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BRITAIN'S top woman player wonders where she went wrong against a talented Argentine.

White: S Arkell

Black: H Spangenberg

Hastings Challengers 1994.

Chess standards are rising all over the world but perhaps nowhere faster than in South America. In this game I was crushed by a teenager from Argentina, and am still unsure where I went wrong.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bd7

Exchanging pawns at move three side-steps the main lines, but is perfectly sound and respectable. Indeed 4 . . . Bd7 has such a reputation for solidity that it has become known as the 'Fort Knox' variation.

5. Nf3 Bc6 6. Bd3 Nd7 7. Qe2

This is unusual but seems very strong. I had previously encountered only 7. 0-0 when Ngf6 is perfectly satisfactory. The point of 7. Qe2 becomes clear two moves later.

7 . . . Ngf6 8. N4g5 Bd6 9. Ne5 0- 0 10. Bd2

Now the plot is revealed: he wants to castle Q-side and go for a quick kill on the other wing.

10 . . . h6 11. h4

At this point, I realised

that things were not going as planned. I cannot take his knight without allowing a quick mate down the h-file. All the same, I reasoned (perhaps somewhat optimistically), as long as his knight stays on g5 he has to calculate carefully that I can't remove it, and meanwhile I can create counterplay in the centre.

11 . . . Qe7 12. 0-0-0 Rad8 13. Rh3 Bxe5 14. dxe5 Nd5 15. c3]

An important move, giving his white-squared bishop a retreat. The apparent weakening of his king's defences is comparatively unimportant.

15 . . . Nc5 16. Bc2 b5 17. Rg3 hxg5

I must admit that his knight had been gnawing away at my nerves for a few moves by now. Capturing it was more a sign of irritation than anything approaching sound judgement.

18. Bxg5 f6 (see diagram)

This makes matters worse. I should have offered to return the piece with 18 . . . Nf4, though White is still much better after 19. Bxf4 or 19. Qg4.

19. Qh5] Nf4

Total desperation, but 19 . . . fxg5 is mated after 20. Bh7+ Kh8 21. Bg6+ Kg8 22. Qh7. After the move played, I was hoping for 20. Bxf4 Rxd1+ 21. Kxd1 Be4 but my opponent found a more accurate way to finish me off.

20. Bh7+ Kh8 21. Bf4 Rxd1+ 22. Kxd1 Rd8+ 23. Bd3+ resigns.

The only consolation is that someone might one day play the 4 . . . Bd7 line against me and give me the opportunity to try the same attacking idea.