My Favorite Classic Games, Part 8

My Favorite Classic Games, Part 8

| 13 | Strategy

This series is all about the classic games that, as a young teen (15 years of age), affected me in a profound manner. In general, they were positional games since, for a kid that grew up on attacking chess and combinations (12 to 14 years of age), strategic considerations were left behind and, as a result, were alien.

Thus, when I was finished studying games by Anderssen, Morphy, Spielmann, Marshall, Alekhine and Tal, I decided to check out less extreme players and broaden my chess horizons.

The games I will share might or might not be masterpieces; the criterion for this series is that they taught me an extremely important lesson(s) that made me well rounded and much stronger. I’m hoping that these games will teach you the same lessons, thereby improving your positional understanding and helping you become a better player.

Everyone knows that Black’s fianchettoed dark-squared bishop is a powerhouse, and everyone also knows that if you let the opponent swap dark-squared bishops Black’s kingside dark-squares can become weak, and his king can become vulnerable.

Though we all know this rule, it doesn’t mean that we have to obey it!

Indeed, there are times when trading your fianchettoed “must-keep” dark-squared bishop is exactly what the position calls for!


By Angelo DeSantis

As a teenager, I gave this a lot of thought after picking up an issue of Chess Digest Magazine (Vol. 2, 1969) and reading a book review on Yudovich’s King’s Indian Defense. Who wrote the review? None other than Bobby Fischer himself. It was a real eye-opener! Here it is:

“A great disappointment. Perhaps because I had been eagerly awaiting this book when it finally came into my hands in 1968. Most of the references are from the late fifties and early sixties. None from the Havana Olympiad, practically none from Shakmatny Bulletin or minor Soviet tournaments. There was very little I didn’t already know. 229 pages of nothing. I did learn one important thing of value: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 O-O 5.Nf3 d6 6.O-O Nc6 7.Nc3 Bg4 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Nd7 10.Bg2 Nxd4 11.Bxb7 Rb8 12.Bg2 Rb4 13.e3 Ne6 14.Qe2.”

Now Yudovich gives 14...Bxc3! I didn’t know this move, but judging from the quality of his book, I assume it was copied from another source. Black gets the better of it by destroying white’s pawn formation; white’s attacking chances are not real. Yudovich does not continue his analysis after 14...Bxc3! but after 15.bxc3 Ra4! is clearly right.”

This actually occurred a couple years later in the game S. Cvetkovic - D. Velimirovic, Yugoslavia 1971:
Okay, that actually makes sense, since Black is rupturing White’s pawn structure in exchange for the bishop.
But the game that really put me over the top when it came to tossing away your fianchettoed dark-squared bishop was the following masterpiece by Bent Larsen, which I first saw in his book, Larsen’s Selected Game of Chess, 1948-1969

I will add that Larsen’s Selected Game of Chess, 1948-1969, which in my view is one of the greatest chess books ever written, has long been out of print. Several years before his death in 2010, I was doing my best to convince Bent to write a new book on his life and games.

Alas, his health was bad and our plans never came to fruition. Nonetheless, New in Chess has come out with Bent Larsen’s Best Games by Bent Larsen. It has all the games from the older book (with Bent’s awesome notes), and new games up to 1977, also annotated by Larsen (122 games in all). Crosstables, photos, a very interesting Introduction by Peter Heine Nielsen, Dan Andersen, and Thorbjorn Rosenlund, and a chapter by Larsen on his relationship with Bobby Fischer, makes this a must buy.

One last thing: My dear friend IM Anthony Saidy has played a lot of chess legends, but he always dreamed of doing battle with Victor Korchnoi. Hearing that the Russian legend was going to play in the National Open in 1993, Saidy entered the event hoping against hope that he would be paired with him.

Sure enough, as if it was a Hollywood movie, Saidy did indeed get to play Korchnoi. In that game, a Maroczy Bind, he gave up his fianchettoed bishop for a superior pawn structure and...won! Here’s his game, which once again demonstrates the dark squares vs. pawn structure battle.


* It’s great to be aware of “advice” like "don’t give up your fianchettoed bishop since your kingside dark-squares will be too weak.” But rules are crutches that are only helpful to a point, and popular advice has its place but should also be ignored on many occasions.

* Play in the center usually trumps play on the wings.

* Exchanging your fianchettoed dark-squared bishop to create long-term structural problems for the opponent is a well known and valid strategy. Both sides have their plusses and minuses, and it’s anyone’s game.


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