CHESS

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The Independent Culture
The death earlier this month of Miguel Najdorf deprives chess of one of its most colourful figures. Despite giving his name to one of the most analysed openings, Najdorf was a man who relied on prodigious talent, not laboriously acquired theory. Here is the game that ruined his career.

White: Miguel Najdorf/ Black: Mikhail Botvinnik. Groningen 1946

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.a3

Not a particularly good move, but Najdorf was a man who believed in bishops.

6...Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 c5 8.Nf3 Qa5 9.Nd2 Bd7 10.Nb3 Qa4 11.Qb2 Na6 12.e3 c4

The threat of Bxa6 forced him to come to a decision, but this is just the sort of position Botvinnik loved as White.

13.Nd2 0-0 14.Be2 b5 15.Bd1 Qa5 16.Bc2 Rfe8 17.0-0 Rab8 18.Nf3

White gradually untangles. Now e3 is protected and he plans Ne5, f3 and e4.

18...Qc7 19.Ne5 Be6 20.f3 Nc5

Played with a flourish, no doubt, but I am sure Najdorf had seen it coming.

21.Bd2 Na4

Typical Russian aggression. He should have been defending with ...Ncd7 instead.

22.Qb1 Rb6 23.Qe1! Nfd7 24.Qh4 Nf8 25.e4! f6 26.Ng4 Ng6 27.Qh5 Qf7 28.Rae1

White's attack is up to speed, but he must find a way to penetrate the defence.

28...Rbb8 29.Ne3 Ne7 30.Qh4 f5? (diagram)

Faced with the threat of exd5, unleashing an attack on h7, Botvinnik loses patience. 30...Ng6 was essential.

31.g4!! f4

The last hope to keep the game closed.

32.exd5! Ng6

32...fxe3 33.dxe6 Qxe6 34.Qxh7+ Kf8 35.Rxe3 is no better.

33.dxe6 Rxe6 34.Bxg6 hxg6 35.Ng2 Rbe8

So furious was Botvinnik at having been comprehensively outplayed that he continued another four moves (36.Rxe6 Rxe6 37.Nxf4 Rf6 38.Qg5 Nxc3 39.Bxc3 Rxf4 40.Kg2) before resigning. Two years later, he was still furious enough to veto Najdorf's inclusion in the 1948 World Championship.

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