Hodgson retains British chess title with eighth win

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JULIAN HODGSON, 29, made certain of retaining his title of British chess champion when he won his 10th round game at the Plymouth Pavilions yesterday. Even if he loses in today's final round, Hodgson's score of nine points cannot be equalled.

Jonathan Mestel, who shared first place for the first eight rounds, fell behind with a loss in round nine. Yesterday, he had to win against Andrew Martin to keep alive any hopes of winning the title, but instead slipped to his second consecutive defeat.

Throughout the tournament, Hodgson has played in the same confident, uncompromising style that brought him his first British championship last year. Always eager to avoid established theoretical lines and start the real fight as soon as possible, he has developed a repertoire of weird opening lines that create instant complexity without totally losing strategic soundness.

Hodgson brings to the resulting messy positions a rare gift for tactical opportunism. He seems temperamentally unable to play a dull game. The effectiveness of this style is well illustrated by his results in Plymouth: drawing both games against his fellow grandmasters, he won all eight encounters with players who have not yet achieved the status.

If Hodgson's celebrations last night leave him still in a fighting mood for his final game, another win today will give him the record for the highest score in a British championship.

Yesterday's decisive win against Andrew Webster looked like being one of the champion's more conventional games as he slowly but methodically fought for central space, but his 24th move invited a flurry of complications. Capturing a central pawn, Webster fell into a deeply laid trap. Instead of recapturing a knight on move 26, Hodgson surprisingly sacrificed one, having calculated that his investment would be returned.

Here are the full moves:

White: A Webster

Black: J Hodgson

1 c4 e5 17 Nfd2 g6

2 g3 Nf6 18 Ne4 Bg7

3 Bg2 d5 19 Nec5 Nd5

4 cxd5 Nxd5 20 a4 Nc3

5 Nc3 Nb6 21 Re1 Re8

6 Nf3 Nc6 22 Qc2 c6

7 0-0 Be7 23 a5 Qc7

8 a3 a5 24 Na4 Be6

9 d3 0-0 25 Nxd4 Qxa5

10 Be3 Be6 26 Nxe6 Nxe2+

11 Qc1 Nd4 27 Rxe2 Bxa1

12 Bxd4 exd4 28 Nec5 Rxe2

13 Ne4 a4 29 Qxe2 Bd4

14 Nc5 Bc8 30 Qe7 Qd2

15 b4 axb3 31 Ne4 Qd1+

16 Nxb3 Bf6 White resigns

Leading scores before today's final round: Hodgson 9, Martin 7 1/2 , Mestel, Emms and Hebden 7, Levitt 6 1/2 , Kumaran 6 (one unfinished).