09 Oct

What Ifs?


Now we can relive that heady chess experience of the late summer of 1972, with the general release worldwide of Pawn Sacrifice, directed by Ed Zwick, and starring Tobey Maguire as Fischer, Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky, and Peter Sarsgaard as the chess-playing prelate, Bill Lombardy. The movie does take artistic liberties to fit the compelling Cold War superpowers battle over-the-chessboard into the limitations of a two-hour movie, but much of the storyline is factual and based on Garbus’s critically-acclaimed documentary, as it tells how the American lone wolf ended the Soviet hegemony of the chess world.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of perhaps the greatest ‘What Ifs?’ in the chess world, with the missed opportunity of a Fischer vs. Soviet redux, as the increasingly eccentric American forfeited his title in 1975 rather than face his 24-year-old challenger, Anatoly Karpov. Much of what Fischer wanted was agreed to, the sticking point being his request the match be called ‘the Professional World Championship’.

In a recent interview, Karpov said he met twice with Fischer to try to save the match. But when he assured him that the Soviet authorities would never accept playing on a professional basis, this was used as his main excuse not to defend his title. Karpov thus became champion, then went on to dominate the chess scene for the next ten years, winning just about every tournament along the way, before he, too, had to make way for rising star Garry Kasparov.

This week the 16th Anatoly Karpov tournament concluded in Poikovsky in Siberia in joint victory for Viorel Bologan (Moldavia) and Anton Korobov (Ukraine) who top-scored on 6/9, ahead of Denis Khismatullin (Russia), Ernesto Inarkiev (Russia) and Emil Sutovsky (Israel) on 5.

Denis Khismatullin - Ilya Smirin
16th Karpov Poikovsky, (6)
King’s Indian Defence, Averbakh Variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Bg5 The Averbakh Variation, named after the world's oldest grandmaster, Russia's Yuri Averbakh, who is a sprightly 93-years-old. Averbakh pioneered this line in the early 1950s when he was a Candidate for the World title, and the King’s Indian Defence was becoming a potent force for the likes of Bronstein, Najdorf and Gligoric. 6...Na6 7.Qd2 e5 8.d5 c6 9.f3 cxd5 10.cxd5 Bd7 11.Bd1 The White set-up now dictates he has to play this, as how else does he develop the knight on g1? This gives Black the chance to make good use of his better development. 11...b5 12.a3 b4 13.axb4 Nxb4 14.Nge2 Qb8 15.0-0 Rc8 16.Be3 Be8 17.Na4 Nd7 18.Nec3 Bf6 19.Be2 If 19.Kh1 Na6! 20.b3 Ndc5 21.Rb1 Qb4 is more than annoying for White, as Black has all his pieces actively placed on the best squares. 19...Bd8 20.b3 Also an option was 20.Rfc1. 20...Nb6 The reasoning behind Black's manoeuvre Bf6-d8 is that he want's a multiple exchange of pieces on b6, and then claim equality as he has a better grip on the dark-squares and pressure on b3. In avoiding this, White unwittingly falls into a tactical minefield. 21.Nb2? Rxc3! 22.Qxc3 N6xd5!! (See Diagram) For a 'mere exchange', Black is going to emerge with an overwhelming position. 23.exd5 Nxd5 24.Qd2 Nxe3 25.Rfe1 The point being that the other two rook moves is just as good for Black: 25.Rfb1 Bb6 26.Kh1 Bd4 and 25.Rfc1 Bg5!; either way, White is in dire straits. 25...Qxb3 26.Bd3 Bb6 27.Kh1 Rc8 28.Nd1 Nxd1 29.Raxd1 Bd4 Not only are the central pawns a long-term threat - Black also has the ace up his sleeve of the a-pawn rapidly running up the board. And as if this wasn't enough, just look at how active Black's pieces are compared to White's. 30.Qe2 Ba4 31.Rb1 Qc3 32.Qf1 Qd2! 33.Bc4 If 33.Rec1 Rxc1 34.Rxc1 Kg7 35.Rb1 d5 (not just a push up the board, as it also stops White playing Bc4.) 36.Rb7 a5 37.Bb5 Bxb5 38.Rxb5 a4 would easily have won. 33...Rc5 34.Bb3 Bxb3 35.Rxb3 a5! 36.f4 e4 37.Rbb1 e3 38.Red1 Qc3 39.Rd3 Qc4 40.Rbd1 Rc8 41.f5 Of course, if 41.Rxd4 e2 wins. 41...Bc5 42.Qf3 Re8 43.f6 Qxd3! 0-1 If 44.Rxd3 e2 wins. 

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