Chess

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The English chess team is on the verge of its greatest ever victory. With only one round remaining in the European Championship in Pula, Croatia, they are one and a half points ahead of their nearest rivals. In the penultimate round, they held their lead by drawing all four games against Russia. Leading scores are now: England 21; Armenia 191/2, Croatia, Russia, Belarus and Germany 19. England are doing very well in the women's event too, where they beat Russia 11/2-1/2 in round eight and now share second place.

The only thing that detracts from the men's result is the comparative weakness of the Russian side. In theory, they could put out a team led by Kasparov, Kramnik and Karpov, but instead are represented by Bareyev, Svidler, Zvjaginsev and Yakovich. Nevertheless, it is heartening to see an English team all playing well at the same time for once. At the start it was business as usual, with Matthew Sadler notching up most of the wins, but when he started drawing games instead, Nigel Short, Michael Adams, Jonathan Speelman and Julian Hodgson all began to win games themselves.

Here is a fine win by Hodgson from the match against Spain. White's opening is perplexingly subtle (note the five moves taken to get his knight from b1 to d2) but Black's pawn advances leave his position very loose.

From moves 20 to 24, Black makes all the tactical running, trapping a white rook, then winning his queen, but for a price of rook, knight, pawn and a strong initiative to White. At the end, there is no defence to the threat of Nc4 and Nd6.

White: Julian Hodgson (England)

Black: Izeta Txabarri (Spain)

1 c4 Nf6 22 R6xc4 bxc4

2 Nc3 c5 23 Qxc4 Bxg3

3 g3 d5 24 hxg3 Rc7

4 cxd5 Nxd5 25 Qxc7 Nxc7

5 Bg2 Nc7 26 Bd6 Na8

6 b3 e5 27 Bxb8 Nxb8

7 Ba3 Be7 28 Nd4 g6

8 Rc1 Ne6 29 exf5 Bxf5

9 Nf3 Nd7 30 Bd5+ Kg7

10 0-0 0-0 31 e4 Bd7

11 Nd5 Bd6 32 N2f3 Na6

12 Ne3 f5 33 e5 Nb4

13 Nc4 Bc7 34 Bb3 Nc6

14 d3 b5 35 e6 Nxd4

15 Ncd2 Rb8 36 Nxd4 Ba4

16 b4 cxb4 37 Bxa4 Qxa4

17 Bxb4 Rf7 38 e7 Kf7

18 Qb3 Nb6 39 Re1 Qe8

19 Rc6 Qe8 40 Nf3 Kf6

20 Rfc1 e4 41 Nd2 resigns

21 dxe4 Nc4

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