THE BRITISH Rapidplay Championships took place last weekend in

Leeds. This excellent annual event always has a powerful entry and, beefed up by sponsorship from Leeds City Council and Lloyds Bank, it attracted a record of more than 350 players in the banqueting room at Leeds Civic Hall.

More than 50 players including grandmasters and international masters contested the Open, which was won by Keith Arkell with an impressive 9.5/11, half a point ahead of Mark Hebden and Andrew Webster on 9; and Luke McShane, fourth by himself on 8. This fine result has catapulted Arkell into the lead in the Onyx Grand Prix with a (provisional) score of 190.3 ahead of Mark Hebden 188.8 and Jim Plaskett 185.6.

There were a Major won jointly by P Levermore and B Newton on 9/11, an intermediate and a minor tournament. And also the Lloyds Bank under-11 England trial in which three promising juniors - P Plant, T Egglestone and J Hanley - were first equal with 5/6.

In today's game, the players continued a long theoretical feud. The knight sacrifice with 12... Nxd4 is far from forced - 12... dxe5 is the main line - but gives Black excellent compensation in an unbroken mobile pawn mass. Hebden waxed lyrical about it to me during the Olympiad, but Arkell had already opposed him at least twice, choosing 15 Nge4 on each occasion, drawing at the British Championships in 1989 but winning two years ago in the Isle of Man.

This time Arkell varied with 15 Nf3. The critical phase came when Hebden allowed his pawns to become blockaded. In the diagram perhaps he could try 19... Bg6!? 20 Qe2 e6 against 21 h4 - or even 20... f5. Arkell kept control splendidly. The finish was striking.

White: Keith Arkell

Black: Mark Hebden

Leeds Quickplay, 1998