Games: Chess

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WHEN I was eight, chess was very much thud and blunder, especially the latter. Indeed I remember a game, when I could even have been a year or so older than eight, from the London Primary Schools' Championship when, as White, I blundered both of my rooks to knight forks - presumably the queen's rook first to ...Nxc2+ Kd1 Nxa1 and then later the king's rook to ...Nxf2+; and, even in those times, my opponent's material advantage proved decisive.

Things have changed so much, however, that arriving in the press room at the Mind Sports Olympiad just after my last-round game on Sunday (and being so much more of a chess player than a journalist) I was surprised less by the fact of eight-year-old David Howell's blitz victory against John Nunn, than by the total press meltdown that it precipitated.

The frenzy occurred before anybody knew the answer to the really important question: how had David, the British under-nine and under-10 champion from Seaford in East Sussex, managed to beat the grandmaster? But I was hugely more impressed by his achievement when I discovered that he had gained victory not by some freak accident, but after taking advantage of various errors and finally winning an endgame.

Nevertheless, blitz - in fact, five minutes for the game plus three seconds extra per move - is blitz is blitz; and even more impressive was David's victory against our top woman player, Harriet Hunt, at the Rapidplay in Scarborough during the recent British Championships, at the much less random time limit of 30 minutes each for the game.

Black got a good game out of the opening and personally I would have been rather tempted by the rook endgame after 17 ...cxd4 18 Bxd4 Bxd4+ 19 Qxd4 Qxd4+ 20 Rxd4 Rxb2 and if 21 Rd7 e6 22 Rxa7 Rc2.

But 20 ...a5? was very casual - instead 20 ...Qe2! looks strong, when White must play 21 Qd7 (21 Rdf1? Rbe8 22 Qg5 Rxe3 23 Qxe3 Qxe3+ 24 Rxe3 Bd4 25 Rfe1 Re8 26 Kf2 Bxc5, thereby forcing a won pawn ending), 21 ...Rb3 22 Qd2 though he has some play after 22 ...Qxc4 23 Rc1.

Howell got control and showed superb restraint in a position where "something might happen on the back rank", with the admirable 26 h3! and 27 Kh2, before powering through.

White: David Howell

Black: Harriet Hunt

Scarborough Rapidplay 1999

Caro Kann Defence

1 e4 c6

2 d4 d5

3 exd5 cxd5

4 c4 Nf6

5 Nc3 g6

6 Bg5 Ne4

7 Nxe4 dxe4

8 f3 Bg7

9 Be3 exf3

10 Nxf3 0-0

11 Bd3 Nc6

12 Be4 Bg4

13 Bxc6 bxc6

14 0-0 Rb8

15 Qd2 c5

16 Rad1 Bxf3

17 Rxf3 Qb6

18 dxc5 Qxb2

19 Qd7 Qxa2

20 Qxe7 a5?

21 c6 Qxc4

22 c7 Rbe8

23 Qc5 Qa6

24 Bf4 Rc8

25 Bd6 Rfe8

26 h3! a4

27 Kh2! Re6

28 Bg3 Bf8

29 Rd8 Re8

30 Qd4 Qb5

31 Qf6 Bg7

32 Qxf7+ Kh8

33 Qe7 Rg8

34 Rf7 Qb2

35 Qd7