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Brilliant Short back in the lead

ONE FINE save, one own-goal, one no-score draw and one brilliant win have been Nigel Short's tally in the second week of his World Chess Championship final eliminator against Jan Timman in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain. With nine of the 14 scheduled games completed, Short is a point ahead in the battle to decide who will challenge Garry Kasparov for the world title.

Short's miraculous save came in the sixth game, where he drifted into trouble after becoming too greedy in the early middle- game. After making an unwise decision to win a pawn, he was forced completely on the defensive. Saddled with pawn weaknesses, forced to return the pawn and facing a pair of Timman's knights dominating the centre, his game looked on the verge of collapse. Then he started fighting.

Working hard just to hold things together, he managed to create a glimmer of counterplay which let him sneak into an endgame a pawn behind. Timman still seemed to have good chances, but faced with resolute defence, was unable to make progress.

After such a tightly controlled defensive performance, Short went to pieces completely in the next game when he suffered a recurrence of an affliction of his youth. Several of his worst games display a common symptom: a reckless pawn push to g5, hoping for complications and an attack, but only ruining his own position.

Timman responded in the classical manner, meeting a premature wing advance with play in the centre. His d-pawn sped down the middle land, knocking Short's pieces out of its path as it went. Even Short saw the funny side of his disaster. After playing on for some moves with two bishops against queen and knight, he resigned with a big grin, saying, 'Bishops are bishops, but a queen is a queen'.

After that horror, it was little surprise that Short opted for a quiet time in game eight. Avoiding complications in the opening, he limited his ambitions to a small positional plus. Timman equalised with a few accurate moves.

Yesterday, in the ninth game Short regained the lead after a battle which reflected well on both players. With so much at stake, both grandmasters showed an impressive willingness to take extraordinary risks. Both men in turn offered sacrifices, but Short saw his way more clearly through the mind-boggling complications.

With only five games left and the glittering prize of a dollars 4m world title match, the stresses are higher than ever. Sometime in the next nine days, a single small error may cost one of these grandmasters a fortune.


GAME SIX: Monday 18 January

A narrow escape for Nigel. Playing to win a pawn from the opening, he left himself very passive and suffering from several pawn weaknesses. By simple and direct play, Timman obtained a powerful initiative and Short did well to find a way to reach an endgame a pawn behind. Good technique then saved the game.

Short 3 1/2 Timman 2 1/2 .

---------------------------------------------- White: Short Black: Timman ---------------------------------------------- 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 dxe5 Be6 9 Qe2 Be7 10 Rd1 Nc5 11 c3 0-0 12 Bc2 Bg4 13 b4 Na4 14 Bf4 Qd7 15 Qd3 g6 16 Qxd5 Qxd5 17 Rxd5 Nb6 18 Rd1 Rad8 19 Re1 Nd5 20 Bh6 Rfe8 21 a4 Bxf3 22 gxf3 Bf8 23 Bxf8 Kxf8 24 e6 f6 25 axb5 axb5 26 Kf1 Ne5 27 Be4 Nf4 28 Na3 c6 29 Nc2 Nxe6 30 Ra6 Rd6 31 Nd4 Nxd4 32 cxd4 Rxd4 33 Bxc6 Nxc6 34 Rxe8+ Kxe8 35 Rxc6 Ke7 36 Rc7+ Ke6 37 Rxh7 Rxb4 38 Rb7 g5 39 Rb6+ Ke5 40 f4+ gxf4 41 Kg2 Rb3 42 h3 Kf5 43 Rc6 Kg5 44 Rc5+ f5 45 Rd5 Rb2 46 Kf3 Rb3+ 47 Kg2 b4 48 Rb5 Kg6 49 Rb6+ Kh5 50 Rb8 Kh4 51 Rh8+ Kg5 52 h4+ Kg6 53 Rg8+ Kf7 Draw agreed ----------------------------------------------

GAME SEVEN: Wednesday 20 January

The equaliser, and a disaster for Short. His early K-side pawn push was severely punished by Timman's dynamic play in the centre. The decisive moment saw Short's queen comically caught in a trap of pawns. Short 3 1/2 Timman 3 1/2 .

---------------------------------------------- White: Timman Black: Short ---------------------------------------------- 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 0-0 Qd6 6 Na3 Be6 7 Qe2 f6 8 Rd1 g5 9 d4 g4 10 Ne1 0-0-0 11 Be3 h5 12 d5 cxd5 13 exd5 Bf7 14 c4 Qd7 15 d6 Qc6 16 c5 Nh6 17 b4 Qa4 18 Nc4 Rd7 19 Na5 c6 20 Nd3 Nf5 21 a3 Kb8 22 Nb2 Qb5 23 Qe1 Nxe3 24 fxe3 Bh6 25 Kh1 h4 26 a4 Qxa5 27 bxa5 g3 28 h3 Bg5 29 Nd3 Ka8 30 Rab1 Re8 31 Rb6 Bd5 32 e4 1-0 ----------------------------------------------

GAME EIGHT: Thursday 21 January

The tamest game of the match so far. With 8. Nxe5, Short avoided the complex strategic problems of game six, but also failed to pose Timman any real difficulties. Short's 12. Qh5 was the sole aggressive gesture of the game, but Timman's sensible play took the sting out of any attacking ideas that White may have entertained. Short 4 Timman 4.

---------------------------------------------- White: Short Black: Timman ---------------------------------------------- 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 Nxe5 Nxe5 9 dxe5 c6 10 Nd2 Nxd2 11 Bxd2 Be7 12 Qh5 Be6 13 c3 Qd7 14 Bg5 Bf5 15 Rfe1 Bg6 16 Qh4 Bxg5 17 Qxg5 0-0 18 Rad1 Rfe8 19 Re3 Qf5 20 Qxf5 Bxf5 21 h3 h5 22 Rde1 Rad8 23 Bd1 g6 24 b4 c5 25 bxc5 Rc8 26 a4 Rxc5 27 axb5 axb5 28 g4 draw ----------------------------------------------

GAME NINE: Saturday 23 January

A wonderfully bewildering game. Timman offered a rook at move 11, Short finally captured it on move 22. In between, and for some time after, the tactics never stopped. When the dust finally settled, Short forced a win in the endgame. Short 5 Timman 4.

---------------------------------------------- White: Timman Black: Short ---------------------------------------------- 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 0-0 Ne7 6 Nxe5 Qd4 7 Qh5 g6 8 Qg5 Bg7 9 Nd3 f5 10 e5 c5 11 b3 h6 12 Qg3 f4 13 Qf3 Bf5 14 Qxb7 Be4 15 Qxc7 Bxd3 16 cxd3 Bxe5 17 Qb7 Rb8 18 Qxa6 f3 19 Nc3 fxg2 20 Re1 0-0 21 Qe6+ Rf7 22 Nd1 Qxa1 23 Qxe5 Qxe5 24 Rxe5 Nc6 25 Rxc5 Nb4 26 Ba3 Nxd3 27 Rc6 Ra8 28 Rd6 Rxa3 29 Rxd3 Rxa2 30 Ne3 Kg7 31 Kxg2 Ra5 32 Rd4 Rb5 33 b4 Rbb7 34 Rc4 Rfc7 35 Rg4 Rd7 36 h4 h5 37 Rg5 Rxb4 38 d4 Rf7 39 Rd5 Rb2 White resigns ----------------------------------------------