Pursuits: Chess

THE ANNUAL Blackpool Congress took place last weekend at the Winter Gardens with six sections headed by a strong Open. Carrying on from his victory in the Onyx Grand Prix last year, the favourite Mark Hebden won this outright with 4.5/5. He was followed by Keith Arkell, who drew his first two games but then recovered, then Bogdan Lalic and Danny Gormally on 4.

The casualty of the tournament, though, was the fourth grandmaster Jim Plaskett (in addition to all of the above, except for Gormally, an international master) who drew his first game and dropped out of contention with the blood-curdling defeat in the penultimate round below.

The second tournament, the Lancashire Challengers (under 180) was won jointly by R Savory, P Isherwood and M Peacock on 4.5/5 and there were four further sections ranging right down to a "Standard" for players rated less than 80.

In a Modern Benoni-cum-Four Pawns' attack against the King's Indian (2 ...g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 f4 0-0 6 Nf3 c5 7 d5 e6 comes to the same thing), both players did their stuff, with Mr Merriman showing admirable self- belief and purpose against such a formidable opponent.

When White started a kingside pawn storm the position sharpened still further, and the crisis exploded in the diagram. Plaskett quite rightly counter-attacked rather than expediting the enemy attack with 23 ...gxh5? 24 Qxh5 Bxc3 when 25 bxc3!? Rxe4 is very messy but 25 Qh6 Ndxf6 26 gxf6 Bxf6 27 Rg1+ Kh8 28 Raf1 Rg8 (or 28 ...Qd8 29 Bd4 Re5 30 Bxe5 dxe5 31 Rf5 wins) 29 Rxf6 Rxg1+ 30 Bxg1 Qe1 31 Rxf7 Qxe4+ 32 Kh2 Qe2+ 33 Bf2 is a clean kill.

But 26 ...Qxc3? was careless. Instead 26 ...Ne5! looks fine, eg:

a) 27 Bd2 Nxf3 28 Qxf3 Rh5 29 Rh1 Nxg5 30 Bxg5 Rxg5+ 31 Kf1 Qxd5! (but not 31 ...Rf5 32 Qxf5 gxf5 33 Rg1+ Kf8 34 Rh1 with a draw)

b) 27 Rh1 Rxh1 28 Rxh1 Qxc3 29 Kg3 Nxf3 30 Qxf3 should be excellent for Black, though he must still be very careful.

31 ...Ne5 was a gross blunder. Plaskett hoped for 32 Qxc8? Qf3+ 33 Kf1 h3, when Black should win, but after 32 Re3! it was all over.

White: J Merriman

Black: Jim Plaskett

Modern Benoni

1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 c5

3 d5 g6

4 Nc3 d6

5 e4 Bg7

6 f4 0-0

7 Nf3 e6

8 Be2 exd5

9 cxd5 Bg4

10 0-0 Nbd7

11 Re1 Re8

12 h3 Bxf3

13 Bxf3 a6

14 a4 c4

15 Be3 Qa5

16 Kh1 Re7

17 Qe2 Rc8

18 g4 h6

19 h4 Nh7

20 g5 h5

21 f5 Be5

22 f6 Ree8 (see diagram)

23 Bxh5 Bxc3!

24 bxc3 Rxe4

25 Bf3 Rxh4+

26 Kg2 Qxc3?

27 Qf2 Rh5

28 Bxh5 gxh5

29 Qf5 Nhf8

30 Rad1 h4

31 Bf2 Ne5??

32 Re3! Qa5

33 Qxc8 Qxa4

34 Rh1 c3

35 Rxh4 Qb5

36 Rh8+

1-0

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