Chess: first time English champion is aged 64
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Mark Hebden, one of England’s oldest active grandmasters, achieved his first national title in classical chess last weekend at age 64. The Leicester GM won the Chessable English Championship and its £2000 first prize with a round to spare and a 6/7 total.
It is a result for the record books. Dr Stefan Fazekas at 59 in 1957 was the oldest British champion, Ireland’s John O’Hanlon won his ninth title in 1940 aged 63 or 64, Edith Price took the 1948 British women’s championship at 76, but the veteran of them all was the legendary Viktor Korchnoi, who won the 2011 Swiss crown at 80.
Hebden honed his skills on the English weekend circuit of the 1970s and 1980s. where he developed a purpose-built opening repertoire. The Grand Prix, 150 and Barry Attacks became his fearsome weapons despite their self-deprecatory names. All seem primitive, but their results are impressive.
Playing Black against 1 d4, Hebden’s long time favourite is the King’s Indian Nf6, g6 and Bg7, which he used in a key victory last week and was ready when White chose the sharp Four Pawns Attack. The cut and thrust game seemed headed for a draw until White blundered horribly by 25 g3?? when 25 Bxe8! Ng4+ 26 Kh1 Nf2+ is a draw by perpetual check.
White to play and mate in two moves. This weird-looking puzzle (composer unknown) has proved tricky for solvers, due to the several plausible but unsuccessful tries.
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