Sun-Herald Chess Column for December 24

"Chess is a diabolical game which disturbs the mind of those who practise it."

So proclaimed the Ayatollah Khomeni when he outlawed chess after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.

A decade later, shortly before he died, Khomeni revoked the ban and an Iranian team was sent to the 1990 Novi Sad Olympiad.

However by then Iran's best players had been forced to emigrate and it has taken another decade for a new generation of Iranian players to make an impact internationally.

In 2000 Esham Ghaem Maghami proved himself one of the world's best teenagers while Atousa Pourkashiyan won the World U/12 Girls' Championships in October; both players enjoying government support.

To top off chess' rehabilitation in Iran, this week the FIDE World Championship final began at the Mabra Convention Centre in Tehran.

Alexey Shirov and Viswanathan Anand are contesting a six game match in front of keen Iranian chess fans and a small media contingent. Anand, 31, is favourite and an easy draw in the first game (given below) follwed by a win in the second confirmed this status.

However chess' new-found status in Iran may be under threat.

Last week the Minister for Culture, Atoollah Mahajerani, was forced to resign after 4 years of pressure from Islamic conservatives - a move described as bringing an end to a period of liberalisation in the arts.

Tehran 2000, Game 1 White: A.Shirov Black: V.Anand Opening: Deferred Milner-Barry Gambit 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3 a5 7.Bd3 Bd7 8.0-0 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 11.Nc3 Qb6 12.Qg4 g6!? 12...f5 is recommended but Anand has prepared exceptionally well for this tournament and it would be no surprise if 12...g6 was home preparation. 13.Be3 Bc5 14.Na4 "After move 14, the lines were [more or less] forced until the end," Anand told a stunned press corps after the game. 14.Qf4 would avoid the ensuing liquidation. 14...Bxa4 15.Qxa4+ Kf8 16.Bxc5+ Qxc5 17.Rac1 Qb6 18.Qd7 Rd8 19.Qc7 Qxc7 20.Rxc7 The ensuing endagme gives White ample play for the pawn but, as Anand shows with his active defence, no realistic winning chances. 20...Rb8 21.Rfc1 Ne7 22.f4 Nc6 23.Rc5 Kg7 24.Rb5 g5! 25.g3 h5 26.Rbxb7 Rxb7 27.Rxb7 h4 28.Kg2 hxg3 29.hxg3 gxf4 30.gxf4 Rh4 31.Kg3 Rh1 32.Kg2 Rh4 33.Kg3 Rh1 34.Kg2 Draw

Christmas Chess Competition - Solution

White wins with 1.Bg2 Bf1 2.Bxf1 g2 3.Ng3!! Kxg3 (if 3...g1(Q) then 4.Nf5 is checkmate!) 4.Bxg2 Kxg2 5.f4 and the pawn promotes. Despite being a comparatively short and simple solution, this puzzle confounded many solvers.

A.Williams, Thirlmere; R.Schinaia, Ascot Vale; L.Moylan, Evatt; V.Korotkich, Maryland; R.Sutherland, Bellevue Hill.