Kindred’s Special: Efim Geller Shines as He Knocks Out the Gruenfeld Defence

This follow-up of my 289th column featuring the Gruenfeld Defence features two stars born in the 1920s who met and did battle in the 1965 World Candidate Match, Moscow.  Efim Geller’s style was sharp and always aggressive which made my rare chances to see his boardplay the highlight of any published material that I chanced to see.

GM Geller was born in 1925 in Odessa, Ukraine and was among the world elite during the 1950s–70s, qualifying 6- times in the Candidates and 23 times in the USSR Championship. Both my brother Ray and I loved to study and discuss his game play.  On the other side of the board sat Vasily Smyslov whom I regarded during my formative years as the best all-round player whose brief stretch as World Champion from 1957-8 dims the achievements and great skill for the chess public. GM Smyslov was born in Moscow, 1921. In 1948, the year I began to follow his career and games, he achieved considerable success whose style was very clear and possessed a magical quality to milk the most from every position.  He had the distinction to having played Botvinnik in 3-matches for the title, drawing in 1954 (12-12) winning in 1957 but lost the rematch the following year with the total scoring  of 18 wins, 34 draws, and 17 losses, coming out with a plus one game edge.  He continued to be active in the next two decades and in 1983 managed to qualify for the Candidates final where he met and lost to the youngster Garry Kasparov.

Aside from chess, he was a professional opera singer and often entertained at chess functions and elsewhere.  His chess style embraced the ideals of both Tarrasch and Nimzowitch and undogmatic approach often found him making the most of simplified positional games with deep understanding of endings but with great aggressive play when demanded.

White: Efim Geller   vs   Black: Vasily Smyslov    Opening:  Gruenfeld Defence–Exchange Variation

1. d4  Nf6  2. c4  g6  3. Nc3  d5   4. cxd5  Nxd5  5. e4  Nxc3 6. bxc3  Bg7  7.Bc4  c5  8. Ne2  O-O 9. O-O  Nc6  10. Be3 Qc7 This is one of Smyslov’s lines and the other is 10…Bg4  11. f3  Na5 12. Bd3 (12. Bxf7+  Rxf7 13. fxg4 is Karpov’s specialty) cxd4 13.cxd4 Be6 14. Rc1 or d5.

11.Rc1  Rd8 12. f4  e6  13. Kh1  b6  14. f5!  Na5  15. Bd3  exf5  16. exf5  Bb7 17. Qd2  Re8  18, Ng3  Qc6  19. Rf2  Rad8  20. Bh6  Bh8  21. Qf4  Rd7  22. Ne4  c4  23. Bc2  Rde7  Smyslov is generating pressure on the e-file and long diagonal but Geller now meets the challenge with some brilliant play.

24.Rcf1  Rxe4  25. fxg6! f6 forced.  Do you see why?

26. Qg5!! Qd7  27. Kg1  Bg7  28. Rxf6  Rg4  29. gxh7+ Kh8  30. Bxg7+ Qxg7 31. Qxg4 mates in a few moves  31…Qxg4  Rf8+ Rxf8 33. Rxf8+ Kg7 34. hQ8 mate

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