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Weekend 3 round-up, 15-16 Feb 2014 - John Saunders



As a change from Hinckley Island, I thought I would bring you this report from the brand-new Saunders Island, a small, non-tropical atoll surrounded by flood water in the royal borough of Kingston-under-Thames. Actually, we’re still technically a peninsula: the swollen river has yet to lap at my front door but I’ve been practising my breast stroke in the bath just in case. Thanks to the sterling efforts of the 4NCL’s live board technicians and input wallahs, this remotely-written report lacks only the usual Saturday night saloon bar gossip; given that it probably only consisted of recycled chess political gossip anyway, you’re not missing anything of value.







Now we turn to pools of a different type, starting with Pool A: Guildford 1 were paired with King’s Head and, all too predictably, committed regicide á la Charles the First. The only King’s Head emerging unbeheaded was that belonging to Aussie IM John-Paul Wallace, though the copy of the score I have seen suggests he might have won with best play.


So much for the Roundheads’ victory: the hammerheads (Grantham Sharks) were not so successful, losing by the odd point to Wood Green 2. I’m not normally superstitious but it seems to me that 4NCL teams with macho names fail to live up to them more often than not. And I write that as a retired member of the South Wales Dragons: this always struck me as not the cleverest of names, given that the vast majority of our opposition came from a country of whom a dragon-slayer is patron saint. Just asking for trouble, really, isn’t it? Norwegian prodigy IM Aryan Tari made his 4NCL debut for Wood Green 2 on top board but was held to a draw by Peter Roberson.


The match hinged on a long, complex and, at times, frantic game between Holger Grund and Andrew Greet. I hope Andrew doesn’t think I’m picking on him by featuring another of his games but at least he won this one. There were a number of mistakes but these arose organically from the sheer quantities of problems that the players had to solve along the way. I wouldn’t mind betting there are a few errors in my analysis, too.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 5, 2014

Holger Grund (Grantham Sharks)

Andrew Greet (Wood Green 2)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.a4 Nbc6 8.Nf3 Qa5 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.Bd3 f6 11.exf6 gxf6 12.0-0 c4 13.Be2 Nf5 14.Ba3 0-0-0 15.Rfb1 Kb8 16.Bc5 16.Qf4+ Qc7 17.Qxc7+ Kxc7 led to a draw in the game Saravanan-Levitt, Goodricke 1997. 16...Bc8 17.Bf1 Rdg8 18.Rb5 Qc7 19.a5 Rg6 20.Rab1 Ka8



If 20...Nxa5, there’s no immediate bone-crusher but 21.Ra1 Nc6 22.Bxa7+! Nxa7 23.Rba5 could be the next best thing as White regains the piece and opens up the a-file. 21.Bb6!? Possible a bluff. 21...Qg7 After 21...axb6 22.axb6 Qd6 23.Ra1+ Kb8 24.Rb2 Bd7, Black may be wriggling out of danger after 25...Kc8 and (if necessary) 26...Nb8. 22.Kh1? It’s not easy to admit you’re wrong but it may be best to go back with 22.Bc5 here. Black now gains some significant tempi, by the end of which he is well on top. 22...Rg8 23.Ne1 Nd6 24.R5b2 Ne4 25.Qe3 Qh6 Black has time to exchange the queens before securing a material advantage. 26.Qxh6 Rxh6 With a bishop and two pawns en prise, White is in desperate straits. 27.f3 Nd2 28.Bc7 e5 Simply 28...Nxf1 looks good enough. 29.Kg1 Nxb1 30.Rxb1 Bf5 31.Rb5 Rc8 32.Bd6 Rd8 33.Bc5 Rg6 34.Kf2 White is the exchange down for nothing but can justify playing on because the black rooks have yet to establish a way into his position. 34...Rgg8 35.g3 h5 36.Rb2 Nxa5 37.Be7 Rde8 38.Bxf6 Nc6 39.Rb5



Why is it that tricky positions always occur around the time control? Black has loosend the pawn structure, which seemed like a good idea, but it is not clear. 39...exd4? Too much of a concession. Black needs to harass the black bishop first, for example 39...Rgf8 or 29...Rg6. 40.Rxd5 Suddenly the c4, c5 and h5 pawns are in danger. 40...Be6 41.Rxh5 Rgf8 42.Bxd4 Nxd4 43.cxd4 Rd8 44.c3 Bd5 45.f4 Rh8 46.Rxh8 Rxh8 47.h3 b5 48.Ke3 a5 Now you sense those queenside pawns are going to do the job but the computer is not yet convinced. This feels like a very tense, complex game. More of a cup tie than a league match. 49.Nc2 Kb7 50.f5 Re8+ 51.Kd2 Be4 52.Na3! 52.g4 Bxc2 53.Kxc2 Re1 54.Bg2+ Kc7 55.Bd5 Kd6 seems to favour Black. Keeping the knight on is more resilient. 52...Kc6 53.g4 Rh8 54.f6!



A pass move like 54.Ke3 is tempting but then 54...Bd3! 55.Bg2+ Kb6 and now 56.Bd5 is forced otherwise 56...b4 would win a piece. Black’s winning plan now is 56...Re8+! 57.Kf3 b4! when a black pawn comes to c3 and wins. If 57 Kd2 instead, Black plays 57...Re2+ and then rounds up the knight. After 54 f6, the position becomes horribly difficult to assess and it’s probably not surprising that both players make mistake. 54...Bd3? Keeping an eye on things with 54...Bd5 meets with silicon approval but the position remains very tricky. 55.Bxd3 cxd3 56.g5 56.Kxd3 b4 57.Nc4 Rxh3+ 58.Ke4 bxc3 59.f7 Rh8 60.Kd3! and White wins. 56...Kd5 57.Nxb5 Ke6 Possibly a mistake. 57...Rxh3 58.f7 Rh8 and it’s still unclear. 58.Kxd3 Rxh3+ 59.Kc4 Rg3?



59...Rh8 keeps Black in the game. 60.Nc7+? A golden chance goes begging. After 60.d5+! Kf7 61.d6! Rxg5 (61...Ke6 62.Nd4+! also wins.) 62.d7! Rg8 63.Nd4 Kxf6 64.Nc6 wraps up the win for White. 60...Kf7 61.d5 Rxg5 62.Kb5 Kxf6 63.c4 Rg4 64.d6 a4



65.c5?? White seemingly can’t lose, e.g. 65.Kxa4 with a drawn endgame, but he unaccountably lets the a-pawn slip past him. 65...a3 66.d7 Ke7 67.c6 67.Nd5+ Kd8 68.Nc3 Rg2 wins. 67...Rd4 67...a2 68.Ne6 Rg8 is equally effective. 68.Kc5 Rxd7 69.cxd7 Kxd7 0-1


There were some other games decided by errors, with Wood Green 2 having more the rub of the green than the poor old Grantham baskers. And I promise not to mock their name again (he typed, with his fingers crossed behind his back, secretly resolving to do exactly the same thing next weekend).


  Main playing hall at Hinckley Island Hotel


The other two matches in Pool A ended 6-2 – a veritable Cleese-Palin style fish-slapping. Cheddleton beat the Blackthorne Sturgeons (they’re not called that but I’m boycotting the R-word at the moment in solidarity with Ukraine) and feasted on caviar.


Ilja Zaragatski is a new name to me – he’s a German-registered GM, originally from the R-place – but he found a nice combination to put away Andrew Ledger:


4NCL Division 1a, Round 5, 2014

Ilja Zaragatski (Cheddleton)

Andrew Ledger (Blackthorne Russia)



White to play and find a winning combination: 37.Bd5+! Kg7 37...Kh8 38.d7 is all over. 38.Rxc8! Rxc8 39.d7! and it’s all over. Black tried 39...Rb8 40.d8Q Rxd8 41.Ne6+ Kf7 42.Nxd8+ when White was a piece for a pawn up and won in another 14 moves.


Richard Bates was the only full point scorer for Blackthorne, beating the Macedonian GM Aleksandar Colovic. But things were tougher down, with Cheddleton enjoying the services of GMs Simon Williams and Keith Arkell on boards six and seven, both winning in their typical fashions, Simon zooming down the fast lane while Keith was content to enjoy the scenery of a country lane to his destination.


Barbican 2 produced a clean sweep of 4-0 with the white pieces in their match with Oxford. David Zakarian, who is also the captain of the Oxford Varsity team and a strong FM from Armenia, went wrong very quickly against Isaac Sanders and had to give up material to allow his king to find safety. He was unable to save the game.


In Pool B, Wood Green proceeded on their serene way, defeating Guildford 2 by 5½-2½. Guildford 2 did well enough to hold their higher-rated opponents over the top five boards but their extra strength on the lower boards made the difference.


Barbican 1 versus proved to be a fateful encounter for the first-named team. They were stronger on rating on six boards but four of their higher-rated brethren went down to defeat. But the reliable Mark Ferguson didn’t let down his skipper and finished in attractive style.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 5, 2014

Mark Ferguson,Mark (Barbican 1)

Plamen Mladenov (



White is a pawn up and can grind out a win the long way but the short cut proves to be risk-free: 48.Rxd6! cxd6 49.b5 The pawns are arranged in an attractive diamond formation and cannot be stopped. White would still be winning if the c4 pawn were to be spirited away from the board but the d5 pawn has a key function in supporting the c6 pawn; in its absence, ...Rc8 would simply immobilise the two passed pawns. 49...Kf6 50.b6 Ke5 51.b7 Rb8 52.c7 Rxb7 53.c8Q Rb3 54.Qf5+ Kd4 55.Qxg5 Ke4 56.Qf5+ Kf3 57.Qc2 1–0


Sam Franklin suffered an aberration in what looked to be a tenable position against Peter Sowray.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 5, 2014

Peter Sowray (

Sam Franklin (Barbican 1)



Black must have been concerned about the vulnerability of his king, or perhaps 31.Ng5 and 32.Nf7+, so he played 30...Kg8??, only to have Black answer 31.Nf6+! and it is game over. 31...Kf8 31...Bxf6 32.Qg6+ Kh8 33.Rxf6 also wins. 32.Qg6 and Black resigned. Going back to the diagram position, it seems that Black was seeing ghosts. His king was perfectly safe on h8 and he could safely take the c-pawn with 30...Qxc4.


4NCL Division 1b, Round 5, 2014

Chris Dorrington (

Colin Crouch (Barbican 1)

Semi-Slav Defence

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 c6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 a6 I realise that it is circumstantial evidence but Kasparov played 5...a6 against Huzman in 2003 - and lost; Aronian played it against Ding Liren last year - and lost; and Anand played it against Gelfand in their 2012 world title match - and lost. Maybe the main line of the Semi-Slav, 5...Nbd7, is a safer bet. 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.f4 c5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Qf3 A new move, which looks good, putting pressure on the d5 pawn. 9...cxd4 10.exd4 Bb4 11.Bd3 0-0 12.0-0 Nb6 13.g4



13...Ne8?! When your opponent is bearing down on your kingside, it often turns out to be later than you think and here Black doesn’t really have time for this manoeuvre. Hiarcs suggests 13...Bxc3 14.bxc3 Ne4!?, one point being that 15.Bxe4?! dxe4 16.Qxe4 f6 17.Nd3 Re8 18.Qf3 Bd7 offers Black some compensation for the sacrificed pawn. However, 15.c4!? retains a plus for White. 14.f5 Nc7 If 14...f6, White plays 15.Ng6! when the capture of the knight would lead to a routine mate on h7, while 15...Rf7 16.Nf4 leads to a considerable edge for White. Still, it is probably better than the text. 15.f6! g6 After 15...gxf6 or 15...Qxf6 16.Qh3 is curtains, of course. 16.Bh6 Re8 The end comes quickly after this. The computer opts for grim defence the exchange down after 16...Nc4 17.Bxf8 Nxe5 18.dxe5 Qxf8, which must look better to the engine than it does to me. 17.Nxg6! hxg6 17...fxg6 18.f7+ Kh8 and mate follows swiftly. 18.Bxg6 18.Qh3 Ne6 and now 19.Bxg6 also does the trick. 18...Nd7 Black probably knew he was lost and allowed White an attractive finish. After 18...fxg6 19.f7+ Kh7, the most forcing line is 20.Qh3 Bxg4 21.Qxg4 Kxh6 22.fxe8Q Qxe8 23.Qf4+ g5 24.Qxc7 with a routine win. 19.Bh7+! Kxh7 20.Qf5+ Kh8 21.Bg7+ Kg8 22.Qh5 1-0


Meanwhile Grantham Sharks were hit rather hard by a White Rose team whose bottom board was around the same rating as the Sharks’ number one. Three draws was probably as much as they could hope for in the circumstances.


The disparity between Cambridge University and 3Cs was not quite so wide but still the Northern side were still considerably stronger and ran out 6-2 winners. After a slow start, 3Cs found themselves with a chance of qualification for the Championship pool should results go their way, but Cambridge University look doomed to life in the relegation zone.


Positions after Round 5


Apologies to Blackthorne Russia and White Rose for omitting their scores from the end of my Round 3/4 report. My new failsafe technique of counting off eight teams should ensure this particular error does not recur - JS


Division 1, Pool A: Guildford 1 10(31½), Cheddleton 10(30½), Grantham Sharks 1 6(21½), Barbican 2 4(19), Wood Green 2 4(19), Oxford 4(16), Blackthorne Russia 2(14½), Kings Head 0(8).


Division 1, Pool B: Wood Green 1 10(31½), Guildford 2 8(26½), Barbican 1 6(21), 6(17½), White Rose 4(21), 3Cs 4(19), Cambridge University 2(11), Grantham Sharks 2 0(11½).


Division 2, Pool A: Warwickshire Select 10(27), Anglian Avengers 8(27), Cambridge University 2 6(22), KJCA Kings 6(19½), Bristol 5(17½), Poisoned Pawns 2(16½), Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 2(12½), Wessex 1(16).


Division 2, Pool B: The ADs 10(25), BCM Dragons 6(21½), White Rose 2 5(20), Hackney 5(19½), Bradford DCA 4(19½), South Wales Dragons 4(19), Barbican Youth 3(19), Brown Jack 3(15½).




Pool A


This was the round when the two leading sides in Pool A clashed, but the sheer weight of the Guildford 1 side, with four players over 2600, three more in the 2500s and a former women’s world champion on the bottom board, was a bit hot to handle for Cheddleton, though their line-up was also fairly impressive. The only surprise result was... not really a surprise. How so? Well, Simon Williams makes a habit of knocking over much higher rated players and I imagine he’s done over Mark Hebden a few times on the circuit. Mark seemed off form in this encounter and lost rather easily. A much more interesting game was Jones-Eggleston, which reflected well on both players. Eggleston might have been better at one stage but the final phase was testament to Gawain Jones’s determination to force a win at all costs. He reminds me a bit of the late, great Tony Miles in his dedication to the struggle.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 6, 2014

Gawain Jones (Guildford 1)

David Eggleston (Cheddleton)



47...c2? A mistake. 47...Rxe7! is playable, producing a sort of stand-off between the two pairs of rooks after 48.R5h6+ Kg5 (where 49.h4+? would only serve to make White’s game worse after 49...Kg4 ). 48.R5h6+ Kg5 49.Rh5+ Kg6 50.R5h6+ Kg5 Take the draw or risk all on a chance of victory? 51.h4+! Gawain, like the Arthurian knight of the same name, is a brave man. 51...Kg4 52.Rxf6 c1Q+ 53.Kh2 f3 The only way to stave off the twin mate threats of 54.Rg6 and 54.f3. 54.Rg7+ Kh5 54...Kxh4 leads to an easy mate after 55.Nxf3+ Kh5 56.Rh7+, etc, but it’s far from obvious how to proceed after the text. 55.Nxf3 Weaving a mating net round the king but the computer finds the even more devilish 55.Ne2! when 55...fxe2 56.Rh7+ Kg4 57.f3 mate is the primary threat. 55...Bc2 56.Kg3 Be4 57.Rg5+ Qxg5+ 58.hxg5? This could, and probably should, have cost White the win. 58.Nxg5! wins, e.g. 58...Rxe7 59.Ne6 with the killing threat of Nf4 mate, which Black can only avert at ruinous material cost. 58...Bxf3 59.Kf4! Preparing another mating threat... 59...Kh4! ... which Black neatly sidesteps. I wonder if Gawain overlooked this possibility when he captured with the pawn on move 58. 60.g6 Rxe7 61.Rf7 61.Kxf3 Kg5 62.Rxa6 should only draw with best play. 61...Re8?? “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” Al Pacino’s famous line from The Godfather seems to encapsulate the agony of Black’s plight. Simply 61...Re6 62.g7 (62.Rh7+ Bh5 63.g7 Rg6 is much the same) 62...Rg6 63.Kxf3 Kg5 and the draw is not far away. 62.Rh7+ Bh5 63.g7 Rg8 64.Kf5 The key difference between the black rook being on g8 rather than g6 is that now the white king can cross the sixth rank and join in the battle to promote the g-pawn. 64...a5 65.Kf6 a4 65...Rb8 66.Rh8 Rb6+ 67.Ke5 and the checks soon run out. 66.Rh8 Rxg7 67.Kxg7 Kg4 67...a3 68.Ra8 Kg4 69.Rxa3 wins. 68.f3+ Kh4 69.f4 a3 70.Kf6 Kg4 71.f5 Kh4 72.Ra8 Bg4 73.Rxa3 Kh5 74.Rg3 Be2 75.Kg7 Kh4 76.Rg6 1-0


Barbican 2 versus Wood Green 2 was a key match in the race to secure places in the Championship section. There was very little between the teams in terms of ratings but the Barbican side, featuring nobody with a title higher than FM, would have been pleased to beat a side with two GMs and an IM. Wood Green had the nucleus of a Scottish Olympiad team in their midst but one of their Scottish GMs, John Shaw, went down to a fellow Caledonian warrior, Graeme Morrison.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 6, 2014

Graeme Morrison (Barbican 2)

John Shaw (Wood Green 2)

Slav Defence

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0-0 0-0 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.Ne5 Nbd7 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.Rd1 Qa5 13.Na2!? A speculative pawn sacrifice, known to theory. 13...Qxa4 14.e4 Qa5 15.e5 Nd5 16.h4 Rfe8 17.h5 gxh5 18.Qxh5 g6 19.Qg4 Bf8 20.Bd2 Finally, White plays a new move. 20...Qb6 21.Nc3 Nxc3 This feels a bit committal. 22.bxc3 a5 23.Bd3 Bg7 24.g3 The precursor to moving the king out of the rook’s path to h1. Not a subtle plan but it’s hard to know what to suggest in response. 24...a4 25.Kg2 a3 26.Qh4 a2 Black seems to be trying to distract White with his passed a-pawn but White doesn’t seem overly impressed. 27.Rh1



27...Nxe5 White’s threat is 28.Bh6 Qd8 29.Bg5 Qa5 30.Bc4! Qxc3 31.Bf6 and mate cannot be averted. 28.dxe5 Qd8 29.Qh7+ Kf8 30.Bh6 Qd5+ 31.f3 Bxh6 31...Qxe5 32.Qh8+ Ke7 33.Qxg7 wins. 32.Qxh6+ Ke7 33.Qg5+ Kd7 34.Rhd1 Kc7 35.Qf6 Qb3 36.Qxf7+ Kb6 37.Qf4 37.Rab1 axb1Q 38.Rxb1 Ra2+ 39.Kf1 Rb2 40.Rxb2 Qxb2 41.Qxe8 would be good enough but looks a bit untidy to the human eye. 37...Red8 38.Qd2 Ra3 39.Rdb1! axb1Q 40.Rxb1 Qxb1 41.Qe3+ 1-0


Blackthorne Russia kept up the fight for a Championship pool place at the expense of the hapless King’s Head, but the strongest player on the two teams, Danny Gormally, lost his game with Aussie IM John Paul Wallace. Hasn’t been a great year for Brits facing Aussies in sporting contests, has it? John Paul’s kingside attack was reminiscent of Mitchell Johnson but there was a curious premature resignation by his opponent at the end which was missed by both players, until they consulted their silicon friends after the game.


4NCL Division 1a, Round 6, 2014

John Paul Wallace (King's Head)

Danny Gormally (Blackthorne Russia)

King's Indian Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3 Nc6 A provocative way to reach a sort of King’s Indian / Benoni hybrid position. 4.d5 Ne5 5.e4 d6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.f4 Ned7 8.Nh3 0-0 9.Be2 c6 10.Be3 cxd5 11.cxd5 b5 12.a3 a6 13.0-0 Nb6 14.Nf2 e6 15.dxe6 Bxe6 16.Bd4 Rc8 17.g4!? Bc4 After 17...h6, a move such as 18.g5?! hxg5 19.fxg5 Nfd7 would leave White dangerously overextended. 18.g5 Bxe2 19.Nxe2 Nh5 20.Bxg7 Nxg7 21.Ng4 Nc4 22.Qb3 h5 23.Nf6+ This looks like a mighty square for the horse but it might still be tenable for Black with careful play. 23...Kh8 24.Rad1 Qb6+ 25.Rf2 Qa7 26.Rd3 Ne6 27.Rh3



27...Nd4 27...Kg7 is still hard to break down. The text allows a big tactic; however, White missed his chance. 28.Qd1 28.Rxh5+!! is a classic computer tactic, but it might not not be out of range of a GM: 28...gxh5 29.Qh3! Nxe2+ (29...Kg7 30.Nxh5+! Kg6 31.f5+ Nxf5 32.Qxf5+ Kxh5 33.Ng3+ Kh4 34.Qh7+ Kxg5 35.Qh5 mate) 30.Kh1 and mate duly follows. 28...Nxe2+ 29.Qxe2 Kg7 30.b3? 1-0 Black now resigned but he has a path to safety with 30...Nxa3! when 31.Qb2 fails to 31...Qxf2+!! and Black will regain his queen after 32.Qxf2 Rc1+ 33.Kg2 Rc2, when White only has a token advantage. White would have rather more of an advantage after 30.Rd3!, when the threat of b3 is a real one.


Grantham Sharks 1 made virtually sure of their Championship pool place with a comfortable 5½-2½ win against Oxford. They sustained a couple of hits, with David Zakarian beating Holger Grund in some style, Aidan Rawlinson overcoming Clement Sreeves, but otherwise the job was done efficiently.


Pool B


Barbican 1 were up against the full might of Wood Green 1 and were duly thrashed. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they found out later that they had dropped down the table by no fewer than three places after this round, and were in grave danger of not qualifying for the Championship pool.


White Rose moved in the opposite direction, beating strugglers Cambridge University and taking over the key fourth spot in the table with one preliminary round to come. had another excellent day, holding the strong Guildford 2 side to a 4-4 draw, and moving up to third place in the race for qualification. In fact, they might have won had Chris Ross not let Gavin Wall off with a draw at the end of a tough game.


Positions after Round 6


Division 1, Pool A: Guildford 1 12(38), Cheddleton 10(32), Grantham Sharks 1 8(27), Barbican 2 6(24), Wood Green 2 4(22), Blackthorne Russia 4(19), Oxford 4(18½), Kings Head 0(11½).


Division 1, Pool B: Wood Green 1 12(37½), Guildford 2 9(30½), 7(21½), White Rose 6(26), 3Cs 6(25½), Barbican 1 6(23), Cambridge University 2(14), Grantham Sharks 2 0(13).


Division 2, Pool A: Warwickshire Select 11(31), Anglian Avengers 9(31), Cambridge University 2 8(27), Bristol 7(24), KJCA Kings 6(22½), Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 4(17½), Poisoned Pawns 2(19½), Wessex 1(17).


Division 2, Pool B: The ADs 12(31), Hackney 7(25), BCM Dragons 6(25), South Wales Dragons 6(23½), White Rose 2 5(22), Brown Jack 5(21), Bradford DCA 4(22), Barbican Youth 3(21½).


Photos © John Saunders



Annotated games from the above report | Download in PGN |





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