Jon Speelman's Agony Column #27

by Jonathan Speelman
11/9/2016 – Ages ago, at a tournament in Maribor, Slovenia, Jon Speelman met Darko Spelec, and afterwards arranged to have the Chess Informant sent to him. That was the golden age of prehistoric non-digitized chess literature. Recently Darko contacted him with a couple of games with comments, one an "Agony" and the other pure ecstasy, ending with a lovely attack. Jon adds his comments and analysis to the notes of his old friend from Maribor.

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Jon Speelman's Agony Column #27

In an age when the best young players become grandmasters in their mid if not their early teens, it's easy to forget how different things were back in the day. When FIDE changed the requirements for becoming a grandmaster from 2550 to 2600, it seemed at a time before major rating inflation to be a big deal and people were often in the their very late teens or early twenties before they managed it.

A late developer I was already 24 when I became a GM at a tournament in Maribor in Slovenia. During it I met Darko Spelec and afterwards I arranged with him to have the issues of Chess Informant which I was missing sent to me. Recently, Darko contacted me with a couple of games and when I reminisced about the Informants he replied:

"Yes, the Informators – golden age of prehistoric non-digitized chess literature. At the time you sent me the cheque, I was in the Yugoslav People's Army and my whole company's sobriety was disputable for this reason, at the very least..."

Now 57, Darko still lives in Maribor and has been married for more than three decades to Tatjana. Their daughter Sara is preparing a PHD in history. He himself graduated in history and philosophy and he writes:

"The traces of puritanism in John Locke's philosophy was my thesis. At the beginning of my career I was teaching history, then I worked with troubled children – not chessplayers – for ten years. I then became addicted to computer sciences. Now, at the end f my career, I am once more working with children with special needs. All my adult life I was also playing and studying chess, tutoring youngsters. I've written about chess tuition and recently about chess history."

Darko's two games both come from the same Open tournament and we start in chronological order with the "Agony" in which he got a won position against an International Master but then went astray and lost. Many of the notes in both games are by him, and as usual I've added ideas as JS.

[Event "Voelkermarkt Open 2012"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.07.29"] [Round "2"] [White "Kiss, Attila"] [Black "Spelec"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C04"] [WhiteElo "2356"] [BlackElo "2012"] [Annotator "Spelec,Darko"] [PlyCount "134"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nc6 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. e5 Nd7 6. Be2 f6 7. exf6 Qxf6 8. Nf1 Bd6 (8... e5 {JS is what Black wants to play, but it asks too much of the position. For instance I found this game in which White made a devastating piece sacrifice:} 9. Ne3 e4 (9... exd4 10. Nxd5 Qd6 11. Bc4 {is also terrible}) 10. Nxd5 Qd6 11. Bc4 exf3 12. O-O Qg6 13. Nxc7+ Kd8 14. Ne6+ Ke8 15. Ng5 Nd8 16. Qxf3 Nb6 17. Re1+ Be7 18. Bb5+ Bd7 19. Bxd7+ Nxd7 20. d5 Rf8 21. Qe2 Qd6 22. Qh5+ g6 23. Ne4 Qb4 24. Qe2 Kf7 25. Bd2 Qb6 26. d6 Bf6 27. Nxf6 Nxf6 28. Qe7+ Kg8 29. Bh6 Qxf2+ {1-0 (29) Todorovic,G (2475)-Brkljaca,A (2353) Belgrade SER 2007}) 9. Ne3 O-O 10. O-O {[#]} e5 $6 {JS Very bold but a bit much.} (10... Qg6 $1 11. c4 Nf6 12. c5 Be7 13. Bb5 Bd7 14. Bxc6 Bxc6 15. Ne5 Qe8 {JS has been played a few times. My gut feeling is that White should have an edge, but Black has scored quite well in practice and maybe there just isn't a move that keeps control. The thing is that White wants to maintain the queenside bind but also hopes to stablise the kingside. It would be ideal to reach an opposite bishop position with a huge bishop on e5, but I can't see a a way to do so.} 16. N3g4 (16. a4 Nd7 (16... a5 17. b3) 17. N3g4 h5 18. Nxd7 Bxd7 19. Ne5 Rf5 $1 (19... Bf6 20. Bf4 g5) 20. Be3 Bf6 21. Nd3 Qf7 22. b4 {for instance leaves Black pretty active}) 16... b6 17. Nxc6 Qxc6 18. Ne5 Qe8) 11. Ng4 $6 ( 11. Nxd5 Qg6 12. Bd3 e4 13. Bc4 Kh8 14. Nh4 Qe8 15. g3 $14 (15. Re1 $6 Na5 16. b3 (16. Bd3 $2 Qf7 $17) 16... Qf7 17. Qe2 Nxc4 18. bxc4 Nb6 19. c5 Bg4 20. f3 exf3 21. gxf3 Nxd5 22. cxd6 (22. fxg4 $4 Rae8 $19) 22... Bh3 $15 {This long line given by Darko is very uncomfortable for White.})) 11... Qf7 12. Ng5 Qg6 $6 (12... Qf5 13. dxe5 Ndxe5 14. Qxd5+ Kh8 15. Nxe5 Nxe5 {JS in this line given by Darko, Black's lead in development easily compensates for a single pawn.} 16. f4 (16. f4) 16... Ng4 17. Qxf5 Bxf5 18. h3 Bc5+ 19. Kh1 Nf2+ 20. Kh2 h6 21. Nf3 Rae8 22. Ne5 Bxc2 $13) 13. dxe5 Ndxe5 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. f4 Nc6 16. Bd3 (16. Qxd5+ Kh8 17. Bc4 Nb4 18. Nf7+ Qxf7 19. Qxf7 Rxf7 20. Bxf7 Nxc2 21. Rb1 Bf5 22. Bb3 Bc5+ 23. Kh1 Rd8 $44 {In this line given by Darko, Black has a lot of compensation despite being a whole exchange down.}) 16... Bf5 17. Bxf5 Bc5+ 18. Kh1 Qxf5 19. g4 $5 {JS This bold move beaks the blockade and so mobilises White's kingside pawns..} Qd7 20. f5 Rae8 21. Bf4 {[#]} Nd8 (21... Nd4 $1 {JS would dominate the white knight and if} 22. Qd3 (22. c3 Ne2 23. Ne6 Rxe6 $1 24. fxe6 Qxe6 {is simply winning}) 22... h6 23. Nf3 Nxf3 24. Qxf3 { The exchange of knights greatly benefits Black who now dosn't have to worry about the white one landing on e6.} h5 25. h3 hxg4 26. hxg4 Re4 27. Rae1 Rfe8 $15) 22. Qd3 h6 23. Nf3 Nf7 24. Rad1 c6 25. c4 (25. f6 Nd6) 25... d4 $6 26. Rf2 $6 (26. b4 $1 Bxb4 27. Nxd4 Nd8 28. Qb3 c5 29. Nb5 Qc6+ 30. Rd5 $16) ({JS Software also points out} 26. f6 $1 {the point being that if} gxf6 (26... Nd6 27. Nxd4) 27. Qg6+ Kh8 {White has a huge attack}) 26... Bb6 {[#]} 27. b4 (27. f6 $5 Nd8 28. Be5 Ne6 29. Rg2 c5 (29... Bd8 $1 30. g5 hxg5 31. fxg7 Rf7 32. Rg3 Nf4 {Black is very active}) 30. g5 Nxg5 31. Nxg5 hxg5 32. Rxg5 Qc6+ 33. Kg1 Rxf6 34. Bxf6 Qxf6 35. Rh5 g6 36. Rf1 Qe6 37. Rg5 Kg7 38. Rf2 $16) 27... c5 28. bxc5 $6 {JS This allows Black to stabilise the bishop after which he is extremely comfortable} Bxc5 29. f6 $2 {JS What White wants to play, but Black is now well set up and has a very strong riposte.} (29. Rg2 Qc6 30. Rf1 (30. Nxd4 Bxd4 31. Qxd4 Re4 32. Qf2 Rfe8 33. Kg1 Rxc4 34. Rf1 Ree4 $17) 30... Re4 31. Nd2 Re7 32. Nb3 Rfe8 33. Nxc5 Qxc5 34. Kg1 Re4 35. h4 b6 $15) 29... Ng5 $2 (29... Qc6 $1 30. Qg6 (30. fxg7 Kxg7 31. Kg1 Re3 32. Qxd4+ $8 (32. Bxe3 dxe3 33. Re2 Qxf3 $19)) 30... Qxf6 31. Qxf6 gxf6 32. Kg2 d3 33. Rfd2 Re2+ 34. Rxe2 dxe2 35. Re1 Re8 36. Nd2 Bb4 37. Kf2 Bxd2 38. Bxd2 Ne5 39. Rxe2 Nxg4+ 40. Kf1 Rxe2 41. Kxe2 h5 $17 {With a clear extra pawn, Black has a serious advantage.}) 30. Bxg5 hxg5 31. Nxg5 gxf6 32. Nh3 $6 Qc6+ 33. Kg1 $2 {[#]} ({Putting the king on a terrible diagonal.} 33. Rg2 {was necessary}) 33... Re3 $4 {JS Now White obviously has at least a draw and in a game you couldn't judge whether there was more.} (33... Rf7 $1 {JS was winning because ..Re3 will be devastating despite the queen's possible incursion to g6} 34. Nf4 (34. Qg6+ $2 Rg7 35. Qxf6 Rxg4+ 36. Kf1 Qh1+) 34... Re3 35. Qc2 (35. Qf5 d3 36. Nxd3 Rd7 37. Qg6+ Rg7 38. Qf5 Rf3 39. Qd5+ Qxd5 40. cxd5 Rxg4+) 35... d3 36. Nxd3 Bd4 37. Nf4 Re4 38. Rxd4 Rxd4 39. h3 Rxc4 $19) 34. Qg6+ Kh8 35. Qh6+ Kg8 36. Qg6+ Kh8 37. Nf4 d3 38. Qh6+ Kg8 39. Qg6+ Kh8 40. Qh5+ Kg8 41. Qg6+ Kh8 42. Nxd3 {[#]} Rxd3 $6 (42... Rd8) 43. Qh6+ Kg8 44. Qg6+ Kh8 45. Rxd3 Bxf2+ 46. Kxf2 Qb6+ 47. Kg2 Qb2+ 48. Kh3 Qf2 49. Qh6+ Kg8 50. Qg6+ Kh8 51. Qh5+ Kg8 52. Qd5+ Kg7 53. Qxb7+ Rf7 54. Qg2 Qf4 55. Qd5 Qf1+ 56. Kg3 {[#]} Re7 $4 {JS The losing move.} ( 56... Qe1+ 57. Kf3 Qf1+ 58. Kg3 (58. Ke3 $4 Re7+ 59. Kd4 Qa1+ 60. Kc5 Re5) 58... Qe1+ 59. Kg2 Qe2+ 60. Kh3 Qf1+ 61. Kh4 Qf2+ $11) 57. Rf3 {Now White gets control} Qe1+ 58. Kh3 Re8 59. Qd7+ Re7 60. Qd3 Re8 61. Qd7+ Re7 62. Qf5 Kg8 63. Qd5+ Kg7 64. Qd4 Kg8 65. c5 Rh7+ 66. Kg2 Qe2+ 67. Rf2 Qb5 {And Darko resigned without waiting for Qd8+} 1-0

Near the end of the tournament Darko, who was rated just 2012. won against another opponent in the high 2300s and actually a few points higher than Kiss.

[Event "Voelkermarkt Open 2012"] [Site "?"] [Date "2012.08.03"] [Round "8"] [White "Spelec"] [Black "Mazi, Leon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D05"] [WhiteElo "2012"] [BlackElo "2370"] [Annotator "Spelec,Darko"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2012.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e3 e6 4. Bd3 c5 5. O-O Nc6 6. Nbd2 Be7 7. b3 (7. c3 { JS is The Colle System} O-O 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Qe2 e5 10. e4) 7... O-O 8. a3 Qc7 9. Bb2 Rd8 10. Qe2 (10. dxc5 {JS} e5 $1 11. Bb5 e4 12. Nd4 Bxc5 {Is at least equal for Black}) 10... b6 {[#]} 11. Rfd1 $146 (11. Ne5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Ne8 13. f4 f5) (11. dxc5 {JS was my attempt to get in e4 and e5. You can achieve this but the bishop really wants to be on f4 rather than b2 if you're going to attack, and ...a5-a4 is a very easy way for Black to attack on the queenside.} bxc5 12. e4 Bb7 13. e5 Nd7 14. Rfe1 (14. c4 d4 15. Rfe1 a5) 14... a5 15. Nf1 $6 a4) 11... Bb7 12. c4 dxc4 13. bxc4 Rac8 {JS In this very tense position, White's centre is under pressure but he does have pieces at least vaguely aimed at the black king. I would very much want to try to sacrifice to get an attack going, pehaps with d5 at some moment. But Black is very solid and my software laughed at my attempts. The tentative conclusion is that Black is absolutely fine.} 14. Rac1 {This defends c4 but weakens a3 - very hard to tell if it's correct.} Na5 15. Ne5 (15. d5 exd5 16. cxd5 Bxd5 17. e4 Bb7 18. e5 (18. Nc4 Nb3) 18... Nd5 19. Qe4 g6 {and this simply doesn't work because if} 20. e6 ({or} 20. Qg4 Ne3 $1) 20... Nf4 21. exf7+ Kf8 $1) 15... Bd6 16. f4 (16. Ng4 {JS } Nxg4 17. Qxg4 Bxh2+ 18. Kh1 cxd4 19. Qh3 (19. exd4 Bf4) 19... Be5 {and Black's king is perfectly safe, while if White captures on h7 it is he who will be in dire trouble down the h-file} 20. Qxh7+ Kf8) (16. h3 Qe7) 16... Qe7 {[#]} 17. Bb1 $2 {JS This is what you want to play as White, but there's a problem on a3 and down the c-file.} (17. Ndf3 h6 18. Re1 (18. f5 cxd4 19. exd4 exf5 20. Bxf5 Rc7 21. Re1 Bxa3 22. Bxa3 Qxa3 23. d5 Rxd5) 18... Nd7 (18... Be4) 19. Rc2 cxd4 20. exd4 Nb3 $13) (17. Ra1 Nd7 18. g3 cxd4 19. exd4 Rc7 20. Rf1 Rdc8 21. Rf2 f6 22. Nxd7 Rxd7 23. Re1 Re8 24. Bc3 Bxa3 25. Nb1 Bd6 26. Qc2 g6 27. c5 Bb8 28. Bxa5 bxa5 29. Rfe2 Qd8 30. Bb5 $14) (17. d5 $2 exd5 18. cxd5 Nxd5 19. Ndc4 Bxe5 20. Bxe5 Nxc4 21. Bxc4 Nf6 {Black is completely solid so has a clear advantage.}) 17... cxd4 18. exd4 Bxa3 19. Bxa3 Qxa3 20. Ndf3 h6 $2 (20... Bxf3 $1 {JS is a powerful resource in lots of lines} 21. Nxf3 Nd5 $1 { refuted White's play} 22. Kh1 Nxf4 23. Qd2 Nh5 24. Rc3 Qb4 25. Rdc1 Nf6 $17) 21. Re1 Qd6 (21... Bxf3 22. Nxf3 Qd6 (22... Nd5 23. f5 Nc3 $2 24. Rxc3 Qxc3 25. fxe6 Qxc4 26. Qe4 $1 (26. exf7+ Qxf7 27. Qe4 Nc4 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Ba2 Qg8 30. Qf5+ Qf7 31. Qxf7+ Kxf7 32. Bxc4+ Rxc4 33. Ne5+ Kf6 34. Nxc4 b5 35. Ne3 Rxd4 36. Kf1 $14) 26... g6 27. Qg4 Kg7 28. exf7 Qxf7 29. Bxg6 $1) 23. f5 exf5 24. Bxf5 Re8 25. c5 Rxe2 26. cxd6 Rxe1+ 27. Rxe1 Rd8 28. Re7 Nc6 29. Rc7 Rxd6 30. Ne5 Nd8 31. Rxa7 Rxd4 32. Nxf7 Nxf7 33. Be6 Nd7 34. Rxd7 Rxd7 35. Bxd7 Kf8 $17) 22. Rcd1 Qc7 {[#]} (22... Bxf3 $1 {was strong here too.} 23. Nxf3 (23. gxf3 { is pretty repulsive but realtively best.}) 23... Qxf4) 23. Ng5 $6 {JS Absolutely the move your hand wants to make, but it turns out that White's back rank is too weak for it to work.} (23. Ba2 $1 Be4 24. Qf2 Qe7 25. Re3 Qb4 (25... Bxf3 26. Qxf3 Nd7 {Given that White can't land he's worse.}) 26. Ng5 Bf5 27. Ngxf7 Rf8 28. h3 Nxc4 29. Bxc4 Rxf7 30. Qa2 Rfc7 31. Bxe6+ Bxe6 32. Qxe6+ Kh7 33. Kh2 Rd8 34. Nc6 Qa4 35. Qf5+ Kg8 36. Qe6+ Kh7 37. Nxd8 Qxd1 38. Nc6 Qb1 39. d5 $13) 23... Rf8 $2 (23... hxg5 24. fxg5 Nxc4 25. gxf6 Nxe5 26. dxe5 Rxd1 27. Rxd1 Qc5+ 28. Kh1 (28. Kf1 Qb4) 28... Qc1 $1 (28... g6 29. h3 {gives White serious hope of landing a blow later}) 29. Rg1 Bd5 30. fxg7 (30. Qg4 Qh6) 30... Qg5 31. Be4 Bxe4 32. Qxe4 Rc1 $1 {The passed pawns give Black excellent chances in the forthcoming queen ending, though his king is a bit exposed.} ( 32... Kxg7)) 24. Qd3 {[#]} hxg5 $2 {JS a move too late.} (24... Qe7 25. Nh7 Rfd8 26. Nxf6+ Qxf6 27. Qh7+ Kf8 28. d5 Nxc4 29. Nxc4 $18) (24... Kh8 25. Rc1 ( 25. Ng4 $2 Qxc4) (25. Nh7 Be4 26. Rxe4 Kxh7 {It looks as though there ought to be some huge discovered check, but in fact Black does still seem to be okay.} 27. Re2+ (27. Re3+ Kh8 28. Rh3 Nxc4 29. Ng4 Nb2 $1 $19) (27. Nd7 $2 Nxd7 28. Rxe6+ f5) 27... Kh8 28. g4 g6 29. Qh3 Ng8 30. f5) 25... Nc6 (25... b5 26. c5 Nc4) 26. c5 Nb4 27. Qa3 bxc5 28. Rxc5 Nc6 29. Qb3 Rb8 30. Qh3 Kg8 31. Nxe6 Qd6 (31... fxe6 32. Qxe6+ Rf7 33. Bg6) 32. Nxf8 Rxf8 33. Nxc6 Bxc6 34. Qc3 Bd7 35. g3) (24... Nxc4 $2 25. Ng4 $1) 25. fxg5 Ne4 26. Rxe4 Bxe4 27. Qxe4 {[#] JS The attack now crashes through.} f5 (27... g6 28. Qh4 Nxc4 29. Ng4 f5 30. gxf6 Qh7 31. Nh6+ Kh8 32. Qg5 Rcd8 33. Be4 $1 (33. Bxg6 $2 Rd5) 33... Ne3 ({if} 33... b5 {say} 34. Rd3 {anyway.}) 34. Rd3 Nf5 35. Rh3) 28. gxf6 gxf6 (28... Rxf6 29. Qh7+ Kf8 30. Qh8+ Ke7 31. Qxg7+ {and the rook drops off.}) 29. Rd3 $1 fxe5 30. Qg6+ Qg7 31. Qxe6+ Rf7 32. Qxc8+ Qf8 33. Rg3+ Rg7 34. Qh3 (34. Bh7+ $1) 34... e4 35. Bxe4 Qf6 36. Bd5+ {JS The conclusion of an excellent attack.} 1-0

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.
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