Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
TOP ORGANISER Adam Raoof's Oxford International Chess Festival today passes its midpoint with the fifth of the nine rounds. Forty-six players are in action in the Keble room at the Oxford Moat House Hotel in four separate events. After three rounds, Julian Hodgson was leading the Grandmaster A on 2.5/3, ahead of John Nunn, Neil McDonald and Matthew Turner on 2; in the Grandmaster B Simon Ansell led with 2.5 and three led jointly in the open. But the most unusual was the international master tournament, where our top-rated woman player Harriet Hunt and her younger brother Adam (less highly thought of but exceptionally determined) were joint leaders, also on 2.5.

One essential element of tournament play is the "balance of terror" - particularly important in all-play-alls, which often throw up or rather down a "victim" whom the other participants try especially hard to beat. One reaction is to conserve energy and, perhaps, improve a veneer of invincibility by taking quick draws. So it is that there have already been several of these short but pointed affairs. But happily the other side of the coin, the extreme violence unleashed when peace is not agreed, has also been much in evidence...

In his favourite Trompowsky opening, Hodgson got central control in return for the two bishops. With 18 h5 he initiated a dangerous attack. The pawn sacrifice 22 f6!? kept the centre closed - if the knight retreats Black can try 22... e5!? It all looked very smooth but in fact only after 28... Bxf6? did White cement his advantage - 28... Rg7 was fine for Black.

White: Julian Hodgson

Black: Jonathan Rowson


Richard Bates (Black)

Harriet Hunt (White to play)

Finally, a ferociously crude finish from Harriet Hunt. Bates attempted, as you are supposed to, to get central counterplay against her wing attack, but was far too late. At the end after 26... Kxh8 27 Qh3+ Kg8 28 Qh6 forces mate. 21 h5 d5 22 hxg6 hxg6 23 Rh3 Bc5 24 Qg4 Bxe3+ 25 Kh1! Bf2 26 Rh8+! 1- 0