The second week of the Smith & Williamson British Championships in Torquay provided a superb spectacle of top-level chess. After the previous week's deadlock in which co-favourites Nigel Short and Matthew Sadler both won their first four rounds and then drew with one another after a marathon 7-hour game, Matthew Sadler took a psychological advantage after Jonathan Rowson, who had earlier lost to Sadler, held Short to a draw in round 6. Rowson, playing on the black side of a Sicilian defence, sacrificed a pawn in what can only be described as a speculative fashion. A few moves later Short so dominated the board that no-one doubted that the point was his. However, Rowson manoeuvred his pieces as Nigel's pawn majority began to roll, and suddenly Jonathan had created enough threats to win the pawn back and, worse still from Nigel's point of view, invade with queen and rook. In the end Nigel had to jettison material and bailed out into a draw by perpetual check.

Matthew actually took a half-point lead the following round as he had also dropped half a point against Jonathan Speelman while Short was playing Rowson. Round 7 saw 17-year-old Indian player Krishnan Sasikiran hold Short with the greatest of ease while Matthew beat Tony Miles. Tony lost a piece but gained passed pawns on the a and b files. Sadly for the Birmingham Grandmaster, Matthew's mating attack took place while Tony's pawns were still some way from the queening squares.

This result pushed Short into second place with the two Jonathans, Rowson and Speelman, and they played one another while Short played Mark Hebden. Matthew Sadler played a very controlled game against the Sussex Grandmaster Stuart Conquest in which Conquest played a very aggressive line as white against Sadler's Sicilian defence. Conquest's initiative was easily repulsed and both Short and Speelman also won comfortably enough.

In round 9 Nigel Short reclaimed his share of the lead as it was Matthew Sadler's turn to drop half a point to Sasikiran, in a similar fashion to the way Short had done in round 7. The Indian had to withstand considerable pressure from both the Englishmen, but after their attacks had broken down it was he who gained the initiative and both Short and Sadler found ways to neutralise his advantage and draw the endings after exchanges. Short, meanwhile, had beaten Jonathan Speelman, and it was a surprise that Speelman, acknowledged as Britain's leading endgame expert, played on for so long while two pawns down.

So to round 10, in which Matthew Sadler had to play Mark Hebden and Nigel Short played the Indian Grandmaster Praveen Thipsay. Hebden took the battle to Sadler and sacrificed a piece on h7, bringing Black's king into the open. Sadler had experienced considerable time trouble in several of his games, but had hitherto reached move 40 with time to spare. This time, his plight was desperate, but as the melee progressed, he gained another piece at Hebden's expense. With still another 11 moves to make before Matthew could take a breather, Hebden continued to attack. It is to the Leicestershire player's great credit that he set Sadler a position which had only one move to save the game and Sadler failed to find it. He played 30 ...Qe5??, missing the deadly 31 Rf1 check. The only way to avert mate was to lose his queen, and Sadler resigned and left the playing area in great haste. Normally the most affable and mild-mannered of men, he was shortly to be seen in the car park in an uncontrollable rage - had he played 30 ...Qh5!!, white would have had no choice but to exchange queens, as his own mating threats would have gone and black, still two pieces ahead, was threatening mate in 3.

Now of course, the Championship was a foregone conclusion. Short had to play Miles, to whom he had never lost, and Sadler of course would beat Peter Wells. Short first, Sadler second, then a lot of other players.

Sadler started like a train, hammering into Wells' position, but Peter stood firm and it is hard to say that White ever had any kind of advantage in the position other than on the clock, and indeed Wells did lose on time. On board 1, Tony Miles, playing white, gained nothing from the opening, and when a rook and pawns ending was reached, it was only a matter of time, surely, before top board was agreed drawn and Short took the title. However, it is known in chess circles that there is no love lost between Tony Miles and Nigel Short ever since the 14 year old Short won with the black pieces against Britain's (then) only Grandmaster in the 1979 British Championships in Chester (your correspondent was snoozing intermittently in the front row, having driven up to Cheshire the night before). On that occasion the arbiters completely lost control as spectators were standing on tables to get a sight of the board.

The 1998 Miles-Short game was an epic of its kind. After advancing his queen side pawns, Tony established a pawn on a7, supported by his rook on the seventh rank. Short had four pawns against three on the other side of the board, but in order for Miles to win, he had to march his king to b6 to support the a7 pawn, shift his rook to the 8th rank and then promote the pawn. Of course, Nigel would sacrifice his rook, and then it was a question of whether white's king could return from a7 quickly enough to help the white rook in its attempt to win black's pawns before they queened. White's king did indeed find its way back in the nick of time and Miles had scored a personally satisfying and enormously popular victory while Matthew Sadler bought drinks for anyone anywhere near the bar...

The play-off, on the Saturday after the prize-giving ceremony, involved two games at 30 minutes per player but with Fischer timings: every time the electronic clock was pressed, 30 seconds would be added to the player's time. Neither game was expected to last more than 2 hours. In the first, Sadler had white and created a passed pawn but lost this while pressing too hard for victory. However, his rearguard action was sufficient for a draw. In the second game, Short played very strongly after a strange variation of the Sicilian defence in which both players seemed to be making it up "on the hoof". Sadler lost the exchange, but ingenious play involving firstly a rook sacrifice (which Short dared not take) then a Bishop sacrifice (which he dared not spurn) allowed him to queen a pawn which cost Short, who had been clearly irritated when the expected resignation failed to materialise, one of his rooks. However, Sadler's resistance was finally broken down as Short marched his a and b pawns towards the queening squares to take the title.

Miles,T - Short,N

British (11), 1998

1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.b3 0-0 6.0-0 c5 7.Bb2 Nc6 8.e3 b6 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Nxd5 Qxd5 12.d4 Na5 13.dxc5 Bxc5 14.Qxd5 Bxd5 15.Rfd1 Rfd8 16.Rac1 Nc6 17.Nd4 Bxg2 18.Kxg2 Bxd4 19.Bxd4 Nxd4 20.Rxd4 Rxd4 21.exd4 g5 22.Rc7 Rd8 23.Rxa7 Rxd4 24.Rb7 Rd6 25.a4 Kg7 26.Kf1 g4 27.Ke2 h5 28.b4 e5 29.a5 bxa5 30.bxa5 Rd4 31.a6 Ra4 32.a7 Kg6 33.Kd3 f6 34.Kc3 Kf5 35.Kb3 Ra1 36.Rc7 Ke6 37.Kc4 Kd6 38.Rf7 Ke6 39.Rh7 Kf5 40.Kd5 Ra5+ 41.Kc6 Ke4 42.Kb6 Ra2 43.Rh8 Rxa7 44.Kxa7 Kf3 45.Kb6 Kxf2 46.Kc5 e4 47.Rxh5 e3 48.Rf5+ Kg2 49.Rxf6 Kxh2 50.Kd4 e2 51.Re6 Kxg3 52.Kd3 1-0

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