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Manu et Manu by Ian Turner

The 15th Cambridge International, which is the first event of the 1998 European Grand Prix, was played at Peterhouse College Cambridge. The possibility of a poor turnout was looking on the cards with top British players being unable to attend for a number of reasons, however, a large French contingent, seven players, including two players making their European debut outside of France, Takuji Kashiwabara and Jose Seknadje made for a healthy tournament. Pre tournament favourites were David Shaman, the former world champion, and Emmanuel Caspard and Emmanuel Lazard from the French World Championship team.

The first three rounds of the tournament saw Caspard and Lazard going unbeaten with Shaman going down to Caspard. Caspard managed to get the better of the meeting with Lazard in round four and stayed unbeaten until the last round of the day when he met Jan-Kristian Haugland of Norway. Meanwhile the normally solid Shaman had had a bad day losing to the top three French players Caspard, Lazard and Dominique Penloup. So, surprisingly for a tournament where all the players were closely matched, the two Emmanuels shared the lead at the end of the first day with 6/7, giving them a healthy two win cushion from the rest of the field, including on 4/7 Shaman, Haugland, Turner, Kashiwabara and Plowman.

That evening everyone went out for the, now traditional, meal at the Eraina restaurant in the city centre, followed by beers at a local hostelry. The following day everyone was hoping for some cracks to appear in the armour of the two Emmanuels, unfortunately these hopes were dashed when both went 4/4 on the second day to finish level on 10/11 with Lazard winning the tiebreak by three disks. By the end of the penultimate round the final and the third fourth playoff places had been decided because Shaman and Penloup had both won their first three games of the morning and were both two wins ahead of Turner, Haugland, Kashiwabara and Plowman. Final standings in the swiss were as follows:-

1.LAZARD Emmanuel {F} 10/11 8.ANDRIANI Bintsa {F} 5
2.CASPARD Emmanuel {F} 10 PLOWMAN Guy {GB} 5
3.SHAMAN David {USA} 8 10.DE GREY Aubrey {GB} 3.5
4.PENLOUP Dominique {F} 7 ARNOLD Roy {GB} 3.5
5.HAUGLAND Jan-Kristian {N} 6 12.SEKNADJE Jose {F} 3
TURNER Ian {GB} 6 13.SUMMERS David {GB} 2
KASHIWABARA Takuji {F} 6 ROBIN Francois {F} 2

The third-fourth place playoff, between David Shaman and Dominique Penloup was a one sided affair with Shaman getting ahead in both games and capitalising well on the position, winning 43-21 in the first game and 52-12 in the second.

The final, on the other hand, was a different matter with the match going down to the deciding game. Caspard took the first game 44-20, Lazard managed to scrape through 35-29 in the second to level the match. After getting the choice of colours for the third Caspard chose white and put together a neat win 45-19 to take the title, his first European Grand Prix win, which is somewhat surprising since he previously reached the world championship final.

The opening in the first game was a tiger in which Caspard played the unusual d2 at move 10, more common moves being the traditional b4, the Tamenori e6 or e3. This move almost certainly took Lazard out of his opening book, which was no doubt Caspard thinking this being a favoured tactic of his. Lazard chose e3 as his reply, when a more promising line follows c6, b4, e6. The early mid game sees neither player gain any great advantage. However just as thing look as if they are going to go badly for black Lazard finds a nice sequence setting up the wedge in the h-column and sacrificing with g2. Caspard accepts the sacrifice after a couple of moves and sets up a counter sacrifice at b2 at move 48 after which a comfortable parity win is always on the cards. Lazard drops a few discs in the endgame but the result was never in doubt.

In the second game Lazard played white and the opening was once again a tiger, in this game Caspard uses the f6 diagonal tiger move to once again move away from the standard tiger mainlines. At move 11, e2 from Caspard looks very awkward, but is actually the standard response to d2.

After 16 b5, the position shown in the diagram, things look very awkward for black, Caspard plays 17 d7 which must be questioned, 17f7 also gains access to f3 without giving white any obvious reply. Following 18 d8 black is in big trouble and by move 29 things have started to deteriorate badly for black, and after move 34 most of blacks moves are semi-forced. Lazard makes a number of minor errors losing the odd disk, but never gives Caspard a win line. The best he could have made was a 33-31 defeat following 50g7 with h8, h7, g1, h1, g8, f8, --, h2, g2, h4, h5.

So it all rested on the third game, for which Caspard, by dint of the better win in game1, had choice of colour.

He chose white and once again Lazard played a tiger. This time just to be different Caspard plays the standard Tamenori move 10, and play follows along the mainline until move 22 where Caspard deviates with g5 instead of the more usual e1.

At move 24 there is some question of whether e7 is the best move in this position, c7,e2 or g4 all looking better candidates. However black gives up his slight advantage when he plays 29f2, both e1 and h6 could be alternatives, and after 30g6, 31h5 also seems weak.

At 37 Lazard plays the aggressive g7 instead of a more passive move in an attempt to exploit parity in the south west corner of the board. Unfortunately Lazard misses a swindle with h7 then h6 when he plays 41 h4 and the game is all over from there.