Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
AFTER EIGHT rounds of the British championship, Matthew Sadler was beautifully placed to take the title. He was half a point ahead of the field and had met all his closest rivals. Two rounds later, however, all his hopes had evaporated. The first thing that went wrong for him was Jonathan Speelman. In round nine, Speelman, playing White, looked a sound bet to take half a point away from Nigel Short, who was the only man within half a point of Sadler. But Speelman played his worst game of the tournament and collapsed to defeat. With Sadler only drawing his game, that result allowed Short to draw level. In the tenth round, however, Sadler had an even worse accident.

He was Black against Mark Hebden and played his favourite Queen's Gambit Accepted, an opening that has brought him a string of fine wins in international tournaments. This game looked for a long time like adding another notch to his tally. Ignoring White's pawn sacrifice with 7.e4, Sadler got on with his development, and, when Hebden sacrificed with 18.Bxh7+, it looked more an attempt to confuse matters than a combination he believed in.

As Sadler cautiously and accurately chose the right squares for his king, Hebden did well to keep his attack alive, but when they reached the diagram position after 34.f3, he seemed to have run out of steam. White does not even threaten fxg4 because it would allow a check by queen or rook on h1. In this position, Black could have played 34...d3 or 34...Qb3 (threatening Qe3+) with a big advantage. The move he chose was good, too: after 34...e4, Black attacks g5 with queen and rook. White's 35.Nh7+ Rxh7 36.fxe4 (36.fxg4 Rh3 wins for Black) was his last hope, but 36...Qh5 would have led to a simple win for Black. Instead Sadler blundered - presumably in horrible time trouble - and after 36...Qe5?? 37.Rf1+ Black was dead.

White: Mark Hebden

Black: Matthew Sadler

Queen's Gambit Accepted

British Championship 1998

1 d4 d5 20 Rxc5 Qxc5

2 c4 dxc4 21 Nxf7+ Kg6

3 Nf3 Nf6 22 Nd6 Rxd6

4 e3 e6 23 exd6 Qf5

5 Bxc4 c5 24 Ne4 Rh8

6 0-0 a6 25 g4 Qd5

7 e4 b5 26 h5+ Kf7

8 Bd3 Bb7 27 Ng5+ Kf6

9 Re1 cxd4 28 Qd2 e5

10 a4 b4 29 Ne4+ Kf7

11 e5 Nfd7 30 Qg5 Bc8

12 Bg5 Be7 31 Qg6+ Kf8

13 Bxe7 Qxe7 32 Ng5 Bxg4

14 Nbd2 Nc6 33 Rc1 Rxh5

15 Rc1 0-0 34 f3 e4

16 h4 Rfd8 35 Nh7+ Rxh7

17 Qe2 Nc5 36 fxe4 Qe5

18 Bxh7+Kxh7 37 Rf1+ 19 Ng5+ Kh6 resigns