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Victor Korchnoi RIP

Victor Korchnoi, who died last week, would probably have become World Champion at some point, had he not been a Soviet dissident who regularly incurred the wrath of the authorities and was denied many opportunities to travel freely to important international events, and who, he asserted, devised subtle ways to prevent him winning any of his World Championship matches. The story up to 1977 was told in his autobiography, Chess Is My Life, but the shenanigans continued beyond that until he eventually escaped the Soviets’ clutches and settled in Switzerland.

He was particularly good with the Black pieces, often favouring the French Defence. This was a typical example, that he listed in his book My Best Games Vol. 2 – Games With Black. (Edition Olms – 2001).  Notes much condensed from those in the book.

White: Dr. J. Nunn. Black: V. Korchnoi.

World Team Championship 1985

French Defence – Advance Variation.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Black aims to create pressure on d4 a.s.a.p. 7…cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 Bxd4 This series of moves that Black now makes quickly leads to an endgame position. 10.Bxd4 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Qb6 12.Qxb6 Nxb6 (Having lost to him earlier in the year at Wijk aan Zee Korchnoi had a great respect for John Nunn as an attacker and sought to keep things relatively simple by exchanging pieces). 13.0–0–0 Another good move in this position is 13…h4 introduced by Kasparov in the 1990s. Bd7 14.Bd3 h5 Limiting White’s chances of advancing the kingside pawns. 15.Ne2 Ke7 16.Nd4 g6 17.g3 Preventing an immediate f4. 17…Bc6 18.Rde1 Nd7 19.c3 Rag8 20.Rhf1 g5! 21.f5 g4! Possibly it was this move that Nunn overlooked – Black will inevitably open the h-file for his rooks. It is also important for him to secure the g5 square, to have the possibility of attacking the e5 pawn from the side. 22.Re2 h4 23.b4 hxg3 24.hxg3 Ba4 25.Kb2 Rh3 26.Rg1 Rgh8? Better was 26…Rc8 after which White has no active moves and Black can develop his offensive. 27.Ka3 Rc8 28.Kb2? This move concedes the initiative for good. 28…a6 29.Rgg2 intending to exchange the rook on h3. 29…Bd1 30.Re3? Losing. 30…Nb6 31.Rf2 Rh1! Weaving a mating net around White’s king. 32.fxe6 fxe6 33.Rf1 Na4+ 34.Kc1 Rxc3+ 0-1. If, for example, 35.Nc2 then …Rxf1 36.Bxf1 Rxc2+ 37.Kxd1 Rxa2 etc.

Last weekend, Devon lost 5-9 to Essex in the National semi-finals of the U-180 championship.  Full details next week.

Last week’s study by Troitsky was won by 1.f6! Black is forced to take it …gxf6. 2.Kxg2 Kf4 and the key move is 3.a4 forcing an outside passed pawn that Black cannot prevent from queening 3…bxa3 4.bxa3 etc. though careful play is still required with the queen as Black will have 4 pawns all advancing.

Here is another pawn-only study, this time by the Swiss, Samuel Isenegger (1899-1964). White to move and clearly he can queen quickly, but so can Black.

How is this resolved?

White to move and win

Korchnoi Dies (11.06.2016.)

The grand old man of world chess, Viktor Korchnoi, who died on Monday at the age of 85, was often reckoned to be the best player never to become World Champion. This was partly accounted for by his being an outspoken critic of the Soviet system, and consequently given fewer opportunities to travel. Even the Russians didn’t want to see him beating their younger, up-coming favourites like Karpov and Spassky. His battles against Karpov for the World title were noted more for the almost bizarre claims and counter-claims of off-the-board psychological warfare than the actual chess. He wrote several books including the autobiographical Chess Is My Life His great career was blighted by Cold War politics, but it was still great.

The recent Frome Congress was the second time that Jane Richmond had finished 2nd in the Open, and this was her last round win.

White: Jane Richmond (2123). Black: Roger de Coverley (2076).

Pirc Defence  [B07]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.Be3 Bg7 5.Qd2 Ng4 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3 e5 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.h4 Nbc6 11.hxg5 hxg5 12.Rxh8+ Bxh8 13.Nd5 Be6 14.0–0–0 Ng6 15.Ne2 Bxd5 16.exd5 Qf6 17.Qe3+ Nce7 18.Nd4 Kf8 The natural move would be 18…0–0–0 to keep the kings on the same side of the board. 19.Qb3 Rb8 20.c3 Nf4 21.Nb5 c6 22.Nxa7 cxd5 23.Nb5 Nc6 24.Kb1 d4 25.cxd4 Re8 26.a3 Rd8 27.Qf3 d5 28.Bxf4 gxf4 29.g3 fxg3 30.Qxf6 Bxf6 31.fxg3 Kg7 The king’s ready to join the fray and there now follows a period of cat & mouse, as both sides seek an advantage. 32.Kc2 Rh8 33.Kd3 Rh1 34.Ke3 Rh2 35.b4 Rb2 36.Bd3 Rg2 37.Kf3 Rh2 38.Bf5 Rb2 39.Bc8 Nd8 40.Re1 Rc2 41.Bf5 Rh2 42.Bd7 Ra2 43.Rc1 Rd2 44.Rc8 Rd3+ 45.Kf4 Nc6 46.Bxc6 bxc6 47.Rxc6 Bxd4 48.Nxd4 Rxd4+ 49.Ke3 From now on it’s a pure rook & pawn ending, in which White has the advantage of 2 connected pawns, but the kings have to play their full part. 49…Rd1 50.a4 d4+ 51.Ke2 Ra1 52.a5 Ra3 53.Rd6 Rxg3 54.a6 Ra3 It needs careful planning to work out who will succeed in queening a pawn. 55.b5 Ra5 56.Rd5 Kf6 57.Kd3 Ke6 58.Kxd4 f5 59.Re5+ Kf6 60.Rc5 Kg5 61.Kd5 Kg4 62.Kc6 f4 63.Kb6 Ra2 64.Rc4 Kg3 65.Kb7 f3 66.Rc3 As White cannot be prevented from queening, she has the luxury of being able to sacrifice the rook in order to prevent Black from doing likewise. 66…Kg2 67.Rxf3 Kxf3 68.a7 Ke4 69.a8=Q Rxa8 70.Kxa8 Kd5 71.b6 1–0

In last week’s position the Black queen was overstretched, trying to prevent mate on g7 while fighting off any incursion by White’s other pieces and it can’t be done, so White plays 1.Bb5 attacking the queen, and when it moves aside White has 2.BxR.

Studies are specially composed positions, but are slightly different from problems in that they usually more resemble an actual game and involve longer lines of play. Here is an example composed in 1905 by the Russian A. A. Troitsky (1866 – 1942). White to play and win.

White to play and win.