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Independent Pursuits: Chess

ON WEDNESDAY I reported on the historic victory of 10-year-old Murugan Thiruchelvam from New Malden against the grandmaster Jonathan Levitt in the third game of their rapidplay match last Sunday.

Since learning chess at the age of three (!) Murugan has already racked up a fistful of world firsts including a draw with the formidable grandmaster Bogdan Lalic - last October, well before his 10th birthday on 11 December and qualification for a national championship (the British, of course) this January.

But, for all his palms, the most important thing is the quality of the young man's play. After last Sunday's match, which, to recap, he took quite easily after defeating a tired opponent in the last two games, Levitt said, "his potential is similar to Luke McShane's. I don't know of any other 10-year-old like him." Murugan himself stated that "the result made up for a loss against Nigel Short in the House of Commons. Next year I should like to try for Imre Hera of Hungary's IM norm record at 11 years seven months."

On Wednesday, I felt obliged to give Murugan's win. But in fact that was scrappy, and a much more impressive achievement was his truly master- strength preparation and endgame play in the previous game.

In a highly theoretical line of the French Tarrasch championed by Levitt, Murugan "decided to follow McShane vs Levitt (played last year at the Four Nations Chess League) and see what happens".

Levitt was the first to vary on move 31, when he preferred the immediate 31 ...b5 to 31 ...Rbd7 32 Re2 b5 which he played against Luke to achieve a considerably easier draw.

Although Black had structural compensation for White's extra pawn, White retained an edge and 35 ...a5?! may have been inaccurate - I prefer 35 ...Rd5 and if 36 Rh5 Rxh5+ 37 gxh5 Kh6 38 g4 Kg5.

Still, 45 ...Rb3! 46 Rxa4 Rc3 should have drawn - the rook attacks the pawn from the side and can check the white king away if he approaches.

But Murugan stumbled at the last. 53 Ke5! Ra5+ 54 Kd6 Rxg5 55 Kc6! (not 55 Rc8? Rg6+!) looks winning to me, eg 55 ...Rxg3 56 Rb8 Ra3 57 Kb6 Rb3+ 58 Kc7 Ra3 59 Kb7 Rb3+ 60 Ka8 Ra3 61 Rb6 f5 (61 ...f6 also loses) 62 Kb7 f4 63 a7 f3 64 a8Q etc.

White: Murugan Thiruchelvam

Black: Jonathan Levitt

French Tarrasch

1 e4 e6

2 d4 d5

3 Nd2 c5

4 exd5 Qxd5

5 Ngf3 cxd4

6 Bc4 Qd6

7 0-0 Nc6

8 Nb3 Nf6

9 Nbxd4 Nxd4

10 Nxd4 a6

11 Re1 Qc7

12 Bb3 Bd6

13 Nf5 Bxh2+

14 Kh1 0-0

15 Nxg7 Rd8

16 Qf3 Kxg7

17 Bh6+ Kg6

18 c3 Nh5

19 Bc1 Bf4

20 g4 Ng3+

21 fxg3 Bxc1

22 Raxc1 b6

23 Bc2+ Kg7

24 Be4 Rb8

25 Rc2 Bb7

26 Rh2 Bxe4

27 Qxe4 Qb7

28 Rxh7+ Kg8

29 Qxb7 Rxb7

30 Rh2 Rd3

31 Kg2 b5

32 Re2 b4

33 cxb4 Rxb4

34 Rh4 Kg7

35 Kh3 a5?!

36 Rh5 Rd5

37 Rxd5 exd5

38 Rd2 a4

39 a3 Rb5

40 g5 Kg6

41 Kg4 Rc5

42 Rd4 Rc2

43 Rxd5 Rxb2

44 Rd6+ Kg7

45 Ra6 Ra2

46 Rxa4 Ra1

47 Ra8 Ra2

48 a4 Ra3

49 a5 Ra2

50 a6 Ra4+

51 Kf5 Ra5+

52 Kf4 Ra4+

53 Kf3 Ra3+

54 Kf2 Ra2+

55 Ke1 Ra5

56 a7 1/2-1/2