Pursuits: Chess

WITH TWO rounds left to play in the Smith & Williamson British Championship in Torquay, Matthew Sadler and Nigel Short share the lead with 71/2 points from nine games, a point ahead of the rest of the field. Leading scores: Short and Sadler 71/2; Sasikiran, Speelman and Thipsay 61/2; Gormally, Hebden, Martin, Miles and Wells 6.

Sadler was held to a draw by Sasikiran in the ninth round, and may, towards the end, even have been relieved to escape. Short then caught him in the lead by winning against Jon Speelman. It was Speelman's worst game of the championship so far. Playing White, he settled, as usual, for a quiet opening, but after an early exchange of queens tried to create complications with an unlikely-looking pawn sacrifice. His objective appeared to be to obtain a positional advantage after winning the pawn back, but somehow he never got round to regaining it. The endgame continued until move 55, but Short always looked like winning with his extra pawn.

This was an unhappy game for Speelman, particularly after he had rekindled his hopes of winning the title with a delicately played endgame against Jonathan Rowson in the previous round.

From the diagram position, Speelman, playing White, gave a fine display of the art of making something from nothing. Play continued 1.Qe3 (keeping Black's rook out of d3 or d2, and confirming that White has no advantage whatsoever)