The Titan of the 20th Century, Part Three

The Titan of the 20th Century, Part Three

| 20 | Tactics

In Part Two we already had a chance to see GM Svetozar "The Opening Expert" Gligoric  at work. Today we'll discuss his King's Indian Defence legacy.

There are not many chess players who introduced as many ideas to the theory of the King's Indian Defense as Gligoric. That's why when a young Soviet schoolboy Garry Kasparov started playing this complicated opening, his mentor ex-World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik recommended he study GM Gligoric's games.  Perhaps the most famous Gligoric King's Indian masterpiece is the next game:

The Mar-Del-Plata variation

This is probably Gligoric's biggest opening idea. The beautiful and logical set up of the Black pieces is surprisingly simple. In one of his last interviews Gligoric mentioned that he came up with this idea in 10 minutes during his preparation for the game against GM Najdorf. This is a rough translation of his words: "How they used to play the King's Indian Defense? Close the center, lift the Rook to f6-g6 but your Knights on e7 and d7 stay, like two idiots, and only block other Black pieces. Everyone played like this and lost. And I said: "What's wrong with this world? There is something seriously wrong!" That's how I came up with the idea to improve the position of all the pieces first and only then start the attack."

Here is this beautiful game:

Two days after the game vs. Najdorf, GM Gligoric had to defend his brainchild against Argentinian GM Erich Eliskases:

Even today, almost 60 years later, the Mar del Plata variation is still one of the most aggressive lines in the King's Indian defense!

A sacrifice to clear the 'a1-h8' diagonal

The King's Indian Bg7 is the main piece of the opening. Unfortunately in many lines, when the center gets closed, the Bishop gets blocked by Black's pawn e5. It is usually a good idea to sacrifice some material to unleash the power of the Bg7.

The Rf4! sacrifice in the following game reminds me of the little Petrosian story which was mentioned here:

In the next game Gligoric sacrificed two pawn to achieve the same goal to clear the long diagonal. In his iconic book "Grandmaster's Tournament Zurich 1953" Bronstein expressed his admiration of Kotov's defensive skills. It is funny how difficult was Kotov's task even though he had two extra pawns!

As you can see, Gligoric was an outstanding opening authority. It is for this reason GM Najdorf once said: "If in the openings of my games I had such great positions as Gligoric does, I would be the World Champion!"

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