The Mysterious Chess Doctor

The Mysterious Chess Doctor

| 42 | Chess Players

There are many famous personalities in the history of chess. People talk about them, write books about them and follow their games. But there is an even bigger number of unknown chess players who never achieved any great tournament results or discovered new chess openings.

You won't find any books or articles about them and at the best case they are known only at their local chess clubs. These players are well aware of the fact that they will never be famous or win big money in chess tournaments, yet they devote a large part of their lives to the royal game. They are the unsung heroes of chess!

Today I want to tell you about one of them, and I bet many readers will recognize themselves there. It is quite typical for many club players to have chess talent and hopes for a chess career only to choose later a profession that provides more security for their lives.

The name of our protagonist is Dr. Hans-Joerg Cordes. You are probably curious how I even know about a chess player whose all-time best rating was the low 2300s. Well, I remember very well that I read an article in one of the Soviet chess magazines about a big Swiss tournament where an unknown player beat a very strong opponent (at least an IM, but maybe a GM, I don't remember now).

GM Tony Miles, who played there, was not a guy who minced his words. So he made fun of a poor fellow titled player and promised to show him tomorrow how to beat amateurs. Here is the game he played next day:

I remember that I was truly impressed the way an unknown player beat a super GM. So, who is Hans-Joerg Cordes?

The FIDE website says that he is a FIDE master from Germany. A quick check of his games in the database shows that his biggest official tournament was the World Junior Championship in 1978. There he did pretty well against future super grandmasters.

In the following game he channeled his inner Tigran Petrosian and positionally sacrificed an exchange against the defending world junior champion and future world candidate GM Artur Yusupov. In the final position, where the opponents agreed for a draw, White is not worse despite being down an exchange in an endgame!

His domination on the dark squares is just too strong.

Or take a look how Cordes completely outplayed GM Sisniega from Mexico. White's play in the endgame was a textbook example of using a spatial advantage. Unfortunately, at the very end Cordes missed a number of winning moves and was probably so disappointed that he agreed to a draw in the position that still promised good winning chances. 

Despite a number of very good positional games, the true strength of Hans-Joerg Cordes was always his ability to create an attack out of thin air. You already saw how he did it against GM Miles.  Here is another example. Can you find the best move for White in the next position?

Here is how the game ended:

Another surprising feature of Hans-Joerg games is his opening erudition. The same game vs. Miles is a good example how a super GM was not able to survive an opening against Cordes.

The following game from the World Junior Championship adds mystery:

You are probably wondering what's so special about this game? Indeed, this popular opening variation was played thousand of times, but there is one little detail. The variation became very popular after Garry Kasparov won his world championship match in 1985 using this opening line.

Of course, this so-called Romanishin variation of the Nimzo Indian Defense was known before Kasparov used it to beat Karpov in their match, but it wasn't very popular --  to put it mildly -- and that was one of the reasons why Kasparov used it as his surprising opening weapon.

So we have to give a full credit to Hans-Joerg Cordes who noticed the dynamic potential of this variation seven years before Kasparov!

Speaking of Kasparov, here is the game where Cordes beats the "beast from Baku":

You can notice that it was a clock simul, not a regular tournament game. That's true, but remember that even in a simul Kasparov is still Kasparov! For example, Kasparov managed to beat in a simul the national team of Israel with a phenomenal score of 7 out of 8!!

So who are you, Dr. Cordes? How do you manage to play sophisticated openings and outcalculate grandmasters?

How come despite your obvious chess skills, you never became a GM or even an IM?  

My guess is that at some point, around time when he was 19 years old, Hans-Joerg Cordes decided to concentrate on his medical career, but my guess is as good as yours, my dear readers.

Checking the first-round games of the big tournament in Gibraltar, I unexpectedly noticed the familiar name. Yes, Hans-Joerg Cordes was playing the women's world champion Hou Yifan!

Here you can find all the key features of Hans-Joerg's chess: very original opening play and a complicated middlegame.

Even though it wasn't an upset this time and the women's world champion won rather convincingly, I was happy to learn that Cordes is still an active chess player.

You see, I have never seen Hans-Joerg in my life and we never played the same tournaments.  Yet just like a blast from the past, he reminds me of that article about his win over GM Miles published in the Soviet chess magazine 30 years ago.

That chess magazine doesn't exist anymore and GM Miles is unfortunately not with us anymore.  Yet, Hans-Joerg Cordes keeps playing tournament chess.

I want to thank him as well as thousands of amateur club players for your passion for chess!


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