Games: Chess

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The Independent Online
Michael Adams has been having one of the best performances of his career in Tilburg over the past couple of weeks. He has, in the past, scored some fine first places in events of mixed strength, but his undefeated score of 61/2 points from 10 games in Tilburg, in a field that includes the world's top two players and full supporting cast, is outstanding.

In the 10th round, Adams improved his standing with a quick win against the top French player, Joel Lautier. Adams's unpretentious choice of opening led some observers to believe that he was willing to settle for a quick draw, but his early exchange of queens left him with a slight, nagging pressure that Lautier was unable to throw off.

Generally, if White enters an endgame in this type of Sicilian position, he does not want his pawn on f4 where it may be a target, or at least weaken White's potential control of the central white squares. On this occasion, however, Adams had appreciated some delicate features of the position.

After 8.Nxd4, his threat of Nb5 persuaded Black to play a6, after which White's development of his bishop to g2 put the black Q-side under pressure. The crucial moment came with 17.Ne2 (see diagram), unblocking the d-file and preventing Black from castling. Happy that his bishop was at last free to advance without being captured by the knight, Lautier rushed out with 17...Bb5? (any of Bf6, Bc5 or Bc8 would be better) and found himself in trouble after 18.Bd4!

The double threat of 19.Bxg7 or 19.Be5 forced 18...f6, when 19.b3! led to acute embarrassment. After 19...Nc5 20.Bxc5 Black must lose either a pawn after 20...Rxc5 21.Bxb7 or a rook after 20...Bxc5 21.Rd8+.

Lautier tried to muddy the waters with 19...Bb4, but Adams ended with a clean kill. 23...g6 24.Bxf6 or 23...Ke7 24.Bc5+ is fatal.

White: Michael Adams

Black: Joel Lautier

1 e4 c5 13 Bf3 Bd7

2 Nc3 e6 14 0-0-0 Rc8

3 f4 d5 15 Rd2 Rc7

4 Nf3 dxe4 16 Rhd1 Na4

5 Nxe4 Be7 17 Ne2 Bb5

6 d4 cxd4 18 Bd4 f6

7 Qxd4 Qxd4 19 b3 Bb4

8 Nxd4 a6 20 bxa4 Bxd2

9 Be3 Nd7 21 Rxd2 Bxa4

10 g3 Ngf6 22 Nc3 Bc6

11 Bg2 Nxe4 23 Bh5+ resigns

12 Bxe4 Nc5