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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A Barrel Full Of Surprises

     In 2003, David Bronstein gave an interview on a Russian website and when asked, "...where did the art of chess go?" he replied, "The art apparently existed before Botvinnik introduced the system for preparation in chess in his 1936 article. The Soviet chess school was, after Botvinnik, based on research. What did they research? The opening. They were doing very much what Lobanovsky was doing before his soccer matches. However, in soccer they can change their original plan at any moment while chess players can’t — they are hostages of choice." 
     Fortunately for fans, Bronstein went his own way and when in 1968 he met Tal at the USSR Team Championship in Riga they produced a wild game that must have been fun to watch. 
     Paul Keres was critical of the players because of the fact that they spent so much time on the early stages that both of them ran into time trouble which resulted in sloppy play in the second half of the game. He asked, "What good is it to play the first part of the game well and then spoil it by playing lightening chess in the second part?" He added that he thought it would be better to play the first part somewhat less deeply so that there would be time to play the second part in an acceptable manner. 
     The USSR Team Championship consisted of two divisions, one for the teams representing several Soviet republics and one for teams representing various sports clubs and the two divisions played their matches on alternate years. In 1968, the twelve best sports clubs met in Riga, Latvia. Each team was made up of 10 players, five men, two women, two boys and one girl. 
     With the exception of the Botvinnik and the three players participating in a tournament in Palma (Korchnoi, Spassky and Petrosian) all of the big name GMs were at Riga. 
     Check out some of the participants: Efim Geller, Vladas Mikenas, Isaac Boleslavsky, Georgy Lisitsin, Anatoly Karpov, Alexander Beliavsky, Rafael Vaganian, Lev Polugaevsky, Leonid Stein, Vasily Smyslov, Oleg Romanishin, Vladimir Tukmakov, Mark Taimanov, Evgeni Vasiukov, Eduard Gufeld, Anatoly Lein, Ratmir Kholmov, Vladimir M Liberzon, Anatoly S Lutikov, Leonid Shamkovich, Nona Gaprindashvili, Mikhail Podgaets, Igor Zaitsev, Vladimir Bagirov and Alexey Suetin, just name a few!
     Naturally, most of the attention was on the top boards, but as is often the case, many of those games were, in fact, non-games where the players just went through the motions. Happily for chess fans, Bronstein and Tal played a real game and Bronstein even opened with a King's Gambit. The result was a game that had a barrel full of surprises.

David Bronstein - Mikhail Tal

Result: 1-0

Site: USSR Team Championship, Riga

Date: 1968

Falkbeer Counter Gambit

[...] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Even though Bronstein had been playing the King's Gambit a lot at the time, this move already created a buzz of excitement, not just because of the opening, but because he was playing it against Tal, the world's greatest living tactician at the time. 2...d5 Another sensational surprise! Tal plays the Falkbeer Counter Gambit! What is white tp do? Accepting it is risky, but there is no good way to decline it! 3.exd5 e4 4.d3 ♘f6 5.dxe4 This is the oldest and most common move which is also probably the best. An interesting try though is 5.Nd2?!
5.♘d2 exd3 The only other try is 5...e3?! 6.♗xd3 And black's dilemma is how to take the P, or should he play 6...Bg4 first? The whole variation is largely untested.
5...♘xe4 6.♘f3 ♗c5 7.♕e2 ♗f5 It's well known that other moves favor white. This move weas introduced in the game Spielmann-Tarrasch, Mahrisch-Ostrow, 1923. 8.♘c3
8.g4 allows black a sacrifice that gives him a promising attack. 8...O-O 9.gxf5 ♖e8 10.♕g2 ♘f2+ 11.♗e2 ♘xh1 12.♕xh1 ♕xd5
8...♕e7 9.♗e3 This, too, is a well known position. 9...♘xc3 Already a mistake! Tal had no improvement in mind over lines known to be inferior for black!
9...♗xe3 10.♕xe3 ♘xc3 11.♕xe7+ ♔xe7 12.bxc3 ♗xc2 Or 12...Be4 13.♔d2 with equal chances.
10.♗xc5 ♘xe2 11.♗xe7 ♘xf4 Bronstein's next move may come as a surprise, but it's clearly the best and deserving of a ! 12.♗a3 ♘d7 This is based on a miscalculation that involves playing ...O-O-O.
12...♗xc2 This is absolutely out of the question. 13.♖c1 ♗g6 14.♖xc7 and white is already winning.
12...♘xd5 Way back in 1924 Tartakower, in Die Hypermoderne Schachpartie, pointed out that this is a mistake. It wins a P but at the cost of allowing white a lead in development and black having difficulty if he castles on either side. Nevertheless, this is black's best try. 13.O-O-O ♗e6 14.♘d4 with a fine position.
13.O-O-O After this Tal immediately realized he was in serious trouble because his intended 13...O-O-O would louse a pieces. As a result he spent a whole hour trying to figure out a way out of trouble, but there isn't one! 13...♗e4 Because he can't play 13...O-O-O his last move made no sense and now he's facing threats like 14.Rd4 or 14.Re1+ or 14.Nd4 so with 13...Be4 Tal tries to salvage something and get a somewhat playable game.
13...O-O-O Watch what happens now! 14.♖d4 ♘g6 15.g4 trapping the B. 15...♗xg4 16.♖xg4 ♘f6 17.♖d4 ♖xd5 18.♖xd5 ♘xd5 19.♗c4 ♘gf4 20.♖e1 f6 21.♗xd5 ♘xd5 22.c4 ♘f4 23.♖e7 ♖g8 24.♘d4 ♘g6 25.♘f5 ♖d8 26.♖xg7 ♘e5 27.♘e7+ ♔b8 28.b3 ♘d3+ 29.♔b1 ♘e1 30.♘d5 White wins. Bekker,S (2273)-Salimova,N (2265)/Wijk aan Zee 2018
14.♘g5 Perhaps this is not as strong as the other moves mentioned, but it, too, is a pretty good move. 14...♗xd5 At this point, like last move, white has a lot of good moves. Leading the list is 15.Re1, but the imaginative Bronstein plays a totally unexpected move. When Keres asked him why he didn't play 15.Re1 Bronstein replied, "I could not miss the opportunity to play a move like 15.g3 against Tal which I may not have again in my whole life." 15.g3 Technically this results in equality, but in practical play it introduces some wonderful complications! (15.♖e1+ ♔d8 16.c4 h6 17.cxd5 hxg5 18.♖e7 with a very strong position.) 15...♗xh1 16.gxf4 c5 White had a nasty threat in 17.Re1+ and this move blocks the B and gives him some chances for a successful defense, but playing th elong delayed 16...O-O-O was better.
16...h6 This is just to demonstrate the effectiveness of Re1+ 17.♖e1+ ♔d8 18.♘xf7+ ♔c8 19.♘xh8 winning easily.
16...O-O-O After this black has managed to equalize. 17.♘xf7 Black has two equalizing moves: 17...Rhe8 and 17...Bf3 17...♖he8 18.♘xd8 ♔xd8 19.♗c4 ♗f3 20.♖g1 g6
17.♗h3 is not as good as it may look because after 17...♗c6 18.♖e1+ ♔f8 19.♗xd7 ♗xd7 20.♗xc5+ ♔g8 21.♖e7 ♗e8 22.♖xb7 h6 23.♘e4 ♗c6 and black actually stands a bit better.
17...♗c6 18.♘xf7
18.♗xf7+ leads to a pretty mate after 18...♔f8 19.♖xd7 ♗xd7 20.♗xc5#
18.♗xf7+ unfortunately for white black has a satisfactory defense in 18...♔e7 19.♖e1+ ♔d6 and oddly black's K is quite safe.
18...b5 Nice! This saves the exchange.
18...♖f8 would lose outright after 19.♖e1+ ♘e5 20.♗xc5 ♖xf7 21.♖xe5+ ♔d7 22.♗xf7
19.♘xh8 bxc4 and white's N is trapped and after its capture he is a piece down.
19...♔e7 20.♘xb5 White still has a nice game: he has the two Bs and black's K is exposed, but even so he has allowed black to, practically speaking, equalize. However, here a psychological factor comes into play...after having had to conduct a difficult defense and saved a lost game Tal now relaxes and gets a lost position again! 20...♖hf8
20...♗xb5 This simplifying move results in a material imbalance, but at the same time would have given him excellent chances of saving the game. 21.♗xb5 ♖hd8 22.♖e1+ ♔f8 with an unclear position. In Shootouts with Stockfish white scored +1 -0 =3.
21.♘d4 Possibly overlooked by Tal. 21...♗b7 This is a forced retreat according to Keres, but defending the B with 21...Rf6 was better.
21...♖f6 22.♘xc6+ ♖xc6 23.♗d5 Oddly, Keres overlooked this pin.
23.♗b5 Suggested by Keres, this move results in a position in which the chances are equal. 23...♖d6
23...♖ac8 24.♗xc6 ♖xc6 25.♖d5 ♖a6 26.♗xc5+ ♘xc5 27.♖xc5 ♖xa2 and white is better, but black can still make a fight of it in the R and P ending.
22.♘e6 Bronstein misses an immediate win with 22.Re1+
22.♖e1+ ♔d8 (22...♔f6 23.♖e6+ ♔f7 24.♖b6+ winning material) 23.♘e6+ ♔c8 24.♘xf8 ♘xf8 25.♖e7 This is decisive...for example 25...♘g6 26.♖f7 ♗e4 27.♗e6+ ♔d8 28.♗xc5 etc.
22...♖f5 At this point both players were in time pressure with the result that inaccuracies creep in. 23.♖g1 After this white's advantage is minimal.
23.b4 As suggested by Keres. 23...♘b6 24.♗d3 cxb4 25.♗xb4+ ♔xe6 26.♖e1+ with a slight advantage.
23.♘xg7 As suggested by Komodo. 23...♖f6 24.f5 ♖d6 25.♖e1+ ♔f6 26.♘e8+ wins.
23...♗e4 24.♘c7 This isn't bad, but Bronstein missed an much easier win.
24.♖e1 ♗d5 25.♘xg7+ ♔f6 26.♘xf5 ♗xc4 27.♘d6 ♗e6 28.f5 ♗xf5 29.♖f1 with a fairly easy win.
24...♖d8 25.♖xg7+ Engines make the case for this move being a bad one because it gives Tal a chance to equalize, but th e"best" line results in a complicated win for white after 25.Re1.
25.♖e1 keeps the advantage, but after 25...♘f6 26.♘e6 ♖c8 27.♘g5 ♖xf4 28.♗d3 ♖h4 29.♘xe4 ♘xe4 30.♗xe4 ♔d6 white should win, but OTB it doesn't look like it will be so easy.
25...♔d6 would have equalized. 26.♘b5+ ♔c6 27.♘xa7+ ♔b6 28.♗e6 ♖xf4 29.♖xd7 ♖xd7 30.♗xd7 ♖f2 31.♗a4 ♖xh2 32.♘c8+ ♔c7 33.♘e7 ♔d6 34.♘g8 ♗c6 This position looks unclear, but in 10 Shootout games using Stockfish and Komodo all the games were drawn.
26.♖f7+ ♔g6 27.♖e7 ♘f6 28.♘e6 ♖c8
28...♖e8 is met by 29.♖g7+ ♔h6 30.♖xa7 with the advantage.
30.♖g1 Keres. This is not so good as taking the a-Pawn as after 30...♖g8 31.♖xg8 ♘xg8 32.♗xc5 ♗d5 33.♘d4 ♖h5 34.♗xd5 ♖xd5 35.♗xa7 The win would be a little more difficult.
29.b3 ♖h5 30.♘g5 ♗d5 Black is lost, but in time pressure anything can happen. 31.♗d3+ ♔h6 32.♗b2 c4 33.♗f5
33.bxc4 This was even better. 33...♗xc4 34.♘f7+ ♗xf7 35.♖xf7 winning easily.
33...c3 34.♗xc8 cxb2+ 35.♔xb2 ♖xh2 36.♖xa7 ♖f2 A flurry of time pressure moves is taking place! 37.♖a4 ♔g6 (37...♗g2 38.♗f5+⁠−) 38.♖d4 h5 39.a4 h4 40.a5 In the time scramble the Pawn race is exciting, but white has the win well in hand. 40...♗g2 The time control has been reached, but neither player noticed. 41.a6 ♘h5 42.♗b7 ♘xf4 43.♖xf4 Tal resigned.
43.♖xf4 ♗xb7 44.♖xf2 ♗xa6 45.♘h3 and white is free to start advancing his Ps.
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Monday, June 28, 2021

Queen Handling

     My post of June 23rd featured a classic Capablanca game in which he brilliantly defeated Tartakower in an instructive ending. Then in my last post we looked at a Pachman game on Rook handling that was taken from his Modern Chess Strategy.
     In the post on Capablanca's game I mentioned that in the New York 1924 tournament he suffered his first defeat in eight years when Reti defeated him. In the chapter on the Queen in Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy he gave Reti's win as an example of how to handle Queens, so let's take a look at that instructive game. 
     But, before we look at the game, let's talk about Queens. Its main characteristic, both in the middlegame and in the ending, is its mobility and the way it can smoothly and quickly switch from one side of the board to the other. 
     If you want to see a classic example of the Q switching operations from the Q-side to deliver a decisive attack against the King on the other side check out Bogoljubow-Mieses, Baden-Baden, 1925 HERE
     Note how at move 21 Bogoljubow's Queen lands on a6 and on move 24 it delivers a devastating check on f6 even though it took the sacrifice of a Bishop and a Rook to deliver the check! 
     The following game is pretty famous, but it's still worth looking at even if you have seen it before. Besides the clever play with his Queen, Reti opened with the Reti Opening, 1.Nf3. In 1923 Reti published his famous Modern Ideas in Chess in which he discussed this new openings and the new strategic approaches of what was known as the Hypermodern School. 
     The book and Reti's 1.Nf3 were not accepted by everybody. Ernst Gruenfeld called 1.Nf3 a terrific weapon and Aron Nimzovich thought it was an opening of the future. On the other hand, Richard Teichmann called it an "opening of the dull" and Siegbert Tarrasch described it as the "introduction to a profound, but in my opinion also completely mistaken system." 
     When Reti opened with 1.Nf3 Capablanca equalized without much trouble, but soon lost his way. It's interesting to note that in the March 23, 1924 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle the opening was called the Zukertort and that Capablanca chose what was at the time considered an irregular defense. 
     According to the paper "the game drifted into a double fianchetto" and was fairly even. Then shortly before adjournment Capablanca opened the position and brought his Queen active into play, but Reti succeeded in surrounding it. Reti sealed his 31st move in a winning position. Upon resumption in the evening session it was announced that Capablanca would resign if Reti had sealed a correct move. He had and so Capablanca lost his first game since St. Petersburg in 1914. Reti's win boosted him to a 2-2 (one game adjourned) while Capablanca dropped to 2-3.

Richard Reti - Jose Capablanca

Result: 1-0

Site: New York

Date: 1924.03.22

Reti Opening

[...] 1.♘f3 ♘f6 2.c4 In modern times the Reti refers only to the configuration Nf3 and c4 by white with ...d5 by black, where white fianchettos at least one B and does not play an early d4. Here the opening is the English which is the way the auto-annotation performed by Fritz classified it. I am sticking with the name Reti though because of white's unusual 3rd move. 2...g6 3.b4 This gains space on the Q-side. 3...♗g7 4.♗b2 O-O 5.g3 b6 6.♗g2 ♗b7 7.O-O d6 8.d3 ♘bd7 9.♘bd2 e5
9...c5 10.b5 d5 11.cxd5 ♘xd5 12.♗xg7 ♔xg7 13.♕b3 e5 and white stands slightly better. Ajay Krishna,S (2289)-Plat,V (2552)/ Marianske Lazne 2019
10.♕c2 Black can satisfactorily meet 10.a4 with 10... a5 (10.a4 a5 11.bxa5 ♖xa5 12.♘b3 ♖a6 13.a5) 10...♖e8 Apparently Capa is preparing to play ...e5. 11.♖fd1 This cunning move discourages ...e5 and at the same time Reti is already envisioning operations with his Q on the long diagonal. 11...a5
11...e4 12.dxe4 ♘xe4 13.♗xg7 ♔xg7 14.♘d4 ♘df6 15.♕b2 is, according to Komodo, equal, but at least three GMs (Reti, Capa and Pachman) prefer white because of the favorable position of white's Q. I won't argue with them!
12.a3 h6 This was not played to prevent Ng5 which is not a threat anyway so what is its purpose? It's probably a waiting move, but 12... Qe7 would have been safer. 13.♘f1 c5 A P sacrifice of doubtful value. (13...e4 14.dxe4 ♘xe4 15.♗xg7 ♔xg7 is completely equal.) 14.b5 Closing the Q-side and switching operations to the center. If 14.bxa5 black equalizes with 14...e4!
14.♘xe5 This Pawn grab seems playable. 14...♗xg2 15.♘xd7 ♕xd7 16.♔xg2 axb4 17.axb4 ♖xa1 18.♗xa1 cxb4 19.♖b1 and white is a bit better thanks to black's weak Ps.
14...♘f8 15.e3 The plan is to open both the d-file and the long diagonal. 15...♕c7 16.d4 ♗e4 17.♕c3 This is a tactical error that should have cost him any advantage he may have had. He should have played either 17.Qc1 or 17.Qe2 with consequences similar to what happened in the game. 17...exd4 18.exd4 ♘6d7 Returning the initiative to white. (18...♘e6 19.♕c1 ♖ac8 and black has the initiative.) 19.♕d2 cxd4 This releasing of the tension in the center turns oyut to be in white's favor. Better was returning the N to f6. 20.♗xd4 Capa's next move is an error in judgment in that it allows the exchange of his fianchettoed B which weakens the position of his K. It would have been safer to play 20...Nf6 and then play the other N to d7. 20...♕xc4 21.♗xg7 ♔xg7 22.♕b2+ ♔g8 23.♖xd6 At this point Reti's strategy has succeeded. His Q controls the long diagonal and as a result there are potential threats to black's K. On the other hand black's Q is in a precarious position. In the end it is the position of black's Q that ends in his downfall. 23...♕c5
23...♕c7 This was safer because the Q would have at least had an escape. 24.♖ad1 ♖ad8 25.♕d4 ♗b7 and white has a strong bind, but nothing that is immediately decisive.
24.♖ad1 ♖a7 25.♘e3 ♕h5 Apparently this is designed to induce white to weaken his position with 26.g4 and at the same time it prevents white from playing Ng4, but he could have accomplished the same thing with 25...h5. After the text his position is lost. 26.♘d4 Pachman incorrectly gave this move a ! based on his faulty (non-engine assisted) analysis! (26.g4 ♕c5 27.h4 ♖e6 and black has equalized.)
26.♖1d5 Pachman wrote that this is probably what Capa expected after which he would have gotten good defensive prospects. That is totally wrong! 26...♗xd5 27.g4 ♗xf3 Pachman. Actually black has several moves but nothing that is really any better. 28.gxh5 ♗xh5 Pachman ends his analysis here, but black's defensive prospects are bleak rather than good. The conservative Komodo evaluation id that black is ahead 4.00. The optimistic Stockfish put it even higher and easily scored 5-0 in Shootouts. e.g. 29.h4 ♔h7 30.♕c3 ♖e5 31.♘d5 ♖e6 32.♖xe6 ♘xe6 33.♕e3 ♗g4 34.a4 ♗d1 35.♘xb6 ♘xb6 36.♕xb6 ♖c7 37.♕xa5 ♖c1 38.♕a7 ♖c7 39.♕e3 ♗xa4 40.b6 ♖c4 41.h5 ♗c2 42.♕d2 ♖c5 43.b7 ♖b5 44.♕xc2 ♖b6 45.hxg6+ fxg6 46.♕c8 with an easy win.
26...♗xg2 27.♔xg2 ♕e5
27...♖xe3 is not any better. 28.fxe3 ♘e5 This offers the toughest resistance. (28...♕xd1 Pachman 29.♘f5 gxf5 30.♖xd1) 29.♕e2 ♕xe2+ 30.♘xe2 ♘c4 The point! Black has an annoying fork on e3. 31.♔f3 ♘e6
31...♘xd6 32.♖xd6 ♖b7 33.♘c3 ♘d7 34.♔e4 White's K will penetrate and force the win.
32.♖c6 ♘e5+ 33.♔e4 ♘xc6 34.bxc6 ♖e7 35.♘f4 ♔f8 36.♘d5 ♘c5+ 37.♔d4 ♖e4+ 38.♔c3 ♘a4+ 39.♔d2 ♖e6 40.c7
28.♘c4 ♕c5
28...♕h5 Returning from whence it came was no better. 29.♘f3 The threat is R1d5 which can't be met in any reasonable way. 29...♖e6 30.♖1d5 ♕g4 31.♘e3 ♖xe3 32.fxe3 ♕c4 33.♖d4 ♕c8 34.♖c6 ♕e8 35.♕c3 with a crushing position.
29.♘c6 ♖c7 30.♘e3 ♘e5 31.♖1d5 Here the game was adjourned and upon seeing 31.R1d5, Capablanca resigned.
31.♖1d5 ♘c4 32.♖xc5 ♘xb2 33.♖c2 Black loses material. 33...♖xe3 (33...♘a4 34.♘d5 ♖b7 35.♘f6+) 34.fxe3 ♘a4 35.e4 ♔g7 36.e5 ♘e6 37.♘d4 ♖xc2+ 38.♘xc2 ♘ec5 39.♘e3 ♘e4 40.♖d7 ♘ec5 41.♖c7 black is out of useful moves and the b-Pawn will soon be lost.
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