Independent Pursuits: Chess

THE BATTLE for the pounds 3,000 first prize in the Onyx Grand Prix took an unexpected turn this week, as it emerged that Leicester grandmaster Mark Hebden is in the lead.

The anomaly came to light when Grand Prix supremo Leonard Barden received the full crosstables of the British Rapidplay at Leeds, which showed that Hebden had played a stronger field than had been assumed. As a result, Hebden received an increased bonus, which leaves him on 190.6 out of a maximum 200 and ahead of Keith Arkell on 190.2. Meanwhile, as mooted here a fortnight ago, Jim Plaskett has also gained due to the correction of an administrative error and moves up to 188.3, ahead of Aaron Summerscale (177.4), Colin Crouch (173) and John Shaw (165.2).

There's plenty of time for more bloodshed though before high noon at Islington, in London, on the last weekend before Christmas. Arkell and Plaskett are both currently in battle in the seventh Monarch Assurance Open in the Isle of Man, while Hebden himself is here in Andorra at the Western European Zonal.

When I told Hebden, he was delighted to move into the lead without playing, but naturally sanguine about the race to the finish. In any case, matters here are taking our full attention as the pack bunches before the dash to end up in the top six places. The leaders have been being very peaceable, particularly

Tony Miles, who collapsed through trying too hard while well in the lead at the previous zonal three years ago in Linares, is therefore, after his explosive start of three straight wins, taking it extremely easy.

Just below the top boards, however, there has been some ferocious action, notably this splendid effort on Wednesday which propelled Loek van Wely into the leading group.

With three rounds to go Miles, Comas,Bauer and Van Wely lead on 4.5/6, ahead of four players on 4 and a large group on 3.5 - including John Emms and myself.

Van Wely, as Black, found himself up against a manically sharp line of the Grunfeld, White playing for mate along the H file and leaving his centre to fend for itself. Vaisser's critical error was to block his bishop with 17.Nf4? for after 17...e6! White had no attack and was quickly slaughtered.

Instead 17.f4 was most critical; a move which Van Wely had overlooked though in the post mortem he quickly flashed out 17...Nd3+!? 18.Qxd3 Bf5 when if 19.Qg3 a4! 20.Qh4 Re8 is probably good for Black but 19.Qf3 looks better to prepare Bd5 in reply to 19...a4 - instead 19...dxc3 20.Be3 ( not 20.g4? Qd3! forcing the exchange of queens) 20...c2 21.Rc1 is very unclear

White: Anatoly Vaisser

Black: Loek Van Wely

Andorra Zonal 1998

Grunfeld Defence

1.d4 Nf6

2.c4 g6

3.Nc3 d5

4.cxd5 Nxd5

5.e4 Nxc3

6.bxc3 Bg7

7.Bb5+ c6

8.Ba4 0-0

9.Ne2 b5

10.Bb3 a5

11.e5 c5

12.h4 Nc6

13.h5 cxd4

14.hxg6 hxg6

15.Qd3 Nxe5

16.Qg3 Bg4

17.Nf4? e6!

18.Qh2 Re8

19.f3 Bf5

20.Qh7+ Kf8

21.g4? Nxf3+

22.Kf2 Ng5!

23.Qh2 Be4

White resigns