Chess

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Given the choice, most chess enthusiasts prefer playing through decisive games to playing draws. First, a draw poses the question of which way round to put the board when playing through the moves - most of us like to identify with the winner - and secondly, we all prefer to learn how to win games, not just draw them.

Such a strategy, however, risks missing a good deal of fun. For there is a remarkable tendency for some of the wildest games to settle down to draws. It's almost as though the pieces themselves decide that nobody deserves to win. Try the diagram position, for example, after 17 moves of Conquest-Flear at Hastings.

The tactics began with 18.Nxe5 which set off a chain reaction: 18...Nxe5 19.Rxh5 (19.Bxe5 Qxe5 20.Rxh5 Qc3 is disastrous for White) 19...Bg4 20.Bxe5 Bxe2 21.Bxc7+ Kxc7 22.Rxh8 Rxh8.

Now 20.Re1 Bh5 leaves Black threatening both Bxg5 and Bb4, so Conquest tried 23.Rg1 to meet Bxg5 with Bxd5. Flear played instead 23...Rh2. If White now defends his g-pawn with 24.f4, he can easily run into something like 24...Bc5 25.d4 Bb4 26.Nf1 Bxf1 27.Bxf1 Bd2 when all the winning chances are with Black.

Now came an ingenious idea: 24.d4 g6 25.Kc1 Bxg5 (disdaining a draw with Ba3+) 26.Bf3! Black seems to have fallen into a trap, since 26...Bxf3 27.Nxf3 wins a piece for White, but: 26...Rxf2! 27.Bxe2 Bxe3! 28.Kd1 (After 28.Re1 White cannot untangle in time: 28...g5 29.c4 g4 30.Kc2 g3 and Black is better) 28...Rxe2 29.Kxe2 Bxg1 30.Nf3! The final twist: Black's bishop is trapped. After 30...Bxd4 31.Nxd4 Black has three pawns for a knight, and must have some chances to win after 31...Kd6. Instead, the game continued 31...c5?! 32.Nb5+ Kc6 33.Nxa7+ Kb6 34.Nc8+ Kc7 35.Ne7 Kd6 36.Nc8+ Kc7 37.Na7 Kb6 38.Nc8+ Kc7 with a draw by repetition of position. A splendidly combative draw, especially the play from move 26 onwards.

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