23 August 2007

Smyslov's Grandmaster Moves

The next game in Smyslov's Sparklers, was one of those mentioned in the discussion of Nimzo Indian, Saemisch Variation. The diagrammed position occurred a few moves after the position in that previous post.

When I play through one of Smyslov's games for the first time, my first impression is almost invariably, 'What happened?'; I see no daring sacrifices or deep plans. When I play through the game a second time, my reaction is almost the same; Smyslov wins without any dramatic turning points. Then I remind myself that Smyslov chose the game for his collection of 'Best Games' and that Kasparov chose the same game for his exposition of Smyslov's style. As I play through it a third or fourth time, I start to see certain moves which I failed to notice the first time. The diagram position shows two of those moves.

Geller played 13.d5, and Smyslov wrote, 'A critical decision.White's center becomes less mobile and more readily exposed to attack. 13.Rc1 was preferable.'

Candidates Tournament
Amsterdam 1956

Smyslov, Vasily

Geller, Efim
(After 12...Ra8-c8)
[FEN "2rqnrk1/p2p1ppp/bp2p3/n1p5/2PPP3/P1PBB1N1/4QPPP/R3K2R w KQ - 0 13"]

Now Smyslov played 13...Qh4 and gave the move a '!'.

A powerful reply: the Queen hinders the activity of the White pieces on the Kingside and indirectly attacks the c-Pawn. Bad was 13...Nd6 because of 14.e5 Ndxc4 15.Qh5 g6 16.Qh6 with the threat of 17.Nh5

In that variation, Smyslov (SMY) says nothing about 16...f5, which looks like the refutation of White's play. Kasparov (KAS) picks up where Smyslov stopped:

At first sight White seems to have gone mad: after the obvious 13...Nd6 the c4-Pawn can no longer be defended. However, after 14.e5 Ndxc4 15.Qh5 g6 16.Qh6 with the threat of 17.Nh5, Geller would have gained an excellent opportunity to demonstrate his tactical skill.
True, the Black King is not bound to drown in the sea of complications: 16...f5! 17.Bg5 Qe8 18.Bf6 Rxf6 (18...Rf7 19.O-O (19...exd5 20.Nxf5 gxf5 21.Qg5+ with a draw, or 19...Bb7 20.dxe6 dxe6 21.h4 with sufficient compensation) 19.exf6 exd5+ 20.Be4 Kf7 21.Qg7+ Ke6 22.Bd3 Qf7 23.Qh6 Kd6 24.O-O Rf8 25.Qf4+ Kc6 etc.
Nevertheless, Smyslov sensibly declines to play on his opponent's 'home ground'. While his subordinates are engaged with the c4-Pawn, the task of defending His Majesty is taken on by the Queen herself.

The game continued 14.O-O Nd6. This sets up the next move that impressed me only after I had played through the game several times.

SMY: The final link in the plan to surround the c-Pawn. Black has avoided 14...d6 leaving the square free for his Knight.


KAS: !; Applause for boldness! Geller had long ago written off the c4-Pawn, concentrating his efforts on creating a compensating attack on the Kingside.


SMY: Of course, the attacked Pawn could be taken.But Black prefers to limit the activity of the White Bishops. The weak Pawns on the Queenside will always be a source of trouble for White.
KAS: Taking the bull by the horns! Although 15...Bxc4 seemed save enough, White would have obtained precisely that which he wanted: 16.e5 Bxd3 17.Rxd3 Ndc4 18.Bc1 with fairly real threats. 15...f5 reduces White's attacking potential and prepares the ground for mass exchanges. This avoidance (already the third!) of complications came as a cold shower for White. The cruel reality is that his broken Queenside Pawns will transform any endgame into a nightmare.

White swapped off the center Pawns with 16.dxe6 dxe6 (SMY: '16...f4 was risky on account of 17.exd7 Rcd8 18.e5') 17.exf5 exf5 and tried to penetrate Black's position with a Rook. When this failed, he sacrificed the Rook for the remaining Black Bishop and obtained a Kingside attack with the two Bishops.

Smyslov played two superb moves -- 13...Qh4 and 15...f5 -- hindering White's attack and deferring his own plan until later. Even this wasn't enough to stop Geller, who came charging in with an exchange sacrifice to continue his dangerous attack. It took a few more superb moves to score the full point.

I'll continue with the game on the next post. To play through the complete game see...

Efim Geller vs Vasily Smyslov, ct, Amsterdam 1956

...on Chessgames.com.

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