Friday, December 3, 2010

Geller vs Suetin, Moscow Team Ch. 1981

Today we present a little-known but pleasing attacking game by the Ukrainian grandmaster Efim Geller, a perennial world championship candidate but arguably never a serious contender for the title. His opponent, the second-tier Russian grandmaster Alexei Suetin, famously had his face slapped by Mrs Rona Petrosian after failing to match the depth and accuracy of Bobby Fischer's adjournament analysis during the 1971 Candidates Final in Buenos Aires. However, Suetin's book A Contemporary Approach to the Middlegame is an acknowledged classic, so we'll cut him some slack and thank him for his unintended role in Fischer's ascent to the throne in 1972.

A personal view: when forced to defend against 1.e4, the Sicilian Defence is best deployed against the relatively weak or the very strong. Anyone possessing a modicum of chessic common sense knows that playing 1...c5 demands a good theoretical knowledge base, a storehouse of experience, and a willingness to take calculated risks. All fine if you have those things, but otherwise you're just asking for trouble. If proper preparation prevents poor performance, then mutatis mutandis insufficient investigation involves inevitable inadequacy.

Despite his reputation as something of an also-ran, Efim Geller made a number of contributions to opening theory, one of which is seen in our game today. Most Black warriors are pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the move c2-c3 in the Sicilian Defence because it takes away the natural square from White's queen knight, thereby diminishing the first player's control over the squares e4 and d5. It also signals that White is perhaps a denizen of the lower chess classes. Of course Black will usually try to punish this lacklustre approach with a well-timed d7-d5, but in today's game there is something about his previous moves ...a6 and ...Bc5 that doesn't quite square with this simplistic program. Geller had already taken note of this back in 1969 when he successfully introduced 6.c3 against Mark Taimanov in that year's Soviet Championship. So... 12 years on and time for another outing...

Geller – Suetin
Moscow Team Championship 1981
Sicilian Defence B42

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Bc5 6.c3

White can play for an edge with 6.Nb3 Be7 7.Qg4!? g6 8.Qe2 d6 9.0-0 Nd7 and now 10.Na3!? is interesting.

6...Ne7 7.0-0 Nbc6 8.Be3 Qb6?

When Black wants to punish or at least annoy White in the opening, he often forgets about castling and reaches for his queen. This particular expedition cannot end happily. Normal would be 8...d6 9.Nd2 0-0 and Black seems to be OK.


I like a game with interesting moments. One guy makes a threat, the other guy makes a move that allows the threat, and then the first guy realises that the threat doesn't work. Have a look:
A. 9...Qxb2? 10.Nc4! Qxc3 11.Rc1 Qb4 12.a3 and wins;
B. 9...Nxd4? 10.cxd4 Bxd4 11.Nc4 Qa7 12.Nd6+ Kf8 13.Qh5 and wins.


A freeing move? Not really – Black's king is still in the centre.

10.N2b3! Bxd4 11.cxd4 dxe4

Black should castle and hope for the best.

12.Bxe4 Qd8?!

If 12...Nd5 then 13.Qg4! Kf8 (13...0-0? 14.Bh6 winning the exchange) 14.Qf3 and Black will find it very difficult to untangle himself.

13.Qh5! Nd5 14.Bg5 Nce7 15.Rfe1 h6 16.Rad1 Qd6

In Informant 32 Minic and Sindik gave the cryptic 16...0-0 17.Bxh6! without further comment. White has very good compensation for the piece after 17...gxh6 18.Qxh6 f5 19.Bxd5 Nxd5 20.Rd3 Qf6 21.Rg3+ Kf7 22.Qh7+ Ke8 23.Nc5, but it's not clear that he's actually winning.

After 16...0-0, Black is not in fact threatening to capture the bishop, so White should take the opportunity to bring another piece into action. After 17.Rd3! there are two main variations:
A. 17...f5 18.Bxd5 hxg5 19.Rxe6 Qxd5 20.Rxe7 f4 21.Qg6 Rf7 22.Re5 Qd8 23.Rxg5 and White is winning;
B. 17...Qe8 18.Bxh6 f5 19.Qg5 Rf7 20.Bxd5 Nxd5 21.Rg3 Qe7 22.Qg6 f4 23.Rg4 Qf6 24.Qh5 f3 25.Re5 fxg2 26.f4! and the assault on g7 spells doom for Black.

After the text move 16...Qd6 we are at another interesting moment. Geller knows what to do.

17.Bxe7! Nxe7 18.d5! exd5

Or 18...e5 19.Bb1, etc.

19.Bxd5 Qf6

The alternative 19...Qg6 does not help in view of 20.Bxf7+! Kxf7 21.Rxe7+ and wins.


Seeing that 20...Qxf7 loses immediately to 21.Rd8+, Black threw in the towel here.

Wonderful play from Geller to down a lower-ranked colleague. Unfortunately for him, his higher-ranked colleagues Korchnoi, Spassky, and Tal did not allow such things to happen.

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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.