Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
IT'S THE end of the week and time for just one last report on the Olympiad before finally moving on.

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the sole English medal won by Harriet Hunt. But there were also some excellent performances by players from the other home countries.

The Scottish board 5, Andrew Muir, a correspondence grandmaster ,though less fearsome at over-the-board play, raced to 5.5/6 and then 6/7 in just nine rounds. As the Scottish delegate to the Fide congress, and with team mates all anxious to play, he then sat the last four rounds out.

This gave him the gold medal on his board and silver for the second best percentage score of the whole Open event.

Just as impressive, if not in percentage terms but rather in performance against class opposition was Brian Kelly, top board of the united Irish team. Rated just 2405, he scored 6.5/12 or, not counting his one unrated opponent, 5.5/11 against average opposition of 2450. Top board is tough, for almost all countries have at least one half-way decent player to occupy it.

Kelly tired somewhat at the end, but was superb during rounds eight and nine in particular, first beating the Polish top board Michal Krasenkow - indeed, shortly after our two-all last-round draw with Poland it was pointed out to me that we had merely matched Ireland's score against them - then drawing with consummate ease as Black against Ljubomir Ljubojevic.

We published the win against Krasenkow at the time, but here is the concluding phase against Ljubojevic:

Brian Kelly (Black to move) Ljubomir Ljubojevic (White)

White's centralisation and the weakness of the a6 pawn render Black's position a little precarious. 25... Rd6 was more forcing than 25... Be7 avoiding the doubled pawns. After 28 Nd7 Kelly took the excellent decision to sacrifice the f pawn at once with 28... Rd8! - instead 28... Kg7 29 Nxf8 Rxd1+ 30 Rxd1 Kxf8 31 Rd6 Rc8 32 Rxa6 Rxc4 would have been rather unpleasant. Black gained the initiative and quickly regained material equality.

At the end, Black could even have played on in view of the dislocation of the knight and potential weakness of White's f pawn: though Ljubojevic would undoubtedly have held with ease.

25... Rd6 26 Bxf6 Qxc4 27 bxc4 gxf6 28 Nd7 Rd8! 29 Nxf6+ Kg7 30 Rxd6 Bxd6 31 Ne4 Be5 32 Re1 Rd4 33 Nc5 Bd6 34 Nxa6 Rxc4 35 Rb1 Ra4 36Nb8 Draw agreed.