Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Friday, March 18, 2005

In Memoriam: Arnold Denker

Grandmaster, organizer and "dean" of American chess Arnold Sheldon Denker passed away January 2 of this year, at the age of 90. Recent tributes have been offered in Chess Life and New in Chess magazine, and while I'm not going to join the chorus of eulogists (though my readers are welcome to in their comments), I will present two games that demonstrate the aggressive play that characterized his chess at its best.

First, his most famous game (or rather, his most famous win; his most famous game must be the 1945 drubbing he suffered against Mikhail Botvinnik on the White side of the Semi-Slav). Playing White against the American legend Reuben Fine (according to Kasparov, the only non-world champion with an overall plus score against world champions given a non-trivial total number of games: +3!), Denker offered a nice pawn sacrifice (then a novelty, I think, but now accepted as the main move in the position) and blew Fine off the board. If Fine were a rank-and-file master, that would be one thing, but Fine was then one of the top 5-10 players in the world!

Denker,Arnold - Fine,Reuben [E43]
US Championship, 1944

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 b6 5.Bd3 Bb7 6.Nf3 Ne4

7.0-0! Now the well-established main line, but then a brave gambit against one of the world's super-elite. 7...Nxc3 [7...f5 , preferring control over e4 to the pawn, is Black's best-scoring move nowadays.] 8.bxc3 Bxc3 9.Rb1 Ba5 10.Ba3 d6 11.c5 0-0 12.cxd6 cxd6 13.e4 In return for a pawn, White has a lead in development, well-placed pieces, a strong pawn center and the initiative to boot; in short, White's compensation is more than sufficient. 13...Re8 14.e5 dxe5 15.Nxe5 Qg5 16.g3 g6 [16...Nc6 17.Nxf7!! Denker/Fischer/Alburt 17...Kxf7 18.Rb5 Qh6 19.Rh5 Qf6 is given as equal by Larry Parr('s ChessMaster program) in Chess Life, continuing with 20.Rxa5. But 20.Rh4 h6 21.Rf4 Qxf4 22.gxf4 Nxd4 23.Be4 Bxe4 24.Qxd4 Bd5 25.Bb2 Rg8 26.f5 gives White a winning attack.] 17.Qa4 Qd8 18.Rfc1 b5 [18...Kg7 19.Bd6 Na6 is another Parr/ChessMaster suggestion, but 20.Nc4 threatening Nxa5 20...Bd5 21.Bf4 gives White a big advantage, as Black's a-file jumble will cost him his extra pawn while White's positional advantages continue unabated.] 19.Bxb5 Qd5 20.f3 Bb6

It looks as if Black has managed to glue everything together and even scrape up some counterplay on the long diagonals to the White king, but Denker forcibly dispels the illusion. 21.Rc5!! Bxc5 22.Bxc5 at the cost of the exchange, White has eliminated all Black's counterplay and stands to win material - Black can't (reasonably) prevent 23.Bxe8 and 23.Bc4 Qd8 24.Rxb7. White is winning. 22...Rf8 23.Bc4 Bc6 24.Bxd5 Bxa4 25.Bxa8 1-0

Next comes a game from his youth, against an opponent unknown to the world of top-level chess. Despite the obscurity of the game and his opponent, Denker wrote that "[s]ince that game, I have played a number of brilliant games, but none of them, it seems to me, can compare with this one for absolute purity and charm." [Quoted in Chess Life (March 2005), page 8.]

Denker,Arnold - Feit,Harold [A84]
N.Y. Interscholastic Ch., 1929

1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 b6?! [3...Nf6] 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0-0 Nf6 6.c4 Be7 7.Nc3 d6? Parr doesn't comment on this move, but it's practically losing, as the light squares in Black's camp are now fatally weak. Denker does a very nice job of exploiting this: first, he creates and fixes the weakness; next, he opens lines to allow further access to the weakened sector. It's worth noting the positional lead-up to the attack: White doesn't win this game primarily due to his ability to calculate but because Black's position possessed so many chronic liabilities that punishment was inevitable. [7...0-0; 7...Ne4] 8.d5 Killing the Bb7, fixing e6 as a hole and weakening Black's control over f5 as well. 8...e5 9.Ng5 Bc8 10.e4! [10.Ne6 was good too, but White realizes that e6 will continue to be available and wants to blast open lines in the center as quickly as possible.] 10...0-0 11.f4! exf4 12.Bxf4 fxe4 13.Ncxe4 Nxe4 14.Bxe4!!

Even after 14.Nxe4 White would have a great positional advantage, but now Black's bare kingside is in serious trouble. Black wins a piece, but he can't keep it without allowing something much worse in return. 14...Bxg5 15.Qh5 Rxf4 [15...h6 is the obvious try, but it doesn't work: 16.Bxg5 Qxg5 17.Rxf8+ Kxf8 18.Rf1+ Ke7 19.Qf7+ Kd8 20.Qf8+ Kd7 21.Rf7+ Qe7 22.Rxe7#; 15...g6 16.Bxg6 h6 17.Bf7+ Rxf7 (17...Kh8 18.h4 Bxf4 19.Rxf4 wins, as Black can't secure h6.) 18.Bxg5 Qd7 19.Bxh6 wins, as Black has no good defense to the threat of Qg6+.; 15...Bf5 16.Bxg5 Qd7 17.Bxf5 Rxf5 18.Rxf5 Qxf5 19.Qe8+ Qf8 20.Qe6+ Qf7 (20...Kh8 21.Rf1 Qg8 22.Rf7 Na6 23.Bf6+-) 21.Qc8+ Qf8 22.Bd8+- 23.Rf1 and 24.Qb7 nets White the exchange and the compensation, as Dzindzhi might say.] 16.Qxh7+ Kf7 17.Bg6+ Kf6 18.Rxf4+! [Even better than 18.gxf4 which also wins.] 18...Bxf4 19.Qh4+ [19.Rf1 is more accurate, forcing mate in no more than seven moves, though there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the move played.] 19...Bg5

[19...Kxg6 20.Qxd8 Be3+ 21.Kg2 Nd7 allows Black to avoid the mate, but White is dead won after 22.Qe8+ and 23.Qxe3.] 20.Qe4!! Forced, but winning! Black's up two pieces, but he has no defense to White's attack, due to his lack of development and strangely paralyzed king. 20...Be3+ 21.Kh1 Bh6 22.Rf1+ Kg5 23.Bh7 Amusingly, Parr gives this two exclamation points. It is an elegant move and forces mate in one, but I think his enthusiasm is a bit much when [23.h4# gave mate on the move.] 1-0


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