ETCETERA : CHESS

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The Independent Culture
Colonel Polhill advises an old friend to hang up his pawns.

Old Grandmasters never die, they just suffer humiliation at the hands of young men - women even - who should feel privileged to be allowed to polish the pieces with which they play. Motivated solely by their pure love of this beautiful game, such giants of the past as former world champion Vassily Smyslov continue playing well past their 70th birthdays and the results sadden me.

Vassily, my old mucker, it is time for you to follow my example: swap pawn for pen and expose the inadequacies of these young fellows in print instead of at play.

White: Vassily Smyslov

Black: Johann Hjartarson

Reykjavik 1995

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Qe2

I remember, as though it were yesterday, Smyslov's fine win in 1943 over Alexander Kotov in a Closed Sicilian with 2.Nc3 and 3.g3. This curious 3.Qe2 move is a detour towards a similar set-up.

3...Nc6 4.Nc3 d6 5.g3 g6 6.Bg2 Bg7 7.0-0 Nge7 8.d3 h6 9.Be3 Nd4 10.Qd2

A slow route to this square, but what is a single move when you are 74?

10...Rb8 11.Rab1?

There is nothing wrong with this move, except for the disastrous thought behind it.

11...Nec6 12.a3??

Another perfectly good move, but one step further towards a suicidal mission.

12...b5 (see diagram)

Had White played a3 in order to capture the black pawn when it advanced to b4, and Rb1 to ensure that b2 was covered when the knight retreated from c3 to e2, then we could have spared ourselves the above question marks. Sadly, that was not the case.

13.b4??? Nxf3+ 14.Bxf3 Qf6

White must lose a piece.

15.Bg2 Qxc3 16.e5

An ingenious attempt to cut his losses to a single pawn, but luck is not with him.

16...Nd4! White resigned.

17.Qxc3 is met by Ne2+.

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