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Nineteen Eighty-One.

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karpovkorchnoi1981Karpov-Korchnoi 1981

The 1981 World Championship Match was to be played in the same venue as the Candidates’  Final between Korchnoi and Hübner, the Italian town of Meran (north of Italy, region of Trentino-Adigio.The place gives also name to the famous Meran Variation in the Semislav after the game Tartakower-Rubinstein played there in 1924. That part of the old Europe is very interesting historically speaking ). After that match fiasco, I guess the organizers would expect to cash in on a bigger stake. The events which had taken place three years before still cast their shadows over Meran ’81 :Korchnoi’s family was still in the Soviet Union : the Soviet authorities refusing to allow them to leave the country, and the rivalry between the two K’s had not diminished. But the match turned out to be a sort of anticlimax… The Soviet delegation included many people: Chess helpers, Karpov’s personal cook, medical staff, physical helper,translators and diplomats,as well as A. Roshal and V. Baturinsky, and bodyguards.  (Any Soviet World Champion had access to any sort of help.  Karpov had many “consultants” and I could mention his all-time helper Zaitsev, and Yuri  Balashov, for instance. In Meran Tal and Polugaevsky were side by side with him too. On those days it was very difficult to clearly determine “who were doing what” in Soviet official Chess camps) . Korchnoi’s seconds were Stean, Seirawan,Gutman and Ivanov. He was also accompanied by a lawyer, A. Brodbeck and a Chief of Delegation, E. Sztein. Journalist present mention also the  presence of a bodyguard… Those were hard days…The match was scheduled to beguin on October 1st, the winner would have to win six games with draws not counting.

All in all, one thing was immediately clear: Karpov was still becoming stronger while Korchnoi seemed to be slowly declining, at least to maintain such intensity against a terrific opponent as Karpov and for so many years . The first games of the event showed that Viktor was not in the match: after the first five games, the score was 3-0 for Karpov. Korchnoi managed to win the sixth game but after the tenth game the score was 4-1 in Karpov’s favour. Some drawn games followed, Korchnoi won the 13th game but lost the 14th and leaned over the abyss much to the organizers’ desperation who saw that a quick resolution of the match would finish with their financial expectations (understandably, under such conditions a very long match can be catastrophic but if it is too sort and one-sided the financial situation for the sponsors is the same: absolute disaster!). I have read that the organizers  managed to express their worries to Karpov who somewhat reassured them (!)… Be that as it may, three more games ended in a draw but the 18th one ,played on November 19th was adjourned with a winning position for Karpov. The game was not resumed and Karpov renewed his World Champion title for three more years.

After the 1978 match I was looking forward this new event. On the one hand , my sympathy was with Karpov. But I still had the secret hope of witnessing another magnificent struggle with the scores dangling from one side to another. That was not to happen. But the match taught me a lot of Chess strategy, especially the first and the ninth games. In the first game, Karpov played superbly using one of his favourite weapons: the hanging Pawns. In the ninth game, he showed another of his specialties: the fight against the isolated Queen Pawn. The fifth game was also of great technical interest since Karpov managed to draw as Black -a Pawn down- in a typical King +Rook + four Pawns vs. King + Rook + three Pawns  all in the K-side. Nevertheless and in retrospect, the feeling left by that match was  one of dullness. Nothing to do with what was going to come: the immense clash Karpov-Kasparov in the following years. In a sort of gesture to the gallery, Karpov even played the Italian Opening in the 8th and the 10th games. Two draws. Karpov himself in his notes to the games says that the Italian Game had last appeared in a World Championship Match in 1896 (Lasker-Steinitz return match).

W.: V. Korchnoi (0)

B.: A. Karpov (1)

Meran, Italy 1981.- World Championship Match (1)

1. c4, e6/ 2. Nc3, d5/ 3. d4, Be7/ 4. Nf3, Nf6/ 5. Bg5, h6/ 6. Bh4, 0-0/ 7. e3, b6/ 8. Rc1, Bb7/ 9. Be2, Nbd7/10.cxd5, exd5/ 11. 0-0, c5/12. dxc5, bxc5/ 13. Qc2, Rc8/ 14. Rfd1, Qb6/ 15. Qb1, Rfd8/ 16. Rc2, Qe6/ 17. Bg3, Nh5/18. Rcd2, Nxg3/ 19. hxg3, Nf6/ 20. Qc2, g6/ 21. Qa4, a6/  22. Bd3, Kg7/ 23. Bb1, Qb6/ 24. a3, d4!/ 25.Ne2, dxe3/26. fxe3, c4!/ 27. Ned4, Qc7/ 28. Nh4, Qe5/ 29. Kh1, Kg8/ 30. Ndf3, Qxg3/ 31. Rxd8, Bxd8/ 32. Qb4, Be4!/33. Bxe4, Nxe4/34. Rd4, Nf2+/ 35. Kg1, Nd3/ 36. Qb7, Rb8/ 37. Qd7, Bc7/ 38. Kh1, Rxb2/ 39. Rxd3, cxd3/ 40. Qxd3, Qd6/ 41. Qe4, Qd1+/ 42. Ng1, Qd6/ 43. Nhf3, Rb5/ The game was adjourned here. Karpov sealed a move but Korchnoi, after a while, stopped definitively the clocks. White resigned.

W.: V. Korchnoi (0)

B.: A. Karpov (1)

Meran, Italy 1981. World Championship Match (9)

1. c4, e6/ 2. Nc3, d5/ 3. d4, Be7/ 4. Nf3, Nf6/ 5. Bg5, h6/ 6. Bh4, 0-0/ 7. Rc1 dxc4 (TN according to Karpov)/ 8. e3, c5/ 9. Bxc4, cxd4/ 10. exd4, Nc6/ 11. 0-0, Nh5!/ 12. Bxe7, Nxe7/ 13. Bb3, Nf6/ 14. Ne5, Bd7/ 15. Qe2, Rc8/ 16. Ne4, Nxe4/ 17. Qxe4, Bc6!/ 18. Nxc6, Rxc6/ 19. Rc3, Qd6/ 20. g3,Rd8/ 21. Rd1, Rb6/ 22. Qe1, Qd7/ 23. Rcd3, Rd6/ 24. Qe4, Qc6/ 25. Qf4, Nd5/ 26. Qd2, Qb6/ 27. Bxd5, Rxd5/ 28. Rb3, Qc6/ 29. Qc3, Qd7/ 30. f4, b6/31. Rb4, b5/ 32. a4, bxa4/ 33. Qa3, a5/ 34. Rxa4, Qb5 /35. Rd2, e5/ 36. fxe5, Rxe5/ 37. Qa1, Qe8!!/ 38. dxe5, Rxd2/ 39. Rxa5, Qc6/ 40. Ra8+, Kh7/ 41. Qb1+, g6/ 42. Qf1, Qc5+/ 43. Kh1, Qd5+/ White resigned.


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.

Tigran Petrosian: The Wizard of Chess Strategy

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In the previous post I mentioned that when I began to play CC at last I could speak of having a Chess trainer. Indeed it was so. I will never forget the friendship Herr Fritz Oppenrieder, from Heidenau  in the former East Germany , showed to me. A Master of Chess, he played lots of postal games with me, sent East German Chess books to me too and exchanged ideas for some years -I am speaking of the late eighties of the 20th century- . When I came across him -we were paired together in a match- , he lived alone, and he made me realize that if one day he stopped writing that would mean… Well, you can guess. We spoke about Chess, chessplayers -I mentioned him my admiration for his fellow-contryman GM. Uhlmann, we tried openings, and so on. I have always considered him as my Chess Trainer and he seemed happy of finding a “disciple” in the last part of his life. I never knew who took charge of his affairs after his death. I tried to find but had no success at all . This is why I would like to contact GM Uhlmann to try to sheed light on this and ask himif he remembers Herr Fritz Oppenrieder, but so far I have been unable to . – Any ideas?- . Somebody said that a man never dies until the last man who knew him disappears too. In this case, I prefer thinking that my Friend Fritz is still there…

My first Chess book was the collection of Petrosian games by Alberik O’Kelly. I cannot say how many times I will have read the book and replayed the games. But that was my “fire trial” and I began to try to understand the art of positional Chess. That book is one of my treasures.

Petrosian was born in Tbilisi (Georgia, USSR) in an Armenian family. His childhood was far from easy. After 1946 he moved to Erevan (Armenia, USSR) and a few years later he established himself definitively in Moscow. As most other Soviet chessplayers he started to play at the famous Pioneers’ Palace, pride of the Soviet system.

In 1951 he became IM, and in 1953 he achieved the GM title. Many commonplaces and tales has been written and copied from author to author about him. In fact his Chess career is impressive, and his games are full of lessons not only in the field of defence. People speak of him as a “tame” player, a drawish GM, etc. I am going to give a short account of his Chess career:

Petrosian won 4 Soviet Championships: 1959 , 1961, 1969 (tied first) and 1975 losing two games all in all. He was Champion of Armenia, of Georgia, of Moscow, played in many team events with outstanding results, played in ten Chess Olympiads with an overall result of  +78 -1 =50 (losing a single game):  Münich 1958,  Leipzig 1960, Varna 1962, Tel-Aviv 1964,  Havana 1966, Lugano 1968,  Siegen 1970,  Skopje 1972,  Nice 1974 and Buenos Aires 1978. He won  nine team gold medals, one team silver medal and six individual gold medals… He played in Interzonal and Candidates’ Tournaments and reached the World Chess Championship in 1963 by beating no other than Botvinnik by +5 -2 =15.  In 1966 he defeated the challenger Spassky and in 1969 he lost to the same Spassky after being World Champion for nine years. This cannot be the story of a tame chessplayer,  rather of a little understood and greatly misinterpreted one…

Petrosian was an excellent tactician, a strong blitz player who excelled at prophylaxis and preventive thinking, who lost very few games throughout his career. He declared that his aim was “…restriction of the opponent’s possibilities, strategic play over the whole board, gradual tightening of the ring around the enemy king”. He was able to carry out a “constant assessment and reassessment of the hierarchy of the strategic factors” with a broad view free of any sort of prejudices. Of course he showed a tendency for dry positional games, but he was also able to restore to tactics whenever necessary, and mastered the art of the exchange sacrifice. In the same way I must say he, by nature, was a defensive player with all the shades this imply…

You have to be an extremely strong chessplayer to become Champion of the World, Champion of the USSR, to play -and win-  in tens of team events, scores of tournaments, etc. Of course, he preferred closed positions to impose his overwhelming strategical  knowledge without being bothered by sudden tactics. And you must be very good to impose this style on your world-class opponents.

Petrosian could apparently do nothing for hours on end, constantly manoeuvring, with his opponents deprived of any trace of counterplay or even activity. Then, of a sudden , the enemy position collapses and he cashes in on it. He understood the laws of Chess strategy a different way other players did. He never rushed, but manoeuvred back and forth waiting for the least drawback in the opponent’s moves. Once he managed to break the coordination of the opponent’s forces or compel him to commit his position -to defend himself from positional threads-  in one way or another, then the situation was ripe for a deadly attack. Like a Zen monk, he apparently did nothing so that everything would be done. But in Chess this “doing nothing”  is absolutely difficult, because you have to move on your turn. The key lies in his extreme ability to get control of the position depriving the opponent of any possibility of active plans/moves, foreseeing any possible threat well in advance and while keeping one’s position firmly coordinate.

You may like Petrosian’s style or not. But I believe that one should study his games to become a much better chessplayer.

On the other hand, is it possible ,with the present state of Chess, to play like Petrosian?. Well, the matter is not to play like Petrosian but to learn the strategical,positional and defensive lessons he left for us. (You cannot play like Morphy either, but you can learn how attacking ideas and combinations work, for instance.  Please, understand what I say.).

But here a curious thing appears: in correspondence chess, with the intrusion of the programs, many people are trying to find how to play against them -or the opponent aided by them-. Have a try at Petrosian approach to Chess by studying his games and perhaps you could learn a lesson or two… (I have revealed enough!)


W: Furman (0)

B.: Petrosian (1)

USSR Chess Championship 1961

1.  d4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. h3 Nf6 6. Be3 c6 7. Bd3 Qc7 8. 0-0 e5 9. Re1 Nbd7 10.a4 Re8              11. Qd2 b6 12. Rad1 a6 13. Ra1 Bb7 14. de5: de5: 15. Bh6 Qd6 16. Bg7: Kg7: 17. Qe3 b5 18. Bf1 Qb4 19. Nd1 Qe7  20. Nd2 Nc5 21. Nc3 Rad8 22. b4 Ne6 23. Na2 Nd4 24. Qc3 ba4: 25. Bd3 Nh5 26. Nc4 Nf4 27. Bf1 c5              28. bc5: Qc5: 29. Nc1 Bc6 30. Qa3 Qa3: 31. Na3: Nh3: 32. Kh2 Nf2: 33. Bd3 Nb3 34. Rb1 Nc5 35. Rb6 Ncd3: 36. cd3: Nd3: 37. Nd3: Rd3: 38. Rc6: Ra3: 39. Rc7 Re6 40. Ra7 Ra2 41. Re3 Rf6 / White resigns

W.: Petrosian (1)

B.: Stean (0)

Moscow 1975

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cd5: Nd5: 5. e4 Nc3: 6. bc3: Bg7 7. Bc4 0-0 8. Ne2 b6 9. h4 Nc6 10. h5 Na5          11. Bd3 e5 12. hg6: hg6: 13. Bh6 f6 14. Qd2 Qe7 15. 0-0-0 Be6 16. d5 Bd7 17. Rh2 Rf7 18. Rdh1 Re8 19. f4 c6  20. fe5: Qe5: 21. Nf4 g5 22. Ng6 Qd6 23.Bg7: Rg7: 24. e5 Re5: 25. dc6:  Bc6: 26. Ne5: Qe5: 27. Rh8  Kf7       28. Rf1 Be4 29. Qe1  and Black resigned

W.: Petrosian (1)

B.: Guimard (0)

Gothenburg (Itz) 1955

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. Nf3 Be7 5. e3 0-0 6. Bd3 dc4: 7. Bc4: c5 8. 0-0 a6 9. a4 Nc6 10. b3 cd4:              11. ed4: Nb4 12. Ne5 Bd7 13. Bb2 Bc6 14. Qd2 Nbd5 15. Nc6: bc6: 16 Na2 Qb8 17 Nc1 Bb4 18. Qc2 Bd6               19. g3 Rd8  20. Qe2 Nb4 21. Rd1 Nfd5 22. Qe4 Be7 23. Ne2 Bf6 24. Kg2 A5 25. Ng1 Qb7 26. Nf3 Rab8                27. Rac1 h6  28. Kg1 Nb6  29. Be2 N6d5 30. Nd2 Bg5 31. Rc5 Be7 32. Ra5: Na2 33. Bd3 g6 34. Qf3 Qc7           35. Rc5 Be7   36. dc5: Nab4  37. Bc4 f5 38. Re1 Qe7 39. Qe2 Re8 40. Nf3 Kh7 41. Qe5 Qc7 42. Qe2 Qe7           43. h4. Nf6 44. Be6: Ne4 45. Nd4 Rbd8 46. h5 Rd4: 47. hg6: Kg6: 48. Bf5 Kf5: 49. Qh5 Ke6 50. Qg4 Kd5      51. Qf5 Qe5 52. Qd7 Kc5: 53. Rc1 Nc3 54. Rc3: Kb6 55. a5 Ka5: 56. Qa7 Kb5 57. Qb7 Ka5 58. Rc1 Rd1             59. Rd1: Qb2: 60. Qa7 Na6 61. b4 Kb4:  62 Qb6  and Black resigned . One of his favourite games. 

“The Art of Doing Nothing…” (A. O’Kelly):

W.: Petrosian (1)

B.: Cardoso (0)

Portoroz (Itz) 1958

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 d5 5. a3 Bc3: 6. bc3:  c5 7. cd5: ed5: 8. Bd3 0-0 9. Ne2 Nc6 10. 0-0 Re8         11. f3 cd4 12. cd4 b6 13. Bd2 Bb7 14. Ng3 Rc8 15. Rb1 Rc7 16. Qa4 g6 17. Rfc1 Re6 18. Rc2 Qe8 19. Nf1 Kg7              20. Rbc1 Qd8 21. Bb5 Qa8 22. Bd3 Rd7 23. Ng3 Rdd6 24. Kb1 Nd7 25. Qb3 Qd8 26. Ne2 Qh4 27. Qb2 Nf6         28. Rf1 Re8 29. Bb5 Kg8 30. Qc1 Rc8 31. e4 de4: 32. Bg5 Qh5 33.Ng3 ef3: 34. Nh5: fg2: 35. Rg2: Nh5:             36. Qc4 Nd8 37. Qb4 Re6 38. Kg1 Bg2: 39. Kg2: Re4 40. Kf3 a5 41. Qd2  Black resigned.

A much laboured upon topic has been Nimzowitsch’s influence on Petrosian. In fact Petrosian learnt many things from Nimzowitsch: prophylaxis, overprotection,blockade, attack on same colour square complex, the art of defence, etc. But all that passed through the sieve of the Soviet Chess School and its methods of training/work. It is normal that such a complex personality may create different , sometimes opposite, definitions. Thus while most authors see the Nimzowitsch influence, others have compared him to Capablanca. This is normal: after all, all top chessplayers have absorbed, assimilated and integrated the teachings of their predecessors.

Nimzowitsch would have been proud of the following game, which shows  a trench warfare, overprotection, manoeuvring and the final collapse of the opponent’s position:

W.: Olafsson (0)

B.: Petrosian (1)

Bled 1961

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Qd7 5. Qg4 f5 6. Qg3 b6 7. h4 Bb7 8. Bd3 Nc6 9. Ne2 0-0-0 10. Nd2 Nh6    11. a3 Be7 12. Bb5 Rdg8 13. Qd3 Nf7 14. 0-0-0 Kb8 15. Nf4 Qc8 16. Nce2 Ncd8 17. Qb3 c6 18.Bd3 c5 19. dc5: Bc5: 20. Nh3 Ne5: 21. Bf4 Nf7 22. Bb5 Ka8 23. Nd4 Ng6 24. Rb4 ef4: 25. Bd7 Qf8 26. Rd4: e5 27. Rb4 ef4:  28. Rb6: Nfe5 29. Rb7: Kb7: 30. h5 Qd6 31. hg6: Qd7: 32. Qf4 Ng6: / White resigned.

The last game is a strategical masterpiece:

W.: Petrosian (1)

Black: Gufeld (0)

27th USSR Chess Championship 1960

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 0-0 5. Nf3 d6 6. Be2 e5 7. d5 (the “Petrosian Variation”), … Nh5 8. g3 Na6 9. Nd2 (preventing Black’s …Nc5 followed by … a5) ,… Nf6 10. h4!  (prevents 10… Bh6 : 11.h5!),… c6 11. Nb3    (controls c5) … Nc7 12. Bg5  cd5:  (forced to avoid a weak Pawn after White’s dc6)   13. cd5: h6   (By piling up positional threats Petrosian carries out a clever plan: he will play Bf6: eliminating a Knight and then Bxc8 -leaving Black with a passive Bishop + Knight while keeping his beloved Knights to increase his pressure on the enemy’s position. A study in how to handle positions with this type of centre.)    14. Bf6:!   Qf6: 15. Bg4! h5  16. Bc8: Rac8: (Now the plan will be to pose threats against the Queen side .Black will have to defend it at the cost of  breaking his piece coordination)   17. Qe2 Bh6 18. Na5 Rb8 19. 0-0 Rfc8  (better was …Ng7 and open up the position.But Petrosian’s ability causes his opponents to commit mistakes. Here Black is  enticed into playing on the Q-side passively, instead of defending counterattacking on the K-side. Gufeld was an excellent tactician and an expert in the King’s Indian…)   20. a4 Qd8 21. Nc4 Ne8 22. Ra2 Qc7 23. b3 Qd7 24. Kg2   (White places his pieces on white squares to get control of them because of the lack of Black c8 Bishop Please note how Petrosian attacks  using those squares: occupying c6, attacking d6, etc.)   Rc5?! 25. Rb1 Rcc8 26. Rc2 Nc7 27. Rbb2 Rf8 28. b4 Ne8 29. a5 Ng7 30. a6! ba6 31. Na5 f5 32. Nc6 Rbe8 33. Nb1!  Kh7 34. Rb3 fe4 35. Qe4: Rf5 36. Ra3 Qb7 37. Nc3 Ref8 38. Qc4 Rf3 39. Ra6: Be3 40. Ne4 Bh6 41. Ra7: and Black resigned. 


Written by QChess

April 2, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Mijail Tal: the Magician of Chess.

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Mijail Tal was the chessplayer most of us wanted to be like and I never managed to.–  The author.

I still don’t know why during those my first years I was mainly interested in positional chess and players like Karpov or Petrosian…  One of the eternal questions when you speak of Chess, art or music is if these disciplines help to build your character or if they simply show  what it is like… Some people believe that the truth may lie in the middle. Perhaps your character is revealed by the way you play Chess and also the study and practice do exert a strong influence on your character. Since I learnt on my own in -solitude and loneliness-, I think I developed a pathological fear to losing. Then, I felt myself more secure in a “safe-above-all” approach than in its opposite. Yet at the bottom of my heart, at home, I played and replayed Fischer’s , Tal’s and Keres’s games.

In 1981 I was High School Team Championship in my home town. I also took part in other local tournaments. In 1982 I began my university studies and in 1984 I had to continue them far away from home. In 1985 I got acquainted with correspondence chess and I discovered a wonderful New World. That was perfect to meet strong opponents, play serious events, qualification tournaments within the ICCF, matches, CC clubs , new friends, people with whom I could exchange ideas, try all sort of openings, etc. My whole life changed. For the first time I could say I had a Chess Trainer…

When you see a Tal sparkling combination for the first time many people simply think “that’s not possible” and hurry to replay the game again to see how it can have happened. We all have read that combinations do not appear out of thin air, that a mistake must take place or simply the amount of continuous pressure a certain position is able to stand comes to an end and the player is unable to defend himelf against all the threats so causing the position to collapse, breaking  itself by its weakest spot. O.K. We all have read things like this one a hundred times. But in Chess definitions hardly ever teach you what to do… And what is even worse: how can I reach the positions for the tactical possibilities/combinations to appear?.-

Much has been written about the genius from Riga. Apart from his life (there are excellent books starting by his own biography, Bjelica’s book in the collection “Kings of Chess”, etc.

You will find that some of their combinations contained failures, that the loser could have saved the game, etc. Yes, the same happens with Alekhine, for instance. But we must remember Tal was a practical player. He played against the man and he used his tactical skills to provoke tactical and combinational whirlwinds to try to sweep his opponents out f the board and win the game. This was his approach to Chess. Tal was obssessed with Chess and he could spent nights on end playing blitz after an official game in a tournament. He was always in bad health, undergoing operations and with frequent ins and outs of hospitals.

Mischa Tal was born in 1936 in Riga, Latvia. He died in Moscow in 1992. He became an IGM in 1957. In 1958 he won the Portoroz Itz. with 13.5 out of 20. In 1959 he played in the Candidates’ Tournament with a result of 20 out of 28 and became Botvinnik’s challenger. In 1960 he beat Botvinnik  12.5 -8.5, but lost the title the following year in the return match.

He was 6 times Soviet Champion : 1957-1958-1967-1972-1974 and 1978, and took part in 7 Chess Olympiads .

Tal won tournaments in dazzling style steamrolling over the rest of participants. Among his tournament record you can have a look at the following:

Bled 1961, Miskolc 1963,Amsterdam ITZ. 1964 , Hastings 1964, Rejkjavik 1964, Palma de Mallorca 1966,Week aan Zee 1973, Halle 1974, Leningrad 1977, Sochi 1977, Tblisi 1978, Montreal 1979, Riga Itz. 1979, Sochi 1982, Buenos Aires 1991. In 1988 he even became World Champion of Blitz.

(Note: as ever remember these post are aimed at offering hints for the reader to start his/her own investigations. And concerning the selection of games I always choose the ones I like trying to include lesser known ones.)

The Games

First of all, two positions:

W.: Tal  (1) : Kg3 – Ra2 – Bf1 – f4 – e5. c5 – b4

B.: Trifunovic (0) : Ke7 – Be7 – Rh8 – c6 – f6 – h3

Palma de Mallorca 1966

A clockwork masterpiece:

45. e6!! Be6: 46. Ra7 Bd7  47. Kh2! Rh5  48. b5! Rc5: 49. Bh3: f5 50. bc6 Rc6:  51. Bf5:  Rd6  52. Kg3 Ke8    53. Rd7: Rd7:  54. Bd7: Kd7:  55. Kg4 Ke6  56. Kg5  Kf7  57. Kf5  and Black resigned.

W.:  Tal  (1) :     Kg1 – Qa4 – Nc4 – Bd3 – Bh4 – Ra1 -Rf1 – a2 – c3 – e5 – f3 – g2 – h2

B.:  Hecht (0) :   Ke8 – Qe6 – Nf6 – Ng6 – Bb7 – Ra8 – Rh8 – a7 – b5 – c5- c6 – f7 – g7 – h6

Varna (Ol) 1962

19. ef6: ba4: 20. fg7: Rg8 21. Bf5 Nh4  22. Be6 Ba6  23. Nd6 Ke7           24. Bc4 Rg7  25. g3 Kd6  26.Ba6 Nf5   27. Rab1 f6 28. Rfd1 Ke7               29. Re1 Kd6 30. Kf2 c4 31. g4 Ne7 32. RB7 rag8 33. Bc4 Nd5                  34. Bd5: cd5:   35. Rb4 Rc8 36. Ra4 Rc3 37. Ra6 Kc5 38. Rf6 h5           39. h3 hg4: 40. hg4: Rh7  41. g5 Rh5: 42. Rf5 Rc2   43. Kg3 Kc4           44. Ree5 d4  45. g6 Rh1  46. Rc5 Kd3 47. Rc2 Kc2 48. Kf4 Rg1                49. Rg5  Black resigned.

W.: Tal (1)

Black : Larsen (0)

Montreal 1979

This event was a super-tournament featuring Karpov, Tal, Spassky, Portisch, Ljubojevic, Timman, Larsen, Hort, Kavalek and Hübner. Karpov and Tal tied first.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cd4: 4. Nd4: Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 Be7 8. 0-0-0  a6 9. f4 Qc7 10. Be2 Nd4:   11. Qd4: b5 12. e5 de5: 13. fe5: Nd5 14. Be7: Nc3: 15. Bf3! Nd1: 16. Bd6 Qc4 17. Qb6! Nf2                             18. Bc6 Bd7     19. Bd7:  Kd7: 20. Qb7 Kd8 21.Qa8: Qc8  22. Qa7 , Black resigns.

W.: Gurgenidze (0)

B.: Tal (1)

USSR Chess Championship 1957

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 ed5:  5.cd5:  d6  6. Nf3 g6  7. e4 Bg7  8. Be2 0-0  9. 0-0 Re8  10. Nd2 Na6      11. Re1 Nc7 12. a4 b6  13. Qc2 Ng4 14. h3 Nf2: 15. Kf2: Qh4 16. Kf1 Bd4 17. Nd1  Qh3:  18. Bf3 Qh2  19. Ne3 f5   20 Ndc4 fe4: 21. Be4: Ba6 22. Bf3 Re5 23. Bf3 Re5 24. Bd2 Nd5:  25. Bd5: Rd5: 26. Ke2 Be3:27. Re3: Bc4:  0-1

W.: Tal (1)

B.: Krupeichik (0)

Moscow 1981

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nc6 4. 0-0 e5 5. d3 Bg4 6. h3 Bf5 7. Nc3 Qd7 8. Kh2 h6 9. e4 Be6 10. ed5:  Nd5: 11. Rel Nc3: 12. bc3: Bd6 13. d4 ed4:  14. Nd4: Nd4: 15. cd4 c6 16. c4 0-0 17. d5 cd5: 18. Bb2 Bc5 19. cd5: Bf5 20. Qd2 Rc8 21. Rac1! f6 22. Bd4! Ba3 23. Rc8: Rc8: 24. Ba7: Qa4       25. d6 Kh8  26. Qd5 Bd7 27. Be3 Qc4 28. Qb7! Be6 29. Bh6: gh6:             30. Qe7 Bf7  31. Qf6:  Black resigned.

The following game was one very especial to him:

W.: Tal (1)

Black: Panno (0)

Portoroz 1958

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6         8. c3 0-0 9. h3 Nd7  10. d4 Nb6 11.Be3 ed 12. cd Na5 13. Bc2 c5              14. e5?! de!  15. Ne5 Nbc4  16. Qd3 f5  17. Bb3! f4  18. Bd2 Nb3!               19. Nc6 Na1  20. Nd8 Bf5  21. Qf3 Rad8  22. Re7 Bb1  23. Bf4 Rd4           24. Qg4! Bg6  25. Qe6 Bf7  26. Qf5 Nc2  27. b3 Bg6  28. Rg7 Kg7           29. Bh6 Kh6 30.Qf8 Kg5 31. bc bc 32. g3 Be4 33. h4 Kg4 34. Kh2 Bf5! 35. Qf6 h6 36. Qe5 Re4  37. Qg7 Kf3  38. Qc3 Ne3  39. Kg1 Bg4             40. fe4  h5  41. Qe1 Re3  42. Qf1 Ke4  43. Qc4 Kf3  44. Qf1 Ke4                 45. Qa6 Kd4  46. Qd6 Kc4  47. a4 Re1  48. Kf2 Re2  49. Kf1 Ra2               50. Qa6 Kd4  51. a5 c4  52. Qb6 Kd5  53. a6 Ra1  54. Kf2 c3 55. a7 c2 56. Qb3 Kd6 57. Qd3,   1-0


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March 29, 2012 at 7:18 am

Boris Spassky .Part 2

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Boris Spassky

I am not going to speak about Spassky’s life in the former USSR and later  in France once he managed to leave Moscow. You can find the story in books and magazines.

But after 1972 he was treated “the Soviet way” though he continued representing the USSR in Chess Olympiads even when he was already living in France.  In 1973 he played in the always strong Soviet Champioship and won it -producing some exceptional games-  ahead of  a field  which included  Karpov, Korchnoi , Petrosian, Polugaaevsky,Geller, Tal,Taimanov,Keres, Smyslov…


– Sharp combinational vision and technique.

– Deep tactical skills supported by a unique strategical insight based upon the main feature of the Soviet Chess School: overwhelming technique applied to all the stages of a Chess game.

– Classicism in strategy with sparkling strategical conceptions.

– Like Alekhine, he creates threats on one side of the board even involving decoy sacrifices (decoy of  all the opponent’s forces due to the threats posed), to immediately shift to the opposite side to finish off the game.

– Exceptional ability to exploit temporary dynamic advantages by means of tactical combinations, manoeuvres and positional transformations.

– Ability to see positional transformations to cash in on previously acquired advantages.  And the most important one:

– Spassky himself has admitted that his strongest skill is the ability to foresee the key critical turning points in every game.

But what does it mean?. To understand this one should understand the meaning of   “key critical turning points”.

A critical turning point may appear in the following cases:

1.- When theory ends (the book or the knowledge the player has).

2.- When exchanges of pieces have to be made so deciding which pieces have to remain on the board and why/why not)

3.- When the player has to decide whether to exchange Queens or not .

4.- When the player has the possibility of  avoiding massive exchange of pieces to liquidate into an endgame or not.

5.- When the player has to decide how to respond to an attack on the opponent’s part: on the same flank, on the centre or on the opposite flank.

6.- When the player has to decide if he carries out a transformation in the position (for instance to close or open it,…)

7.- When the player has to decide the type of centre (establishing or dissolving it) he wants.

8.- When the player has to decide if he wants to play with hanged Pawns, the “isolani”, doubled Pawns, etc.

9.- When any positional transformation can be carried out.

10.- When the player has to decide the type of balance of material he wants to play with (for instance  two Rooks vs. Queen , three pieces vs. Queen, etc.).

(11.- Any other feature susceptible of changing ,more or less drastically,  the quality of the position.)


W.: SPASSKY    (1)


Moscow 1965

1. e4 e5  2. Nf3 Nc6  3. Bb5 a6  4. Ba4 Nf6  5. 0-0 Be7  6. Re1 b5  7. Bb3 d6  8. c3 0-0  9.h3 h6  10. d4 Re8   11.Nbd2 Bf8  12. Nf1 Bd7  13.Ng3 a5  14. Bd2 a4   15. Bc2 Na5  16. b3  ab:  17. ab: c6  18. Be3 Qc7  19.Nd2 c5     20. d5 b4   21. cb: cb:   22. Bd3 Rec8  23. Qe2 Qb7  24. Ra2! Be7  25. Rea1 Bd8  26. Nh5! Nh7  27. Qf3 Nf8     28. Ra5: Ba5:  29. Ra5!:  Ra5:  30.  Bh6:  Nh7  31. Ng7: f5  32. ef: Kh8  33. Nh5 Rg8  34. f6   and Black resigned in view of  34…Qa8 -or Raa8- 35. Bg7 Rg7: 36. fg: Kg8 37. Bh7 Kh7 38.Qf8     .

W.: SPASSKY  (1)


Belfort   1978

1. e4 e6  2. d4 d5  3. Nd2 Nf6  4. e5 Nfd7  5. f4 c5  6. c3 Nc6  7. Ndf3  cd4:  8. cd4: Qb6  9. h4 f6   10. a3  Be7     11. Bd3 0-0  12. Ne2 h6  13. b4 Kh8  14. Bb1 f5  15. Bd3 Qd8  16. h5 Nb6  17.Kf2 Bd7  18. Qg1 Nc4  19. g4 b5      20. gf5: ef5:  21. Qg6 Be8  22. Qg2 Qd7  23.Rg1 Bd8  24. Ng3 Nd4:  25. Nd4: Bb6  26. Be3 Ne5!  27. Bf5: Ng4  28. Bg4: Qg4: 29. Ngf5  Qg2: 30. Rg2: Bd7  31. Nh4  Rf4: 32. Ndf3 Be3:  33. Ke3: Re4  34. Kd3 Be8                    35. Ng6 Kg8   36. Rf1 Bd7  37.Nfe5 Bh3  38. Ne7  Kh7  39. Rg7: , and Black resigned.

W.: SMYSLOV  (0)

B.: SPASSKY     (1)

Baku 1961

1. Nf3 d5  2. g3 Nf6  3. Bg2 g6  4. b4 Bg7  5. Bb2 0-0  6. 0-0 Bg4  7. c4 c6  8. Na3 Nbd7  9.Rc1 a5  10.b5 a4          11. d3 e5  12. bc6: bc6:  13.cd5: cd5:  14. Nc2 e4    15. de4: de4:  16. Nd2 Rb8  17. Ba3 Re8  18.Ne3 Ne5                19. Ng4: Neg4: 20. Nc4 e3  21. f3 Nf2 22. Qa4: Nd5  23. f4 Nc3  24. Qc2 Qd4  25. Ne5 Be5:  26. fe5:  Rec8      27. Bf3 Qd2  28. Kg2 Qd7  29. Bd6 Nce4  30. e6 Qe6:  31. Bb8! Rc2:  32. Rc2: g5  33. Kg1 (33. Ba7) Nd2          34. Rfc1 Nf3:  35. ef3 Nd3  36. Rc6 Qa2:  37. R6c2 Qa8  38. Rc8 Kg7 and White lost on time in a desperate position.

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March 16, 2012 at 5:37 pm

The Day I Met Anatoly Karpov. Part 2.

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You can study Karpov’s games annotated by himself and you will find a lot of clues or a lot of hints, but not a clear theoretical explanation.   Nevertheless, some months ago I found a book written by Matzukievich ,co-authored and so endorsed, by Karpov himself. The book (in German: “Stellungsbeurtteilung und Plan” :more or less “How to Assess Positions and Devise Plans” offers a clear explanation of Karpov’s Chess creed.   He based his approach to Chess (please note I always write the word Chess with capital “C”) in the Nimzowitschean concept of restraint. He mentions seven cases in which a piece may be restrained and both authors labours upon the matter of devising plans according to the types of centre, etc.   They offer seven points to be taken into account so as to evaluate a position and  devise a plan.

Everything in keeping with the overall idea which permeates his approach to Chess: the prevention of the opponent’s counterplay. Nevertheless, up till 1986, Karpov’s style also produced wonderful attacking games but with their roots deeply buried in a classical positional approach too.

Nimzowitsch appears again… (Well, as far as I know, there is also a Spanish translation of that book with the title: “Strategy in Chess: How to Assess Positions and Devise Plans” (=”La Estrategia en el Ajedrez: Cómo Valorar Posiciones y Trazar Planes”).

Year 1993.    Since 1989 I had been acting as Deputy Arbiter in some Chess professional events. That year I was going to finally accomplish one of my dreams: León (Spain), the traditional Master Tournament was going to be held , Karpov was among the players (Yudasin, Leko, Topalov,Vyzmanavin Morovic and some Spanish GMs). I could not believe it. Apart from my task as D.A. I was also the tournament translator for the press. On May 9th (incidentally, a Sunday). Karpov arrived in León and I had my first contact with the great man: reception,statements to the press,drawing of lots and nearly ten days sharing his presence, accompaning him to official acts, lunches and homages. I spent those days in a cloud.

I had been waiting for 15 years. (Incidentally again, happiness has always been ephemeral in my life: my mother passed away that very year…). Ever since 1978 I have tried to collect everything related to my Chess idols (Fischer,Nimzowitsch,Karpov and the protagonist of the following post (s)). I saw Karpov in other events after that and I must say there is a saying in my case it is not true: that which states that “One should never meet personally the people he admires”. My admiration, instead of waning, increased. Anatoly Karpov was a real gentleman, extremely polite, always taking you into consideration, a very reflective man, with that introspective air and the ever present Russian  melancholic charm.


It is impossible to choose among the thousands of masterpieces played by Karpov. So I have chosen the games that most impressed me . Perhaps they are not the best-known, but I am sure the aesthetic pleasure you will get by replaying them is worth their inclusion in this blog.

W.: Ljubojevic (0)

B.: Karpov (1)

Linares 1981

A case in point of a good Knight vs. a bad Bishop. But you have to possess a  deep  insight so as to provoke the correct strategical  conditions…

1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 de4:  4. Ne4: Bf5  5. Ng3 Bg6  6. Nf3 Nd7                 7. h4 h6  8. h5 Bh7  9.Bd3 Bd3:  10. Qd3: e6 11.Bf4 Qa5 12. Bd2 Qc7      13. 0-0-0  N8f6 14. Ne4 0-0-0  15. g3  Nc5  16. Nc5: Bc5: 17. Qc4 Bd6      18. Qa4 Kb8      19. Ne5 Nd5 20. f4 Nb6 21.Qb3 Be5: 22. de5:  Nd5           23. c4 Ne7 24.Be3 c5 25. Re8: Re8: 26. Rd1 Rd1:  27. Qd1: b6 28. Qd3 g6 29. hg6: fg6: 30. a3 a5 31. b3 h5 32. Qe4 Nf5 33. Bf2 Qd7 34. a4 Kc7   35. Kc2 Qd8    36. Kc1 g5   37. fg5: Qg5: 38. Kc2 Ne7 39. Qh7 Kd7          40. Qe4 Qf5 41. Qd3 Kc6 42. Qf5: ef5: 43. Be3 Ng6    44. e6 Kd6               45. Bg5 Ke6: 46. Kd2 f4  47. gf4: h4  48. Ke3 h3 49. Kf3 Kf5 50. Kg3 Nf4: 51. Bd8 Ne2    52. Kh3: Nd4 53. Bb6: Nb3: 54. Bd8 Nc2 55. Kg4 Kd3     56. Kf4 Kc4: 57. Ke4 Kc3 58. Bf6   Kc2 59. Be5 c4   60.  Ke3 c3                  61. Bf6 Nc5   62. Ke2 Kb3   63. White resigns.       

W.: Karpov (1)

B.: Sax (0)

Linares 1983

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd4: 4. Nd4: 5. Nc3 e6 6. g4 h6  7. Rg1 Be7            8. Be3 Nc6  9. Qe2 Bd7  10. h4 Nd4:  11.Bd4: e5  12.Be3 Bc6  13. Qd3 Qa5  14. 0-0-0 Ne4:  15. Ne4: d5  16.Qb3 de4:  17.Bc4 Rf8  18. Rd5 Bd5:            19. Bd5 Rd8   20. Bc4Bb4  21. c3 b5  22. Be2 Bd6  23. Qd5 Ke7                 24. Bc5 Bc5:  25. Qe5: Kd7  26 Qc5: Qc7    27. Qf5 Ke7  28. Qe4: Kd7  29.Qf5 Ke7  30. Re1  Rd6  31. Bc4 Kd8  32. Bb5: a6  33. Ba4 g6           34.Qf3 Kc8     35. Re7 Rd1  36. Kd1: Qe7:  37. Qa8 Kc7  38. Qa7 Kd6       39. Qb6  and Black resigns.  


W.: Karpov (1)

B.: Tal  (0)

Bugojno 1980

1. c4 e6  2. Nc3 d5  3. d4 c6  4. e3 Nf6  5. Nf3 Nbd7  6. Bd3 dc4:                   7. Bc4: b5  8. Bd3 a6  9. e4 c5  10. d5 c4       11. de6: cd3:  12. ed7: Qd7:  13. 0-0 Bd7  14. Re1 Bb4  15. Ne5 Qe6  16. Nd3: Bc3:  17. Nf4 Qd7  18. bc3: Ne4:  19. Qd7: Kd7:  20. Ba3 Rhe8  21. Red1 Kc7  22. f3 Nf6             23. Bd6 Kb6  24. c4 Rac8  25. cb5: ab5:  26. a4 Red8  27. ab5: Rd7       28. Rd4 Rcd8  29. Rad1 Rc8  30. Be5 Re7  31. Rd6 Kb5:  32. Rb1 Kc4      33. Rd4 Kc5  34. Nd3

  and Black resigned in view of the unavoidable mate.


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March 12, 2012 at 8:37 am

The Day I Met Anatoly Karpov.Part 1

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From 1971 to 1978  I did not play Chess at all. In 1978 I decided to start studying and playing Chess. In that year the World Championship match Karpov-Korchnoi was being played in Baguio and  Karpov was my hero.  I began to buy books, collect newspaper games, etc. Everything revolved around Karpov nearly to a point that he nearly became my “alter ego”.

From those days I remember playing and replaying the Baguio games that the newspapers published and then other Karpov’s games in books I rushed to buy with my scarce money then…My only dream was to meet the great man,see him,  even speak to him. He was constantly visiting my country but it seemed I was not destined to meet him.

Anatoly Evguenievich Karpov was born in Zlatous (former USSR) on 23rd May 1951 and learnt the game at the age of four. In 1966 he became the youngest player in becoming Soviet Master. As ever before in his country, he began receiving tuition and was one of the students at the famous Botvinnik  Summer School of Chess.(A tale is told that Botvinnik,after examining his new pupil, said “this lad knows nothing of chess”, but Botvinnik denied it later.)

In 1967 he was sent, by mistake, to an international tournament in the Czech Republic. By mistake because the Soviet chess officials believed it was a youth tournament when in fact is was for adults. Kupreichik, another junior, accompanied him. Karpov won the tournament ahead of  Kupka, Kupreichik , Smejkal and the rest up to fourteen competitors .It was the beginning of a fabulous chess career.In 1970 he became GM, in 1973 he tied for first with Korchnoi in the Leningrad Interzonal and in 1974 beat Polugaevsky,Spassky and Korchnoi in the Candidates’ matches to become official challenger to the World Championship.

(Karpov’s chess career has been so intense that it would take a thousand posts to discuss it. So I recommend the following books simply because I like them:

KARPOV & ROSHAL: “Chess is My Life”

O’CONNELL, LEVY & ADAMS: “The Complete Games of World Champion Anatoly Karpov” and by the same authors:”Anatoly Karpov’s Games as World Champion 1975-1977″.

KARPOV has published several books analysing his games too.They are easily found in chessbook stores.

KARPOV & MATSUKIEVICH : “Stellungsbeurteilung and Plan”.- I will explain something about this book later.

BJELICA: “Anatoly Karpov” (Collection “Kings of Chess”)

STUDENETZKY & WEXLER: “Karpov: Un Genio de Nuestro Tiempo”

I have managed to obtain teens of books about Karpov, with the exception of one: “KARPOV ON KARPOV”, published years ago in the USA.  I’m still looking for a way to obtain a copy… Any idea????)

Before the Leningrad Interzonal Karpov was invited to play at San Antonio tournament (Texas, USA)  played between November and December 1972, a tournament in which Fischer was not playing (this is another curious story you may like to investigate by yourself…). Karpov clinched the first place leading a field of sixteen players , among whom we have the likes of  Petrosian,Portisch,Gligoric,Keres,Hort, Larsen…. During the tournament, a lady was taken snaps of Karpov: it was Fischer’s mother, who was sent there by Bobby himself. Apparently Bobby already knew who was going to be his next opponent…

Everybody knows what happened in 1975 and  I am not going to labour on that. Thousands of pages have been written for and against Bobby and Anatoly. I am not going to deal either with the matter of  the state of the Soviet chess during those years. You can find Soviet literature on that,Korchnoi books, Spassky’s points of view, Karpov’s account on the matter, Kasparov books and other hundreds  of books or magazine articles from outside the USSR. Karpov became World Chess Champion in 1975 because Fischer decided not to play. Anatoly promised he would play and he played and played, thousands of games,won hundreds of tournaments,played in chess team events and defended the title twice against Korchnoi having to play  gruelling matches against Kasparov too , who was to succeed him on the throne in 1985. You can find all this games in books published all over the world. To sum up his World Championship career here are some details:

1975: Karpov is proclaimed Champion of the World.

1978: beats Korchnoi at Baguio.

1981; beats Korchnoi again at Meran

1984: first match against Kasparov in Moscow. Suspended after 48 games.

1985: loses to Kasparov in Moscow.

1986: loses to Kasparov (London/Moscow)

1987: loses to Kasparov in Seville, Spain.

1990: again the challenger, loses to Kasparov in New York/Lyons.

(Kasparov provokes a schism walking out of FIDE and Karpov returns in

1995: beats J: Timman at Kuala Lumpur becoming FIDE World Champion again.

1996: beats G. Kamsky.

1998: beats Anand and refused to defend the title anymore.

Due to all this and his tournament record,Karpov is considered one of the best chessplayers in he history of Chess.

Karpov’s Chess style has been defined in different ways: positional, “boa-constrictor like”, arid, etc.   He defined it to: “Style?.I do not have a style.” (In general leading chessplayers avoid defining their “styles”…) . Well, some years ago in an article for a Chess bulletin I wrote that we could speak of periods. In my humble opinion, these are:

Early years: very positional.  He played 1.e4 but avoiding open Sicilians, for instance. 1969-1974:  active positional style in development: he started to show the characteristics that made him nearly unbeatable later.   He favoured open and semi-open lines showing an overwhelming ability to exert enormous pressure by means of piece alone 1975-1984: active positional style bordering the so-called universal style.1986 -to this day (though he is retired and appears only in exhibitions): he shifted to QP games and  began to play nearer ultra-positional style,although there are many games with sparks of past periods. Ultra-refined positional/strategical technique  favouring semi-closed and closed positions. Excuse me if the reader has a different idea. It is very difficult to sail in waters like these ones…Choose the division that suits you best for your studying purposes.  Everything is relative, you know…)

In my opinion, some of the stylistic characteristics in Karpov’s approach to Chess should include the following aspects/points  (among others) :

-Prophylactic thinking followed by active consolidation, always strengthening his position to remark the opponent’s weaknesses.

-Zugzwang strategy

-Positional control with absolute prevention of the opponent’s counterplay.

ability to accumulate small advantages through the method of constantly creating threats while always leaving the opponent confronted to a sort of “lesser evil” decision.

-Absolute preference for Bishops and the Bishop pair.

-Exceptional ability to reduce a complicated set of plans to a series of straightforward moves. Economy of means .

-Ability to respond with indirect threats and waiting moves but creating a web of positional ambushes.

-Exceptional knowledge of endgames, specially Rook endgames  and Bishop vs. Knight ones always exploiting the mobility of the B reducing the scope of the N.

-Smooth transitions opening-middlegame  and midlegame-endgame.

-Great skills in the fields of strategical interchange of advantages and positional transformations.

-Deadly precision in the sacrifice of the exchange or the sacrifice of a Pawn for the initiative.

-Perfect appreciation of key critical points during games.

He is always aiming at positional domination.

-Outstanding technique.

Of course, he also showed some defects : narrow opening repertoire, excessive tendency to “win as White and draw as Black”  which implies the choice of too passive set-ups -especially in the latter stages of his career-,hiperactivity,…

And here comes the above-mentioned book co-authored with Matsukievich: in it you can find some “authorized” ideas on the matter of style-because Karpov endorses them!). The main facts are as follows:

(To be continued…)

Questchess  03

Written by QChess

March 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

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