Veteran Smyslov overwhelms the rising star of chess

8/13/2008 – 1971. Anatoly Karpov, 20, is on his way to the world championship – which he wins four years later. But on his way he encounters a future predecessor. Vassily Smyslov, 50, was the seventh world champion. The key encounter results in an overwhelming victory for the older man. In his Wednesday night Playchess lecture Dennis Monokroussos shows us what is to be learnt form this game. Enjoy.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Back in 1971, Anatoly Karpov was a rapidly rising star, but no one thought the 20-year-old grandmaster would become world champion in just four more years. Vassily Smyslov, his 50-year-old opponent, was a former world champion and still one of the best players in the world. Neither was at his prime, but they were still very strong and this clash in the 39th Soviet Championship was intriguing and significant to the final standings. Although the title was won that year by Vladimir Savon in one of the great surprises in Soviet chess history, Smyslov had a fantastic result, going undefeated and tying for second with Mikhail Tal. Karpov was half a point behind Smyslov, finishing alone in fourth place, ahead of such luminaries as Stein, Bronstein, Polugaevsky, Taimanov and Geller in only his second shot at the national title. The event was a good sign for players: for Karpov, of his inevitable rise to the top, and for Smyslov, an indication that age was far from catching up with him. Indeed, 13 years later, at the age of 63, he would play Kasparov for the right to face Karpov for the world championship – an incredible achievement.

Turning from the broader picture to the game itself, which was won by the older man, we might think that the win came as the result of technical prowess. After all, Smyslov is known as a great endgame technician, and it’s what we would expect from an older player beating a youngster. That’s an understandable assumption, but a mistaken one. Smyslov is a fine attacking player, and especially adept at handling isolated queen pawn (IQP) structures. Karpov is completely overwhelmed by Smyslov in this game – strategically, tactically, every which way! It’s a tremendous performance by the 7th world champion, and one we can learn from in at least two ways. First, there are the general lessons of the IQP we can glean from the game. These are enduring ideas that show up in a wide range of openings, from the Caro-Kann to the Nimzo-Indian to a host of Queen’s Gambit lines. Second, there’s a nifty trap Karpov fell for – and that Smyslov failed to take advantage of! Remarkably, quite a number of strong players have fallen into this trap (and a few others with White have failed to take advantage), so this is something you can add to your own bag of tricks.

Entertainment and instruction thus awaits you tonight – Wednesday night – at 9 p.m. ET in the Broadcast room on the Playchess.com server. I’ll be presenting the game live, free for those with server access. Hope to see you there!

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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