Zurich Legends: All even at 1:1

by Sagar Shah
2/16/2015 – These days chess is clearly a young man’s game. World Champion Magnus Carlsen is 24 years old, his future competitors for the title, like Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Wesley So, are all younger than him. In a time when chess is getting younger and younger it is a refreshing change to see two high-class octogenarians battle it out against each other. Big report with commentary.

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Zurich Legends: All even at 1:1

Born in 1931, Viktor Korchnoi is 84 years old and his opponent, Wolfgang Uhlmann, is 80

The two are up against each other in a four game rapid match with a time control of 25 minutes each + 20 seconds increment per move. For me this match is the ultimate display of “love for the game”. Definitely, it is only the love for chess that can motivate a person who suffered from a dangerous stroke two years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair to participate in this exhibition match.

Below Korchnoi’s name is written “Ex-Vizeweltmeister”, which translates to ex-vice World Champion.
Viktor Korchnoi played Anatoly Karpov twice for the World Championship title, 1978 and 1981.

Wolfgang Uhlmann is considered by many as the German chess hero and won the individual gold medal on board one in the 1964 Olympiad. He had also qualified to the quarter-finals of the 1970 Candidates cycle.

Out of curiosity I decided to find the player in the world who has played the maximum number of recorded games of chess. Mega Database which has nearly six million games in it was the perfect source for me.

I found that Viktor Korchnoi (spelt as Kortschnoj) was way ahead of others with 5106 recorded games.
Uhlmann was not far behind with 3556 games to his credit. Phew! What an appetite for chess!

Korchnoi’s wife Petra waiting for the games to begin

“I hope you remember the latest theory in the English!” Final instructions before the game.

Game one

Uhlmann started with 1.c4, a move that has been his main weapon in the past. The players played the theoretical line of the English Four Knights. Korchnoi refrained from exchanging the knight on c3 with his bishop on b4. This seemed to throw Uhlmann in a bit of doubt as he weakened his d4-square with the move 9.e4?!

After 14 moves Korchnoi almost had a technically winning position with his strong d4 knight against Uhlmann’s passive light squared bishop

Korchnoi’s 17…f5 proved to be incorrect as it opened the bishop up on g2

The game became quite complicated and after a few inaccuracies by both sides, it was Uhlmann who had the upper hand. He played the endgame with good amount of precision and won the first game.

[Event "Zurich Legends 2015"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.02.15"] [Round "1"] [White "Uhlmann, Wolfgang"] [Black "Korchnoi, Viktor"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A29"] [WhiteElo "2326"] [BlackElo "2499"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "114"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. c4 {Uhlmann's main weapon} e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 {The Four Knight's Variation of the English is a classical opening which has a rich history behind it. Both the players are of course very well versed with the strategic plans in this position.} 4. g3 Bb4 (4... Nd4 {was a move founded by Korchnoi.} 5. Nxe5 Qe7 6. f4 (6. Nd3 Nf3#) 6... d6 7. Nd3 Bf5 $44 {with excellent compensation.}) 5. Bg2 (5. Nd5 {is another possibility.}) 5... O-O 6. O-O Re8 ( 6... e4 7. Ne1 {is Uhlmann's pet weapon in the English.} Bxc3 8. dxc3 h6 9. Nc2 Re8 10. Ne3 $13 {With a complex game.}) 7. d3 h6 {Preventing Bg5.} 8. Bd2 a5 9. e4 $6 {This weakens the dark squares in the center and Korchnoi makes excellent use of the d4 square.} (9. a3 {could have been better.} Bxc3 10. Bxc3 a4 $11) 9... d6 10. Nd5 $6 (10. h3 {Preventing Bg4 was better because the knight on f3 is extremely necessary to defend the weak d4 square.}) 10... Bxd2 11. Qxd2 Bg4 $1 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 Nd4 14. Nxf6+ Qxf6 $17 {[%csl Gd4,Rf3] It usually happens in chess that the superior player ends up with a better minor piece. In this position you can see that Black has a beautiful knight on d4 as opposed to the passive light squared bishop. This would have been a technically winning position for a young Korchnoi. But at the age of 84 things are not so simple any more.} 15. Bg2 Qg5 $1 16. Qd1 (16. Qxg5 hxg5 {would have left White without any counterplay.}) 16... c6 17. Kh2 {Defending the g3 pawn in order to go for counterplay with f4.} f5 $6 {With this move Korchnoi opens up the diagonal for the g2-bishop. This was not the best decision. Korchnoi could have just played on the queenside without touching his pawns on the kingside. For.eg} (17... Qe7 18. f4 a4 19. Rf2 Reb8 {Angling for b5 without touching the kingside pawns.} 20. Qg4 b5 21. Raf1 bxc4 22. dxc4 Ra7 23. fxe5 dxe5 24. Rxf7 Qxf7 25. Rxf7 Rxf7 $19) 18. exf5 Qxf5 19. f4 exf4 20. Rxf4 { White has gained a lot of counterplay. His g2-bishop is now active and the knight on d4 is not so stable any more.} Qc5 21. Qg4 Ne6 22. Re4 Ng5 23. Rxe8+ Rxe8 24. Rf1 Qe5 25. h4 Ne6 26. Rf2 Qd4 $2 ({A better line of play could be} 26... h5 27. Qf5 Qxf5 28. Rxf5 Nc5 29. d4 Nd3 30. Rxh5 a4 $11) 27. Qf5 Kh8 28. Be4 (28. Re2 $1 {could have led to a winning endgame after} Qf6 29. Qxf6 gxf6 30. Bh3 Nc7 31. Rxe8+ Nxe8 32. Bc8 b5 33. Bd7 Ng7 34. Bxc6 $18) 28... g6 {The only defence.} 29. Qf6+ Qxf6 30. Rxf6 d5 $2 (30... Nc5 {Black could have posed more difficulties with} 31. Rxg6 Nxe4 32. dxe4 Rxe4 33. Rxh6+ Kg8 34. Rxd6 Re2+ 35. Kh3 Rxb2 36. Rd8+ Kf7 37. h5 Rxa2 38. g4 $16 {This seems like a winning endgame for White, but as with all rook endgames this one is also not so simple.}) 31. cxd5 cxd5 32. Bxd5 {White is simply a pawn up and confidently went on to convert this endgame.} Nc5 33. d4 Rd8 34. dxc5 Rxd5 35. Rxg6 h5 36. Rb6 Rxc5 37. Rxb7 Rd5 38. Kg2 Kg8 39. Kf3 Rd3+ 40. Kf4 a4 41. Rb5 a3 42. bxa3 Rxa3 43. Rxh5 Rxa2 44. Re5 Kg7 45. Kg5 Ra7 46. h5 Kh7 47. g4 Kg7 48. Re4 Rb7 49. h6+ Kg8 50. Kh5 Rb8 51. g5 Kh8 52. g6 Kg8 53. Re6 Ra8 54. Kg5 Rb8 55. Re7 Ra8 56. h7+ Kh8 57. Kh6 Ra6 1-0

So Wolfgang Uhlmann drew first blood in the four-game match

In the front seat, middle, chess lover and the mastermind of this event: Oleg Skvortsov;
on the left Edvins Lobinsh and his wife Oksana, on the right Dutch GM and author Genna Sosonko.

Arturo Perez Reverte with journalist Leontxo Garcia. Arturo is a Spanish novelist
and has written the very famous book named….

… The Flanders Panel which tells the story of a mysterious Flemish painting

Watching from the sidelines: Ljubomir Ljubojevic, who was at one point number three in the world

Game two

Viktor Korchnoi had the white pieces in game two


Korchnoi also opened the game with 1.c4 but the game soon transposed into the King’s Indian. Viktor the Terrible chose the Averbakh setup with 5.Bg5:

Korchnoi has recorded two DVDs for ChessBase entitled “My life for Chess part I and II”. In one of the lectures he explains his view on the King’s Indian Defence:

“Young people of every generation willingly play the King’s Indian Defence. It’s a question for me, why are they so eager to play it? Well, first of all it is very easy to learn. Black will develop his kingside with bishop to g7 and castle and then he is ready to undertake actions in the centre. During this time, White uses his time to seize the centre, squares, to build up a strong pawn centre. Never mind, Black is ready to fight against this pawn centre, to break it and finally win superiority in the centre. Well I personally have a very large arsenal of weaponry against the King’s Indian Defence. I sometimes play the Saemisch with the pawns on c4, d4, e4 and f3. Sometimes I play the Four Pawns Attack with f4. Sometimes I play with Nf3 and Be2 or sometimes I fianchetto my bishop. Perhaps these games are the best known. I won many interesting games with bishop on g2. Still every new generation starts playing the King’s Indian. It is so easy. The ideas have been developed by the famous masters of the past by Bolesalvsky, Bronstein, Geller, Gligoric, Fischer, and recently Kasparov took it over. So everything is well known. The black knight comes to c6 or d7, Black sometimes plays c7-c5 or sometimes e7-e5. Everything was elaborated by the strong people of the past and young people have to just imitate the play! Nothing special! [Shrugs] To me, this is boring. But for them, they achieve certain practical success and they cannot stop playing it. One needs to punish them many times before finally they give it up! (smiles)”

As a 1.d4 player these are my favourite words and give me great confidence whenever my opponent plays the King’s Indian Defence.

Korchnoi gains more space in the centre by pushing his pawn to f4

Something went horribly wrong for Uhlmann as he played his queen to a5 and followed it up with b5. The move b5 is very common in such structures but it is not played with the queen on a5. Here it gave Korchnoi the opportunity to take the b5 pawn with his knight, as the queen on a5 is hanging and Qxd2 would be met with Nxd2 defending the e4 pawn.

So Uhlmann retreated his queen but after that it was just one way traffic. Korchnoi fortified his centre and very soon won another pawn. It was smooth sailing for Viktor Lvovich, and in 46 moves he chalked up the revenge.

Things went badly wrong for Uhlmann in game two

The match stands evenly balanced with a score of 1-1. With two more games to be played on 16th of February we are in for a treat tomorrow. Korchnoi’s past record of 9-1 (not counting the rapids) against Uhlmann and seeing the quality of today’s games, it seems that “Viktor the terrible” is the favourite to win the match. But you never know! Anything is possible.

[Event "Zurich Legends 2015"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.02.15"] [Round "2"] [White "Korchnoi, Viktor"] [Black "Uhlmann, Wolfgang"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E70"] [WhiteElo "2499"] [BlackElo "2326"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "91"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. e4 d6 4. d4 Bg7 5. Bg5 {The Averbakh System has been one of Korchnoi's weapon against the King's Indian.} Nbd7 6. f4 O-O 7. Nf3 c5 8. d5 Qa5 {This move is already not so good. The queen does absolutely nothing on a5. Uhlmann's idea was to play b5 in the style of the Benko Gambit. It would have been better to make the move right away.} (8... b5 9. cxb5 a6 $132 { With good counterplay.}) 9. Qd2 b5 $2 {Just blundering the pawn. It seems that Uhlmann did not at all consider that the pawn could be taken with the knight.} 10. Nxb5 $1 (10. cxb5 a6 {gives Black the Benko-like compensation that he is looking for.}) 10... Qb6 (10... Qxd2+ 11. Nxd2 $14) 11. Nc3 (11. Bd3 Rb8 12. Rb1 a6 13. Nc3 $16 {gives White a clear edge.}) 11... Rb8 12. Rb1 e6 $6 (12... h6 {was a better try.} 13. Bh4 Nh5 {with some counter chances.}) 13. dxe6 $1 { correctly taking the pawn. Taking dxe6 is usually a difficult move to make in such structures but Korchnoi assesses it perfectly that Black would not be able to create any counterplay.} fxe6 14. Bd3 Bb7 15. O-O d5 {Uhlmann understands that he must do something radical or else he is just lost. But his position simply cannot withstand this.} 16. e5 Ne8 (16... Ne4 {was obvious but White keeps control.} 17. Qe2 Nxg5 18. Nxg5 $16) 17. Kh1 Nc7 18. Be7 Rfe8 19. Bd6 Bf8 20. Bxf8 Nxf8 21. b3 {Some would say the rest is matter of technique and even for an 84-year-old Korchnoi it is not at all difficult. He is a pawn up and has wonderful control. He finishes off the game efficiently.} Rbd8 22. Na4 Qc6 23. Qe3 d4 24. Qd2 Na6 25. Ng5 Nb4 {A huge tactical blunder which loses another pawn.} 26. Be4 Qc7 27. Bxb7 Qxb7 28. Nxc5 $18 Qb8 29. Nge4 Kg7 30. a3 Nc6 31. b4 Nd7 32. Nxd7 Rxd7 33. Nf6 Ree7 34. Nxd7 Rxd7 35. Qd3 Ne7 36. c5 Nf5 37. b5 Rd5 38. c6 Qc7 39. Rbc1 h5 40. a4 Rd8 41. Rfd1 Ne3 42. Rd2 h4 43. Qb3 Qf7 44. Rxd4 Rxd4 45. Qxe3 Rxf4 46. Kg1 {An easy win for Viktor the Terrible.} 1-0

Video report by Vijay Kumar

Starting from 6 min 50 sec the video shows the Uhlmann-Korchnoi match

Both the legendary players have recorded DVDs for ChessBase.

Pictures by Eteri Kublashvili


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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