Monday, December 8, 2008
"You have to be at least 35 to understand [Fyodor] Dostoevski," my professor at George Washington University, Charles Moser, once told me. Such mature appreciation is reserved in chess for Emanuel Lasker, the world champion from 1894 to 1921. He was an extraordinary fighter and playing him always meant a long, difficult struggle. A great defender by nature, Lasker would save bad positions by chipping away at his opponent's advantage move by move. This was hard to do and not many young chess players picked up Lasker's opaque playing style. They were much more likely to emulate Alexander Alekhine's astonishing combinations or Mikhail Tal's mesmerizing, magical attacks.
Fortunately, Lasker was an excellent writer. The legendary "Lasker's Manual of Chess" is a marvelous teaching tool, meticulously composed. The new edition is enhanced with photographs, historical references and computer analysis. In a memorable tournament book, "St. Petersburg 1909," Lasker, who won the event together with Akiva Rubinstein, commented on all 175 games. His clear and concise notes are now presented in algebraic notation. In another book, "Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual," the well-known Russian coach pays tribute to Lasker in a special chapter, analyzing five of his games in great depth. Tournament players could benefit from all three books, recently published by Russell Enterprises.
Down Goes Karpov
Another world champion hard to imitate is Anatoly Karpov. In his best years, he was nearly perfect in accumulating small advantages, slowly strangling his opponents. At 57, Karpov does not take part in top events anymore, but can still play well. Last week, he competed in a team of veteran grandmasters that defeated a team of young female players 17 1/2 -14 1/2 in the Czech spa town of Marianske Lazne. There Karpov became famous for the wrong reason. In the first round, he was smashed by the top Czech woman, Jana Jackova. Trying to win with the black pieces, Karpov misplayed the Paulsen Sicilian and left his king vulnerable to Jackova's brilliant attack.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.0-0 Bd6 8.f4 Bc5 9.Nce2 Nc6 10.c3 d6 11.Kh1 Bd7 12.Qe1 0-0?! (A regrettable decision. Karpov castles into white's attack.) 13.Qh4 Rfe8 14.Nf3 e5 15.b4! (Making sure the dark bishop doesn't come back to defend the black king.) 15...Bb6 16.fxe5 dxe5 (After 16...Nxe5 17.Nxe5 Rxe5 [or 17...dxe5] 18.Rxf6! gxf6 19.Bh6, threatening 20.Qg3+, white wins.) 17.Ng5 h6 18.Rxf6! (Eliminating an important defender.) 18...hxg5? (Karpov should have played 18...gxf6!?. After 19.Qxh6 fxg5 20.Qxg5+, white has a perpetual check, but does she have more? For example, 20.Bc4 Re6! is unclear.) 19.Bxg5 Be6 20.Nf4! (The knight sacrifice, opening the diagonal b1-h7, came naturally to Jackova. Bringing another rook into the attack with 20.Raf1 was also strong.) 20...Ne7 (After 20...exf4 21.e5 white wins either after 21...Qxe5 22.Rxe6 fxe6 23.Bh7+ Kf8 24.Bg6!; or after 21...Ne7 22.Qh7+ Kf8 23.Bh6!) 21.Nd5 Qd7 (After 21...Bxd5 22.exd5 Ng6 23.Rxg6! wins.) 22.Rh6! Ng6 (Not waiting for 23.Nf6+! gxf6 24.Bxf6 Nxh4 25.Rh8 mate . . . ) Karpov resigned.
Solution to today's three-mover by J.G.Campbell (White: Kd3,Rg1,Bh5,Nf3,P:h2; Black: Kf4,P:d5,f5,f6): 1.Rg6 d4 2.Bg4 fxg4 3.Rxf6 mate.