Independent Pursuits: Chess

IN THE excitement over the various splendid recent international events, I've been somewhat neglecting the domestic scene. With Linares over, it's time to catch up and today I'm featuring the First Cambridge University Congress which took place over the weekend of 6-7 February.

One of the points of this event was to serve as a "training session" for the Varsity match a month later which Cambridge won so convincingly; and indeed the 24-player Open was won with 4.5/5 by the International Master Bryan Kelly, who neutralised Dharshan Kumaran on top board at that match.

Second place was shared between Jack Rudd (Cambridge University) and Paul McMahon (Cambridge City). And there were grading prizes won by Natasha Regan, Heather Richards and 13-year-old Lorin D'Costa, who took Kelly's only draw off him in the first round. There was a Major which resulted in a five-way tie on 4/5 between Brian Judkins, Lloyd Retallick, David Hambley, G Pierbattisi and John Daugman.

Mr McMahon's result was particularly noteworthy, for, graded only 160, he won his first four games including the miniature below, before losing to Kelly in the final round.

By an unusual move order, they reached a variation of the French Defence which I imagine Black was unfamiliar with. The most usual line is 5 ...c5 6 dxc5 Nc6 7 Bf4 Bxc5 8 Bd3 f6 9 exf6 Nxf6, but Black's choice was also reasonable.

8 ...0-0, castling into a potential attack, was perhaps unintentionally somewhat provocative, but matters would have remained unclear if Black had played 11 ...Nc7! intending a quick ...f6 rather than the very bad 11 ...c4 which took any pressure off the white centre and lost a crucial tempo.

After 13 Ng5, not only attacking the king but also preventing ...f6, Black was already in dire trouble. Then 13 ...h6 would have lost to 14 Qc2! when if hxg5 15 hxg5 g6 16 Nxg6; or 14 ...Bxg5 15 hxg5 Qxg5 16 Nxd5 Qxg2 17 Ne7+ Kh8 18 0-0-0 Rfd8 19 Bxh6 gxh6 20 Qd2 etc.

15 ...Bxg5 opening the h file was obviously suicidal, but if 15 ...b4 16 Nxh7 b3 17 axb3 cxb3 18 Qd3 Kxh7 (or eg 18 ...a5 19 Nxg6!) 19 h5 Kg8 20 hxg6 f5 21 Qe2 and mates.

Black resigned quite early but he would soon be mated after eg 19 ...Re8 20 Rdh1 Nf8 when the cleanest is 21 Nh5 gxh5 22 R1xh5 Ng6 23 Rxh7 Kf8 24 Qxg6! fxg6 25 Rh8+ Ke7 26 R5h7 mate.

White: Paul McMahon

Black: Edmund Player

French Defence

g, x ba,

n vfchnh

n ,h, ,

, ,hN ,

,hN V N

, N CF,

HN ,SNH,

B , Z ,G

1 Nc3 e6

2 e4 d5

3 Nf3 Nf6

4 e5 Nfd7

5 d4 Be7

6 Be3 b6

7 Ne2 c5

8 c3 0-0!?

9 Nf4 Ba6

10 Bxa6 Nxa6

11 Qe2 c4??

12 h4 Nc7 (see diagram)

13 Ng5! g6

14 0-0-0 b5

15 Qc2 Bxg5

16 hxg5 b4

17 Rh6 b3

18 axb3 cxb3

19 Qd3 1-0

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