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There are three things to look for in an alleged chess prodigy. The first is the stance at the board. A true chessplayer stares fixedly at the pieces, head held between two small hands, with the elbows anchored to the table. No shuffling, no bored looks around the room.

The next symptom of real talent is where they put their pieces. High- level chess demands an instinctive feel of where pieces belong and how they co-operate with one another. Over-trained pseudo-prodigies win games either through intimidatory over-aggression or a policy of total caution geared only to taking advantage of unforced errors.

Finally, and most important of all, they stop to have a good long think. Two or three times in each game, a crisis arrives where a good player will sense almost immediately that the next move really matters.

That's when you have to stop to think. But many players just continue blithely with decent-looking moves, missing the fact that it is the turning point of the entire game.

On those criteria, England's latest prodigy, Luke McShane, is the most outstanding prospect I have seen since Nigel Short moved into long trousers. Still only 11, Luke is already making a habit of beating masters and grandmasters.

In the following game, from the Cambridge Open last weekend, he dispatches a Russian master in astonishingly mature style. 12.gxf3!? is not the sort of move one would normally recommend to an 11-year-old, but Luke played it to perfection.

17.Ne2! prepared to meet fxe5 with fxe5 and Nf4. Obvious enough, but Baburin missed the knight's next move completely. 23.Ng1!! (the real point of 22.Rg2) was a very high-class retreat, threatening to trap the bishop with Nf3.

When White gave up his b-pawn then played 26.Qb2, all his pieces combined in the attack on g7. Somehow, they were all on the right squares.

White: Luke McShane

Black: Alexander Baburin

Alekhine's Defence

Cambridge Open 1995

1 e4 Nf6 18 Bxf5 exf5

2 e5 Nd5 19 Qc2 Ne7

3 d4 d6 20 Kh2 Qd7

4 Nf3 Bg4 21 Rg1 Kh8

5 Be2 e6 22 Rg2 a5

6 0-0 Be7 23 Ng1 fxe5

7 h3 Bh5 24 dxe5 Nc6

8 c4 Nb6 25 Nf3 Nxb4

9 Nc3 0-0 26 Qb2 Qe7

10 Be3 d5 27 Rag1 Rg8

11 c5 Bxf3 28 Nxh4 Qxh4

12 gxf3 Nc8 29 e6 d4

13 b4 Nc6 30 Bxd4 Qxf4+

14 Qa4 Bh4 31 Kh1 h6

15 Bd3 f6 32 Bxg7+ Kh7

16 f4 N6e7 33 Qf6 resigns

17 Ne2 Nf5