Pursuits: Chess

LIKE POLICEMEN, chess players seem to be getting younger - only in the latter case it's true. Many congratulations to Murugan Thiruchelvam, from New Malden in Surrey, on his magnificent result last weekend at the Kent Open Championship in Maidstone.

Thiruchelvam, who is still not quite 10 years old, drew the game below with a grandmaster - and not just any grandmaster, but Bogdan Lalic - and is, to my knowledge, the youngest player ever to achieve this feat. He won two of his six games and drew three others apart from against Lalic, to end up fourth equal on 4/6 with a performance rating of 225, which translates to 2,400 (you multiply by 8 and add 600): par for an international master.

Meanwhile, despite this unwanted draw, Lalic took clear first on 5/6. He was followed in the 27-player Open by Francis Rayner and Ian Watson on 4.5; and five fourth equal on 4: Thiruchelvam, Cliff Chandler (Maidstone) and all three Ledger brothers - Andrew, David and Steve!

There was also a Major, in which an outstanding result was made by an even younger player, seven-year-old David Howell, who scored 4/6; and Intermediate and Minor tournaments. Meanwhile a separate rapidplay was won by Chris Duncan, manager of the Chess and Bridge Shop at 369 Euston Road (0171-388-2404), with a perfect 5/5.

In the opening, Thiruchelvam cleverly delayed d4 for some moves, before transposing back with 7 d4. Lalic set up a black square blockade but it was rather precarious, and 16 f4 was unnecessary. 16 Qxc5 dxc5 first and then 17 f4 was better.

With 20... exd4, Lalic spoilt his pawns; but 20... Rb8 21 R4d2 Be6 22 b4 leaves White with a serious bind.

In the final position, Lalic has just avoided 25... Ke5? 26 Rd5+Kxe4?? 27 Kf2 f3 28 Bxf3+ Kf4 29 g3 mate! Having lost on time in a won position a couple of months ago against Jim Plaskett, Thiruchelvam, who faced the additional pressure that Lalic coaches him, was wise to take the draw. White is better since he can annex the f4 pawn, but it's far from simple.

White: Murugan Thiruchelvam

Black: Bogdan Lalic

Maidstone Open 1998

Sicilian Taimanov


1 e4 c5

2 Nf3 e6

3 c4 Nc6

4 Nc3 Nf6

5 Be2 a6

6 0-0 Qc7

7 d4 cxd4

8 Nxd4 Nxd4

9 Qxd4 Bc5

10 Qd3 h5

11 h3 Qe5

12 Be3 g5

13 Bxc5 Qxc5

14 Rad1 Ke7

15 Qd4 d6

16 f4 Qxd4+

17 Rxd4 gxf4

18 Rfd1 Ne8

19 Na4 e5

20 Nb6 exd4

21 Nxa8 Nf6

22 Nc7 Kd7

23 Nd5 Ke6

24 Nxf6 Kxf6

25 Rxd4 Ke7 (see diagram)