Independent Pursuits: Chess

THE EUROPEAN Youth Championships in Oropesa del Mar on the Mediterranean is entering its final stretch, with just three more rounds, including today's.

As with other sports, success at chess requires native ability, specialised knowledge and the ability to operate under pressure. Those without the first seldom persist, and knowledge can be assimilated either alone or with help. But withstanding pressure is quite a different matter ; an ordeal you can prepare for, but ultimately have to undertake alone in real time. Of course, this is best learnt young; so it's pleasing that with support from the sponsors Saitek, we have been able to send such a strong squad of 10 players to Oropesa; and an excellent coach - grandmaster Stuart Conquest - to help them.

Saitek, manufacturers of portable chess computers, have put pounds 10,000 into the development of the England junior squad and are also taking over Michael Basman's UK Chess Challenge for schools next year. So thankfully money is not at a premium; the only quibble is the decision by the British Chess Federation not to contest the two youngest girls' events: it's precisely the most inexperienced players who stand to benefit the most!

With three rounds to go, our two eldest players are doing the best. Nicholas Pert is challenging for a medal in the boys' under-18 with an unbeaten 6/8 and looks likely to gain an international master norm. But pride of place must go to Ruth Sheldon, currently taking a year off before going up to Oxford University, who defeated the top seed Trang Hoang of Vietnam on Monday and is now clear leader of the girls' under-18s with 7/8.

Here is her splendidly calm demolition of a strong Georgian in the previous round. White's opening was quite unambitious but she then commenced a ponderous but potentially dangerous king-side attack. Sheldon parried well and Conquest particularly praised 19... Nd8! preparing to exchange off the g5 knight after which the attack ground to a halt and the rook on h4 was left stranded. The decisive phase commenced with Rxf4! White was too disorganised to resist, but the time trouble blunder 37 Qxc5? made it simple.

White: Rusudan Goletiani

Black: Ruth Sheldon

Oropesa 1998 Closed Sicilian

Qualified teachers who want to learn to teach chess, or reasonable chess players who want to learn to teach, may be interested in courses at Morley College, London SE1 next Sunday (0171-928-8051) or in Cleveland (01462- 455381) on Saturday and Sunday, 5-6 December.

1 e4 c5

2 Nf3 Nc6

3 d3 g6

4 g3 Bg7

5 Bg2 d6

6 0-0 e5

7 c3 Nge7

8 Nh4 0-0

9 f4 exf4

10 gxf4 f5

11 Na3 Kh8

12 Be3 Be6

13 Qe1 Qd7

14 Nf3 Rab8

15 Ng5 Bg8

16 Rf3 h6

17 Rh3 b5

18 Nc2 a5

19 b3 Nd8!

20 c4 Ne6

21 Bd2 b4

22 Rh4 fxe4

23 dxe4 Nxg5

24 fxg5 h5

25 Rd1 Nc6

26 Qe2 Ne5

27 Ne3 Be6

28 h3 Kg8

29 Nf1 Qf7

30 Bf4 Qe7

31 Ng3 Rxf4!

32 Rxf4 Qxg5

33 Qf2 h4

34 Ne2 Bxh3

35 Rxd6 Bg4

36 Rd2 h3

37 Qxc5? Nf3+

38 Bxf3 Qxc5+

39 Nd4 Bxd4+

40 Kh1 Bxf3+

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