Archive for September, 2010

Kindred’s Special: GM Anatoly Karpov, Chess Professional and Politician

September 24, 2010

Adorning the cover of NEW IN CHESS #6 is one of my favorite players GM Anatoly Karpov, the 12th World Champion, who has put his hat in the ring to do battle with the powers that be in chess, namely FIDE with the serious intention like his brilliant play over-the-board to axe the FIDE Presidency.  The whole team of Karpov support hope to restore the integrity of the game and put an end to the ‘financial slavery’ of many FIDE member-states and ‘cannibalism’ that the current administration relies upon as it’s business model.  FIDE should become a healthy organization with offices in Moscow, Paris and New York with an active Board that brings real sponsorship to the game. “We have to beat the system that they have been building up for 15-years.”–Karpov. So intense is Karpov’s energy and determination that he and Richard Conn, his VP partner in politic,  just completed a nine day trip through the Asian countries of Japan, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. Both emerged from many meetings with chess leaders with the impression that their agenda is favorably looked upon.

 On the dark side, dirty tactics abound in chess as in any political atmosphere. The abuse of power by the current adminstration, the buying of votes; the intimidation of parents who are forced to send their children for chess training at the academy of Ignatius Leong, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s candidate for General Secretary, at 50 euro a session or their kids will be banned from future representation for Singapore official events will inhibit a bright future for chess playing especially among the new crop of youth talent that continually emerges across the World Stage.

Well, folks, I just touch on the whole corrupt nature of the current FIDE which, by the way, was corrupt much of it’s existence largely by those rascals in Moscow, USSR and often backed up by other socialistic states and socialist leaders like Dr. Max Euwe.  Unfortunately such corruption rubbed off on our own United States Chess Federation.  I can only warn to beware of what you wish and vote for because you may just get your wish.

I encourage all who can acquire a copy of the magazine NEW IN CHESS, #6 do so and study the issues carefully.  Indeed, my philosophy and partial purpose of my blog reflects just another of my theme that life and chess are so much alike.

The 1974 Challengers’ Final between Karpov and Korchnoi was 3/2 with the rest drawn. Thus, Karpov won the right to do battle with Robert J. Fischer, the 11th World Champion. Addressing the FIDE president, Dr. Max Euwe, Karpov said: “In the qualifying competitions of the current world championship round (cycle) I had to play 60-games and follow a very exacting road before winning victory and the right to play a match with the world champion in 1975.  I hope all the conditions will be provided for an honest and sportsmanlike struggle in this match and that the unpleasant events besetting the 1972 Spassky-Fischer match will not happen again.” My emphasis because I think Karpov should have stopped leaving out this political communistic overload from a spirited speech.

For those interested in the indepth coverage of Karpov’s early games, I recommend David Levy’s , KARPOV’S COLLECTED GAMES–all 530 available encounters, 1961-1974 featuring some wonderful photographs of the youthful Karpov and researched with Karpov’s assistance viewing his thoughts of and about chess and life. The game collection covers a host of interesting openings that Karpov played to hone his great skill of which he had enormous talent.

Writing about chess I often found inaccuracies that authors personalize too much with glossed over comments.  This is one such book. For example, page 15, the very first paragraph: “Genius at the chessboard has been possessed by only a handful of players in the history of the game. Morphy and Steinitz in the last century; Lasker, Capablanca, Alekine, Botvinnik, Tal and Fischer in this. These are the few who stand out above all the other super Grandmasters.” Wait just one minute!!  The great Polish-American boy prodigy, Samuel Reshevsky, was probably the greatest prodigy outside of Capablanca who ever came to maturity in similar fashion. Neither cared much for opening study and hard work at chess but relied upon their natural gift for chess to emerge among the top in the world. While Capablanca enjoyed wealth and ambassadorship for Cuba, Reshevsky had to pursue a private education and find gainful employment as an accountant. Now, you might say just who was Samuel Reshevsky? I presented him in an earlier column–go look it up.  He defeated World Champion GM Mikhail Botvinnik 2-1 in a team match between the USA and USSR.  Many Americans felt that Reshevsky was entitled to a match with the World Champion.  Reshevsky had never lost an organized match. The USSR machine said “no way.” To be fair to them, it would have been outside of the FIDE influence over such matches. That occurred because the match between Alekhine and Capablanca last so long that most reporters left South America (Brazil) before the match ended and the news media that followed the match so closely found public interest support declining with every draw. The length of the match was the culprit.

What occurred then was the establishment of the Western World Championship that paired the South American top player GM Miguel Najdorf against the USA’s GM Samuel Reshevsky that took place in 1951 and covered in the pages of the picture chess magazine CHESS REVIEW. This historic match was won by Reshevsky and he continued to defend the title as Western World Champion again against others I believe like Yugoslavia’s GM Svetozar Gligoric. Like it or not, I don’t think the title was ever recinded by anyone and Reshevsky had defeated both Fine and Kashdan in matches. Not much interest was shown to raise the funds to play against Reshevsky. Reshevsky also won against World Junior Champion William Lombardy who, at the time was very talented and scored high in the Chess Olympics for the USA and sometimes on Board 1. Additional suggestions for a match with Botvinnik met with distain. Perhaps the last famous match took place which ended in a win by forfeit over Robert J. Fischer who forfeited his last match game over a dispute.  My own review of this match series seemed to me to not reflect Reshevsky’s great skill for match play as he was aging by then and Fischer missed a couple plays that would have put Reshevsky hard pushed to recover a playable position.

This oversight of  Levy about Reshevsky was likely an ignorance on the history of the boy genius. And I am the only one who gives GM Reshevsky the honor he deserves as a stalwart champion of both the United States and the free world at a time when great dispair was seen throughout the world and skullduggery was not uncommon in chess circles.

The date 1951 was the birth of the Western World Championship and was perhaps more so for the birth of Anatoly Yevgenievitch Karpov. Among his early recognition was his earning the title of Honourable Pupil  and was only partially a chess recognition as he likewise found recognition for good work in mathematical and technical competitions.

During this period he was included in Botvinnik’s Trud school in Moscow.  Botvinnik met a lad with a very confusing knowledge of chess theory. Botvinnik mentioned to his own associates that this boy understands nothing about chess. But readers take note.  Karpov’s own recall says Botvinnik’s tuition was most valuable, especially the homework assigned because it was the first time he devoted a serious study of chess material. Botvinnik radically changed my attitude toward the game.  Another shrift given Karpov was an observation by Eduard Geller that the lad was too small and too thin to ever become a Grandmaster. Physical sight can lead to the wrong view as hidden was his talent and strong resolve.

One of the greatest exponents of the game was Jose R. Capablanca, the Cuban prodigy. Many who got the bug have espoused the depth achieved through a study of Capablanca’s games and his book covering broadly all chess fundamentals. This book was a real insight of Capablanca’s thinking–make the most with the least necessary effort. Let us examine what Levy and Karpov write in this treatise of his games, pages 30-31, under the umbrella ‘Karpov’s Style’. Such self-evaluation is a meaningful picture of a player’s character and chess sanity. “It has been written that Karpov’s style most resembles that of Capablanca…It is true that the misleadingly peaceful nature of Karpov’s play and the precision with which he handles endgames can be easily likened to that of Capablanca. But there is another side of his play–one of the fiercest attacking players of modern times.

Because of his profoundly deep understanding of the game, Karpov does not contest razor sharp variations unless he has already convinced himself that they are sound. But give him reason for attack and fireworks are bound to follow.

In 1972 at the San Antonio tournament, he was asked to describe his style and replied: “Style? I have no style.” Less than two years later in annotations to his game versus Polugayevsky, he wrote after his 17th turn: “Here I must explain something. Not only many chess fans but also some commentators do not understand my play and approach to the game.  For me, chess is principally  a fight. You have to beat the opponent and this I aim for in every game.  Sometimes I am criticized for being dry, rational, calculating. Yes, I am pragmatic and my play is based mainly on technique. I try to play correct chess and never take risks in the way that say, Larsen does.  With white I try for an advantage from the first few moves; with black I try first of all in equalizing the position.

“When making my choice of moves it is not the case that I try to hit upon the simplest but rather the most appropriate move. If there are several moves of approximately equal worth then the choice depends a lot on who is my opponent. For example, with Korchnoi and Tal I prefer to go for simple positions which does not suit their creative tastes, while with Petrosian I try to complicate it a bit. However, if I see there is a single good line, then no matter who my opponent is, I go along that one line.

“Incidently, I feel that my style has been changing somewhat recently. In this particular  game (492) my double pawn sacrifice is one that before now would never have occurred to me. Everyone took this to be opening preparation but I can say with my hand on my heart (and my trainer can confirm this) the line was the product of my imagination, improvised at the board.”

What this seems to me to be is a very revealing picture of Karpov’s building of a mental catalogue expressed in a variety of writings that over play his emotional feelings. Why give credit to Capablanca alone when his own words of ‘chess is a fight’ were out of the mouth of Emmanuel Lasker? Why, for example, does he go into such extensive discussion after a particular move on 17? Or to write a rebuttal of perhaps an insecure feeling when discussing certain aspects of a choice in moves by expressing in such a way as to find a need to justify components of his play.  If this reflects anything of character and strengths and weaknesses for his opponents to weigh in on in future contests ala his future match with Kasparov where he simply could not put away Kasparov with a final victory may just be his own undoing.

Finally, I would like to say that I always admired and appreciated the games and style of Anatoly Karpov from his youth throughout his chess career.  He contributed much from both sides of the board and greatly enriched the game of chess.  The chessworld unfortunately was deprived of  what would have been a great match with Robert J. Fischer although I think that Fischer would have defended his title successfully. Still, it would have been a titanic struggle. I have presented here a short look at Karpov and you can find many of his games on the computer, in books, and an excellent analysis by Kasparov, Korchnoi and many others as well as himself.

Adios for now.  Enjoy!!

Kindred’s Special: The Systematic Way to Understanding Chess

September 19, 2010

The evolution of chess thought: two giants, each authoring a true classic on how to study and develop skill and understanding, were not of modern vintage but both have been an influence on the long road to chess mastery. Writing of personal experience was the gift to me of Mrs. Bebernitz who was my highschool English teacher. I lived within this glass globe unable to wrest myself from the lure of chess gamesmanship and testament of the truth.  The opportunities of modern technology and varied ways in which chess instructors coach, of a variety of books on the subject that further enriches the mind battling on the sixty-four square board; finally, software chess programs allow chess students to achieve training and experience not previously possible. Speed at chess play forces the mind to think fast with intuitive recognition of patterns as they develop. Throughout the annuals of chess literature the pens of numerous chess figures have endeavored to help enlighten readers with critical thought in analysis, report on tournaments, to better understand the play as they perceive it and a number of treatises having emerged on the scene with such attempt at clarification and the hope of achieving some financial reward in sales for years of dedication given the game.

What are the two authors that influenced whole generations of chessplayers? (Dr.) S. Tarrasch wrote the German masterpiece, THE GAME OF CHESS that prescribed his method how to study the game with the best opportunity to master it’s complex nature, that is by reverse order of endgame first, then middlegame, and finally the opening. Then along came Dr. A. Nimzowitsch who authored MY SYSTEM and followed up with his CHESS PRAXIS, with the intention of challenging the credibilty of Tarrasch’s method that had swept Europe and the world of chess.  I studied these books in the above order, having secretly invaded my older brother’s personal library with the help of my mom. That early saga of my life appears elsewhere.  I suggest reading and studying these classics will add fire to your furnace in battle royale.

One should never quit seeking out great teaching books.  I have personal joy from studying Edward Lasker’s CHESS STRATEGY, Richard Reti’s MASTERS OF THE CHESSBOARD, and C.J.S. PURDY–HIS LIFE, HIS GAMES and HIS WRITINGS, by J. Hammond and R. Jamieson.  which I consider to be in that category of the previous mentioned. Of course there are a host of worthy books but if you study the above, I can guarantee you will be ahead of the vast majority of the players you meet and with deeper understanding of the game. Perhaps the greatest gift of these books is an appreciation of the chess struggle.

Kindred’s Special: A Practical Study of Opening Theory (QGD)–Part IV

September 6, 2010

The molding of the Exchange Variation of the QGD was a good part of the Botvinnik legacy and he employed it when given the opportunity.  During the 1980s especially, players like Korchnoi, Karpov and Kasparov employed it, often adding to the theory and illustrated numerous ideas.  One might say that it was sort of a brainstorming session as it applied to world championship match play as it became more an evolution from individual study to one of team effort where the champions and challengers utilized every modern means available to wrest some advantage right in the opening. Still, chess is such a complex game that well troddened paths met during this period shadow-boxed in twists and turns.  This popular opening variation led to many attempts to find improvements for Black as well as to strengthen the dynamic play for White.  So, I turn to another adventure coming in the Botvinnik vs. Petrosian title match of 1963 inwhich the challenger was able to defeat Botvinnik for the title.  And it was a defeat for Botvinnik, not only in terms of the mechanics of rules previously laid down by FIDE but the evolution of thought to remove ‘the right of the champion to a rematch should he lose the title.’

White:  M. Botvinnik  vs.  Black: T. Petrosian   Opening: Queen’s Gambit Declined, the Exchange Variation, th 1963 World Championship Match Game 18. (Score: 8/9). Thus, Botvinnik needed a win here in this game with the worst prospect of dropping to a two-point deficit should Petrosian with black pull off a win.

1. d4  d5  2. c4  e6  3. Nc3  Be7  4. cxd5  exd5  5. Bf4  c6  6. e3  Bf5  7. g4  Be6  8. h3  Nf6  9. Nf3  Nbd7.  It is recorded that Petrosian spent about a half hour before playing this move deciding apparently to complete development of his forces before launching the standard counterattack in the center when confronted with a wing-demonstration.  Botvinnik refrained from the more aggressive 8. h4 attack, aiming for a more positional solution. As history points out, it was playing to the strength of Petrosian who was noted for his prowess in finding creative operations.  He comes up with a splendid concept of using his Knights most effectively.

10. Bd3  Nb6  11. Qc2  Nc4  12. Kf1.  This plan worked well once before so Botvinnik decides to employ it again but the difference of Black’s setup will soon be seen.  It takes imagination in chess and, for the studious, it provides a wonderful ‘playground for the mind.’

12. … Nd6  13. Nd2?!  I did not like this move when I first viewed it and it doesn’t fit into my idea about utilizing SqCt that suggests 13. Ne5. Of course a GM associate noted to me that he did not feel my theory was all that practical. Ho, hum! But I point here to the fact that White has a space edge and so why not increase it with the Knight finding such a nice outpost as e5. The text seems to be slow and in combination with his short range plan, seems counterproductive by giving Black time.

13. … Qc8.  This type of move is typical Petrosian.  What in the world is he thinking? To me, this was not a prepared plan but a creative idea at the board. I cannot imagine Botvinnik having considered this move by Petrosian.  In careful thought, it seems to me that Petrosian often came up with moves that were purely designed to improve the position of his forces without getting any noticeable weaknesses.

14. Kg2  Nd7  15. f3  g6  16. Rac1.  Hans Kmoch in CHESS REVIEW considered this likely the best as 16. e4 dxe4  17. fxe4  Nb6 with good play against the center.

16. … Nb6  17. b3.  Here again SqCt theory is seen as the Knight is blunted. Botvinnik often played moves like this to hinder infiltration especially by Knights.

17. … Qd7  18. Ne2!  Ndc8!   This whole dance of the two Knights is positional purity at it’s best.

19. a4  a5.  Botvinnik desires to settle affairs on the Q-wing and reduce possible counterplay in that sector as he prepares to launch an ambious plan in the center and kingside.  Petrosian blocks the a-pawn and now has a grip on b4.  Similar considerations in planning are found in many master games providing samples early on in Alekhine and Capablanca game play. Each adds one point to SqCt for each player.

20. Bg3  Bd6  21. Nf4  Ne7.  The dance of the Knights reminds me of shadow-boxing. Petrosian knows that he must try to deploy his pieces to their best defense of the position and pray that the world champion will falter.  Every chess battle contains a critical stage that leads to a critical moment wherein lays the fruits of victory or defeat.

22. Nf1  h5!  As both Q-sides have come to a temporary standstill, Petrosian now explodes on the K-side to neutralize SqCt and restore a space equilibrium so-to-speak.

23. Be2  h4  24. Bh2  g5.  Petrosian expands his space and his previous play (piece placement) now begins to uncover his deep strategic skill.

25. Nd3  Qc7  26. Qd2 Nd7  27. Bg1  Ng6. Mikhail Tal when annotating this game suggested 27. … f5 as also very strong.

  28. Bh2.  The wasted tempi seen in ‘no plan per se’ by White presents Petrosian a sharp assault starting with 28. … f5!  Whether he missed this opportunity or wanted to pursue his mentally planned operation has always been a trait of his personality.  For example, 29. Bxd6  Qxd6 30. Qc3  O-O with good play.

28. …  Ne7.  Petrosian is enticing Botvinnik to launch a central action with e3-e4 which he correctly visualizes as opening the door for his own central operations.

29. Bd1  b6  30. Kg1  f6.  Quietly defending the g-pawn and e5 square.

31. e4.  I am not a powerhouse myself but always wondered if perhaps Botvinnik could have played 31. b4 here with jump moves Bb3 > e4, and if Black captures the Bishop on h2, then recapture with the Rook so it can swing across to the half-open c-file. The Queen could also go to e1 backing up the Bishop on b3 with support of playing e3-e4.  Just a thought.

31. e4  Bxh2+  32. Qxh2.  White’s Rook is hemmed in with no real purpose so why not 32. Rxh2, retaining the Queens on the board; then move the Queen to e1 and swing the Rook to the most appropriate square that fits a short plan operation?

32. … Qxh2+  33. Rxh2  Rd8 34. Kf2?!  Why not 34. Rd2 first to activate the Rook?

34. …Kf7  35. Ke3?  Rhe8  36. Rd2  Kg7  37. Kf2 dxe4  38. fxe4  Nf8 39. Ne1!  Botvinnik correctly sizes up the position and realizes his Knight belongs on g2 to defend f4.

39. … Nfg6.  A good move but Petrosian misses the even stronger 39. … Bf7 > Bg6 > Ne6 jump move plan threat.  It was likely a timepressure situation which can blow your mind just to make a time control.  The chess clock for all it’s historic value have ruined beautifully played games at times.

40. Ng2  Rd7  41. Bc2.  This would have been the sealed move.

41. … Bf7  42. Nfe3? Better was 42. Rcd1 in order to defend the central pawn phalanx.

42. … c5!  43. d5  Ne5 44. Rf1 Bg6  45. Ke1  Nc8  46. Rdf2  Rf7  47. Kd2  Nd6.  Using the Knights in one of the principles of defense against a passed pawn.

48. Nf5+  Bxf5  49. exf5  c4  50. Rb1  b5!  Hitting upon the right idea to win.

51. b4  c3+!  Freeing the c4 square for his Knight.

52. Kxc3  Rc7+  53. Kd2  Nec4+  54. Kd1  Na3  55. Rb2  Nac4 56. Ra2  axb4   57. axb5  Nxb5  58. Ra6  Nc3+  59. Kc1  Nxd5.  Black is a pawn up and the end is near.

60. Ba4 Rec8  61. Ne1  Nf4.  White RESIGNS.  (0-1).

It seems to me that Botvinnik simply got worn in this struggle.  Chances existed for both sides and without doubt some of these moves on both sides are suspect as being second-rate so far as the plans employed go.  What is fascinating is the many Knight maneuvers employed; try counting up just the Knight moves for both sides!

Petrosian led now with 10-8 and took game 19 and then 3 draws to close out the match.

There was a public debate about a right for a rematch clause that was being wiped from the books.  Botvinnik never emerged as a challenger for the title, having won it in a tournament after Alekhine’s death.  He had defended the title successfully; lost it and then regained it against Smyslov and again against Tal.