ETCETERA / Chess

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THE International Master Colin Crouch explains why he lost the Battle of Hastings.

White: J Speelman

Black: C Crouch

Playing in the Hastings Premier was never going to be easy. The difference in strength between myself and the other players lay mainly in the fact that they could all calculate variations more quickly, more accurately and more clearly than I could. Grandmasters are generally assumed to be better than masters not so much because they see more but because they understand more. Yet as the tournament wore on, it became obvious that my problems were defects in calculation, not understanding. The present game gives a particularly clear example.

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c3 Nf6]

Already a new idea. The normal 3 . . . d6 leads to an edge for White after 4. f4 Nf6 5. Bd3 0-0 6. Nf3. Now 4. e5 Nd5 5. f4 d6 sidesteps the dangerous lines.

4. Bd3 0-0]

Now 5. f4 d5 6. e5 Ne4 gives equality.

5. Nf3 d6 6. 0-0 Nc6 7. b4 a6 8. Nbd2 e5 9. a3 Nh5 10. Nb3 Kh8 11. d5 Ne7 12. c4 Ng8] 13. Ra2 Bh6 14. Be3 Nf4 15. Bb1 (see diagram)

After a series of flowing moves, Black has the advantage, but now an important decision must be taken. The natural move, which may be played without calculation, is 15 . . . f5, but there was another less stereotyped continuation that came to mind. In comparison with normal King's Indian positions, White has little covering the d1-h5 diagonal, which suggests the possibility of 15 . . . Bg4. But that makes sense only if Black is prepared to sacrifice a piece. I worked out the line 15 . . . Bg4 16. h3 Bh5 17. Bxf4 Bxf4 18. g4 Nh6 19. gxh5 Qd7 20. Nh2 (or 20. Kg2 gxh5 and Black seizes the g-file with gain of time) Qxh3 21. f3 gxh5 22. Kh1 Rg8 23. Rg1 Rxg1+ 24. Qxg1 Bxh2 followed by Qxf3+ and Qxb3. I could see no problem with this, so played it, overlooking one important detail.

15 . . . Bg4 16. h3 Bh5 17. Bxf4 Bxf4 18. g4 Nh6 19. gxh5 Qd7

As soon as I pressed the clock, I saw the snag.

20. Kg2]

To my horror, I realised that after 20 . . . gxh5 White has the elementary 21. Rh1] escaping with the king via f1. My calculations had taken in only 21. Ng1? Rg8+ 22. Kh1 (22. Kf3 Bh2 is also good for Black) Rxg1+ 23. Kxg1 Rg8+ winning. Since gxh5 is hopeless after Rh1, I tried something else in desperation.

20 . . . f5 21. Rh1 Rf6 22. hxg6 Qg7 23. Kf1 Qxg6 24. Nh4 Qg5 25. Nxf5 resigns.

A tragic finish, all too typical of my play at the moment.

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