Adams moves to the fore in chess showdown

An era ended on Christmas Day when Nigel Short, Britain's leading chess player for the last 10 years, was knocked out of the World Chess Championship by Michael Adams, the heir apparent to the British grandmaster's throne.

Short was defeated by Adams in the International Chess Federation (Fide) championships in Groningen, in the Netherlands.

Adams, 26, now meets the man who began as favourite for the event. Between now and the end of this year, he will play a four-game match against the Indian grandmaster Visqanathan Anand.

They last met in a World Title qualifier three years ago when Anand, who is now 28, won by the impressive margin of 51/2 to 11/2. But in those days, Adams was only Britain's second best player. The next few days will be a good indication of how much he has improved. Whoever wins will still have to overcome Anatoly Karpov, the reigning Fide champion, in a match for the title.

But even that will not be the final hurdle. For the world's number one player, Garry Kasparov, refused to participate in the current event. As soon as this event is over, negotiations will surely begin for a showdown match to establish who really is the best chess player in the world.

Short had enjoyed the fruits of his position at the pinnacle of British chess since 1993, when he qualified for a World Title match against Garry Kasparov. By comparison, his results since then have been disappointing, but he had returned to his best form in the World Championship which was run, for the first time, as a series of two-game knockout matches.

After eliminating several players rated higher than himself, Short came up against Michael Adams in the semi-finals of the eliminators. After losing the first game, he came back with an impressive equalising win. By the rules of the competition, they then had to play two games in which each player started with only 25 minutes thinking time on his clock. With considerable prize money (pounds 220,000 to the winner) as well as reputations at stake, both men played cautiously and both games were drawn. They then moved on to two games at 15 minutes each. Two more careful draws. The final tie split was a play-off in which White (who has the advantage of moving first) starts with five minutes while Black has six. Suddenly Adams changed strategy and adopted what looked like a risky attacking plan with the black pieces. It paid off beautifully, and Short resigned the game and the match as Adams' attack broke through.

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