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Friday, September 18, 2020

A Fischer-Rossolimo Slugfest

     Before getting to the subject of this post, today this blog reached over 1.5 millions visits. Disregard the gizmo at the right which has never been quite accurate. The count of 1.5 million is based on Blogger's internal counter. Thanks to all readers! 
     Also, I recently purchased an FOLAI stud finder from Amazon. It arrived in a couple of days and I have no problems whatsoever with either the stud finder or the service from Amazon. However, what left me aghast was the request that I e-mail a copy of my 5-star review to the company and receive an $8.00 Amazon gift card. i.e. they are trying to bribe me for a 5-star review. Amazing! 
     On to the subject at hand. Regarding the last post on the Rossolimo-Kotov game, reader Paul Gottlieb mentioned Rossolimo's loss to Fischer in the 1965-66 US Championship as being another fascinating struggle, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the game which appears in My 60 Memorable Games.
     In the 1965-66 tournament Fischer finished first a full point ahead of Samuel Reshevsky and Robert Byrne, but he lost to both of them and drew with William Addison who tied Bernard Zuckerman for 4th. 
     The two losses scared Fischer. Such a short tournament (12 players) was just too risky because, as he put it, "Something [is] really wrong if a fellow couldn't lose a game in a US championship without practically being eliminated." Thus, for the following year's championship Fischer demanded the event be expanded to twenty players, or if 12 players it had to be a double round affair. Finally, in a phone call to the USCF he eased his demands and would compromise at 16 players. 
     Maurice J. Kasper (1900-1972), a wealthy patron who financed many events, pointed out there wasn't enough time to add more players for the 1966-67 tournament, but promised to try and have a longer tournament following year. He also offered Fischer an extra $500 (equal to about $4,000 today) to play. Fischer relented and agreed to play. 
     Fischer won the 1966-67 tournament ahead of Larry Evans in what turned out to be Fischer's last championship tournament. When the 1968 championship rolled around he didn't even respond to his invitation. 
     In the introduction to the game against Rossolimo, Larry Evans described how twice (moves 17 and 19) Fischer unearthed moves to sustain his initiative and at the same time he was forced to "wage a running battle, no sooner landing a blow than having to duck" and "the outcome was in doubt until the very last punch."
(Corrected some factual errors thanks to reader Mark Weeks)

Robert Fischer - Nicolas Rossolimo

Result: 1-0

Site: US Championship, New York

Date: 1965.12.27

French, McCutcheon Variation

[...] 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.♘c3 ♘f6 4.♗g5 ♗b4 In the McCutcheon variation black sharpens the play immediately and indicates he is playing for a win. Black ignores white's threat and prefers to threaten white's center himself. It's an interesting and sharp strategy that was favored by Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann. 5.e5 h6 6.♗d2 In recent years 6.Be3 has supplanted this as the main line. 6...♗xc3 7.bxc3
7.♗xc3 Fischer called this move which he played against Petrosian at Curacao, 1962 ridiculous. 7...♘e4 8.♗a5 O-O 9.♗d3 ♘c6 10.♗c3 ♘xc3 11.bxc3 f6 12.f4 fxe5 13.fxe5 ♘e7 and black soon obtained the initiative. Actually, Fischer's comment seems a bit harsh because at this point the position is quite even.
7...♘e4 8.♕g4 g6
8...♔f8 This is black's main alternative which Fischer described as risky. Still, it's interesting. 9.♘f3 c5 10.♗d3 ♘xd2 11.♔xd2 ♘c6 12.♕f4 ♕e7 and white is a little better. Anand,V (2690)-Ivanchuk,V (2720)/Linares 1992
9.♗d3 ♘xd2 10.♔xd2 c5 Fischer stated that while this position is well known it has never quite worked out. According to my database after 11.Nf3 white wins 34 percent to black's 26 percent which seems about normal. 11.♘f3 ♘c6 12.♕f4 Fischer believed that 12.Rab1 hindering the development of black's B might be better. Statistically it's only tiny bit better. The more popular 12.h4 does not yield results as good as either of those two moves. 12...♕c7 Fischer claimed the natural 12...Qa5 was better, but the statistics for that move are dismal: white scores 53 percent wins to black's 23 percent! If you want to play the odds then the best move is 12...cxd4 after which both sides score 29 percent of the time. 13.h4 Sharper (and better) according to Fischer is 13.Qf6. 13...f5 This gets a ! from Fischer with the comment "re-establishing parity." 14.g4 Fischer makes no comment on this move, but it seems that 14.Qg3 gives white good play. (14.♕g3 ♘e7 15.dxc5 ♕xc5 16.♘d4 O-O with a good game for white.) 14...cxd4 15.cxd4 ♘e7
15...♗d7 was suggested by Rossolimo after the game, but Fischer believed white was still better after 16.gxf5 gxf5 17.♖hg1 O-O-O 18.♖g6 but later he amended his thinking and stated that black has equality after 18...♘b4 and Stockfish agrees that after any reasonable move, the position id quite even.
16.gxf5 exf5
16...gxf5 was better, but white still has the upper hand after 17.♖hg1 ♕a5 18.c3 ♗d7 19.a4 O-O-O 20.♖g7
17.♗b5 This gets a ! without comment from Fischer, but Stockfish doesn't like it nearly as well as 17.Rhb1 (17.♖hb1 ♗d7 18.a4 O-O-O 19.a5 with a promising attack.) 17...♔f8
17...♗d7 18.♗xd7 ♕xd7 19.e6 ♕xe6 20.♖he1 ♕c6 21.♖xe7 ♔xe7 22.♖e1 ♔d8 23.♘e5 with a good game.
17...♘c6 is even worse. 18.♗xc6 ♕xc6 19.♖hg1 and here, too, white has a very promising position.
17...♔d8 Best according to Fischer. 18.♗d3 ♗e6 and white is better, but it will prove hard to get at black's K. Out of curiosity I ran a Shoot out here and white scored +4 -0 =1.
18.♗d3 The poin t of Fischer's 17th move is that now black's K has been forced to the K-side where it will be vulnerable. 18...♗e6 19.♘g1 The key move. The N is heading for f4 from where it exerts pressure on the g-Pawn. (Fischer) 19...♔f7 20.♘h3 ♖ac8 Preferring active defense to passive defense by just guarding hsi g-Pawn. 21.♖hg1 No comment from Fischer but the auto-annotation by Stockfish slammed this move with two question marks. Personally, because the engines cannot seem to demonstrate anything concrete here, I would go with Fischer.
21.♔e2 A mysterious engine move. Stockfish way over evaluates this position (in my opinion) by assigning white a 2.5 Pawn advantage. Komodo 10's evaluation of slightly less than one Pawn seems more reasonable. Both engines disagree and flop around a lot on what is the BEST move here. 21...♗d7 22.♖hc1 Stockfish cannot seem to find a plan and wants to do what engines do in such situations...make R moves. 22...♕c3 23.♖ab1 b6 24.♖b3
21...b6 This gets two question marks from Stockfish and Fischer criticized it because it takes away any possibilty of black defending himself with a Q check on a5.
21...♕c3 was better and it leads to some interesting play. 22.♔e3 g5 23.hxg5 ♘g6 The point. 24.♕f3 ♖c4 The point of the point! The attack on the d-Pawn gives black counterplay. 25.♔e2 ♕xd4 26.♗xc4 ♕xc4 27.♔d2 ♘xe5 with a messy situation.
22.h5 This eliminates the possibility of the N going to g6. AT this point white's position is strategically won. 22...♕c3 23.♔e2 ♘c6
23...♖cg8 24.hxg6 ♘xg6 25.♕e3 with the R no longer on c8 there is no attack on the d-Pawn.
23...♖hg8 So as to maintain the R on c8, but it doesn't work. 24.hxg6 ♘xg6 (24...♖xg6 25.♖xg6 ♘xg6 26.♕xh6 ♖g8 27.♘g5 is decisive.) 25.♕xh6
24.hxg6 ♔g7 25.♖ad1 ♘xd4
25...♕xd4 is no better. 26.♕xd4 ♘xd4 27.♔e3 ♘xc2 28.♗xc2 ♖xc2 29.♘f4 ♖e8 30.♘h5 ♔f8 31.g7 ♔e7 32.♘f6 winning.
26.♔f1 ♖he8 27.♖g3 Fischer overprotects the B.
27.♕h4 Fischer claimed this is too hasty. 27...♘f3 28.♕f6 ♔g8 29.♗xf5 ♘h2 30.♔g2 ♕f3 31.♔xh2 ♕xf5 and according to Fischer black holds. However, that does not appear to be the case. White scored five wins in Shootouts. Here is the continuation at 21 plies... 32.♘f4 ♖c6 33.♖g3 ♗d7 34.♕h4 ♕f8 35.♖e1 ♖xc2 36.♖f3 ♖c4 37.g7 ♕f5 38.e6 ♗xe6 39.♕xh6 ♕h7 40.♕xh7 ♔xh7 41.♖xe6 ♖g8 42.♖e5 ♖c6 43.♖h5 ♖h6 44.♖xh6 ♔xh6 45.♖g3 ♖xg7 46.♖h3 ♔g5 47.♘e6 winning easily.
27...♘xc2 is not much help 28.♕h4 ♕xe5 29.♘f4 At a quick glance black seems to be hanging on, but he is quite lost after 29...d4 30.♘h5 ♔g8 31.♘f6 ♔g7 32.♘xe8 ♖xe8 33.♖h3 f4 34.♕xh6 ♔f6 35.g7 ♔e7 36.♗xc2
28.♕h4 ♘xe5 29.♘f4 ♘g4 30.♘xe6 ♖xe6 31.♗xf5 ♕c4 32.♔g1 Rossolimo resigned. A hard game. (32.♔g1 ♘xf2 33.♕xc4 ♖xc4 34.♖xd5 ♘h3 35.♖xh3 ♖xg6 36.♗xg6 ♔xg6)
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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Grandmaster At Work

     In 1971 when Alexander Kotov came out with his book Think Like a Grandmaster it caused a sensation. Of course, I bought the book, but never got much out of it. 
     According to the late NM James Schroeder, Kotov "created an artificial system which he hoped would avoid blunders. This book is full of instruction and advice with many diagrams where you must try to find the best move. Because he was weak with knights Kotov sometimes misjudges a position." 
     The sequel was Play Like a Grandmaster which covered positional judgment, planning, tactical vision, calculation and practical play. I never read it. Kotov also co-authored The Soviet School of Chess which contains a brief bio and a couple of games by many prominent Soviet players. The original is quite entertaining, but the reprint is quite crappy. 
     The under appreciated Kotov (1913-1981) was a top ranking player and author, Soviet champion, winner of a few international tournaments and a two time world champion candidate. 
     One of things that set Kotov apart was his praise the Soviet way of life. For example, in The Soviet School of Chess he wrote, "The rise of the Soviet school to the summit of world chess is a logical result of socialist cultural development." 
     At the time, Western publishers included disclaimers like that of Dover Publications which stated, "Literature of this type, though helpful in our ultimate understanding of the game, is very often riddled with distortion. The publishers of this Dover edition are very much concerned that readers be aware of the propaganda techniques employed, even in the history of chess, by the Soviet Union." My original version was published in English in Moscow so had no such disclaimers. The Soviet-Canadian master Fedir Bohatyrchuk claimed Kotov was a KGB agent. 
     One of his books that I have and find enjoyable is Grandmaster At Work. The book is both a collection of Kotov's best games and a textbook of practical play. What I like is that he gives the whole game, not just fragments, and they are grouped by theme. 
     For example, in the chapter on castling on opposite sides, Kotov explains that play is different on principle from that when Kings are castled on the same side. The main feature of opposite side castling is the active and at times decisive role of the Pawns. In the case of castling on the same side the Pawns play a secondary role in the attack and "it is often dangerous to hurl them into battle, since the position of one's King is thereby exposed." 
     Whereas, "On opposite side castling, the attacker can boldly advance his Pawns to storm the enemy King, since his own King is situated at the other side of the board. Besides this, it is precisely the Pawns which provide the attacker with the simplest way of blowing υρ the foundations of the enemy defense; firstly they are very inexpensive material and secondly, when Pawns are given up lines are opened for an invasion of heavy pieces into the enemy camp." 
     At one time Kotov even worked out the rules of attack for opposite side castling and published them in a book titled The Chess Legacy of Α.Α. Alekhine.
     On beginning a P-storm when Kings are castled on opposite sides it is necessary to take into account that it is an undertaking of a forcing nature and it is essential to weigh all the fine points of the position and calculate just as accurately as when calculating a combination.
     One such example he gave was his game against Nicolas Rossolimo that was played in Venice in 1950. After six rounds Rossolimo was in second a half point behind Smyslov and Kotov was in third a half point behind Rossolimo. They met in round seven and produced the following instructive game. 
     Kotov noted that after this game Rossolimo was knocked "out of his stride for some time" and in the following round he lost badly to Harry Golombek. After that he managed to get back on track. 

     For several days after his loss to Kotov, Rossolimo was upset with himself for having trusted Donner when the two analyzed together at the second adjournment. Rossolimo believed Donner when he quickly concluded that Kotov couldn't play 58...Nxb2 which turned out not only to be possible, but the best move! 
     Their game was one of head whirling complications and twice they were both in time trouble. To be honest, even though I spent some time analyzing this game with Stockfish and Komodo I cannot be sure that the final word has been said! An amazingly complicated game.

Nicolas Rossolimo - Alexander Kotov

Result: 0-1

Site: Venice

Date: 1950.10

Caro-Kann: Two Knights Variation

[...] 1.e4 c6 2.♘c3 d5 3.♘f3 ♗g4 4.h3 ♗xf3 5.♕xf3 e6 At the time of the game this variation had had just become fashionable; today it's the standard move. Black, while not aiming at the immediate acquisition of space, creates a solid position in the center with prospects of soon carrying out freeing advances. First he exchanges the c8B which is usually inactive. This results in immediate effect on the struggle for the central squares. Once white plays 6.d4, the matter comes down to well-known French Defense set-ups, but with black having advantageously exchanged his B for the N. 6.d4 ♘f6 7.♗d3 ♗e7 Kotov refrained from 7... dxe4 because he felt it allows white to gain several tempi for development.
7...dxe4 8.♘xe4 ♘xe4 9.♕xe4 ♘d7 10.c3 ♘f6 11.♕e2 ♗d6 12.O-O ♗c7 13.♖e1 O-O and white is slightly better though in the game Short, N (2655)-Karpov,A (2725)/Monte Carlo 1993 he went on to lose.
8.e5 In Laznicka,V (2634) -Stellwagen,D (2630)/Novi Sad 2009 a quick draw was agreed to after 8.Be3 8...♘fd7 9.♕g3 g6 10.♘e2 Kotov claimed the continuation 10.h4! gives white a formidable initiative.
10.h4 ♕b6 11.♘e2 c5 12.h5 ♖g8 13.c3 ♘c6 14.♕e3 O-O-O was played the following year in Bronstein,D (2660) -Makogonov,V (2561)/ Tbilisi 1951. But, in this position the chances are even.
10...c5 11.c3 ♘c6 12.O-O ♕b6 13.♕f4 h5 Here Boleslavsky recommended that black play immediately for a Q-side attack with 13...Rc8. Instead, Kotov decided to castle long, but first takes measures against an offensive operation by white on the K-side. Kotov wrote that Rossolimo's next move is clearly illogical. He ought to have played 14.Rb1, also preparing an attack on balck's K if black plays ...O-O-O. (13...♖c8 14.a3 cxd4 15.cxd4 ♘a5 16.♗e3 ♘c4 White is slightly better.) 14.a3 Actually, there does not seem to be anything wrong with this according to Stockfish. (14.♖b1 cxd4 15.cxd4 ♘b4 with complete equality.) 14...g5 15.♕e3 c4 16.♗c2 O-O-O 17.♖b1 ♘a5 An inaccuracy that allows white's next move.
17...g4 This is even better than Kotov's recommendation of 17...Rdg8. 18.f4 ♖hg8 19.b3 ♘a5 (19...gxh3 20.♕xh3 is in white's favor.) 20.bxc4 ♘xc4 21.♕d3 with a sharp position.
18.f4 gxf4 19.♘xf4 ♖dg8 20.♗d1 ♖g5 21.♔h1 Kotov called this a significant inaccuracy because it permits black to exchange the important c1B and so he recommended 21.Qf2 and 22.Be3. He claims that now black gains the advantage, thanks mainly to his supremacy on the dark squares. Engines totally disagree and give white a significant advantage...two Ps according to Stockfish. In this closed position, which engines are notorious for not evaluating well, Komodo 10 rates the position as completely equal. What are we to believe?! Kotov, Stockfish or Komdo? 21...♘b3 22.♗f3
22.♘xh5 leading to complications is interesting. After 22...♖gxh5 Also worth considering would be 22. ..Nxc1 23.♗xh5 ♖xh5 24.♖xf7 ♗d8 25.♕f3 white has the advantage.
22...♖f5 Black has successfully carried out the pawn-attack and opened the g-file and threatens the game-deciding ... Bg5. However, Kotov admitted that he did not consider that the black pieces are not able to support an attack because they are poorly placed. This is why Rossolimo is able to beat back the attack with energetic play. Here the fighting qualities of Rossolomo tell and without hesitation, directed by a strong sense of the serious dangers, he makes a paradoxical defensive move, which Kotov confessed, had not even entered his head. 23.g4 Actually, the position is equal, if complicated. However, the super-solid maneuver Bf3-d1-c2 may have been safer. 23...hxg4 24.♗xg4 ♖g5 25.♕e2 ♘xc1 26.♖bxc1 ♖h4 27.♖g1 ♔b8 28.♖cf1 ♕d8 29.♗h5 ♕g8 Black has the initiative on the K-side, but Rossolimo finds an active defense. 30.♖xg5 ♗xg5 31.♗g4 ♘b6 Kotov claimed that despite his excellent defense, Rossolimo could not completely eliminate the consequences of the strategic errors he committed at the start of the game. According to Kotov black's advantage consists in the active positioning of his pieces, in the bad situation of white's K and the weakness of white's P-formation which should prove particularly telling in an endgame. Black's plan should consist in the transfer of the N to a4 in order to tie the R or Q to the defense of the P on b2. After this he can create the threat of exchanging Qs on d3 combined with the advance of the Q-side Ps all of which would give black a lasting initiative. Is Kotov speaking Jabberwocky? Both Komodo and Stockfish evaluate the position at 0.00. This makes talk of previous strategic errors by Rossolimo suspect. 32.♘g2 Better was 32.Nh5 which hems in the R. Rossolimo's failure to play this seems to be the start of his troubles. 32...♖h7 33.♕c2 a6 34.♔h2 ♘d7 Kotov was in time trouble and so is marking time in order to reach the time control. 35.♕e2 ♕g6 36.♘f4 ♕h6 37.♘h5 ♕g6 38.♘f4 ♕h6 39.♘h5 Twofold repetition 39...♔a7 40.♔h1 The sealed move. A short analysis during the two-hour interval showed that black has chances of victory in view of the possibility of an offensive on the Q-side (Kotov). 40...♕g6 41.♔h2 ♘b6 42.♘f6 ♖h8 43.♕d1 Rossolimo won't let the N go to a4, but Kotov insists. 43...♗h4 Very strong here was 43...Qd3!. It would be bad for white to take the Q since the P on d3 would be very dangerous. The Q on d3 Black would have significantly restricted white's pieces.
43...♕d3 44.♔g2 and white's position will prove a tough nut to crack. (44.♕xd3 cxd3 45.♖d1 d2 followed by ...Na4 and ...Rc8)
44.♖f3 a5 45.♔g2 ♔a6 46.a4 White is once again on the alert. He prevents the move 46...Kb5, after which the N would have established itself at a4. Black has to again change his plans, but, before proceeding with decisive action, he gains a few tempi on account of the approaching time trouble. Later he intends to attack the a4-pawn. (Kotov) 46...♔a7 47.♔f1 ♔b8 48.♔g2 ♔a7 49.♔f1 ♕h6 50.♔e2 ♕f8 51.♔f1 ♕c8 Kotov wrote that is was absolutely necessary for him to win this game, and therefore he had to go in for a risky continuation, as a result of which the struggle sharpens anew and its outcome becomes unclear which is why he played this risky continuation. Kotov admitted that Rossolimo's resourceful and steadfast defense had lead to him losing his composure. That evaluation seems a bit harsh as even here black stands well.
51...♖h6 52.♕c1 ♖g6 53.♗h5 ♖g7 and while black is better, it's hard to see how he can penetrate white's defenses.
52.♗h5 ♕c6 Kotov called thsi stubbornly persisting with his plan and it was still not too late to try 52... Qf8.
52...♕f8 53.♗g4 ♕g7 54.♕c2 ♕h6 But, here again, it's hard to see how black can force the situation.
53.♗xf7 ♘xa4 54.♕c2 ♘b6 White gains the upper hand after this.
54...♕b5 55.♗xe6 ♘xb2 56.♘xd5 a4 Believe it ot not, this P assures black at least equality!
55.♘h5 ♕a4 Mutual time trouble has set in. 56.♕c1
56.♕xa4 ♘xa4 57.♘f4 ♘xb2 58.♗xe6 and black is left with only insignificant chances of a draw.
56...♕b3 In this exceptionally sharp situation the game was again adjourned at midnight, and had to be continued at 9am the following morning after a sleepless N of examining head-spinning variations. When Kotov arrived at 9am Rossolimo and Donner arrived shortly thereafter. They had spent the night analyzing also. 57.♘g7 Rossolimo's sealed move and the best one. 57...♘a4 Black threatens to win material: Na4xb2 58.♗xe6 ♘xb2 After this move Donner, who was standing nearby flinched slightly and Rossolimo shot him a dark look. It seems that during their analysis the night before Donner nonchalantly announced that this move was not playable and Rossolimo believed him As a result, they had not analyzed it! 59.♗xd5 a4 Here in his analysis Kotov asserted that with 60.Rf7 Rossolimo could have won, but Kotov's analysis was faulty. The correct move is 60.Nf5 with equal chances. 60.♘e6
60.♖f7 Probably does not win. 60...♘d3 61.♕a1 ♖b8 62.♘e6 ♕c2 63.♗c6 a3 64.♕xa3 ♔b6 65.♗xb7 ♕d1 66.♔g2 ♖g8 67.♘g7 ♘f4 68.♖xf4 ♕e2 69.♔h1 ♕e1 70.♔g2 ♕g3 71.♔f1 ♕xf4 This is a truly amazing position. It looks like white has winning chances, but Stockfish gives black a 3-Pawn advantage, more than enough to win. In fact, in Shootouts Stockfish did win 4 games and draw one. However, that result does not seem correct because all of the game came down to black having a R+B vs R which should be drawn.
60.♘f5 Is the only correct move. 60...a3 61.♘xh4 ♖xh4 62.e6 ♖h8 63.♕a1 ♔b6 64.e7 ♖e8 65.♖e3 a2 66.♔g1 with a likely draw...or is it?! In Shootouts black own one game while four were drawn.
60...♗e7 Rossolimo had not noticed the possibility of this B retreat. Now the square c5 is denied to white, while the occupation of the 7th rank already does not have any previous effect. 61.♖f7 ♘d3 62.♕a1 Kotov observed that after this move white loses quickly and suggested that 62, Qd2 was better, but in either case white is lost. 62...♕c2 In view of the threatened mate at f2 White cannot take at e7. At the same time black threatens both 63...Rxh3 and the march of the P ...a4-a3-a2. 63.♘c5 ♗xc5 64.dxc5
64.♖xb7 doesn't change anything. 64...♔a6 65.♖f7 ♖f8 66.♗xc4 ♔a5 67.♖xf8 ♗xf8 68.♗xd3 ♕xd3 69.♔f2 ♕c2 70.♔f3 a3 and white's center P mass is useless.
64...♖h7 White's R cannot abandon the defense of f2. 65.♖f3 ♖xh3 66.♖xd3 ♖xd3 Rossolimo resigned.
66...♖xd3 67.♕e1 ♖xd5 68.c6 ♖d1 69.♕xd1 ♕xd1 70.♔f2 a3 71.c7 ♕d7 72.e6 ♕xc7 73.e7 ♕xe7 74.♔g3 ♕e5 75.♔f2 a2 76.♔f3 a1=♕ 77.♔g4 ♕g1 78.♔f3 ♕ee3#
66...cxd3 67.♕a2 ♖h2 68.♕xc2 dxc2 69.♗g2 c1=♕ 70.♔e2 ♕xc3 71.c6 ♖xg2 72.♔f1 ♕f3 73.♔e1 ♕e2#
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