disadvantage was of manageably proportions until he allowed the neat 23. Nc5] Now 23 . . . Nxc5 24. dxc5 Bf8 (24 . . . Bxc5 25. cxd5 is disastrous for Black) 25. cxd5 cxd5 26. Qxa6 wins White a pawn. All the same, that is what Black should have played. After 26 . . . Qa8 Black retains the better bishop and it will not be easy for White to win the game.

After 25. cxd5, Flear was in trouble. 25 . . . cxd5 is met by 26. c6, 25 . . . exd5 runs into 26. Qg4 f6 27. f3, and 25 . . . Rxd5, as played, allows an easy temporary sacrifice that leaves Black's king fatally exposed. Perhaps Flear missed 28. e4] which is far stronger than f4 or h4.

The end was drastic, with 35. Rd7] crowning a nicely played attack. 35 . . . Qxd7 is mated after 36. Qf6+, while as the game went 36 . . . Rxg3 loses to 37. Rd8+ Rg8 38. Qf6 mate.

White: Wells

Black: Flear

Slav Defence

1 d4 d5 19 bxc4 Nxe5

2 c4 c6 20 Nxe5 Bd6

3 Nc3 Nf6 21 Nd3 Ne4

4 e3 a6 22 Qe2 Qb8

5 Nf3 b5 23 Nc5 Bxc5

6 b3 Bg4 24 dxc5 Qb7

7 Be2 e6 25 cxd5 Rxd5

8 0-0 Bd6 26 Bxg7 Kxg7

9 h3 Bh5 27 Qg4+ Ng5

10 Ne5 Bxe2 28 e4 Re5

11 Nxe2 0-0 29 f4 Rxe4

12 Nf4 Qc7 30 Qxg5+ Kf8

13 Nfd3 Nbd7 31 Rd2 Qe7

14 Bb2 Qb7 32 Qh6+ Kg8

15 Rc1 Rac8 33 Rc3 Kh8

16 Rc2 Rfd8 34 Rg3 Rg8

17 Qf3 Bf8 35 Rd7 Qxc5+

18 Rfc1 bxc4 36 Kh2 1-0