CHESS

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Among the many players absent from this year's British Championships in Swansea - Short, Speelman and Adams spring to mind - the name true connoisseurs are most missing is Michael Basman.

While the grandmasters have been fighting for the championship title in recent years, the biggest crowds have tended to gather around the board at which Bazza was displaying his remarkable chess philosophy.

Opening 1.h3 and 2.a3 (h6 and a6 with Black), or, in some years, 1.g4 and 1...g5, Basman's edge-hogging style created wonderfully messy positions, with his own king barricaded in the centre, and his pieces whizzing from side to side exploring the open spaces created by his pawn advances.

Like any good iconoclast, however, Basman has assumed the role of a guru and attracted a small band of followers. In the past, his disciples have tended to capture the Basmaniac flair for the unusual without quite emulating his skill at making it work. Recently, however, the tide has begun to turn.

The following game from Swansea is clearly not the work of the Master himself. White's 2.h4 does not strike quite the right note of vulgarity. Bazza would have played h4 at move one, or confined himself to 2.h3. Yet the influence is clear enough for this to be unmistakably "School of Basman".

After 1.a3 g6, White reasons that 2.b4 Bg7 would embarrass his rook on a1. So 2.h4! is played to tempt Black's knight to f6 (to prevent h5) after which b4 and Bb2 may be played without worry.

White then adopts Basman's sneaky trick of playing good positional chess after the bizarre beginning. Black's 5...c5 is not a good move. The exchange of pawns lessens his influence in the centre. And when 15.h5 and 16.hxg6 arrive, White creates a fine square for his knight on e4.

Just as Black thinks the white rook is trying to attack on the h-file, it power ranges over to the other wing to pick up the knight that had strayed to b3.

And, as with the other Power Rangers, we must warn you that these are highly-trained players and you shouldn't try such things at home.

White: Geoff Lawton

Black: Karl Mah

British Championship, 1995

1 a3 g6 14 Qb2 Kg8

2 h4 Nf6 15 h5 Na5

3 b4 Bg7 16 hxg6 fxg6

4 Bb2 d5 17 Rh4 Nb3

5 e3 c5 18 Rd1 Rac8

6 bxc5 Qa5 19 Rb4 Qf5

7 c4 Qxc5 20 f3 Qg5?

8 cxd5 0-0 21 Ne4 Qd5

9 Ne2 Nxd5 22 Rb5! Nc5

10 Bxg7 Kxg7 23 d4 Na4

11 Nbc3 Nxc3 24 Qb4 a5

12 Nxc3 Nc6 25 Qxa4 1-0

13 Qb3 Be6

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