Independent Pursuits: Chess

THE FOUR Nations Chess League (4NCL) met for its second session in the Grand Hotel Birmingham at the weekend with two matchdays that further hardened the contours of the new season. Even in the absence of the Belgian Grandmasters, Mikhail Gurevich and Luc Winants, the Slough juggernaut thundered on with two more crushing victories to take them to a perfect eight match points and no fewer than 27 game points out of 32.

However, the match of the weekend - and I think I can write this without prejudice - was my new club Wood Green's encounter against the champions, Midland Monarchs, in their new guise as Bigwood. In the first three seasons, Wood Green lost every time. But now, in the absence of myself at the Bundesliga and Chris Ward at Wrexham, we were strengthened by the excellent Irish grandmaster, Alexander Baburin.

Although we outgraded Bigwood at the top but were outgraded at the bottom, the final results stood this on its head as we scored just 1/4 on the top four boards but 3.5/4 on the bottom four. This left Wood Green clear second on 7 match points ahead of Barbican I (6), Invicta Knights (5), Bigwood, Barbican II, Bristol and Richmond (4), Wessex (3), North West Eagles (2), Home House (1) and BCM (yet to score).

Today's game features the Daily Telegraph columnist, Malcolm Pein. As you can see, Malcolm, who had the temerity to beat me two years ago in the British Championship, is still a fine player when he finds time away from his thriving business (Chess and Bridge, 0171- 388-2404), daily column, other wheelings and dealings, wife and apparently myriad - in fact just three - children.

In the opening, f3 was necessary to prevent the positional threat of 8...Be4!. Closing the centre with 13.d5 was very committal but after 13...Ne7 - 13...Nb8 was the alternative - White got good play with 15.Bxf6! 17...Ng6? prepared a faulty plan: 17...Qg8 was better, though 18.Be2! is a good reply.

If 19...Nxd3, 20.Nh5 wins. After 21.Rxf4! White had the advantage though the critical line 22...Qg8 23.Nh5 dxe5 24.d6 f3 25.g3 e4! 26.Bxe4 Rf8 isn't absolutely clear since, if 27.d7? Qxc4!, White could have won by force with 31.d6 Bf5 32.d7+ Kd8 33.e7+ Kxd7 34.e8Q+! Kxc8 35.Nd6+, but his slower line was still perfectly efficient.

White: Malcolm Pein (Wood Green)

Black: Keith Arkell (Bigwood)

4NCL Birmingham 1998

Dutch Defence

1.d4 e6

2.c4 Bb4+

3.Nc3 f5

4.e3 Nf6

5.Bd3 Bxc3+

6.bxc3 b6

7.Ne2 Bb7

8.f3 Nc6

9.0-0 0-

0 10.e4 fxe4

11.fxe4 e5

12.Ng3 d6

13.d5 Ne7

14.Bg5 Kh8

15.Bxf6 Rxf6

16.Rxf6 gxf6

17.Qh5 Ng6?

18.Rf1 Nf4

19.Qf7 Qf8

20.Qxc7 Ba6

21.Rxf4! exf4

22.e5 Qg7

23.Qxg7+ Kxg7

24.Nf5+ Kf8

25.e6 Rc8

26.Nxd6 Rd8

27.Nf5 Rxd5

28.cxd5 Bxd3

29.Nd6 Ke7

30.Nc8+ Ke8

31.Nd6+ Kd8

32.a3 Bc2

33.Kf2 Bb3

34.c4 b5

35.Nxb5 Bxc4

36.Nc3 Ke7

37.Kf3 Bf1

38.Ne4 a5

39.h3 h6

40.h4 a4

41.Nc3 Kd6

42.Nxa4

Black resigns

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