Pursuits: Chess

THE SEVENTH Monarch Assurance Open is under way at the Cherry Orchard Hotel in Port Erin in the Isle of Man, with an unprecedentedly strong entry.

With a prize fund of pounds 10,000, the organiser Dennis Hemsley has attracted 12 grandmasters and four international masters in the field of 48. And not just any grandmasters, but a list headed by Nigel Short, presently rated 2,670, followed by the formerly Russian, now Dutch grandmaster Sergei Tiviakov - a cool 2,665 - and Estonian Jaan Ehlvest on 2,625.

With such a strong entry, even the top seeds haven't had it all their own way and last year's winner fourth seed Alexander Baburin actually lost to the Norwegian international master Eirek Gullaksen in the very first round; another victim was the Latvian GM Igor Rausis who lost to Colm Daly; while Short himself could only draw as Black against the Russian Alexander Cherniaev.

There were fewer upsets in the second round, with the possible exception of Monday's game in which Ehlvest was summarily dispatched by Jim Plaskett; but then Jim can beat anybody on his day. Indeed, in round three he lost to Israel's Emil Sutovsky, who then shared the lead on three points with Chris Ward.

So despite early setbacks, the seeds have been drifting towards the top.

For the moment, though, here is what not to do against Jim Plaskett.

By omitting ...d6 in the opening, Plaskett was able to play ...d5 in just one move against the so-called English Attack. In the diagram 14... Nc4! set Ehlvest back on his heels. Instead of 16 Qxb4 16 Bf4 e5 17 Bxe5 Qxe5 18 Qxb4 Bc6 is also bad. But it was only with his final move that Ehlvest made it simple. After 27... e5! 28 Bxb2 Rxd2+ 29 Ke1 Rxc2 wins a piece. But White could have forestalled 27... e5 with either 27 e5 which might be met with 27... g5 to isolate it - and maybe threaten 28... f6 29 exf6 e5; or possibly 27 f4.

White: Jaan Ehlvest

Black: Jim Plaskett

Monarch Assurance

Isle of Man 1998

Sicilian Taimanov


1 e4 c5

2 Nf3 e6

3 d4 cxd4

4 Nxd4 Nc6

5 Nc3 Qc7

6 Be3 a6

7 Qd2 Nf6

8 f3 b5

9 g4 h6

10 0-0-0 b4

11 Na4 Ne5

12 Be2 d5

13 Nb3 Bb7

14 Nac5 (see

diagram) Nc4!

15 Bxc4 dxc4

16 Qxb4 cxb3

17 Qxb7 Qxb7

18 Nxb7 bxa2

19 Kd2 Nd7!

20 Ke2 Rb8

21 Nd6+ Bxd6

22 Rxd6 Rxb2

23 Rxa6 0-0

24 Rd1 Ne5

25 Rd2 Nc4

26 Bd4 Rd8

27 Ra4? e5! 0-1