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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Fine – Najdorf Match, 1949

In the winter of 1948, when it came to the attention of the Manhattan Chess Club that three top foreign players would be spending December in New York, a tournament was put together on short notice. 
    The masters in question were former world champion Max Euwe, Miguel Najdorf and Swedish champion Gideon Stahlberg. Unfortunately, Stahlberg would not be staying in New York long enough to participate, so he declined. His invitation went to Samuel Reshevsky, who also declined. Argentinian master Herman Pilnik found out about the tournament from Najdorf and offered to fill the empty seat and so he did. 
    When it was all over Fine had defeated Najdorf in their individual game and so took first with Najdrof finishing second. Euwe and Pilnik tied for third. 
    After the tournament Euwe went on tour giving simuls while Fine and Najdorf played a little publicized 8-game match. The hard-fought match ended in a draw.
    The majority of the games were played at the Manhattan and Marshall chess clubs; Edward Lasker acted as referee. Fine looked like an easy winner when he won the first two games making it three in a row (counting the tournament) that he had taken from Najdorf. Then Najdort rallied winning games 3 and 4 to tie the natch. The final four games resulted in draws. 
    In the following game, the first game of the match, Fine made quick work of his redoubtable opponent. 

A game that I liked (Fritz 17)

[Event "Match, New York"] [Site "?"] [Date "1949.??.??"] [Round "1"] [White "Miguel Najdorf"] [Black "Reuben Fine"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E34"] [Annotator "Stockfish 16"] [PlyCount "54"] [SourceVersionDate "2024.04.15"] {E34: Nimzo-Indian: Classical Variation} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 { The Classical (aka Capablanca) Variation was popular in the early days of the Nimzo-Indian, and though eventually superseded by 4.e3 (the Rubinstein Variation), but it made a revival in the 1990s. White';s plan is to acquire the two Bs and at the same time avoid doubled c-Pawns. On the down side, his Q move will lose a tempo of two.} d5 {Besides this move b;ack has three other common replies: 4...0-0, 4...c5 and 4...Nc6} 5. cxd5 Qxd5 {Equally good is 5... exd5} 6. Nf3 c5 7. Bd2 Bxc3 8. Bxc3 O-O 9. dxc5 (9. e3 b6 10. Bd3 Ba6 11. Bxa6 Nxa6 12. O-O cxd4 13. Bxd4 {as in Li,B (2325)-Moradi,B (2178) Anzali Free Zone IRI 2019 is completely equal.}) 9... Qxc5 10. Rc1 Nc6 (10... Nbd7 11. e4 h6 12. Bd3 b6 13. O-O Bb7 14. Qe2 {is equal. Dreev,A (2655)-Andersson,U (2582) Barcelona ESP 2009}) 11. Qb1 {While this may look rather odd, the position is so evenly balanced that pretty much anything short of a gross blunder keeps the balance.} (11. e3 Bd7 12. Qb1 Qe7 13. Be2 Nd5 14. O-O Nxc3 {Draw agreed. Kelecevic,N (2475)-Landenbergue,C (2410) Biel 1996}) 11... Qe7 12. g3 e5 13. Bg2 Nd5 14. O-O {A draw by agreement at any time seems reasonable.} Nxc3 15. bxc3 (15. Rxc3 {is more logical, but, again, even after Najdorf;s move giving himself an isolated P, the position is dead equal.} Be6 16. Qe4 f6 {and a handshake is a reasonable outcome.}) 15... Be6 16. Rfd1 Rac8 17. Ne1 {He has to make a move and this is as good as any.} Bc4 18. Nd3 {This gives Fine just a tiny opening. Doubling Rs on the d-file with 18.Rd2 was super-solid.} f5 { [%mdl 32] A sign of aggression. Black has the initiative, but not much else. Will it pay off?} 19. e4 {It does after this slightly risky move.} (19. h4 { Makes things interesting after} e4 20. Nf4 {and black has to plausible moves.} Ne5 (20... e3 21. Bd5+ Bxd5 22. Nxd5 exf2+ 23. Kxf2 Qc5+ {Black has some play, but white should be able to hold him off.}) 21. e3 Rfd8 {with a completely even game.}) 19... f4 20. Bh3 $1 Rcd8 21. Nb4 Qf7 22. Rxd8 {This proves fatal!} (22. Qc2 Qf6 23. Nxc6 Qxc6 24. Bf5 g6 {and the position doesn't offer much to either side.} 25. Bh3) 22... Nxd8 {[%mdl 32] This excellent move may have come as a surprise to Najdorf as he may have been expecting Fine to recapture with the R. Even so, white's position is far from lost.} (22... Rxd8 $6 23. Nxc6 bxc6 24. Rd1 {with a fully equal position.}) 23. Qc2 Ne6 {The N is headed more more versant pastures.} 24. Bf5 {All of a sudden black has a decisive advantage!} (24. Nd5 {might work better.} Ng5 25. Bg2 Qe6 26. Qd2 Qg4 27. Ne7+ Kh8 28. Qd6 {Black is better, but there is no forced win. His advantage lies in his more active pieces.}) 24... Nc5 25. Rd1 Qh5 26. Nd5 {A quick glance might leave on to think wjite is OK; his pieces look to be well placed.} g6 { The B doesn't have anywhere to go.} 27. Bd7 {Now if black plays 27...Nxd7 white gets the piece back with a N check plus he will ahve a R on the 7th rank. } Nxd7 {White resigned. Why?!} (27... Nxd7 28. Ne7+ Kh8 29. Rxd7 {Everything looks good for white, but...surprise! Black has a mate in 8 moves.} Qh3 30. Nxg6+ hxg6 31. Qc1 f3 32. Qh6+ Qxh6 33. h4 Qc1+ 34. Rd1 Qxd1+ 35. Kh2 Qf1 36. h5 Qg2#) 0-1

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