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Chasing the King (Part 2)

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | May 13, 2013

Last week I showed a couple of examples of a king hunt. This week we will see another example of a deposed king being chased across the board. First it somewhat willingly steps into the center, with the leader of the white pieces hoping that his overall advantages in position will see him through.

Rashid Nezmetdinov was born in 1912 in what is now Kazakhstan. Although he learned how to play chess relatively early, he rarely played in chess tournaments until after World War II - partially because of his competing interest in checkers. Thus he did not become a master until he was 35 years old - and most of his greatest victories took place at an age where - nowadays - a chess player as seen as past their prime. Nezhmetdinov was famous for his creative, sharp, attacking style.

The game I will show is considered by many to be his greatest game. This was his game against Lev Polugaevsky from a tournament in Sochi, 1958. Polugaevsky was one of the top players in the world. We will look at the game in stages.

An old-fashioned line was played, where White was willing to sacrifice time, losing a tempo with his queen, to get the purely theoretical chance of exploiting his "bind". At the same time, Black's pieces gained great activity, on the dark squares in particular. This was transformed into very real chances of attack on the kingside, where the black pawns were very mobile. Combined with the entrenched knight on e5, Nezhmetdinov gained a strong attack.

White occupied his key square, d5; and with the surprising 17.g3! he was able to gain a central preponderance and even fight for the initiative on the kingside. But this came at a cost - the kingside was severely weakened, which resulted in the king being chased out to e3. Now we stand at a critical moment - it appears that the black position is collapsing. His pieces seem strewn around the board illogically. But Nezhmetdinov's attacker's eye has spotted some hidden tactical weaknesses in Polugaevsky's position, and now he carries out the crushing blow...

The queen sacrifice has lead to a unique situation, where the white king is sitting in the middle of the board, without a single move. However, the task of actually checkmating it is far from simple, and some study-like variations now arise.

This was far from the "simple" kind of king hunts featured in part 1 of this article. Nezhmetdinov faced a strong player who had his own creative ideas, and took his own risks for positional gain. It might appear, after nineteen moves, that White's central play would triumph. Only Nezhmetdinov's fantastic play from that point to the end of the game showed who really held the chances. And so, willy-nilly, the white king was induced to walk across the board to the a5 square, as the seemingly discordant black pieces came together with remarkable harmony.


  • 22 months ago


    Great game,by Nezhmetdinov and excellent article by IM BryanSmith, it is worth the pain in studying tactics if one can play like this: unfortunately of all my games only two amaze sacrifice I did over the board, one a piece sacrifice that was complex and the another beautiful queen sacs, and all my other sacrifice were logical and easy to see it will win even though some were beautiful.When I see great masters of attack like Nezhmetdinov or Tal make me work harder to play like them some day.

  • 22 months ago


    Well drive my opponents king I have trouble checkmating him. But when my king cannot castle or is driven from castling I in trouble

  • 22 months ago


    great harmony !!!

  • 22 months ago


    Amazing chase, I believe it takes real guts to play the way black played. Very nice! Thanks for the article! :)

  • 23 months ago


    I never realized how much Nezmetdinov looked like Andor Lilienthal.

  • 23 months ago


    wow!!! what a breath taking game. Absolutely nice article you shared here.

  • 23 months ago


    nice game.

  • 23 months ago

    NM Bonesy1116

    I always liked this guy. If I'm not mistaken, he ran all over Tal too.

  • 23 months ago


    I would like to clarify a bit. Nezhmetdinov Rashid was born in Kazakhstan, but my entire adult life, he has lived in the city of Kazan. In Kazan, he became famous chess player. Nezhmetdinov was the only one in the USSR (and perhaps the world), a master of chess and checkers!

  • 23 months ago


    Thanks Pete_the_Pirate...I see now how it frees up that knight.  I kept envisioning the next move by the other knight but the line you are describing is preferable.  Cheers.

  • 23 months ago



    it stops the King from moving to the c4 square so that The Knight on e5 can move without giving up that square. Creating the Nec5 checkmating threat it seems which can only be stopped by Bd3 but thats also going to at least lose the queen for the Rook but probably a lot more.. cant do proper analysis cus I'm at work.

  • 23 months ago


    I watched so many superb games of Nezhmetdinov and do not know why not become a grandmaster? He beat many elite players!

  • 23 months ago


    This has been my alltime favorite game of chess. And Polu is my favorite player but got whipped!

  • 23 months ago


    what a chase like in the tv series 24

  • 23 months ago


    After the game Lev said that Nezhmetdinov was like a "rabid" dog, chasing him.

  • 23 months ago


    This game made me love Nezhmetdinov as a player.

  • 23 months ago


    That was an awesome game lol.

  • 23 months ago


    Thank you!  To echo sid3105,  too good!

  • 23 months ago


    Thanks for the great analysis of a brilliant game.  24...rxh4 a great find.  Always interesting to see a position where all squares surrounding the king are covered, but the king is not in check.   

    One question I have...what is the point of 27...b5!! in the paranthetical variation shown at the beginning of board 4?  

  • 23 months ago


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