Games: Chess

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The Independent Culture
THOUGH THE fat lady, in this case a personification of the annual Islington Open on the last weekend before Christmas, has yet to break into song, the fate of this year's Onyx Grand Prix (from next year to be sponsored by the Terence Chapman Group) looks sealed. With more than a month-and-a-half to spare, the British Champion grandmaster Julian Hodgson has fought his way to a perfect score of 200/200.

This is the third time, following Michael Adams in 1992 and Mark Hebden in 1997, that this feat has been achieved. And while one of the the chasing pack of Keith Arkell on 194.7, Bogdan Lalic on 190.9 and Mark Hebden on 190.4 could conceivably catch Hodgson, it's overwhelmingly likely that he will be the sole winner of the pounds 3,000 first prize.

Hodgson, a previous Grand Prix winner in 1990, hadn't taken a huge amount of interest this time until his victory in the Smith and Williamson British Championship in August with 9/11 which, with a bonus for an elite event, racked him up 40/40. Added to a 10/10 bonus from last year's competition and 40/40 from the Oxford International this sparked his interest and he has since added 110/110 finishing with 10/10 at the South Wales Congress last weekend. And all this from a man who nowadays spends more time teaching chess to schoolchildren than playing! Though, of course, it's easier to play when victory isn't as vital as it used to be. Moreover, a huge advantage, Jules positively enjoys driving.

This was Hodgson's best win in South Wales. The notes in inverted commas are his, courtesy of a fax from Grand Prix supremo Leonard Barden.

Presumably Black avoided 10 ...b4 in view of 11 a5 bxc3 12 axb6 cxd2+ 13 Nxd2 Bxe2 14 b7! and wins.

After 15 ...Kd7, "White has got a huge position from the opening and 10 years ago I would probably have gone for a quick win with 16 f5 or by Bxe7 and f5. But now I wasn't so sure - Black will sacrifice on c5 and it's messy. But probably f5 was the best move" (though 16 Nc1 en route to b3 appeals to me - JS).

Hodgson commended 18 ...g5! as "the best plan for counterplay" and his own 32 Nf4 as "the star move to break down Black's defences. White must eliminate the d5 knight".

White: Julian Hodgson

Black: Leighton Williams

Modern Defence

1 d4 g6

2 e4 c6

3 Nc3 d6

4 Bg5 Bg7

5 Qd2 b5

6 f4 Qb6

7 Nf3 Bg4

8 e5 d5

9 Be2 e6

10 a4! Bxf3

11 Bxf3 b4

12 Ne2 Na6

13 c4 Ne7

14 c5! Qa5

15 g4 Kd7

16 b3?! Rae8

17 0-0-0 h6

18 Bh4 g5!

19 Bf2 f6!

20 exf6 Bxf6

21 Kb1 Ref8

22 h4 gxf4

23 Qxf4 Qc7

24 Qe3 e5

25 Qd3 e4

26 Bxe4 dxe4

27 Qxa6 Nd5

28 Bg3 Qc8

29 Qxa7+ Kd8

30 Qa5+ Kd7

31 Qa7+ Kd8

32 Nf4! Nc3+

33 Kc2 Qxg4

34 Qb8+ Kd7

35 Qd6+ Kc8

36 Qxc6+ Kd8

37 Qd6+ Kc8

38 Ne6 Rf7

39 Qc6+ 1-0