Were Tal, Korchnoi and Geller 2200 rated players?

by Albert Silver
10/22/2021 – This was the question that a friend, grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky, posed after being inquired about a comment by another grandmaster. It was meant as irony, but was the logical result of a series of questions and comments that led to him posing this. He had explained with hard data how one could even ask this. If you want to know how we got to this point, read on!

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It all started on a rather ordinary day while studying one of the games in Ludek Pachman’s great trilogy, “Complete Chess Strategy”. I had been rereading it in an effort to ‘reboot’ my chess, so as to ground my game once more on solid concepts before trying to steer it forward.

In the chapter on blockading pawns, expertly taught by the Czech grandmaster, he brings up a game he played against Viktor Korchnoi in 1954. This is not done out of hubris but, as he aptly explains, it is one with which he will have a much deeper and more intimate knowledge of what took place and why. 

A modern classic on positional play, this is volume two of "Complete Chess Strategy"

It is a decidedly unusual opening in which things go sour for the author. Trying to explain where he went astray, he gives a position and short line with the conclusion, “would give Black a good game.” Normally I would not spend too much time on a sidenote, which is not crucial to the lesson, but it was so contrary to what I thought of it, I stopped and scratched my head. Black has a good game? Really?


Since I was playing through the game and notes on ChessBase, I could easily just fire up an engine with a quick click on the keyboard, but it is one principle I do not deviate from: no engines when studying. I need to develop my brain and skill, and not my dependency on engines. So I spent a full minute analyzing and my conclusion wasI think Pachman is off his rocker”. Delusional? Arrogance? Hardly. It was simply my impression based on what I saw. I could easily be dead wrong, and I accepted that.

I decided to message a GM friend. Not Yermo. Not yet. I explained my consternation, my confusion. I also explained my refusal to ask an engine. Without even bothering to wait for me to send the position, he exclaimed, “Let us be honest, those guys knew nothing about chess. Pachman was like what? 2200?” "Now you are being excessively harsh too. He was not 2200", I replied. "He was", my friend insisted. I copy-and-pasted some of Pachman's CV from Wikipedia into our chat, but he was not dissuaded.

Ludek Pachman was a hard-working grandmaster who wrote and published no fewer than 80 books throughout his career. He considered his book on strategy to be his best work.

Spending a lot of time arguing this was obviously pointless, and he was entitled to his opinion after all. Not being anything near a GM myself, I was on shaky ground to debate this with him anyhow. Still, this made me wonder: do modern grandmasters really look down their noses on the skill of their predecessors like that?

I now messaged the veteran grandmaster whose strong views never left any doubts where he stood, Alex Yermolinsky. I explained the story and why I was asking him this. He told me he had an opinion on the matter, and asked me to give him a few minutes while he prepared some material to answer me. Some minutes later he sent me a small database with eight games in it. A bit confused as there was no explanation accompanying them. Was I supposed to study this? “No study. Just see them.” I did and all became clear.

The first three games were played by Tal, Korchnoi, and Geller in 1955, all in different events, and they all reached this position with white:


With no knowledge of the theory of the position, nor any need to consult 3500-Elo programs, the move that immediately draws one’s attention is the straightforward 12. e5! Since the line 12… dxe5 13. fxe5 Nd5 14. Nxd5 winning a pawn seems irrefutable. The point, as you may have surmised, is that none of the three legends played it. Tal won his game as a result of a concerted effort at hara-kiri by his opponent, though not from any special play in the opening, while Korchnoi and Geller each got nothing and drew.

These are the first three games out of the eight. The next games are played in the 50s and 60s by players of far lesser note, all of whom played 12. e5! and all of whom won their respective bouts.

Incredible, isn't it?”, he told me. “A 2200 of today would play 12. e5 with no hesitation. Shall we conclude that Tal, Korchnoi and Geller were 2200 strength?” It is a rhetorical question. “My point is, it's impossible to estimate the strength of a player by small sample.

It is a valuable lesson, even when it is one we think we have learned and mastered. Does this mean we should cease to question and analyze moments of disagreement? Of course not, but nor should we be too quick to dole out judgement based on that person’s lapse.

A special thank you to GM Alex Yermolinsky for the generous lesson, and to my unnamed GM friend whose comments led to this discussion, lesson, and article.

You can see my personal on-the-fly analysis of the position in the video above at 21:03. The video also includes a missed tactic (4:28) as well as a successful solution of one of Dvoretsky's endgame study exercises ending after which I go a bit nuts (42:50)

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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SunriseK SunriseK 11/9/2021 07:02
@Frits: sorry, just today I noticed your last post.
LOL, would you like to teach me the Anastasia's mate? :-)
Apart this, it's not clear which variation do you intend: if you mean 20... b5! 21. Nf5 bxc4? 22. Bxc4?! Nd6? 23. Ne7+! I already gave full credit to your variation, which is clearly winning for White, in one of my previous posts (25 Oct 2021 11:57). But instead I was talking about the variation 20... b5! 21. Nf5 bxc4? 22. Bxc4?! Ndf6! because I was not searching for the best moves, but instead just trying to guess what Pachman was really meaning, as I already said in my previous post.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/27/2021 05:53
SunriseK, for the record: no need for an engine to find 23 Ne7+ Kh8 24 Rf3. Anastasia's mate is about the second mating combination you learn after the smothered mate, and for anyone knowing it, it's probably the first thing you look at in the diagram position, and then the following moves are very simple. That makes it highly unlikely Pachman missed it, which means that for the rest, you're probably right.
SunriseK SunriseK 10/26/2021 11:52
@adbennet: I agree with you about what you wrote in your last comment. And of course Pachman was a player of good GM strength. Not to mention Korchnoi that in my humble opinion is probably the best all time player among those not being able to become World Champion (Caruana is not counted because he still can possibly become WC, LOL).
Anyway the variation I gave was supposed to happen after 21... bxc4, as stated by Pachman.
According to what Albert Silver posted, Pachman wrote "A correctly timed counter-attack, as now 21. Nf5 bxc4 22. Bxc4 Nd6 would give Black a good game."
As this is obviously not the case, I was marveling if Pachman was intending instead something like
"20 ... b5! A correctly timed counter-attack, as now 21. Nf5 bxc4 22. Bxc4 Ndf6 23. Qh4 Bxf5 24. exf5 Nd6 would give Black a good game." where the variation would effectively end with Nd6, after a pair of intermediate forced moves (missed by Pachman in his manuscript or by the typographer in the printed edition).
Yet in fact, like you noticed, there is that 21... bxc4? which is a mistake... so the question you asked remains open. But, as you also pointed out, this would not be a sufficient reason to disparage an author's strength.
And your variation is almost certainly the best for Black; at the end the evaluation is [+=]. But it doesn't contemplate the knight blockade in d6 as last move, so I have doubts Pachman could mean your variation instead: too different from what he wrote.
And again as you pointed out, it's easy today for us to find good variations with our engines, that Ludek didn't even dream of.
adbennet adbennet 10/26/2021 05:25
@SunriseK - 20...b5! is good after 21.Nf5 Ndf6 (not 21...bxc4, maybe even "?") 22.Qh4 Bxf5 23.exf5 Rb8 and black has the option of ...b5-b4 as well as possibly a better timed ...b5xc4. But that's not the question. Using an engine we can always find better possibilities than even the best GMs found in their OTB game. The question is why did Pachman EVALUATE the position after 21...bxc4 22.Bxc4 Nd6 as "good counterplay", when in fact it looks highly dangerous. I agree with Silver about that, it's optically bad for black, the position just smells. Since Pachman made this assessment after the game and published it in a book, it can raise some doubts.

I don't think publishing a bad variation or a bad assessment is _necessarily_ a reason to disparage an author's strength. It really depends on how often it happens. It needs to be taken in the context of all their variations and assessments. This is very similar to Yermolinsky's argument about bad moves by strong players - what is the sample size?

It's not the quality of the worst mistake that determines a player's strength, it's the frequency. Anybody can blunder a mate in one in a winning position (or lose on time, etc.), but strong players _almost_ never do it. Authors are held to a stricter standard because they have time, editors, and other resources not available OTB. But still mistakes will creep in. I have done it myself! On more than one occasion I have published a variation with a wrong assessment, and readers just love to send letters to the editor when they find mistakes. It's all okay, but calling Pachman a 2200-player is carrying the criticism a bit too far.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/26/2021 10:14
@Bbrodinsky yes, it is a silly statement, I agree.

@Masquer agreed.
Masquer Masquer 10/26/2021 01:55
The title of the article is provocative BS. This theme has been around for a while, since computer engines became strong. I've heard people claiming Morphy was just expert strength - absolute nonsense. Nowadays, most young GMs don't even study the classics. This fits right in with that trend.
SunriseK SunriseK 10/26/2021 01:13
About the sicilian game, I agree with what oxygenes and vnamb wrote.
And btw in the variation 12 e5 b4? (Nd5!) 13 exf6 bxc3 14 fxg7! Bxg7 15 Qxd6 Rc7 isn't 16. f5! much stronger than 16. Ne5 for White? ;-)
SunriseK SunriseK 10/25/2021 11:57
In the game Korchnoi Vs Pachmann, may it be that there is some printing error in the book (or Ludek mistakenly wrote down the variation) and what the author really wanted to tell was instead: "20 ... b5! A correctly timed counter-attack, as now 21. Nf5 bxc4 22. Bxc4 Ndf6 23. Qh4 Bxf5 24. exf5 Nd6 would give Black a good game." At least better than in the real game, because with my variation the evaluation is around [+/-] and Black can resist longer (e.g. 25. Bxe5 Qd8 26. Bxd6 Qxd6), while in the variation 22. ... Nd6? [+-] White is clearly winning, for example with the variations given in the earlier comments by Frits Fritschy.
Anyway, what I've seen carefully looking at the full game, is that it has been a good fight between a very strong GM (Viktor) and a strong GM (Ludek), not certainly between 2200 rated players.
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 10/25/2021 12:08
@lajosarpad: you are right of course, I didn't mean to point my annoyance at everybody or at the wrong people. The title of the article could have been better... Of course there is far more knowledge now. I go back to the late 60s on studying chess, and it's amazing how much more is known about endgames, for example (the Dvoretsky book continues to blow my mind every time I open it)... Once in awhile I hear silly statements like the title of this article, and it needs to be pointed out how silly it is.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/25/2021 09:25
@Bbrodinsky I think the article agrees with you that those legends were no 2200s. Some GM had that statement and his identity was hidden because that statement is false and disrespectful and the audience of CB never forgets. I would also like to point out that since the time of these legends not only the opening evolved, but the middlegame and endgame as well. It's difficult to compare players from different eras, because the newer generation has access to newer information. But those legends are legends because in their prime they were showing great chess. The GM the article does not name is probably a good chess player, but it seems he is ignorant of how great past legends were.
algorithmy algorithmy 10/25/2021 05:28
Welocme Back Albert! We missed ur articles
FramiS FramiS 10/24/2021 07:57
@f7-f6 @adbennet
I have the German edition "Moderne Schachstrategie" by Pachman from 1958. There the annotations meet the English version of Mr Silver. Pachman states after 20. ... b7-b5! ."Ein rechtzeitiger Gegenangriff. Ungüngstig wäre nun 21. Sf5 b*c4 22. L*c4 Sd6 mit gutem Spiel für Schwarz." ( A timely counter-attack. It wouldn't be favouable now to play 21. Kf5 b*c4 22. L*c4 because 22... Kd6 gives Black a good game.)
bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 10/24/2021 06:34
How dare they call these guys 2200. Korchnoi was beating jokers like this in the 70's. Not 1970's, his age 70's. Tal could take these guys down probably from his deathbed. Gimme a break. All he would have to do is play an opening not in these modern guys' computerized memory banks and they'd probably fall apart by move 10. Disgraceful article..
adbennet adbennet 10/24/2021 06:29
Since f7-f6 states that the German edition does not advocate ...Nd6 in the same position, I don't see how Albert Silver quoting from the English edition is any sort of counterargument.

Old chess books were notorious for typographical errors for numerous reasons: translation of language, translation of notation, no software for checking variations, no software for typesetting. Today, when descriptive notation is no more, and software is available to help at every step, typographical errors are far fewer, yet still persist! This shows what a hard problem it is to solve.
Metaphysician Metaphysician 10/24/2021 06:10
When he played at Lone Pine in 1979, Pachman was about 54, an age when virtually all players are well past their peak. He was rated 2510.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/24/2021 01:19
I think the no engine during analysis is a good idea. Chess is all about thoughts and if you let the engine do the thinking, then 1. all the fun is the engine's, which is not able to enjoy it, 2. You will have difficulty when you have to think on your own if you are only doing it at tournaments. However, when you are done with your analysis, it is a good idea to check it for blunders with an engine, to avoid being punished for some blind spot and, if you play inaccuracies, then at least you know about it.
Albert Silver Albert Silver 10/23/2021 11:59
@f7-f6 - I think you are looking at the wrong diagram. Scroll to the top and see the first diagram. He points out after 20...b5! "A correctly timed counter-attack, as now 21. Nf5 bxc4 22. Bxc4 Nd6 would give Black a good game." And this results in the first position shown in the article.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/23/2021 11:46
Albert, the engine privilege argument goes both ways. Keywords remain straigthforwardness and practical reasons. Professional players don't do science.
f7-f6 f7-f6 10/23/2021 10:08
I wondered whether Pachman could have performed such a slip in his comments.
So I checked my german edition "Moderne Schach-Strategie", Rau Verlag, Band 2, page 20.
What I found, is that the position where Pachman in fact advocated 22... Nd6 is very very different to the diagram given above by Albert Silver.
So the solution may be that there is simply a mistake in printing, somehow a mixture of different positions.

And overall the discussion is interesting but without any solution. Because the top players of then are dead and the top players of now weren't born early enough to compare under equal terms.
It's the same discussion as whether Lasker could have held against Fischer could have held against Kasparov could have held against Carlsen...

By the way, the notation of the game is

Korchnoi, Viktor
Pachman, Ludek
Event: Bucharest
Site: Bucharest Date: ??/??/1954
Round: 15 Score: 1-0
ECO: E20 Nimzo-Indian, Kmoch variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 d5 5.a3 Be7 6.e4 dxe4 7.fxe4 e5 8.d5 O-O 9.Nf3 Ng4 10.Bd3 Bc5 11.Qe2 Bf2+ 12.Kd1 Bd4 13.Kc2 c5 14.Rf1 Bxc3 15.Kxc3 Nd7 16.Kc2 a6 17.Bd2 Ngf6 18.Bc3 Qc7 19.Nh4 Ne8 20.Qh5 b5 21.Nf3 f6 22.Nd2 Nb6 23.b3 bxc4 24.Nxc4 Nxc4 25.Bxc4 Qd6 26.g4 Bd7 27.g5 f5 28.exf5 Bxf5+ 29.Kb2 Nc7 30.Rae1 e4 31.Qh4 Nb5 32.Qf4 Qxf4 33.Rxf4 Nxc3 34.Kxc3 g6 35.Bf1 a5 36.Bb5 Rab8 37.a4 Kg7 38.Kc4 Rbc8 39.Re3 h6 40.h4 hxg5 41.hxg5 Rh8 1-0
Albert Silver Albert Silver 10/23/2021 07:50
@Frits - Naturally, stating what an engine finds is always complicated when reviewing any human games, much less one that had no such privilege. Still, just to reply to the comment "16... Bf8 would have led to an ending that my engine gets to like more for black if I run it a little longer." This may depend on the engine. On my laptop (desktop is down for the moment), FF2.2 definitely likes White's prospects, with a consistent +1.6 to 1.8 evaluation (it swings a bit) even several moves into the main line. Bear in mind this is a special build that is not widely available, and I have no idea what other engines say, or even pure SF. Here is the output and eval:

Fat Fritz 2.2: 12. e5 b4 13. exf6 bxc3 14. fxg7 Bxg7 15. Qxd6 Rc7 16. Ne5 Bf8 17. Nc4 Bxd6 18. Nxa5 Be7 19. Nc4 Bxg5 20. fxg5 cxb2 21. Nb6 Nb8 22. Nxd7 Nxd7 23. Bxa6 Nb6 24. Rd4 O-O 25. Rb4 Nd5 26. Rb7 (+1.71)
lajosarpad lajosarpad 10/23/2021 11:42
I believe you can safely argue even with a GM about anything. If you have the facts on your side, then you are correct and he/she is wrong.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/23/2021 10:55
Albert, I already tried to answer that - Rc7 was played in two games in which 16... Bf8 would have led to an ending that my engine gets to like more for black if I run it a little longer. I'm not trying to prove black is okay after 12 e5; I'm just saying that things aren't as straigthforward as you suggested, and that the three GM's may have had practical reasons to refrain from playing it, as Aighearach suggested as well.
Albert Silver Albert Silver 10/23/2021 04:31
@Frits - Quite right, not sure why I hallucinated the pawn on a3. In street here, but ok, how about 12. e5 b4 13. exf6 bxc3 14. Qxd6... and I see this was indeed played according to the databases per your comments. It is what comes to mind though I'd want to sit down and give it a good think.
Aighearach Aighearach 10/23/2021 02:19
Something else that isn't considered in most of this analysis; the "best" move in one game might not be the "best" move in another game.

Tal, for example, in his book he gives a move f4! and he admits that objectively the move is ?!. But he was playing Botvinnik, who would try to refute that move on principle, and enter into complications where Tal had a skill advantage.

When you're looking at an old game, there is often no context of that sort available. Did they consider their opponent to have a weakness in a certain type of position? Did they intentionally offer to take an inferior position because of that? Was a player prone to getting into time trouble? Did the players disagree over the relative value of bishops vs knights, something not well established until the database age?
Michael Jones Michael Jones 10/23/2021 01:25
@Minnesota Fats - Einstein did play a bit of chess, but never took it very seriously. As far as I know only two recorded games of his survive - the fairly well-known one against Robert Oppenheimer, and an earlier one against someone called Sell (first name apparently unknown). Einstein won both games convincingly, but since we know nothing of the strength of either opponent (neither has any other games recorded) that's not a lot of help in estimating his.
Michael Jones Michael Jones 10/23/2021 01:14
Yermolinsky's point basically sums it up: it's impossible to estimate the strength of a player from a small sample. All the above shows is that even world elite players might not always find the best move in a position.

To illustrate the same point from the opposite direction: if you searched my games hard enough you might eventually find a move I once played which was the same one a GM would have played in the position. It would be completely by chance - the GM would have chosen it after calculating a whole load of variations, I'd have chosen it because I just thought it looked OK - and if you inferred from the fact that I played the same move that I was of GM strength, you would be about 800 points wide of the mark.
Ryonen Ryonen 10/22/2021 11:53
Thank you for this very interesting article. I think you can conclude that the good quality of well-informed, well-mannered interesting public debate it has provoked is a proof that it was well worth publishing. More by this author, please :)
Aighearach Aighearach 10/22/2021 11:23
Perhaps this is off-topic, but any player under 2000 who hasn't read Pachman's book should study it carefully and watch their rating go up.

That said, positional considerations based on concepts like center control were considered more important in the pre-computer era. It was not fully appreciated yet how much of the game is tactics. Even many World Champions might have believed chess is only 50% tactics, or 70% tactics, or something. Players were not so quick to grab a pawn if they it gave up positional advantages and led to an unclear position. And indeed, lower-rated players, who are less likely to be able to calculate complicated tactics, should also try to keep their position manageable.

I say this as an adult player who continues to make slow rating progress with only a moderate level of study.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/22/2021 11:00
Excuses about my question – I thought I read the article very well, but I must have missed GM Yemolinsky's statement 'My point is, it's impossible to estimate the strength of a player by small sample.'
About your analysis: 13 axb4 is not possible, as the a-pawn is still on a2.
My point mainly was that there are a lot of questions possible about 12 e5, and that the three top GM's just chose a practical approach, not having the information their followers had. I doubt very much you can call that a mistake.
Albert Silver Albert Silver 10/22/2021 10:12
@vnamb - You're right, but at the same time I can state unequivocally that the file I was sent states *Efim* Geller, and since it also said USSR Ch. sf, saw no reason to even look it up. I'll chalk it up to a curiosity and will see if this was something corrected in a more recent version of the database, which he may not have.
Minnesota Fats Minnesota Fats 10/22/2021 08:46
An off topic question.
What Elo rating would Einstein have had?
vnamb vnamb 10/22/2021 07:52
Adding game for your reference below - taken from chessbase.

[Event "URS-ch23 Semifinal"]
[Site "Leningrad"]
[Date "1955.11.11"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Geller, Aleksandr Girshevic"]
[Black "Taimanov, Mark E"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B67"]
[PlyCount "83"]
[EventDate "1955.11.11"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "19"]
[EventCountry "URS"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 1999"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1998.11.16"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "1998.11.16"]
[SourceQuality "1"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8.
O-O-O Bd7 9. f4 Rc8 10. Nf3 Qa5 11. Kb1 b5 12. Bd3 Nb4 13. Rhe1 Nxd3 14. Qxd3
b4 15. Ne2 Bb5 16. Qe3 Be7 17. f5 O-O 18. Nc1 Qc7 19. Rd2 Bc6 20. Bxf6 Bxf6 21.
g4 exf5 22. g5 Bd8 23. exf5 Bxf3 24. Qxf3 Bxg5 25. Rg2 Bf6 26. Nd3 Rfe8 27.
Reg1 Qc4 28. Qd1 a5 29. Rg4 Re4 30. Nf2 Rd4 31. Qc1 Qe2 32. R4g2 Qh5 33. Ng4
Bg5 34. Qf1 Re8 35. Qb5 Rde4 36. a4 bxa3 37. b3 h6 38. Qxa5 Qh3 39. Nf2 Qxg2
40. Rxg2 Re1+ 41. Ka2 Bf6 42. b4 1/2-1/2
Albert Silver Albert Silver 10/22/2021 07:30
@Frits - The article is exactly as before. Not even a comma (to my knowledge).
@vnamb - I don't know what game you mean, but the game Yermo shared is Efim Geller - Mark Taimanov, USSR Ch. sf Moscow (1955), which ended in a draw after 42 moves.

Regarding engine use, in the first position it was part of my personal study, shared transparently, and 'live' (meaning unrehearsed or researched), as part of my video series "Study Chess with Me'. And as to the position shared by GM Yermolinsky, it was vetted by him as he sent it to me, and came with the comment "A 2200 player would find 12. e5 easily" so i applied this to my own vetting: Would I find it? I would say yes.

Still, without an engine (still!), I'm a bit intrigued by the lines I see here. After 12. e5 b4 doesn't White just play 13. axb4 Nxb4 (I assume) 14. exf6 and win a piece? 14. ... Rxc3 seems to do nothing after 15. Qxc3 Qa2+ 16. Kc1 Qa1+ 17 Kd2 and then what? Is there an obvious move I missed?
GabrielCuri GabrielCuri 10/22/2021 05:35
After 12. e5 dxe5, isn´t 13. Axf6 stronger than 13.fxe5 ???
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/22/2021 05:21
One variation might be 12 e5 b4 13 exf6 bxc3 14 fxg7 Bxg7 15 Qxd6 Rc7 16 Ne5 and now in two GM games 16... Bxe5 was played, but maybe 16... Bf8 is an idea. After 17 Nc4 (17 Qxc7!? is interesting, but seems to lead to equality) Bxd6 18 Nxa5 Be7 black will get some counterplay against the white queenside.
adbennet adbennet 10/22/2021 05:18
PhishMaster's first comment I agree 100% with all three points made. Regarding the third one -- How old is the first GM? I used to frequently talk nonsense when I was a teenager. Nowadays I still think nonsense but have learned not to speak it ... mostly.

Another point is it's possible to know too much. If Tal (or whoever went first) was following some analysis from 64 or Shakhmatny Biulletin and just trying to reach a later critical position, and Korchnoi and Geller (or whoever went second) were doing the same thing but now following Tal, then it is quite understandable they could go right past a smallish blunder. After all, Tal doesn't expect a blunder in published analysis, Korchnoi and Geller don't expect a blunder in a Tal game, and nobody had an engine in the background flashing a red light and showing +1.25.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/22/2021 05:08
In Korchnoi-Pachman, the easiest way for white to win is 23 Ne7+ Kh8 24 Rf3, threatening the famous Anastacia's mate with Qxh7 and Rh3. After 24... Nf6 25 Qxe5 white has a pawn and a very direct threat, leading to another mate. And 24... h6 25 Bd2 Nf6 26 Rxf6 Qxe7 27 Bxh6 isn't too difficult either.
PEB216 PEB216 10/22/2021 04:56
Ludek Pachman's three-volume work, "Complete Chess Strategy," was abridged by Alan S. Russell under the title "Modern Chess Strategy." The game between Korchnoi and Pachman does not appear in the abridged version. Volume 1 of "Complete Chess Strategy" is on "First Principles of the Middle Game" (168 pp.), vol. 2 on "Principles of Pawn Play and the Center" (184 pp.), and vol. 3 on "Play on the Wings" (175 pp.). The abridged version is 318 pages. These books used Descriptive Notation. The abridged version was published in 1963.
vnamb vnamb 10/22/2021 04:54
The Geller mentioned in the database is not the great Efim Geller but someone Alexander Geller.
Also after 12.e5 de5 13.Bf6 is a killer - so Black needs to play 12.e5 Nd5 where White still wins a pawn - so it is a mystery what Tal and Korchnoi missed.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/22/2021 04:45
Was the article changed after some of the comments?