Pursuits: Chess

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WITH JUST three rounds over the bank holiday weekend of 29-31 May remaining, the favourites Slough now look certain to win the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

The sponsor Nigel Johnson's grandmaster juggernaut last weekend demolished two further obstacles. On Saturday they brushed Barbican aside 6.5-1.5; Sunday saw Invicta Knights (Maidstone) trapped in the headlights. At full strength, Invicta would have had a reasonable chance of causing an upset, but without Matthew Sadler who was "Bundesliga-ing" with Michael Adams and me, and John Nunn in Monaco, they too were rolled over 5.5-2.5.

This left Slough with a perfect 16/16 match points and 50.5/64 game points. And with only the three bottom teams, BCM, Wessex and Home House, left in their path, they have every chance of an unprecedented perfect match record.

The fight for second place is still fairly open, though following two good victories last weekend against Richmond and Barbican, my team, Wood Green, are now two match points clear of the pack.

This delightfully clean game is from Sunday's match. In the opening Black should maybe try to make some trouble with, eg 9 ...Qa5+ to induce 10 Kf1 and the perhaps Nd7 (maybe 10 ...g5 11 Bg3 first ) threatening 11 ...Nxe5 and 12 ...Nd2+.

Undisturbed, White gained a pleasant space advantage with 13 c5. The excellent 15 Bxg5! retained the knight in a position where Black's pair of bishops was useless. But 17 ...g6 may be an improvement when if 18 g5!? Bxg5! 19 fxg5 Qxg5+ 20 Kh1 Qxe3 21 Rf4 e5! (not 21 ...g5? 22 Rg1! threatening 23 Rg3!) 22 dxe5 Qxe5 isn't too clear.

Quite rightly, Levitt spurned 18 gxf5 Bxf5 19 Bxf5 exf5 20 Qxf5 when 20 ...Qe7 gives counterplay. Certainly not 20 Be2? Bxg5! 21 fxg5 f4. White got a huge kingside bind and 26 ...b6?! followed by capturing on c5 only helped him - instead 26 ...b5 looks better, if vile. If 29 ...Rb8 30 Qxa7 wins a pawn for nothing. I wondered about 33 ...a6 but 34 Bxa6 Ra8 35 Qb7! Qxb7 36 Bxb7 Rxa5 37 Bxc6 is easy. If 34 ...Rb8 35 Qxb8! Bxb8 36 Rxb8 followed by 37 Rb7 leaves White a piece up.

At the end, 41 Nxf5+ exf5 42 Bxf5 Qxf5 43 Qxd8+ Ke6 44 Qxe8+ Re7 and eg 45 Qxc6+ Kf7 46 g6+ etc wins trivially but Levitt preferred the more aesthetic 41 Bd1! - to prevent ...Bh5 - when there's absolutely no defence to the triumphant transfer via h1, f2 and d3 of the knight to e5.

White: Jonathan Levitt

Black: Gavin Wall

4NCL Wood Green vs Barbican

Dutch Defence

1 d4 f5

2 Nc3 d5

3 Bf4 Nf6

4 e3 c6

5 Bd3 e6

6 Nf3 Be7

7 Ne2 0-0

8 c4 Ne4

9 Ne5 Nd7

10 Qc2 Bf6

11 Nxd7 Bxd7

12 0-0 Rc8

13 c5 Be8

14 f3 Ng5

15 Bxg5! Bxg5

16 f4 Bf6

17 g4! Bg6

18 Ng3! Qe8

19 g5 Bd8

20 Qe2 h6

21 h4 hxg5

22 hxg5 Kf7

23 Kg2 Bc7

24 b4 Rh8

25 Rh1 Rxh1

26 Rxh1 b6

27 Qc2 Qd7

28 Qa4 bxc5

29 bxc5 Bd8

30 Rb1 Rc7

31 Qb4 Ke7

32 a4 Rc8

33 a5 Bc7

34 a6 Bd8

35 Qa4 Rc7

36 Rb8 Kf7

37 Qb4 Ke7

38 Bc2 Qe8

39 Ra8 Qd7

40 Qb8 Be8

41 Bd1!? 1-0