My Best Games
Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi will celebrate his 80th birthday on March 23rd. In Victor's honour, Olms are publishing an updated version of 'My Best Games', featuring ten newly annotated games alongside a compilation of 100 previously published efforts.
A full review of the book will naturally follow here in due course, but as a special treat I have been granted permission to publish a couple of extracts from the eagerly anticipated volume.
The first extract features a game I became aware of when I first started to study the games of GM Korchnoi, in the early 1980s. It appealed to me as I was very interested in the Dutch Defence at that time.
Of course, the Dutch didn't remain a part of Victor's repertoire - he has had some scathing words regarding it's 'merits' over the years! Nevertheless, this game is a good one for fans of 1 d4 f5 to study and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Taimanov – Korchnoi
Leningrad Championship 1950
(Notes by GM Korchnoi, © Edition Olms)
This was my first ‘adult’ tournament, played on a stage ‘for adults’. And here my opponent was Mark Taimanov, for many years the strongest player in Leningrad. He was a few years older than me, and had already taken part in top-ranking competitions for the USSR Championship. I noted that Taimanov had received a good chess education. Compared with him, I looked like a self-taught ignoramus. And that’s probably how it was. Much that a player of my class and age should have been familiar with was unknown to me, and would have to be learned in the course of independent work over the next ten to fifteen years.
1 d4 e6
Journalists used to ask me how it was that from my early years I began playing the French Defence. Obviously it was under the influence of Mikhail Botvinnik.
2 g3 f5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 Nf3 Be7 5 0–0 0–0 6 c4 d6
At one time, when I was a candidate master and even a master, in reply to 1 d4 I played only the Dutch Defence. Here too I was influenced by Botvinnik. To be honest, it is not a very logical opening, but it is an interesting and aggressive one. I tried all the branches of the Dutch, and I quite quickly realised that the ‘stonewall’ did not suit my style. Apparently I had not yet learned how to fight for the initiative, whereas I felt the weaknesses of my pawn structure like a pain in my own body. I also tried the Leningrad Variation, ascertained that few understood it, and that I myself was blundering about in the dark. As a result, I settled on the most modest variety of the Dutch with 6…d6.
7 Nc3 Qe8 8 Qc2
One of the best moves here is 8 Re1 with the aim of playing e2-e4. Then, as is well known, 8…Qg6 is insufficient – White nevertheless plays 9 e4, and if Black captures everything on e4, after 12 Nh4 he loses his queen.
8...Qh5 9 b3
9 e4 is unconvincing on account of 9…e5!. It its time this was an important discovery.
9...Nc6 10 Bb2
10 Ba3!? is also not bad. This, incidentally, was played by Botvinnik himself.
White has also played 11 Rad1, which looks even stronger. However, the move a2-a3 contains the threat of d4-d5, which up till now Black has been ignoring, since he had the reply …Nb4 followed by …e6-e5, obtaining quite good attacking chances on the kingside. But now d4-d5 is a serious threat.
However, if Black makes the waiting, but probably useful move 11...Kh8, then if 12 d5 he can reply 12…Nd8 13 dxe6 Nxe6 with a perfectly playable position, or after 13 Nd4 he can play 13…e5, when 14 Ndb5 promises little in view of the reply 14…c6.
But this move is equivalent to a blunder: Black obviously overlooked White’s following manoeuvre.
12 d5 Nd8
This is how Black usually plays – after all, taking on d5 (whether White recaptures with knight or pawn) leads to very strong pressure for White on the queenside.
13 Nd4 e5
To avoid loss of material, Black should have played 13...c6 and in the event of 14 dxe6 recaptured on e6 with his bishop. From the strategic point of view this is not very favourable, but sometimes from two evils you have to choose the lesser.
Black is obviously losing a pawn. Will he have compensation for it?
14…Nf7 15 Nxc7 Rc8 16 Ne6
The knight cannot return to b5: after 16…a6 it will be trapped.
16...Bxe6 17 dxe6 Ng5
It has somehow turned out that Black’s position is not yet completely lost. The knight on f3, which earlier was defending the white king, has been exchanged. Now the white king has few defenders and an attack may suddenly flare up. Apparently my opponent also sensed that the victorious knight manoeuvre had led to a position where he would have to defend.
Was 18 Bxb7 possible? It is clear that the black knights, approaching close to the white king, are able to create a mass of threats. Say, 18 Bxb7 Ng4 19 h4 Nh3+ 20 Kg2 Nhxf2 with the threat of …Ne3+. However, to me this attack did not seem convincing, and instead of this in analysis I tried playing differently: 18...Nh3+ 19 Kh1 Ng4. It is obvious that after 20 Bxc8? Nf4 21 h4 Bxh4 White will soon be mated. After 20 Nd5 Rc7! 21 Bc6 Nf4 22 Nxe7+ Rxe7 23 h4 Ng6 again mate is not far off. Half a century later I analysed this position with the aid of a computer, and it indicated a move with which White would have repelled the attack: 20 e3! with the idea after f2-f4 of including the queen in the defence of the kingside. Even so, in the age of ‘human’ chess 18 Nd5 would appear to be the best solution: Black’s dangerous king’s knight has to be exchanged!
18...Nxd5 19 Bxd5 f4
Of course, Black also considered …e5-e4, cutting off the bishop on d5 from the kingside, but in this case the f6-square would have been under White’s control, and Black would not have had the possibility of switching his rook to h6.
I remember that my opponent had run into time-trouble. And to avoid the worst he decided to run with his king away from the danger zone. But half a century later, with my ‘silicon friend’ Fritz 7, however hard I tried, after 20 Bxb7 I was unable to find sufficient compensation for the two lost pawns. After 20…f3 it is not hard to find compensation for one pawn, but not for two!
20...fxg3 21 hxg3 Qh3 22 Kf2?
22 Rf2 was more resilient. White overlooks a tactical stroke, which breaks up his position still further.
22...Nxf3! 23 Ke3
Or 23 Bxf3 Rxf3+ 24 Kxf3 Rf8+ 25 Ke4 Qg2+ 26 Kd3 Rxf1 (26...Qxg3+? 27 e3) 27 Rxf1 Qxf1. Because of the bad position of his king, White loses a pawn, and perhaps even two.
23...Nd4 24 Qd1 Qxg3+ 25 Rf3
If 25 Bf3, then 25...Bg5+ 26 Kd3 e4+!, and White is either mated, or he loses a piece.
25...Nxf3 26 exf3 b5 27 Qh1 bxc4 28 bxc4 Rb8 29 Bc3 Rb3 30 Kd3 Qf2 31 Qe1 e4+ 32 Bxe4 Rxf3+ 33 Bxf3 Qxf3+ 34 Kc2 Rxc3+ 35 Kb2 Rb3+ 0–1
White lost on time.
There will be more on this book very soon. Meanwhile, keep up to date with Olms chess books over at their official website.