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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

C.J.S. Purdy

Cecil J.S. Purdy (27 March 1906 - 6 November 1979)
International Master and winner of four Australian Championships. Purdy was effective at winning important games and the important events, even against better opponents. Above all, he was extremely efficient in his play. He marshaled his talents and applied them in the most effective way and he never was different for the sake of being different, showiness or other forms of wasted effort. His skill was methodical organization of thought, and systematic application of one overall, overriding concept. These were the factors that made him one of the best writer on the game, ever.

His games were based on one idea. Running through all his writings is the theme that a bad positional mistake may sometimes be decisive, but almost always defeats arise from tactical errors, minor or major, so that the key to winning chess is to avoid such mistakes oneself and take advantage of the opponent's mistakes. Except perhaps at the very top levels, that proposition is undoubtedly correct. Purdy's great contribution to chess literature was to emphasize it, to classify the types of situations, and to provide a scheme which could be used by players of all strengths to at least minimize such tactical errors.

In non-tactical situations Purdy advocated finding the best piece-improvement move, but in games against top-flight players that method of play is found wanting. At lower levels it works very well.

Over the board, his concentration was renowned. Immersed under his famous eyeshade (to avoid distraction), it was rare to see him move. Chess was a struggle, and no matter who the opponent, how the game was going, what the event was, or whether he was in the running, all games were given full attention. He was the epitome of the fighter. He was the master of finding the best chance, and his games are full of sacrifices to provide counterplay.

Purdy placed great store in preparing the opening, not so much for gaining a theoretical advantage, as his own concepts would show how ephemeral that could be, but rather to run the game into the type of position he wanted and whose basic ideas were known to him. Despite all his preparation his slowness and consequent perennial time trouble were notorious.

His analytical ability was outstanding, as evidenced by his correspondence achievements. Purdy died playing chess over the board from a heart attack, his final words allegedly being, "I have a win, but it will take sometime" However Australian grandmaster Ian Rogers who was at the tournament, said Purdy's last words were, "I have to seal a move", and that Purdy "wasn't even winning in the final position — Cecil wouldn't have mistaken a drawn position for a winning position.

Australian Champion 1935-38, 1949-52
Australian Correspondence Champion 1940, 1948
Australasian Co-Champion 1952
International Master 1953
World Correspondence Champion 1953-58
Champion of New Zealand twice

Purdy never played in an OTB event outside of Australia and New Zealand.

His writings are among the best ever because he had a knack for explaining thing with words so that anyone could understand what was happening in the game. One of his best books is The Search for Chess Perfection. It’s a bio, collection of his games and a series of his magazine articles explaining various facets of the game. You can literally open the book anywhere, read an article and, best of all, actually learn something!

Here is one of his games with his own notes. I advise you to print out the game and play over it.

Radio Match v. France (1946)

C.J. S. Purdy – Dr. S. G. Tartakover
Nimzo-lndian Defense

1. d4 Had I expected to play the famous Tartakover, I should have prepared against Alekhine's Defense, which he has been playying lately, and adopted my usual e4. But I thought he was situated harmlessly in Enngland. 1... Nf6 2. e4 e6  3. Nc3 Bb4 Steiner had said that Tartakover was certain to spring a surprise in the opening, and when I now pointed out that he had played what is probably the theoretically most correct defense to the QP opening, Steiner answered, "That is his surprise." 4. e3 b6 This was to me the most worrying reply. I had designed to play not at once Rubinstein's Nge2 followed by a3, but first Bd3 and then that, so that if his B retired when hit by a3 my KN and I would not obstruct my B and I should have an easy development. Now it was goodbye to all that. Either I had to play Rubinstein's way, with a complicated game, or else develop in an easy way, but a way which would give Black no difficulties at all. I chose the latter because no one can make an opening difficult for Tartakover-though he sometimes likes to create difficulties for himself. Above all, I wanted to avoid clock trouble. 5. Bd3 Bb7 6. Nf3 Ne4! 7. Bd2 At once eliminating the strong N, as 7…f5 would lose a P. 7. ... Bxc3! 8. Bxc3 Nxc3 Black-of course-has chosen the only way that promised him chances, as Rc7 threatened to give White a very comfortable game. The point is that from now on White can secure his K-side from attack only by exposing the weakness of his doubled P’s. This will be explained later. 9. bxc3 f5 Must, else e4 gives White his ideal formation in this opening. 10. 0-0 0-0 11. Qe2 Qf6! In view of the coming e4, Black wants to avoid weakening his e-Pawn by ... d6, but not to play …Nc6 till he can exchange B’s. White has to dance to this tune, or Black might tie him up with ... Qg6. Or if 12. N-moves ... e5! 12. e4 fxe4 13. Bxe4 Bxe4 14. Qxe4 Ne6

The scene has changed. Black has a vital "pivot square" at/ f5; you must visualize a R ending, and a black R pirouetting on f5, then dancing off to as, battening on White's weak P’s. But by playing e4 White has nipped in the bud a K-side attack and created chances for central counterplay. A reliable critic-or was he a pundit?-said I had a "bad game," but I had some faith in my freer position in the center. 15. Radl! Qf4 16. Rfel Rae8 This came through just before 2 AM, and I had to seal with all the officials waiting patiently in the cold. However, there was too much at stake to hurry, and I had plenty of time on the clock for once. Tartakover wanted the Q’s off, and yet by accommodating him I could make use of my temporarily better R’s and attack him. Was it sound? At any rate, I thought it gave better chances than trying to hold the position intact, because the Q-side was permanently weak. 17. Qxf4 Rxf4 18. d5 Completely wrecked my Q-side, "yet there is method in't." 18. ... Na5 19. dxe6 dxe6 Not the obvious ... Rxe6 because of 20. Rxe6 dxe6 21. Rd7!, for if then 21 ... Rxe4, 22. Ne5! threatens mate and forces the R back to f4, and then 23. Rxe7 with advantage. And if 21 ... Rf7, 22. Rd8+ Rf8 23. Rd7 forces a draw. 20. Ng5!

20…e5 For if 20 ... Rxe4, 21. Rxe6 and Black cannot take because of mate. So 21 ... Rc8 (say) 22. Rd7!! Rxc3 23. h4 (to avoid mate). Now if Black stops White's threatened Re7 with 23 ... Nc6, comes 24. Rxe7!, offering the R. And if 23 ... h6, 24. Ree7! at least draws.

I fear that some students, when they see notes like this, are discouraged by thinking the player worked them all out before taking his plunge (17. Qxf4, in this case). Over the board, that is rarely done. The player relies mainly on his judgment of the attacking possibilities of a position, notes a few important tactical points (such as the mating threats in this example), works out a main line or two, and leaves a little to chance. To rely on sheer calculation, as opposed to judgment, is actually very risky. Even Alekhine admitted that he rarely worked out more than two or three variations. 21. c5! h6 Black admits the success of White's demonstration. For if his R crosses to the Q-side, 22. Rxe5!, offering the R for the old mate. And if 21 ... bxe5?, 22. Rd5 with advanntage. 22. Ne4 Nc6 23. f3 Rff8! The R has outlived his usefulness at f4 (if 23 ... bxe5, not 24. Nxe5 but 24. Rd7! Rf7 25. Rd5 with advantage). But why not 23 ... Rf7, preventing White from taking the seventh rank? Because Black wants to induce the exchange of one pair of R’s otherwise, White can threaten to control the only open file. Crafty! 24. Rd7 Rf7 Now White's best course was 25. Rd5! to double R’s. Black could force an exchange by ... Rd8, but less favorably. 25. Red1 Rxd7 26. Rxd7 Re7 27. Rd1 The N ending is bad for White with two P’s isolated, but with R’s on it should be a draw. 27. Rl7 28. Kf2 Ke6 29. Ke3 Rd7 The student will ask two questions. Why has White not undoubled the P’s? Because that would open a file for Black's R against the isolated a-Pawn it. And why did Black not try ... b5, keeping the its doubled? Because that would give counterplay for White's R. Thus, 29 ... b5!? 30. Rb1 a6 31. a4! bxa4 32. Ra1 Rd7 33. c4! a5 (to answer Rxa4 with ... Rd1) 34. Nc3! followed by Nb5 or Nd5, tying Black up lugubriously. I now exchanged the R’s because the N ending is better now, and I did not like to leave the open file to Black's R. 30. Rxd7 Kxd7 31. cxb6 exb6 Black wants to have a passed it as remote as possible in case he ever wins one of White's Q-side P’s. White's next "think" was his longest in the game. It is bad to play for a double attack on Black's e-Pawn. e.g., 32. Nf2? Ke6 33. Ke4 Na5 34. Nd3 Nc4 followed by ... Nd6+, driving the K back. 32. h4! Drawn
White offered the draw. The point of etiquette that one should not offer a grandmaster a draw but wait for him to do so would not be supported by the genial and logical Tartakover, we feel sure, for it is obviously unfair to deprive the weaker player of a right possessed by the stronger.


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