SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Grandmaster Evgeni Vasiukov (born March 5, 1933) is one of the world’s most feared attackers. I first became aquainted with his games while still a high school student in Montreal in the early 1970’s. What impressed me most about his games was(and still is!) how Vasiukov would logically and slowly prepare his attack and then–once ready–he would pounce on his opponent with brutal and relentless force.
The following game is perhaps my favourite Vasiukov game. Played in Skopje in 1970 in the last round of an important international tournament, this brilliant win allowed Vasiukov to share first prize with Mark Taimanov. Witness the harmony in White’s pieces and how they all seem to work so perfectly together.
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 16th MOVE:
A typical looking position arising from the Spanish Opening. Black has promising play over on the Queenside and will work to make …d5 possible. In the meantime, White is not without play and he has some interesting chances on the Kingside. However, as the Black monarch resides over on the Kingside, White’s chances are always more lethal than Blacks…
A typical manoeuvre: White wants to play a Knight to f5 , from where it will cause Black many difficulites.
An instructive moment that the reader should not let pass: Alekhine is credited with being one of the first masters to point out that an attack on one side of the board can often be made more effective by creating a diversion on the other side of the board. Here Vasiukov follows this sound advice and opens up a second flank. As the reader will soon see, this makes the life of the defender much more difficult!
It is probably at this point in the game that Black goes wrong…putting too much faith on his Queenside play. The restrained 18…Nc4 seems preferable.
18…Nd7?! 19.Nhf5 Nb6 20.axb5 axb5
Black will soon play …d5 now that his e-pawn is defended. White must create direct threats:
Threatening h5 obliging the Bishop on g6 to take the Knight on f5. Black decides to keep his Bishop–not an unrealistic decision–probably more because of not wanting to give White the ‘dreaded’ Bishop pair!
21…f6!? 22.Qg4! Kh8! 23.h5 Bf7
All logical so far by both sides. It now appears that White’s attack has come to an impasse while Black will next play …Nb3. (The idea of …d5 is less apetizing after Black has played …f6) Vasiukov comes up with a clever idea:
Very nice re-grouping idea! White vacates the f5 square for his other Knight and also threatens to play Ng6 ch in many lines. Today this theme is commonly seen in the Spanish games of modern masters.
The struggle for the initiative intensifies! Now it seems as though Black is the one to first exploit the opening of the a-file. The game becomes cut and thrust
25.Bxb3! Bxb3 26.Ng6!
Now not 26…hxg6? as after 27.hxg6 Be7 28.Qh5 Kg8 29.Nf5 Black will likely be mated
Black must be very careful not to lose his Queen now! If 27…Rxa1? 28.Nh6 gxh6 29.Nxe5 wins the Black mistress ; or if 27…Be6? White strikes home with 28.Nge7! Rxe7 29.Nxe7 Kf7 30.Nxc6 Bxg4 31.Rxa8 Nxa8 32.Be3 and the win should be simple enough. So Black’s move is virtually forced:
Black can still not risk taking the Knight on g6 and in the meantime he must watch out for the attacking chances after any Nh6ch. Besides this, there is the direct threat of taking on b6 and then playing Nxf8 (uncovering a decisive attack on g7). Matanovic decides to ease his problems with a Rook exchange:
Again, Black should avoid 29…Ra8 30.Rxa8 Nxa8 31.Nxf8 Kxf8 32.Nxg7 Qxg7 33.Qc8 when White should win ; and if instead 29…Nc4 30.Nh6! gxh6 31.Ne7 ( 31.Nxf8! is also strong ) 31…Kf7 32.Qg8 Kxe7 33.Qxh7 Kd8 34.Ra8 Qc8 35.Qb7 etc. wins without problems. Black’s move is more resistant:
Analysis has shown that White can probably win with the straight forward and risk-free 30.Nxf8: 30…Kxf8 ( 30…Rxf8 31.Ra3! ) 31.Ra3 Be6 32.c4! Bxf5 33.exf5 Nb6 34.Bxb6 Qxb6 35.h6 when Black’s position quicly implodes on itself. However, Vasiukov became excited with another clever and original idea:
A stunning interference theme that is all the more appealing because of its unexpected and surprising rise to some of the most beautiful sacrificial attacking ideas that this writer has ever seen! White simply tries to block out the Bishop from the b3 to g8 diagonal. If Black now takes the pawn with the b-pawn then things don’t look good at all: 30…bxc4 31.Ra3!? ( 31.Nxf8 probably is also effective:31… Kxf8 ( or 31…Rxf8 32.Bh6! Rf7 33.Rxa4 Bxa4 34.Bxg7 Rxg7 35.Nxg7 Qxg7 36.Qc8 Qf8 37.Qxc4 Qf7 38.Qxa4 ) 32.h6 g6 33.Ng7 etc ) 31…Ra8 ( 31…hxg6 32.hxg6! etc ; 31…Kf7? 32.Bh6 gxh6 33.Nh8 ) 32.h6 hxg6 33.Qxg6 Kh8 34.hxg7 Bxg7 35.Bh6! and Black is without defence
So Matanovic decided to try his luck with the only real alternatve:
30…Bxc4 !? 31.Rc1! A very strong pin!
Vasiukov’s idea! He now intensifies his threats (b3 or Rxc4 in some lines) and leaves Black with a sorry dilemma. For example: 31…Qb7?! 32.Rxc4! bxc4 33.Nh6 gxh6 34.Ne7 Kf7 35.Qg8 Kxe7 36.Qxh7 etc ; or if 31…Nc5!? 32.b3 Bxb3 ( 32…Nxb3 33.Bb6! Qxb6 34.Nxf8 Re7 35.Rxc4 bxc4 36.Nxh7! ) 33.Nxf8 Rxf8 ( 33…Kxf8 34.Nxd6 ) 34.Bxc5 dxc5 35.Rxc5 Qa7 36.Nh6 Kh8 37.Rc8 Qe7 ( 37…Qa3 38.Rc7 ) 38.Qd7 Qa3 39.Rc7etc Black tried the only other viable option:
31…Nxb2!? 32.Bb6!! Qb7!
Black had no choice! If instead 32…Qxb6(?) 33.Nxf8! Qb7 34.Nd7 wins; or if 32…Qf7 33.Nxe5! Qb7 ( 33…dxe5 34.Nh6 Kh8 35.Nxf7 Bxf7 36.Qd7 Bxh5 37.Qxb5 ) 34.Rxc4! Nxc4 ( 34…Rxe5 35.Rc7 ) 35.Nh6 Kh8 36.Nef7 etc
NOW COMES THE SHOCKER!
Eliminating the valuable light-square Bishop! It is remarkable how many sacrifices White has made (threatened) in the game so far, and how what happens on the Queenside so much influences what happens on the other side of the board and vice versa.
White is just full of surprises! Now comes the final wave of the attack
34…gxh6 35.Ne7 Kf7 36.Qg8!
Black has no choice but to make a run for it. Unfortunately for him, his Queen is doomed.
36…Kxe7 37.Qxh7 Ke6 38.Qxb7 Nxb6
White has both a decisive material and positional advantage. Black played on just a few more moves before throwing in the towel. Play over this incredible game on the pgn-viewer!
A recent photo of Evgeni Vasiukov
Evgeni Andreyevich Vasiukov (born Moscow, March 5, 1933) is a Russian chess Grandmaster. During his career, he won the Championship of Moscow on six occasions (1955, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1972, and 1978) and scored many victories in international tournaments, such as Belgrade Open 1961, Moscow International 1961, East Berlin 1962, and Manila 1974. He was ranked as high as #11 in the world during part of 1962. He was rarely at his best in Soviet Championship Finals, which were among the very toughest events in the world. Somewhat remarkably, Vasiukov never made the Soviet team for an Olympiad or a European Team Championship. Vasiukov has continued to play Master events, well into his 70s, and was active in February 2007 at the European Seniors event at Dresden.
Evgeni Vasiukov was strong enough, certainly National Master strength, by 1954 to represent Moscow in the Soviet Team Championship finals in Riga. He scored his first important chess success in 1955 by winning the Moscow City Championship with 10.5/15, ahead of Salo Flohr who was second. He played in the Soviet Championship semi-final at Yerevan 1955 and finished in the middle of a powerful field.
Vasiukov represented the Soviet Union twice in Student Olympiads. In 1955 at Lyon, he was first reserve, and scored 5.5/6 (+5 =1 −0). Then at Uppsala 1956, he made exactly the same score as first reserve, this time winning a board gold medal. Both times, the Soviet Union won team gold medals.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS