Huffington Post: 40 Years of spectacular chess

1/7/2015 – This weekend sees the start of the 77th Wijk aan Zee Chess Tournament (9-25 Jan.). In 1975 the organizers inaugurated a prize for the most spectacular game – one that was won in recent years by the likes of Carlsen and Anand. But the very first brilliancy prize was won by Huffington Post correspondent Lubomir Kavalek, who provides us with extensive analysis of that forty-year-old game.

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40 Years of Spectacular Chess

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

In 1975, the organizers of the traditional chess tournament in the Dutch coastal town of Wijk aan Zee inaugurated a prize for the most spectacular game. They expected breathtaking encounters, griping contests, and some glamour and charm.

Throughout the four decades many grandmasters were rewarded for their thrilling play, including some world champions. Magnus Carlsen won it in 2004 at the age of 13 and was called the Mozart of Chess in the Washington Post. Garry Kasparov created an incredible masterpiece against Veselin Topalov in 1999, perhaps the most brilliant game he has ever played. Vishy Anand's amazing attacking symphony against Levon Aronian in 2013 brought memories of the legendary Akiba Rubinstein.

Forty years ago, the Leo van Kuijk prize for the most spectacular game was given to me by his son (right on the photo above). I earned it for a positional queen sacrifice for a mere bishop against Lajos Portisch. It was a fascinating draw and the Hungarian grandmaster thought we should split the prize. "You got my queen," I told him,"I get the prize. Mind over matter." Portisch didn't come up short. He won the 1975 Wijk aan Zee tournament.

The game was analyzed by strong grandmasters such as Jan Timman, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Ulf Andersson, Jonathan Speelman, Ludek Pachman and many others. I analyzed it on 15 pages in the tournament book, but it is presented here in much shorter version. It also appeared in Andrew Soltis' "The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked." The computers more or less confirmed our findings.

The play of six acts begins with the Saemisch variation of the King's Indian defense - Portisch's favorite line.

[Event "Wijk aan Zee"] [Site "?"] [Date "1975.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Portisch, Lajos"] [Black "Kavalek, Lubomir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E80"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "76"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 c6 6. Be3 a6 7. Bd3 b5 {The Accelerated Robert Byrne variation. The b7-b5 strike is usually played after Black castles.} 8. e5 $1 {Boris Spassky's advance allows white to grab space. He made this novelty during our game in San Juan in 1969.} Nfd7 ({An improvement to} 8... dxe5 $2 9. dxe5 {(White now has the square d4 for his knight)} Ng8 10. f4 (10. e6) 10... Nh6 11. Nf3 Bf5 12. Be2 $1 Qxd1+ 13. Rxd1 f6 14. Nd4 $1 {White has a clear advantage. Spassky beat me in 27 moves.}) 9. f4 O-O 10. Nf3 Nb6 $6 11. b3 $1 {Restricting the black pieces.} N8d7 {The black knights are entangled and Portisch strikes immediately.} 12. a4 $1 { Threatening to win the knight with 13.a5.} ({After} 12. c5 b4 $1 {black is fine.}) 12... bxc4 13. bxc4 {Act One: Against the wall} c5 $6 ({The incredible journey begins with a knight sacrifice. Black lights up the fire with the central undermining, ignoring the material loss. My decision to make this move was a matter of temperament and curiosity. First, I dislike to back off in chess; secondly, I was curious to see what would have hapen, since at this point it was hard to calculate all the consequances. From time to time one may have such an irresponsible approach. Hence the piece sacrifice. It helps that White did not castle. He will be busy with the central skirmish. The safer} 13... a5 {would cut Black's risks considerably, compared with the game, but white would still be better after} 14. c5) ({The natural continuation} 13... Bb7 14. a5 Nc8 {would leave black minor pieces in a mess. - Andrew Soltis.}) ( {Jan Timman wrote: " If we look at the move 13...c5 carefully we must conclude that it is a mistake, but in practice it is hard to judge it that way. Yet, I believe that players like Ulf Andersson or Tigran Petrosian would prefer} 13... Rb8 14. a5 Na8 {even though this means having to defend on the first three ranks. Black must not be afraid to play his knight on a8."}) 14. a5 cxd4 {Act Two: From Piece sacrifice to Queen sacrifice} 15. Nxd4 $5 {When I saw this move I realized I would have to sacrifice my Queen to stay in the game.} ({ After} 15. Bxd4 {I was prepared to play} dxe5 $1 {and not everything is completely clear. Some examples:} 16. fxe5 $1 (16. Bxb6 Nxb6 17. axb6 e4 $1 18. Bxe4 Bxc3+ 19. Ke2 Qxb6 20. Bxa8 Bf5 21. Bd5 Qb2+ {'='} 22. Ke3 Qb6+ 23. Ke2 ( 23. Nd4 $2 e5 24. fxe5 Re8 $19) 23... Qb2+ $11) 16... Nxe5 17. Bxe5 (17. Bxb6 $2 Nxd3+ $19) 17... Bxe5 18. Nxe5 Qd4 $1 19. Kd2 $1 {For some reason nobody saw this strong move 40 years ago.} (19. Ne2 Qxe5 20. axb6 Rd8 21. Ra3 ({After } 21. Ra2 {black should play} Rb8 $1 $11) 21... Bf5 22. Qc2 {the complication still favor White, for example} Qd6 23. b7 Rab8 24. c5 Bxd3 25. Rxd3 Qxd3 26. Qxd3 Rxd3 27. c6 Rxb7 28. cxb7 Rb3 29. Kf2 Rxb7 {but Black can still fight.}) 19... Nxc4+ (19... Qxe5 20. axb6 Rd8) 20. Nxc4 Bf5 21. Kc2 $1 (21. Qc2 Rfd8 22. Nb2 Qf4+ 23. Ke1 Qe5+ 24. Kf1 Rac8 25. Re1 Bxd3+ 26. Nxd3 (26. Qxd3 Qxa5 $15) 26... Qf5+) (21. Nb2 Rac8 22. Rc1 Rfd8) 21... Qxc4 22. Bxf5 gxf5 23. Ra4 Qc7 24. Qd3 $16) 15... dxe5 $5 16. Nc6 Qe8 ({After} 16... Qc7 17. Nxe7+ Kh8 18. axb6 {White wins a piece.}) 17. axb6 exf4 $1 18. Nd5 (18. Bd4 e5 $11) ({Black would have a fine game after} 18. Bd2 Nc5 19. Nb4 a5 20. Be2 axb4 $1 21. Rxa8 bxc3 $19) {Act Three: In Captivity of Bishop and Pawn} 18... fxe3 $3 {During the game I considered the pawn to be very strong, as it ties up the white position to some extent. It is the key to the Queen sacrifice. Portisch told me after the game that he did not calculate the consequences of the sacrifice but just played to win the queen. Timman pointed out that "White's dark bishop is a vital piece in the Saemisch variation of the King's Indian Defense. "} 19. Nc7 Bc3+ $1 {The point of the whole sacrifice, for now White's King Rook will not be able to get into play easily. Simple counting shows Black having only a bishop for the queen, but it would take white a long time to consolidate on all fronts. That was encouraging.} 20. Kf1 ({Not} 20. Ke2 $2 Nxb6 21. Nxe8 Bg4+ {wins.}) 20... Bb7 21. Nxe8 Bxc6 {“Naturally,”Timman writes, “Black steals the best placed knight.”} 22. Nc7 Rad8 {Black threatens to utilize the pin on the d-file with 23...Nc5, forcing White to react quickly. Act Four: Huddle on the d-file At that time, the young Russian master, Mark Dvoretsky wrote:"A fascinating position! White has a great material advantage (Queen for Bishop), but Black pieces are active and White's rook on h1 is not playing. In a joint analysis after the game, neither player found a clear way for White to realize his material advantage; moreover, after a slight inaccuracy white is in danger of falling under a strong attack. " Dvoretsky dominated the B Group in Wijk aan Zee. He was still in his playing days before becoming a chess teacher.} 23. Rc1 {Perhaps the critical point in the game.} ({Portisch thought 35 minutes here because he needed to consider} 23. Nd5 Bxd5 24. cxd5 Bxa1 25. Qxa1 Nxb6 {Black then has only a rook and three pawns for the queen but he can reach endgames in which all pawns lie on the kingside and white cannot break into his "fortress." - A. Soltis}) ({But there was another, rather unpleasant way to tackle black:} 23. Ra3 Bb4 24. Rb3 a5 { and White can cover all threats with a knight leap to the edge} 25. Na6 $18) 23... Bd2 24. Nd5 Bxd5 25. cxd5 Nxb6 ({"Of course, Black does not have enough material compensation for the queen," Soltis describes this moment, "but he has practical compensation: The position remains complex, there is no obvious way for white to consolidate - and the clock is ticking. Kavalek had second thoughts about his last move and afterwards} 25... Bxc1 26. Qxc1 Nxb6 {was analyzed as stronger."} {For example,} 27. Qxe3 Nxd5 28. Qe5 (28. Qa7 Rd6) (28. Qf3 Rd6 {- A.Soltis}) 28... Rd6 ({Another way is} 28... Nf4 29. Qxf4 Rxd3) 29. Kf2 Nb4 30. Bf1 Rf6+ {and black is still in the game.}) 26. Rc5 Nxd5 27. g3 Rd6 ({Black has to be careful to avoid} 27... Nf4 28. gxf4 Rxd3 29. Ke2 Rfd8 30. Qc2 R3d4 31. Rc8 {and White is winning.}) 28. Kg2 $6 ({Portisch suggested after the game} 28. Qb3 {with the idea 28...Rfd8 to consolidate with 29.Ke2!, but Black should try} {or} e6 (28... Rf6+ 29. Kg2 Rf2+ 30. Kh3 e6 31. Qc4 (31. Rf1 $2 e2 $1) 31... a5)) 28... Rfd8 {A picturesque position. Black lined-up all his pieces on the d-file. Act Five: Giving back the stolen goods} 29. Rxd5 $2 ({"The odd thing about this move, Kavalek said after the game, was that he was virtually convinced Portisch would play it and it was one of the few moves not reconsidered in the post-mortem,” writes Soltis. During the Dutch simultaneous tour after the tournament I analyzed the game with Ulf Andersson and Ljubomir Ljubojevic. Ljubo was convinced that} 29. Bc4 $1 {was winning for White. The main analysis continued:} Nb6 (29... Nc3 30. Qb3 Rf6 31. Bxf7+ Rxf7 32. Rf1 $18 {- A. Soltis}) 30. Qb3 Nxc4 31. Qxc4 e2 32. Re5 $1 ( 32. Qxe2 Bb4 33. Qe3 Bxc5 34. Qxc5 Rd2+ 35. Kh3 Re2 $11) 32... e1=Q 33. Rhxe1 { and now:} {This is how things stood still for forty years. However, computers point out a wonderful zwischenzug} Rd4 $1 {that escaped us. After} (33... Bxe1 {and now:} 34. Rxe7 $1 {Ljubojevic's significant zwischenzug, threatening 35. Qxf7+.} ({An important position can occur after} 34. Rxe1 $2 Rd2+ 35. Re2 (35. Kh3 e6) 35... h5 36. Qxa6 e6 37. Kf2 Rxe2+ 38. Kxe2 Rd5 {Black creates a fortress that is hard to break.}) 34... Rd2+ 35. Kh3 Rf2 36. Rxe1 {White has good chances to win since the black e-pawn is missing.}) 34. Qxa6 Bxe1 35. Rxe1 Rd2+ 36. Kh3 R8d7 {White still has a rook on the board, but it may not matter much. Black can survive.}) ({Timman's suggestion} 29. Qf3 {can be complicated still after} Bb4 (29... Rf6 $2 30. Rxd5 $1) 30. Rc2 {covering the second rank, White can bring the rook on h1 into play with advantage.}) 29... Rxd5 {Black now has a rook for the queen and I became confident that I would not lose.} 30. Bc4 Rf5 31. Qb3 ({After} 31. Rf1 Ba5 {followed by 32...Rd2+, the strong pawn on e3 gives black good counterplay. I even thought black might be bettter, but it is not the case:} 32. Qa4 Rd2+ 33. Kh3 {and black can achieve the fortress in many ways:} Rxf1 (33... Rdf2 34. Rxf2 exf2 35. Qe8+ (35. Kg2 Bb6 36. Qxa6) 35... Kg7 36. Qxe7 f1=Q+ 37. Bxf1 Rxf1 38. Qe5+ Rf6 39. Qxa5 Re6 40. g4 (40. Kg2 h5) 40... h6 41. Kg3 g5 $11) 34. Bxf1 e2 35. Bxe2 Rxe2 36. Qxa5 Re6 $11) 31... Rf2+ 32. Kh3 Rd6 $1 {The rook is looking at the square h6 to harass the white king.} ({But not} 32... e2 $4 33. Qb6 {and White forks the rooks.}) 33. Qb8+ ({White's best was} 33. Rf1 {but I felt I could not lose either after 33.. .Rdf6 or after 33...Rxf1.}) 33... Kg7 34. Qa7 g5 $1 {Black threatens 35...Rh6+ 36.Kg4 f5+ 37.Kxg5 e2 mate, but White can defend.} 35. Qxe7 $1 {Act Six: Was victory within grasp?} g4+ {With a little time on the clock black chooses the perpetual check. Was there more?} ({From Robert Burger's letter, dated Oct. 9, 1975: "Did Kavalek take a draw with victory in his grasp?" After} 35... Rg6 { the threat is 36...e2 37.Bxe2 Re6 "cashing-in". But after} 36. Qe5+ Kh6 { Burger does not analyze} 37. Bd3 $1 {and according to computers White wins.}) 36. Kxg4 Rg6+ 37. Kh3 Rh6+ 38. Kg4 Rg6+ 1/2-1/2

The Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee starts on Saturday, January 10. Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Aronian, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Vassily Ivanchuk and Hou Yifan are the players to watch. More information is on the official web site.

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over over a quarter of a billion visits per month (according to Quantcast), making it the number 73 ranked web site in the world (Alexa, January 2014)..



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