Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
A DECADE or so ago, English juniors were much feared. After an interregnum we're back, with many congratulations to Nicholas Pert and Ruth Sheldon, the European boys' and girls' under-18 gold medallists.

For Sheldon, this a second gold medal after her success at the European girls under-14s in Bratislava in 1993. Seeded sixth, she faltered in the second round with a loss to the Spaniard Gomez-Cabrero Lopez but had a wonderful tournament thereafter, ending up a whole point clear on 9/11.

The victory of Nicholas Pert from Ipswich, in a tournament with 12 international masters and slightly more holding the lesser title of Fide master, is by far his greatest achievement to date. In an interview with El Pais, Pert ascribed his success partly to restricting his preparation with the grandmaster Stuart Conquest to just two hours, so as to remain fresh for the game. Seeded 15th, he also felt that the pre-tournament favourites were under more pressure in the finishing straight, after nine of them bunched on 6/8 with three rounds remaining.

Pert had joined this leading group with a victory against the strong Romanian Levente Vajda - which he said was his first intimation that he might be in with medal chances. He followed this with two further wins against the Ukrainian Fedorchuk and the Israeli Gershon, and was able to coast in the last round with a peaceful draw as Black against the Russian Alexei Ilijushin which left both equal on 81/2/11, but Pert the easy winner on tie-break.

Here is that crucial eighth round game. Vajda got wonderful play with the pawn sacrifice starting 15... b5 but Pert kept his head and sacrificed the exchange with 26 Rxc3! to create counterplay. Black ought to have been doing quite well but after losing two tempi on moves 31 and 32, he was on the ropes. Pert kept his nerve well in the queen ending. In the final position after 54... gxf5+ 55 Kxf5 Kd7 56 Kxf6 Ke8 57 Kg7! wins.

White: Nicholas Pert

White: Levente Vajda

King's Indian Defence

1 d4 Nf6

2 Nf3 g6

3 g3 Bg7

4 Bg2 0-0

5 0-0 d6

6 c4 Nbd7

7 Nc3 e5

8 e4 exd4

9 Nxd4 Re8

10 h3 a6

11 Re1 Rb8

12 Rb1 Ne5

13 b3 c5

14 Nc2 Nc6

15 Nd5 b5

16 cxb5 Nxd5

17 exd5 Rxe1+

18 Nxe1 Nd4

19 bxa6 Bxa6

20 Bb2 Qa5

21 Bxd4 Bxd4

22 Nf3 Bf6

23 Qd2 Bc3

24 Qf4 Qxa2

25 Rc1 Qb2

26 Rxc3! Qxc3

27 Qxd6 Qa1+

28 Kh2 Re8

29 Qxc5 Bf1

30 b4 Bxg2

31 Kxg2 Rd8

32 Nd4 Re8

33 d6 Re4

34 d7! Rxd4

35 Qc8+ Kg7

36 d8Q Rxd8

37 Qxd8 Qe5

38 Qd3 h5

39 h4 Kf8

40 Qd8+ Kg7

41 Qa8 Qb5

42 Qa5 Qc6+

43 Kh2 f6

44 Qa7+ Kf8

45 Qb8+ Ke7

46 b5 Qf3

47 Qa7+ Ke6

48 Qc5 Qd5

49 Qxd5+ Kxd5

50 Kh3 Kc5

51 g4 hxg4+

52 Kxg4 Kxb5

53 f4 Kc6

54 f5 1-0