Yermolinsky on Kupreichik: a chess eulogy

by Alex Yermolinsky
5/27/2017 – The unforgettable Viktor Kupreichik passed away a few days ago at the age of 68, and with him one of the greatest creative minds in chess passed away as well. Alex Yermolinsky readily admits he was one of his fans from an early age, and later had the chance to face him over the board. Instead of trying to neutralize Kupreichik's wild play, he invited it, leading to a game he explains "is so insane I can't even annotate it properly." Have fun!

Sad news reached us a few days ago, legendary Belarussian GM Viktor Kupreichik passed away before reaching his 68th birthday. While I was not close to Viktor, we met at the chess board three times in what can only be described as extraordinary games, and I would like to present them to the reader. However, first a bit of introduction.

Viktor Kupreichik

In the early 1970's when I was about 14 and my chess began to improve, I started following chess events more closely by perusing Soviet chess magazines. That was the time of Fischer's ascension to the World Championship, with those whitewashes the American inflicted on the old ranks of Soviet Chess. I, together with my friends, cheered it on. Somehow, the old, tired names of the likes of Geller, Smyslov, Korchnoi and Petrosian, did not excite me. I wanted a new wave of chess talent to come and sweep them away. I followed the games of Balashov, Sveshnikov, Timoschenko, Averkin, Gulko and Vaganian, and rooted for their success.

Spassky's defeat in Reykjavik shook up the walls of the Soviet chess citadel. The “Pravda” newspaper published a scathing State of the Soviet Chess address by old hand GM Kotov (“Think Like A Grandmaster” anyone?) calling for greater involvement by top players in developing and nurturing new talent. In my Botvinnik article I mentioned the inaugural “Komsomolskaya Pravda GM simuls event, featuring Spassky, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Bronstein and Karpov. The National Championship, which in previous years had deteriorated into quite a mediocre event, was made great again, when all the best players gathered in Moscow 1973. Spassky won that one.

One more seminal event that took place a few years earlier was the 1970 Grandmasters vs Young Masters Challenge in Sochi. When the tournament report was published I saw one game that shook my world.

Tal - Kupreichik, 1970 (notes by Tal and Yermolinsky)

[Event "USSR 10/463"] [Site "?"] [Date "1970.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Kupreichik, V."] [Black "Tal, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B82"] [Annotator "M. Tal / A. Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "1970.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. Bc4 Qb6 7. Nb3 e6 8. Be3 Qc7 9. f4 a6 10. Bd3 b5 11. a3 Be7 12. Qf3 Bb7 13. O-O Rc8 14. Rae1 O-O 15. Qh3 b4 16. Nd5 $5 exd5 17. exd5 Nb8 18. Bd4 g6 {[#]} (18... h6 $2 19. Bxf6 Bxf6 20. Qf5) 19. Rf3 {A critical moment. White is going "all in".} (19. Re3 { was mentioned by Tal, but it hardly chances anything after} Bxd5 20. Qh4 Bd8 21. Rg3 Nbd7 {and Black is solid.}) ({From the computer perspective best was} 19. f5 Bxd5 20. Qh4 Kg7 $1 21. g4 Nc6 22. g5 Nxd4 23. Qxd4 Bxb3 24. cxb3 bxa3 25. bxa3 Qc3 26. Qxc3 Rxc3 27. Bc4 $15 {Kovalev points out that Kupreichik wouldn't even consider such bailout lines, as his plan was to checkmate Tal!}) 19... Bxd5 20. Rfe3 Bd8 21. Qh4 Nbd7 22. Qh6 {[#]} Qb7 ({Tal saw} 22... Qb6 $6 {this incredible queen sac is good enough to beat off White's attack, but objectively, it's unnecessary:} 23. Bxb6 Bxb6 24. Qh3 bxa3 25. bxa3 Bxb3 26. cxb3 Rfe8 27. Kf1 $14) 23. Rg3 Nc5 $2 {Tal's reaction is intutive: he wants to clear out the 7th rank to use his queen in the defensive, but it fails to stop the attack. One has a feeling Tal wished he was White in this game.} (23... Bb6 $1 24. Bxg6 Bxd4+ 25. Nxd4 fxg6 26. Nf5 Rf7 27. Ne7+ Rxe7 28. Rxe7 Qb6+ 29. Kh1 Bf7 $19 {Kovalev.}) 24. Nxc5 dxc5 25. f5 $1 cxd4 $2 ({The most resilient defense was} 25... Rc7 {White would have to find} 26. Bxc5 $1 Re7 27. Ree3 $3 { Simply incredible.} Bb6 (27... Rxe3 28. Qxf8# {is a suprising twist.}) 28. fxg6 fxg6 29. Bxg6 Rg7 30. Bxh7+ Nxh7 31. Bxb6) 26. fxg6 fxg6 27. Bxg6 $18 Kh8 28. Qxf8+ Ng8 29. Bf5 $1 Rb8 30. Re8 Qf7 31. Rh3 $1 1-0

Tal's own notes in Chess Informant are rather skimpy, but what a game! The energy of the 21-year-old master besting Tal in his own game, the three pieces sacrificed, and the elegant finish made a great impression.

Kupreichik and Tal met numerous times over the board, and you can be sure there was never a boring game to be seen

Here I refer the Russian-speaking reader to an excellent article by Kupreichik's countryman GM Andrey Kovalev, an enterprising attacking player in his own right. It is titled "Kupreichik and Houdini" and appeared on the Russian internet chess source, chesspro.ru about two years ago. How I wish I would be granted permission to translate the entire article, but for now I'll restrict himself to quoting a few excerpts.

Kovalev makes an interesting attempt to verify the accuracy of Kupreichik's attacks by modern computer analysis and comes to a surprising conclusion that while some of Viktor's choices were excessively complicated and perhaps unnecessary, Houdini tends to agree with most of them!

As the years rolled by Viktor Kupreichik remained true to his swashbuckling style. Below are some of my favorite games by the creative genius.

A sample of Kupreichik's genius

There are many more of the kind. Kupreichik's chess is a breath of fresh air we all could use after feeling burned-out by the modern game that values the result and result alone.

Viktor Kupreichik, who himself was world no. 22 at the time, watches 18-year-old Garry Kasparov in action

By the end of the 1980's I got to meet Viktor in person, and we played together in some lower tier USSR Championship events. In those encounters I always felt compelled to enter the most complicated positions imaginable, and whatever the outcome might be I always enjoyed our battles.

Yermolinsky - Kupreichik, 1986 (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "USSR Ch First League"] [Site "Kuybyshev"] [Date "1986.??.??"] [Round "9"] [White "Yermolinsky, Alex"] [Black "Kupreichik, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D15"] [WhiteElo "2470"] [BlackElo "2490"] [Annotator "Yermo"] [PlyCount "113"] [EventDate "1986.10.10"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "17"] [EventCountry "URS"] [EventCategory "10"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 dxc4 4. Nc3 $5 c6 {Viktor takes the game to the Slav. } (4... a6 5. e4 b5 {is a sharp line the theory of which had just begun to develop when this game was played.}) 5. e4 $5 {I play a gambit, anyway! Around that time it was my main weapon against the Classical Slav.} b5 6. e5 Nd5 7. a4 h6 $5 {I should have expected something like that. Viktor was never big on theoretical lines.} (7... e6 {is a standard reply. Black is doing well in the old main line,} 8. axb5 ({There's a forgotten idea, successfully used by Saleh Salem in recent games,} 8. Be2 Bb7 9. O-O Nd7 10. Ne4 a6 11. Nfg5 Be7 12. Bh5 $5 O-O 13. Qf3 $5 (13. Qg4 Nc7 {Geller-Smyslov, 1952}) 13... Bxg5 14. Nxg5 Qe7 15. Qh3 h6 16. Ne4) 8... Nxc3 ({or} 8... Bb4 9. Bd2 Bxc3 10. bxc3 cxb5) 9. bxc3 cxb5 10. Ng5 Bb7 11. Qh5 g6 12. Qg4 Be7 (12... Bd5 $5 {Nakamyra-Carlsen, 2009}) 13. Be2 Bd5 {etc.}) 8. axb5 Nxc3 9. bxc3 cxb5 10. Ba3 $1 Be6 $1 {The best reply } ({During the game I was wondering about} 10... Na6 $5) ({Losing his castling priviliges after} 10... e6 11. Bxf8 Kxf8 {is a bit uncomfortable for Black.} 12. Qb1 a6 13. Nd2 Nd7 14. Be2 Bb7 15. Nxc4 Bxg2 16. Rg1 bxc4 17. Rxg2 { Ivanchuk-Nogueiras, 2006 reached this unclear position, and White was able to win.}) ({Naturally,} 10... Bb7 {would be met by} 11. e6 $1) 11. Be2 Bd5 12. O-O Nc6 13. Nd2 a5 $6 {Typical Kupreichik: Black is trying to speed up his counterplay, development and castling disregarded.} (13... e6 14. Bxf8 Kxf8 15. Ra6 Rb8 16. Bf3 $13) (13... g6 $5 14. Bf3 Bg7 $13) 14. Bf3 $1 Rb8 ({During the game I was planning to meet} 14... b4 $2 {with a sacrifice:} 15. Nxc4 $5 ({ Now I can see that} 15. Bxb4 {is more than sufficient.}) 15... bxa3 16. Bxd5 Qxd5 17. Nb6 Qd8 18. Nxa8 Qxa8 19. e6 $1 {Once again, it's all about this move. }) ({Obviously, it was high time for Black to concede some ground with} 14... e6 {but Viktor had made up his mind long ago not to do this.}) 15. e6 $2 { So, I played it the first chance I had, and it happned to be a wrong move.} ({ Another typical move for these structures,} 15. Ne4 e6 $8 (15... b4 16. Nd6+ exd6 17. Bxd5 Ne7 18. Qa4+ Qd7 19. Bxf7+ $18) 16. Nd6+ Bxd6 17. Bxd5 (17. Bxd6 Rc8 18. Bxd5 exd5 19. Qf3 Ne7 20. Rfb1 $18) 17... exd5 18. Bxd6 Rb7 19. f4) 15... g6 $5 16. Be4 Bxe4 17. Nxe4 Qd5 $1 {Only this move allows Black to hold his position together.} (17... f5 18. Qf3 $1 $16 {/\Nf6,/\Nc5}) 18. exf7+ Kxf7 19. Re1 Kg7 (19... Bg7 20. Qf3+ Qf5 21. Qe2 Qd5 22. Qf3+ Qf5 $11 {Do you think Kupreichik considered that?}) 20. Nc5 Kh7 $5 (20... e5 21. dxe5 Qxd1 22. Raxd1 b4 23. Rd7+ Be7 24. Bb2) (20... b4 21. Na6 bxa3 22. Nxb8 Nxb8 23. Rxa3 Nc6 24. Qe2 e5 25. Ra4 $11) 21. Ne6 $2 (21. Re6 b4 22. Bb2 Rg8 $15) 21... b4 22. Bb2 Bg7 23. Qg4 $138 {[#] By all rules Black should be in control of events, but then Viktor played a strange move.} Rb5 $2 (23... Rhc8 24. Nxg7 (24. Qxg6+ $2 Kxg6 25. Nf4+ Kf7 26. Nxd5 Rb5 27. Ne3 Nxd4 28. cxd4 c3 $19) 24... Kxg7 25. Re6 Qf5 26. Qxf5 gxf5 27. d5 {with counterplay.}) ({Best was} 23... Bf6) 24. Nxg7 Kxg7 25. Re6 g5 26. Rae1 ({I missed a great idea here.} 26. cxb4 $1 axb4 27. Qh5 $1 Qxe6 28. d5+) 26... Rf8 27. h4 $1 {[#] Suddenly White has a strong attack.} Rf4 (27... Rf6 $142 28. cxb4 $1 axb4 (28... Rxb4 $16) 29. R6e5 $1 Nxe5 30. Rxe5 Qb7 31. hxg5 Rf7 $1 (31... Rg6 32. d5 $1 c3 33. gxh6+ Kh7 34. Qe4 cxb2 35. Re6 $18) 32. gxh6+ Kh8 33. d5 c3 34. Rg5 Qa8 35. h7 Rb8 36. Bc1) 28. Qh5 Rf6 29. R6e5 $2 {Missing another win.} (29. cxb4 axb4 30. Rxc6 $1 Qxc6 31. d5 Qd6 32. Be5 Qxd5 33. Bxf6+ Kxf6 34. Qxh6+ Kf7 35. Qh7+) 29... Nxe5 30. Rxe5 Qd7 31. hxg5 hxg5 32. cxb4 ({I calculated} 32. Qxg5+ Rg6 33. Rxe7+ Kf8 $19) ({ but not} 32. d5 $1 Rxd5 33. Qxg5+ Rg6 34. Rxd5 Rxg5 35. Rxd7 $18) 32... Rxe5 $8 (32... axb4 $2 33. d5) 33. dxe5 Re6 34. Qxg5+ Kf7 35. Qh5+ Kg7 36. Qg4+ Kf8 37. bxa5 Qc6 38. Bd4 Ke8 39. Qh5+ $2 {A mistake just before the time control.} (39. f3 {would keep the balance.}) 39... Kd7 40. Qh3 Qe4 41. Bc3 {sealed move - yes, back then we played with adjourments.} Qd3 $1 $17 42. Qe3 $5 {I prepared this in my home analysis, as the only chance in an objectively lost position.} (42. Kh2 Qxh3+ 43. Kxh3 Rg6 $1 $19 {/\Rg8-b8-b3 The white king is too far away.}) 42... Qxe3 (42... Rg6 43. e6+ $1 {with tons of checks to follow was the idea.}) 43. fxe3 Rh6 44. Kf2 {At the cost of ruining his pawn structure the king gained access to the center.} Kc6 45. Kf3 Rh1 (45... e6 46. Kf4 Rh1 47. g4 (47. a6 Kb6 48. Kg5 Rf1 $1 $19) 47... Rc1 48. Bb2 Rc2 49. Bd4 c3 50. Ke4 $1 { and suddenly White is about to eliminate the dangerous c-pawn.}) 46. e6 $1 {[#] } Kb5 $2 {Intuitive play is not the most reliable approach to the endgame.} ({ Black should have put the game away by accurate calculation:} 46... Rc1 $1 47. Bd2 Rd1 ({not} 47... Rc2 48. Bb4 Kd5 49. e4+ Kxe6 50. Ke3 {and White keeps on fighting}) 48. Ke2 Rh1 49. Bb4 Kb5 50. Bxe7 Rh6) 47. Ke4 Rh2 (47... Rc1 48. Bf6 $1 {Did Victor miss that one?}) 48. g4 Rg2 49. Kf5 Rc2 50. Bd4 Kxa5 (50... c3 51. Kg6 Rc1 52. Bxc3 Rxc3 53. Kf7 Rxe3 54. g5 Kc5 55. g6 Kd6 56. g7 $11) 51. Bc5 $5 {A wild attempt to play for a win.} (51. Kg6 c3 52. g5 Rc1 53. Bxc3+ Rxc3 54. Kf7 Rxe3 55. Kxe7 {was a simple draw.}) 51... Re2 52. Ke4 $138 { I guess I had had enough.} (52. e4 c3 53. Bxe7 Kb6 54. Bf6 c2 55. e7 c1=Q 56. e8=Q $14 {and this incredible game would continue.}) 52... c3 53. Bxe7 Kb5 54. Bf6 c2 55. Bb2 Kc6 56. Kd3 Rg2 57. Ba3 1/2-1/2

The post-mortem was even more fun. Viktor was always very friendly and eager to spend time looking at crazy stuff on the chessboard. As jaded as we were with the drab surroundings of life in the Soviet Union and the lack of prospects in our stalling careers, the chess part itself remained a single bright spot of joy.

Yermolinsky - Kupreichik, 1987 (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "USSR Ch First League"] [Site "Sverdlovsk"] [Date "1987.??.??"] [Round "11"] [White "Yermolinsky, Alex"] [Black "Kupreichik, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D21"] [WhiteElo "2495"] [BlackElo "2505"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "124"] [EventDate "1987.11.06"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "17"] [EventCountry "URS"] [EventCategory "10"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 e6 3. c4 dxc4 $5 { I don't often play the Slav, but when I do, I play it sharp.} 4. e4 b5 5. a4 c6 6. axb5 (6. b3 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 {is another chapter.}) 6... cxb5 7. b3 Nf6 $5 ({I was hoping for} 7... Bb4+ 8. Bd2 Bxd2+ 9. Nbxd2 a5 10. bxc4 b4 11. Bd3 $16 {as White goes up a tempo (e2-e4 in one move) compared with the Noteboom and related lines.}) ({Later} 7... Bb7 { was played by many, Kasparov included.}) 8. bxc4 (8. e5 Ne4 (8... Nd5 9. bxc4 bxc4 10. Bxc4 Bb7 $13) 9. bxc4 Bb4+ 10. Bd2 Nxd2 11. Nbxd2 Nc6 {would be right up the Kupreichik alley, a dark and dangerous place, from which there may be no return.}) 8... Nxe4 $1 (8... bxc4 9. Bxc4 (9. Nc3 Bb7 10. d5 exd5 11. Rb1) 9... Nxe4 10. O-O Be7 11. Re1 Nd6 12. Bb3 O-O 13. d5) 9. c5 $5 {As always when I played Viktor I felt morally obliged to choose the sharpest moves. Somehow it felt low to try and play dry technical chess against him.} (9. Bd3 Bb7 $13) (9. cxb5 Bb4+ 10. Nbd2 Bb7 $11) 9... Bxc5 $5 {Figures.} (9... Bd7 $2 10. Ne5 $44) 10. Bxb5+ Bd7 11. Bxd7+ Qxd7 12. dxc5 Qxd1+ 13. Kxd1 Nxf2+ 14. Ke2 Nxh1 $13 {[#]} 15. Be3 $1 {It took me a while to choose this one.} ({Moving that bishop to d6 was attractive} 15. Bf4 {but can you really count on that when facing Viktor Kupreichik? I feared} e5 $3 16. Nxe5 (16. Bxe5 O-O {with similar ideas.}) 16... O-O 17. Nc3 Re8 18. Kf3 g5 19. Ng4 Nc6 $3 20. Nf6+ Kg7 21. Nxe8+ Rxe8 22. Bxg5 Nd4+ {and suddenly the white king is uncomfortable. One more move } 23. Kf4 Nf2 {and the knight comes back from the dead....}) 15... Nc6 16. Nbd2 Ke7 17. Rxh1 f6 (17... e5 $142 $1 18. Nc4 f6 19. Ra1 a5 {I think this is about equal.}) 18. Nd4 $1 $14 Nxd4+ 19. Bxd4 Rhb8 20. Ra1 Rb4 $1 {Vintage Kupreichik: no matter the position he always chose the most active move.} (20... a5 21. Nc4 {Once White establishes his knight on b6, only he can play for a win.}) 21. Bc3 $1 Rg4 (21... Rb5 22. Ra6 $1) 22. Kf3 Rg5 23. Ra6 $1 Rd5 24. Ke2 Kd7 25. c6+ $138 Ke8 $8 (25... Kc7 26. Nc4 $18) 26. Nc4 Rc5 27. Nd6+ (27. Kd3 $4 Rd8+ 28. Bd4 e5 $19) 27... Ke7 28. Bb4 Kxd6 $8 29. Ra5 Kxc6 30. Bxc5 a6 31. Be3 $16 { A new stage of the game begins.} e5 32. Kd3 Kb7 $2 ({He had to move the king the other way.} 32... Kd7 {It's not clear to me whether White can win this.}) 33. Ke4 Rc8 34. Ra2 Rc4+ 35. Kd5 Rc3 36. Rb2+ $2 {In time trouble I did nothing but but helped Viktor to recover.} (36. Bc5 Rd3+ 37. Ke6 $1 e4 38. Re2 Kc6 39. Bf8 e3 40. g3 $1 $18) 36... Kc7 37. Bb6+ (37. Bc5 $16) 37... Kd7 38. Ra2 Rd3+ 39. Ke4 Rb3 40. Rxa6 Rb2 41. Kf3 {[#]} g5 $5 {sealed move. Frankly, I was shocked to see it when the arbiter opened the envelope, but I should have known who my opponent was.} ({Kupreichik just hated passive defense,} 41... Ke7 42. Ra7+ Kf8 43. Be3 Kg8 44. Rd7 h6 45. Rd2 Rb4 46. Rc2 Ra4 47. Bc5 Rf4+ 48. Ke3 Rh4 49. h3 Kf7 50. Kd3 Kg8 51. Rb2 Ra4 52. Bb4 $16 {and White is gradually improving.}) 42. Bc5 ({White had an interesting plan} 42. Be3 {to provoke} g4+ 43. Kxg4 Rxg2+ 44. Kh3 Re2 45. Bc5 f5 46. Rd6+ Ke8 47. Rh6 $16 {where his king can stay on the K-side.}) 42... f5 43. Rd6+ Kc7 44. Rh6 Rb3+ 45. Kf2 Rb2+ 46. Ke3 Rb3+ (46... Rxg2 47. Bd6+ Kc6 48. Bxe5+ Kd5 49. Bc7 $16) 47. Kd2 Rb2+ 48. Kd3 Rxg2 49. Bd6+ $6 {Wrong in principle because it helps the black king to re-connect with his pawns.} (49. Kc4 e4 50. Kd5 Rd2+ 51. Ke5 {would have kept some chances}) 49... Kc6 50. Bxe5+ Kd5 51. Bc7 f4 $44 52. Rxh7 Ra2 53. Rh8 Ra3+ 54. Ke2 Ke4 55. Re8+ Kf5 $11 56. Kf1 Kg4 57. Be5 Rf3+ 58. Kg1 Rd3 59. Rh8 Rd5 60. Bc3 Kf3 {He threatens mate!} 61. Be1 Re5 62. Kf1 Re2 $1 {Time spent: 4:15-4:05} 1/2-1/2

The last game is so insane I can't even annotate it properly. I checked my old notes, and the computer keeps on refuting everything both Viktor and I saw during the game and the subsequent analysis. In the end, all I can say is: Who cares? We sure had fun!

Yermolinsky - Kupreichik, 1988 (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "USSR Ch Qualifier"] [Site "Blagoveschensk"] [Date "1988.??.??"] [Round "7"] [White "Yermolinsky, Alex"] [Black "Kupreichik, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E90"] [WhiteElo "2465"] [BlackElo "2500"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "79"] [EventDate "1988.08.10"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [SourceTitle "Inf 01"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 O-O 5. Nf3 d6 {Finally the Kings Indian.} 6. h3 e5 7. d5 Na6 8. Bg5 Qe8 9. g4 $5 Bd7 $5 {Kupreichik's favorite little move in KID structures. Black mobilizes his pieces the best way the position allows him to do in order to be best prepared by tactical battles yet to unfold.} (9... Nd7 {is more comon by a sizeable margin.}) 10. a3 $5 {My plan was to restrict Na6.} (10. Be2 c6 11. Nd2 (11. dxc6 $6 Bxc6 12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. Qxd6 Be7 $1 14. Qxe5 f6 15. Qf4 Bb4 $44) 11... cxd5 12. cxd5 b5 $132) (10. Nd2 $1 c6 11. Qf3 $1 Qd8 12. a3 {as the better version of it.}) 10... Nc5 ({On} 10... h6 {I planned} 11. Bxf6 $5 Bxf6 12. b4 {Kupreichik wasn't impressed. He felt Black would be doing quite fine after} Qe7 13. Qd2 Kg7 14. Bd3 c5 $11 { Now I agree.}) 11. Bxf6 $6 {I continue with my ill-advised strategy.} ({ White's DSB is too valuable, so} 11. Nd2 h6 (11... a5 12. Qf3 $1 Qd8 13. Be2 a4 14. Qg3 {with the idea of h4-h5}) 12. Be3 a5 13. Rg1 {was better.}) 11... Bxf6 12. b4 Na4 ({I visualized} 12... Na6 13. g5 Bg7 14. h4 f6 15. Bh3 {with unclear consequences.}) 13. Nb5 Bxb5 ({After the game we concluded} 13... Qe7 14. Qxa4 a6 15. Qb3 axb5 16. cxb5 Bg7 17. Rc1 f5 {was good for Black.}) 14. cxb5 Nb6 15. a4 {Once again, White sacrifices his development in order to facilitate his play - rather a risky strategy, but it earned praise from Viktor Kupreichik.} ({I felt if I slowed down with} 15. Be2 {then Black would have had} a5 $1 16. bxa6 bxa6 17. O-O a5 $11) (15. Bd3 $2 Nxd5 $19) ({Perhaps, } 15. Rc1 $1 {was the most accurate.}) 15... c6 $1 {I should have seen this coming.} 16. dxc6 $8 (16. a5 Nxd5 $1 17. exd5 e4 18. Nd4 e3 $40) 16... d5 $3 { The marks for ingenuity rather than precision.} ({On} 16... bxc6 {I was looking to take the pawn:} 17. Qxd6 {which doesn't turn out well} (17. a5 $142 Nc8 18. Rc1 cxb5 19. Qd5 $44) 17... Be7 18. Qd2 Rd8 19. Qc3 Rd4 $1 {This last move escaped our attention. Black is in the driver's seat.}) 17. cxb7 Rd8 18. Qb1 $1 Qe7 19. a5 (19. Bd3 Qxb7 $44) (19. g5 $142 Bg7 20. a5 Qxb7 21. axb6 dxe4 22. Nd2) 19... dxe4 $6 ({Obviously I welcomed} 19... Nc4 $2 20. Bxc4 dxc4 21. a6 $18) ({but} 19... Qxb7 $1 {would have turned the tables. The best line seems } 20. axb6 (20. Bd3 Nc4 $17) (20. Nd2 Bg5 $1 21. axb6 Bxd2+ 22. Kxd2 dxe4+ 23. Ke2 e3 24. f3 Qxb6 $40) 20... dxe4 21. Rxa7 (21. Nd2 e3 $17 {is the point: the black bishop goes to h4. That's why White should have inserted g4-g5 at some moment.}) 21... Qxb6 22. Ra6 Qc7 $1 23. Rc6 $8 Qd7 $1 24. Bc4 $1 (24. Rxf6 exf3 25. Qc1 Qd4 {looks awful for White.}) 24... exf3 25. O-O Bg7 26. Qe4 Kh8 27. Qxf3 f5 $13) 20. Qxe4 Nd5 ({No harm done by} 20... Rd4 $6 21. Nxd4 Qxb4+ 22. Kd1 Na4 (22... Rd8 23. Bd3) 23. Rxa4 Qxa4+ 24. Ke2 exd4 25. Kf3 $18 {as the b7-pawn stay alive and the king finds shelter.}) 21. Rc1 $8 {[#] White must guard the key c3-square as his life depends on the shaky e4-blockade.} Bg7 $1 { Viktor addresses the issue right away. As Kovalev points out Kupreichik's play was based on ideas, not calculation - the true mark of an attacking player. GM Shabalov once told me that all attacking players by definition have to be somewhat sloppy in their calculations otherwise they would see the refutations to their ideas and never play them!} (21... Qxb7 22. Bc4 Qa8 $8 (22... Qc7 23. O-O $16 Nxb4 $2 24. Rb1 Be7 25. Nxe5 $18) 23. O-O Nxb4 24. Qxa8 Rxa8 25. Rfe1 Rfe8 26. Re4 $1 $16 {heavily favors White, who threatens to win teh stray Nb4.} ) 22. Bc4 $8 Nf6 23. Qc6 {Other queen moves were poreferable, but by this time in the game I got caught in the spirit of Kupreichik's chess and simply stopped considering all retreats.} e4 (23... Qxb4+ 24. Kf1 e4 25. Ne5 Qb2 { would have forced White to part with the knight,} 26. Kg2 (26. Nxf7 $2 Rd2) ( 26. Bxf7+ Kh8 27. b6 e3) 26... Qxe5 27. Rhd1 {and, while his compensation is obvious, Black, in turn, can force a draw with} Nxg4 28. hxg4 Qf4 29. Rxd8 Qxg4+ 30. Kf1 Qh3+ 31. Kg1 $11) 24. Ng5 $2 {Bad move.} ({Safety of the king is Priority One, so} 24. O-O $1 exf3 25. b6 $1 axb6 26. a6 $16) 24... Qxb4+ 25. Kf1 Qd2 26. Nxf7 Nd5 $3 {[#] A picture that's worth many words.} 27. Bxd5 (27. b8=Q Ne3+ $1 28. Kg1 Rxb8 29. Be6 $13) 27... Rxd5 28. Kg2 (28. Qe6 Qxc1+ 29. Kg2 Qf4 30. Qxd5 Rxf7 $19) (28. Qc2 Qxa5) 28... Qd3 $1 29. Rhf1 $138 {As usual in our games I would get real low on time. I guess, I wasn't quite used to this kind of chess.} (29. Qe6 Qf3+ 30. Kg1 Qxf7 31. Qxf7+ Kxf7 32. Kg2 Rxb5 33. a6 Be5 34. Rc8 {would allow White to escape with a draw.}) 29... Qf3+ 30. Kg1 Qxf7 31. Qc8 $2 ({Same strategy here:} 31. Qc7 Qxc7 32. Rxc7 Rxb5 33. a6 Be5 34. Rc8 Rb2 35. Re1 $11) 31... Rxb5 $2 {Viktor also began to slip up as his time was running out.} (31... Be5 {With the queens on Black will soon launch a deadly attack on the b8-h2 diagonal.}) 32. Rc7 {[#]} Qf6 $4 {Terrible.} (32... Qd5 33. a6 Qe5 $17) 33. Rxg7+ $1 Kxg7 $2 {Now the game ends quickly.} ({ Better resistance could be offered by} 33... Qxg7 34. Qc4+ Rf7 35. Qxb5 Rxb7 36. Qe8+ Qf8 37. Qxe4 $16) 34. Qd7+ $18 Kh6 35. Qxb5 Qf4 36. Qc5 a6 37. Rb1 Qf3 38. Qxf8+ Qxf8 39. b8=Q Qf6 40. Qb6 {Time spent: 1:58-1:59} 1-0

There lies the answer as to why my dreams as a young chess fan didn't quite come true. The old generation of Soviet players, born before WWII, were simply performing better than most of the new players, with a notable exception of Anatoly Karpov. The old guard had entrenched themselves in a superior position in a society with more money and power. They had their regular trips to lucrative tournaments abroad, they had financial security and better personal situations. They could also obtain coaching help from our own rank of younger underachievers. In his interview, also published in chess.ru in 2014 Kupreichik recalls (without any bitterness) his experiences with helping Smyslov to prepare for World Championship Candidates matches in the 1980's. I just wish it could have been the other way around.

In the thirty years that have passed since our last encounter, Viktor remained active. He took part in many World Senior tournaments, and I was hoping to catch up with him somewhere in Europe one of these days. It wasn't meant to be. Sad.


Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.
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Gs64 Gs64 5/28/2017 09:13
Thank you for the insight, great article.
Labraccio Labraccio 5/28/2017 10:12
Very impressed by that win over Tal.
Simplifier20 Simplifier20 5/28/2017 12:12
Very impressive win of Viktor Kupreichik against Mikhail Tal, but what is also interesting is that on the Database of my Fritz 15 which has about 2,022,601 games, when I searched for Kupreichik vs Tal, it only yield 7 games with 3 Draws and 4 wins of Tal against Kupreichik (no Win for Kupreichik). Perhaps they decided not to add this game on the Database because this is a humiliating game for Tal.
drcloak drcloak 5/28/2017 12:14
@Simplifier20

Nice find.
Simplifier20 Simplifier20 5/28/2017 12:39
Thanks mate!
Koyaanisqatsi Koyaanisqatsi 5/28/2017 12:44
Thank you for the obituary! I think it is important to know and not to forget the life of the masters of the past. - I saw Kupreichik playing Kortschnoj in Senden in 1996; geat battle.
xadrezmemoria xadrezmemoria 5/28/2017 04:07
Yes, A truly wonderful player!
2010... Eight articles on Kupreichik and a video on YouTube.
http://xadrezmemoria.blogspot.pt/search/label/Kupreichik
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BN-gkasJIDc&t=339s
Do not forget Dvoretsky's article about this extraordinary player also pointing out his defensive weaknesses, and the books "Uncompromising Chess: The Games of Viktor Kupreichik" - Gene McCormick, and " Fight Without Commitment" -KUpreichik himself and Nikolay Tsarenkov ( In Russian)
JackCrabb JackCrabb 5/28/2017 05:53
Thanks a lot for the nice Kupreichik-Tal game. Kupreichik was no doubt an exceptionally gifted tactician; moreover he knew that the chessboard is a jungle from the start, and that is pays to be on alert in the opening already. See this miniature:
Razuvaev-Kupreichik, Dubna 1970: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 f5 4.d4 e4 5.Bg5 Nf6 6.d5 ef3 7.dc6 fg2 8.cd7+?? Nxd7!! 0-1
KevinC KevinC 5/28/2017 09:46
@JackCrabb, at least per my Mega database and chessgames.com, Razuvaev-Kupreichik, Dubna 1970 continued for a few more moves before Razuvaev actually gave up:

9. Bxd8 gxh1=Q 10. Bxc7 Qc6 11. Bg3 Bb4 12. Qb3 Bxc3+ 13. Qxc3 O-O 14. e3 Nf6 15. Be5 Be6 0-1
benedictralph benedictralph 5/29/2017 02:20
I wonder how many other undiscovered Tals are out there. Like those people who just enjoy playing but never bothered to earn an official rating.
JackCrabb JackCrabb 5/29/2017 03:19
@KevinC, sorry for that. I took it from Anatolij Macukevic, Verflixte Fehler, Berlin-O 1986, p.211. After 8...Nxd7, it says "Weiß gab auf" (white resigned). Maybe the author abridged the game a bit so that it fits into his chosen limit: all 500 games in the book have maximum 12 moves.
Logos Logos 5/29/2017 06:10
Another great article by GM Yermolinsky. Thank you sir.
Derek880 Derek880 5/30/2017 04:33
I've been a big fan of Kupreichik's after picking up the book "Uncompromising Chess: The Games of Viktor Kupreichik" at a chess tournament some years ago. I ended up loving his games so much that I basically wore out my copy of this book. I'm hoping someone writes another book with more detailed analysis of his games.
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