Lesson in strategy: knowing your classics

by Sagar Shah
9/5/2016 – In the third round of the Baku Olympiad 2016, Evgeny Tomashevsky was playing Iordachescu. In their game, the Russian had a dominating knight on d4 against his opponent's sick-looking bishop on e6, yet he captured the bishop with his knight in what seemed to be a positively paradoxical move. Had he blundered? Or was there a hidden reason behind this choice? The answer lies in a classic game played exactly 31 years ago by Anatoly Karpov!

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In the third round of the Baku Olympiad, Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia was up against Viorel Iordachescu of Moldova. While Russia won the match easily with a score of 3:1, this particular game between Tomashevsky and Iordachescu was especially interesting. The reason? After the initial 20 moves the players reached the following position:

Tomashevsky - Iordachescu (Baku Olympiad 2016, Round 3)

White has a beautiful knight on d4 which secures him a small edge. What would you play?

As unbelievable as it may seem, Tomashevsky gave up his knight on d4 for the bishop on e6. Yes, he played the completely illogical 22.Nxe6. Why did a strong positional player like Tomashevsky play such an anti-positional move?

Before revealing the answer we would like to take you 31 years back in time! The date was 12th of September 1985. It was the 4th game of the World Championship Match between Karpov and Kasparov.

The Karpov-Kasparov World Championship Match of 1985

A lot of Queen's Gambit Declined were played in this Match. In fact, Garry Kasparov even authored a ChessBase DVD solely on that, having become one of the great experts as a result. After 20 moves in the fourth game this position was reached:

Karpov - Kasparov (1985 WCh, Game four)

The similarities with Tomashevsky-Iordachescu are quite obvious! And so you can quite easily guess what Karpov played here. Yes, of course, 20.Nxe6! Kasparov recaptured 20...fxe6. Let's check what Kasparov has to say about this move in his book Kasparov on Modern Chess Part II:

"Taking on e6 with the queen would have been the right decision. Now, however, White obtains a safe position with possibilities (albeit only slight) of improving it, whereas Black, with no active counterplay, is forced merely to passively keep an eye on the opponent's actions. The defence of the d5-pawn has been temporarily achieved, but this cannot be called a particular achievement: the weakness of the e6-pawn and the resulting weakening of a complex of light squares on the kingside give White a slight but persistent positional advantage. This factor cannot be immediately exploited: 22 Qg6? Qa5!, winning a pawn. The possible future invasion of the white queen on h7 will also not in itself solve anything, since after moving to e7 the black king will be safe enough.  What is required of White is systematic play, the essence of which can be described as follows: the consolidation of his position on the queenside, the switching of his queen to the kingside, the opening of the position by e3-e4, and only then the mounting of an attack on the light squares, making use of the now open e-file. In the game Karpov skillfully put all these ideas into practice, but, of course, not without substantial 'help' on my part."

Have a look at the remainder of the game with comments from Kasparov, and learn the art of positional play from Anatoly Karpov:

[Event "World Championship 32th-KK2"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "1985.09.12"] [Round "4"] [White "Karpov, Anatoly"] [Black "Kasparov, Garry"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D55"] [WhiteElo "2720"] [BlackElo "2700"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r3k1/ppr2pp1/1q2bb1p/3p4/3N4/4P3/PP1RBPPP/1Q3RK1 w - - 0 21"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "1985.09.03"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "24"] [EventCountry "URS"] [SourceTitle "MainBase"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 21. Nxe6 $1 fxe6 22. Bg4 Rc4 23. h3 Qc6 24. Qd3 Kh8 25. Rfd1 a5 26. b3 Rc3 27. Qe2 Rf8 28. Bh5 b5 29. Bg6 Bd8 30. Bd3 b4 31. Qg4 Qe8 32. e4 Bg5 33. Rc2 Rxc2 34. Bxc2 Qc6 35. Qe2 Qc5 36. Rf1 Qc3 37. exd5 exd5 38. Bb1 Qd2 39. Qe5 Rd8 40. Qf5 Kg8 41. Qe6+ Kh8 42. Qg6 Kg8 43. Qe6+ Kh8 44. Bf5 Qc3 45. Qg6 Kg8 46. Be6+ Kh8 47. Bf5 Kg8 48. g3 Kf8 49. Kg2 Qf6 50. Qh7 Qf7 51. h4 Bd2 52. Rd1 Bc3 53. Rd3 Rd6 54. Rf3 Ke7 55. Qh8 d4 56. Qc8 Rf6 57. Qc5+ Ke8 58. Rf4 Qb7+ 59. Re4+ Kf7 60. Qc4+ Kf8 61. Bh7 Rf7 62. Qe6 Qd7 63. Qe5 1-0

The entire plan explained above, after 21...fxe6, was put into practice extremely strongly and consistently by Karpov.

Once you have seen this game and understood the value of giving up your strong knight for the passive bishop on e6, Tomashevsky's decision of 22.Nxe6 against Iordachescu becomes much clearer.

In the game he had quite a bit of pressure on his opponent and even won a pawn. But in the end he wasn't able to convert it into a full point. Here's the game for you to play and think over:

Tomashevsky - Iordachescu (Baku Olympiad 2016, Round 3)

[Event "42nd Olympiad Baku 2016 Open"] [Site "Baku"] [Date "2016.09.04"] [Round "3.2"] [White "Tomashevsky, Evgeny"] [Black "Iordachescu, Viorel"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D61"] [WhiteElo "2731"] [BlackElo "2584"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r2k1/1p3pp1/1q2bb1p/2rp4/p2N4/4PBP1/PP1R1PKP/1Q1R4 w - - 0 22"] [PlyCount "115"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [EventCountry "AZE"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [WhiteTeam "Russia"] [BlackTeam "Moldova"] [WhiteTeamCountry "RUS"] [BlackTeamCountry "MDA"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 22. Nxe6 $1 {(09:31)} fxe6 {(00:49)} 23. Qg6 {(00:09)} Rb5 {(05:05)} 24. Bg4 { (01:32)} Qc6 {(07:09)} 25. Rb1 {(12:38)} Rc5 {(00:34)} 26. Bf3 {(01:13)} Qe8 { (01:14)} 27. Qd3 {(00:13)} Qb5 {(00:53)} 28. Bg4 {(00:35)} Qc6 {(03:34)} 29. Rbd1 {(00:40)} Rc4 {(01:36)} 30. Be2 {(01:00)} Rc5 {(00:20)} 31. Qg6 {(00:41)} Qe8 {(00:33)} 32. Qg4 {(00:37)} Rd6 {(00:47)} 33. Qb4 {(02:30)} Qc6 {(02:07)} 34. Qf4 {(00:05)} Qd7 {(01:37)} 35. b4 {(00:48)} axb3 {(00:26)} 36. axb3 { (00:01)} Qe7 {(00:36)} 37. Ra2 {(01:08)} Rd8 {(00:20)} 38. Qg4 {(00:53)} Kh8 { (00:44)} 39. Bd3 {(00:46)} Qf7 {(00:37)} 40. Bg6 {(00:00)} Qe7 {(00:00)} 41. Rc2 {(07:14)} Rdc8 {(06:40)} 42. Rxc5 {(05:53)} Rxc5 {( 00:08)} 43. Rd2 { (00:21)} b6 {(02:41)} 44. Ra2 {(16:12)} Ra5 {(00:13)} 45. Rxa5 {(00:09)} bxa5 { (00:04)} 46. Qa4 {(00:05)} Qd8 {(00:16)} 47. Qc6 {(01:57)} e5 {(03:34)} 48. Bf5 {(00:41)} g5 {(01:16)} 49. Qb7 {(02:01)} Bg7 {(00:11)} 50. Bd3 {(00:57)} Kg8 { (05:45)} 51. Qc6 {(00:22)} Bf6 {(01:15)} 52. Qe6+ {(00:20)} Kg7 {(00:35)} 53. Qf5 {(00:05)} e4 {(01:45)} 54. Be2 {(00:06)} d4 {(01:10)} 55. exd4 {(01:14)} Bxd4 {(02:20)} 56. Qxe4 {(00:30)} Qf6 {(00:25)} 57. Bf3 {(00:19)} Bb6 {(01:15)} 58. Qb7+ {(00:35)} Kf8 {(00:10)} 59. Qc8+ {(00:27)} Ke7 {(00:29)} 60. Qc2 { (00:22)} Kf8 {(00:22)} 61. Bd5 {(00:45)} Kg7 {(00:27)} 62. Qe2 {(00:45)} Kf8 { (00:14)} 63. Bc4 {(00:53)} Bc5 {(01:08)} 64. f3 {(00:33)} h5 {(00:49)} 65. Qd2 {(00:15)} Bb6 {(01:12)} 66. Qd5 {( 00:24)} h4 {(00:12)} 67. Kh3 {(00:29)} hxg3 {(00:42)} 68. hxg3 {(00:03)} Bc7 {(02:36)} 69. Qc5+ {(00:43)} Qe7 {(03:13)} 70. Qf5+ {(00:06)} Kg7 {(00:28)} 71. Kg4 {(01:19)} Qe5 {(02:29)} 72. Qf7+ {(00:31)} Kh6 {(00:14)} 73. Qf8+ {(00:14)} Qg7 {(00:06)} 74. Qe8 {(00:50)} Qe5 {(00:18)} 75. Qf8+ {(00:32)} Qg7 {(00:05)} 76. Qe8 {(00:45)} Qe5 {(00:08)} 77. Qf8+ { (00:28)} Qg7 {(00:09)} 78. Qf5 {(00:31)} Qe5 {(00:14)} 79. Qxe5 {(00:28)} 1/2-1/2

On the left is Tomashevsky - Iordachescu, 2016 and on the right is Karpov - Kasparov, 1985!

Chess becomes easier when you know your classics!

It was exactly with this intention that I recorded the ChessBase DVD "Learn from the Classics". The idea is to learn patterns and ideas from the great masters of the past, store them in your memory and use them at the appropriate moments in your game! Finding ideas like Nxe6 and dominating the light squares over the board, is not so easy. But if you have seen a classic game where this is implemented, things are pretty straightforward!

Learn from the Classics

By Sagar Shah

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• Video running time: 4 hours 45 min (English)
• With interactive training including video feedback
•Exclusive database with instructive and annotated games by Sagar Shah
• Including CB 12 Reader

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He and is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.
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tallike tallike 9/23/2016 06:16
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1602879 , 27 years before Karpov Simagin made a similar b1-h7 attack so shall we assume now that Karpov knew this game ?
DaMastaODisasta DaMastaODisasta 9/6/2016 11:19
white key symphony game! amazing coordination! pity that he didn't win.....
genem genem 9/6/2016 07:48
This article is informative, entertaining, and cool!
gmwdim gmwdim 9/6/2016 07:11
The game was played 2 years before Toma was born.
ARK_ANGEL ARK_ANGEL 9/6/2016 06:26
Highlight of the article Tomashevsky is nor Karpov.
X iLeon aka DMG X iLeon aka DMG 9/6/2016 05:20
Another cool article by Sagar - may you get your GM title soon! We'll forgive you for the CA - just don't advertise it! ;p
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 9/6/2016 11:39
The times they are a changin....
Former Prodigy Former Prodigy 9/6/2016 08:02
It is remarkable that GMs Karpov and Tomashevsky are teammates in the German Bundesliga.
GregEs GregEs 9/6/2016 04:52
Wow the beauty of Karpov's execution against Kasparov. Smooth and elegant.
tsttst70 tsttst70 9/6/2016 04:45
Absolutely amazing! Sagar Shah again bringing high quality content for serious players. Thank you.
geraldsky geraldsky 9/6/2016 02:57
What lesson we learn from this game? The only interesting here is that the game is similar to the past WWC match between Karpov and Kasparov. The lesson here: How to play a dry and boring position.
geeker geeker 9/6/2016 12:42
The "symphony on light squares!"