04 August 2006

Alekhine - Koltanowski, London 1932

This is the last game in this series on Alekhine's annotated brilliancies, and it's a game I've admired many times. The preparation leading to the diagrammed position is just as interesting as the continuation, although for different reasons.

The position I've chosen as a start point was also used by Alexander Kotov in both 'Think Like a Grandmaster' (no.53) and 'Play Like a Grandmaster' (no.190). In both books Kotov copied Alekhine's analysis verbatim.

London 1932
Koltanowski, Georges

Alekhine, Alexander
(After 21...Qb7-b5)
[FEN "1r6/2p2rkp/p1npbpp1/1qpN4/4P3/PNQ1R2P/1PP2PP1/3R2K1 w - - 0 22"]

Alekhine played 22.Nxc7!, and commented,

As a rule, so-called "positional" sacrifices are considered more difficult, and therefore more praiseworthy, than those which are based exclusively on an exact calculation of tactical possibilities. The present position offers, I believe, an exception, as the multitude and complexity of the variations following the Knight's sacrifice demanded much more intensive mental work than any general evaluation of mutual possibilities.

The game continued 22...Rxc7 23.Rxd6 Bc4. Alekhine:

Black had several answers, but all of them would finally lose, as shown below.

The following analysis is all Alekhine's. Kotov used it as an example of what he called a 'coppice', a position which has many variations, but where the variations follow a sequence of forced moves.

  • 23...Bxb3? 24.Qxf6+ followed by 25.Rxb3, etc.
  • 23...Nd4? 24.Nxd4 etc.
  • 23...Qc4 24.Nxc5! etc.
  • 23...Nd8 24.Rf3 Rf7 25.Nxc5 etc.
  • 23...Bf7 24.Rxf6! Nd4 25.Nxd4 cxd4 26.Qxc7 Kxf6 27.Rf3+ etc.
  • 23...Re8 24.Nxc5 Nd8 25.b4 Nf7 26.Rxe6 etc.
  • 23...Kf7 24.Rf3 Ke7 25.a4 Qb6 26.Rxe6+ Kxe6 27.Nxc5+ Kd6 (27...Kf7 28.Qxf6+ Kg8 29.Ne6! etc.) 28.Qxf6+ Kxc5 29.Rc3+ Kb4 30.Qd6+ and wins.
  • 23...Re8 24.Nxc5 Nd4 25.Qxd4 Rxc5 26.Rf3.

24.a4! Qxa4 25.Nxc5 Qb5 26.Qxf6+ Kg8 27.Nd7! Rd8 Alekhine: 'Or 27...Re8 28.Qc3 and wins.' 28.Rf3 Qb4 29.c3 Qb5 30.Ne5! and Black resigned a few moves later.

To play through the complete game see...

Alexander Alekhine vs Georges Koltanowski, London 1932

...on Chessgames.com.


Later: With the help of an engine I discovered that Alekhine's combination is neutralized by 23...Re8 24.Nxc5 Nd4 (instead of 24...Nd8), with good play for Black. Then I discovered that this possibility was documented on Chessgames.com, and already known at the time of my original post.

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