Continuing my journey through books from Steve Giddins’ collection, I came across a volume of Russian Grandmaster Alexander Zaitsev’s best games. If you know your Karpov games, then his name may ring a bell as he was the Black player in this astonishing position after 18 moves at the 1970 Russian Championship, a game Karpov annotated in his collection of Best Games.
He died at the young age of 36, apparently after complications arising from a hospital operation. I read in Wikipedia that the topical variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.h4 is named after him, and indeed he defeated Smyslov with this line at the Chigorin Memorial in 1963, outplaying the great Vassily from a queenless middlegame! The game I have selected is not one of his best, but I enjoyed very much the wealth of unusual tactical ideas in a typical hanging pawns structure.
Cherepkov,Alexander V – Zaitsev,Alexander N [D54]
URS-ch36 Final Almaty (5), 07.01.1969
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 h6 6.Bh4 0–0 7.Rc1 Ne4 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.cxd5 Nxc3 10.Rxc3 exd5 11.Bd3 b6 12.Ne2 c5 13.dxc5 bxc5 14.0–0 Bb7 15.Bb1 Nd7 16.Nf4 Nf6 17.Qc2 Rfc8 18.Rc1
A typical hanging pawns structure has arisen and Black’s situation is critical. The pawn on c5 is attacked and cannot be defended by 18…Ne4 due to 19.f3 Nxc3 20.Qh7+ and 21.Qh8+ mate. In fact, Black has a number of clever ideas here to defend the c5–pawn, for example 18…Qd7 when 19.Rxc5 Rxc5 20.Qxc5 Rc8 wins. However, Zaitsev goes for an ultra-aggressive continuation that requires maximum tactical ingenuity from both sides!
A poor move, after which White is simply much worse.
19.exd4 was obvious and would have required some deep tactical vision from Black to stay afloat!
a) 19…Be4 Blocks the b1–h7 diagonal, but runs into another pin. 20.Qe2;
b) 19…Re8 20.Re3 Qd6 21.Nh5 Rxe3 22.dxc5 is the cleanest! 22…Qc6 23.Nxf6+ gxf6 24.fxe3 Protecting g2!;
c) 19…Qd6 20.Ne2 was the safe “always works option” (20.Nh5 Nxh5 21.Qh7+ Kf8 22.Qh8+ (22.Re1 looks decisive, but Black has a strong defence which I spotted. 22…f5 and there is no mate!) 22…Ke7 23.Re1+ Kf6 24.Qh7 g6 25.Bxg6 fxg6 26.Qxb7 is given as equal by my engine, though it obviously feels very fraught!) 20…Be4 (20…cxd4 21.Rxc8+ Rxc8 22.Qxc8+ Bxc8 23.Rxc8+ Black no longer has …Ne8) 21.Qd1 keeping an extra pawn;
d) 19…cxd4 20.Nd5
d1) 20…Nxd5 21.Rxc8+ Rxc8 22.Qxc8+ Bxc8 23.Rxc8+ Qf8 24.Bh7+ wins;
d2) 20…Bxd5 21.Rxc8+;
d3) 20…Qd8 21.Nxf6+ gxf6 (21…Qxf6 22.Rxc8+ Rxc8 23.Qxc8+ Bxc8 24.Rxc8+) 22.Qh7+ Kf8 23.Re1 wins;
d4) 20…Qe8 21.Nxf6+ gxf6 22.Qh7+ Kf8 23.Qxh6+ Ke7 24.Re1+;
d5) 20…Qe5 21.Nxf6+ gxf6 22.Qh7+ Kf8 23.Rxc8+ Rxc8 24.Qxh6+ Ke7 25.Bd3 is a clear extra pawn for White.;
d6) 20…Qe6 Black must stop White from occupying the e-file with his rook. 21.Nxf6+ Kf8
A stunning resource that I failed to see while analysing but that the annotators mention in the notes! (21…gxf6 22.Qh7+ Kf8 23.Bf5 Rxc3 24.Qxh6+ Ke7 25.Bxe6 wins easily for White.) 22.Nh7+ Kg8 White has an extra knight on h7 but cannot avoid exchanging both sets of rooks after which the extra knight will be helplessly cut off from the rest of White’s forces. 23.Rxc8+ (23.Ng5 hxg5 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Bf5 Rxc3 26.bxc3 is an initiative for White still, but Black should be able to hold.) 23…Rxc8 24.Qd1 Rxc1 25.Qxc1
d61) 25…Qg4 26.Qf1 Bxg2
is the line given in the notes but… There is a flaw! 27.Nf6+ (27.Qxg2 Qd1+ 28.Qf1 Qg4+ with perpetual was the idea!) 27…gxf6 28.Qxg2 No perpetual now!;
d62) 25…Be4 equalises
d63) 25…Ba6 is another line given by my engine.
19…dxe3 20.Nd5 exf2+ 21.Kxf2 Qe6 22.Nc7
Another way out risky move!
22.Nxf6+ Qxf6+ 23.Kg1 Rxc5 24.Qxc5 Qxb2 is White’s best but he is just a clear pawn down.
22…Qg4 A poor move in return from Black, although Black keeps a distinct advantage.
22…Ng4+ immediately is also winning for Black but 22…Rxc7 23.Rxc7 Ng4+
was the line I got carried away with and there are many fascinating lines. (23…Qb6+ is also very strong according to my engine) 24.Kg3 (24.Kg1 Qe3+ 25.Kh1 Nf2+ 26.Qxf2 (26.Kg1 Nd1+ 27.Kf1 Ba6+ wins) 26…Qxf2 27.Rxb7 g6 is clearly better for Black.) 24…Qe3+ 25.Kxg4 g6
was the line I liked. In a similar line, the notes recommend Rf1 as a successful defence, but that didn’t look right at all! Black is threatening …h5+ followed by Qf4+ so the 4th rank has to be covered somehow. There is however an added complication that the White queen must remain on the second rank to cover g2.
a) 26.Rxf7 Bc8+
is the subtle reply! 27.Qxc8+ (27.Kh4 Qg5#) 27…Rxc8 28.Rxc8+ Kxf7 29.Rc7+ Kf8 wins easily: the White king is in awful shape!;
b) 26.Rc4 Bc6
is the stunning engine reply! I had seen (very proudly) the idea of …Bd5–e6 in many lines, but not this one! …Bd7 is the threat (26…Rd8 was my idea which also works pretty well!) 27.Rd1
Have you seen the mate against this one? I had to stare at it for a few seconds before it suddenly dawned on me! (27.Rxc6 h5+ 28.Kh4 Qf4+ 29.Kh3 Qg4#; 27.Kh4 Bd7) 27…f5+ 28.Kh4 g5+ 29.Kh5 Be8+ 30.Kxh6 g4+ Wow! Wow! Wow!;
c) 26.h3 Qg5#;
d) 26.h4 h5#;
e) 26.g3 Qg5+ 27.Kh3 Qh5#;
f) 26.Rc5 h5+ 27.Rxh5 Rd8 and the engine’s line is again even better (and more elegant) than what I found!;
g) 26.Qc4 Qg5+ 27.Kh3 Bxg2# is the gorgeous mate!;
h) 26.Kh4 Rd8 27.Rc4 and now
falls for a gorgeous trick which reminded me very much of a trap I tried to set in a Dutch League game a few years ago! 28.Rc8+
29…fxg6 30.R1c7+ and Black is mated!)
h12) 28…Kg7 29.Qxg6+ As well! 29…fxg6 30.R1c7+ Kf6 31.Rf8+ Ke6 32.Re8+ winning the queen on e3 with a much better endgame for White!;
h13) 28…Bxc8 29.Qxc8+ Kg7 30.Qc3+ Rd4+ 31.g4 Qg5+ 32.Kg3 Qxg4+ 33.Kf2 holds by a miracle!
is a stunning and typical win, exploiting the fact that the queen must protect g2! 28.g3 (28.Qxd3 Qg5+ 29.Kh3 Bxg2#)
28…g5+ 29.Kh3 (29.Kh5 Bf3+ 30.g4 (30.Kxh6 g4+ 31.Kh5 Qe5+ mates) 30…Bxg4+ 31.Kxh6 (31.Kxg4 Qf3#; 31.Rxg4 Qh3+) 31…Qe6+ 32.Kxg5 Qf5+ 33.Kh4 Qh5#) 29…Qe6+ 30.Rg4 h5 31.Qc4 hxg4+ 32.Qxg4 Qh6+;
i) 26.Rf1 Rd8
a) 27.Rfxf7 Rd4+;
b) 27.Rcxf7 Bc8+ forces the win of White’s queen. White’s king remains in a perilous position.;
c) 27.Rc4 Bd5
was what I wanted to do here and after some hesitation the engines think it is the very best move! I liked it very much when I found it: Black threatens …Be6, …Bxc4 and even …Qe6+!
c1) 28.Rf3 Bxf3+ 29.gxf3 Rd2 30.Rc8+ Kh7;
c2) 28.Rcf4 Be6+ 29.Kh4 Rd5 was my line when …Rh5+ is unstoppable. 30.g4 g5+ 31.Kh5 Qh3#
c3) 28.Rff4 f5+ 29.Kh4 g5+ 30.Kh5 Qe8+
31.Kxh6 Rd6+ 32.Kxg5 Qe7+ 33.Kxf5 Be6+ 34.Ke4 Bg4#
The king has gone on a pawn demolition derby, but have you ever seen such a nice mate?
Black is still much better but the big moment of opportunity has passed! The rest of the game is not relevant for our theme – Black missed a number of good opportunities and had to settle for the draw.
24.Qf2 Rd8 25.h3 Rd1+ 26.Kh2 Rxc1 27.Rxc1 Qd7 28.Bf5 Qd6+ 29.Qg3 Qxg3+ 30.Kxg3 Be4 31.Bxe4 Nxe4+ 32.Kf4 Nf6 33.Rc5 Rxb2 34.Ra5 Rb7 35.Nb5 a6 36.Nd6 Rb4+ 37.Ke5 Rb6 38.g4 Rc6 39.Nf5 Re6+ 40.Kf4 Kh7 41.Ne3 g6 42.h4 Rb6 43.a3 Kg7 44.g5 Nd7 45.gxh6+ Kxh6 46.Ng4+ Kg7 47.h5 Nf8 48.hxg6 Nxg6+ 49.Ke4 Ne7 50.Ne3 f6 51.Nc2 Nc6 52.Rc5 Kg6 53.Ne3 Nd8 54.Rc8 Nb7 55.Rg8+ Kf7 56.Ra8 Re6+ 57.Kd4 Nd6 58.Ra7+ Kg6 59.a4 Nf5+ 60.Nxf5 Kxf5 61.a5 Rd6+ 62.Kc5 Re6 63.Kd4 Kg6 64.Ra8 Kg5 65.Rg8+ Kf4 66.Rb8 Re4+ 67.Kd3 Re3+ 68.Kd4 Re4+ 69.Kd3 Ra4 70.Rb6 f5 71.Rxa6 Kf3 72.Kc3 Kg2 73.Kb3 Rg4 74.Rf6 f4 75.a6 Kf3 ½–½