The World Champions Part Two

Wed, 2013-03-13 21:32 -- IM Max Illingworth

Blog Post 26-02-2013
The World Champions Part Two
Greetings! Let’s continue our examination of the games of the World Champions by looking at a game between Euwe and Smyslov from the 1946 Staunton Memorial. Smyslov had a very good score against Euwe, who incidentally is the only amateur chess player to become World Champion, and also the only World Champion to become the President of FIDE.

(126) Smyslov,Vassily - Euwe,Max [C77]
Staunton Memorial Groningen (8), 22.08.1946
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 Smyslov's approach to the opening is remarkably modern - get a playable middlegame where, despite the simple nature of the position, a lengthy battle is guaranteed! 5...d6 6.c3 g6 7.0–0 Bg7 8.Re1 b5 This move is playable, but I like the idea of using the a4-bishop's placement with [8...0–0 9.Nbd2 Nd7 followed by ...Nc5-e6 and ...Qf6, gaining a tempo on the a4-bishop along the way and preventing the key move d4. White can try to meet this with 10.Nf1 Nc5 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.d4 to take the centre, but after 12...exd4 13.cxd4 Ne6 Black's bishop pair and light pressure against White's centre makes up for his doubled c-pawns (which may even participate in the attack against White's d4-pawn with ...c5).] 9.Bc2 0–0

[fen]r1bq1rk1/2p2pbp/p1np1np1/1p2p3/4P3/2PP1N2/PPB2PPP/RNBQR1K1 w - - 0 10[/fen]

10.Bg5 In such positions the bishop may seem passive on c2, but it will do an excellent job of protecting the e4-pawn from a counterattack after White plays d4. Additionally, when the position opens up the bishop will become a very strong piece. 10...h6 11.Bh4 Qe8 [11...g5 12.Bg3 Bg4 might seem consistent with Euwe's combinational style, but after 13.h3 Bh5 14.Nbd2 Bg6 15.Nf1 Black hasn't gained anything from the kingside advance and his king has been weakened. One rule of thumb for these d3 Ruy Lopez lines is that Black's light-squared bishop is usually misplaced on the d1–h5 diagonal or the b1–h7 diagonal because a pin on the f3-knight can be easily neutralised and from g6 the bishop bites on granite. ] 12.Nbd2 Nh5 13.Nf1 Black's last move ...Nh5 declared his aggressive intention of ...Nf4 followed by a kingside attack, but it also weakened the d5-square, so Smyslov prepares Ne3 followed by Nd5. 13...g5 14.Bg3 Ne7 [14...f5 15.exf5 Bxf5 16.Ne3 Bg6 would be good for Black if he could make one or two more moves, but it's White turn and with 17.d4 White hits Black in the centre advantageously. If 17...Bxc2 18.Qxc2 exd4 19.cxd4 Rxf3 White doesn't have to take on f3 straight away; instead 20.Nf5 Qf8 21.gxf3 Nxd4 22.Nxd4 Bxd4 23.Re6 leaves White ahead both materially and positionally.; 14...Nf4 may have been best. ] 15.a4 This move is a standard device in such positions, bringing the a1–rook into the game without needing to move it. 15...Nxg3 [A waiting move like 15...Kh8 would be mistaken because after 16.axb5 Qxb5 Black would be left with an isolated and weak a-pawn.] 16.hxg3 Be6 17.d4 This move is the basis of the entire Ruy Lopez - to break in the centre only when White's pieces are in good positions. Meanwhile Black's attempted kingside attack has missed the mark. 17...f6 This is a ghastly move, releasing all the pressure on White's centre, burying his g7-bishop and weakening the entire light square complex. [17...c5 was correct, trying to create counterplay against White's centre, though after 18.d5 Bd7 19.Ne3 White has stopped Black's main idea of breaking with ...f5 (which would lead to a good knight vs. bad bishop position) and Black remains in a passive position. Smyslov was very strong in these kinds of simple positions and his technique was ahead of his time. ] 18.Bb3

[fen]r3qrk1/2p1n1b1/p2pbp1p/1p2p1p1/P2PP3/1BP2NP1/1P3PP1/R2QRNK1 b - - 0 18[/fen]

18...Bxb3 19.Qxb3+ Qf7 20.Qxf7+ Kxf7 21.Ne3 The exchanges have been very much in White's favour, as now White has two knights that can operate on the light squares (such as f5, h5 and d5) whereas Black has only one piece. The rooks don't count because giving up a rook for a knight would be a bridge too far! 21...Rfb8 22.axb5 axb5 23.d5 Now c6 is also fixed as a light-squared outpost. 23...h5 [23...c6 24.dxc6 Nxc6 25.Nf5 would be dreadful for Black. ] 24.Kf1 g4 25.Nh4 Bh6 26.Nef5 Black has finally managed to release his bishop, but it is still dominated by the f5-knight. The only question is whether White's advantage is enough to win if Black defends perfectly. 26...Ng8 27.Ke2 Ra4 [27...Bg5 would exchange White's knight and may have been best. After 28.Rh1 Bxh4 29.Nxh4 Ne7 Black should be able to draw objectively, though White could keep the pressure on Black by bringing his king to b4 or preparing the f3 break. ] 28.Rxa4 bxa4 29.Rb1 Rb3 30.Kd3 a3 31.Kc2 Rxb2+ 32.Rxb2 axb2 33.Kxb2

[fen]6n1/2p2k2/3p1p1b/3PpN1p/4P1pN/2P3P1/1K3PP1/8 b - - 0 33[/fen]

Again this endgame should be tenable, but the future World Champion outplays the ex-World Champion. 33...Bd2 [33...Bg5 was correct, to eliminate the knight as soon as possible. 34.Kb3 Bxh4 35.gxh4 Ne7 36.Nxe7 Kxe7 37.Kc4 Kd7 38.Kb5 Ke7 39.Kc6 Kd8 would then be a draw after 40.c4 g3 41.f3 (41.fxg3 f5) 41...Kc8 42.c5 dxc5 43.Kxc5 Kd7 .] 34.Kc2 Be1 35.f3 Ne7 36.Nxe7 Kxe7 37.fxg4 hxg4 38.Nf5+ Kf7 39.c4 Black's position is hopeless because the f5-knight completely dominates the e1–bishop. 39...Kg6 40.Kb3 Kg5 41.Ka4 Bxg3 This desperate try was necessary; otherwise White brings his king to c6, takes the c7-pawn and promotes a pawn of his own. 42.Nxg3 Kf4 43.Nh5+ Kxe4 44.Nxf6+ Kf5 45.Ne8 It turns out White will make it back in time with his knight. 45...e4 46.Nxc7 e3 47.Nb5 Kf4 [47...e2 48.Nd4+ is the key point.] 48.Nc3 Kg3 49.c5 Black resigned. 1–0

In this game Euwe wasn’t able to display his superb combinational vision in the simple position constructed by Smyslov, who won a smooth positional game indeed.

On this note it’s only fair that we show a game where the combinative school of chess triumphs. I present the sixth game of the Botvinnik-Tal 1960 World Championship match, focusing on the most exciting phase of the game.

(127) Botvinnik,Mikhail - Tal,Mihail [E69]
World Championship 23th Moscow (6), 26.03.1960
1.c4 Botvinnik played 1.c4 in a similar way to how a number of Grandmaster today play 1.Nf3 - to reach some 1.d4 positions and avoid others. Botvinnik was a pioneer in the area of detailed opening and opponent preparation, raising the bar for his successors. 1...Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.d4 d6 The King's Indian suited the young Tal's style better than [5...c6 6.0–0 d5 which is solid but slightly passive.] 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.0–0 e5 8.e4 c6 9.h3 Qb6 10.d5 Botvinnik, a generally strategic player, closes the positions and tries to minimise complications, but with the benefit of half a century's worth of theory we know this move to be imprecise. [10.c5 is a sharp pawn sacrifice; after 10...dxc5 11.dxe5 Ne8 12.e6 fxe6 13.Ng5 Ne5 14.f4 c4+ 15.Kh2 Nd3 16.e5 the position is extremely complicated, but I think White's game is a lot easier to play because he has a strong initiative and the d3-knight is Black's only good piece.; 10.Re1 was Avrukh's recommendation in GM Repertoire, which is fine if you are very well prepared but isn't a practical choice for most amateur players since White has to play very accurately to neutralise Black's immediate counterplay after 10...exd4 11.Nxd4 Re8 .] 10...cxd5 11.cxd5 Nc5 12.Ne1 Bd7 13.Nd3 Nxd3 14.Qxd3 If White could complete his development he would be better, but Black has managed to mobilise more quickly. 14...Rfc8 [14...Nh5 15.Be3 Qd8 16.Qe2 Qe8 followed by ...f5 was given by Kasparov in 'My Great Predecessors' as giving Black an excellent game.] 15.Rb1 Nh5 16.Be3 Qb4 17.Qe2 Rc4 18.Rfc1 Rac8 19.Kh2 Black has the initiative on the queenside but White is holding firm, so Tal opens up a second area of attack. 19...f5 20.exf5 Bxf5 21.Ra1

[fen]2r3k1/pp4bp/3p2p1/3Ppb1n/1qr5/2N1B1PP/PP2QPBK/R1R5 b - - 0 21[/fen]

If White could take control of the e4-square he would be better, though after a normal move like 21...Nf6 Black keeps excellent control of this key square and shouldn't be worse. Instead Tal, true to his style, makes the position an irrational mess where one mistake will almost certainly be decisive. 21...Nf4 Objectively this move is a mistake, but it had the desired effect of forcing errors from Botvinnik. 22.gxf4 exf4 For his piece, Black has removed a large portion of the pawn cover around White's king, brought his g7-bishop to life and strengthened his initiative. Tal once joked that there were two types of sacrifices: sound ones and his! 23.Bd2 After this error Black is no longer worse. [23.a3 Qb3 24.Bxa7 was strongest, although it was necessary to calculate very accurately to see this: 24...Be5 25.f3 b6 26.a4 is the key move, preparing to release the a7-bishop with a5. Then there are a lot of interesting variations, the main one being 26...Rb4 27.Qa6 Rcc4 28.Nd1 Bc8 29.Qxc8+ Rxc8 30.Rxc8+ Kg7 31.Rc7+ Kg8 32.Rac1 Qxd5 33.Nf2 followed by Ne4 or Ng4, when White's extra material gives him a clear advantage though the game isn't decided yet.] 23...Qxb2 Objectively this move is a mistake, and Black could have done better than this. [23...Be5 was an interesting alternative, threatening ...f3 before taking on b2. Then 24.f3 Qxb2 25.Nd1 Qxa1 26.Rxa1 Bxa1 and Black's position is preferable despite the slight material deficit as none of White's pieces can find good squares.] 24.Rab1 f3

[fen]2r3k1/pp4bp/3p2p1/3P1b2/2r5/2N2p1P/Pq1BQPBK/1RR5 w - - 0 25[/fen]

25.Rxb2 [25.Bxf3 Bxb1 26.Rxb1 Qc2 27.Be4 Rxe4 28.Nxe4 would be very strong for White, sacrificing material back to take the initiative: 28...Qxb1 29.Nxd6 Rf8 30.Qe6+ Kh8 31.Nf7+ Rxf7 32.Qxf7 Qf5 33.Qxf5 gxf5 34.Kg3 with a winning endgame for White because of his passed d-pawn and more active king. However, while the computer finds this line in less than a minute, back then it took analysts a few days to unearth this variation! So perhaps it isn't entirely surprising that Botvinnik lost his way in the complications.] 25...fxe2 26.Rb3 Rd4 Now nothing can be done, and Black is winning as White is all pinned up and the e2-pawn is very powerful. 27.Be1 [27.Be3 Rxc3 28.Rbxc3 Rd1 is crushing.] 27...Be5+ 28.Kg1 Bf4 [28...Rxc3 29.Rbxc3 Rd1 followed by ...Bf4 was a much faster win, but Tal's continuation was also good enough to win. ] 29.Nxe2 Rxc1 30.Nxd4 Rxe1+ 31.Bf1 Be4 Now the rest is easy. 32.Ne2 Be5 33.f4 Bf6 34.Rxb7 Bxd5 35.Rc7 Bxa2 36.Rxa7 Bc4 37.Ra8+ Kf7 38.Ra7+ Ke6 39.Ra3 d5 40.Kf2 Bh4+ 41.Kg2 Kd6 42.Ng3 Bxg3 43.Bxc4 dxc4 44.Kxg3 Kd5 45.Ra7 c3 46.Rc7 Kd4 0–1

You might need to catch your breath after that exciting game! So I’ll end this part of my series and continue with Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer and Karpov next week! Incidentally if you want to study more games by the World Champions I highly recommend Kasparov’s ‘My Great Predecessors’ series – it is bound to improve your chess.