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Monday, August 29, 2016

Grab a Pawn or Play for a Positional Advantage?

     Ludek Pachman was an icon in his day, a great player and a political activist, who after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was tortured almost to death in a Prague cellar. 
     The 1943 Prague tournament was Pachman's first serious event at the age of 18 and in his book, Checkmate in Prague, he wrote that following his win against Jan Foltys (see game below), "the great Alekhine invited me to his room. He got me to demonstrate my game, made a few comments, praised me, and then showed me his game, explaining several hidden combinations and also accepting praise. Mrs. Alekhine was there with her two cats. I had to hold one for a bit and the wretch scratched me, but it was a marvelous evening, something in the nature of a high-point in my life so far." 
     He went on to describe how Alekhne invited him into his room every day to analyze and how he soon realized that it was no good disagreeing with Alekhine because it made him angry. Alekhine also invited Pachman to join him for coffee at a cafe where one could get real coffee under the counter – an expensive luxury for which Pachman always had to pay. Pachman managed to foot the bill for Alekhine's coffee only because during the tournament he had been befriended by a wealthy patron who gave him a gift of an enormous salami and invited him to lunch at his house every day. Thanks to his patron and by doing without supper he was able to pay for Alekhine's coffee. In the process, he discovered Alekhine always made a point of not paying by simply walking out of the restaurant. If he was alone the waiters knew him so they sent the bill to the tournament director. Also, just like Fischer was to do many years later, Pachman learned that by threatening to walk out of the tournament, Alekhine had extracted an extra 5,000 crowns to go with his original 40,000 crown appearance fee. 
     On August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union led Warsaw Pact troops in an invasion of Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformist trends in Prague. Pachman was arrested in the middle of the night and was taken to a torture cellar where he was almost killed. On Christmas Eve 1969 the doctors called his wife to inform her that he would probably not survive the night. He did, and in the early seventies he immigrated to West Germany, where he became a political activist with strong anti-communist views. His eloquence brought him regular appearances on political talk shows. 

1) Alekhine 17.0 
2) Keres 14.0 
3) Katetov 13.0 
4-5) Sajtar and Foltys 12.5 
6-9) Saemisch, Lokvenc,Urbanec and Thelen 11.0 
10) Pachman 9.5 
11) Opocensky 9.0 
12-15) Bartosek, Fichtl, Prucha and Novotny 8.5 
16) Florian 7.5 
17) Podgorny 6.0 
18) Dietze 5.5 
19) Kubanek 3.5 
20) Sucha 1.5 

On to the game... 

     Writing in Guide to Good Chess, C.J.S. Purdy wrote that the number one rule for endings is "Before ever thinking of making a passed Pawn get all your pieces into as good positions as possible."  That is assuming you don't already have a passed Pawn. 
     Purdy observed that one is likely to get sidetracked from observing this rule if the opportunity to win a Pawn presents itself. He gave an example from one of his own games where he had two Rs +B +5 Ps versus his opponent's R +2Ns +5 Ps. Had he taken the opportunity to pick up an extra P the result would have still been a superior position, but the "road to victory would have stretched for miles."  Instead, by improving the position of his B he was able to stifle his opponent's counterplay and win quickly. 
     In the following game, in the middlegame Pachman played a nice little tactical trick that netted him passed Pawn. Then he played to win a Pawn, but made an interesting observation that instead of winning the Pawn it may have been better to play for a clear positional advantage.

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