Independent Pursuits: Chess

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THE CREAM has been rising to the top in the seventh Monarch Assurance Open in the Isle of Man, as the leaders recover from their various set- backs.

Emil Sutovsky, originally Russian, now Israeli, was the last to surrender a perfect score when he drew with the second seed, Sergei Tiviakov, in round four on Wednesday. Meanwhile Nigel Short had beaten Fridman to take a share of the lead while Ehlvest, Baburin, Rausis, Arkell and Plaskett in today's excellent game, also won.

In Thursday's round Sutovsky and Short drew, and are joined in the lead by Tiviakov and Plaskett who both won. There are eight players half a point behind.

Last century the Reverend Owen introduced the Queen's fianchetto opening for Black. This idea, dormant for nearly a century, was taken up again by Tony Miles in the Seventies to forge a family of systems, normally against 1d4, which are now called - at least in this country - the English defence.

There is a fine book by that name, sadly now long out of print, by Keene, Tisdall and Plaskett himself. And I also have been a long-time devotee of the defence, though unfortunately, really well prepared opponents have become somewhat of a liability as theory has threatened to consign the more dubious lines to the scrap heap.

Hanley tried an idea with which Alexander Chernin beat me last year. But Plaskett improved on it with the excellent 7... 0-0, instead of my 7... Ng6?!: not fearing 8 a3 Bd6 9 e5 Bc5 10 b4 Bxf3! 11 Qxf3 Bd4 12 Qxa8 Bxa1.

White exchanged off his bishop with 10 Bxf5 to free the d pawn, but after 12... Bxf3! and 13... Nc6 Black already had an ideal position.

I'm sure that in the diagram White was afraid of 17 Nxd6 Ng4 when 18 h3 Qxf2+ 19 Kh1 f3 is curtains. However 18 Ne4 Qxh2+ 19 Kf1 Qh1+ 20 Ke2 Qxg2 21 Qf3! is fine for White; so Black should simply recapture 17 Nxd6 cxd6!.

There are lots of nice variations at the end. Perhaps the prettiest is 23 Bxc7 R8f5 24 Qd2 Nxe1 25 Qxe1 Rh5 26 Nf2 Qh2+ 27 Kf1 Rhf5 28 Bf4 R5xf4! 29 gxf4 Qh3+ 30 Ke2 Re3+.

White: C Hanley

Black: Jim Plaskett

Isle of Man 1998

English defence

1 c4 b6

2 Nc3 e6

3 e4 Bb7

4 Nf3 Bb4

5 Bd3 Ne7

6 Ne2 f5

7 Ng3 0-0

8 0-0 Bd6

9 exf5 Nxf5

10 Bxf5 exf5

11 Re1 Qf6

12 d4 Bxf3!

13 Qxf3 Nc6

14 d5 Ne5

15 Qc3 f4

16 Ne4 Qh4 (see diagram)

17 f3? Bb4!

18 Qxb4 Nd3 19 g3 fxg3

20 hxg3 Qh3

21 Qc3 Rxf3

22 Bf4 Rf8

23 Rf1 R8xf4

24 Rxf3 Rxf3

25 Qd2 Qg4

26 Qe2 Nf4

27 Qe1 Qh3

28 Qd2 Re3! 0-1