Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The favourites Slough further set their mark on the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) at the weekend with two victories which left them a massive four points clear after six of the eleven rounds.

A seven-one win against Richmond on Saturday was followed by the much tougher match against my club, Wood Green, on Sunday - who had done ourselves no favours with a lackadaisical performance against Wessex resulting (just) in a 4-all draw, but were still clear second.

Playing Black, I was happy to accept when Tony Miles offered me a draw still in the opening. Further draws followed with a single Slough victory but the match still seemed close after three hours or so since we had pressure on a couple of boards, especially Malcolm Pein's. In repeating moves in a much superior ending to reach the time control, however, Pein did so once too often, allowing Colin McNab to claim a draw. (His misery was complete, poor man, when he learnt that, minutes earlier, his beloved Liverpool had let in two late goals to be ejected from the FA Cup by Manchester United.)

After about five hours' play there were just two games left, in each of which we were the exchange up and in each of which we were in serious trouble. Although both were saved the final result was an honourable but conclusive defeat, 3.5-4.5.

Slough now have a perfect 12/12 and 38.5 game points out of 48 ahead of Wood Green 8/12 and 27/48, Invicta Knights 8 and 25.5 and Barbican I 8 and 24; while last year's champions Bigwood (Midland Monarchs as was) have 7 and 29.5.

This is Miles's crisp win on Saturday. Black usually plays 4 ...Bb4+ in this rather obscure line. In the game, he quickly fell behind in development though 7 ...dxc4 8 Qxc4 Nd6 9 Qxb4 e4 was rather more challenging. Certainly not 13 Qd1?? Ne3+.

14 ...Bxc3?? was a gross blunder though 14 ...Bb7 is pretty grim after either 15 Rd1 Bxc3 16 bxc3 when the black squares are very weak or 15 Bxd5 Bxd5 16 Nxd5 Qxd5 17 Rd1 with a dangerous initiative. At the end if 15 ...Qxd5 16.Rd1.

White: Tony Miles

Black: Gavin Wall

4NCL 1999

English Opening

1 c4 g6

2 e4 e5

3 d4 Nf6

4 Nf3 Nxe4

5 Bd3 Bb4+

6 Kf1! d5

7 Qb3 c5?!

8 cxd5 Nf6

9 dxe5 Nxd5

10 Bg5 Qd7

11 a3 b5?

12 Be4 c4

13 Qc2 Ba5

14 Nc3 Bxc3?? 15 Bxd5 1-0

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