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Games: Chess

ALEXEI BARSOV from Uzbekistan completed the requirements to obtain the Grandmaster title at the York Vikings tournament in that city on Wednesday with a draw against Scotland's Jonathan Rowson. The only non-Grandmaster in the field, Barsov's draw brought him up to 6/9, guaranteeing him his third and final GM norm, even should he have lost in the last round as Black against Emil Sutovsky yesterday.

Meanwhile, the British Champion, Julian Hodgson, won as Black against Jonny Hector to catch Barsov up on 6/9 and with his last round pairing White against Tiger Hillarp-Persson was favourite to take first: while even a draw would suffice to give Hodgson a flying start in next years Terence Chapman Grand Prix with 40/40 in the first event of the new season. With the one round remaining, the other scores were Tiger Hillarp-Persson 5; Jonathan Rowson and Emil Sutovky 4; and Jonny Hector 2. And Danny Gormally led the Grandmaster B tournament with 6/8, ahead of Summerscale and Seul on 5.

As the Grandmaster norm approached, Barsov drew all three games from rounds seven to nine as he zeroed in on the title. But he participated in plenty of excitement earlier on, with five of his first six games ending decisively - the only draw being against Tiger Hillarp-Persson; while he was defeated by Julian Hodgson but beat all the other participants, including two wins against Hector of which this was the second.

Hector has been having an awful time against the French Winawer in York, fighting his way (with 5 Bd2) to a draw against Jonathan Rowson in the first round, but then losing to Tiger Hillarp-Persson in one of the main lines after 5...Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Ne7 in round 4. This time, Barsov tried the slightly unusual 5...Ba5, a line popularised particularly by Armenians Rafael Vaganian and later Smbat Lputian. He got a good game very quickly and my feeling is that after 15..Na5! I'd already prefer to play Black. Not 29 g4 Nh6. After 31 Qxc4, 31...Nxg3! created mayhem since 33 Rxb1 would have lost to 33...Qg6+ but the white square weaknesses would surely also have been decisive even after 31 Rbc1 and something like Bh5 32 Nd2 Bg4 33 Nf1 Rh1 34 Qxc4 Qh5 35 Qd3 Rh2+ 36 Kg1 Rh8

Jonny Hector v Alexei Barsov York Vikings 1999 (Round 6)

French Winawer

1 e4 e6

2 d4 d5

3 Nc3 Bb4

4 e5 c5

5 a3 Ba5

6 b4 cxd4

7 Nb5 Bc7

8 f4 Bd7

9 Nxd4 Nh6 10 Ngf3 Bb6 11 Bd3 Nc6

12 c3 Bxd4

13 cxd4 Nf5 14 Bb2 Qb6

15 Be2 Na5

16 Kf2 Nc4

17 Bc1 h5

18 g3 0-0-0

19 Rb1 f6

20 a4 Kb8

21 Re1 Be8

22 Bd3 Bg6

23 a5 Qc6

24 b5 Qd7

25 Bd2 Rc8

26 Bb4 Ka8

27 Bc5 Qf7

28 Qa4 h4

29 Bxc4 hxg3+

30 hxg3 dxc4 31 Qxc4 Nxg3 32 Kxg3 Bxb1 33 exf6 gxf6 34 Qxe6 Rhg8+

35 Kf2 Qg6

36 a6 Qg2+ 37 Ke3 Rge8 0-1