SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Grigory Yakovlevich Levenfish
March 21,1889 to February 9, 1961
Rarely spoken of today, Levenfish was one of the strongest Grandmasters of his generation and also came to be one of the very best in the world, having defeated world champions Lasker and Alekhine. Between 1910 and 1950 Levenfish beat all of the top players in the Soviet Union, including Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres and Bronstein.
Front row: Smyslov, Levenfish, Flohr, Lilienthal. Back row: Bondarevsky, Keres, Bronstein, Botvinnik, Ragozin and Kotov. (cerca 1945)
Twice champion of the Soviet Union (1934 and 1937), Levenfish drew a match in 1937 with future world champion Botvinnik.
Despite his successes, Levenfish was virtually ignored by the Soviet chess authorities. They consistently supported his great rival Botvinnik, and pretenders to the throne were not encouraged. Levenfish was a member of the older generation of masters, 22 years older than Botvinnik.
Regarding his playing abilities, Levenfish was highly respected for his deep understanding of the game and had a keen eye for brilliantly imaginative moves. It was as a tactician that he really excelled, delivering elegant combinations and unexpected tactical blows, that many thought were impossibly ambitious.
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 21st MOVE (21…Ne4)
Levenfish bravely went into young Smyslov’s preparation in his favourite Grunfeld and has developed an attacking position. Smylov’s last move (taking the pawn on e4) allows his opponent to strike decisively with a stunning and brilliant Rook sacrifice.
This surprising move is typical of Levenfish’s tactical brilliance. Clearly Smyslov can not take on d4 because he gets mated after 23.Rh3 And Smyslov has no good way to decline the sacrifice: if 22… e5 23. Rh3 Kg8 24. Bxe5! and once more Black is obliged to take the Rook: …fg 25. dc Rf7 26. Bxg7 Qxh3 (26… Kxg7 27. Rh7 Kxh7 28. Qxf7 Kh8 29. cb; 26… Qxc6 27. Bd4 Nf6 28. Rh8) 27.cb7!! followed by taking the Black Queen.
The opening up of the b3-g8 diagonal will have a decisive influence on the game
23. Rh3 Kg8 24. dc The whole point of Levenfish’s conception!
If now 24… Rf7, then White comes out ahead after 25. cb Qc6 26. baQ Qxa8 27. Bxg7 Kxg7 28. Rh7! etc.
24… e6 This changes very little, however.
25. cb Qc6 26. baQ Rxa8
White is now a pawn to the good and still has a strong attack against the Black King!
27. Bxg7 Kxg7 28. Qe3 !
Levenfish is relentless! Smyslov is not given a chance to breath
28… Nf6 29. Nd4!
The White Knight comes into play with gain of time. Now with all of White’s pieces attacking, Black has no chance to survive.
29… Qh1 30. Ke2 Qd5
Black loses another pawn
31. Nxe6 Kg8?! To be fair, after the relatively better 31… Kf7 White wins easily in the ending after 32. Ng5 Kg8 33. Qb3! etc.
32. Rh8 ! The final wave of attack! White sacrifices his remaining Rook…
32… Kf7 [32… Kxh8 33. Qh6 Nh7 34. Qg7#] 33. Ng5 !
The most precise conclusion to a brilliant attacking game
33… Kg7 34. Rxa8
Black can not take the Rook because of 35.Qe7 ch wins the house. Smyslov resigns.
One of the most important books on Rook and Pawn endings has been co-authored by Grigory Levenfish and Vasily Smyslov. What player of my generation did not grow up studying this amazing text?
How did this book come to be? Smyslov recounts the time that Levenfish visited him, towards the end of his life, armed with a huge pile of papers. It turned out to be a manuscript detailing his lifetime work on rook endings. He asked Smyslov to check for errors, and some minor corrections later, the book was published (1957) bearing both names, under the (translated) title The Theory Of Rook Endings (later published in English in 1971 under the title Rook Endings). Smyslov freely admits that all of the hard work was carried out by his co-author.