Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Monday, January 25, 2010


The Original Board on Fire

#17  Keres-Smyslov  (click here to view on

In the late rounds of the 1953 Candidates tournament, the outcome was still in doubt with Bronstein, Reshevsky, Keres and Smyslov all fighting for the top spot.  In this game, Keres decided to play for the win at all costs.  At what must have been an incredibly tense moment at the height of his career, Smyslov proved equal to the challenge.  

From an equal position, Keres designs a quick attack on Black's kingside, using the superior mobility of his rooks.

16. Ne5   Nxe5
17. Rxe5  Bf6
18. Rh5   g6    (Bronstein cites the threat of 19. Rxh7!  followed by Qh5+ and Rh3 as the cause for 18... g6)

19. Rch3?!?  dxc4!!     

A surprise rook sacrifice, equally surprisingly declined!
Bronstein: Smyslov's intuition did not deceive him: as later analysis was to show, he made the best move here....Did Smyslov reason it out, or did he simply guess, as one might do in a lottery, pulling out a winning number?

Of course the text move resulted from a deep study of the position.  First of all, Black is opening his bishop's diagonal, creating the possibility of transferring that piece via e4 to f5 or g6.  Secondly, the d-file is opened......and thirdly, a passed c-pawn temporarily makes its appearance; it may go to c3, closing the diagonal of the dangerous white bishop....Meanwhile, the white rook is still en prise...

What ends up being of fantastic importance is a c3-pawn push giving Black control of d4, and thereby h8, what would otherwise be a mating square.   I don't have Kasparov's undoubtedly definitive analysis of this position, but Bronstein gives the following alternative if the sacrifice is accepted....   
19. ....      gxh5
20. Qxh5  Re8  (opening an escape for the king)
21. a4!!               (closing it with a subsequent Ba3!)

Only when fed this move manually did my computer find that the position is in fact winning for White!  Since some of its analysis disagrees with Bronstein's, I'll leave it out for now (see the discussion thread at for more, or On My Great Predecessors II), but the key recognition for White is that Black's escape can be cut off after all, justifying the rook sacrifice.  It may be impossible to know how much of this Smyslov or Keres saw, but it suffices to say that Smyslov chose wisely.

20. Rxh7  c3!
21. Qc1    Qxd4
Now there is complete coverage of the kingside, and Black can start to dream of bigger things.
22. Qh6  Rfd8
23. Bc1   Bg7
24. Qg5  Qf6
25. Qg4  c2!

The threat of Black's passed pawn and White's lack of counterplay led him to resign in just another 3 moves (26. Be2 Rd4  27. f4 Rd1+  28. Bxd1  Qd4+).  A brilliant game, and a demonstration of accurate counterplay defeating a hasty attack.



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