He may have grown older, losing his hair, but Viktor Korchnoi is showing that being 64 is not as bad as the Lennon and McCartney song makes out. Indeed, on results so far, Korchnoi must be voted the most improved young player of 1995.

Having already won two tournaments this year, in San Francisco and Slovenia, he completed the hat-trick this week with first place in a world-class field in Madrid. Indeed, the men who finished in the bottom two places were Nigel Short and Jan Timman, the defeated challengers in the most recent world-title matches.

Despite losing in the last round to Judit Polgar, Korchnoi finished half a point ahead of Valery Salov, with Artur Yusupov in third place and Polgar sharing fourth with Epishin, San Segundo and Illescas. (Incidentally, it was Anatoly Karpov's 44th birthday yesterday, but if you add his age to that of Judit Polgar, you're still two years short of Korchnoi's.)

Perhaps because he came so close to winning the world title in 1978, but fell at the final fence, Korchnoi has been able to continue playing with an energy and appetite for victory at an age long past that at which most grandmasters have put themselves out to grass in a pasture of brief, technical draws. Korchnoi's win against Short was a good example of his controlled aggression. Black's pawn sacrifice with 14...Nbd7 looked reasonable - his potential pressure on the Q-side files usually provides returns for such an investment - but Korchnoi's energetic K-side put Black's position under strain.

The sacrifice with 27.Rxb6! and 28.Bxf6! was not too difficult to make, but the follow-up was very well played. After 34.f6! Black is a rook up but helpless. The threat is Qg7+ followed by Qe7 mate and 34...Ke8 35.Qg7 Nc8 36.f7+ is fatal.

White: V. Korchnoi

Black: N. Short

1 d4 Nf6 19 Bg5 Nfd7

2 c4 e6 20 f4 Nc4

3 Nc3 Bb4 21 Qe2 f6

4 e3 b6 22 Bh4 Bxc3

5 Nge2 Ba6 23 bxc3 Qa4

6 Ng3 c5 24 Rb1 Ncb6

7 d5 0-0 25 h3 g6

8 e4 Re8 26 Qg4 Qc2

9 f3 d6 27 Rxb6 Nxb6

10 Be2 exd5 28 Bxf6 Kf7

11 cxd5 Bxe2 29 Qh4 h6

12 Nxe2 b5 30 f5 Rg8

13 0-0 a6 31 Bd8 Qd1+

14 a4 Nbd7 32 Kh2 g5

15 axb5 Qb6 33 Qxh6 Rxd8

16 bxa6 Rxa6 34 f6 Rg8

17 Rxa6 Qxa6 35 Qh7+ Kxf6

18 Ng3 Ne5 36 Qxg8 resigns

William Hartston

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