Learning from the young Keres and Smyslov

9/24/2008 – In 1939 neither the legendary Paul Keres, 23, nor the future World Champion Vassily Smyslov, 18, were obviously at their prime, but they were already very strong and great battlers. In our Wednesday night Playchess lecture Dennis Monokroussos takes a look at an encounter which starts with a low-tech opening but develops into a firework of attacking brilliance. Wed. night, free of charge.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Keres-Smyslov, Moscow/Leningrad 1939

In 1939, both Paul Keres (1916-1975) and Vassily Smyslov (1921- ) were young men near the start of their chess careers. Keres had just burst on the world scene the past year or two, while Smyslov was about a year from making his mark as a leading Soviet player. Neither was as great as he eventually would be (though Keres might have been fairly close at that point), but they were already very strong and great battlers.

That tremendous strength and fighting spirit is evident in their game from a 1939 training tournament in Moscow and Leningrad, though to judge from the opening alone one might not have expected much. This was a Queen's Gambit Declined, and Black's inaccurate handling left White with a small but persistent positional advantage. One might expect a long maneuvering game in prospect, but Keres found a way to sharpen the play – dramatically. With sacrifices left and right, the Estonian legend threw everything into an attack on Smyslov's king, and yet the younger man defended with equal brilliance for quite a while. All it took was a single error, and under the heavy and sustained pressure of Keres' attack, Smyslov finally went awry.

Despite the error, the game does credit to both players, and is a real pleasure for those of us who will be watching. Also, the low-tech opening makes this game especially valuable to U-2000 players, who may not understand why some of the commonplace finesses of the Queen's Gambit Declined matter. This show will go some way towards clarifying the mysteries of that opening, before we reach the joyful middlegame between these gladiators of the chessboard.

I hope – no, I expect! – to see everyone join in the fun tonight (Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET); the show is free, after all, and it's easy to watch: Log on to the Playchess server, enter the Broadcast room, and click on Keres-Smyslov game in the games tab at the relevant time. Further directions here, if necessary.

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).



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Dennis Monokroussos is 41, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and occasionally works as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.



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