Independent Pursuits: Chess

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IVAN SOKOLOV retained the lead in the Hastings Premier on Monday, after I signally failed to cause him problems in a greatly superior endgame. Meanwhile, Matthew Sadler was defeated by Jim Plaskett and Sergei Shipov beat Mihail Saltaev, leaving the leading scores Sokolov 4.5/6 and Shipov 4.

New Year is a good time for chess; apart from Hastings there are at least three other strong events in progress: the Rilton Cup - a perennial Open in Stockholm, Reggio Emilia in Italy and Pamplona in Spain. Of these the strongest is Pamplona, a category 13 event averaging 2,561 - a shade weaker than Hastings' 2,571. The field comprises four Spanish international masters and six grandmasters, with four rated over 2,600: the Pole Michal Krasenkow (2,655), Loek Van Wely (Netherlands, 2,635), Alexander Morozevich (Russia, 2,625) and Miguel Illescas (Spain, 2,605).

Ratings, of course, are only a reflection of results in the relevant period. The next Fide list is expected any minute, and will see Morozevich soar towards, maybe even beat, 2,700 after splendid results mainly in Russia. He has continued his devastating recent form in Pamplona, where he led after seven rounds with 6/7, a point and a half clear of Van Wely and Krasenkow on 4.5.

This was his crushing win in the fifth round against a good Israeli grandmaster. 6... gxf6 is somewhat risky, indicating readiness for a fight. 7... a6 is most unusual (though quite likely following this game it will become trendy) - Black almost always plays 7... b6.

Sutovsky unwisely attempted refutation with 9 Qh6 but then shied at the idea of 11 Qg7 to force 11... Rf8 12 Qxh7. 16... Nf6 left Black with an excellent game in the diagram, unless White could hit him with 17 Qe5?. Sutovsky's idea was that if 17... Be7 18 Bxb5+! axb5 19 Nxf6+ Bxf6 20 Qxb5+ wins material but the exchange sacrifice 17... Nxh5! refuted his designs.

After 16... Nf6 Black was threatening to trap the queen slowly but effectively with ...Qe7, ...0-0-0 and ...Bh6. White tried to return material with 17 Rg1 and 18 Rg8 but after 18... Bg7!, he was busted. At the end if 27 Be4 Ne3+! 28 Qxe3 Qxd1+ 29 Qe1 Rg1+! wins the house.

White: Emil Sutovsky

Black: Alexander Morozevich

French Defence

1 e4 e6

2 d4 d5

3 Nc3 Nf6

4 Bg5 dxe4

5 Nxe4 Be7

6 Bxf6 gxf6

7 Nf3 a6

8 Qd2 b5

9 Qh6 Bb7

10 Bd3 Nd7

11 Ng3 f5

12 Nh5 Bf8

13 Qe3 Nf6 (see diagram)

14 Qe5? Nxh5!

15 Qxh8 Bxf3

16 gxf3 Nf6

17 Rg1 Qxd4

18 Rg8 Ke7

19 Kf1 Bg7

20 Qxg7 Rxg8

21 Qh6 Qxb2

22 Re1 Qc3

23 Qh4 c5

24 Rd1 c4

25 Bxf5 Qxf3

26 Qd4 Nd5 0-1