29 December 2007

The Big Soviet Championships

Time to do a little pruning. Three of the 58 Soviet Championships had considerably more players than the others (number of players and link to Graeme Cree's pages):-

I excluded any player from my master list who did not advance beyond the quarterfinal in 1929, who finished lower than 26th place (8.0/13) in 1967, or lower than 22nd place (6.0/11) in 1991. Of the approximately 304 players who competed in a Soviet Championship, 91 played only in the 6th, 35th, or 58th event. Of those, 71 finished below the cutoff. This accounts for many of the more obscure names.

27 December 2007

Jiggly Ads

Like most people, I hate popup ads. After popups, the ads I dislike most are jiggly ads. Those are the ads that jiggle rapidly left and right, up and down, never stopping. They are designed to attract your attention with their frenzy, which they do. They also make you wonder how any advertiser could be so desperate for attention.

While I was browsing About Chess a few days ago, I had two jiggly ads on the same page. I captured them in the following screen snapshot.

The top ad said, 'You are the 999,999th visitor: Congratulations you WON!'; the lower ad said, 'This is not a joke. You are the 10,000th visitor.' How I could be both the 999,999th visitor and the 10,000th visitor is a mystery, especially considering that both ads pointed to the same page on the freelotto.com domain.

Thinking about it a little more, I hate one type of ad worse than popups and jigglies : Flash ads that hang my browser. They are so annoying that I now run with Flash disabled. I don't miss it or the ads at all.

I appreciate that the ads keep web content free. Do the ad services really believe that all web users are indiscriminating morons?

25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Tip: In some countries the main Christmas celebration is on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. If you promise to call someone overseas for Christmas, make sure you know on what day they celebrate. I made that mistake once. I called on the 25th and the immediate reaction was, 'Why didn't you call on Christmas?'

23 December 2007

Early Soviet Women's Championships

From 'Soviet Women in Chess' by Elizaveta Bikova; see Soviet Women Players for more info.

Chp01 1927 (Rubtsova; p.12)
Chp02 1931 (Rubtsova; p.21)
Chp03 1934 (Bluket, O.Semenova; p.28, photo)
Chp04 1936 (O.Semenova; p.47)
Chp05 1937 (Rubtsova; p.49)
Chp06 1945 (Belova; p.77)
Chp07 1947 (Bikova; p.83)
Chp08 1948 (Bikova; p.92)
Chp09 1949 (Rubtsova; p.105)
Chp10 1950 (Bikova; p.120)
Chp11 1951 (Zvorikina; p.133)
Chp12 1952 (Rudenko; p.148)
Chp13 1953 (Zvorikina; p.161)
Chp14 1954 (Volpert; p.181)
Chp15 1955 (Borisenko; p.204)
Chp16 1956 (Zvorikina; p.219)

21 December 2007

The End of Video Friday?

Has the YouTube search broken down? I used to be able search on 'chess' and sort on 'date added'. The results would go as far back as I wanted to look, which was usually two weeks. Now the function stops giving valid results on the fourth page. Here's an example:-

There should be many results returned between '4 days ago' & '6 days ago', and between '1 week ago' & '2 weeks ago'. I saw the same problem two weeks ago (with different videos of course) and hoped that it was just temporary.

Like many (most?) Google services, YouTube has no way to provide feedback. Looks like I'm out of luck.


Later: Google search to the rescue...

Results for chess site:youtube.com

...It also has certain glitches, but they are less irritating than the YouTube problems.

19 December 2007

Opening Symmetry [D40]

I encountered the diagrammed position while working on this month's Every Move Explained, 1907 Lodz - Rotlewi vs. Rubinstein. It occurs after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.e3 Nc6, although a different move order was used in the Rubinstein game.

Now Rotlewi played 6.dxc5. In 'Rubinstein's Chess Masterpieces: 100 Selected Games', Kmoch criticized this, suggesting 6.Bd3 as 'best'. Kmoch's notes to the game are not particularly helpful, and I'm not sure he was right about this move.

An interesting feature of this position is the skirmish over the capture d4xc5 (or ...d5xc4). Both players are reluctant to develop the King's Bishop before that capture, because the recapture loses a tempo. This means they are both playing a double waiting game: (1) delaying the Bishop's development until the opponent has captured, and (2) delaying the capture until the opponent's Bishop has developed.

Depending on whether one or both players lose the tempo, the same positions can be played reversed. If White loses a tempo, but Black doesn't, then the players essentially switch colors, White playing Black and Black playing White. If both players lose a tempo (or neither player loses a tempo) they continue playing the colors they started with. I saw no examples where Black loses a tempo, but White doesn't, but I didn't look very hard.

After the recapture on c4 (c5), the opponent typically plays ...a6 and ...b5 (...a3 and ...b4), when the Bishop typically retreats Bd3 (Bd6). I found a half dozen examples of these ideas in my old copy of 'ECO D'. One position was duplicated in two different notes -- once with White on move and once with Black on move (where only White had lost the tempo) -- but the annotator gave different evaluations to the same position. This can easily happen because the positions are hard to recognize as identical when the colors are switched.

ECO gave 6.a3 as the standard move in the diagram, with 6...a6 as a popular response. Now White already has trouble finding a good waiting move. Once White accepts losing the tempo with, for example, Bd3 and Bxc4, Black has an easier time finding waiting moves. It is as though White were penalized for having the first move!

One way to avoid losing a tempo is to first play c4xd5 (...c5xd4), before moving the King's Bishop. This leads to an isolated d-Pawn for one side where the opponent has played e3 (...e6) instead of g3 as in the Rubinstein Varation of the Tarrasch Defense. Then a different set of problems arise which I didn't have time to investigate. Of course, the opponent can also answer ...Nxd5 (Nxd4), avoiding the isolated Pawn and leading to a different type of game.

Symmetrical positions have a reputation for being boring, but, like many reputations, it is probably undeserved. It is certainly undeserved for the D40 variation.

17 December 2007

The Interregnum According to Fine

First person accounts of the World Championship Interregnum, the period between Alekhine's death in 1946 and Botvinnik's tournament victory in 1948, provide informed insight into the events of that period. In 'The World's Great Chess Games', Reuben Fine wrote an account in chapter 9, 'A Brief Interlude (1946-1948)'.

When the war ended in 1945, Alekhine was still technically champion. Nevertheless, there was little doubt that almost any of his younger rivals, Botvinnik, Keres, or Fine, could have defeated him. During the war the unsettled circumstances enabled him to sidestep a match. But what would happen now, with the return to normalcy?
Despite his extraordinary chess genius, Alekhine was not an especially admirable human being. During the war he had even stooped to write a series of anti-Semitic articles for the Nazis (he had chosen to stay on in Nazi Europe), arguing that only the "Aryan" spirit could save chess. When international chess resumed with the Hastings tournament at the end of 1945, he was boycotted by his fellow masters.
In this situation I proposed that the remaining six participants in the AVRO tournament of 1938 play a tournament to decide the title. While the others were agreeable, Botvinnik objected on the grounds that politics should not be allowed to interfere with chess (a noble principle, had it been followed). Instead Botvinnik, in a politically astute maneuver, challenged Alekhine to a match, which the champion hastily accepted. It was scheduled for London in the summer of 1946.
Shortly before the match was to take place, Alekhine suddenly died, thereby creating an unprecedented situation, since the title had passed from one champion to another uninterruptedly since Steinitz had defeated Anderssen in 1866. Again a natural solution suggested itself with a tournament composed of the surviving AVRO contingent. Unexpectedly Smyslov replaced Flohr, who by that time had become a Soviet citizen, and so he was no longer free to speak for himself. At the U.S.-U.S.S.R. match in Moscow in 1946, agreements were drawn up among all parties concerned; the tournament was to be played in Holland in the spring of 1947.
As might have been expected politics did enter the picture. A Dutch newspaper published the charge, later often repeated, that the Soviet players would throw their games to one another in order to allow a Soviet master to become world champion. (This danger was in fact so persistent that the FIDE later changed the rules to substitute matches for tournaments, so that the danger might be avoided.) The Soviet government, knowing full well what the answer would be, then demanded that the Dutch government censor its newspapers. When the Dutch refused, the Soviets, in retaliation, withdrew from the tournament.
Legally there were various possibilities. Euwe might have reclaimed the title, as the last official champion before Alekhine. Or Keres and Fine could have been declared co-champions on the basis of their joint victory in the AVRO tournament. Or Euwe, Fine, and Reshevsky might have played a three-cornered tournament to decide the championship. Or the free world might have chosen a champion, and the communist world left to choose its own; then the two could have met for the world championship.
Unfortunately for the Western masters the Soviet political organization was stronger than that of the West. The U.S. Chess Federation was a meaningless paper organization, generally antagonistic to the needs of its masters. The Dutch Chess Federation did not choose to act. The FIDE was impotent.
The result was a rescheduling of the tournament for the following year, with the vital difference that now half was to be played in Holland, half in the U.S.S.R. Dissatisfied with this arrangement and the general tenor of the event, I withdrew. (Incidentally, there was no real financial compensation offered to any of the Western players, who, unlike their Soviet counterparts, were totally unsubsidized.)
Five masters took part in the 1948 tournament. Botvinnik, playing in brilliant style, carried off first prize.

That last sentence pointed to a footnote...

However, his surprising loss to Keres in the last round, allowing the Soviet master to finish in a tie for third with Reshevsky, looked very suspicious.

...adding another twist to the Botvinnik-Keres controversy. Who, if anyone, threw games to whom?


The book's title page (Dover 1983) says 'Edited by Reuben Fine'. It's not clear why he wasn't given full credit as the author.

15 December 2007

Players in the USSR Championships (Notes)

I checked the player counts from Players in the USSR Championships against Cafferty and Taimanov (C&T). They match for most of the 58 events. Here are a few notes.


9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf1
9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf2
8 USSR Chp06 1929 qf3
5 USSR Chp06 1929 qf4 • C&T mention that 36 contestants participated. My numbers total 31 and I assume that the four quarterfinal events had nine players each. • Graeme Cree's page, 6th USSR Championship, Odessa 1929, has the same crosstables as C&T, who omit the quarterfinals.

20 USSR Chp12 1940 • The 1941 Absolute Championship is missing, but should be included.

20 USSR Chp28 1961 (1961-01/02)
21 USSR Chp29 1961 (1961-11/12) • There were two events in 1961 because the Soviet federation wanted to shift the event from the beginning of the year, where it conflicted with other events, to the end of the year.

95 USSR Chp35 1967 • C&T say, 'the experiment of a Swiss system for 130 players over 13 rounds was tried' and 'although 130 players started out in Kharkov, there was a gradual falling by the wayside', then list four players with partial scores. The final scores of the other 126 players are given. • Graeme Cree's page, 35th USSR Championship, Kharkov 1967 copies the list of 126 players from C&T.


A few more pages to include on any webliography:-
Wikipedia: Category: Soviet chess players
Glenn Giffen: Zonals in USSR, CIS and Asia

13 December 2007

Informant: 'We have lived to be 100'

This had me puzzled when I first saw it...

Subject: Chess Informant News
From: "Chess Informant"
Date:Wed, 12 Dec 2007 04:36:00 -0500 (EST)

Dear Chess Friend,

We have lived to be 100. Please check us at www.sahovski.com or buy at http://www.sahovski.co.yu/products/ci/...

Chess Greetings
Chess Informant Team

...100 employees? Matanovic 100 years old? Then I saw this on that second link...

...Congratulations, Chess Informant!

11 December 2007

Double Exchange Sacrifice

After so many examples of Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, the next move in the diagrammed position is not hard to see. Black played 25...Rxe4. Petrosian wrote:

Why did Black sacrifice the exchange so 'light-heartedly'? Because he got for his Rook, in addition to a minor piece, a Pawn. 'Ceteris paribus' a minor piece plus a Pawn are good compensation for a Rook. Black has two Bishops now. His light squared Bishop is particularly strong, while the White Rooks have no operational freedom. It is quite clear that Black will strengthen his position and increase the pressure.

The game continued 26.Bxe4 Bxe4 27.Nc2 d5 28.Nd4 b4 29.cxb4 axb4 30.a4 Qa7 31.Qf2 Rc8 32.b3 Bf8 33.Nb5 Qa6 34.Qe2 Qb6+ 35.Kf1.

Bucharest 1953
Petrosian, Tigran

Troianescu, Octavio
(After 25.Nc2-e3)
[FEN "3r2k1/1q3pb1/2bpp1pp/pp6/2r1PP2/P1P1N1P1/1P1RQ1BP/4R1K1 b - - 0 25"]

I don't like to give long sequences of moves on Web pages, because few people are able to visualize the resulting position. If you have trouble following, see the usual Chessgames.com link at the end of this post. For the same reason, I won't give any of Petrosian's analysis on those moves.

Black's next move is really extraordinary -- 35...Rc3 -- sacrificing another exchange. White picks up another Pawn, making the compensation two Bishops and two Pawns for the two sacrificed Rooks. Add to this Black's advanced connected passed Pawns plus White's exposed King and it is clear that Black is winning. A few moves later White gave back an exchange, but the game was already lost.

To play through the complete game see...

Octavio Troianescu vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Bucharest 1953

...on Chessgames.com.

09 December 2007

Players in the USSR Championships

I cleaned up my file of games from the Soviet championships, eliminating 2000 duplicate games which had crept in from somewhere. I also fixed a problem with a database query, which was counting only players with the White pieces. Since several of the events are incomplete, 20 players in those events are only represented by games where they played the Black pieces.

The following table shows the number of players in each of the 58 championships. I already know that at least one of these counts is wrong ('USSR Chp35 1967'). Now I can use the table as a check against other sources of info on these championships.

16 USSR Chp01 1920
13 USSR Chp02 1923
18 USSR Chp03 1924
20 USSR Chp04 1925
21 USSR Chp05 1927
  9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf1
  9 USSR Chp06 1929 qf2
  8 USSR Chp06 1929 qf3
  5 USSR Chp06 1929 qf4
18 USSR Chp07 1931
20 USSR Chp08 1933
20 USSR Chp09 1934
20 USSR Chp10 1937
18 USSR Chp11 1939
20 USSR Chp12 1940
17 USSR Chp13 1944
18 USSR Chp14 1945
20 USSR Chp15 1947
19 USSR Chp16 1948
20 USSR Chp17 1949
18 USSR Chp18 1950
18 USSR Chp19 1951
20 USSR Chp20 1952
20 USSR Chp21 1954
20 USSR Chp22 1955
18 USSR Chp23 1956
22 USSR Chp24 1957
19 USSR Chp25 1958
20 USSR Chp26 1959
20 USSR Chp27 1960
20 USSR Chp28 1961
21 USSR Chp29 1961
20 USSR Chp30 1962
20 USSR Chp31 1963
20 USSR Chp32 1964
20 USSR Chp33 1965
21 USSR Chp34 1966
95 USSR Chp35 1967
20 USSR Chp36 1968
23 USSR Chp37 1969
22 USSR Chp38 1970
22 USSR Chp39 1971
22 USSR Chp40 1972
18 USSR Chp41 1973
16 USSR Chp42 1974
16 USSR Chp43 1975
18 USSR Chp44 1976
16 USSR Chp45 1977
18 USSR Chp46 1978
18 USSR Chp47 1979
18 USSR Chp48 1980
18 USSR Chp49 1981
16 USSR Chp50 1983
18 USSR Chp51 1984
20 USSR Chp52 1985
18 USSR Chp53 1986
18 USSR Chp54 1987
18 USSR Chp55 1988
16 USSR Chp56 1989
14 USSR Chp57 1990
64 USSR Chp58 1991

07 December 2007

Why Y'All Playing Checkers with a Chess Set?

'Why y'all playing checkers with a chess set?' • 'Cuz we ain't got no checkers.' • 'But chess is a better game! You don't know how to play chess, do you?' • So?' • 'So nothing, man. Look I'll teach you!'

Chess scene (3:34) • D'Angelo explains chess, and life.


Later: Same clip, different accent...

The Wire: A New Hope

...Which one is the original? I prefer the first version I posted.

05 December 2007

Positional Sacrifices Aren't Just to Draw

Until now, all of the examples of Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice have been sacrifices to achieve a draw, at times with some winning chances. Petrosian also gave examples of sacrifices to achieve the win.

Looking at the diagrammed position, Black is better. The move that many players would choose without much thought is 19...h6. Petrosian played the surprising 19...Rxe4 instead. If White now captures on e4, the Black light-squared Bishop will be unopposed on the long diagonal, when the opening of the Kingside with ...h6 will be even stronger.

White played 20.c4, which is also surprising until you notice 21.Nc3, threatening to capture the Rook with the Knight, when the Rook can't retreat to b4. Now the idea 20...h6, is even stronger than a move earlier.

USSR School Championship 1946
Petrosian, Tigran

Dunaev, Vladimir
(After 19.b2-b3)
[FEN "4k2r/2qnbppp/p1bpp3/P1p3P1/Nr2PP2/1P2BB2/2PQ3P/R4RK1 b k - 0 19"]

White continued 21.g6, and Petrosian commented

This move is bad; my opponent was young and inexperienced. He should have played 21.Nc3 Rxe3 22.Qxe3 hxg5 23.fxg5 Ne5 24.Bxc6+ Qxc6, although Black would be more than compensated for the exchange.

The game continued 21...f5 22.Nc3 Nf6 23.Bxe4 fxe4 24.Rad1 (Better is 24.f5, 'fighting for the square d5'.) 24...d5 25.cxd5 exd5 and Black soon won.

To play through the complete game see...

Dunaev vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, USSR 1946

...on Chessgames.com.

03 December 2007

Mystery Painting

The image shows one of the first chess related paintings that I found on the Web. This particular example was copied from eBay in 1998. I have seen the same painting a half dozen times, but have never seen it attributed to a particular artist. It is never much better quality than shown here.

The auction said, 'There is a Tabor Prang Art Co. label on the back which says the title is "Chessplayers".' Can anyone help?

01 December 2007

Soviet Players in Hooper & Whyld

Continuing the hunt for biographical data in resources at hand, as in Soviet Players on Chessgames.com a few weeks ago, I checked my list of 359 names against 'The Oxford Companion to Chess' by Hooper and Whyld. This is one of the three reference books I keep closer to my desk than other chess books in my library. The others are Murray's History and Gaige's Personalia. If you've never seen the OC2C, as I call it, the book is organized like an encyclopedia, with aphabetical entries (from 'Abbazia Defence' to 'zwischenzug') and information behind each entry proportional to its importance. Capablanca merits 2 3/4 pages, the early World Women's Champions only 2-3 lines.

I have the OC2C paperback edition from 1996 and I noted a few special problems with it. First, I use it so much that the binding is breaking and pages are starting to detach. More importantly, the choice of which players have been included is somewhat arbitrary. There is no mention of the criteria used for inclusion and it appears that the authors had to guess which upcoming players would be good bets for the long term. Not too surprisingly, British players are over-represented in all time frames. Staunton gets a little more space than Em.Lasker.

I found OC2C entries for 138 names, of which 14 were only referenced in another entry. For example, 'P.Kondratyev' isn't listed under his own name. He is listed under 'Kondratiyev Variation, 1186 in the FRENCH DEFENCE, an idea of the Soviet player Pavel Evseyevich Kondratiyev (1924-1984)'. The number 1186 is a reference to an appendix on opening lines where the moves are given. The Kondratiyev Variation is 4.Bd3 in the Winawer.

A research topic for the future would be to determine who is listed in Hooper and Whyld but missing on my list. I noticed entries for Alexander Goldin and Eugene Znosko-Borovsky, both of whom are now candidates for inclusion.

29 November 2007

Opening Exchange Sac [B7x]

One of the best known opening sacrifices is the move ...Rxc3 against the Yugoslav Attack in the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense. The idea has several motivations and works in many positions. Who played it first at the international level and when was it played?

After a few minutes search, the earliest example I could find is shown in the diagram. It is game no.1 in Karpov's 'Best Games' (Batsford, 1996). The opening moves were: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Qa5 10.O-O-O Bd7 11.h4 Ne5 12.Bb3 Rfc8 13.h5 Nxh5 14.Bh6 Bxh6 15.Qxh6. It is arguable whether we are still in the opening here.

The players have just exchanged Bishops on h6. Now Black played 15...Rxc3 and Karpov wrote:

The standard exchange sacrifice in the Dragon. On the one hand Black protects himself from the Knight lunging onto d5, and on the other hand he shatters the enemy King's fortress.

The note indicates that the idea was already well known at the end of the 1960s. The sacrifice is even stronger when the dark-squared Black Bishop is still on the long diagonal.

Moscow 1968-69
Gik, Evgeny

Karpov, Anatoli
(After 15.Qd2-h6(xB))
[FEN "r1r3k1/pp1bpp1p/3p2pQ/q3n2n/3NP3/1BN2P2/PPP3P1/2KR3R b - - 0 15"]

The game continued 16.bxc3 Qxc3. Karpov again:

The Black Queen here is occupying an ideal position to generate threats to the White King, and it is difficult to believe that this move can already be a decisive mistake. Either 16...Nf6 or 16...Rc8 was necessary.

Karpov is often spare with his analysis and doesn't explain why those two moves are better. We have to work it out for ourselves. He played 17.Ne2, and awarded himself a '!':

In the event of 17.Kb1 a5, Black obtains fair counterchances. However, the modest Knight retreat to e2 is extremely unpleasant for Black. The Knight deals with the problem of ousting the Queen beautifully, and simultaneously joins in the attack on the Kingside.

Now the game continued 17...Qc5 18.g4 Nf6 19.g5 Nh5 20.Rxh5 gxh5 21.Rh1 Qe3+ 22.Kb1 Qxf3 23.Rxh5 e6. Here he spent a page and a half explaining why 23...Ng6 also lost. Contrary to popular opinion, he was a wonderful tactician.

To play through the complete game see...

Anatoli Karpov vs Evgeny Gik, 05, Moscow ch-stud 1968

...on Chessgames.com.

27 November 2007

A Defensive Sacrifice Leads to Attack

In What to Do with Passive Rooks?, I left Petrosian's notes at the diagrammed position, where the ninth World Champion commented, 'A Rook, by no means forced, goes to a square attacked by a minor piece.' See the previous post for the link to the PGN and Java game viewer on Chessgames.com.

The game continued 32.Bxf4, which Petrosian judged inferior.

If Tal realized all the consequences he would be satisfied with a gain of a Pawn: 32.Rxf4 exf4 33.Bxf4 Bxf4 34.Qxf4 Qe7. Black would be a Pawn down, but the position quite unclear. His Knight would be able to go to e5, the Pawn d5 would be stopped. I thought this position would be better than a cramped position with a material balance.

Now after 32...exf4, White tried 33.Nd2, 'The Knight is the only White piece that can fight for e5, so Tal wants to move it to f3. Perhaps 33.Nc1 & 34.Nd3, with the same idea, would be better.'

Riga 1958
Petrosian, Tigran

Tal, Mikhail
(After 31...Rf6-f4)
[FEN "3q1rk1/3n1ppp/p2b4/P1pPp2P/1pP1PrQ1/1N2B3/1P4P1/R4RK1 w - - 0 32"]

Note how Black's moves suggest themselves, but White has decisions to make. 33...Ne5. Black committed to the sacrifice because it gave optimum play for the remaining minor pieces. 34.Qxf4.

White is not forced to capture this Pawn. He could play e.g. 34.Qe2. Then Black would have a number of possibilities: 34...g5 & 34...Qh4. It is hard to say that White's extra exchange would be tangible. Tal realized that events were taking a bad turn for him, so he tried to complicate matters.

34...Nxc4 35.e5 Nxe5. Petrosian: 'By means of counter sacrifices White has opened files for his Rooks. However Black has plenty of counter chances.' 36.Ne4 h6 37.Rae1 Bb8 38.Rd1. 'Those who want to to practise calculating are advised to study this game starting from the 38th or 39th move. There are a lot of interesting variations.' 38...c4 39.d6.

White is already faced with great difficulties: the threat is 39...Ba7+ followed by 40...Nd3 with attack against his King. Moreover, when the Knight comes to d3, the White Rook is cut off and the Pawn d5 is in danger. Tal seeks defending resources.

39...Nd3 40.Qg4 Ba7+ 41.Kh1 f5. The sealed move; if 42.Rxf5, then 42...Rxf5 43.Qxf5 Qh4+ 44.Qh3 Qxe4. 42.Nf6+. Now after a number of exchanges, Petrosian noted, 'Black has good winning chances, but I failed to exploit them, and the game ended in a draw.'

25 November 2007

Soviet Women Players

Women chess players often present special difficulties in any survey of historical chess players. The techniques used to select male players don't always work for female players. Why not? Because women frequently play in events for women only. For example, in this project on Soviet players, one of my criteria for inclusion is participation in the finals of a Soviet Championship. Women never played in any of these events.

My other start point, the lists included in Kotov & Yudovich's 'Soviet School of Chess', resulted in eight women being included. As the book was published in the 1950s, later players were not mentioned. To fill this gap I first turned to 'Women in Chess' by John Graham. Starting with Nona Gaprindashvili, this gave me the names of six Soviet players (many Georgian) who competed in international events.

Another reference, which I've just started to study, is 'Soviet Women in Chess' by Elizaveta Bikova (Fizkultura i Sport, 1957).

This book, a treasure trove of info about early Soviet women's events, has crosstables for

  • Soviet Championships
  • Russian (RSFSR) Championships,
  • Moscow Championships,
  • Leningrad Championships, and
  • early FIDE Championships.

The book also has photos and short biographies of the best known players. The biggest problem is understanding; struggling with the Russian language gives me excellent insight into what it must be like going through life as a semi-literate.

23 November 2007

A Game of Chess with Marcel Duchamp

This clip is French language with English subtitles. "There is no solution, because there is no problem."

A Game of Chess with Marcel Duchamp - Part 1 (6:22) • Jeu d'echecs avec Marcel Duchamp; French TV documentary (Interview, 1963)

All parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7

21 November 2007

Most Sacrifices Are in the Notes

While working on my latest Every Move Explained, 2007 Barcelona - Krasenkow vs. Nakamura, I encountered the position shown in the diagram. Nakamura played 11...c5, an excellent move.

The tactical justification for the move was 12.dxc5 d4 13.Na4 bxc5. Now if 14.e5, then 14...Nxe5 15.Bxa8 Qxa8.

Barcelona 2007
Nakamura, Hikaru

Krasenkow, Mikhail
(After 11.Nf3-d2)
[FEN "r2q1rk1/3nbppp/bpp1pn2/p2p4/2PPP3/1PN3P1/P1QN1PBP/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 11"]

As I explained in my own notes to the game,

The Black Queen and light-squared Bishop would then operate unopposed on the a8-h1 diagonal, putting the White King at considerable risk, while the White Rooks would lack an open file to break into the Black position.

The same sacrificial theme played an important role over the next few moves, although it was never played in the game. It reminded me of the old saying that most sacrifices are in the notes to the games. Good players don't let their opponents sacrifice too easily.

To play through the complete game see...

Mikhail Krasenkow vs Hikaru Nakamura, Casino de Barcelona 2007

...on Chessgames.com.

19 November 2007

What to Do with Passive Rooks?

Continuing with Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, what opening led to the diagrammed position? I assumed it was some sort of 1.d4 opening and was surprised to see that the game started as the Chigorin Variation of a Closed Lopez. Petrosian introduced the game with

Every chess player has memorable games which are especially precious for him. My game with Mikhail Tal (the 25th USSR Championship, 1958) is memorable for me as a creative achievement rather than a sporting success. Some chess players are proud of almost every game they have played; some have enough self-criticism. I must say that as a rule, I am seldom satidified with my own play. The game with Tal is one of those which have brought me pleasure, due to a successfully performed idea.

As with the other Petrosian games looked at so far in this series, the motivation for the exchange sacrifice was a poor position. The players have just exchanged Bishops on a4. Petrosian commented:

White has a great positional advantage. He practically has an extra passed Pawn d5. Right now, it is not so important because it can be blockaded at d6, d7, or even d8, therefore it is not directly dangerous. But when the game will simplify to an endgame, the passed, well protected Pawn can be decisive. How should Black defend his position?

He then warned that passive play wouldn't work because of the inferior activity of the Black Rooks. After Tal played 25.Qf3, Petrosian answered 25...Rd6, and noted

This move seems strange. According to strategical principles, the stronger the blockading piece, the less it fits this role. It it is a Queen, it must move away if attacked by any other piece. A Rook is uncomfortable being attacked by a minor piece, but my idea was somewhat different.

Petrosian has already given two important positional ideas: 1) the danger in a cramped position is reduced activity for the Rooks, and 2) the Rook is a poor blockading piece.

Riga 1958
Petrosian, Tigran

Tal, Mikhail
(After 24...Rbd8)
[FEN "3r1rk1/2q1bppp/p4n2/P1pPp3/RpP1P3/4B2P/1P1N2P1/3QR1K1 w - - 0 25"]

The game continued 26.Nb3 Nd7 27.Raa1 Rg6.

This is the idea invented and beloved by me. Black foresees that his Rooks, being left 'at home' would be too inactive and 'drags out' one of them to supply it with active functions. I think the Rook stands well enough on g6.

28.Rf1 Bd6 29.h4 Qd8 (Petrosian: 'I could have played 29...Rf6, exchanging the Rook, but this was not my idea.') 30.h5 Rf6 31.Qg4 Rf4 (Petrosian: 'Today I would take on f1, and the result would be a draw or a loss. In 1958, my mind worked some other way.')

Having reached the sacrifice, I'll walk through the continuation on another post. To play through the complete game see...

Mikhail Tal vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Riga 1958

...on Chessgames.com.

17 November 2007

Soviet Players, Reality Check

As documented on Soviet Players on Chessgames.com, I determined that nine out of 359 players are missing from my two initial sources of biographical data. Their names are: Chersakov, A.; Kliavin, P.; Kozlov, Vadim; Mikliaev, I.; Mund, A.; Pavlov Pianov, Nikolay; Selezniev, V.; Shamis, Alexey; and Skotorenko, N.

How did these names end up on my list? Three players are mentioned in an appendix to Kotov & Yudovich titled 'Soviet Masters': Chersakov,A. (Leningrad); Kliavin,P. (Riga); and Skotorenko,N. (Kemerovo). Double checking Gaige, I confirm that all are missing. There is, however an entry for 'Skotorenko, Vasily Grigorievich, b.1927 at Kremenchug', which might be the same as 'Skotorenko,N. (Kemerovo)'. Confirmation is needed.

The other six players are listed in my PGN file of Soviet Championships. I received this file in 2001 from another fan of historical chess games. The file is well prepared except for two thousand duplicate games. These need to be eliminated to make the file even more useful.

Two of the names on my list played in the early Soviet Championships: Mund, A. (URS-ch01 1920), and Pavlov Pianov, Nikolay (URS-ch01 1920, URS-ch05 1927, and URS-ch06 qf2 1929). Cafferty & Taimanov (C&T) list Mund and Pavlov-Pyanov for the 1920 and 1927 events, with no additional info. They don't list Pavlov-Pyanov in 1929, where the semifinal and final events are mentioned without the quarterfinal ('qf') events.

The other four players all played in URS-ch35 1967. Why so many from one event? C&T explain

Karkov in the Ukraine was the venue for the 1967 event proper, which was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. It was decided that a return to mass activity was called for and the experiment of a Swiss system for 130 players over 13 rounds was tried.

A quick calculation gives

65 games per round * 13 rounds = 845 games

but the PGN file has only 152 games. These games mention only 72 players, so there is a real problem with my data here. Since URS-ch34 (in 1966) and URS-ch36 (1968) had only 21 and 20 players respectively, it makes no sense to have 72 (or 130) players from a single year. Furthermore, C&T continue

One reason to let in so many players was that 1967 had seen rare international tournaments in Leningrad and Moscow (a star-studded event, won by Stein) as well as other events internally and the Sousse Interzonal, so many of the big names would be taking a rest.

C&T list the final places and scores for the four players as: 41-57 places 7.0 points I.Miklyaev; 71-88 6.0 A.Shamis, V.Kozlov; and 89-101 5.5 V.Seleznev. Looking at the other players listed by C&T, 17 finished with 8.5 points or better, while 26 finished 8.0 or better. I should exclude players that finished lower in the cross table.

That gives me three actions for subsequent steps:

  • Locate one or more source that include Chersakov, Kliavin, Skotorenko, Mund, and Pavlov-Pyanov.
  • Remove the duplicate games from the file of the Soviet Championships.
  • Exclude certain players from URS-ch35 (1967).

It's always useful to do periodic reality checks when working with data from disparate sources.

15 November 2007

Opening Exchange Sac [D89]

The position in the diagram arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 O-O 9.O-O Nc6 10.Be3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Bg4 12.f3 Na5 13.Bd3 Be6. The first time I encountered it was as White in a pre-Internet correspondence game where I had opened 1.d4 instead of my usual 1.e4.

Gruenfeld D89

(After 13.Bg4-e6)
[FEN "r2q1rk1/pp2ppbp/4b1p1/n7/3PP3/3BBP2/P3N1PP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 14"]

White has the choice between 14.d5, sacrificing the exchange, and 14.Rc1. I spent hours analyzing the sacrifice, couldn't get a grip on which side was better, finally chickened out, and played 14.Rc1. The game was eventually drawn.

I sometimes wondered what verdict had finally been delivered by theory on the variation. I was surprised to find that it was the subject of a recent article on Chess.com, An exchange sacrifice to beat the Grunfeld.

You probably know the most recent games where this moves order was played: Topalov - Shirov (Wijk aan Zee 2007), Aronian - Shirov (Elista WCM 2007). But what about the oldest ones? Some are really brilliant and I'm going to show you one of them.

The stem game for the 14.d5 variation appears to have been played in 1950. How is it possible that after almost 60 years and hundreds of games, the sacrifice is still being explored? The first of the games mentioned by the Chess.com article is at...

Veselin Topalov vs Alexey Shirov, Corus 2007

...on Chessgames.com.

13 November 2007

Watson's Example Exchange Sacs

A resource complementing Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, is a chapter in John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, titled 'The Exchange Sacrifice'.

It is instructive to search pre-1930 databases for successful exchange sacrifice. Almost without exception, we find compensation only from direct mating attacks and/or the immediate acquisition of at least two Pawns for the exchange. Long-term sacrifices are seldom seen; one feels that this simply must reflect a pre-modern attachment to static material evaluations. There are nevertheless a few precursors of the modern attitude. Tarrasch himself, in annotating a game between Janowski and Lasker from 1909 (won by Janowski, the exchange down), commented that a Knight in the middle of the board, protected by a Pawn and out of the range of any enemy Pawn, is nearly as strong as a Rook.

The Lasker - Janowski game was played in the May 1909 non-title match to determine if Janowski was a worthy challenger for a title match. The four game match ended tied with two wins each and the two players met again in a longer match in October, although still not for the title. The exchange sacrifice starts from the position shown in the diagram.

Janowski [Janowsky] played 47...Qh6, which looks like a blunder. White wins the exchange with 48.Ng4 Qh7 49.Ngxf6+ Rxf6 50.Nxf6+ Rxf6.

Paris, May 1909, Game 2
Janowski, David

Lasker, Emanuel
(After 47.f4-f5)
[FEN "5rk1/2p2r2/p1Pp1bq1/1p1PpP1p/1P1nN3/3RN1PQ/P7/3R3K b - - 0 47"]

The game continued 51.Rf1 Qf7 52.Qg2 Rxf5 53.Rxf5 Qxf5, when Black had recovered one Pawn for the exchange. A few moves later Black also won the b-Pawn, but had to sacrifice the h-Pawn to keep the files closed on the Kingside. Black eventually forced a passed Pawn on the Queenside by trading a pair of Pawns on the a-/b-files. After the Queens were swapped off, the Rook was unable to cope with the Knight and passed Pawn. To play through the complete game see...

Emanuel Lasker vs David Janowski, Paris 1909

...on Chessgames.com. Watson used five of Petrosian's examples and added 12 of his own:-

1921 Triberg, Selesniev - Alekhine
1922 Teplitz-Schonau, Treybal - Spielmann
1945 USSR Chp, Tolush - Botvinnik
1943 Moscow, Ljublinsky - Botvinnik
1943 Moscow, Panov - Simagin
1950 Moscow, Bondarevsky - Mikenas
[Petrosian games]
1991 Wijk aan Zee, Seirawan - Kozul
1960 Leipzig, Gligoric - Tal
1981 Moscow, Beliavsky - Kasparov
1993 Linares, Karpov - Gelfand
1983 Barcelona, Martin Gonzalez - Dolmatov
1996 Dos Hermanas, Ivanchuk - Kramnik

11 November 2007

Soviet Players on Chessgames.com

Just as I did for Soviet Players in Gaige, I checked all 359 names on my list of Soviet players against the Chessgames.com Chess Player Directory. I found 53 names without corresponding player pages. This is better than I expected to find.

Matching these with names not found in Gaige, I have nine unknown names. I'll tackle these next time.

More useless information: of players on the database with patronyms, the most common, with 10 or more each, are Nikolaevich, Mikhailovich, Alexandrovich, Ivanovich, and Yakovlevich. If I were Russian, would I be Mark Bobovich, Mark Robertevich, or something else?

09 November 2007

How to Make a Chess Video

The link to this video was posted on the About Chess forum. It's worth repeating.

Letsplaychess.com presents 'How to make a chess video' (4:44) • From: Majnu2006

I honestly don't remember where I found the following link...

Produce Special Interest Videos on DVD

...'Free PDF book on Special Interest Videos Production', no strings attached, which is unusual for a marketing freebie.


Later:Re 'I honestly don't remember where I found the following link', it was in a comment to Dzindzi's Instructional Videos (July 2007).

07 November 2007

Chess Consulting

Chess is frequently used for business metaphors. Here is a project I helped with. Recognize the position?

Teradata Magazine | Archives [Vol.4, No.1; Jan 2004]


'The history of the gold coins move (*)

'Chess enthusiasts still talk about the "Gold Coins Move." It was so bold, so unexpected and so effective that it's considered the greatest move in chess history.

'In 1912, at the 18th German Chess Congress in Breslau, U.S. champion Frank Marshall faced Russian master Stepan Levitzky. In move 23, Marshall made the most unlikely move on the board, leaving his queen vulnerable to Levitzky. Marshall sacrificed the piece so he could penetrate to the hostile king and win. Levitsky knew his best possible move would only result in a hopelessly lost endgame, and he gave up. Legend has it spectators showered the final position with gold coins, hence the name.

'Your next business move could be routine, safe, expected and altogether ineffective. Or you could surprise the competition and win the game. The choice is yours.'

05 November 2007

Opening Exchange Sac [E38]

I find the exchange sacrifice particularly attractive when it happens in the opening, by definition almost always for long term positional compensation. I found the following example in the Soviet School of Chess. Verlinsky was one of ten players that Kotov and Yudovich included in a section 'Illustrious Names', all Soviet players who had died before the book was published.

In the diagrammed position, Black was undoubtedly expecting 11.Bd2 Nxd2 12.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 13.Nxd2, with a playable game. White played instead 11.Nd2. Now if 11...Nxd2 then 12.Bxd2, and the Black Queen must retreat leaving White with the advantage.

Black played the obvious 11...Nb4, perhaps expecting the White Queen to retreat. White again found the better move 12.axb4, forcing Black to win the exchange with 12...Qxa1.

7th USSR Championship 1931
Kirillov, Vladimir

Verlinsky, Boris
(After 10...Qd8-a5+)
[FEN "r1b1k2r/pp3ppp/2n1p3/q2p4/2PPn3/P2BPN2/2Q2PPP/R1B1K2R w KQkq - 0 11"]

The game continued 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.Bxe4 f5 15.Bd3 Bd7 16.O-O Qa4 17.Qb2 O-O and White won in the middle game. What is White's compensation for the exchange? The game's annotator wrote, 'White has only an extra Pawn, but his overwhelming superiority in the center, plus his two Bishops, give him every reason to count on victory.' To this I would add that the mobility of Black's Bishop is restricted by the e-Pawn and the Queenside Pawns will become an object of attack.

To play through the complete game see...

Boris Verlinsky vs Vladimir Grigorevich Kirillov, URS-ch07 1931

...on Chessgames.com. I know of a few more opening exchange sacrifices that I'll mention if I can locate the games.

03 November 2007

Soviet Players in Gaige

Continuing with Biographical Data for Soviet Players, I checked all 359 names on my list of Soviet players and found that 46 were not in Gaige. Wahrheit commented on the previous post that finding four out of 50 names not in Gaige was evidence of success. After overcoming my initial astonishment that anyone could be the least bit interested in this project, I cautioned that it was probably because Gaige's work ended before the Soviet Championships did. That seems to be the case. There are many names that I recognize -- Bologan and Kramnik are two good examples-- but who are not listed in my 1987 copy of Gaige. There are also a few names that I don't recognize. If I don't find them on Chessgames.com, then they are either obscure players or evidence of a mistake somewhere.

At this time there's not much to say about the data. The most common first names in the list, around two dozen players each, are Alexander and Vladimir. These are followed by Yury, Mikhail, Sergey, and Nikolay, with a dozen or so examples each. Boris and Anatoly also rank fairly well. This undoubtedly says more about popular Russian names than about any magic to help babies become strong chess players.

01 November 2007

Understanding Petrosian

Continuing An Obvious Positional Advantage, the diagram shows the position after the final move in the previous post. Petrosian considered that 'Black undoubtedly had the edge'. It doesn't matter how long I play chess or how much I study, I will never understand Petrosian's approach to the game. Black is an exchange down in the diagram, and Black is still better?

White continued 27.Be2. After 27...Bh6, Petrosian noted, 'Not the best. Black should have played 27...h5 first.' This is typical Petrosian; there is no explanation why ...h5 is better. Because the Bishop is sheltered against an attack on the h-file? Because the Black King gets a new escape square on h7? Because an eventual g2-g4 is prevented? All of the above or something else?

San Antonio 1972
Petrosian, Tigran

Portisch, Lajos
(After 26...Ne7-f8(xB))
[FEN "4rnk1/1bq3bp/1pNp2p1/pPnPpp2/2P5/5B2/P4PPP/1NRQ1RK1 w - - 0 27"]

The game continued 28.Rc2 Bc8 29.Nc3 Nfd7 30.Re1 Nf6 31.Bf1 f4. Of his last move, Petrosian wrote:

Here I was a bit hasty. Such moves require great caution. The e5-f5 Pawn pair has become less mobile, and the Pawn e5 can be blockaded. Naturally I had taken into consideration that my pieces (Nc5, Nf6, eventually Bf5) kept the square e4 under control, so I hoped to play e5-e4 safely. Of course, I should have taken some prophylaxis like 31...Kh8.

Considering the further course of the game, it is not clear why ...f4 is worse here or ...Kh8 is better here than in a move or two. What difference does it make? 'Of course, I should have taken some prophylaxis'; why 'of course'?

There followed 32.Rce2 Rf8 33.Na4 Nxa4 34.Qxa4 Nd7 35.Ne7+. Petrosian: 'I had overlooked this simple move.' Now the game was drawn after 35...Kh8 36.Nxc8 Qxc8 37.Qa3 Nc5 38.Qf3 Qf5 39.h3 1/2-1/2.

From this I understand that 34...Nd7, because it allowed White to exchange one of the dangerous Bishops, was an error. What move was better? 34...Bf5, or something else? Petrosian doesn't say. Three times the former World Champion criticizes his own play and three times I am left to wonder why. What a difference between his level and mine!

30 October 2007

A Correspondence Exchange Sacrifice

Expanding on Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, the positional exchange sacrifice has been honed into a routine weapon since Petrosian's heyday, 40-50 years ago. I ran into a nice example yesterday.

Marc Geenen is an ICCF GM who qualified for the 22nd ICCF World Championship by winning a strong candidate section. He annotated the following game from that event in L'Echiquier Belge, October 2007. In the diagrammed position White has just sacrificed a Pawn. Geenen noted:

White obtains compensation since it is not easy for me to develop the Queenside. Since we are approaching the endgame, White has just decided to centralize the King in order to join the Rooks. Considering the continuation of the game, it was probably preferable to castle. How to liberate the Black Queenside? Certainly 16...Na6 is possible, but permits 17.Bxa6 bxa6 18.Nc5, while 16...Nd7 17.Bd5 does not solve all of the problems.


I was particularly satisfied with my solution, even more because it wasn't suggested by any analysis engine. At first glance impossible, the move is a prelude to an excellent positional sacrifice.

The possibility of 17.Bd5 makes the text look like a blunder.

Geenen, Marc

Barnsley, Tony
(After 16.Ke1-e2)
[FEN "rnb2rk1/ppB1ppbp/6p1/7n/2B1N3/4P3/P2NKPPP/1R5R b - - 0 16"]

The game continued 17.Bd5 Ba6+ 18.Kf3. Geenen: 'Forced, because 18.Kd1 can be answered with 18...Nc6 19.Bxc6 Rac8. 18...Nd7. Geenen: 'More convincing than 18...Nc6?! 19.Rhc1 Rac8 20.Rxc6 Bb7 21.Rbc1 which leads to enormous complications.'

19.Bxa8 Rxa8 20.g4 Geenen: 'Other moves leave the White King without a safe haven.' 20...f5 21.gxh5 fxe4+ 22.Kg2 gxh5. Geenen summed up the position this way:

Now Black has the advantage. There are not only two Pawns for the exchange, but also several very strong pieces. In particular there is an excellent Bishop pair that assures positional domination, as demonstrated by the following moves.

The game continued 23.Nb3 Rc8 24.Rbc1 Bb2 25.Rc2 Ba3 26.Nd4 Nc5 27.Bg3 Bd3 28.Rd2 Kf7, and Black won in 59 moves.

28 October 2007

Biographical Data for Soviet Players

I have only a short note to write today. I looked at the first few names on my database of Soviet Players, compared them to a few of my sources at hand, and checked the results.

I counted:-
50 names starting with 'A' or 'B' (e.g. Alekhine & Botvinnik), and found
46 listed in 'Chess Personalia' by Gaige,
42 listed in the Chessgames.com: Chess Player Directory, and
23 listed in 'The Oxford Companion to Chess' by Hooper and Whyld.

All 50 names are listed in at least one reference. That's an encouraging start!

26 October 2007

Alekhine BBC Interview

This 'video' is a radio interview set to a few photos, mainly of the fourth World Champion.

Alekhine Interview (4:25) • BBC 1938

The introduction is by Hanon Russell of ChessCafe.com, where you should be able to find a transcript of the interview buried inside a PDF document.

24 October 2007

An Obvious Positional Advantage

Continuing with Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, Petrosian evaluated the position shown in the diagram with 'White has an obvious positional advantage'.

Black has a backward Pawn e7, White the strong Knight on c6. The usual method for White is pressure by Rooks along the e-file to force ...e6. After the exchange on e6 Black has new troubles. Without hurry, through positional transformations, White increases his positional plus. The natural order of moves would be Re1 followed by Bf4 or Bg5, depending on Black's reaction, so as to exercise a lasting pressure which could grow step by step.

Instead, Portisch played 24.Bg5.

Now Black could have played 24...Bf6, 24...Nf6, or even 24...Nb8, protecting the attacked Pawn. The move Black cannot dream about is ...f6. But after White's inaccuracy, the idea of ....e5 fascinated me. If White takes en passant, Black can hold the position: he recaptures with the Rook, has the strong Bishop g7, another Rook goes to e8, and the Knights are good.

Petrosian trusted his intuition and played 24...e5.

Portisch thought some ten minutes, looking at me all the time. He couldn't decide whether I had sacrificed an exchange or blundered it away. Finally, after the game, he said he had decided that it was a blunder. Therefore he took the exchange and got a bad position.

How many players wouldn't have taken the exchange?

San Antonio 1972
Petrosian, Tigran

Portisch, Lajos
(After 23...Ne4-c5)
[FEN "4rrk1/1bqnppbp/1pNp2p1/pPnP4/2P5/4BB2/P4PPP/1NRQ1RK1 w - - 0 24"]

The game continued 25.Be7 f5 26.Bxf8 Nxf8.

The position has been changed radically in two moves. White has a Rook for a minor piece but no active play: all the files are closed, while Rooks are valuable only when they operate on open lines. The Black Pawn stands on e5, not e7, so the White Knight is very beautiful, but nothing else. Situations might arise where Black could have an extra piece in action. Unfortunately I failed to win this game, although Black undoubtedly had the edge.

[To be continued]

To play through the complete game see...

Lajos Portisch vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, San Antonio 1972

...on Chessgames.com.

22 October 2007

Chess Product Odds & Ends

While working on my chess links for About Chess, I always have a few interesting links that, for some reason, aren't quite suitable for the published lists. This month's topic was Resources for Chess Products and Shopping, and these were my leftover links:

  • Home > Buy > Search: chess Selling Leads • www.alibaba.com • Import/export anyone?

  • Chess Mould kits by Prince August • www.princeaugust.ie • Make your own theme chess set?

  • Museum of Chess Programs • www.gambitchess.com • Download the executables.

  • ChessTheatre • www.dgtprojects.com • DGT sells good products, but this one's a mystery; whatever, it's free.

  • Russian Chess : Handcrafted by Russian Artists in St. Petersburg • wanspages.prodigy.net • One of a kind sets, many of them already sold.

I especially liked browsing the Alibaba.com offerings.

20 October 2007

Soviet Players

As I mentioned in my post on The Soviet School, I would like to concentrate more on the players than on the events, which have been well covered elsewhere. I decided that a good place to start was by identifying the most important players.

Analyzing my PGN file on the 58 Soviet Championships, with results mainly from the finals, I came up with the names of 304 different players who have competed in at least one event. While I'm not certain that this is complete or error free, it's a good start. It at least gives me several hundred names that I don't have to retype.

I compared this list with the names referenced in Kotov and Yudovich's book. The bulk of the book, called Part Two, has chapters on grandmasters (with sections of varying length on 19 players: Botvinnik, Smyslov, etc.), prominent masters (24 players: Alatortsev, Aronin, etc.), and women players (8 players: Bykova, Rubtsova, etc.).

Part One is an introduction to the Soviet School. It has full chapters on Chigorin and Alekhine, along with sections on other prominent masters -- Petrov, Grigoriev, and Ryumin to name a few -- who were deceased when the book was written in 1958. I counted 17 players, and added Bogolyubov, who is mentioned only in passing. He had not yet been 'rehabilitated' at the time of writing, but is nevertheless an important player who participated in two early championships.

At the end of the book is an appendix with the same 19 grandmasters and a fuller list of 110 masters, many of them unknown to me previously. The masters repeat the names of the 32 men and women mentioned earlier in the book, although one appears to have been misidentified in the appendix ('Sokolovsky' instead of 'Sokolsky'). Merging these names with those from the Soviet Championships gave me a list of 359 players for further investigation.

The Soviet lists of grandmasters and masters are *not* the same as those based on the FIDE titles. I wasn't able to pin down the exact criteria for awarding titles, which will have to wait for another day.

Women players, as usual, present special challenges. I don't have a good reference for Soviet Women's Championships and I'm not certain that one exists. I'll see what I can do as the project evolves.

Next step: Gather basic biographical data from various sources.

18 October 2007

Mongols, Russia, and Strobeck

While gathering various references on Soviet chess, I recorded the summary of a relevant chapter in Murray's 'History of Chess' (1913, 1962), p.366.

Chapter XVIII - Chess in Central and Northern Asia, and in Russia : Unclassified Varieties; Nomenclature; References to chess as played by the Tibetans, Mongols, and other Siberian races; Probable origin of the game; Chess in Turkestan, Armenia, and Georgia; The older chess of Russia; Its ancestry; Nomenclature; History; Pieces; Possible traces of Asiatic influence further West; Ströbeck [Stroebeck, Strobeck]; Conclusions

The mention of Strobeck, located in Germany and often called 'the chess village', caught my immediate attention. It was the subject of a YouTube video -- Strobeck -- recently featured on this blog. What is the connection between Strobeck and chess in Russia? A section in Murray titled 'Possible traces of Mongol chess in Central Europe' (p.388) provided more information.

Certain peculiarities of play that began soon after 1600 to appear in chess as played in different regions of the great Central Plain of Europe are identical with some of the special features that exist in Russian chess, or in the Asiatic games decribed in this chapter. These peculiarities of rule have generally been held to be due to an undercurrent of Mongol or Asiatic influences that was travelling westwards during the Middle Ages.

The rules were:

  • Both players can make two moves on the first turn.
  • Attack on the Queen should be announced.
  • A stalemated player wins the game (yes, wins!).

After describing some of the variations on these rules, Murray continued

Another variety of chess, exhibiting some of the special features just described, has long been associated with the village of Strobeck near Halberstadt in the Harz Mountains, which has been noted since the beginning of the 17th cent. for that fact that chess has maintained an extraordinary popularity among all classes of its inhabitants.

Murray then described other chess rules peculiar to Strobeck and summarized

The hypothesis that these German varieties of chess represent the western limit of a migration by way of Central Asia has this in it favour, that it enables us to to arrange the story so as to show an orderly and self-consistent development. [...] We are really thrown back upon the argument that the mathematical chances are so great against two peoples developing the same varieties of rule, that the existence of common rules must presuppose a relationship between the games in which they occur.

He discussed briefly the possibility that the Russian and Mongol rules were adapted as European rules moved eastward, but concluded, 'I am inclined to think that the other view is the more probable, and that these peculiarities of rule are of Eastern origin.' Murray's 'History' is difficult to read in sequence from the first page to the last, but his detailed treatment of hundreds of small subjects like Strobeck is always a fountain of obscure information.


Note: One of a half-dozen posts in Chess Carnival IV: December Edition. I don't think this idea is going to survive much longer. I wonder what the problem is. • In Carnival Reaction, J.C. Hallman, author of 'The Chess Artist', had a comment on the subject of my post.

16 October 2007

Blockaded Pawns Interfere with Rooks

The next position in the series on Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, again shows Petrosian sacrificing an exchange to escape from a difficult position. On the diagrammed position, he explained his reasoning for offering the sacrifice.

Petrosian: An experienced player could tell at once that White's position is rather difficult. Black's pieces are very active, and he has mobile e- and f-Pawns. If he advances his e-Pawn (e.g. after ...Rf6 and ...Raf8), White would be in great danger. Usually if one's opponent has hanging Pawns one should try to provoke the advance of one Pawn in order to blockade them by occupying the weak square in front of the rear Pawn (e4 here). But now the square e4 is beyond White's control because of the very favorable placement of Black's minor pieces.

Black continued 25...Ra6.

Petrosian: He could play 25...Rf6 followed by 26...Raf8. The text move is more inventive: Gligoric moves his Rook to f6 via the sixth rank and avoids any need of calculating the consequences of 26.d6.

Now the move 26.Bf3 took control of e4, but left d3 for Black's minor pieces. The control of e4 has tactical support.

Petrosian: White would seem to be making a mistake as now 26...e4 could follow with a gain of tempo. However, White's response would be 27.Qd4 when 27...Nd3 would be met by the same exchange sacrifice as in the game, but the Pawn e4 would hang. If 27...Qe7, then 28.Re2 with very sharp play.


Petrosian: White's position seems completely hopeless. Black intends to play 27...e4, possibly preceded by ...b6. White seems to have no way of taking control of e4 because his Rooks are misplaced and cannot be moved to the e-file: 27.Re2 Bd3, or 27.Re1 Nd3, apparently with dark prospects for White. But nevertheless I played 27.Re1!, a purely positional exchange sacrifice. Again White does not wait to make a decision. He makes it because he has foreseen eventual consequences and realizes what could happen.

Varna Olympiad 1962
Gligoric, Svetozar

Petrosian, Tigran
(After 25.Kg1-h1)
[FEN "r4rk1/1pp5/6bp/p1nPp1q1/2P2p2/2N5/PP1QBRPP/5R1K b - - 0 25"]

27.Re1 How many players would walk voluntarily into the Knight fork? 27...Nd3 28.Rfe2 Nxe1 29.Qxe1

Petrosian: The Pawn e5 hangs. If Black gives it up White would have a Pawn as compensation for the exchange.

29...Re8 30.c5

Petrosian: Yes, Black has the exchange extra, but if you have some time to consider the position attentively, and try some lines, you should feel that the material plus means nothing. Gligoric failed to find something better than 30...Rff8 31.Ne4 and he offered a draw.

1/2-1/2. To play through the complete game see...

Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian vs Svetozar Gligoric, Olympiad 1962

...on Chessgames.com.

14 October 2007

The Soviet School

With this post I'm starting a new series on the somewhat neglected topic of the Soviet school of chess, with an emphasis on the players. My objective will be to identify and explore resources, whether Web or whatnot, that I haven't explored sufficiently and perhaps to add some info that is not already on the Web.

The title 'Soviet School' is misleading. I don't want to exclude pre-1917 or post-Soviet events and players, but I can't think of a better name. The title 'Russian School' is worse, for obvious reasons.

Eventually I'll pick a fixed day to give this little project some priority, Like Video Friday and World Championship Wednesday. Maybe it will be when I post on the weekend.

My resources at hand are skimpy:-

  • 'The Soviet School of Chess' by Kotov and Yudovich
  • 'The Soviet Championships' by Cafferty and Taimanov
  • 'Chess Personalia' by Gaige
  • 'The Oxford Companion to Chess' by Hooper and Whyld
  • PGN file of Soviet Championships (no.1 to 58)

I'll add to those as I identify opportunities. Since I don't want to clutter the sidebar with too many links, I'll keep track of them in this post:-


Later: A few more titles at hand:-

  • 'The Younger School of Soviet Chess' by Soltis
  • 'Soviet Chess' by Grekov
  • 'Soviet Chess' by Richards


2009-09: Titles acquired since I started this series on Soviet chess:-

  • 'Soviet Chess 1917-1991' by Soltis
  • 'Soviet Chess' by Wade

All biographical material is useful, although certain biographies are more useful than others. Books that are mainly a collection of annotated games tend to be less useful; when they have an introduction summarizing the career of the player, they become more useful. Here's a list of titles that I've found useful:-

  • '100 Selected Games' by Botvinnik
  • 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' by Bronstein and Fuerstenberg (esp. '50 Games with Comments')
  • 'Women in Chess' by Graham
  • 'My Great Predecessor' series by Kasparov
  • 'The Complete Games of Paul Keres' by Keres
  • 'Life and Games of Mikhail Tal' by Tal
  • Multiple titles by Karpov and by Korchnoi
  • See also Fizkultura i Sport Black Books and Black Books Revisited

Titles on different World Championships, including candidate events and other qualifiers, are more useful when they discuss the careers of the players.

[To be continued?]

12 October 2007

Bobby's Parents

The title of this clip is not well chosen, but it does describe the content. Warning: Contains offensive material.

Bobby Fischer - His hatred for Jews (4:31) • 'Anything to Win' [GSN]

Left: Bobby Fischer
Right: Paul Nemenyi

10 October 2007

A Bit About About

Interview with Scott Meyer, CEO About.com

'paidContent.org, flagship of the ContentNext Media network, provides global coverage of the business of digital content.' • Unfortunately, the interviewer is a bit of a mumbler, but the discussion is interesting if you're interested in digital media.

About.com Management

About.com From Wikipedia

08 October 2007

Label BlogCarnival

Journal entry for Posts with label Blog Carnival: I'll add the link to the carnivals as a Note to each post.

06 October 2007

A Fischer Botch?

My current bedtime reading is 'The Day Kasparov Quit', a New in Chess book by Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam. Nearly every interview has several points worth pursuing. Most have them have to do with chess politics, World Championship politics in particular, but there is an occasional item relevant to a famous game.

The latest passage that caught my eye was a remark by Korchnoi (p.238):

Even a splendid chess player is capable of producing negligent or botched work! Like Fischer with the analysis of this game [Fischer - Korchnoi, Stockholm Interzonal 1962] in 'My 60 Memorable Games'. He must have thought the public would be happy with anything he did.

Having no idea what Korchnoi was talking about, I turned to Chessgames.com:

Robert James Fischer vs Viktor Korchnoi, Stockholm Interzonal 1962

One kibitzer wrote, 'In his new book, Korchnoi shows how Fischer has quoted his (VK's) comments in his own (RJF's). And gives some more analysis. Better moves he suggests are: 21.Bd2 or 21.Re2; 23...g6; 35.Qf4; 36...Rb7; 37.Rc6 or 37.Bd3. And of course the crucial ...g5 on 38. and 39.' • Fischer contradicted Korchnoi's opinion on several of these moves. Did he overlook something in his own analysis?


Here's a memorable quote by Bronstein (p.237): 'Just because you didn't become World Champion everything you've ever done is put in a completely different perspective. There are many strong grandmasters, but apparently none of them can compare to these great champions.'

04 October 2007

Label Tablebase

I find tablebase positions so intriguing that I added a new label: Posts with label Tablebase. Now that six pieces positions are solved, how long will it take to complete the tablebase for seven pieces? Given theoretical constraints like storage issues or the computational complexity of creating a tablebase, what is the upper limit on the number of pieces that can be solved for all positions using tablebases?

02 October 2007

Tablebase 2 - Botvinnik 0

In Tablebase 1 - Botvinnik 0, I pointed out some incorrect analysis which Botvinnik published on an endgame of K + 2N vs. K + P. The correct solution can be found by looking up the position in an endgame tablebase. The 2N vs. P analysis wasn't the only elementary endgame that Botvinnik botched in his published notes. The diagram shows a position from Botvinnik's 'Best Games 1947-1970' (p.65). The sixth World Champion played 57.Qxe6 and wrote

So we have a Queen ending with a NP, the second time I have had such an ending, the first being vs. Ravinsky in the XIII U.S.S.R. Championship 1944 which was apparently only the second time in master praxis.
In the game vs. Ravinsky I didn't play convincingly and Keres in a long analytical article in 'Chess for 1947-49' criticized my play. As the reader will see from what follows, my play in that game really did deserve criticism as I simply did not understand this ending at that time.

Botvinnik doesn't say so in that comment, but his preceding and subsequent notes indicate that he considered the position a win for White. A five piece tablebase, however, shows that the position is a draw.

Olympiad, Amsterdam 1954
Minev, Nikolay

Botvinnik, Mikhail
(After 56...Kb4-a5)
[FEN "8/8/4p3/k6K/6Q1/6P1/8/q7 w - - 0 57"]

Botvinnik wrote, 'The Pawn gets to g6 pretty quickly', and the next few moves, showing accurate play by both sides, bear that out: 57...Qh8+ 58.Kg6 Qc3 59.g4 Qd2 60.g5. Here Minev played 60...Qd4. Botvinnik said nothing, but the move loses in another 65 moves. Black has five moves to hold the draw, one of which is 60...Qh2.

Now 61.Kh7 is the only move to win. Botvinnik played instead 61.Qf5+, reverting to a theoretical draw. The game continued 61...Ka4 62.Kh5 Qh8+ 63.Kg4, when 63...Ka3, among other moves, keeps the draw. Minev continued 63...Qh1, which should lose in 39 moves.

For the next 14 moves, White kept the theoretical win in hand, although without making real progress. After Black's 76th move, White's win in 39 had become a win in 60. On the 77th move he stumbled into another theoretical draw. This was quickly reversed as Black in turn blundered into a win in 35 for White. Botvinnik was able to hold this, scoring the full point on the 91st move.

In case there is any doubt, my purpose in writing this is not to ridicule Botvinnik. It is rather to point out that even the world's greatest players can conduct elementary endgames like blind people in a snowball fight. Is this perhaps a statement on humankind's general ability to conduct a game of chess?

To play through the complete game see...

Mikhail Botvinnik vs Nikolay Minev, Netherlands 1954

...on Chessgames.com. There the kibitzers point out that the Botvinnik - Ravinsky game is covered in Fine's 'Basic Chess Endings'. Did Fine understand the Q + NP vs. Q ending better than Botvinnik?

30 September 2007

The Most Famous Positional Sacrifice?

The first position in the series on Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice, one of the most famous positional sacrifices of all time, is shown in the diagram.

Zurich 1953
Petrosian, Tigran

Reshevsky, Samuel
(After 25.Rf1-e1)
[FEN "3rq1k1/4rppp/2n3b1/pp2P3/2pP1QB1/P1P1R3/1B4PP/4R1K1 b - - 0 25"]

In a wonderful example of verbal analysis, Petrosian wrote:

The situation is very tense and complicated, materially balanced. So-called dynamic balance exists, with even chances for both sides in attack and defense. White has a strong Pawn center which would smash Black's position if put into motion. On the other hand, it is not easy to advance White's central Pawns; no use of e5-e6 and no sense of d4-d5. Therefore I was satisified with this position until I reached it. But when it stood on the board I realized that Black's position is rather difficult. You may ask, why? Because Black's pieces are posted passively, limited strictly to defense. White can prepare the advance of his d-Pawn to d6, throwing Black's pieces back and achieving a winning position. On the other hand, White has the possibility of advancing his h-Pawn: h2-h4, threatening h4-h5-h6. If Black reacts h7-h5 or h7-h6, he creates weaknesses on his Kingside giving White a good attacking opportunity; the Bishop will go to c1 and join the main forces.
I realized that by moving my Knight to d5 I would change the situation completely so as to make it very favorable instead of difficult. White's Pawns would be blockaded; his Bishop on b2 would be very poor; after an eventual b5-b4 Black could obtain a passed, very powerful Pawn supported by Nd5 and Bg6. However, it is very difficult to bring the Knight to d5. This could be done via b6, c7, or e7, but a Knight maneuver to b6 or c7 would take a lot of time; White plays Bg4-f3 and d4-d5, obtaining a winning position. Of course the idea of moving the Knight to e7 is highly welcome, but how to do it? First I should go away with the Rook, but where?
I spent a good deal of time thinking over this position, and when I found the right move I felt kind of amused. The move was so simple that there was no doubt about its correctness. I overcame the psychological barrier and put my Rook under the fire of White's Bishop. (Petrosian's Legacy p.68)

Petrosian played 25...Re6. In the tournament book, considered one of the best chess books ever written, Bronstein summarized the positional ideas this way:

Black must block the White Pawns, and Petrosian immediately offers the exchange in order to free his e7 for the transfer of his Knight to d5. True, Black gets serious compensation: his Knight on d5 will be exceptionally strong, as will his Bishop, which will lack a light square opponent. Notice that now or on his last move White could have started a direct Kingside attack by h2-h4-h5 and Re3-g3, getting good winning chances; but he counts on winning in another way.

Reshevsky delayed the capture for one move with 26.a4 Ne7, but finally played 27.Bxe6 fxe6, and was unable to win. To play through the complete game see...

Samuel Reshevsky vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Zurich 1953

...on Chessgames.com.

28 September 2007

WCC Mexico - Opening Ceremony

Opening ceremony 1 • I'm not sure what the first sequence in this clip shows, chess in an aquarium? • From Europe Echecs; see their many other videos from Mexico City.

Opening Ceremony 2 (4:59) • Ceremonie d'ouverture du championnat du monde du Mexique (Opening ceremony of the World Championship in Mexico)

The second clip shows the drawing of lots to determine the pairings for the tournament.

26 September 2007

K + 2N vs. K + P

The strange looking diagram shown below is a continuation of Tablebase 1 - Botvinnik 0. There I pointed out that Botvinnik had incorrectly analyzed a position in an endgame of two Knights against a Pawn. The simpler endgame of two Knights without other pieces is a theoretical draw, because the Knights can't contruct a mating position without first stalemating the enemy King. The extra Pawn allows the Knights to play through the 'stalemate' position because the weak side has a Pawn move and isn't stalemated. It is the trickiest of the 'elementary endgames'.

Not all positions with 2N vs. P are won for the strong side. Ignoring for a moment the blue symbols, an example is the diagram. The position of the five pieces, with White to move, is a draw. It is an exception to a clever, but faulty, schema developed by the famous endgame composer Alexey Troitsky (1866-1942). Botvinnik relied on the schema to reach his erroneous conclusion that the 1941 game Smyslov - Lilienthal was a win for Black.

White to Move

Looking at the diagram, I started to wonder how sensitive the result was to the position of the Knight on c2, the only piece that has real freedom of movement. The Knight on h7 is tied down to blockading the Pawn until the critical moment and the Black King must stay near the White King to restrict its space.

Keeping the position of the other pieces fixed, always with White to move, I shifted the Nc2 to its available squares and recorded the results. A square marked 'D' means the position where the Knight starts on that square is a draw. For example, placing the Knight on h4 is an obvious draw, because White plays Kxh4. A square marked 'S' indicates an immediate stalemate, with no further play possible.

The squares marked with a number show the number of moves required to win when the Knight starts on that square. For example, shifting the Knight from c2 to g5 allows Black to win in eight moves: 1.Kh4 Kf4 2.Kh5 Kg3 3.Kg6 Kg4 4.Kg7 Kf5 5.Kh8 Kf6 6.Kg8 Kg6 7.Kh8 Nf6 8.h7 Nf7 mate.

The longest win, with the Knight starting on e3, takes 54 moves. It goes like this: 1.Kh4 Kf4 2.Kh5 Nd5 3.Kg6 Ndf6 4.Kf7 Kf5 5.Ke7 Ke5 6.Kd8 Kd6 7.Kc8 Kc6 8.Kd8 Nd7 9.Kc8 Ndf8 10.Kb8 Ne6 11.Kc8 Kc5 12.Kb7 Kb5 13.Ka8 Ka6 14.Kb8 Kb6 15.Kc8 Kc6 16.Kb8 Nc5 17.Ka7 Kc7 18.Ka8 Kb6 19.Kb8 Nd7+ 20.Kc8 Kc6 21.Kd8 Nb6 22.Ke8 Kd5 23.Ke7 Ke5 24.Ke8 Ke6 25.Kd8 Kd6 26.Ke8 Nc8 27.Kd8 Na7 28.Ke8 Nc6 29.Kf7 Kd7 30.Kg7 Ke7 31.Kg6 Ke6 32.Kh5 Kf5 33.Kh4 Kf4 34.Kh3 Kf3 35.Kh2 Kf2 36.Kh3 Ne5 37.Kh4 Kg2 38.Kh5 Kf3 39.Kh4 Nf7 40.Kh3 Nfg5+ 41.Kh2 Kf2 42.Kh1 Ne6 43.Kh2 Nf4 44.Kh1 Kg3 45.Kg1 Ng2 46.Kf1 Kf3 47.Kg1 Ne3 48.Kh2 Kg4 49.Kg1 Kg3 50.Kh1 Kf2 51.Kh2 Ng5 52.Kh1 Ng4 53.h7 Ne4 54.h8=Q Ng3 mate. This variation shows best play for both sides, although there are branches of equal value at many points.

There are several mechanisms at work in the different solutions. Together they show how the simplest chess positions can illustrate attractive geometric patterns. • Reference: Shredder 6 piece tablebase.


Note: For the record, I submitted this to Chess Blog Carnival II, but it wasn't used.

Later: After Jack Le Moine explained that my submission had been lost, not rejected, I tried again. Second time lucky: November Carnival of Chess Blogs.

24 September 2007

Tablebase 1 - Botvinnik 0

The diagram and text on the left is from Botvinnik's 'Soviet Chess Championship, 1941' (p.154). It shows the position after 84.Kf2-f1 in Smyslov - Lilienthal, from rd.16 of the event played in March-April 1941.

Note the concluding sentence: 'The given position is won, since the White King cannot get into the draw area.' Botvinnik continued, 'Lilienthal did not have a very easy task when studying Troitsky's analyses. However, that is no excuse for his further weak play. In general, this endgame is a rare occurrence in practical play. However, if my memory does not betray me, Lilienthal had encountered this very endgame (irony of fate!) twice previously, and on neither occasion could he discover the way to victory.'

In fact, a five piece endgame tablebase shows that the position after Smyslov's 84.Kf1 is a draw. Botvinnik gave 84...Nc2 85.Kg2 Ke3 86.Kg3, with analysis through move 97 to show how Black wins. The problem is that White has the paradoxical 86.Kh3, moving to the side of the board. This draws after 86...Kf3 (86...Ne1 87.Kg3) 87.Kh4 Kf4 88.Kh5 Kf5 89.Kh4, when Black can't make progress.

Lilienthal tried instead 84...Ne6. After 85.Kf2 Neg5 86.Kg3 Ke3 87.Kg4 Ke4 88.Kg3 Nf3, Smyslov continued to play perfectly and held his well earned theoretical draw. After Black's 96th move, Botvinnik wrote that it 'also should not have led to a draw', but he was wrong there as well.

I don't have access to Troitsky's original analysis, so I'm not sure what he overlooked. In the variation given above, after 86.Kh3 through 88...Kf5, I tried the Knight on squares other than c2 and found several other positions where White draws even though the King is outside the 'black line'. Troitsky's analysis was not correct and Botvinnik was wrong to condemn Lilienthal for 'weak play'.

22 September 2007

Petrosian's Exchange Sacrifice

In The Exchange Sacrifice, I quoted Petrosian on the psychological difficulty of sacrificing a Rook for a minor piece. The source of that quote, a chapter titled 'The Positional Exchange Sacrifice' in Petrosian's Legacy, offers seven examples illustrating the theme from Petrosian's own games:-

1953 Switzerland, Reshevsky - Petrosian
1962 Varna, Petrosian - Gligoric
1972 San Antonio, Portisch - Petrosian
1958 Riga, Tal - Petrosian
1946 Leningrad, Dunaev - Petrosian
1953 Bucharest, Troianescu - Petrosian
1971 Moscow, Parma - Petrosian

Kasparov used several of the same key positions in the Petrosian chapter of Predecessors III. These games will be the basis for my next analytical series.

20 September 2007

Vacation Reentry

[This space intentionally left blank]

31 August 2007


Strobek, Strobeck, Ströbek, Ströbeck.

Strobek, "Chess Village" (1:35) • German wartime color newsreel, November 1944

'Panorama was a quarterly color newsreel series that focused on "human interest" stories in 1944. It only lasted for that year, since the Third Reich fell in the spring of 1945, before another installment could be produced. The four reels that were made are a source for color images of the Germany and occupied Europe in the last full year of Nazi domination'

27 August 2007

Exchange Sacs Flow From a Positional Advantage

I've reached the last game in Smyslov's Sparklers. In the sixth game of their 1957 World Championship match, Smyslov varied from his usual 1.e4 and Botvinnik adopted his opponent's weapon: the Gruenfeld Defense, Smyslov Variation. This can be a risky proposition, since the habitual player of an opening knows its nuances better.

In the diagrammed position White has built up a commanding positional advantage and played 20.c6. This might look routine until you consider that White was ready to sacrifice the exchange with 20...Nd3+ 21.Kc2 Nc5 22.Rxd8+ Rxd8 23.Rd1 Rb8 24.Rd7!, when Nxd7 25.cxd7 Rd8 26.Bc8 c5 27.b4 wins.

Moscow 1957 (Game 6)
Botvinnik, Mikhail

Smyslov, Vasily
(After 19...Rab8)
[FEN "1r1r2k1/pBp1p1bp/6p1/2P1Pp2/1n3P2/4P2P/PP2N3/2KR3R w - - 0 20"]

The game continued 20...Kf7 21.Nd4 e6 22.Nb5 Nd5, when White ended all resistance with another exchange sac: 23.Rxd5. Since 23...Rxd5 loses to 24.Nxc7 Rc5+ 25.Kb1 and 26.Na6, Black tried 23...exd5. He was overwhelmed by 24.Nxc7 Rdc8 25.Bxc8 Rxc8 26.Nxd5 and resigned a few moves later.

With this win Smyslov tied the match at two wins each. He went on to win the eighth game and finally developed his lead to +3, winning the title. To play through the complete game see...

Vasily Smyslov vs Mikhail Botvinnik, World Championship Return Match 1957

...on Chessgames.com.

25 August 2007

Smyslov Seals

Continuing with the Geller - Smyslov game from the 1956 Candidates Tournament at Amsterdam, the diagrammed is about 25 moves after the position shown in Smyslov's Grandmaster Moves. Black is ahead an exchange, but White's Bishop pair and the unsafe position of the Black King have kept White in the game.

The game was adjourned at this point and Black sealed.

Candidates Tournament
Amsterdam 1956

Smyslov, Vasily

Geller, Efim
(After 41.Qh2-g3)
[FEN "5r1k/p5p1/1p5r/2p5/2q2n2/P1P1BBQ1/5PP1/2R3K1 b - - 0 41"]

What was Smyslov's sealed move?

23 August 2007

Smyslov's Grandmaster Moves

The next game in Smyslov's Sparklers, was one of those mentioned in the discussion of Nimzo Indian, Saemisch Variation. The diagrammed position occurred a few moves after the position in that previous post.

When I play through one of Smyslov's games for the first time, my first impression is almost invariably, 'What happened?'; I see no daring sacrifices or deep plans. When I play through the game a second time, my reaction is almost the same; Smyslov wins without any dramatic turning points. Then I remind myself that Smyslov chose the game for his collection of 'Best Games' and that Kasparov chose the same game for his exposition of Smyslov's style. As I play through it a third or fourth time, I start to see certain moves which I failed to notice the first time. The diagram position shows two of those moves.

Geller played 13.d5, and Smyslov wrote, 'A critical decision.White's center becomes less mobile and more readily exposed to attack. 13.Rc1 was preferable.'

Candidates Tournament
Amsterdam 1956

Smyslov, Vasily

Geller, Efim
(After 12...Ra8-c8)
[FEN "2rqnrk1/p2p1ppp/bp2p3/n1p5/2PPP3/P1PBB1N1/4QPPP/R3K2R w KQ - 0 13"]

Now Smyslov played 13...Qh4 and gave the move a '!'.

A powerful reply: the Queen hinders the activity of the White pieces on the Kingside and indirectly attacks the c-Pawn. Bad was 13...Nd6 because of 14.e5 Ndxc4 15.Qh5 g6 16.Qh6 with the threat of 17.Nh5

In that variation, Smyslov (SMY) says nothing about 16...f5, which looks like the refutation of White's play. Kasparov (KAS) picks up where Smyslov stopped:

At first sight White seems to have gone mad: after the obvious 13...Nd6 the c4-Pawn can no longer be defended. However, after 14.e5 Ndxc4 15.Qh5 g6 16.Qh6 with the threat of 17.Nh5, Geller would have gained an excellent opportunity to demonstrate his tactical skill.
True, the Black King is not bound to drown in the sea of complications: 16...f5! 17.Bg5 Qe8 18.Bf6 Rxf6 (18...Rf7 19.O-O (19...exd5 20.Nxf5 gxf5 21.Qg5+ with a draw, or 19...Bb7 20.dxe6 dxe6 21.h4 with sufficient compensation) 19.exf6 exd5+ 20.Be4 Kf7 21.Qg7+ Ke6 22.Bd3 Qf7 23.Qh6 Kd6 24.O-O Rf8 25.Qf4+ Kc6 etc.
Nevertheless, Smyslov sensibly declines to play on his opponent's 'home ground'. While his subordinates are engaged with the c4-Pawn, the task of defending His Majesty is taken on by the Queen herself.

The game continued 14.O-O Nd6. This sets up the next move that impressed me only after I had played through the game several times.

SMY: The final link in the plan to surround the c-Pawn. Black has avoided 14...d6 leaving the square free for his Knight.


KAS: !; Applause for boldness! Geller had long ago written off the c4-Pawn, concentrating his efforts on creating a compensating attack on the Kingside.


SMY: Of course, the attacked Pawn could be taken.But Black prefers to limit the activity of the White Bishops. The weak Pawns on the Queenside will always be a source of trouble for White.
KAS: Taking the bull by the horns! Although 15...Bxc4 seemed save enough, White would have obtained precisely that which he wanted: 16.e5 Bxd3 17.Rxd3 Ndc4 18.Bc1 with fairly real threats. 15...f5 reduces White's attacking potential and prepares the ground for mass exchanges. This avoidance (already the third!) of complications came as a cold shower for White. The cruel reality is that his broken Queenside Pawns will transform any endgame into a nightmare.

White swapped off the center Pawns with 16.dxe6 dxe6 (SMY: '16...f4 was risky on account of 17.exd7 Rcd8 18.e5') 17.exf5 exf5 and tried to penetrate Black's position with a Rook. When this failed, he sacrificed the Rook for the remaining Black Bishop and obtained a Kingside attack with the two Bishops.

Smyslov played two superb moves -- 13...Qh4 and 15...f5 -- hindering White's attack and deferring his own plan until later. Even this wasn't enough to stop Geller, who came charging in with an exchange sacrifice to continue his dangerous attack. It took a few more superb moves to score the full point.

I'll continue with the game on the next post. To play through the complete game see...

Efim Geller vs Vasily Smyslov, ct, Amsterdam 1956

...on Chessgames.com.