SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The following game is one of my favourite Efim Geller games. It was played against the great Paul Keres at the USSR championship of 1973, one of the strongest (if not the strongest) championships ever. The eventual tournament victor was Boris Spassky, who was making a sort of comeback after his historic loss to Bobby Fischer the year before. Placing ahead of the stars of the younger Soviet generation (such as Karpov), winning this tournament was one of Spassky’s greatest tournament success.
A lot of really great chess was played in this tournament, and the Geller vs Keres games stands out in my mind as an example of this. A normal opening, white has a slight edge in space and Keres tries a new idea: g6 (with the idea of playing for f5). Geller thinks a long while (he was a deep thinker) and comes up with an aggressive plan that seems to just blow his famous adversary away.
No doubt Keres’ …g6 did not find any followers after this beautiful game!
Paul Keres was known as the Crown Prince of chess, and is undoubtedly one of the strongest grandmasters never to have become world champion. I grew up on studying Keres games! I have fond memories of winning a book of his best games at my very first scholastic tournament, and then rushing home and devouring game after game. What impressed me most of these games were the annotations: Keres always seemed to speak to the reader one on one, more interested in transmitting his ideas than in impressing the reader with his obvious genius.
I saw Paul Keres only once, in 1975 in Montreal. Keres had been invited to come to Canada by John Prentice, and during his stay he held a number of lectures in Toronto and Montreal. As well as some clock simuls. Unfortunately, as my university exams did not allow me to attend the lectures, I missed a really historic opportunity, since Paul Keres died soon afterwards on his way back to Europe.
However, I was able to attend one of his simuls at Place Ville Marie. It was held outside on a wonderfully sunny day, and was attended by hundreds of spectators, including a local radio station that transmitted the grandmasters moves to the listeners! I have never seen anything even remotely similar since! Keres was very tall and handsome for his 59 years, and there was a certain nobility about the way he walked and moved. I was impressed, as was everyone else…
Geller E. – Keres P.
USSR ch Moscow 1973
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5
The Spanish Opening, a big favourite of both players with both colours!
When I first started to play chess I was also fascinated by this ancient opening. Over the years, despite improvements in both attack and defence, this opening has maintained its vitality and energy.
3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 d6
Not the main line (…b5), but a respectable sideline that has been played at one time by all of the great players. It has the advantage of avoiding theory, and at the same time is very solid. Undoubtedly Keres wanted to see what Geller had in mind.
7. c3 O-O 8. d4 Nd7 9. Be3 Bf6 10. Nbd2 Re8
A funny looking position: Black concentrates all of his developed pieces on protecting his e-pawn! Nimzovitch taught that overprotection of key squares and pieces is an important element of modern strategy. No doubt he is right, but such a strategy does lack dynamism, and in this game Geller casts doubt on the use of this strategy in this particular opening variation.
11. d5 Ne7 12. b4 !
Geller wrote: ”More exact than 12c4, when Black might yet have replied …c5. Now this would lose a pawn.” In general in this type of position, similar to the King’s Indian, White seeks to break in on the Queenside.
Keres’ idea is to drop back the Bishop to g7 and play for f5.
Previously seen was 12… Ng6 13. g3 Rf8 14. Nf1 Be7 ( 14… Nb6 15. Bb3 c6 16. dxc6 bxc6 17. Bxb6 Qxb6 18. Qxd6 Rd8 19. Qc5 Qxc5 20. bxc5 Be7) 15. N3d2 Nb6 16. Bc2 c6 (16… f5 17. exf5 Bxf5 18. Bxf5 Rxf5) 17. Bb3 Kh8 18. a4 with some advantage for White, as in Bronstein vs Smyslov Moscow 1959
13. c4 c6 14. Rc1 Bg7 [14… cxd5 15. exd5!? Nf5 16. c5] 15. c5! A powerful blow in the centre.
Being ahead in development, Geller does not allow his famous adversary a breather. This part of the game had to be well calculated by both sides. Geller is willing to part with material to press home his advantage. Curiously, it is the Black King that is the real target!
15… dxc5 16. bxc5 cxd5 17. exd5 Nxd5 Keres decides that if he is to suffer, then atleast he will have a pawn to show for it!
18. Bg5 !
Geller realizes that his development advantage can only be exploited by aggressive and energetic play. Unfortunately for Keres, on this day Geller had plenty of energy!18…Ne7
Black would lose a piece after 18… Bf6 19. Ne4 Bxg5 20. Nfxg5 Ne7 21. Bxd7 Bxd7 22. Qxd7 Qxd7 23. Nf6, and 18…f6 would prematurely open up the Black King position. Note also that if 18… Qa5 then 19. Nc4 Qxc5 20. Ncxe5 is crushing
19. Ne4 ! Watch out for this knight! It has magical powers!
19… h6 20. Nd6!
20… hxg5 There is no better. After 20… Rf8 simply 21. Bxe7 Qxe7 22. Nxc8 wins material
21. Nxf7!! What a hero this knight is! Geller rips open the Black King position.21… Qa5!?
Black’s only hope is to divert White’s attention away from the Kingside. Losing quickly would be 21… Kxf7 22. Nxg5 Kf6 (22… Kg8 23. Bb3) 23. Nh7 Kf7 24. Bb3 etc.
22. N7xg5 simplest.
Keres is a pawn down and his King is terribly exposed. Resignation is a strong consideration, but who likes to lose in under 25 moves? Keres is left with little chance, but fights on bravely, trying to reach move 30!22… Rf8 23. Bxd7!
simplest solution 23…Qxa2 24. Re2 Qa3 25. Re3 Qb4
[ or if 25… Qa2 then 26. Rc2 is curtains] 26. Bxc8 Raxc8 27. Qd7 !
Finally Geller is able to get back to the business of hunting the Black King! The game soon ends
27… Nf5 28. Qe6 Kh8 29. Qxg6
Mate is inevitable and so Keres resigns. A beautiful blow out by Geller!