At the Tal Memorial — the strongest chess tournament of the year — it’s great to see Oxford University graduate Luke McShane being given a chance to take on the World’s best players.

Luke won an online poll to gain his place —a testament to his popularity amongst chess fans — and so far Luke is giving as good as he’s getting. The chess has been terrific with very few dull draws and a refreshingly wide variety of openings. It seems the English — with which Alexander Grischuk beat McShane in round 1 — is becoming popular again at the highest level. It represents a flexible and positional approach against which Black can easily find himself playing an unfamiliar — or worse, prospect-less — middle-game. Such was my fate in round 10 of this season’s Four Nations Chess League when, facing the English and needing to win, my opponent was impressively ruthless in exploiting my steadily deteriorating position.

White: Philip Tozer (Anglian Avengers) Black: Matthew Rose (Oxford) 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c6?! Played automatically and failing to recall that I had planned to meet the English with the reversed Sicilian 3...d5. This was a game I had to win to keep my prospects of an IM norm alive and perhaps nerves made me forget my preparation.

4.d4 exd4 5.Qxd4 Na6 6.Nf3 My game against White Rose’s Simon Buckley in round 5 had gone 6.Nc3 Bc5 7.Qd1 d5. Unfortunately for me, my opponent had studied this game and had come up with a plan.

6...Bc5 7.Qe5+ Qe7 8.Qxe7+ Bxe7 9.Nc3 Nb4 10.Nd4! Much more testing than 10.0–0 d5 after which Black should be fine. I now had a long think.

10...Bc5 My main reason for avoiding 10...c5 was that after 11.Ndb5 Kd8 12.Bf4 Nc2+ 13.Kd2 Nxa1 White has a draw if he wants one with 14.Nc7 Rb8 15.Na6 Ra8 16.Nc7 etc.

11.a3 Bxd4 Probably 11...Nd3+ 12.exd3 Bxd4 is a better way to play — but with the symmetrical pawn structure that results, I couldn’t myself creating winning chances.

12.axb4 d6 13.b5! Bd7 14.Bf4 Ke7 15.0–0 Rhd8 16.Rfd1 Bc5 Again, I couldn’t see any winning chances after 16...Be5 17.Bxe5 dxe5 so I rejected the line.

17.Na4! Bb4 18.c5! An excellent move. Now I have the unenviable choice between 18...dxc5 19.Bd6+ Ke8 20.Nxc5 with some advantage for White — and line I played.

18...d5?! 19.Bd6+ Ke8 20.Rd4! cxb5 I have no choice since 20...Ba5 21.b4 cxb5 22.Nc3 is even worse.

21.Rxb4 bxa4 22.Rxb7 Rdc8 Here I rejected 22...Ne4 because I thought the simplifying 23.Bxe4 dxe4 24.Rc1 Rdc8 25.c6 Rxc6 26.Rxc6 Bxc6 27.Re7+ Kd8 28.Rxf7 was too easy to find for white.

23.Ra3 Rc6 24.Re3+ Kd8 25.Re7 Rac8?! Hoping to confuse my opponent with ‘threats’ of 26...Rxd6.

26.h3! Taking away my last hope. Now I’m left with a truly disgusting position and I’m down to my last minute on the clock. I play on — but my opponent continues with the same care and efficiency and eventually I have to throw in the towel.

26...Be8 27.Rxa7 h6 28.Reb7 Bd7 29.Bxd5 Rxc5 30.Bxc5 Rxc5 31.Bg2 Rc2 32.e4 Bc8 33.Rb4 1–0