My Youth in Chess
Sometimes I am asked about my checkered past as a chess player. My nostalgia about my glory days in chess makes me happy to talk about this, and if you're happy to read about it, go on.
Between the ages of about 11-18, I worked quite seriously on chess. I was encouraged at first by my granduncle Carl who loved the game, and played a mean Budapest gambit. My first lessons were at the school chess club in Hamburg. I was never a world class player, even in my age group, but perhaps I had the potential to be if I'd kept working at chess (which I didn't). Still, I competed with and beat some of the people who are among the best in the world now. I list some of these games below and comment on them. If you're a chessplayer you will recognize some of the names; keep in mind that these games were played 20 years or so ago and I couldn't hold a candle to these people now.
In retrospect, the accomplishment that gives me the most personal satisfaction is having won the city championship in Hamburg at the age of 17, which makes me the youngest local champion so far. It's not that the Hamburg championship was my strongest or best tournament, but it's nice to score in your hometown because your community notices. Also, the age record is something they can't take away from me: several of the other Hamburg players like Karsten Mueller and Matthias Wahls have since then gotten so much better than me, but they can't make themselves younger than 17, so the record stands.
Often opponents look up my games on ChessBase, and the game that jumps out at them is my draw against Kasparov in 1988, so I'll start with that.
The first thing you should know is that Kasparov was playing 8 people at the same time (an 8-board simul). I doubt I would have stood a chance in a one on one encounter. Nonetheless, the draw was a fine accomplishment. Even when dividing his attention and time among 8 games, Kasparov is still a lion of a chessplayer, and he was at the height of his powers then. He was at the time playing simuls like this against several West European national teams and beat all of them.
The story of the match from which this game is taken is the following. For three years I played in the German chess major league, the famous Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is famous because chess attracts some substantive sponsorship money in Germany and so many of the world's best players play for German teams. To illustrate, I played for Solingen for three years, together former world champion Boris Spassky, one-time number 3 Robert Huebner, English top stars John Nunn and Nigel Short, and many-fold U.S. champion Lubomir Kavalek. Even so, we won the championship only once the three years I was on the team.
By the way, I used to talk quite a bit with John Nunn about university studies since he had been an Oxford professor at 21 and I was heading to university after high school. One question I asked him was what math I should learn. He said: "Study linear algebra and calculus. Everything else is optional." Knowing what I know now, I'd confirm his advice.
But back to the match. As part of his simultaneous exhibitions, Kasparov took on Bundesliga teams, if they could pay his fees. At the time, I was playing for my hometown of Hamburg. Hamburg is the base of Der Spiegel, the major German news magazine. They have been interested in chess for quite a while and sponsored a match between Kasparov and the Hamburg team. I was not able to play because I was visiting Canada at the time, but the team, led by British grandmaster Murray Chandler, beat him 4.5 points to 3.5. Kasparov is a sore loser, as we saw after his match with Deep Blue, and demanded a rematch. This time he prepared for every one of the Hamburg players individually---for me he had a nasty surprise---and wiped us out 7-1. So my draw was one of two that we managed to get, a bit of a bright spot in a clear defeat.
1.Nf3 A bit of a surprise---have you ever seen Kasparov open this way? Well, I responded the way I usually do. 1.Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. e3
Ouch, that's the nasty surprise, though the move looks innocent enough. Most of my opponents have played 4.g3 now because that suits the style of the typical 1.c4 player. Another common option is 4.d4 (see my game with Mark Condie below). Kasparov's plan is to push the queen pawn to d4 and recapture with his e-pawn. At this point he will be ready to push back my knight on c6 with d4-d5; that's why he waited with e3 until I'd played ...Nc6. I can't allow that to happen, so I have to play ...d5 myself, either now or in the next move. There is nothing wrong with ...d5 now, but the positions after 4...d5 5.cd Nd5: were quite unfamiliar to me. Almost all I knew was that they are more comfortable for White. So I decided to steer the game into a Queen's Gambit.
4...e6 5.d4 d5
So now we've landed in a Tarrasch Defence. This is the first time I ever played a Tarrasch. You don't want to try out an unprepared new opening against the world champion! On the plus side: I've played this position many times as White, so it was familiar from that side. Also, it's not as dangerous as the g3 set-up for White. Finally, I studied Tarrasch's famous book "The Immortal Chess Game", so I'd seen a bunch of games with the Tarrasch Defence, maybe 50 or so all told with the specific position I had now, and probably 100 or so games involving isolated pawn positions, which is what you typically get out of this.
6. a3 a6As Tarrasch used to play it. What's going on here is that both sides are waiting for the other to resolve the tension in the centre. Specifically, both sides want to avoid moving their King's bishop twice, e.g. 6.Bd3 dc. As we'll soon see, a3 and a6 are useful waiting moves.
7. dc Bc5: 8.b4 Ba7.
A pretty spot for the bishop. 8...Bd6 is a classic alternative, and actually more aggressive because Black cedes control of the d4 square in exchange for putting pressure on White's king side.
9. Bb2 0-0 10. Qc2.
More usual would be to take on d5 and start playing positionally against the isolated d-pawn, I think. Kasparov aims for quick development instead. He is threatening Rd1 putting unpleasant pressure on my d-pawn. If I release the tension with 10...dc, then 11.Bc4: gives White fast development and 2 bishops pointing at my king. A fast attack to knock out one of his eight opponents quickly is exactly what Kasparov needs in a simul. I keep following him and moved my queen.
10...Qe7 11. Rd1 Rd8 12. Be2
Finally the bishop moves. Now 12...dc 13.Rd8: Nd8: 14. Bc4: makes his bishop move twice but still looks too open for my taste. So I played in the centre instead.
12...d4 13. ed Nd4: 14. Nd4: Bd4: 15. 0-0 e5 16. Na4
The knight is heading for b6 supported by a pawn on c5, to squeeze my queenside hard. There was a press room with ongoing analysis; as I heard later, the commentators were quite worried about my position now.
I've got just one move to kill the beast before my dark-squared bishop disappears.
17. Bd4: Ba4: 18. Qa4: Rd4:!
Not a flashy move but one of the best positional decisions of my chess career. The question is what Black wants to do with his rooks. Positioning rooks is a notoriously difficult thing in chess because they are clumsy to move around if they are in the wrong place, and the consequences of rook positioning are long-term, so they are hard to assess in the short term. I read a story that world champion Tal, who would sacrifice pieces on a few minutes' though, once took half an hour to decide where to put a rook. In our position, Black does not want all the rooks off the board, because with an unbalanced pawn structure like this one the bishop is much stronger than the knight. On the other hand, Black doesn't want all 4 rooks on the board either because then it will be easy for White to harass Black's queen on the e-file and perhaps double his rooks on the e-file and get play there.
19. Qc2 Rad8 20. Rd4: ed As explained above.
21. Bd3 g6 22. Qd2.
Here again the commentators were worried. It looks like White will take over the e-file, activate this queen on f4 or g5, then play on the queenside with c5, maybe even on the kingside with f4-f5.
22...Ng4! Turns the tables. The knight goes to e5, eventually trades off White's bishop, and White will have to use at least one of his major pieces passively to stop the d-pawn. When you have a passed pawn, you want to get rid of the minor pieces because major pieces make poor blockaders. The immediate threat is ...Qd6 forcing White to weaken his kingside with g3. So Kasparov plays:
23. h3 Ne5 24. Re1 Qf6 25. c5 Kg7 26. Re4 Qf5 26. Qe2 Nd3: 27. Qd3: h5 28. h4 Rd7 29. f3
Black's advantage is apparent: White's queen is tied down to stopping the d-pawn. On the other hand, White has no weaknesses and Black can't really break through anywhere. So Kasparov offered a draw: 1/2 - 1/2
The two most important tournaments in Junior chess (under 19) are the world championship and the European Junior championship. Right after that comes the Oakham Invitational Junior tournament. It's held at an old boarding school in Rutlandshire, which I believe is the smallest county in England. There were always German juniors better than I (such as Christopher Lutz and Matthias Wahls) so I never got sent to the Word or European champsionships, but the German chess federation did send me to Oakham twice. There were a number of very strong junior players there who have now become famous grandmasters. The next two games are against two such rising starts from my first Oakham tournament. First I played Dutch master Jeroen Piket.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 0-0 6. Bg5
The Averbach system, not considered the most dangerous for Black. I liked it because it avoids a lot of theory and tends to get Black players out of their standard positions. Now 6...e5?? fails to 7. de de 8. Qd8: Rd8: 9. Nd5. Black can chase the bishop with h6, but then the bishop retreats to e3 as the bishop on e2 prevents Ng4, and White will gain time with Qd2 attacking h6. Jeroen followed what was considered the latest main idea at the time for Black: strike in the centre with c6 and d5.
6...Nbd7 7. Qd2 c6 8. Nf3 d5 9. cd cd 10. ed Nb6 11. Ne5 Nbd5: 12. Bf3 Bf5 13. 0-0 Nc3: 14. bc Ne4 15. Be4: Be4: 16. Rfe1 Bf5 17. Bh6 Rc8 18. Bg7: Kg7: 19. Re3
So far I followed the informant which had this position as a slight advantage for Whilte.
Jeroen is worried about g4, Rh3, Qh6. Still, a serious weaking of the king side.
20. Rae1 Rc7 21. h3
Renews the g4 option and opens a space for my king.
21...f6 better to play this before ...h5
22. Nf3 g5?
Stops Nh4; perhaps Jeroen thought he'd have some initiative on the king side. But the weaknesses are too much.
The exclamation point is from John Nunn who was in Oakham as a kind of mentor to the players. It's classic chess logic: meet play on the side with play in the centre.
Leads to immediate disaster, but it's hard to counter Nd4.
24. Nd4 Qd5:?
This is what Jeroen was banking on – not many options anyway. Now 25. Re7:+ Re7: 26. Re7:+ Rf7 and Black is okay. But White has a nice shot:
Chris Ward is now a strong grandmaster and successful chess author – I keep seeing his books around.
1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 b5?!
The infamous Blumenfeld gamit. Unfortunately for Chris, I'd seen a new dangerous approach for White just before the tournament.
5. de!? fe 6. cb d5 7. Nc3!
The point. Tradition going back at least to Alekhine in the 30s holds that Black has enough counterplay in the centre after 6...d5. The knight move prepares to dispute the centre with e4. The idea is that if Black recaptures the pawn with de4:, both sides have awkward pawn structures but Black even more so than Whilte. And if Black doesn't take the pawn back, White gets pressure in the centre, and fast development, for example:
7...Bb7 8. e4 d4 9.e5 dc 10. Qd8:+ Kd8: 11. ef gf 12. bc or
7...Bb7 8. e4 de 9. Qd8:+ Kd8: 10. Ng5 in both cases with clear advantage for White.
Ward decides to pre-empty e4.
7...d4 8. Na4
Now e4 is no longer a threat but Black's centre is full of holes and the c5 pawn is a target.
Aggressive play, probably motivated by Black's long-term positional problems.
trades off Black's only active piece and stops tricks with Qa5+
hardly a good place for the queen.
once more, play in the centre
9...Nd7 10. Bd3 Ndf6 11. 0-0
Now it becomes clear that White is winning. He has a lead in development, and an attack on the king side as soon as the knight on e4 goes, e.g. 12...Nd2: 13. Bd2: Qc7 14. Qh5+. The extra pawn is actually the least important of White's advantages.
Ward hangs on to the knight on e4 but drops a piece.
13. Ne4: Ne4: 14. Qh5+ Kd8 (if 14...g6 15. Qe5) 15. Be4: Be4: 16.Qh4+
My hometown chess club, the Hamburg Chess Club (HSK, then HSV), organized a strong invitational tournament in 1986. One of the goals was to give the young local players chance to score an IM norm. I didn't get one---never have---but I played some nice games. This win over Lautier is one of my favourite attacking games. There is a pretty pas de deux of the knights in it. Lautier was a young rising star from France then; two years later he won the Junior World Championship in 1988. So I was close to greatness in this game.
1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 ed 5. cd d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. g3 Bg7 8. Bg2 0-0
I like the Modern Benoni from both sides. The g3 system is considered fairly tame, but the way I play it, it's quite sharp: let Black play on the queenside while aiming for a centre break supported by the bishop on g2.
9.0-0 a6 10. a4 Nbd7 11. e4
The standard positional continuation is Nd2. There is a beautiful game Korchnoi-Kasparov in this line with a win for Black by Kasparov.
11...Rb8 12. Bf4 Qe7?!
I think this is dubious and 12...Qc7 is better. Perhaps Joel was expecting 13. Re1 to protect the e-pawn, after which 13...Ng4! takes hold of the e5 square and gives Black comfortable equality.
stops ...Ng4. After 13...Ne4: 14. Ne4: Qe4: 15. Bd6: wins the exchange.
13...b5 14. Re1
Now the queen is uncomfortable on the e-file; e5 is a threat.
Perhaps Black should have taken this opportunity to dislodge the white knight with 14...b4 15. Na4 although then I have long-term positional advantages by playing on the c4 square.
once more Black wishes his queen was on c7.
14...Bf6 15. Bh6 Bg7
Perhaps 15... Re8 although then the knight on h5 looks very awkward.
16. Bg7: Kg7:
I think Ng7: was better for defense. The knight is poorly placed but if I play e5 it can get back into play on f5.
A strong move, but pretty obvious so I don't give it an exclamation mark.
After 17...Ne5: 18. Ne5: de 19. d6 Qe6 20. Ra7 looks strong. And if 19...Qf6 then 20. Ne4 wins back the pawn.
18. d6 Qf6 19. Ra7 b4?!
Lautier aims to hang on to his extra pawn, but his position cannot afford this further delay in development. Still, after 19...Re8 20. Bh3 looks strong, and after 19...Rd8 20. Qd5 White seems to have a lot of pressure too, so it's not easy to suggest an alternative.
20. Ne4 Qd8
Black is now ready to consolidate with Nhf6, Qb6, Bb7.
The knight on d7 is what holds the Black position together – well worth a rook.
21...Bd7: 22. Ne5: Bb5 23. Nc5: Nhf6 24. Nf7:!
Not a deep idea but sure is fun. After 24...Rf7: 25. Ne6+ wins the queen, and after 24...Kf7: 25. Bd5+ gives me a winning attack.
24...Qb6 25. Ng5
Once again the fork motive on e6 but this time with the other knight.
25...Re8?! Turns out to be more loss of time, but Black is lost anyway.
26. Nce6+ Kg8 27. Qf3 Rf8 28. Nf8: Rf8: 29. Qb3+ Kh8 30. Nf7+ Kg7 31. Re7 Ng8 32. Rb7 Qc5 33. Rc7 Qf5 34. Be4
one last time, indirect defense of a piece
34...Qf6 35. Ng5+ 1-0
35...Kh6 36. Rh7:+ Kg5: 37. Qe3+ wins
This game was played in an international round robin organized by the Hamburg Chess Club (HSK, then HSV), which was my club at the time. (The same as my encounter with Lautier, see above.) I faced Matthias Wahls with Black. Matthias is now a strong grandmaster. For a while he was challenging Robert Huebner as the best player in Germany. As two promising juniors from the same city, we used to train together a lot, at least once a week. Sometimes we would go off somewhere for an entire weekend together. As it's often the case with players who know each other well, you play either a quick draw or a battle to the death. We had three draws together other times; this match was the battle. Both sides got pawns as far as the last but one rank. Fortunately mine was the pawn that got through all the way.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bf4 e5 8.Bg5 a6
9.Na3 b5 10.Nd5 Be7 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.c3 Rb8
This is supposed to discourage playing the pawn to a4.
13.Nc2 Bg5 14.a4
Matthias plays a4 anyway – I was caught by surprise.
14... bxa4 15.Ncb4 Bd7 !?
Trying to hang on to the a4 pawn rather than the a6 pawn.
16.Bxa6 Nxb4 17.cxb4 !?
The beginning of an unusual and ambitious plan. After 17.Nb4: Qa5!? it looks like Black has pretty good play with his two bishops. (18. Qd6:?? Rb6).
17...0-0 18.Rxa4 !?
This is Matthias' big idea. 18. b5 Bb5: 19. Bb5: Rb5: 20. Qa4: Bb2: heads for a draw.
18... Bxa4 19.Qxa4
After the exchange sac, White has a grip on the white squares, and a powerful extra passed pawn on the b-file. I have to do something, otherwise Qc6, b5-b6-b7 etc.
19... f5 Thematic Sneshnikov. Fights for the centre white squares and opens lines while I'm ahead in development.
20.exf5 Rxf5 21.0-0 e4 22.Qb3?!
22. Bc4 would bring the bishop into play and fortify the crucial d5 square with a piece more suitable then the queen.
22... Kh8 23.b5?
Last chance for Bc4. Matthias may have missed my reply.
Again, that d5 square. Also pins the knight, and makes room for my other rook to switch to the f-file. It's an unusual spot for the queen, but the two crucial squares in the game are d5 and b8, where White plans to promote his queen – on g8 the queen controls both.
The easy part is winning the f-pawn. The hard part is letting White's b-pawn roll.
25.b6 Rxf2 26.b7 e3 27.Re1
to stop ...e2
Anyway! After 28. Be2: Bd2 wins a piece, e.g., 29. Rf1 Re2: and 30. Rf8: Qf8: 31. b8Q fails to 31...Re1 mate. – Now I'm winning.
28.h4 Rf1+ 29.Rxf1 Rxf1+ 30.Kh2 e1=Q 31.Bxf1 Qxh4+ 32.Kg1 Qd4+
33.Kh1 Qb8 0-1
I believe this is the only time in serious tournament play that I've had two queens on the board.
This is one of my early efforts in Canada. IM Lawrence Day is a veteran of the Canadian chess scene. Some readers may know him as the long-time chess columnist of the Toronto star.
This game deserves including because apparently it has made it into the chess opening literature. It's pleasant to think that in a small way I made a lasting contribution to chess knowledge. I remember discussing the opening line with Vancouver master Jack Yoos years later (in 2000 I think). There is a point where White chooses between Bc4 and Bd3. I said "I remember this – what about Bd3 now?". Jack said: "That's considered to be refuted by a game you played against Lawrence Day – with a queen maneouver Qa5-g5." I'd forgotten the game but then I remembered.
1. e4 e5 2.f4 d5
As usual, I like countering in the centre.
3. ed c6 4. Nc3 ef 5. Nf3 Bd6
My basic idea is to go for a set-up with Bd6 and Nge7. There's a nice game Spasski-Bronstein in which Spasski demolished this approach for Black, but I still think it's worth trying.
6. d4 Nge7 7. dc Nbc6: 8. Bd3?!
According to Jack Yoos they play 8.Bc4 nowadays.
It is surprising how difficult the d-pawn is to defend. Perhaps White should move his bishop again and play 9.Be2, but that would be an admission of failure. Lawrence chose an original idea.
defends d4, attacks f4 and frees up the c-pawn. The downside is that after 9...Bf3: White's kingside is shattered.
9...Bf3: 10. gf
Now if I continue schematically, say with 10...Ng6 11.0-0 0-0 White can set up a pretty solid position on the king-side with Kh1, Rf2, perhaps Qg1. Black's lead in development should assure him at least equal play, but he can do better. The problem is that Black needs to defend his f-pawn without giving White time to castle. Here's the solution.
10...Qa5+! 11.c3 Qg5
Now suddenly White is in serious trouble. He cannot castle, and Black is threatening to invade with ...Qg2, and/or ...Nf5-e3, and/or bring up the knight to g6. After 12.Rg1 Qh4+ 13. Kf1 Qh2: simply wins a pawn because after 12.Rg7: Ng6 the rook is trapped.
12. Kd2!? Lawrence tries to take his king to the queenside for safety, with his typical originality. I mean that in a good way.
12...Qh5!? In some lines White plays Qg1 and bothers my queen on g5, e.g. 12...Nd5 13. Kc2 0-0 14. Qg1 Qh5 15. Be4. So I decided to preempt that and force Lawrence's queen into a passive position on f1 to defend the f-pawn. To my surprise Lawrence gave up the h-pawn instead, which made my task much easier.
13.Rf1?! Qxh2 14.Kc2 Nd5 15.Be4 Rc8!
Cute indirect defense of d5 (16.Bd5: Nb4+). The main point is to try and force White's king to b1 while his rook is still on a1. Lawrence tries to avoid this but jumps from the fire into the frying pan.
16.a3? Nxd4+ That does it, really; wins another key pawn. White can barely hang on to the exchange.
17.Kb1 Qxe2 18.Bxd5 Qxd1 19.Rxd1 Nc6 20.b4 Be5 21.Re1 0-0
One more trick: 21.Bc6: Bc3: gives me yet more material. With two extra pawns, the rest is easy. Just remember Capablanca's beautifully simple method for winning when you have an extra pawn or two: "Trade pieces and promote a passed pawn."
22.Bb2 Rfe8 23.Ka2 Kf8 24.Kb3 Rc7
25.Rad1 f6 26.a4 g5 27.Rh1 Rd8 28.b5 Ne7 29.Be6 Rxd1 30.Rxd1 Kg7 31.Rd3 f5 32.Ba3 Kf6
33.Bd7 Ng6 34.a5 b6 35.axb6 axb6 36.c4 h5 37.c5?! Desperation.
37...bxc5 38.Bc6 Bd4 39.Rd2 Ne7 40.Be8 h4
41.Kc4 Nc8 42.Kd5 walks into mate, perhaps as an interesting way to resign?
42... Nb6+ 43.Kd6 Be5+ 0-1
One of the very few times I've actually given a checkmate in serious tournament play.
This was not a brilliant game - messy and hard-fought. I include it not because I consider it especially well-played, but because it was my first game ever against a grandmaster. Not just any grandmaster either: Sax was world-class in those days, making him the strongest player I've ever faced in a one-on-one game.
Chessbase puts this game as being played in round 5, but my memory is that it took place in round 1 or 2. It was an exciting beginning to the tournament for me: Sax was a leading international grandmaster and I was a 16-year old just starting to play internationally. In those days 16-year olds rarely became International Masters, let alone Grandmasters the way they do now. So when I gave Sax a hard time and he ended up having to fight in time trouble, a large crowd gathered around the board to watch. In the end I couldn't keep it up but it was exciting.
The Lugano Open by the way is a beautiful tournament, spectacular place and excellent playing conditions.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 ed 5. cd d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. g3 Bg7 8. Bg2 0-0 9.0-0 Nbd7
Lautier chose 9...a6; see above.
a sharp continuation – see the game with Lautier.
Without a6-a4 thrown in, this is an option. I think it's questionable partly on objective grounds, but mostly psychologically: From now on the game is going to be a wild free-for-all. Young players like myself at the time thrive in those kind of positions. Sax' compatriot Pinter in a game a bit later just outplayed me positionally.
11. e5 de 12. Nb5:
So Black traded his b-pawn for my e-pawn. In principle that's a good trade, but I have a strong passed pawn on d5 and my bishop on g2 is now mightly alive.
12...Ba6 13. a4 Qb6
Perhaps Sax overestimated this pin. It's true that there's some pressure on me to hang on to my pawns. But even if I lose one, the two bishops and the passed pawn on d5 are compensation.
14. Re1 Rfe8 15. Bf1?!
An interesting move, but it seems that I should have something more active. For example, 15. Nd2 Bb5: 16. ab Qb5: 17. d6 Rab8 18. Ra7: looks good – Black has to fight for a draw. Still, now the knight on b5 is well protected and I have the important c4 square well in hand.
15...Rad8 16. Qb3
Protects d5 to make Nd2 possible. Also overprotects b5, so a5 becomes an option. Sometimes Bc4, d6 is possible, suddenly putting pressure on f7.
A bit dubious in light of later events. Maybe 16...Qb8 with the idea ...Nb6.
17. Nd2 Qb8 18. d6!?
Interesting dynamic continuation. After 18. Nd2 Ne5!? threatening f3 may be possible. Now Black should probably take on b5; after 18...Bb5: 19. ab the white rook comes into play and a knight or bishop can go to c4.
18...Ne5 19. Ne4: Ne4: 20. Re4: Bb7 21. Re3
Now already the time trouble phase started. I have a clear extra pawn and active pieces but I am behind in development. The name of the game is to complete development even if costs the pawn.
A friend remarked to me later that you must be a grandmaster to understand this move. In fact, it's not so mysterious. First, Black really wants to play ...a6 to get at the d6 pawn, but an immediate 21...a6 fails to 22. Nc7 attacking the rook on e8. Second, in some lines the f7 pawn is weak. Third, we were both in time trouble, and Sax could predict that I would not expect this move and so I would use up more precious time. Still, undeveloping the rook like this in a sharp open position is dubious.
frees up the queen's bishop while also attacking c5.
22...a6 23. Na3 Rd6: looks like the solid continuation, but 24. Bf4 gives me good play.
23. Bg5 Qb7 24. f3 Rb8?!
The endgame after 24...Nf3: 25. Rf3: Qf3: 26. Qf3: Bf3: looks quite good for Black.
25. Be7 Rfe8
Now we have an extremely complicated situation, with both players in time trouble.
26. Bg2 c4 27. Qc2 Nd3 28. Rc4:
Maybe 28. Rd3: to simplify e.g. 28...cd 29. Qd3: Qd7 30. Rd1 threatening Nc7. On the other hand, 29...Re7: 30. de Qe7: gives Black some advantage with the two bishops.
28...Qb6+ 29. Kh1
29. Kf1 is interesting but risky, e.g. Nb2: 30. Rc3!? Bc3: 31. Qc3: Na4: 32. Ra4: Qb5:+ 33. Qc4 Qb1+ followed by Rb2+.
29...Nf2+ 30. Kg1 Ng4+
declines the implicit draw offer
I hang on to the extra material
31...Ne3 32. a5!
Must have been a shock for Sax in time trouble.
32...Qb7 33.Qe2 Ng2: 34. Kg2:
Now the smoke has cleared a bit. I have a monster extra pawn on d6, Black has some pressure against my king but not really enough.
34...Bf8 35. Rc7??
Cute but too much. I wanted to avoid 35. Re1 Be7: 36.de Re7: 37. Qe7: Qf3:+ 38. Kh3 but Black has at most a perpetual check if that. A simple solution was 35. Re5! - how can Black meet Nc7? - 35...Bg7 is met by 36. Re3! since 36...Qb5: 37. Qb5: Rb5: 38. d7 wins the exchange and the game.
Of course not 35...Qb5: 36. Qb5: Rb5: 37. d7 winning the rook.
After 36. Re1 Rb5: 37. d7 Re7: 38. d8Q Re2:+ 39. Re2: Rd5 Black also wins. Maybe 38. Qe7:!? Be7: 39. Re7: but it looks like I get mated after 39...Rb2:+
The last hope: how can Black defend the rook without trading queens and allowing d7?
37...Qd6: Pretty and devastating.
38. Qb5: Re7: 39. Re7: Qe7: 40. Rc8 a6
Here the game was adjourned. I didn't defend well, but as Sax told me after the game, two bishops are just too strong for a rook.
41. Qc4 Bb7 42. Rc7 Bd5 43. Re7: Bc4: 44. Re4 Bb5 45. g4 Bg7 46. b4 h6 47. h3 Bc3 48. h4 Kg7 49. g5 hg 50. hg Bd2 51. Rg4 Be3 52. Kh2 Kf8 53. Rg2 Ke7 0-1
This game was played in the German team championship, the famous Bundesliga. I was playing for the team of Solingen then. We won the national championship in the season that contained this game. I think that year I was one of the highest scoring players on the Solingen team, a nice accomplishment for the time. The reason why I annnotated this game is because I was reading through a book on the Sneshnikov recently and the game was cited. I'm pleased to think that I've made a lasting if small contribution to a part of chess theory, so I'm including it here. Also, the game has a certain fun freshness to it, even after all these years.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bf4 e5 8.Bg5 a6
9.Na3 b5 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Nd5 f5 12.c3 Bg7 13.exf5 Bxf5 14.Nc2 0-0 15.Nce3 Be6 16.Bd3 f5
17.Qh5 Qd7!? The main line is 17...e4.
18.Nb6?! Forces an endgame that's not promising for White.
The trick behind 17...Qd7
19.Qxe8 Raxe8 20.a4 e4!?
Simpler and safer was 20...Rb8. But if you want simplicity, why play the Sneshnikov?
21.Bf1?! A passive move. 21. ab5: ed3: 22.bc6: f4 23. Nf1 (23. Nd1? Bf5: 24.Kf1 d2) Bg4+ 24.Kd2 Re2+ 25. Kd3: Rf2: admittedly looks risky, but at least there are complications. In any case, a better retreat is 21.Be2, though my opponent was worried about f4-f3.
21...Rb8 22.Ned5 f4 23.axb5 axb5 24.f3? This gives me a beautiful protected passed pawn. Perhaps 24. Ra6 (not 24.Bb5:?? Bd5:)
24...e3 25.Ra6 b4 Breaks through on the queenside, waking up the bishop on g7.
26.Bd3?! The idea behind 24.f3 : White wants to place the bishop on e4. But this allows a shot that untangles the messy situation in my favour.
26...bxc3 27.bxc3 Bxc3+!
28.Nxc3 Nb4 Recovers the material.
29.Bxh7+ Kxh7 30.Ra7+ Rf7 31.Rxf7+ Bxf7
The smoke has cleared. White has avoided losing a pawn but he's behind in development. After 31. Nca4 (31.Nba4 Bc4 paralyzes White) d5 Black simply pushes his pawn to d3 and the connected past pawns will carry the day. So White resigned (a bit early).
Many players annotate their wins only. There's an anecdote about the legendary Cuban world champion Capablanca that illustrates this attitude. Capablanca was famous for hardly ever losing, so the German grandmaster Saemisch published a book called "Capablanca's losses". When Capablanca heard about this, he commented: "I thought of writing a book about Saemisch's brilliant wins' but I had to cancel the project for lack of material."
My own attitude is that you learn a lot by closely looking at your mistakes. So I'm with Robert Huebner who wrote a book with the title "55 Awful Mistakes. Committed and discussed by Robert Huebner".
This game against Scottish master Mark Condie is a spectacular loss of mine. I included it because it is my most publicized and perhaps best known game. This happended because John Nunn awarded the brilliancy prize of the Oakham International to my esteemed opponent. As the Oakham tournament was a major junior event in Europe, the game went around the chess press.
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6
So far as in my game with Kasparov.
4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e6 6.g3 Qb6 7.Nb3 Ne5 8.e4 Bb4
An aggressive line for Black. If White doesn't watch out, he can lose quickly in the opening. On the other hand, if White does know what he's doing, he tends to come out with a lasting positional advantage. So really not a good choice for international tournament play. Frankly, I just hadn't prepared anything else for this particular opening.
Probably too compromising.
11.Nd2 h5 ? Surely 11...d6 is better now to start developing. I wanted to deter f4 I think, and expected 12. 0-0 h4 with some play on the kingside.
12.Nf3! Logical and effective. Trades off my main active piece and untangles his own pieces.
12...Nf3:+ Perhaps 12...d6 was more solid but after 14. Ne5: de White has a permanent positional advantage with his queenside majority.
13.Bxf3 d6 14.0-0 h4 ? Playing with fire. Castles doesn't work because the h5-pawn is hanging. I should have tried 14...Bd7 to develop.
15.e5! Nice break in the centre. After 15...de 16. Qe5: the queen is powerfully placed, for example 16...Bd6 17. Qg5 or even 17. Qb5+ with a favourable ending. Still 15...de was necessary. I tried to keep the queen out of e5 with 15...Nd7.
15... Nd7 16.Nd5! A thematic sacrifice. Still, it's not so clear that the queen can carry White's attack, so I decided to accept. 16...Qa5 17. Nb4: Qb4: 18. ed Qd6: 19. Bf4 is positionally hopeless---better to go down in flames, I thought.
16...exd5 17.exd6+ Kf8 18.Qe7+ Kg8 19.Bxd5 Nf6 20.Qxf7+ Kh7
So far, everything is forced. But don't I have things under control now?
21.Be4+! Not hard to find but pretty.
21...Nxe4 22.Qh5+ Kg8 23.Qe8+ Kh7 24.Qxe4+ g6
Instead 24...Kg8 25. Qe8+ Kh7 26. d7 wins back the piece.
25.Qe7+ Kg8 26.Qe8+ Kg7 27.d7 hxg3
Last chance: After 28. hg Qc6 Black gets at least a perpetual. Condie does of course not fall for that.
28.Qe5+ Kf7 After 28...Kh7 29. dc8: it's game over. I should have resigned.
29.Qxh8 Bxd7 Maybe he'll take the other rook too?
30.Qh7+ No. 1-0