Thursday, October 21, 2010

Euwe vs Geller, Zurich 1953

Here is a position from the game Euwe – Geller, Zurich (ct) 1953. It is on the menu today because it shows that the late middlegame is often characterised by inaccurate play, especially when the time control is approaching.

Black has the initiative and is trying to turn it into a decisive attack on White's king, which is the more exposed of the two. First, let's see how the game went:

55...Be3 56.Rf1 Qd2 57.Rf7 Qxe2+ 58.Kg3 Qe1+ 59.Kf3 Qh1+ 60.Kg3 Qg1+ 61.Kf3 Qf2+ 62.Ke4 Re8+ 63.Re7 Qh4+ White resigned (0-1).

The first impression is that the game took a normal course and ended in victory for Black. David Bronstein, for example, writing in his book Mezhdunarodny Turnir Grossmeisterov, does not query any of the last eight or nine moves. However, a closer examination reveals a dramatic exchange of blunders.

Peelback No. 1

Instead of 56.Rf1?, White should play 56.Rf7!, setting up the threat of 57.Rxb7 mate. Now Black is forced to work with checks; there is no time for a quiet move. Thus: 56...Qg1+ 57.Kf3 Qf1+ 58.Kg3 Bf4+ 59.Kg4. Bronstein reaches this position in his analysis and gives 59...h5+! “et cetera,” with the clear implication that Black is winning.

I always get suspicious when I see a note ending in “et cetera.” I like to carry on the analysis until the win is obvious. In this case there is a problem. After 59...h5+ 60.Kh4 Qf2+ 61.Kxh5 Qxe2+ 62.Kh4 Qe1+ 63.Kh5! there is no forced mate, no forced win of material, and no time for a quiet move. Black can even go wrong: 63...Qe5+?? 64.Qxe5 Bxe5 65.Nd7+ and wins. The first conclusion: 56.Rf7 draws. The second conclusion: 56.Rf1? is a weak move. The third conclusion: 55...Be3 is probably a weak move too.

Peelback No. 2

There is no good reason for Black to allow the move Rf3-f7 until he is ready with a winning continuation. Black can play a move that takes the square g4 away from the White king, so that if White does nothing significant, the attack beginning with Bf4-e3 will be far more dangerous. The move is:


Now White has:

A. 56.Qf7 Bc7! (changing direction in order to give Black's queen access to g5 in some lines) 57.Nd7+ Ka7 58.Nf8 Qg5+ 59.Kf2 Bh2 (also possible is 59...d3 60.Qxc7 Qh4+ 61.Qg3 Qd4+ 62.Kg2 d2 63.Rf1 d1Q 64.Rxd1 Qxd1 and Black is winning) 60.Qg6 Bg1+ 61.Kf1 Qc1+ 62.Kg2 Rd5 63.Ne6 Re5 64.Nf4 Be3 65.Rf1 Qd2 66.Qf7 Bxf4 67.Qxf4 Rxe2+ 68.Kg1 Qxb4 with a winning ending for Black;

B. 56.Qg6 Qd2 57.Rf2 Bc7 58.Qg7 Qe3 59.Qg6 Ka7 60.h4 Qe7 61.Nc4 (unavailing is 61.Qxh5 Rg8+ 62.Kf1 Qe4 and wins) 61...Qxh4 62.Nd6 Qe7 63.Qf6 Bxd6 64.cxd6 Qxd6 65.Qxd6 Rxd6 66.Rf5 Rd5 67.Rf4 d3 68.exd3 Rxd3 69.Rc4 Rd5 70.Kh3 b6 71.Rxc6 bxa5 72.bxa5 Rxa5 and White will have to give up his rook for Black's a-pawn.

I believe the moves 55...Qd2 and 55...Re8 also lead to a win for Black, but the pawn move is less complicated. The conclusion is that Black's move 55...Be3? threw away the win, but White's move 56.Rf1? gave it back.

When preparing his book The Application of Chess Theory for publication, Efim Geller found Bronstein's error, but did not notice his own error.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bird vs Chigorin, Vienna 1882, Part Two

Last time we presented the game Bird – Chigorin, Vienna 1882, with analysis by Solomon Lipschutz and supplemental comments by Mikhail Chigorin. Today we present the same game with annotations from the modern era by the Soviet grandmaster Evgeny Vasyukov, extracted from his 1973 book Mikhail Chigorin, co-authored with Alexander Narkevich and Alexander Nikitin.

Bird – Chigorin, Vienna 1882 Two Knights Defence C59

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Qc7 11.Ng4

This retreat is not considered the strongest. Instead of making the useful developing move 11.d4 or reinforcing his central position with 11.f4, White trades off his only active piece.

11...Bxg4 12.Bxg4 Bd6

A standard move in this system, and strong enough here because it stops White from castling. But 70 years after this game was played, one of our best masters of attack Rashid Nezhmetdinov suggested an even stronger plan in which both h2 and f2 are subjected to attack: 12...Bc5! 13.Be2 Rd8 14.c3 Nb7 15.0-0 h5! 16.d4 exd3 17.Bxd3 Ng4! The game Ciocaltea – Nezhmetdinov, Bucharest 1954, continued 18.Qe2+ Kf8 19.g3 Qd7 20.Be4 h4 21.Bf4 Nxh2! and Black won shortly.


In a 1953 training game against Smyslov, Bronstein retreated his bishop to h3 with the idea of relocating it to g2. However this manoeuvre requires a lot of time and allows Black to increase the pressure: 13.Bh3 0-0 14.g3 Nd5 15.0-0 Rae8 16.d3 e3.

13...O-O 14.Nc3

Steinitz considered that 14.b3 was necessary here, hindering the transfer of Black's knight to the centre. But this move, which does nothing to aid White's development, can hardly change the nature of the struggle. Black would develop strong pressure on the central files, for example: 14...Be5 15.Nc3 Rad8 16.Bb2 e3! 17.fxe3 Bxc3 18.Bxc3 Ne4!

14...Nc4 15.b3?
White is playing the opening rather carelessly. Developing the bishop on b2 is a mistaken idea. The main events are bound to take place over on the kingside, where Black has directed all of his pieces. Therefore the following plan of development deserved attention: 15.Be2 Ne5 16.d3! (16.d4 Ng6 17.0-0 Nh4) 16...exd3 17.cxd3 Rad8 18.0-0. Of course, even here Black's edge in development would guarantee him the initiative, but it would be far easier for White to defend than in the game.

15...Ne5 16.Bb2 Rfe8 17.O-O

It is too late for White to retreat his bishop (17.Be2 Nf3+! 18.Kf1 Nh4) so he hurries to get his king out of the centre. However, this loses a pawn.

17...Nexg4 18.hxg4 Qd7 19.Qe2

Defending the pawn on g4 would lead to the creation of other weaknesses: 19.f3 Bc5+ 20.Kh1 Rad8 21.Na4 Bd4!



A critical moment. With material being equal White can hardly count upon a successful defence. But can he capture the pawn on e4? This makes use of the fact that after 20.Nxe4 Black cannot play 20...f5 because of 21.Qc4+. The risk appears to be substantial. The pin on the knight is very unpleasant and enables Black to obtain the advantage in two ways: 20.Nxe4 Bh2+ 21.Kh1 Bc7 22.f3 f5 23.Qc4+ Kh8 24.Nf2! Qd6 (for example, 25.Nxg4 fxg4 26.f4 Qg6) or 20...Qf5 21.f3 (sacrificing the queen does not work: 21.Nxd6 Qh5 22.Qxg4 Qxg4 23.Nxe8 Rxe8 24.Rfe1 Rxe1+ 25.Rxe1 Qf5 26.d3 Qa5!) 21...Qh5! 22.fxg4 Qh2+ 23.Kf2 Qf4+ 24.Kg1 Rxe4 25.Rxf4 Rxe2 26.Rf2 Re4 (Chigorin). Nevertheless, if White wants to choose the least of evils, he should try to find salvation in this endgame. In declining to take the pawn he dooms himself to a prospectless defence.

20.g3 Qf5 21.Kg2 Re6 22.Rae1

Exchanging the e-pawn with 22.f3 exf3+ (22...Qe5 23.f4!) 23.Qxf3 does not save White from the attack after 23...Qg6!

22...Rae8 23.Rh1 h5!

Winning the exchange with 23...Qxf3+ 24.Qxf3 exf3+ 25.Kxf3 Rxe1 26.Rxe1 Rxe1 27.Kxg4 Be5 would also guarantee Black victory, but it would take much longer. He still has ways of strengthening the attack, and Chigorin decides to press on with them. The threat now is 24...Qf3+, winning a rook since the knight on g4 is defended.

24.Ref1 Qg6! 25.Nd1


Black has apparently retreated his queen in order to make way for his f-pawn, and here in fact 25...f5 26.Ne3 f4 would also give him an irresistible attack. But Chigorin demonstrates an unexpected combinative possibility.


Now it becomes clear that the square g3 cannot be defended against intrusion by the Black queen, since after 26.Nxe3 Nxe3+ 27.dxe3 there follows 27...Rxe3 28.Qxh5 Rxg3+ and mate on the following move.

26.Bd4 Nxf2 27.Rxf2 Qxg3+ 28.Kf1 exf2 29.Ne3 c5 30.Bc3 Rxe3! 31.dxe3 Rxe3 32.Qd1 h4 33.Bd2 h3!

White resigned (0-1).

Here we conclude our extract from Vasyukov's 1973 analysis as well as our two-part excursion into master chess of the late 19th century.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bird vs Chigorin, Vienna 1882, Part One

The Russian master Mikhail Chigorin compiled an amazing record on the Black side of the Two Knights Defence. Over the course of his career he employed this counterattacking system in a total of 17 games, mostly against the world's elite. He scored 13 wins, 1 draw, and only 3 losses for a winning percentage of 79%, far in excess of the standard 45% that Black can expect from the starting position. In particular his great rival Wilhelm Steinitz was bested by a score of four games to one.

Why was Chigorin so successful with the Two Knights Defence? In the first place, he was a fine attacking player with a strikingly modern feel for the initiative and the importance of piece activity. He was also aided by the generally low reputation enjoyed by the Two Knights Defence in those days. This reputation was based in large part on the writings of his rival Steinitz, who famously believed that “a pawn is worth a little trouble.” In particular, Steinitz believed that Black did not have the right to sacrifice a pawn in the opening. For his part, Chigorin didn't care what Steinitz (or anyone else) thought was right or wrong. He saw the assets in Black's position and worked hard to make them count.

Today we present a lesser-known but particularly fine example of Chigorin's play in the Two Knights Defence – his game with the English master Henry Bird from the great Vienna tournament of 1882. This event, by the way, was won by Steinitz after a playoff match with Simon Winawer. Chigorin finished 12th and Bird 15th out of 18 participants.

The Bird-Chigorin encounter did not go unnoticed by the contemporary chess press. It appeared in the Russian magazine Shakhmatny Vestnik in 1885, and later in The Chess-Player's Manual by Gossip and Lipschutz (1888). It also came to the attention of Wilhelm Steinitz, who included it in Part 1 of his two-volume opus The Modern Chess Instructor (1889).

While preparing his 1950 commemorative book on Chigorin, Nikolai Grekov gained access to the Russian master's archives, including a copy of The Modern Chess Instructor. There he found some pencilled comments to the Bird-Chigorin game in which Chigorin expressed disdain for aspects of Steinitz's analysis. Needless to say, these comments were included in Grekov's book in order to demonstrate that, even in analysis, Chigorin could hold his own against his rival.

In preparing this article I had occasion to refer directly to The Modern Chess Instructor, where I found the following caveat by Steinitz, which had been conveniently omitted from Grekov's book: “Our notes to this game are chiefly quoted from the Appendix to Gossip's Manual by S. Lipschutz.” Chigorin would have known this, so his disdain would have been largely directed at Lipschutz instead of Steinitz. However, Steinitz was ultimately responsible for the content of his book. In our article today, the comments by Steinitz/Lipschutz have been slightly edited for clarity. Chigorin's pencilled comments appear in italics, and there are two further comments of his from Shakhmatny Vestnik.

Bird-Chigorin, Vienna 1882 Two Knights Defence C59

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Qc7 11.Ng4

11.d4 exd3 (and if one does not capture en passant?) 12.Nxd3 Bd6 13.Nd2 followed by Nf3 would give White an excellent game with a pawn ahead. For should Black then attempt 13...Bxh2, then would follow 14.g3 Bxg3 15.fxg3 Qxg3+ 16.Nf2 and should win.

11...Bxg4 12.Bxg4 Bd6 13.h3 O-O 14.Nc3

White would have done better first to prevent the entrance of the hostile knight by 14.b3. Rubbish; then comes 14...Be5 15.Nc3 e3 16.fxe3 Bxc3, etc.

14...Nc4 15.b3 Ne5 16.Bb2 Rfe8 17.O-O

17.Be2 Nd3+ (or 17...Nf3+ 18.Kf1, etc.) (Just so: “et cetera.” And how will things turn out for White after 18...Nh4?) 18.cxd3 exd3 19.0-0 was far more favourable for White.

17...Nexg4 18.hxg4 Qd7 19.Qe2

If 19.f3 Bc5+ 20.Kh1 Qe7 with a winning attack.

19...Nxg4 20.g3

20.Nxe4 Qf5 21.f3 Qh5 22.fxg4 Qh2+ 23.Kf2 Qf4+ (or 23...Qh4+ 24.g3 Bxg3+ 25.Kg2 and should win; if here 24...Qh2+ 25.Kf3 Qxe2+ 26.Kxe2 Rxe4+ 27.Kf3 with a pawn ahead) 24.Kg1 was by far better play, for Black's best plan would be now to draw by perpetual check. What on earth for? After 24...Rxe4 25.Rxf4 Rxe2 26.Rf2 Re4! Black's position is better – perhaps significantly so.

20...Qf5 21.Kg2 Re6 22.Rae1

Ill-judged. 22.Rh1 followed by 23.Raf1 was much better.

22...Rae8 23.Rh1 h5!

Black could win the exchange by playing 23...Qf3+ but after 24.Qxf3 (24.Kg1 Bxg3!) exf3+ 25.Kxf3 Rxe1 26.Rxe1 Rxe1 27.Kxg4 play would continue for quite some time. Now, having defended his knight, Black threatens 24...Qf3+ (Chigorin, Shakhmatny Vestnik, 1885).

24.Ref1 Qg6 25.Nd1

Premature. 25.Rh3 was necessary for the defence. Black was threatening 25...e3 26.dxe3 Nxe3 (Chigorin, Shakhmatny Vestnik, 1885).



A real master coup which forces the victory in elegant style.


If 26.dxe3 Nxe3+ 27.Nxe3 Rxe3 threatening 28...Rxg3+ and wins.

26...Nxf2 27.Rxf2 Qxg3+ 28.Kf1 exf2 29.Ne3 c5 30.Bc3 Rxe3

Beautiful play, which finishes off the quickest way.

31.dxe3 Rxe3 32.Qd1 h4

32...Rxc3 followed by 33...Kf8 (if White reply 33.Qxh5) was also good enough.

33.Bd2 h3

White resigned (0-1)

Next time we will present this game with more modern annotations. Stay tuned!

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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.