Etcetera / CHESS

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The Independent Culture
WOOD GREEN won this year's National Club Championship thanks to an exciting win by Mark Levitt, in a game full of surprises from move one.

White: D Collier (Bristol & Clifton)

Black: M Levitt (Wood Green)

1. d4 d6

A player should not be surprised by his own first move, but this one shocked me. I meant to open 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6, but got ahead of myself.

2. c4 Nf6

I was relieved to be back on course. 3. Nc3 e5 4. d5 g6 5. e4 Bg7 6. Bd3 c6

Not knowing what to make of his unusual sixth move, I decided not to castle until he did. I was afraid of an attack with h4 and h5.

7. Nge2 a6 8. 0-0 0-0 9. Bg5 h6 10. Bd2 b5

This looks loosening, but I liked the freedom it gave for my pieces.

11. dxc6 bxc4 12. Bxc4 Nxc6 13. Qc1 Na5?

13 . . . Kh7 is fine, but I thought it better to chase his bishop back to d3 first. Then I noticed that the bishop might have a better move.

14. Bd5]

Now I realised that I was in trouble. Then I saw that all the rest of my team seemed to be losing or drawing. There is no time for 14 . . . Nxd5 15. Nxd5 Kh7, because 16. Nc7] wins the rook on a8 or knight on a5.

14 . . . Rb8 15. Bxh6 Nxd5 16. Nxd5 Be6 17. Nec3 Kh7 18. Bxg7 Kxg7

My hopes now lay in my opponent's time shortage - he had only 45 minutes left to reach move 40. All the same, if he had now played 19. b3, followed by Qe3 and Rad1, my prospects would have been slim.

19. f4?] Rh8 20. f5 Qh4]

My first thought was 20 . . . Bxd5 21. Nxd5 Qh4, but he disrupts this by flicking in 21. f6+] With the piece sacrifice played I knew I was back in the game. He must take it since 21. h3 gxf5 22. exf5 Bxd5 23. Nxd5 Qd4+ is very healthy for Black.

21. fxe6 Qxh2+ 22. Kf2 fxe6 23. Ne3 Nc6

My main worry was that his king might escape to b1, so when I saw no clear winning plan, I decided to improve the position of my knight and keep an eye on c2 from d4.

24. Ke1 Nd4 25. Ncd1?

After 25. Kd2] it is difficult for Black. The king is hard to get at on d3.

25 . . . Qg3+ 26. Rf2? (see diagram)

And this mistake is fatal. 26. Nf2] is unclear. My first thought now was 26 . . . Rh1+ 27. Nf1 Rbh8, threatening Rxf1+ and Rh1 mate, but he can defend everything with 28. Nde3. Then I saw how to gain a vital move.

26 . . . Rbc8] 27. Nc3

27. Qd2 would have lost to 27 . . . Rh1+ 28. Nf1 Nc2+.

27 . . . Rh1+ 28. Nf1 Rch8] 29. Ne2 Rxf1+] 30. Kxf1 Rh1+ 31. Ng1 Qd3+

My opponent looked up and smiled before making his next move.

32. Re2 Qxe2 mate.