Friday, January 26, 2007


1966... The Beatles were on the charts with their album Revolver... Blow Up was in theatres... and England were World Cup champions! On top of all that came Bobby Fischer's brilliant win over Svetozar Gligoric in the Havana Olympiad. Heady days for a young chessplayer!

I was taken back to those Fischer days recently when the following game came to my notice. Another prodigy, another Spanish Exchange, and another quick victory for White. Quick, and very brilliant.
When this game was played (December 2005) Rybka was in beta testing, and was a complete unknown. Since then, of course, it has vaulted to the top of all the computer rankings. Version 2.3 is due out soon, and when that happens it's going onto my machine as soon as humanly possible!

Rybka 1.0 Beta - Jonny
15th International Computer Chess Championship
Paderborn 2005
Spanish Game C69

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0–0 f6 6.d4 Bg4 7.c3 Bd6
Gligoric played 7...exd4 8.cxd4 Qd7, which looks quite strange to modern eyes. In My 60 Memorable Games Fischer suggested 8...c5 9.d5 Bd6, which has been played a few times with mixed results.
8.Be3 Qe7 9.Nbd2 exd4 10.cxd4 0–0–0 11.h3
A minor novelty from Rybka. The game Z.Almasi-M.Marin, Oderheiu Secuiesc (zt) 1995 went 11.Qc2 Re8 12.e5 Bb4 13.h3 Be6 with equal chances.
11...Bh5 12.Re1 Bb4 13.Rc1 Rd7
Overprotecting c7, although the rook does seem a bit awkward here. Human players would consider the line 13...Bxd2 14.Bxd2 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Rxd4. White has very good compensation for the pawn, but whether he has the advantage is another matter.
Rybka strikes! Opening the c-file will create real danger for Black's king.
14...cxd5 15.exd5 Qf7 (see the first diagram.)
If 15...Qd8 16.Qb3 Bxf3 17.Qxb4 Bxd5 18.Qc5 with strong pressure for White.
Rybka has calculated a long way ahead in making this passive sacrifice, so far ahead that none of my playing programs can find the idea.
If 16...Bxf3 then 17.gxf3! (certainly not 17.Qxf3 Bxe1 18.Nb6+ Kd8 19.Nxd7 Qxd7 29.Rxe1 Ne7 30.Rd1 Nf5 with only a small advantage for White) followed by play similar to the game.
17.d6!! (see the second diagram.)
Amazing... White, a whole rook down, simply pushes a pawn! The charming point is that despite his extra material Black cannot prevent the manoeuvre Qd1-d4-a7, invading his king's position and bringing the game to a quick conclusion. Jonny was probably expecting 17.Nb6+ Kd8 18.Nxd7 Qxd7 19.Qxe1, when 19...Bxf3 20.gxf3 Ne7 21.d6 Nc6 22.dxc7+ Kxc7 23.Bf4+ Kc8 is quite equal.
No better was 17...Ba5 18.Nxa5 Ne7 19.Qd4 Bxf3 20.gxf3 Qg6+ 21.Kh1 Qf5 22.Qa7 and White wins.
18.Qd4 Bb4 19.Qa7 Rxd6 20.Qa8+ Kd7 21.Nxd6 1-0
Black is completely lost no matter what he plays; for example, 21...Bxd6 22.Qxb7+ Ke8 23.Qc8+ Ke7 and now 24.Bc5!! Bxc5 25.Re1+ Kd6 26.Qd8+ Qd7 27.Rd1+, etc.
A brilliant game by any standard, human or mechanical.

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.