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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

Keres, Smyslov, an Obscure Game and Other Matters.

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(For more on Keres, I have published two posts in March 1012)

In 1935, the great Estonian chessplayer Paul Keres  played in several tournaments: Tallinn, Tartu,Varsovia and Helsinki.He also played two matches, vs. Friedemann and Kibbermann. Browsing my archives, I found an obscure game played at Helsinki. Some sources offer the game Stahlberg-Keres as one of them, but omit the following one, played against Thorsten Gauffin:

W.: Keres (1)

B.: Gauffin (0)

Helsinki , 1935

1.e4, c5  2. Nf3, a6  3. b4, cb 4. a3, c5  5. ed, Qxd5 6. ab, Bg4 7. Nc3, Qh5  8. Be2, e6  9. 0-0, Nf6  9. 0-0, Nf6  10. Ra5!, Nd5  11. h3!, Bxf3  12. Bxf3, Nxc3  13. dc, Qg6  14. Qd4,!, Qf6  15. Qc4, Nd7  16. Bg5, Qg6  (16…, Ne5/ 17. Rxe5, Qxe5/ 18. Qc6!!)  17. Bb7, Rb8  18. Bc6, Be7  19. Bd7, Kd7  20. Rd1  Black resigned.

Where do I get this game from?.- Well, this is a long story. During my Chess career I have had the opportunity to  meet very interesting people from different countries. One of them was a man who was living in Spain (he sadly passed away around 1996). He had one of the largest Chess collections in Spain, with thousands of books, magazines, documents, etc. You could ask him whatever you needed: he would readily type the matter in question and send them to you. He loved Chess and he loved helping people too. His name was Mr. Cecilio Hernáez, lived in Vitoria , the Spanish Basque Country,  and I feel obliged to pay this little homage to him. He invited me to help him doing translations from English to be published in Spanish-speaking magazines and I readily accepted (I can speak and translate several languages apart from English, namely French, Portuguese, Spanish,) . No matter what you asked him to find: you can be sure he would find it even if he had to spend days looking for it in his enormous collection. He was an exceptionally strong CC player too and a living encyclopaedia.

Concerning the classics, there are two schools of thought : some people consider it a loss of time, some people use it to really learn how Chess has to be understood.  

Some players advocate the study of our contemporaries: Anand, Carlsen, Aronian, Shirov, Krammik, and so on. After all, theory has advanced a lot and they believe studying the classics is a waste of time: nobody can play like them because theory has changed drastically. Other people believe that by studying the classics you are not trying to study the latest cry in opening theory, but the way they think and so, how Chess should be understood. The third approach blends both points of view. 

Keres and Estonia, his native land, had bad luck (Spassky said publicly this too.) As a border-land, the Estonians were a country by themselves, were annexed by the former Soviet Union, invaded by the Nazi Germany , recovered by the Soviet Union and independent again. Keres was a Chess professional player and played in German tournaments during the Nazi atrocious regime. When WW2 finished, Estonia became a part of the Soviet Union, and he had to pay the toll of having played in Nazi territory… (see the above-mentioned posts). He began to play tournaments in the thirties (20th century), won the 1939 AVRO tournament so acquiring the right to play against Alekhine for the World Championship , something WW2 destroyed, but managed to survive the Stalinist period. In the Candidates’ matches which decided the Challenger to Petrosian´s title in the ’60s he lost to Spassky, who eventually became Champion of the World in 1969. 

A match Alekhine-Keres , like a match between Fischer and Karpov would have been two feast for millions of chessplayers throughout the world. But they never took place.

In the time when CC was played using postcards and stamps, many of my opponents in the former Soviet Union and the DDR (East Germany), sent me lots of books (in Russian, German, Estonian, Czech, Hungarian, etc.) From time to time I like leafing through these books. One of them is a Russian edition featuring photographs only (99% is devoted to Karpov. The author was the famous photographer Dmitry Donskoi).

Here you can see Karpov, Botvinnik, Polugaevsky, the young Kasparov, etc. There I found some snaps featuring one of the “forgotten World Champions” as I call them: Vassily Smyslov. Indeed, Smyslov beat Botvinnik in 1957 but lost the title in the 1958 return match.  He was an extremely educated man, an opera singer too. A. Saidy even wrote that his endgame skills were greater that Botvinnik’s ones. But in the end, Smyslov was a victim of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Smyslov died in 2010, in a state of sheer poverty (sharing this damned state with his loving wife) and nearly blind… Then I think about those men who devoting their entire lives to Chess died in poverty… But we have their games and their memories. I have read that nobody really dies until the last person who has known them disappears too…This is an unjust,very sad world indeed…


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April 11, 2014 at 7:12 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

Quest (Chess)-tions?

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pos1  Mate in  3 moves. ( Bergstrom)


There are 4 questions I try to answer to myself with different degrees of success ( in fact no success since they seem to be always there…):

1.- Why am I still playing correspondence Chess since everybody uses programs to find/check his / her moves?

2.- Why do I so much like Nimzowitsch  and the Hypermodern period around him (1910-1935)?

3.- Why do I like the Soviet Chess School and the Chess between 1940 and 2000 .

4- Why am I writing this blog?

Since writing may constitute a sort of cathartic experience, let’s deal with them.

Q1.: The use of strong Chess programs has changed the way CC is played. When you win you are happy, when you lose you wonder what use all this is… I learn the game around 1971 and began to devote nearly all my spare  time to Chess in 1978.  In the past I did some sport: swimming and cycling. Only swimming remains. So I devote my spare time to reading (10%), other activities (10%)  and to Chess (80%). Of course this is an average calculations: while on holidays “other activities” are the 90%!

Well, if I gave up Chess, what more could I do?. On one occasion, Bobby Fischer accepted a draw in one game. Later he regretted it : “I should have adjourned the game. What should I do with myself tomorrow?” Bobby has no life outside Chess. It is not my case, but try to ask (and answer) yourself the same question…

Q2.: This is easy. Freud and Jung would be delighted: my first Chess book was O’ Kelly’s book on Petrosian. The second was Nimzowitsch “Chess Praxis” and the third a small book with all Reti´s compositions. So my “Chess infancy” marked my “Chess adulthood”. Psychoanalysis at its best.

Q3.: In 1978 , when I began to seriously study Chess the most important event was the Baguio match between the Anatoly Karpov (USSR) and the Soviet dissident Viktor Korchnoi. The impact on the media was enormous. The Soviet Union had been the driving Chess force since WW2, everybody admired the Soviets, everybody tried to get Russian Chess literature, etc. In 2000 in my opinion the world and the world of Chess were suffering complicated changes.The Soviet Union was slowly disappearing, Karpov one of my all-time idols began to decline. To me it was as if everything had changed forever. Perhaps it was me who changed…In any case, I see it as a turning point in my life. The period 2000-2005 was a terrible personal period for me.

Q4.: This is the worst one… When I began to write this blog I did it because I wanted to  keep a  record of my Chess experiences mainly a sort of “Diary of an ex Chess Deputy Arbiter”, etc. Also, I wanted to write about Chess as I see it in a sort of attempt to show my gratitude to Chess. After the first few posts, the blog seemed to acquire a sort of own independent life. Now I do not know what to do. 64 is a magical number ( Mercury’s magical square has this number of squares, as the chessboard, and so on.) So, perhaps when I reach the number of 64 posts I will have to decide what to do. But so far, nothing is decided yet…

Perusing other Chess blogs one can find interesting ideas, byassed analyis of this and that matter, etc. One of my defects is trying to be objective from a subjective vision… One of the recurring topics is that of “The Ten Best Chessplayers in the History of Chess”. One can find as  many list as writers.I have nothing against it. In fact I think you can always found a lot of interesting explanations concerning why / why not this or that player is or is not in the list. The only problem I find is how to compare players from different periods of time…

I am going to tell you one of my biggest doubts:  Period 1930 – 1972. Events: Soviet Union  Championships  – USA Championships : which of the two were the strongest?????? 

I guess I will have to devote some more space to this particular question…In a future post.

W.: A. Karpov (1)

B.: T. Petrosian (0)

Tilburg 1982

1. e4  c6  2. d4 d5  3. Nd2  de4  4. Ne4  Nd7  5. Bc4   Ngf6  6. Ng5  e6  7. Qe2  Nb6  8. Bb3  a5  9. a3  a4  10.   Ba2  h6  11. N5f3  c5  12. c3  Bd7  13.  Ne5  cd4  14. cd4  Be7  15.  Ngf3  0-0  16. 0-0  Be8  17. Bd2  Nbd5  18. Rfc1  Qb6  19. Bc4  Bc6  20. Re1  Nc7  21. Nc6  bc6  22. Bf4  Ncd5  23. Be5  Rfd8  24. Rad1  Bd6  25. Rd2  Be5  26. de5  Nd7  27. g3!   Nf8  28. Red1  Rd7  29. Qe4  Rb7  30. Rc2  Rab8  31. Rdd2  Ne7  32. Kg2  Qa5  33. h4  Rd7  34. Be2  Rd5  35. Rd4  Rd4  36. Qd4  Nd5?   37.Rc6  Qa8  38. Rc4  Qb7  39. Rc2!  Nb6  40. Bb5  Ng6  41. Qd6  Qa8  42.  Bc6 , Black resigned.


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December 6, 2012 at 6:57 am

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

Viktor KORCHNOI: Part 1

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Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi (1931 – …)

My Chess relation with Korchnoi is difficult to explain. When in 1978 I began to study Chess seriously the Baguio match (Karpov-Korchnoi, World Championship match, Baguio , Philippine Islands ) was about to start. In those days the newspapers in my country were more interested in Chess than today. So there was a good coverage. I get acquainted with the Korchnoi’s story, the Soviet dissident who had defected to the West leaving his family behind. (For many years he fought to try to obtain the Soviet authorities permit to leave the country for them – his wife and a son-) His defection brought him a boycott on the part of the Soviet authorities: for some years Soviet chessplayers were not allowed to play in the same tournaments as him (with the exception of official World Championship matches), and many others from the Eastern block refused to give him the customary handshake at the beginning and end of the games. His Soviet ex-colleagues were also asked to sign a document against him.  Some sources said that Karpov did not sign it as well as Botvinnik, who alleged he did not sign collective documents… Though Korchnoi had always had problems with the authorities -he used to openly said what he thought- the final straw appeared when in 1974 he had to play final of the Candidates’ matches against Karpov, the favourite of the Soviet authorities for the match against Fischer (had he won this match he would have been the Champion of the World instead of Karpov, as Fischer refused to play in 1975 -and here comes my doubt as everybody takes this for granted: if instead of Karpov the challenger would have been Korchnoi, would Fischer have played? I say this because perhaps Korchnoi would have accepted Fischer’s conditions and, at any cost, there would have been a match, with the permission of the authorities or without it…) .

In 1974 Korchnoi had many problems to  find seconds who helped him as analysts. Some obscure manoeuvres took place during the match too. In the end, unable to contain his anger  and after finishing a tournament in Holland (1976) ,  he went to a police station and asked for political asylum. After living for some time in Holland and Germany, he finally settled in Switzerland.

Korchnoi was born in Leningrad in 1931. As many others, he suffered the hardships of WW2.  He obtained the GM title in 1956 and in 1959 got a university degree in History. He won the USSR Chess Championship in four times: 1960, 1962, 1964 and 1970.

Korchnoi was averse to make draws. He was characterized by a determined fighting spirit, stubbornness, will power, with a difficult character.

His Chess style is difficult to define. A firm admirer of Lasker, he is an aggressive positional player with a penchant for defence, who always liked defending difficult positions. As the rest of top chessplayers, he rarely speaks about stylistic matters: the better you are at Chess -I’m speaking of top-GM level-, the more difficult you find to speak about style (perhaps because they have to master every aspect of Chess and to them stylistic considerations are too narrow to define how they understand Chess).

Korchnoi opening repertoire has been wide: as White he prefers 1. c4 – 1. d4 but has played other moves, like 1.g3 and 1. Nf3. As Black he has been a staunch defensor if the French (playing 1. … e5 against 1. e4 , but also the Sicilian, the Pirc and even the Caro-Kann). Against QP games one of his pet lines has been the Grünfeld, though he has had many others in stock.

Many of you may admire Korchnoi and understand his games. I have always had many problems to clearly understand him. Sometimes I don’t even think if he prefers positions with dynamic balance or dynamic “unbalance”…

A player like Karpov had many difficulties to beat him in 1974 (Candidates’ Final). But in 1978  (World Championship match)  could have been even worse. From a 5-1 (the match had no game-limit with draws not counting),  Korchnoi made a frantic effort,  pulled himself up and reached a 5-5 . The match was plagued with incidents between both camps. Karpov and the Soviets had to retain the crown. Korchnoi was a defector, an enemy of the regime and had to be punished. The last game was a good victory for Karpov. But I will never understand why Korchnoi decided to play a Pirc turned in the end into  an unfavourable -in my opinion- variation of the Benoni…Perhaps he thought Karpov was groggy and wanted to deliver the final blow as quickly as possible. But Karpov was also fighting for more than the title… Had Korchnoi managed to protract the match with three or four fought-out draws and perhaps the history of Chess would have been different.

After defecting in 1976, Korchnoi had to play three Candidates’ Matches to become the challenger. His first opponent was the man Korchnoi labelled as his “arch-enemy”: Tigran Petrosian. In a stormy match, he beat the ex-Champion by +2  -1  =9.  Next came another Soviet : L. Polugayevsky. He beat him too by +5  -1  =7 . The legend continued growing… The last opponent: Spassky. Another stormy event which ended in +7  -4  =7. At the end of everything, the defector, the enemy of the Soviet Union, the traitor, had swept away all his rivals and was threatening the supreme “Soviet” crown.

After Baguio he continued playing tournaments though it was not till 1981 that Soviet chessplayers were allowed to play in the same events (Lone Pine 1981).

In the next World Championship cycle, he beat Petrosian (+2 -0  =7). Polugayevsky ( +3  -2  =9 ) and Hübner (+3 -2  =3 -The German GM. abandoned the match). Again at the doors of the World Championship. This time Karpov beat him easily at Meran.

Korchnoi continued playing and playing winning tournaments in excellent fighting spirit, even in candidates’ matches he producied excellent games too. But his time had passed. During the 80’s and 90’s of the past century he took part in the GMA tournaments, with the very best leading GMs. You can find his games in magazines and databases.

In the final part of the post I will tell how I met Viktor “the Great, how I see him and will include some games.

(To be continued…)


Written by QChess

April 14, 2012 at 5:25 pm

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