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With one round left to play at Hastings, the battle for first place is between two British players, Mark Hebden and John Nunn. In the eighth round, Hebden took over the leadership by beating Nunn, leaving the scores as follows: Hebden 6; Nunn 51/2; Rozentalis 5; Lalic and Movsesian 41/2; Adams and Xie Jun 31/2; Conquest 3; Motwani 21/2; Flear 2.

If Hebden avoids a disaster in the last round, this will be the best result of his career. Now 38, he secured a reputation almost 20 years ago as one of the most efficient performers on the British weekend circuit, and he duly proceeded to gain his grandmaster title, but his style always seemed more effective at disposing of the minnows rather than surviving against the bigger fish in the chess world. At this Hastings event, however, he has accumulated his points through a good mix of aggression and soundness.

The biggest surprise of the event has been the poor form - in the early round at least - of Michael Adams, the highest ranked of all the players. After losing his first three games, Adams consolidated his position at the foot of the table with three draws, but is now only one game away from achieving the perfect symmetry of three wins at the end. As so often in Hastings, reports from the front indicate that the Sussex midwinter climate and resulting sniffles may have been a strong influence on results.

To judge from his seventh round victory, Adams is now fully recovered from whatever was afflicting him. Playing against the Chinese former women's world champion, he completely bemused his opponent in a weird line of his favourite Trompowsky opening. When Black looked at her position after 11.Qd3! (when dxe3 loses to Rhb1) she must have been quite appalled at her own play.

White: Jan Timman

Black: Peter Leko

1 d4 Nf6 12 Ng5 Nc6

2 Bg5 Ne4 13 Ne6 Rc8

3 Bf4 d5 14 Rhb1 Qc3

4 e3 c5 15 Qxc3 dxc3

5 Bd3 Qb6 16 Rxb7 Kf7

6 Bxe4 dxe4 17 Nd4 Kf6

7 Nc3 Qxb2 18 Bc7 Nxd4

8 Nge2 Bg4 19 exd4 a6

9 Nxe4 Bxe2 20 Ra7 e6

10 Kxe2 cxd4 21 Rb1 Be7

11 Qd3 f5 22 Be5+ resigns