FIDE broke news that Istvan Csom (1940-2021) passed away on July 28. As the report mentions, this Hungarian Grandmaster (1973) and International Arbiter (1991) was a two-time champion of his country (1972, 1973) and part of the 1978 Buenos Aires Olympiad team that won the gold medal over the USSR in a historic upset.
Since today is Bobby Fischer’s birthday, I felt I had to write something about him. Last year, I started this blog a bit after March 9.
He’s a controversial figure, shall we say … but there’s one thing no one can deny:
Fischer’s chess career basically ended 50 years ago — his 1992 match with Boris Spassky notwithstanding — but he is still the biggest name in American chess.
There’s much we can learn from the games of the 11th World Champion, but I’ll discuss how one of his famous victories has brought me points in my own praxis.
After all, no matter how much we study chess for pleasure, we want results!
A Nagging Problem
On one hand, I find the Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6) and related Modern Defense (1.e4 g6) to be among the trickiest openings to face. Fortunately, Black sits back for awhile and lets you choose the setup you prefer.
When trying to learn an opening, I look for models: games from master practice I can emulate. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with traps that arise in your openings.
In 2017 I needed something against the Pirc. I’ve pretty much always used the Austrian Attack (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4), but strangely enough hadn’t chosen a model! Then Bobby Fischer came to my rescue.
When in Doubt, Steal!
I rediscovered this well-known miniature Bobby Fischer won against Pal Benko in the 1963-64 U.S. Championship where the future Champ scored a clean 11-0:
Ok, now how can we use this game to fight the slithery Pirc?
You Must Memorize Sometimes!
Yes, memorize. The game above is short, but we should learn most of it. I’ll reveal what worked for me.
FIrst of all, remember this setup: f2-f4, Ng1-f3, Bf1-d3:
At this point, Black has a few choices: 6…Na6, 6…Nbd7, or 6…Bg4 (as in the game).
Note: 6…c5?! doesn’t work here: after 7.dxc5 dxc5 White has too much center. And if 7…Qa5? White can safely play 8.cxd6. [If White’s bishop was on e2 instead of d3, Black could strike with 8…Nxe4!]
White can play 7.e5 as the game notes suggest, but I prefer 7.0-0 c5 8.d5 establishing a nice space advantage and asking Black what he plans to do with the Na6. If he wants to play …Na6-b4xd3, let him. You can consider c2xd3, after which Black will never break down your center.
If instead Black goes for something like 8…Nc7, looking at breaks with …b7-b5 and/or …e7-e6, just play 9.Qe2 and calmly centralize. If Black goes for …a7-a6 and …Ra8-b8, aiming for …b7-b5, I recommend playing a2-a4 and leaving a rook on a1 to use the a-file if it opens.
This time, I think 7.e5 is best, otherwise Black will play this himself. Moreover, the second player’s pieces aren’t the most comfortable. I won a couple of games in The Right Move tournaments in the late 1990s with a quick e5-e6 thrust in similar positions, and after …fxe6, Nf3-g5. I seem to recall having my light-squared bishop on c4 in these situations, reminiscent of Velimirovic vs. Rajkovic, but my memory is hazy.
Surprisingly, I face this move most often! Well, if it’s bad enough for twice-Candidate Benko…
In a word, we’re going to clean Black’s clock.
7.h3! Bxf3 8.Qxf3
Then, Black won’t resist developing the knight with a hit on d4; your response is simple:
Being that you’re now ready to play e4-e5, Black needs to get this move in first:
Most importantly, memorize the following sequence:
10.dxe5 dxe5 11.f5!
In summary, your plan is a pawn storm on the kingside with g4-g5, etc. If Black doesn’t allow this by capturing on f5 immediately, a la Benko, capture with the queen and prepare a kingside attack by using the open lines/squares available to your pieces.
All in all, I recommend learning the whole 21-move game, but getting this far will give you much improved results against the Pirc.
Have you tried learning model games or fragments from the games of Bobby Fischer or other greats? Comment on your experiences!
Arthur Bisguier(1929-2017) was a grandmaster (1957) from New York. The 1954U.S. Champion won clear or shared first place at the U.S. Open five times between 1950 and 1969. He also represented the USA in five Olympiads between 1952 and 1972.
Bent Larsen (1935-2010) was a top player, and a famously combative one, often employing risky openings with both colors. This may have extracted more points than usual against relatively weaker opposition, but sometimes things went badly wrong, as here.
In Part 1, we discussed 1.e4. I opined that the King Pawn universe is not for everyone. That begs the question:
What About the Closed Openings?
This is a much broader topic, because it includes basically everything except 1.e4!
Still, there’s an obvious place to start.
1.d4 — Have it Your Way
Generally, you’ll prefer 1.d4 to 1.e4 if you don’t want to play directly for kingside attacks most of the time. 1.d4 tends to lead to White seeking an advantage on the queenside. That doesn’t mean you can’t play aggressively if you choose to! Far from it.
White can go for the throat against even Black’s most solid options: consider the classic game Botvinnik — Keres, 1952 (given at the end of this post).
The 6th World Champion meets the Queen’s Gambit Declined with the seemingly dry Exchange Variation … and then plays directly for a central and kingside attack! He won in crushing fashion; even now this is considered a model game for the QGD Exchange.
Against the solid Nimzo-Indian(1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4) White has many solid approaches, but he can also satisfy his bloodlust with the Sämisch Variation.
When Black tries more double-edged systems like the Modern Benoni Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6), Dutch Defense (1.d4 f5), King’s Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 and 3…Bg7), or Grünfeld Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 and 3…d5), White can play solidly (the first player could choose a quiet kingside fianchetto against each of these, for example) or meet fire with fire.
If you’re a 1.d4 player looking for several good recommendations against Black’s options in one place, I recommend taking a look at Beating the Fianchetto Defensesby Efstratios Grivas. The esteemed Greek trainer is not always my favorite author, but this offering is very well done.
He chooses sensible systems against the Benoni, Benko, KID, Grünfeld, and Modern Defenses, and then delves into the typical middlegames and endgames that arise from them.
I hope I’ve provided some food for thought. Below is, as I promised, Botvinnik — Keres, 1952. Note that it arises from a Nimzo-Indian move order.
The fun doesn’t stop here. In Part 3, we’ll discuss the Flank Openings — perhaps the most interesting way to open a game! Stay tuned!
The author divides his material into three parts: Queen’s Side, King’s Side, and Miscellaneous.
Looking through the chapters in each part, you realize that “Queen’s Side” refers to closed games: King’s Indian Defense, Grunfeld Defense, Modern and Old Benoni, Queen’s Indian Defense, Nimzo-Indian Defense, and English (1.P—QB4 and 2.N—QB3) and Reti Openings (1.N—KB3 and 2.P—QB4).
“Miscellaneous” contains the Budapest, Bird (including From Gambit), Catalan, Center Counter (Scandinavian), Dutch, King’s Indian Attack, Alekhine Defense, Orangutan, Spassky’s Defense (!? — this refers to 1.N—KB3 N—KB3 2.P—KN3 P—QN4), Grob, Three Knights, and Chigorin Defense.
The author incudes complete games or game fragments that illustrate the trap in question. Each trap has one or two diagrams.
Obviously, this 50-year-old book doesn’t contain the latest hot theory! But I think most players would have greater opportunities to apply the lines here than what might be found in contemporary games.
No matter which openings featured in this book appear in your games — I’m betting several do regularly! — there are important pitfalls that aren’t obvious at all. You might be surprised to see the names of some of the victims!
Almost any player would find this book helpful. It can be had for under ten bucks on Amazon. I’m sure there are at least a handful of points to be harvested using the ideas in Howson’s book … well worth it, I say.