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OF ALL the countries of Western Europe, I believe Germany, presumably as a result of its venerable Bundesliga, has by far the most "master strength" players, rated over 2,400: more than 100 between 2,400 and 2,500; another 29 between 2,500 and 2,600; and two, Yusupov and Khenkin, over 2,600.

As you can see, they tail off somewhat at the top, which means they haven't done well in recent team tournaments, though the team announced for the European Team Championships in Batumi in Georgia - Yusupov, Hubner, Dautov, Lutz and Gabriel - is formidable enough. But it does lead to a "dense" championship, with strong players who can upset the favourites on their day.

Their 71st championship took place in Altenkirchen, a small city about 45 miles east of Cologne, with 39 competitors including 10 grandmasters. With the top seed Arthur Yusupov off form, suffering from a cold, the running was made by Robert Hubner, who sped to 3/3 before letting up slightly with four draws in his last six games but two more wins, for a final score of 7/9.

Nevertheless this was sufficient for clear first and the title of German Champion which, despite his dominance of German chess in the Seventies and Eighties, he has only now become for the second time; his first victory was back in 1967!

Hubner was followed by Rustem Dautov on 6.5 and five players on 6 - Bischoff, Gutman, Lutz, K. Mueller and Slobodjan, of whom Klaus Bischoff was deemed third on tie-break while Yusupov ended up as one of the five who were eighth equal on 6.

When Robert and myself worked together as Nigel Short's seconds during his match with Kasparov in 1994, I always thought of Hubner as the advocate of material (matter) as opposed to my own espousal of the initiative (energy). None of his games in Altenkirchen, though, revolved around the grabbing of material followed by heroic defence and ultimate victory; indeed in round two Hubner won in just 11 moves as Black.

White went horribly wrong with 11 h3? - 11 Ne4 is unclear - and after 11 ...Ne3! he was so disgusted that he resigned. Indeed 12 fxe3 dxe3 13 Kh2 exd2 14 Nxd2 0-0 is repulsive, but I might have tried 12 Qa4, when Black must at least choose between 12 ...Nxg2 13 Kxg2 Bb7 or 13 ...Qc8; and the materialistic 12 ...b5 13 Qxa6 Nxg2 14 Kxg2 Rb6, trapping the queen.

White: Ulf Von Herman

Black: Robert Hubner

Queen's Indian