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Paul Keres (1916-1975)

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-“How is that you never managed to become Chess World Champion?”.-

-“Because, like my country, I had bad luck” (Paul Keres)

(Curiously enough, the first time I saw this statement was in Spassky´s words. Both were friends, so …)


I hardly remember when I began to admire him. Perhaps everything began when I managed to get a copy from Anthony Saidy´s book “The Battle of Chess Ideas”(around 1980). In this book the author confess he wants to follow Reti´s path and chose ten modern super GMs, wrote a biographical summary and included games and positions. He also wrote about the history of Chess and the Chess ideas/schools. The GMs Saidy´s analized were: Botvinnik, Reshevsky,Keres, Bronstein, Smyslov,Tal, Petrosian, Larsen , Spassky and Fischer. He also regretted having to pass over names like Korchnoi, for instance.

Or , perhaps like Keres, I have never had good luck either…

Years later, one of my CC opponents from Estonia sent me, as a present, the famous book -in Estonian- “Meie Keres” by V Heuer. And I managed to get other books by Keres : “The Art of Analysis”, “Practical Chess Endings” and an invaluable one: “My Chess Style” (aka “Chess As I play It“). (By the way, Keres is perhaps the only Chess GM who appears in a banknote. He is also a Estonian hero).

(I have written about Keres previously in this blog, so you can find other posts in this site.)

I cannot explain why I am so fond of Keres… Perhaps it is because his personality, his personal history and fate ,or perhaps because I was deeply moved by the images included in that Estonian book “Meie Keres”. What follows is a personal interpretation of the topic.

Keres was born in Estonia. But his country was annexed to the Soviet Union after WW2. The territory has a complex history (it is a borderland) . An independent state, with links to Sweden,the Russian Empire, invaded by the Nazi’s during WW2,later invaded by the USSR,…and so on. Anyway, Keres managed to survive the Stalinist terror regime, played for Estonia and later for the USSR (he died in 1975 being, officially , a Soviet citizen. For more information, please find those other posts in this blog). 

In 1938 Keres won the AVRO Tournament ahead of Alekhine,Capablanca,Botvinnik Euwe, Reshevsky ,Fine and Flohr. The winner of the event would be the official challenger to play for the World Championship (in the hands of Alekhine). But the outburst of WW2 frustrated the possibility of such a match. Estonia was invaded by the Germans and Keres had to survive accepting the new rules. At the end of the war, Estonia fell in Stalin’s iron claws and he had to survive again but being under a severe stress for many years.He managed to survive and protect his family again. Being a Soviet citizen he played for the USSR for the rest of his life , taking part in seven Chess Olympiads in which the USSR Team won the gold medal one after another. Keres can be considered among the ten best ever chessplayers of his time with victories over eight out of nine World Champions and drawing in two games against Anatoly Karpov, for instance. As an anecdote, he had an excellent score against Korchnoi, and Viktor once complained that “It is always the same: I always manage to beat Tal and Keres always manage to beat me”. Keres’ last tournament was in Vancouver (Canada) in 1975. When he was going back home via Helsinki, he suddenly died in the Finnish capital. Botvinnik stated that Keres’ death had been the greatest loss for the Chess world since the death of Alekhine. And Botvinnik very well knew what he was talking about.

(White side)


This position appeared in Smyslov-Keres, USSR Chess championship 1951. Black to move. Could you find the plan/moves Keres found to beat his extremely dangerous opponent?

(White side)

ranviir-keres .

And this comes from a relatively unknown game played in 1947 between Randviir (White) and Keres.

Smyslov Keres went:

36…, Bb1! 37. a3  a5! 38. Bd1 Kg6  39. Kg2  Kf5  40. Kf3  Ke5

 41. a4  g5  42. Ke2  Bf5  43. g4  Bb1  44. Kf3  f5  45. gf5  Kxf5  46. Kf2  Be4  47. Kg3  Kg6  48. Kf2  h5  49. Kg3  h4  50. Kf2  Bf5  51. Kg2  Kf6  52. Kh2  Ke6!   /White resigned in view of 53. Kg2  Ke5  54. Kh2  Bb1  55. Kg2  Ke4  56 Kf2  Kd3 (Suetin)

Randviir-Keres : Keres to move, what would your first move be?: (Remember this is a Pawn endgame, so the basic technique is that of “opposition”)

1… Kb5!! (the only way to avoid a draw according to Keres)2. a4  Kb6  3. Kc4  a5  4. d6  Kc6  5. d7  Kxd7  6. Kxc5  Ke7  7. Kd5  Kf7  8. Ke4  Kf8!!  9. Ke3  Ke7  10. Ke4  Kd6  11. Kd4  h6!  12. Ke4  Kc5  13. Ke3  Kd5!  14. Kd3  Ke5  15. Ke3  h5  16. gh5  Kxf5  17. Kf3  Ke6  18. Kg4  Kf7  19. Kf5  Kg7 / White resigned.

To end this post and for the lovers of  3-movers, perhaps you would like to have a try at the following mate in 3 moves “specially composed” by H. Alton:





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February 7, 2015 at 10:02 am

History: We are What we Come from

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The Soviet GM Alexander Kotov has served as inspiration to some generations of chessplayers. His three books “Think Like a Grandmaster”, “Play Like a Grandmaster and Train Like a Grandmaster have become beacon fires for millions of chessplayers all over the world. Kotov divided the different middlegame positions into two great groups subdividing the second one:

1. Intuitive Positions

2. Resolvable Positions :

-2a)  By Logical Plans                                                                                                                                                                                       -2b) Calculable positions :                                                                                                                                                                                                   2b1) Combinational                                                                                                                                                                                           2b2)  With forced variations                                                                                                                                                                           2b3) With alternating blows                                                                                                                                                                            

 -2c) Manoeuvring Positions.  (Kotov explains this consists of shot-term plans and “tacking to and fro move by                                                                      move”, insisting that this method is only valid for level positions). He criticized those especially among young players, who resort to this way of playing in nearly all sort of positions because Kotov believed it was caused by the desire to play too many tournaments having no time for home study and showing a manifest lack of creative attitude.) 

In my opinion, this succinct description of the possible middlegames is outstanding, and may help the player a lot when studying chess games. 

The problems everybody has to face when studying annotated games are clear: if the game is annotated by a professional player in active, do not expect great revelations… If the game is annotated by journalists everything will depend on their ability for annotating games, space provided by the editor, time little they have to devote to the matter, etc. (I have compared notes provided by world-class GMs to the same games and the result is -to say the least- worth thinking about… If the notes are written using  a computer and providing variations only, they will lack any strategical or positional guideline, and so on. My advice: try to do your own notes, try to see positional plans and strategical ideas.

Concerning the above classification, the first idea is to try to attach names to the different parts, because it is not a matter to describe middlegame possibilities, the classification also identifies styles of playing Chess. It is true every top player  masters the different ways of dealing with middlegame positions, but certain middlegames tend to appear out of the same type of openings, and one´s opening repertoire has a lot to do with one’s approach to Chess and ,ultimately, with one’s style. I guess many people would associate “intuitive positions” to Tal and Shirov, for example. I would put Fischer under the heading of resolvable positions (but also Tal, Spassky,…), and leave a Petrosian or a Karpov for “manoeuvring positions”. Let me insist, this is but only a bit of speculative passtime, as I have explained above: Tal played beautiful positional games and Petrosian knew how to sacrifice pieces and Pawns. And I insist once again: this classification is, primarily, a classification of middlegame positions, not of chessplayers.

Alexander Alexandrovich KOTOV was born in 1913 and died in 1981. He became a GM in 1950. Let me recommend you the three books mentioned above. He also wrote several other books, magazine articles and compiled the life and games of his hero Alexander Alekhine. He also wrote a book with Yudovich about the history of the Soviet Chess School, with very interesting historical facts. He was considered an attacking chessplayer and was known as a” giant killer” because he defeated the cream of the cream of his fellow GM companions.

When I managed to get his book “Think Like a Grandmaster” it was like “seeing the light” or having found a secret knowledge.. I cannot remember how many times I read the book and worked following the pieces of advice it contains.

W.: Kotov (1)

B.: Barcza (0)

Stockholm 1952

1. d4, Nf6/ 2. c4,g6/ 3. Nc3, Bg7/ 4. e4, d6/ 5. g3, 0-0/ 6. Bg2, e5/ 7. Nge2, exd4/ 8. Nxd4, Nc6/ 9. Nc2, Be6/ 10. b3, Qd7/ 11. 0-0, Bh3/ 12. f3, Bxg2/ 13. Kxg2, a6/ 14. Bb2, Na7/ 15. Qd2, b5/ 16. Ne3, c6/ 17. Rad1, Rad8/ 18. Ne2!, Qc7/ 19. Bc3, Qe2/ 20. Nd4, Ne8/ 21. Ndf5!, gxf5/ 22. Nxf5, Qc7/ 23. Nxg7, Nxg7/ 24, Bf6!! , Kh8    (Kotov said that if 24…, Ne6/ 25. f4!,Rfe8/ 26. f5,Rd7/ 27. Rf4, h6/ 28. Rg4, Kh7/ 29. Qxh6, Kxh6/ 30. Rh4  .- if 24…, Ne6/ 25. f4, h6/ 26. f5, Ng5/ 27.Bxf5, hg5/ 28. Qxg5)

25. Qg5, Rg8/ 26. h4, Rde8/ 27. h5, Re5/ 28. Bxe5, dxe5/ 29. Qf6!, Nc8/ 30. h6, Ne7/ 31. Rd2  Black resigns. If 31…, bc4/ 32. Rfd1, cb3/ 33. hg7, Rxg7/ 34.Rd8, Ng8/ 35. Rxg8, Kxg8/ 36. Rd8, Qxd8/ 37. Qxd8 -Kotov-)

W.: Botvinnik (0)

B.: Kotov (1)

USSR Chess Championship 1944

1. d4, Nf6/ 2, c4, e6/ 3, Nc3, Bb4/ 4. a3, Bxc3/ 5. bc, d5/ 6. cd, ed/ 7. Bg5, c5/ 8. f3, h6/ 9. Bxf6, Qxf6/ 10. e3, 0-0 / 11. Ne2, Re8/ 12. Kf2, Qe7/ 13. Qd2, Nd7/ 14. Nf4, Nf6/ 15. Bd3, Bd7/ 16. h3, Qd6/ 17. Rhb1, b6/ 18. Bf1, Re7/ 19. a4, Rae8/ 20. Re1, c4!/ 21. g4, g5!/ 22. Ne2, Rxe3!/ 23. Ng3, Qxg3!/ 24. Kxg3, Ne4/ White resigned.

Today’s position to solve: Mate in 3 moves.

Mate in 3


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October 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Chess Training with Keres et alii .

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One of the books I have in my Chess library is a little-known gem written by Paul Keres. The title translated into  English  is   “The Art of Analysis” and has 67 pages. It is devoted to help to develop the players’ skills in the art of analysing adjourned positions. Yes, you may say there are no adjourned games these days… But please remember Chess can be seen as a whole in which the sum of the parts are bigger than the whole itself, and that the great Chess trainer “guru” Dvoretsky devoted nearly an entire book to teach tactics by using the analysis of adjourned positions. So it is not today’s practical use but the benefits we can obtain in the development of our tactical and analytical skills. Nearly every  Soviet trainer has strongly recommended the analysis of adjourned games as one of the best way to develop those analytical skills.

Keres presents the reader with 5 positions from his practice, and proceed to tell us the history around that position and how he tried to discover the hidden secrets they contain. At the end of the book, Keres explains his aim is not composing a systematic guide but to show the reader the problems every Chess Master has to deal with when he goes back home with an adjourned game to be played. Some of the positions are beautiful and invite the reader to try to analyse them and then compare the findings with the great GM’s ideas. For instance:

(I will give the moves played in the games at the end of the post in case you want to work on them on your own.)

W.: Rejfir (0)

B.: Keres (1)

Moscow  (Ol) 1956

W.: Rejfir

rejf Black : Keres

The position  (I have put it from the Black side of the board so Black plays upwards) was adjourned here and White sealed his 41st move. Although Keres has a Pawn about to reach the queening square, the position still has to be analysed. Remember that we are in top-level Chess, with players ready to fight and find very hidden resources.

Another of the examples is:

W.: M.Tal

tal B.: P. Keres

Again the position is shown from the Black side. The game was played in Beograd in 1959.Keres sealed his 41st move, which was 41. …, Nd3/

Another Soviet Chess  “heavyweight”  , the late A. Suetin, also devote chapters in his books to recommend these types of exercises. He said they were excellent training grounds because they imply two types of Chess thinking: one using abstract thinking  (without calculation of variations)  to determine which pieces to change, which to preserve, how to place ones pieces, etc. , and another tactical one  because most of the positions are full of tactical variations with hidden possibilities and tricks.

This is the way they worked in the “golden age”  of the Soviet Chess . These were the methods they use in their Chess schools, Pioneers’ Palaces, Chess training camps. Remember that in those days, even World, ex-World Champions had to devote time to training sessions with the young promises.

The last example is mentioned by Suetin. After the game, Botvinnik acknowledged that  this game helped him to improve his analytical skills:

W.: Ragozin

  BotvB.: Botvinnik

(Position from the Black side again)

This game was played in Leningrad in 1930. Botvinnik managed to win after his opponent missed a drawish line on move 50th. But this was pure Chess!: a tug-of-war between two outstanding minds. In those years, Ragozin was Botvinnik’s trainer and they played scores of secret games which helped Botvinnik to become one of the best chessplayers in the history of the game.

The game proceeded  38 …, Rxf3  39. b6, cb6  40. cb6   Rd8! 41. Kc4, Re3  42. Nc6, Re4 43. Nd4, f3  44. Ra2, Rc8  45. Kb4!, Re1 46. c4, Re4  47. Kc3, Re3  48. Kb4, Re4  49. Kc3, Rd8!  50. Nc6? , Re3  51. Kb4 , Re2  52. Ra1, f2 53. Nxd8 Re1 54. Ra8, f1=Q  55. Nc6, Kg7 and Black finally won the game.

Rejfir- Keres continued:

41. Qd3 (sealed),  Rxg6/ 42. hg6, Qd4! 43. Qe2, Kh7  44. Qd1, Qd3!  45. b3, f6! 46. gf6 , Kxh6  47. f7, Kg7  48. Kg1, Kxf7 49.  Kg2   (Here Keres analyses 8 different possibilities depending where the two Kings can be placed on.He determined that all of them were winning for him) , 49…, Kg6  50. Kg1, Kh6  51. Kg2?   (51. a3)  ,  Kg5  52. Kg1, a5!  53. Kg2, a4  54. ba4 , Qe4  55. Kf1, Qxc4  56. Kg2, Qg4 / And White resigned.

The magnificent struggle in Tal – Keres continued as follows:

41. …, Nd3  (sealed)  42. Qc8, Kg7  43. Qf5! , Qd2  44. Nd4!  ,Qe1 45. Kg2, Qe3!  46. Qd5!, Qf2  47. Kh3, Qf1  48. Kg4, Nf2!  49. Kf5, Qd3  50. Ke5, Ng4  51. Kd6  Qxa3  52. Kc7, Qe7  53. Kc8, Ne3 (end of home analysis according to Keres)  54. Qb5, Qe4  55. Qb2, Kg6  56. Qb6, f6  57. Ne6 ,Nc4  58. Qa6, Ne5  59. Nc7, Qc2  60. Qd6, Qxh2  61. Nd5, Qf2  62. Kb7, Qxg3!  63. Qxf6, Kh5  64. Qe6, Ng4  65. Ne7, Qf3  66. Kc8, Kh4  67. Nf5, Kh3  68. Kd8, h5  69. Qg6, Ne5  70. Qe6, Ng4  71. Qg6, Ne5  72. Qe6 , Qd3  73. Nd4, Ng4  74. Qd5, Nf2!  75. Kc8, h4  76. Qe5, Qe4  77. Qf6, Qf4  78. Nf5, Ne4  79. Qe6 , Qg4 / and Tal resigned.


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December 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

Chessic Unrest (my own) and the 1978 W.Ch. Match

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I have got over 400 Chess books in several languages (English, Russian, German, Spanish, Serbocroat, Estonian, Czech, Hungarian). Many of them are devoted to strategy, tactics,planning,endgames,calculation of variations and so on.  But sometimes it seems that the more you read/study the less you seem to understand about how Chess is played.

(The 1978 World Chess Championship was full of tension. There were excellent games, short draws, less goods games and interesting situations. Karpov was the Soviet World Chess Champion. His opponent, V. Korchnoi had left the USSR slamming the door, and was an enemy of the state.


This position is from the 3rd game  (White: Korchnoi) which ended in a draw.  Here Korchnoi played 21. g4. Nevertheless, analysts pointed out 21. f5  as the blow leading to White’s victory. Others found a defence for Black -Do your own work on the position-. After  21. g4 , Qc7 22. f5? (It is not the same!) Here Salo Flohr pointed out that the winning manoeuvre started with  22. Rh3! (IF 22…, Kg7/ 23. f5 , Ng8  24. f6!)  22. .. , ef5!/   and it was a draw on move 30th. )


And I have realised that the leading GMs and the World champions, may have written a lot of books, analysed hundreds of game, but if you take the whole work, you will realise how little information it contains about their thinking process. Either they did not want to give away any secret or simply they are at a loss for words as to how the process takes place. Many analysis,many ideas post-game, but NO INSIGHT into the work of their Chess minds (lots of references to “intuition” though…

5th game after 75...Ka8

(This famous  position if from the 5th game. (W.: Korchnoi) and it ended in stalemate on move 124. The position was analyse by Averbakh in 1954. Black draws no matter if he has to move first!. Evidently, both players knew it. But their relations were far  from  “heartfelt”…)


Concerning the above mentioned matter of the top GMs , some questions assault me:

1.- Perhaps things are not so straightforward and methodical in the GMs Chess minds?

2.- Perhaps the only thing we can do is to study Chess letting our intuition work alone afterwards?

3.- Maybe we can extract a lot of considerations but it is impossible to describe any Ches thinking process unless we make suppositions?.

4.-Perhaps the only explanation as how top  GMs are able to play is that of   “I simply  saw it”?.

5.- Maybe books contain too many  “because’s” but very few  “how’s?.

  7th game


(This position is from the 7th game of the Baguio match. (W.: Korchnoi). Apparently Black’s position seems much better and some GMs present thought Karpov was winning. They were suddenly awoken when after Korchnoi’s sealed move was made: 42. Qh8  a draw was immediately declared.  Both camps had made their homework and though the analysis contains some complicated lines,  it shows there is no way of winning. At least, that was the conclusion.

The following moment I want to recall took place when in the 10th game, Karpov introduced a novelty in a well-known line in the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game):

W.: Karpov

B.: Korchnoi

Chess World Championship 1978

1. e4 , e5 /2. Nf3 , Nc6 /3. Bb5 , a6 /4. Ba4 , Nf6 /5. 0-0 , Nxe4 / 6. d4 , b5 / 7. Bb3, d5 / 8. de5 , Be6  /9. Nbd2 , Nc5 / 10. c3 , d4 / 11. Ng5 !!?.  Korchnoi found his way through the complications and the game ended in a draw in 44 moves.

This line was played later in other GM games. The curious thing is that once I saw the game I decided I had to play it one way or another. .. But I had to wait around 20 years (!) to have the opportunity of using it in one of my CC games. Incidentally, I won that game thanks to a last-minute imprecision on my opponent’s part…

The last position I want to show is from the 22nd game (W.: Karpov), when the score was 4-2 in Karpov’s favour. Had he won this game, perhaps it would have meant a somewhat easier victory instead of the disaster he was about to suffer in the final part of the match (in the last six games, Karpov lost 3 of them allowing Korchnoi to level the score 5-5. At last, Karpov won the 32nd game and kept the world title…

 22 game  W.: Karpov

The game continued: 30. f5, Ng4 / 31.Ne3!, Nf6 / 32. d5, Nxh3/ 33. d6, Rd7 / 34. Nd5!, Nxd5 / 35. Rxd5 , Ra8 / 36. Be3, Ng5 / 37. Bb6, Ne4 / 38. Rfd1, a4 / 39. R5d4, Re8 / 40. Rxb4, Rxd6 / 41. Rxd6, Nxd6/  And here Karpov could have sealed his next move. If that had been 42. Rxa4 Korchnoi would have resigned according to M.Stean, one of his seconds at Baguio. Instead, Karpov played on and spoiled the victory! : 42. Bc7?! Re1/ 43. Kc2 Ne8 / 44. Ba5, a3 / 45. Rb8 , Re7 /46 Bb4??   definitively spoiling the game! . Larsen wrote “46.ba3 wins , 46. b4 wins”.  The game ended in a draw  in 64 moves…


Have the reader ever felt the pains I have here exposed?. It’s a real nightmare. This is why , from time to time, one gets the odd feeling that one knows nothing at all of Chess. How can it be possible and continue living????


Now one game from Baguio 1978:

W.: A. Karpov (1)

B.: V. Korchnoi (0)

Baguio 1978. World Championship Match.

1.e4, e5 / 2. Nf3 Nc6 / 3. Bb5 ,a6 / 4. Ba4 , Nf6 /5. 0-0 , Nxe4 /6. d4 , b5 / 7. Bb3 , d5 / 8. de5 , Be6 /9. c3 , Bc5 / 10. Nbd2 , 0-0 / 11. Bc2 , Bf5 / 12. Nb3 , Bg4 / 13. h3 , Bh4 / 14. g4 , Bg6 / 15. Bxe4 , de4 /16. Nxc5 , ef3/ 17. Bf4, Qxd1 / 18. Raxd1 , Nd8! /19. Rd7, Ne6 /20. Nxe6, fe6/ 21. Be3 Rac8 /22. Rfd1 , Be4 /23. Bc5 , Rfe8/ 24. R7d4, Bd5?! /25. b3 , a5 /26. Kh2, Ra8 / 27. Kg3, Ra6? (27…Bc6 -Larsen) / 28. h4, Rc6 ( according to Larsen, the decisive mistake)   /29. Rxd5!, ed5/ 30. Rxd5, Rce6 / 31. Bd4, c6 /32. Rc5, Rf8/ 33. a4!, ba4 / 34. ba4, g6  /  35. Rxa5, R6e8/ 36. Ra7, Rf7 / 37. Ra6!, Rc7 / 38. Bc5, R7f8 / 39. Bd6, Ra8 / 40. Rxc6, Rxa4 / 41. Kxf3, h5/  (Adjourned)   42. gh5 , gh5 / 43. c4, Ra7 / 44. Rb6, Kf7 / 45. c5, Ra4/ 46. c6, Ke6/ 47. c7, Kd7/ 48. Rb8, Rc8/  49. Ke3 , Rxh4/ 50. e6!   and Korchnoi resigned.

To make justice to Korchnoi, I include the excellent endgame he won in the 29th game. (You can learn a lot trying to guess White´s moves and trying to understand all the possibilities.):

 29th game Position after 40…, Be7/

W.: Korchnoi (1)

B.: Karpov (0)

29th Game

41. Rh6, Kf7/ 42. Rh7, Kf8 / 43. Rh8, Kf7 / 44. Bd2,Nf8/ 45. Rh1, Kg6/ 46. Rd1, f5   (Defending actively. Larsen believes this is a conceptual mistake and advocates a passive defence) 47.Nf2, Bd6 / 48. Bc3, Nd7 /49. gf5, ef5/    50. g4!,  Nb6/ 51. Kf3, Be7/ 52. Ba5, Rf6/ 53. Kg2, fg4 / 54. Nxf4, Re6/ 55. Kf3, Bf6 / 56. Nxf6, Rxf6 / 57. Kg4!, Nc8 / 58. Bd8!, Tf4 / 59. Kg3, Rf5 / 60. a4, Kf7 / 61. Rd3, Re5 /62. Kg4, Kg6 /63. a5, Re4 / 64. Kf3, Tf4 / 65. Ke3, Rh4/ 66. Rd5, Rh3 / 67. Kd2!, Rxb3/ 68. Rxc5, Rb8/ 69. Rc6, Kf5 / 70. Rxa6, g4/ 71. Rf6, Ke4/ 72. Bc7!, Rb2/ 73. Kc3, Rb7/ 74. Bh2, Rh7/ 75. Bb8, Rb7/ 76. Bg3, Rb1/ 77. Rf4!, Ke3/ 78. Rf8, Ne7 / 79. a6 and Karpov resigned. 


Viktor Korchnoi. Part 2.

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If you think about Korchnoi’s career you see his heyday (a long one, by the way),coincided with the golden age of the Soviet Chess. Thus, in the fifties and sixties (20th century),  he had to battle against players like Smyslov, Keres, Geller, Tal, Stein, Bronstein … And when he started his World Championship path (1962) Petrosian was on top, and then Spassky. He was unable to overcome such a formidable opposition. In the late sixties and the seventies, it was first Fischer and then Karpov. He seemed to be always in the middle of a whirlwind. His character and behaviour did not help either and in 1974 Karpov, the young star, was “preferred” by the Soviet Chess authorities so as to try to recover the title in Fischer’s hands. Some of his fellow-colleagues in the USSR said he was always complaining about something, always blaming others, etc. The human condition… During the last years he also created some problems in the tournaments when he railed against some much younger players who protracted games looking for a mistake on his part, or for not resigning when he considered it was high time, and so on. This has gained him some animadversion of late. Evidently he belongs to a different generation though he still wants to win above all!.

I met Korchnoi in 1994. I was at a tournament hall waiting for him to appear , with a book with his games, hoping he would be so kind of signing it to me. He arrived and immediately notice my presence (we have never seen one another before and as happen with Karpov or Spassky I had been waiting too many years to see one of my early heroes). I asked him to please sign the book and he did it. Then he looked at me tried to ask some sort of question ,I tried to help but suddenly he realized where he was and hurried towards the playing room!. I never had another opportunity to meet him.

Today he , at 81, keeps on playing  as the Nestor of the chessboard. He is an example of will-power and love for Chess.

(Years ago I told a friend and opponent of mine in Britain that I had always admired Korchnoi’s stubborness, willpower,determination to overcome terrible personal situations, etc. ,but that I was unable to became a Chess admirer because the more I studied his games the more difficulties I found to understand his decisions. My friend replied that was because I admired him more as a man than as a chessplayer…)

W.: Korchnoi (1)

B.: Polugayevsky (0)

Evian (Fra) 1977

(A beautiful game)

1.c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. d4 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dc4 7. Bc4: b5 8. Bd3 Bb7 9. 0-0 b4 10. Ne4 Be7 1.Nf6: Nf6: 12. e4 0-0 13. Qc2 h6 14. Be3 Rc8 15. Rfd1 c5 16. dc5 Ng4 17. Bd4 e5 18. h3 ed4 19. hg4 Rc5:  20. Qd2 a5  21. Rac1 Qd7  22. Rc5: Bc5:  23. g5! hg5  24. Qg5 Qe7  25. Qh5 g6  26. Qh6 Qf6  27. Bc4 d3  28. e5 Qf5  29. Rd3: Be4  30. Rd6 Qg4  31. Rf6 Bf5  32. b3  Bd4  33. Nd4: Qd4:  34. Rg6: Bg6:  35. Qg6: Kh8  36. Qh6 Kg8  37. e6 Qe4  38. ef7: Rf7:  39. Qf6 Qb1 40. Kh2 Qh7 41. Kg3 Qd3 42. f3 Qc4: 43. Qd8!  Black resigned.

W.: Korchnoi (1)

B.: Kovacevic (0)

Wijk aan Zee (Ned) 1980

1. c4 e6  2. g3 d5 3.  Bg2 Nf6  4. Nf3 Be7  5. d4 0-0  6. Nbd2 c6 7. 0-0 b5 8. c5 Ne4 9. Ne5 f6 10. Nd3 f5  11. Nf3 Bd7  12. Nfe5 Be8  13. a4 a5  14. f3 Ng5  15. g4 b4 16.Kh1 Bf6  17.Be3  Ra7  18.Rg1 Kh8  19. Qe1  Nf7  20. gf5: ef5:  21. Bh3 Ne5: 22. de5:! Bh4  23. Qd2 Na6  24. Nf4 Nc7  25. Qd3 Qc8  26. Qd4! Qd8 27. Rad1 Bd7                28. Rg7!! Kg7:  29. e6  Bf6 30. Rg1 Kh8  31. ed7:! Qd7:  32.Nh5 Ne8  33. Nf6: Nf6:  34. Bh6 Rf7  35. Bf4 Qe6  36. Be5 Ra8  37. Rg5 Rg8  38. Rf5:  and Black resigned.

W.: Suba (0)

B.: Korchnoi (1)

Luzern (Switzerland) 1985

1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nc6  3. Nc3 g6  4. Bg2 Bg7  5. Rb1 f5 6. d3 Nf6  7. e3 0-0  8. Nge2 d6 9. b4 a6  10.a4 a5  11.b5  Ne7  12. Ba3 Rf7  13. Qd2  c6  14. d4  e4  15. h4 Be6  16. d5 cd5:  17. Nf4  Qc8!  18. cd5: Nfd5:  19. Nd5: Nd5:  20. Rc1  Bc3  21. Rc3: Nc3: 22. 0-0 Na4:  23. Rc1  Qd7  24. Bf1 Rc8  25. Rc8: Qc8:  26. Qd6: Bb3  27. Qe5 Qd8  28.b6  Qb6:  29.Bb5 Qf6  30. Qe8: Kg7  31. Kg2 Nb6  32. Bc5  Kh6  33. Bd4 Qd6  34. Nh3 Rf8 35.Be5  Re8:  36. Bd6:  Rc8 37. Ng5 Kg7  38.g4 a4 / and Black lost on time in a desperate position.


Written by QChess

April 18, 2012 at 8:53 am

Mijail M. Botvinnik: deviatii diagonal*

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* “the ninth diagonal

My feelings towards Botvinnik are , today in 2012, contradictory. Some 30 years ago Botvinnik’s games taught me the art of planning in Chess. You may know strategy, you may be able to play combinations, calculate variations, etc. But one day you realize you are not progressing… That happened to me: I could understand any positional game, no matter if that was played by Petrosian or Karpov. And?. And you have to learn how to  make plans and integrate them in the framework of a chessgame. I even discovered , on my own, that planning was not only referred to “strategical planning”, and realized there was also “tactical planning” : I called it “tactical strategy” .

(I will explain my method of training with Botvinnik’s games later. )

Botvinnik was the first Soviet chessplayer in becoming World Champion of Chess. He was an exceptional strong player: hard-working, talented, with a scientifical mind he applied to Chess, absolutely self-disciplined and goal-oriented, with a deep positional knowledge and accurate calculation skills, able to study and prepare in a systematic unprecedented way, who spent much time devoted to his engeneering work and was able to keep ready for the Chess battles holding secret matches at home… He also made a thorough study of the openings and the typical middlegame positions stemming from them

Botvinnik learnt Chess at 12, and became a GM in 1950. Champion of the Soviet Union in seven times.  In 1948 a match-tournament was decided as the way to find the Chess World Champion. Alekhine had died two years before and the old method of choosing a challenger died with him as FIDE took over the ruling of the Chess world. The “chosen few” were Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Reshevsky, Fine and Euwe. Reuben Fine declined to take part and when the smoke of the battle cleared Botvinnik had won the event.

In 1955 he defended the title against Bronstein and retained it because the rule was that in the case of a final tie the Champion retained the crown (later Bronstein hinted at having suffered some sort of pressure not to win the match…)

In 1954 the same happened in his match with Smyslov: a final tie with Mijail Moiseyevich retaining the crown…

In 1957, Smyslov defeated him becoming Champion of the World. For cases like this , Botvinnik had secured a return match in a year’s time. In 1958 he regained the title.

In 1960 Tal beat him but in 1961, again in a return match, Botvinnik defeated his opponent… Again World Champion.

In 1963 Petrosian defeated him this time with no return match. It was said that Bovinnik never forgave FIDE for such a “treason”.


Botvinnik had to learn to live -as the rest of the USSR citizens- in the terrible Stalinist era. Apparently he knew how to do it. He was the Chess “blue-eyed-boy” of the regime, and he knew how to move his pieces on the political board too. Not only in the Keres’ controversy, but also when he feared he could not be taken as the best to play against Alekhine… Apart from Stalin himself – remember Chess was  a “matter of state” in the former USSR, it seemed he was in good relations with names like V. Snegirov, Nikolai Krylenko (1885-1938), People’s Commissar of Justice and Prosecutor General of the RSSFR and, in the 30’s,  also head of several sports associations,with  Chess among them. The last was V. Molotov (1890-1986): Stalin’s protegee, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, Minister of Foreign Affairs, First Deputy Premier.

Many pages have been written about all this. I have my own opinion, of course… But curiously enough, all his political influences could not prevent him from being excluded of the Soviet Union Chess Team for the Helsinki Chess Olympiad. Botvinnik explained that was due to two bad results (The Maroczy Memorial and the USSR Chess Championship) but he was far from pleased since he wrote that the decision was taken in a “strange way” by voting it among the rest of Team members : Bronstein, Keres, Smyslov, Boleslavsky and Geller (remember what had happened with Keres before, and later with Bronstein…) The result of the “poll” was unanimously against him with a blank ballot (!) .-So he would never know who to really blame for the offence!-.

Botvinnik had a natural talent for strategy and planning. He tried to find an “opponent-proof”  opening repertoire focusing on the English/ Catalan/ QG as White and the French as Black . Against the QP he used several defences within QGD boundaries but also the Grünfeld though one of his pet lines was the Dutch. He made a great contribution to the theory of the middlegame systematizing many positions and procedures.

The two big questions which will never be answered are:

– Is the Bronstein story true?

-What happened in the Keres case?

The same I said in the post about Keres (nº. 2) I believe happened -if it really happened- with Bronstein.

The Soviet authorities had many ways to do things. They did not bother to kill Petrov as you know. In the Keres case, he knew what he had to do to survive and did it. In the Bronstein case I suppose the adequate hints operated the miracle. But we will never knew the truth. In the case of chessplayers nobody can explain why some suffered such criminal treatment while others could speak even criticize openly without too many problems.

Well, going back to Chess, I must say that Karpov had taught me how strategy worked in practice but Botvinnik taught me how strategy worked in theory...


If you want to use my method, follow the folowing steps:

1.- Copy a Botvinnik game in a sheet of paper in columns.

2.- Play the first ten-twelve moves on the board.

3.- Cover Botvinnik’s moves with a paper and try to find them one by one. Once you ave cosen your move (the move you think Botvinnik played, uncover it and check it against he move you chose.

4.- Once you have finished the exercise, replay the game writing down why you thik Botvinnik played each move.

You can obtain the percentage of the moves you managed to guess following this method:

-take the total number of moves of the game.

-take down the number of opening moves you played.

-add two zeroes to the number of moves you have guessed.

-divide this number by the number you got in step two.

For instance: let’s suppose the total number of moves was 40. You played ten opening moves. So, 40 -10 = 30.

20+oo = 20000

If you have guessed 20 moves, then 2000/30= %

A percentage 0f 70% or + is excellent.

This is the way I used to train.


P.S.  The blog has been flooded by spam comments so from now on it will be necessary to register to leave a comment.

I hope you understand this decision and encourage you to leave comments. Thank you very much indeed..- Questchess.

The Soviet Chess School.Part 2.

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The Soviet Chess School did not appear out of nothing. Chess had been playing in Russia for centuries and during the 19th century the seeds of what later became an immense machinery began to appear. The concept of “Russian Chess School” appeared in that century too. We must bear into our minds that America had its Morphy, and in Europe names like Steinitz, Tarrasch Staunton, Lasker and many others began to appear too. Soviet Chess historians/players mention , at least, the following names: Alexander Petrov (1794- 1867), Sergei Urusov (1827-1897), Emanuel Schiffers (1850-1904), Karl Jaenisch (1813-1843) and, above all,the considered “Father of the Russian Chess” Mijail Chigorin (1850-1808). You will recognise the names in different “modern” openings.    The first Chess magazine in Russian was “Shakhmatny Listok” (1859). Chigorin developed as a chessplayer when Steinitz’s theories were being developed by Tarrasch, and he disagreed with many of the postulates, developing a new approach to Chess,  livelier, more dynamic. His concepts are still valid today and were the basis for the new approach of the Soviet Chess School,always focusing everything on dynamics.

This was the first attempt at reaction against the static views advocated by Tarrasch.Chigorin understood that tactical operations should not be a goal in themselves but rather a part of the positional phase of the fight over the board, and he also criticised the idea that “natural moves” were the best. He insisted upon concrete analysis as the main guideline even from the very opening (consider for instance his 1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 against the French). A curiosity  is that he preferred Knights to Bishops (the eternal discussion…)  and advocated the defence which bears his name: the Chigorin Defence against the QP : 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 Nc6  . But the reader will probably remember him for the famous Chigorin System against the Ruy Lopez /Spanish.

Unfortunately for him, in 1888 he lost to Steinitz with the World Championship at stake (in a period when the holder of the title had the right to choose the opponent whenever he pleased,  imposing also the conditions of play.  This ended up once FIDE took over the whole process after the death of Alekhine.)

(In 1899 the First Official Russian Championship was held inaugurating a glorious tradition.)

So,the names which could be considered as milestones in this story would be those of Chigorin, Alekhine (1892-1946) and Botvinnik, the first Soviet Chess World Champion (Alekhine was Russian, but he had the French nationality. Born in an aristocratic family who lost everything with the Soviet Revolution and with a stormy personal life I am not going to judge. He defended the title twice against Bogoljubow -beating him convincingly-, lost to Euwe and regained the title from the Dutch  in a revenge match.  (There is a lot of information and misinformation about him during the pre-WW2 and WW2 periods. ) He died in 1946 when talks with Botvinnik for a match had been started. In 1948 a Tournament Match -under the auspices of  FIDE  was held and Botvinnik emerged as the new World Champion of Chess.)

(I hope that in the Internet era and if the reader is interested s/he can obtain information galore about all this. In Chess one should do his/her own work. And please remember this blog shows a personal opinion / view: the things as I lived/am living them and how they have influenced or affected me. Everything  is relative.)

The Games

W.: Steinitz  (0)

B.: Chigorin (1)

(Game played by cable between 1891 and 1892 as part of a two-game match)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. ed5: Na5 6. Bb5 c6 7. dc6: bc6: 8. Be2 h6  9. Nh3 Bc5    10. d3 0-0 11. Nc3 Nd5  12. Na4 Bd6  13. Ng1 f5  14. c3 Bd7 15. d4 e4 16. c4 Ne7!   17.  Nc3  Be6   18. b3?! Bb4  19. Bb2 f4  20. Qc2 Qd4:  21. Kf1 f3!  22. gf3: ef3!  23. Bf3:  Bf5     24. Ne4 Be4:!  25. Qe2 Bf3:! 26. Qe6 Kh7 27. Bd4: Bh1  28. Qh3 Nf5 29. Be5  Rae8 30. Bf4 Nd4   31.  Qd3! Be4 32. Qd4: Be4  33. f3 Ref8  34. Qa7: c5  35. Qc7 Nc6!  36. a3 Rf3:! 37. Nf3: Rf3:   38. Kg1 Bd2!  .White resigns.

W.: Riumin  (1)

B.: Capablanca  (0)

Moscow 1935

( Nikolai N. Riumin , 1908-1942,  was one of the pioneers. During his short life he played yn four Soviet Championships and and won the Moscow champioship three times. I have always been attracted by these players and I recommend the reader to find and study their games.)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. a3 Bc3: 6. Qc3: Ne4 7. Qc2 c5 8. dc5: Nc6 9.e3 Qa5  10. Bd2 Qc5: 11. b4 Qe7  12. Bc1 a5  13. b5 Ne5  14. Bb2 Ng4 15. Nh3 Qh4 16. g3 Qh6  17. Qe2 Ngf6 18. Nf4 0-0  19. Bg2 dc4: 20. Qc4 Nd6  21. Qd3 Rd8  22. Rd1 Nfe8  23. 0-0 a4  24. Ne2 Bd7   25. Nc3 Ra5 26. Qd4 Qg5  27. Qb4 b6  28. Rd2 Bb5:  29. Rfd1  h6  and Black resigned.

W.: Botvinnik  (1)

B.: Kubbel       (0)

Leningrad 1930

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. g3 0-0 6. Bg2 e5 7. Nge2 Bg4     8. f3 Be6 9. d5 Bd7  10. Be3 b6 11. Qd2  Na6 12. Bg5! Qc8   13. g4 Nb4    14. h4 a5  15. a4 Na6 16. b3 Nc5 17. Rab1 h5!  18. Bf6: Bf6:  19.  gh5: Qd8 20. Kd1 Bh4:  21. Kc2 Qg5  22. Qg5: Bg5: 23. Bh3! Kg7   24.  Bd7: Nd7: 25. Nb5 Rac8 26. hg6: fg6: 27. Rbg1 Be3  28. Rg3 R8f7    29.  Kd3 Bf2 30. Rgh3 Kf8 31. Rhf1 Bc5 32. f4 ef4:  33. Nf4: g5          34.  Rhg3 Nh7 35. Ne6 Kg6  36. Rf7: Kf7:  37. Nbc7:   Kf6  38. Nb5 Bb4   39.  Nbd4 Re8  40. Rh3  Black resigned (Marks by Botvinnik)   


Written by QChess

March 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

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