What a Difference a Year [Doesn’t] Make: Karpov – Unzicker 1975 1-0

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In our last post we took a look at Karpov – Unzicker 1974 from the Nice Olympiad. Here we have a game from the following year where Unzicker chooses a different line in the opening, yet crashes and burns even faster.

I’m really enjoying looking at these old Karpov games and seeing how he handled the Spanish.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Karpov – Unzicker 1974 1-0

Listen, since you here, I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Here’s another game from the 1974 Olympiad that really demonstrates the power of a pre-world champion Anatoly Karpov.

This game is a masterful example of how to make use of a space advantage. It also shows how Karpov was able to ever so slightly increase the pressure in his position until his opponent collapsed.

Check out the reshuffling maneuver beginning with 24.Ba7 and ending with 27.Bb1 and marvel at a master in action.


Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Karpov – Westerinen 1974 1-0

Listen, since you here, I could really use your help. If you’ve seen this more than once that means that you’re hopefully getting something useful out of this blog. I pay all of the costs for hosting, and put a lot of effort into creating the content. Please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. 

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me continue this project.

Here is a game that I’m marveling over from the 1974 Nice Olympiad vs Finnish GM Heikki Westirnen

It’s amazing to see a strong player get completely squeezed like that. “Spanish torture” indeed.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

One Small Step Khanin-Trjapishko 1-0

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You ever play a game where you’re kind of cruising along through the opening and suddenly you realize that something has gone very wrong?

Historically that’s me on many lines on the White side of the French.

Here’s a position from a game in the 2018 Russian Junior Championship where a semi-sideline of the Caro has been played by White. It’s Black to move, and Black plays…

15…Nd7?

It seems like Black is putting the knight on d7 to try to exchange some pieces, which makes sense, but then after 16.Bf4

Black needs to admit his mistake and just go back to f6. But of course it’s hard to grasp that during a game.

Personally I think I would have played 15…Nxe4 16.Qxe4 Bf6

Instead, Black just gets steamrolled by White.

Here’s the game.

Til  Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Amazing Calculation Karjakin-Navarra Shamkir 2018

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Let’s say you are Black and you are faced with this decision. White has just played 31.Rxd5. Do you take the rook or not?

Sure, you have three pawns for the piece, but if you take the rook you’ll have no pieces and your opponent will have a bishop.  Still, who wants no pieces when our opponent has one? No way we take the rook, right?

Let’s say our two candidate moves are 31…Rxd5 or 31…Rc3 – what would you do?

Navarra took the rook.

At a depth of 40 Stockfish 12 gives this position -0.15

At a depth of 40 Stockfish 12 gives this position 0.42

When I really think about this decision I realize it’s not one to be taken lightly. After all, if you don’t take the rook then how do you stop this  Rh5 idea which forces …h6, then swing the rook back to a5 to force …a6 and now Black’s pawns are getting weak.

So what I would think of as an “automatic” decision of not taking the rook turns out to be anything but automatic in the hands of a strong player.

Here is the entire game.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Spassky-Larsen 1/2 (USSR vs World)

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The 50th anniversary of the USSR vs The Rest of the World Match just passed a couple of months ago. I have been playing through some of the games and thought I’d post some here and I go through them.

For those who may not know, this event took place as a 10 board team match with each board playing a four game match.

You can (and should!) read more about the event here.

Here is some raw film footage. No sound, but still pretty cool stuff.

Here is the opening game of board one between world champion Boris Spassky and Bent Larsen.

As I get to some of the more famous games I’ll link to videos analyzing the games, etc.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Solid Planning Topalov-Sasikiran 1-0

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Here is an example in modern GM praxis where a long term plan presents itself. Granted, when the opportunity arises, Topalov turns the game into a bloodbath, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was running with a long term plan out of the gate.

Let’s look at this position first:

White has a nice space advantage and a target on c7. Black has counterplay only on the kingside. So what move would you play as White here?

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If you chose 15.Ba3 then congrats, you’re on the same track as Topalov was! The idea is to simply exchange off Black’s useful bishop on d6 for White’s worst placed piece. This is an example in using Aagaard’s three questions. Here all three questions sort of combine into one as White will be increasing Black’s weakness (question one) while interfering with Black’s plan of kingside counterplay (question two) while improving his worst placed piece by trading it (question three.)

Now after 15…Rc8 16.Bxd6 Black choses to recapture with 16…cxd6 as it’s really a “six of one, half a dozen of the other” type of position. Black’s options are to either create a permanently weak target on c7 by playing 16…Rxd6 or to play the move he did which will come with long term structural weaknesses of its own.

This takes us here:

Here is where Topalov says his plan is to exchange off the rooks, then put pressure on the d5 pawn with his light squared bishop and knights. Eventually on move 32 he sacs a knight to cause havoc in Sasikiran’s time pressure, but that’s just vintage Topalov at work.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Nice Way to Open the Center

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I was looking at this game from the 10th Soviet Championship and this position was reached between Makagonov and Kasparian with White to move.

It’s White to move, and in a position like this where Black seems determined to close down all the pawn breaks White needs to be active. Here, Makagonov finds a nice way to open the center and get his pieces active.

He plays 16.Bxc5 dxc5 17.d6!

With this he is able to gain activity and break through.

Here is the entire game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

When to Transition Janowski-Nimzovitch 1/2-1/2

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One of the keys to playing strength at any level is understanding when to transition from one idea to another.

Let’s take this game between David Janowski and Aron Nimzovich which was played in the St. Petersburg tournament of 1914.

For those who are fans of chess history you may recognize this as the tournament in which the title of Grandmaster was supposedly first conferred.

The tournament was held as a preliminary event with eleven players participating. The five top finishers in the prelim would then play a double round robin to determine the champion. In an interesting twist the results from the preliminary event would carry over into the final.

The prelims finished as such:

Here the five top finishers, Capablanca, Lasker, Tarrasch, Alekhine, and Marshall were supposedly awarded the title of Grandmaster by Tsar Nicolas II.

I say “supposedly” since this was completely debunked by chess historian Edward Winter. If you would like to read more about that please visit https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/grandmasters.html

The final finished with Lasker scoring an impressive seven points from eight, dropping half points only to Capablanca and Tarrasch.

Here are the final standings. It’s interesting to note that due to the carry over of the prelim scores, had Lasker finished the final with an only slightly less impressive six points from eight he would have finished behind Capa.

OK, now on the game that this post is about.

First, the entire game:

For some reason my pgn viewer isn’t working, so here is a link to the game on Chessgames.

As you can see, this was a hard fought draw.

Now, let’s get to the position at hand:

Here Janowski played 64.Rg1+ but as Kotov points out in his excellent book The Science of Strategy Janowski can win this. Take some time and think it through. We’ll then get back to it.

OK, scroll down for the answer…

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Had Janowski played 64.Kxb6 Kxe4 65.Kxc5 Kxf5 66.Kd6 then his pawns are much faster than Nizovich’s.

Have fun analyzing this ending. It’s fascinating!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Two GM’s, Three Blunders

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So I come across this position in a game between Christiansen and Oparin from the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup. Here it’s White to move.

White plays 65.Bc6 and I start trying to figure out why not just 65.Bxh3…what did I miss?! But of course there is nothing. After this move there is no way for Black to stop White from sacking the bishop for the remaining pawn, so the game is just drawn.

After 65.Bc6 we have this position:

Here 65…g4 wins, but Black plays 65…h2, which also wins. It seems to be a matter of just picking the win you want to play.

Then, after 66.Kd3 Black can still simply play …g4 and win, but instead he plays 66…Kg1 and White responds 67.Bd7, after which Black finally plays …g4 and goes on to promote, but winds up flagging and drawing.

But I kept coming back to the position after 66…Kg1. Something just didn’t look right.

After some experimenting I hit on the idea of 67.Ke3, and now White just has to shuffle the bishop back and forth to hold the draw. If Black promotes the h pawn White stops and wins the g pawn, and if Black pushes the g pawn then White will win it with Kf4. The engine seems to confirm this although I’m sure there are ways for Black to try some subtle tricks.

Granted, this was in a blitz endgame, but I would still think that taking on h3 would have been automatic!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott