Monday, April 28, 2014

Instead of Playing Chess

Tonight the next Monday night tournament at the MCC starts, the City of Melbourne Open. Unfortunately, due to my work, I have had to take a half point bye in the first round, and will start the tournament proper next week. So instead of playing, I should be getting on with some work on my game, perhaps some opening preparation or the like. In fact, I have been looking at an old Informator. If you've never looked at an Informator before, then you're probably from the newer generation of players. When I was trying to reach the dizzy heights of 2200 in the 1980's I was working hard from the Informators that I had. Each book had loads of games annotated in the universal algebraic style that we've all become used to. It is a bit annoying having no text to help describe why moves are made, but for someone who is willing to work hard by themselves, an Informator can be a goldmine of information. I guess I started using them about 1982 or even a bit later, and the one I've been looking at is from even before then.

I found a nice game by a 'veteren' Grand Master in Informator 26 which covers the second half of 1978. I put veteren in quotations because Mark Taimanov was only 52 years old in 1978. FIDE have dropped the age for veterens to 50 which means he would have counted (and I will too soon) but it hardly seems fight that 50 year olds should be considered veterens in chess terms. In Taimanov's case, only 7 years before this game he was playing, and famously losing, a quarter final match for the World Championship against Fischer. And in 1978 Taimanov's rating was still a very respectable 2530 which couldn't have made him far off the top 50 in the world, if not being in that select group. It is argued that as players age, their experience counts for more and they become strategically better, which covers up for their failing calculation. This may be the case, but it doesn't mean a 50 year old can't calculate when the tactics are there.

 This was from the game Schneider-Taimanov Jurmala 1978. White has sacrificed a piece to gain a couple of pawns and expose black's king. Taimanov as black finds a nice way to refute white's aggression. 1..Qxd5! [A queen sacrifice with back rank mate threats] 2.Qxd5 Nb5! [An important discovered attack, preventing white's queen from moving away with check]
 White is faced with mate on d1 so his next move is forced 3.Qf3 Bb7! [Continuing the barrage, skewering white's queen and rook] 4.Qg4 Bxh1 5.Bh3 Bc6 [Black has time to quietly retreat and count his gains, 2 rooks and a knight for queen and 2 pawns] 6.a3 [Clearing the back rank] 6..bxa3 7.Qf4 [And yet more tactical operations, discovering an attack on the rook from white's light squared bishop and threatening a check on b8]
7..Rb7! [A great move that deals with both of white's threats and also puts the rook on the same file as white's king so after] 8.bxa3 Nc3+! white resigned. White has the choice of moving his king to c1 where Ne2+ forks his queen, to a1 where Rb1 is mate, or to a2 where after Bc4 he will have to give his queen up to avoid mate.

Pretty handy tactics for an old guy? And he played to a pretty high standard for years after this. In fact, Taimanov is still alive, and at 88 I reckon he could still play chess to a pretty high standard. Take a look at a chessbase tribute to him for his 85th birthday to see how young an 85 year old can be.

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