Chess - The Scotsman 07/01/2012

THE children at the school where I work say “Chess rocks!”, and today I’m reflecting on a double meaning for those words.

There is, of course, a great excitement factor to our royal game, but I’m also thinking about extremely dependable players who have often been loyal to their clubs – and indeed to their countries – for decades. They are rocks who’ll never let you down.

Looking back to the mid-1970s, one of the first and most admired rocks who had a tremendous positive influence on me was Craig Pritchett, the first ever Scotland-born International Master. I’m sure my cheeks were bright red with joy and other emotions when Craig, towering over me, took special notice of a tactical combination that I played against a fellow junior player at one Perth weekend congress. Also, whenever Craig showed me all sorts of ideas and tricks that he very kindly decided to share, they were to me almost priceless nuggets that I would never forget.

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Craig turns 63 next Sunday, and he is clearly still as good as ever, winning the World Senior Blitz Championship with a phenomenal score of 8.5/9 just a few weeks ago.

Given that the original Gaelic meaning of the name Craig is ‘rock’, don’t be surprised if Craig stays strong for a long time to come. Today, though, I would like to celebrate by revisiting an old favourite game from 1974, around the time when I first met Craig. You’re about to witness him slaying GM Jan Plachetka’s Sicilian Dragon very quickly.

White: C Pritchett; Black: J Plachetka. Opening: Sicilian Dragon.

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 f3 Nc6 8 Qd2 0-0 9 Bc4 Bd7 10 h4 Qb8 The major alternative is 10...Ne5 11 Bb3 h5 followed by ...Rc8. For lots more details about this and other Sicilian variations, I warmly encourage you to check out GM Yuri Yakovich’s Sicilian Attacks, available via 11 h5! Craig consistently and correctly sacrifices a pawn in order to prise open lines for the kingside attack that his tenth move initiated. 11...Nxh5 12 0-0-0 b5 13 Bd5 13 Bxb5 is possible, but Craig prefers not to open up lines for Black on the queenside. 13...Rc8 14 Nxc6 Bxc6 15 Bxc6 Rxc6 16 Nd5 Qb7 17 g4 Nf6 18 Bh6 Here, 18 Qh2! is more incisive. 18...Rac8? Black should play 18...Bh8! to preserve a vital defender of his king. 19 Nb4! Rc4 20 Bxg7 Kxg7 21 Qh6+ Kg8 22 Nd5! White doesn’t worry about letting the c2-pawn go too, because his winning plan is very simple yet unstoppable: eliminate the f6-knight and deliver mate on the h-file. 22...Rxc2+ 23 Kb1 R2c6 24 Rdg1 24 g5 also wins, but Craig’s move threatens 25 g5 Nh5 26 Rxh5 gxh5 27 Nf6+!. 24...g5 25 Qxg5+ Kf8 26 Nxf6 exf6 27 Qxf6 d5 28 Qh8+ Ke7 29 Qe5+ Re6 30 Qg5+ Ke8 31 Rxh7 Black resigned.