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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Swindle Like a Grandmaster

I've been reading Checkmate in Prague, the memoir of the late GM Ludek Pachman (1924-2003), and while most of the book is centered on the events of the so-called Prague Spring of 1968, elements of his chess career surface as well. Here is one such tale, from the Havana 1965 tournament, which I offer for two reasons. The official, respectable reason is to offer it as a salutary warning to those of us tempted to relax in winning positions. The more likely reason is that it's an amusing anecdote - at least to those of us who haven't lost a game in this way!

"Not long after [DM: referring to his draw with Bobby Fischer, with whom he had an even score for his career], I played the Pole, Doda. Anxious to win, I opened sharply, sacrificed a rook for a bishop, and went into attack. But a slight error spoilt it. Doda made an unexpected move, banging the piece triumphantly on the board and then running off to bring any colleagues who happened to be free to see what he had done to me. [DM: Ah, good ol' hubris...just you wait, Mr. Doda!]

"Meantime I sat frowning at the board; my ears were certainly dark red. [DM: Alluding to a claim earlier in the book that many players' ears turn red when in trouble.] My first impulse was to throw it in and go for several Cuba libres. Then I forced myself to review the situation, which led me to conclude that I was bound to lose. One of the threatened pawns had to go, attack was out. Then I saw a tiny chance -- having lost one pawn, I could, with an apparently weak move, offer another. Should my opponent take it, I would sacrifice yet another piece, and he would be in a bad way. Although the course right through the end was not clear to me, I could see a strong chance of mating. Under normal circumstances, it was a faint hope, for my offering the second pawn would arouse my opponent's suspicions and, being no fool, he would see after two moves at least what I already saw. But here was the only alternative to resigning at once.

"Finally, I hit on an idea for strengthening my chance somewhat. One more check-up confirmed that things stood as I had judged at the start, and now some ten moves [DM: until the time control at move 40] remained to me. I had a full hour to make them. Head in hands, I pretended to be seeking a way out, but actually I had decided to put chess out of my mind for most of the hour -- I would recite poems to myself or try to recall the logarithms I once knew by heart.

"Doda walked the stage as proud as a peacock while other competitors came along to see if my ears were red. Slowly the minutes ticked away; applause greeted the end of someone's game, then quiet again.

"With two minutes left on the clock -- I had set that as the minimum time for making my ten moves -- I reached for a piece to do what I had known for an hour I would have to do. Doda hurried back, then, after brief consideration, he took my pawn. Glancing as if with anxiety at the clock, I made a lightning move, presenting the other pawn. Doda frowned, glanced at my clock, and took the pawn, assuming that, being pressed for time, I had lost control and would offer more pieces. Another swift sacrifice left Doda clutching his head. He thought it over but now it was too late. Even eternity cannot repair the damage of a second, as Zweig wrote. Blow upon blow fell upon the black king, two minutes sufficed for a devastating onslaught. Caught by the time limit, my opponent had to resign. Players gathered round, cursing my luck in having emerged from such a hopeless position, and in a time scramble, too....In this case too big an advantage cost my opponent a whole point in the tournament" (Pachman, Checkmate in Prague (New York: Macmillan, 1975), pp. 56-57).

The book doesn't include the score of the game (or of any other games), so while I have the game in my databases, applying his comments requires a bit of guesswork, since the move numbers don't quite work the way he suggests. In any case, here's the game:

Pachman,Ludek - Doda,Zbigniew [A65]
Capablanca mem Havana (16), 1965

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g6 5.e4 Bg7 6.Bd3 0-0 7.Nge2 e6 8.0-0 exd5 9.cxd5 a6 10.a4 Qc7 11.h3 Nbd7 12.Ng3 Re8 13.Be3 Rb8 14.a5 b5 15.axb6 Nxb6 16.Re1 Nfd7 17.f4 c4 18.Bc2 Nc5 19.Bd4 Nd3 20.Bxg7 Nxe1 21.Bd4 Nxc2 22.Qxc2 Nd7 23.Qf2 f6 24.Re1 Qd8 25.h4 Qe7 26.h5 Rf8

This seems like a good point to start discussing the game. In this Modern Benoni-like structure, White has a very healthy space advantage and reasonable attacking prospects in return for the sacrificed exchange. Since the e5 advance isn't going to happen any time too soon, White tries to reposition his rook more usefully with 27.Re3 This move has a good idea behind it: he wants to retreat the Ng3 (perhaps after swapping pawns on g6) and then swing the rook to g3. Unfortunately, it gives Black a very nice opportunity. 27...Ne5! This, I'm sure, is the move Doda banged on the board, and it's a good one. Taking on e5 is worthless: 28.fxe5? fxe5 regains the piece while completely ending any attacking fantasies White may have been harboring. Additionally, Black threatens 32...Ng4 and 32...Nd3 here, so it's safe to say that White has some serious problems here. 28.Qd2 Nd3 29.Nd1 Nxf4 30.Nf5 gxf5 31.Rg3+ Kh8 32.Qxf4 Rb3? [32...Qxe4 is winning, and a move I'm sure Doda would have found (and played) had he taken a bit more time, as it's easy to see that 33.Qf2 (33.Qh6 Qxd4+ 34.Kh2 Rg8-+; Maybe 33.Qxd6 was what Doda feared, but White's attack is a mirage: 33...Qxd4+ 34.Nf2 Bb7 35.Qc7 Rg8 36.Rxg8+ Rxg8 37.Qxb7 Qe3 38.Qc6 Qc1+ 39.Kh2 Qxb2-+) 33...f4 leaves White down a lot of material and without an attack.] 33.Nc3 Rxb2

I think it is this move that Pachman identified as the loser, but as best as I've been able to ascertain, however, Black is already lost! [Here are a number of sample variations in support: 33...Rf7 34.Qg5 Qf8 35.exf5 a5 36.h6+-; 33...fxe4 34.h6 Rf7 35.Qg5 Qf8 36.Nxe4 Rxg3 37.Nxg3 Qe7 38.Nh5+-; 33...a5 34.h6 followed by Qg5, etc., winning.; 33...Rxc3 34.Bxc3 fxe4 (34...Qxe4 35.Qxd6 with a quick mate) 35.Qh6 threatens Rg6, and unfortunately for Black, there's no good defense. 35...Bf5 36.Rg5 e3 37.Rxf5 e2 38.Rxf6 e1Q+ 39.Rf1++-] 34.exf5 Bd7 [34...Rb7 might be Black's best, but White wins here, too, after 35.h6 Qd8 36.Ne4 Rbf7 37.Nxf6 Rxf6 38.Qg5 Qe7 39.Re3 (39.Qg7+ Qxg7 40.hxg7+ Kg8 41.gxf8Q+ Kxf8 42.Bxf6+-) 39...Qf7 40.Bxf6+ Qxf6 41.Qxf6+ Rxf6 42.Re8+ Rf8 43.Rxf8#] 35.Ne4 Re2 36.Nxf6 Rxf6 37.Qg5 Re1+ 38.Kh2 1-0


  • At 8:45 AM, Blogger CelticDeath said…

    Thanks for the excerpt, Dennis. It shows some real insight into the thought processes of a GM. It's pretty remarkable when you realize that even they don't see everything to the end and will make a move when it simply appears to be the best one.

  • At 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Don't know where else to write this. After reading part 2 of chessbase interview with Kasparov I wonder why Dennis showed us the game 19 at playchess. It is not mentioned even in the top 7. Maybe now he can show game 16, one of the best dominations in chess history, or the game with Korchnoi'82.

  • At 9:08 PM, Blogger Dennis Monokroussos said…

    Kasparov has played many great games, so even if a game isn't in his top seven, it doesn't exactly follow that it's not worth covering. In any case, if Anonymous has a beef (though I haven't a clue as to why s/he would - it was a great game that would have cost him or her either nothing or at most about 25 cents to watch), s/he should take it up with TWIC or Kasparov himself (see TWIC's initial report on Kasparov's retirement).

    The other two games Anonymous mentioned are excellent ones, of course. I did a two-part program on the Korchnoi game when my show was on, however, and as for game 16 of the 1985 match, I've done two Kasparov shows in the last month and a half, so he has been over-represented. It's likely to show up in the long run, though.

  • At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I didn't mean that it was not worth covering, it was a great game and I enjoyed your lecture very much, thanks Dennis. It was just advertized as one of the top 3, but I see now that it was not your fault.

  • At 11:04 PM, Anonymous MNb said…

    I own a Dutch translation of the book and have noticed that several descriptions of games do not entirely match. But why spoil a good story by telling the truth?


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