Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Hastings International Chess Congress started on Tuesday with a bloodthirsty round in which three of the five games were decisive.

The drawing of lots, which determines the draw for the whole tournament had taken place in the bar of the venue, the Cinque Ports Hotel (01424- 439222) on Monday evening. The arrangement is somewhat complex but does have the effect that the top half - in this case numbers 1 to 5, have an extra White, while the bottom half have (the alleged disadvantage of) an extra Black. As a result on Monday No 1 Ponomariov played No 10 Plaskett, I No 2 played No 9 Shipov and continuing in the same way there were Miles v Sadler, Fressinet v Salter and Sokolov v Emms.

The tournament was officially opened by the local MP, Michael Foster, who later performed the highly important function of starting the clocks. As is traditional, the very first move was also ceremonial, with the Mayor of Hastings, Godfrey Daniel, attempting 1.f3 for Tony Miles against Matthew Sadler. Miles, however, corrected this to the English Opening 1.c4 and they drew quite quickly.

All the other games went the distance. I got a reasonable position against Shipov but allowed some tactics to reach a worse endgame and was squeezed. Fressinet eventually drew with Salter after pressing and Ponomariov, as is his wont, won a long technical battle against Plaskett. But the game of the day was definitely Ivan Sokolov's violent victory against John Emms.

9....Bxf3 was excessively bold against an axeman like Ivan. Instead 9....Bxc3+ was sensible when if 10. Qxc3 Ne4! should equalise while if 10. bxc3 d6 or 10....d5 is reasonable.

Sokolov built up his attack along the g file in exemplary fashion, not worrying about the discovered check which he allowed Emms in the diagram. For instance if 17....Ba3+ 18. Kf1 Bxb2 19. Nd5! is murderous.

17....g6? looks wrong however - if he wants to take on h2 then he should play 17....Qc7 at once: moreover, the black squares were seriously weakened. After 23. Ba4! it was all over. At the end after 30....Qc8 (else 31. Rxh7!) 31. Qf4 Qf5 32. Qh6! Qxe4+ 33. Kg3 Qd3+ 34. f3 mates.

Sokolov, I v Emms, J

Hastings 1998

Queen's Indian Defence