Pursuits: Chess

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ONE OF the great strengths of chess in the UK is the profusion of books for players of all levels: an output which the British Chess Federation (BCF) celebrates with an annual Book of the Year award.

This year's panel consisted of former BCF International Director Ray Edwards, John Toothill, best known in correspondence chess circles, and Richard James, a tireless organiser of Richmond Chess Club and co-author with Mike Fox of The Complete... and, today, the Even More Complete Chess Addict (Faber & Faber, pounds 10.99).

A splendid selection of titles was whittled down to a short-list of four; The three that fell at this final hurdle were Improve your Chess NOW by my old second Jonathan Tisdall (Cadogan, pounds 14.99) - an excellent and idiosyncratic instruction book; The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal by Tal himself, a reprint edited by John Nunn (Cadogan, pounds 17.99); and, highly commended, Alexander Alekhine's Chess Games 1902-1946 by Leonard Skinner & Robert Verhoeven (McFarland, pounds 69) - a monumental work with no fewer than 2,543 of Alekhine's games, with a price reflecting this.

The winner was My Best Games of Chess by Vishy Anand (Gambit, pounds 15.99). This new publisher has already produced some excellent works. Anand was a great catch; his selection of 40 games is a glittering array from the fastest chess player on the planet.

This is the final one: a serious - if not necessarily fatal - challenge to the Centre Counter Defence which Anand himself employed once against Kasparov in their match in 1995.

Anand played one of the absolutely critical lines in the opening and Lautier matched him, employing a supposedly clever finesse with 12... Bg2 to misplace the white rook. But the excellent exchange sacrifice 15 f3! seized the advantage. In the diagram, 20 h6!! set up a sensational finish. Lautier missed the point - though 15...Nxe3 is also bad and got hit by 21 Bg6! with the point that if 21... Qxd1 22 Rxe6+ Kf8 23 Bxh6+ (prepared by 20 h6) Kg8 24 Bxf7 is mate. The rest was carnage.

White: Viswanathan Anand

Black: Joel Lautier

Biel 1997

Centre Counter Defence

1 e4 d5

2 exd5 Qxd5

3 Nc3 Qa5

4 d4 Nf6

5 Nf3 c6

6 Bc4 Bf5

7 Ne5 e6

8 g4 Bg6

9 h4 Nbd7

10 Nxd7 Nxd7

11 h5 Be4

12 Rh3 Bg2

13 Re3 Nb6

14 Bd3 Nd5

15 f3! Bb4

16 Kf2! Bxc3

17 bxc3 Qxc3

18 Rb1 Qxd4

19 Rxb7 Rd8 (see diagram)

20 h6!! gxh6?

21 Bg6! Ne7

22 Qxd4 Rxd4

23 Rd3! Rd8

24 Rxd8+ Kxd8

25 Bd3 1-0