Independent Pursuits: Chess

I'M CURRENTLY at the Western European Zonal in the Principality of Andorra in the Pyrenees; and for the week that I'm away, Bob Wade has again kindly agreed to help out.

Forty players, including no fewer than 25 grandmasters, are competing for six places in the forthcoming Fide world championship in Las Vegas - originally scheduled for next month but following various alarums and excursions probably destined to end up being a year later.

If you're in a hurry - to choose a restaurant, for example - you should avoid negotiations with chess players. who will probably have slightly more opinions than bodies. The players' meeting at 11 pm on Thursday was therefore no formality. True, the seeding order was slightly wrong, so the pairings had to redone: and the provisions for tie-breaking are somewhat confused. I'm sure that if it comes to it there will be renegotiations, but as things stand at the moment if more than six tie than there will be a knockout - as Tony Miles pointed out, seven for three places would be particularly outstanding.

Battle got under way on Friday with most of the top seeds - a serious bunch starting with Van Wely, Lautier, Mikhail Gurevich, Illescas, Piket, myself, Hebden, Miles, Dorfman and Emms - putting their opponents away.

I was the exception in an up-and-down game where I got a good opening, blundered a pawn for some compensation, established a huge bind in the ending and then allowed my opponent to escape with half-a-point which I doubled with one glorious blunder: the sort of thing that makes one temporarily murderous. Of course, in real life you shake hands, attempt a smile and then foist it on your readership as an act of catharsis.

Jon Speelman (Black to play)

Christian Bauer (White)

Despite the pawn deficit, the target on b2 gives Black a wonderful game.

50... Rg7

50... h4! is even better, though White can get some play after 51 Rd1! Rg7! 52 f4 Bxb2 53 Rd6+.

56... Rxe2 57 Kxe2 Kd4 58 h4 e4 59 f4 e3 60 f5 Ke5 61 Kxe3 Kxf5 62 Kf3 would be a draw.

57 Rxe5+!

I'd missed this, seeing only 57 Re4.

Play continued 57... Kxe5 58 Kxc4 h4 59 Kb4 Kf4 60 Kxa4 Kg3 61 f4! Kxh3 62 f5 Kg4 63 f6 h3 64 f7 h2 65 f8Q h1Q, and White won 10 moves later.

Leaders after four rounds are Tony Miles and Luis Comas (Spain) with 31/2 points.

51 Kd3 Rg2

52 Nc3! Bxc3

53 Kxc3 Rc2+

54 Kd3 Kxc5

55 Re1 Kd5

56 Re2! Rc4??

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