15 NOVEMBER 1997, Page 66


Top heavy

Raymond Keene

AFTER RECENT TRIUMPHS, such as winning the European Team Championship, the England side suffered an unpleasant reverse at the World Team Championship in Lucerne. With the Russian side weakened by the absence of Kasparov, Karpov and Kramnik, I had expected that a full strength England squad might well have captured the gold medals. As it was, England was never really in con- tention for anything apart from bronze, while a last round disaster against Armenia even relegated England to fourth position.

This was not the fault of the top boards, Short, Adams, Sadler and Speelman, all of whom performed well up to expectations. The problems lay entirely with the two reserves Julian Hodgson and John Nunn. True, they only played five games between them, but, with the benefit of hindsight, these were probably five games too many, since the two of them only managed the meagre score of 1.5 points from these five encounters.

For a team to lay legitimate claim to top slot in such events it is usually necessary to have a killer or two on the lower boards. In this case, England were sadly lacking in such bloodthirsty characters and the momentum generated by the top boards alone was simply insufficient to carry the team into the medal regions. Leading scores were as follows: Russia 23.5, US 23, Armenia 21, England 20.5. Individual results for England were Short 4/8, Adams 5/8, Sadler 6/9, Speelman 416, Hodgson 0.5/3, Nunn 1/2. The England hero was undoubtedly co-British champion Matthew Sadler, who notched up seven decisive games (of which he won five) and played in every round - a Stakhanovite performance. Here is a sample of his play. Sadler–Forster: World Team Champion- ship, Lucerne 1997; Benoni Defence 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7 5 e4 0-0 6 Bd3 e6 A provocative and unusual line. Normal would be 6 ... d6. Instead Black tempts White to advance in the centre, in the hope that he will over-extend his pawn front. 7 e5 Ne8 8 Nf3 d6 9 Bg5 Qc7 10 h4 Black's counter-attack against White's centre has proved quite successful. White, therefore, throws caution to the winds in order to launch a direct assault against the black king. 10 dxe5 It is worth considering instead the cautious 10 ... h5, though, admittedly, the route chosen by Black looks most tempting. 11 h5 f5 12 hxg6 hxg6 13 Qe2 e4 (Diagram 1) Position after 13 Qe2 e4 Black's play has been supremely logical. Having dismantled White's pawns, he now wins a piece. However, as Sadler must have foreseen, White develops a huge initiative in exchange for the lost material. 14 Nxe4 fxe4 15 Qxe4 Rf5 Preventing penetration to g6. 16 0-0-0 Qb6 Black generates threats of his own. 17 Rd2 The upshot is that White no longer has the option of dou- bling his rooks in the 'h' file. 17 ... Nf6 18 Bxf6 Rxf6 19 Ng5 Na6 20 Nh7 (Diagram 2) 20 e5 Giving back some material to free his position. If instead 20 ... Rf5 21 g4 drives away the black rook from its important defensive function. 21 Nxf6+ Qxf6 22 Qxg6 Qxg6 23 Bxg6 The situa- tion has stabilised. White's attack has gone, but he has regained some material and his passed 'd' pawn is now a decisive factor. 23 ... Bd7 24 Be4 Rb8 25 a3 Nc7 26 b4 cxb4 26 ... b6 would be more cautious. Now White obtains a mobile armada of pawns. 27 axb4 Rc8 28 Kb2 a5 29 Rd3 A remarkably subtle move. White probably wished to avoid 29 c5 which would be met by 29 Nb5 and ... Nd4. The text contains two threats, namely Rf3 followed by Bh7+ or Rg3 followed by Rh7, 29 ... Ne8 Black retreats to meet the afore-mentioned threats but now White can play c5 unmolested. 30 c5 axb4 31 Ra Nf6 32 c6 All the action has switched away from the king's flank and on to the question of whether White can promote one of his passed pawns. 32 ... bxc6 33 dxc6 Be8 34 c7 Nxe4 35 Rd8 Nd6 36 Rxd6 e4+ 37 Kb1 RaS 38 c8Q All Black's struggling has proved fruitless. White's extra queen now decides. Black can only achieve a few spite checks. 38 Ral+ 39 Kc2 Ra2 + 40 Kdl Black resigns A thoroughly original game by a player who will soon be in contention for the lead- ing place in the England team. Sadler's rate of improvement is truly impressive.