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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Short, Ultra-Sharp Game by Nezhmetdinov

     In Russia, back in the early days before rating systems, the Master title could be earned by scoring 50 percent in the Soviet Championship, by winning a match from an established Master, by drawing two matches with an established Master or by winning a tournament that had at least three Masters participating. 
      In 1948, Vladas Mikenas and Rashid Nezhmetdinov played a natch for the Master title, but I am not sure which player was attempting to gain the Master title, but I strongly suspect that it was the Lithuanian Mikenas. In any case, the match ended in a 7-7 tie. 
     Vladas Mikėnas (1910-1992) was a chess legend in Lithuanian, an International Master, an Honorary Grandmaster and a journalist. He was one of the most outstanding players from the Baltic's prior to World War II. He emigrated from Estonia to Lithuania in 1931. After Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in 1940, he also played in many Soviet Championships. 
     Rashid Nezhmetdinov (1912-1974) was a Soviet player and writer as well as a checker champion. He was a fierce and imaginative attacking player who was capable of beating anyone in the world. 
     Unfortunately the only time he played outside the Soviet Union was at Bucharest in 1954 where he finished 2nd behind Korchnoi. He had a lifetime plus score against Tahl and Spassky, but his weakness was that given a position where there were few attacking chances he would often try and complicate in the hopes of attacking even if it was not justified. He served as Tahl’s trainer in the latter’s championship matches against Botvinnik. 
     The following short, sharp encounter from their match was played with precision by Nezhmetdinov. 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Match for Title of Master"] [Site "Kazan URS"] [Date "1948.03.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Rashid Nezhmetdinov"] [Black "Vladas Mikenas"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B02"] [Annotator "Stockfish 16"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "1948.??.??"] {B02: Alekhine Defense: Chase Variation} 1. e4 {[%mdl 32]} Nf6 {A Mikenas favorite. I've always had a macabre fascination with this defense...like a car accident where you don't want to look, but can't force yourself to turn away.} 2. e5 Nd5 3. c4 Nb6 4. c5 Nd5 5. Bc4 e6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Nxd5 $14 exd5 8. Bxd5 c6 { This move was Mikenas’ invention.} (8... dxe5 {Mikenas thought this move was bad which is why he preferred 8...c6} 9. Qf3 {is the move Mikenas feared, but after} (9. Qb3 Qf6 10. Bxb7 Bxb7 11. Qxb7 Qc6 12. Qc8+ {White is better. Roeder,F (2275) -Ruehrig,V (2300) Germany 1982}) 9... f6 10. Bxb7 Bxb7 11. Qxb7 Nd7 {The position offer chances to both sides after either 12.d4 or 12.b4. After the obvious} 12. c6 Nc5 13. Qb5 Rb8 14. Qe2 Nd3+ 15. Kf1 Bc5 {white would be lost.}) 9. Bxf7+ {At the time this game was played this sacrifice was unexpected, but it's the best move even though white's advantage turns out to be minimal.} Kxf7 10. cxd6 Qe8 (10... Be6 {was played in the 3rd game of the match which continued} 11. f4 {and now black unnecessarily returned the extra piece with} (11. Nh3 {Nezhmetdinove came up with this improvement in the post-game analysis.} Qh4 ({is much worse.} 11... Bxh3 12. Qf3+) 12. Qf3+ Kg8 13. Nf4 {White is better.}) 11... Bxd6 12. exd6 Re8 13. Kf2 Qxd6 {and black won. Actually, this position is fully even, but in the post-game analysis Nezhmetdinov came up with the improvement at move 11 and so Mikenas avoided 10. ..Be6}) 11. Qe2 (11. Qf3+ {11 years later Vasiukov discovered this better move in his game against Spasskey.} Kg8 12. Qe3 {Now black can’t return the extra piece by sacrificing it for the P on d6.} Be6 13. Ne2 Nd7 14. O-O {White has the more promising position. Vasiukov, E-Spassky,B Tbilisi 1959}) 11... c5 12. Nf3 Bxd6 {Nezhmetdinov wrote, "A timely sacrifice which can’t be accepted by white."} 13. Ng5+ (13. exd6 Qxe2+ 14. Kxe2 Re8+ 15. Kd1 {This position offers equal opportunities to both sides, so the sacrifice could have been accepted without incurring any disadvantage.}) 13... Kg6 $1 14. Qd3+ {Instead of this white had a couple of more promising continuations: either 14.d4 or 14.f4 and the chances would have been avout equal, Now, depite the precarious looking position of black's K, it is he who is winning!} Kxg5 15. Qxd6 (15. f4+ { turns out to not to be an improvement.} Kh6 16. Qxd6+ Qg6 17. Qxc5 Qxg2 18. Rg1 Qe4+ {An unbalanced material situation (white has 2Ps vs. a N) has been reached and black has what should prove to be a decisive advantage.}) 15... Qd8 {This move tosses away his advantahe and now the chances are back to equal.} ( 15... Qc6 {is good because once Qs are traded white’s attack fizzles out} 16. d3+ Kh5 17. Be3 Qxd6 18. exd6 {Again, black has what should be a winning position and did, in fact, win 5 out of 5 Shootouts in games lasting 50-60 moves. In practice white may have remote chances of salvaging a draw.}) 16. d4+ Kf5 {[%mdl 8192] This is the move that loses the game. Even though the position of black's K looks really bad, it's quite safe after 16...Kh5!!} ( 16... Kh5 17. Qxc5 {White must avoid the exchange of Qs} Be6 18. O-O Nc6 { Now that black has gotten his pieces unto play there is little chance that white can successfully conduct a winning attack. In Shootouts white manages to score +1 -0 =4}) (16... Kh5 17. g4+ {as in the game does not work.} Bxg4 18. Qxc5 {and black is winning.}) 17. g4+ {This is the only winning move that white has.} Ke4 (17... Kxg4 18. Rg1+ Kf5 19. Rg5+ Ke4 20. Qxc5 {Surprisingly white ha sno forced mate, but black's K is fatally exposed.}) 18. Qxc5 Rf8 19. O-O {Stockfish spots a mate in 15 moves.} Kf3 20. h3 b6 21. Qc3+ Ke4 22. Qc4 { Black resigned as mate is unavoidable.} (22. Qc4 Bxg4 23. hxg4 Rxf2 24. Re1+ Kf3 25. Qd3+ Kxg4 26. Qe4+ Kh5 27. Qxh7+ Kg4 28. Re4+ Kg3 29. Qg6+ Qg5 30. Qxg5+ Kh3 31. Qg4#) 1-0

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