The following pretty game won the brilliancy prize in the Soviet chess tournament of Kuibyshev 1942. I had never seen this game before today, having by chance picked up a random book in my library (Soviet Chess, by Nicolai Grekov) and ,browsing thru it , I soon arrived at page 224 and my eye caught a diagram from Lilienthal vs Finogenov. What an amazing position! What an amazing game! I then started to take a closer look at this incredible struggle…
It made me think about how we chess players are becoming so used to having our literature in digital format (where we can not easily browse thru millions of games) that we simply miss out on one of the great advantages of having books! Certainly I would have never come across this game otherwise. Each year 250,000 new games are published in digital format: who has the time to follow everything that is happening, let alone to go back and see games from minor tournaments in 1942?
This game is a worthy winner of a brilliancy prize. Fascinating at every turn, both players show remarkable courage and imagination! We readers are surprised time and again. I know you will enjoy this game as much as I did!
Lilienthal A. – Finogenov M.
1. d4 e6 2. e4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3 6. bxc3 Qc7 7. Nf3 Ne7 8. Bd3 c4 9. Be2 Bd7 10. a4 Qa5 11. O-O
Can Black take the a-pawn? Seems too risky!
11… Bxa4! 12. Ba3 Qxc3! Now this move takes real courage! 13. Bxe7
It seems that Black has overlooked a piece, but infact Black is sacrificing a piece for 3 pawns.
13… Bxc2! 14. Qc1 Kxe7 15. Ra2 Nc6 16. Rxc2 Qa5 17. Qg5 Kf8 18. Qf4 Qc7 19. Ng5 Qe7
Black has 3 pawns for the piece and a solid positon. Soon after …h6 he will push White back and start to advance his 3 passed pawns on the Queen-side. This prompts White to make an important decision…to change the course of the game before things become critical. This is the sign of a great master!
20. Bxc4! dxc4 21. Rxc4 Rd8 22. Rfc1 h6
Now if Nf3 Black can play …g6 and …Kg7.
23. Ne4! Lilienthal discovers a wonderful idea! 23…Nxd4
24. Rxd4!! Rxd4 25. Nd6!
Wow! If Black now takes the Queen White will win material (!) with Rc8ch. It seems as though White now is winning, but Black , has a defence based on the weakness of White’s first rank.
25… Qc7!! Cut and thrust! Now it seems as though Black is winning!
26. g3!! Not only defending the Queen, but creating luft!
26… g5! Only move! 27. Qe3 Qb6
Black has avoided the worse, but White still has some threats based on the exposed position of the Black King
Now horribly wrong would be 28… Rh7?? because of 29. Qf6! which wins immediately!
However, Black can now most simply draw with 28… f5! when White must find the draw!: 29. Qh5 Rxd6 30. Qg6! (diagram,right)30… Rd8 31. Qf6 Kg8 32. Qg6 with a perpetual check
28… Rxd6?! Black decides to get rid of the dangerous Knight. But while it is good enough to make a draw, it is not the cleanest way to do so, and Black is risking a bit here.
29. Qf6!? Reasonable, but there is a better practical move! Do you see it?
29. exd6!? is a better practical chance (even though it should be a draw anyway) Then Black has to be careful: ofcourse not now 29… Qxd6?? 30. Qf6!, but 29… Kg7 (diagram,right) The book (Soviet Chess) says that this is a draw, but gives no variaiton! 30. Qc3!! Kh7 (30… f6? 31. Qd3 Rf8 32. Rc7 Rf7 33. Rxf7 Kxf7 34. Qh7 winning) 31. Qf6 Rf8 32. d7 Qd8 (diagram below)
It looks as though White must have overlooked something, but…
33. Rc8!! (wow!) 33… Qxf6 34. Rxf8 now it seems as though White is winning! 34… Qa1 35. Kg2 Qb1 36. d8=Q Qe4 with a perpetual check! Beautiful! 37. Kf1 Qb1 38. Ke2 Qe4 39. Kd1 Qb1 40. Kd2 Qb4 41. Ke3 Qe1 42. Kd4 Qa1 43. Ke4 Qe1 etc.
NOW BACK TO THE ACTUAL GAME!29… Rd8?
A serious mistake!
Black can save himself with 29… Rc6!= 30. Qxh8 Ke7 31. Rd1 Qc7
(31… Rc2 is the same) 32. Qf6 Ke8 33. Qh8
and White has nothing better than a perpetual check. Infact, after …Rc6 Black draws easily, so for this reason it would have been a better try to for White to have played 29.ed6
, for then Black must play some difficult moves in order to make the draw! 30. Qxh8 Ke7 31. Qxh6
White is much better because Black’s King is in the open. In positions with heavy pieces (Queens and Rooks, and no minor pieces) an exposed King is usually a good enough reason for serious winning chances. On top of that, as will soon be clear, White’s h-pawn becomes a serious threat.31… a5
Black must make a race of it, as the h-pawn is unstoppable otherwise. Passive defense is worse: 31… Rg8? 32. Qf6 Ke8 33. Rc8; or 31… g4 32. Qh4 Ke8 33. Qxg4 Qa5 34. Qg8 Ke7 35. Qg5
etc.32. Qxg5 Ke8 33. h4
Material is equal, and both sides have a passed Rook-pawn. BUT, the difference is in King position! White’s King is snug in his bomb shelter, while Black’s King is exposed to the shooting!33… a4?!
This makes it relatively easy for White. (Somewhat tougher resistance can be found with 33… Rd7 34. h5 Qd8,
though in the long run the result should be the same) 34. h5 a3 35. h6 a2 36. h7
What an unusual positon!
36… Kd7 forced 37. Qf6 (37. Qg7 is equally strong) 37… Rf8 38. h8=Q
Now it is clear that White is winning. Black plays on for just a couple more moves…
38… Rxh8 39. Qxf7 Kd8 40. Qf6 Kd7 41. Qg7 Black is getting mated [1:0]
What a great game! Both players created a masterpiece and I am surprised that I had never seen this great game before. Perhaps this is my Xmas present!?