Friday 23 April 1999
Not only were there three tournaments - one providing the opportunity for grandmaster norms and two international master events, but alongside was a challenge match for a total purse of pounds 5,000 between the two long- term leading Onyx Grand Prix performers (though as far as I know that isn't how they were chosen), Mark Hebden and Keith Arkell, in which Arkell won the first game but the favourite Hebden won the third and fifth to end up 3.5-2.5 winner.
Meanwhile the Scottish grandmaster Colin McNab played impressively in the category seven GM tournament (average 2,408) to win with 7/11 ahead of Alexei Barsov (Uzbekistan) 6.5, Jonathan Levitt (England as are all other unless mentioned) 6 and Danny Gormally and the pre-tournament favourite Jonny Hector (Sweden) on 5. And although Gormally unluckily defaulted on his last-round game against McNab, he temporarily went into the lead in the Onyx Grand Prix before Arkell clawed it back with a perfect 5/5 at Rhyl the following weekend.
This tournament was also notable for a fine performance by the US women's champion, the 15-year-old Irina Krush, who scored 4.5/9, missing out on an international master norm but still scoring her first women's grandmaster norm.
The IM-A was won jointly by Lawrence Cooper and IM Angus Dunnington on 6.5/9, with the former, who isn't an international master, scoring his first norm. Meanwhile IM-B was won jointly by Bryan Kelly (Ireland) and Simon Williams, also on 6.5, and featured a good performance by Jovanka Houska, third on 6.
McNab's play, particularly as White, is deceptively quiet to start with. But in fact the "heavy" nature of the systems that he favours, lends itself particularly well to violent action in the late middlegame.
The Panno variation with ...Nc6 is usually played with the white knight already committed to c3 - Black could try to reach this with 6 ...a6 and if 7 Nc3 (though McNab would probably play 7 b3) 7 ...Nc6. As played 8 Nbd2 is very convenient. White got an edge and 12 ...f4?! looks much too bold. After 15 e5! White had a serious advantage and the excellent exchange sacrifice 20 Nxc5! soon led to slaughter.
White: Colin McNab
Black: Erik Gullaksen
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