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FM Paul Whitehead's Column
Aron Nimzowitsch and the Three Zugzwangs
Aron Nimzowitsch (1886 - 1935) was a fascinating individual, well known for his eccentric (and quite sound) ideas in chess. My System and Blockade both authored in 1925, were followed by Chess Praxis in 1929. An original voice and playing style had risen to the top of the chess world, and although he couldn’t quite crack through the Lasker/Capablanca/Alekhine trifecta, he was among the very best players of his day.
Concepts like over-protection, blockade and prophylaxis were coined and codified by this Latvian born and Danish naturalized citizen, and chess titans Bent Larsen and World Champion Tigran Petrosian counted themselves as his disciples.
As a chess player I am fascinated by certain patterns that arise in that world, where a player repeatedly finds himself in certain situations. Why does Viswanathan Anand like the Knights, while Bobby Fischer favored the Bishops? How come Geza Maroczy was the greatest Queen endgame player who ever lived? What makes Petrosian march his King all over the board, and why was Mikhail Botvinnik hell-bent on crashing through the center?
Seeing these themes repeated endlessly, I hope to find the patterns that increase my own understanding.
In 1923 Nimzowitsch conducted the “Immortal Zugzwang Game”, tying up his opponent Friedrich Saemisch in knots and forcing his helpless opponent to resign with the board full of pieces on the 25th move. It was zugzwang on the board, and in case you are unfamiliar with the concept here is the simplest example, with black to move:
The word comes from German Zug 'move' + Zwang 'compulsion', so that Zugzwang means 'being forced to make a move'. (Wikipedia).
Black MUST play 1…Kd7 allowing white to force a new queen with 2. Kf7 and wins,
Here is the “Immortal Zugzwang Game”. Annotating the game in My System, Nimzowitsch gives himself a double-exclamation mark after 25…h6!!
and concludes: “A brilliant move that announces the zugzwang. White has not a move left. If, e.g., Kh2 or g4, then R5f3. Black can now make waiting moves with his king, and White must, willy-nilly, eventually throw himself upon the sword”.
Friedrich Saemisch – Aron Nimzowitsch, Copenhagen 1923.
Queen’s Indian Defense
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Bb7 5. Bg2 Be7 6. Nc3 O-O 7. O-O d5 8. Ne5 c6 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. Bf4 a6 11. Rc1 b5 12. Qb3 Nc6 13. Nxc6 Bxc6 14. h3 Qd7 15. Kh2 Nh5 16. Bd2 f5 17. Qd1 b4 18. Nb1 Bb5 19. Rg1 Bd6 20. e4 fxe4 21. Qxh5 Rxf2 22. Qg5 Raf8 23. Kh1 R8f5 24. Qe3 Bd3 25. Rce1 h6 0-1.
A great game, and a beautiful illustration of Zugzwang.
But now we come to one of those strange conundrums, those unexplained mysteries, for it came to pass that Nimzowitsch himself fell victim to a masterpiece of the Zugzwang theme: not once, but twice!
The first time was to a model squeeze by Capablanca, the standing World Champion at the time.
Aron Nimzowitsch – Jose Capablanca, New York 1927.
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Bd3 Bxd3 5. Qxd3 e6 6. Nc3 Qb6 7. Nge2 c5
8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. O-O Ne7 10. Na4 Qc6 11. Nxc5 Qxc5 12. Be3 Qc7 13. f4 Nf5
14. c3 Nc6 15. Rad1 g6 16. g4 Nxe3 17. Qxe3 h5 18. g5 O-O 19. Nd4 Qb6 20. Rf2 Rfc8 21. a3 Rc7
22. Rd3 Na5 23. Re2 Re8 24. Kg2 Nc6 25. Red2 Rec8 26. Re2 Ne7
27. Red2 Rc4 28. Qh3 Kg7 29. Rf2 a5 30. Re2 Nf5 31. Nxf5+ gxf5 32. Qf3 Kg6 33. Red2 Re4 34. Rd4 Rc4 35. Qf2 Qb5 36. Kg3 Rcxd4 37. cxd4 Qc4 38. Kg2 b5 39. Kg1 b4 40. axb4
axb4 41. Kg2 Qc1 42. Kg3 Qh1 43. Rd3 Re1 44. Rf3 Rd1 45. b3 Rc1.
46. Re3 Rf1 0-1.
A game played and won in the style of Aron Nimzowitsch himself!
And then, three years later, incredibly, another classic loss to another standing World Champion. This game seems remarkably like the victory over Saemisch in that the Zugzwang occurs in the middle-game, and features the famous “Alekhine’s Gun” theme as well, with the Queen backing up the doubled-Rooks:
Alexander Alekhine – Aron Nimzowitsch, San Remo 1930.
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. Bd2 Ne7 6. Nb5 Bxd2+ 7. Qxd2 O-O 8. c3 b6 9. f4 Ba6 10. Nf3 Qd7 11. a4 Nbc6 12. b4 cxb4 13. cxb4 Bb7 14. Nd6 f5 15. a5 Nc8 16. Nxb7 Qxb7 17. a6
Qf7 18. Bb5 N8e7 19. O-O h6 20. Rfc1 Rfc8 21. Rc2 Qe8 22. Rac1 Rab8 23. Qe3 Rc7 24. Rc3 Qd7 25. R1c2 Kf8 26. Qc1 Rbc8 27. Ba4 b5 28. Bxb5 Ke8 29. Ba4 Kd8 30. h4 1-0.
Zugzwang! As you can work out for yourself.
This leaves us with the (perhaps) unanswerable mystery: just what was it about Nimzowitsch and Zugzwang? Like so many patterns and connections one sees in chess, this kind of question both puzzles and mesmerizes, prompting yet more investigations…
GM Nick de Firmian's Column
Bobby Fischer and His World
The games of the World Champions are always of great interest to club and tournament players. They keep their appeal through time as we love to look back and see what ideas they discovered to advance the game of chess and conquer all other players of their time. We see in Paul’s writings for this newsletter the wonderful examples of the champions 100, 80 or 60 years ago. Someone who has been a living inspiration to many of our veteran chess players is Bobby Fischer – but Fischer’s career is now so long ago that he is being relegated to a “historical” world champion. His delightful games are still very instructive and entertaining to see, yet we place him now alongside Capablanca, Botvinnik and Alekhine.
There is no better way to learn of the career of Bobby Fischer than reading John Donaldson’s tome “Bobby Fischer and His World.” This 642-page work is comprehensive to say the least. If you miss hearing the entertaining stories that our former MI chess director would tell you on Tuesday evenings (before the TNM games) then you definitely want to read his book. John covers the development of Fischer as a boy so we see how he developed his game in the early years. We give below first a game which developed the young Fischer, a loss to Viktors Pupols in a US Junior Championship. Viktors though is still playing touraments and one of the dwindling living connections to the glorious Fischer times.
We are most interested though to see the games when Fischer became superman, and mercilessly crushed all opposition. Bobby played many superb and forceful games from the late 50’s to his capture of the chess throne in 1972. We give a couple of those below. Many more wonderful Fischer creations are in John Donaldson’s book, along with a lot of the stories told in John’s engaging style.
(1) Fischer,Robert James - Pupols,Viktors [C40]
USA-ch U18 USA, 1955
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 The Latvian Gambit! Victors shows his heritage with this opening. 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 6.Nc3 Qg6 7.Ne3 Nf6 8.Bc4 c6!
Black has gotten a complex and reasonable game. A Latvian success. 9.d5 Be7 10.a4 Nbd7 11.a5?
Young Bobby is losing time with pawn moves. He is confused in this opening as normal people are and he drifts into a bad defensive position. 11...Ne5 12.Be2 0-0 13.0-0 Bd7 14.Kh1 Kh8 15.Nc4 Nfg4 16.Qe1?!
[16.Nxe5] 16...Rf7 17.h3 Nf6
[17...Nf3! (John Donaldson)] 18.Nxe5 dxe5 19.Bc4 Rff8 20.Be3 Nh5 21.Kh2 Bd6 22.Bb3 Nf4 23.Bxf4?
23. Rg1 was needed. This opens up Black's bishops. 23...exf4 24.Qxe4?
[24.f3] 24...f3+ 25.g3 Bf5?
[25...Qh5! 26.h4 Rae8] 26.Qh4 Rae8 27.Rae1 Be5 28.Qb4?
The queen should have stayed on the kingside. 28...Qh6 29.h4 g5 30.Rh1?
White needs to give up the exchange with 30. Rxe5! to defend. 30...gxh4 31.Kg1 h3?!
[31...Bxg3!] 32.dxc6 bxc6 33.Qc5 Qg7
[33...Bxg3!] 34.Kh2 Qf6 35.Qxa7 Bd4 36.Qc7 Bxf2 37.Rxe8 Rxe8 38.Rf1 Bd4 39.Rxf3 Bxc3 40.bxc3 Re2+ 41.Kh1 Be4 42.Qc8+ Kg7
[43.Qd7+ Kg6 44.Qg4+ is a perpetual check] 43...Qg6 44.Qd7+?
White resigns as 45. Qxh3+ Qh5 trades the queens and wins the rook due to the pin. A wild and crazy game which taught Bobby a lot about tactics, but didn't yet show the world how talented he was. At this point in his career he seemed like a lot of normal players. That was to change very soon. 0-1
(2) Fischer,Robert James - Reshevsky,Samuel Herman [B35]
USA-ch New York (6), 1958
Very soon though Fischer showed he was a major talent. At just 15 years old he smashes one of the best players in the country. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 An Accelerated Dragon, which should transpose into a normal Dragon with 9...d6. Reshevsky though decides to chase down the light-squared bishop and runs into tactics. 8...Na5? 9.e5!
Seizing the moment! We see how quickly Fischer has learned complicated tactics. Such enormous improvement over the game against Pupols. 9...Ne8
[9...Nxb3 10.exf6 Nxa1 11.fxg7 Kxg7 12.Qxa1 is clearly better for White.; 9...Nh5 10.g4 wins a piece] This move looks alright for Black doesn't it? 10.Bxf7+!! Kxf7
Black loses the queen after both 10...Rxf7 11. Ne6 and 10...Kh8 11. Ne6 11.Ne6!
Fischer throws the knight on e6 anyway! 11...dxe6
[Reshevsky sees he will be mated after 11...Kxe6 12.Qd5+ Kf5 13.g4+ Kxg4 14.Rg1+ Kh5 15.Qd1+ Kh4 16.Qg4#] He gives up the queen and struggles on for many moves in a hopeless position. Young Fischer's technique could have been a bit better, but he wraps it up with no real trouble. 12.Qxd8 Nc6 13.Qd2 Bxe5 14.0-0 Nd6 15.Bf4 Nc4 16.Qe2 Bxf4 17.Qxc4 Kg7 18.Ne4 Bc7 19.Nc5 Rf6 20.c3 e5 21.Rad1 Nd8 22.Nd7 Rc6 23.Qh4 Re6 24.Nc5 Rf6 25.Ne4 Rf4 26.Qxe7+ Rf7 27.Qa3 Nc6 28.Nd6 Bxd6 29.Rxd6 Bf5 30.b4 Rff8 31.b5 Nd8 32.Rd5 Nf7 33.Rc5 a6 34.b6 Be4 35.Re1 Bc6
36.Rxc6! bxc6 37.b7 Rab8 38.Qxa6 Nd8 39.Rb1 Rf7 40.h3 Rfxb7 41.Rxb7+ Rxb7 42.Qa8
Reshevsky finally resigns. The white a-pawn will cost a piece. 1-0
(3) Robert James Fischer - Pal Benko [B09]
US Championship 1963/64 New York, NY USA (10), 30.12.1963
Soon Fischer became dominant in the US and was headed for the chess crown. He would make mincemeat of strong grandmasters. 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 A great opening player, Fischer would always choose sharp, aggressive variations. 4...Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Bg4 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Nc6 9.Be3 e5 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.f5!
Looking to get a strong kindside bind with 12. g4 11...gxf5?!
weakening the squares on the kingside. Black would have done better with 11...Nd4 12.Qxf5 Nd4 13.Qf2 Ne8 14.0-0 Nd6 15.Qg3 Kh8 16.Qg4 c6?!
Black is in more trouble than he realizes, and this move is slow. 16...c5 was better. 17.Qh5 Qe8?
[17...c5] 18.Bxd4 exd4
White to move and win 19.Rf6!! Blocking the advance of the f-pawn. 19...Bxf6 20. e5 will be mate on h7. 19...Kg8 20.e5 h6 21.Ne2 simple and crushing. If 21...Bxf6 22. Qxh6 mates. If the knight on d6 moves then Qf5 mates. So White wins a clear piece. Benko resigned. 1-0
Body Language Analysis
Depending on the engine, but this particular body language means a 1.72 disadvantage for black.
Solution To Tony's Teaser
1. Of8!! Qxf6 2. Bc7 Be5 3. Qb4#
1. Qf8!! Ne6 2. Qd6+ Qe5 3. Nh5#
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