SANDS: Saluting some chess greats of greatest generation

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Two great veterans still on the scene are 89-year-old Serbian GM Svetozar Gligoric, who engaged Fischer in some memorable battles in the 1960s, and Russian GM and endgame wizard Yuri Averbakh, who turned 90 last month and is the world’s oldest living grandmaster. The two stars were in their prime when they met in a 1966 tournament in Yugoslavia, with Gligoric emerging the winner after a long and fascinating fight.

Some of the greatest combinations lie buried deep in long games like this one, where a magnificent tactic by Gligoric is followed not by mate but by another 47 tense moves in the endgame. Averbakh as Black holds his own in a Rubinstein Classical Nimzo-Indian, and by 23. Qe3 Nxd3 24. Qxd3, the only question that matters is whether White’s isolated d-pawn is a weakness or a strength.

After 30. d5 Rc1?! (the tiniest of inaccuracies overlooking an astonishing resource for White - better was 30. … Bxd5 31. Nxf5 Rc1 32. Ne3 Rxd1+ 33. Qxd1 Qf6, with full equality) 31. d6 Bd5 32. Nxd5 exd5 33. Qxd5 Rxd1+ 34. Qxd1 Rc6 (see diagram), Black must have calculated that the White pawn was doomed. But Gligoric has other ideas, employing a rook that appears to be badly out of play.

Thus: 35. Rh6!! (the first point: 35. … gxh6 36. Qd4+ Kg8 37. Qd5+ Kf8 38. Qxc6, retaining the extra pawn) Qd7 36. Re6! (the second point: taking the rook clears the path for the pawn) Qxe6 (h6 37. Qd5 Rc5 38. Qb3, again emerging a pawn ahead) 37. d7 Rd6 38. d8=Q+ Rxd8 39. Qxd8 Qg8 40. Qxb6.

Queen-and-pawn endings are notoriously tricky, but White has enough pawn shelter for his king to avoid endless checks while he makes progress on both wings. With Black’s king pinned to the h-file, Gligoric uses the constant threat of mate on h8 to keep the black queen occupied. The final break is perfectly timed: 77. Qe7+ Kh6 78. g4! (the queen nicely covers the check on e1) hxg4 79. hxg4 g5+ (Black stop 80. g5 mate) 80. fxg5+ Kg6 81. Qf6+! (and now going to the pawn ending White can win) Qxf6 82. gxf6 Kxf6 83. Kh5 Kg7 84. Kg5 (with the opposition) Kh7 85. Kf6 Kh6 86. g5+ Kh7 87. Kf7, and Black resigns as the pawn must queen.

Known as a positional specialist, Averbakh could conduct an attack when the position demanded, as Russian NM Igor Platonov learned in their game from the 1968 Soviet championship tournament, an event Averbakh won or shared first twice in his career. In a QGD Semi-Tarrasch, Black’s 10. Bb2 b6? allows White to open up the game on his terms, with the two bishops soon raking the Black kingside.

After 14. c4 dxc4 (Bg4 15. cxd5 Qxd5 16. Qc3 f6 17. Bc4 shows the dangers already facing Black) 15. Bxc4 Kh8 16. Qe4 Bb7 17. Rfd1, White has a beautiful attacking position and probably already has a won game, but Averbakh finishes things off with panache.

The winning combination: 21. Rd7 Be7 (Nd4 22. Kh1!) 22. Rxb7! (one just knew a queen sacrifice was lurking in this position) Bxh4 23. Nxh4 Qg5 (White also dominates after 23. … Qh7 24. Bd3 Rad8 25. Bxf5! Rxf5 26. Rxg7 Re5 27. Rxh7+ Kxh7 28. Bxe5 Nxe5 29. Rc1, with a winning endgame) 24. f4! Qg4 (Qxh4 25. Bxg7+ Kh7 26. Bf6+) 25. Be2!!, and the final deflection forces resignation as 25. … Qxe2 (Qxh4 26. Bxg7+ Kg8 27. Bc4+ Rf7 28. Rxf7, leaving no defense against a slew of threats) 26. Ng6+ Kg8 (or 26. … Kh7) 27. Rxg7 is mate.

Gligoric-Averbakh, Titovo Uzice, Yugoslavia, 1966

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O Nbd7 8. a3 Ba5 9. Bd2 cxd4 10. exd4 dxc4 11. Bxc4 a6 12. a4 b6 13. Qe2 Bb7 14. Rfd1 Re8 15. Ne5 Bxc3 16. Bxc3 Nd5 17. Bd2 Nf8 18. Ra3 f6 19. Ng4 Ng6 20. Rg3 Kh8 21. Bd3 Ndf4 22. Bxf4 Nxf4 23. Qe3 Nxd3 24. Qxd3 Qd5 25. Qd2 Re7 26. Ne3 Qd8 27. Qd3 Rc8 28. Rh3 f5 29. f3 Rec7 30. d5 Rc1 31. d6 Bd5 32. Nxd5 exd5 33. Qxd5 Rxd1+ 34. Qxd1 Rc6 35. Rh6 Qd7 36. Re6 Qxe6 37. d7 Rd6 38. d8=Q+ Rxd8 39. Qxd8+ Qg8 40. Qxb6 Qc8 41. Qd4 Qc1+ 42. Kf2 Qc2+ 43. Kg3 h6 44. h3 Kh7 45. Kh2 a5 46. f4 h5 47. Qd5 Qxa4 48. Qxf5+ g6 49. Qf7+ Kh6 50. Qf6 Kh7 51. Qe7+ Kg8 52. Qe6+ Kh7 53. Kg3 Qc2 54. Qf7+ Kh6 55. Qf6 Kh7 56. Qe7+ Kg8 57. Qe6+ Kh7 58. Qd7+ Kh6 59. Qd4 Kh7 60. Qa7+ Kh6 61. Qxa5 Qxb2 62. Qg5+ Kh7 63. Kh4 Qf2+ 64. g3 Qd4 65. Qe7+ Kh6 66. Qf8+ Kh7 67. Qf7+ Kh6 68. Qe7 Qa1 69. Qf8+ Kh7 70. Qd6 Qa5 71. Qe7+ Kg8 72. Qe8+ Kh7 73. Qf7+ Kh6 74. Qg8 Qa1 75. Qd8 Qc3 76. Qg5+ Kh7 77. Qe7+ Kh6 78. g4 hxg4 79. hxg4 g5+ 80. fxg5+ Kg6 81. Qf6+ Qxf6 82. gxf6 Kxf6 83. Kh5 Kg7 84. Kg5 Kh7 85. Kf6 Kh6 86. g5+ Kh7 87. Kf7 Black resigns.

Averbakh-Platonov, Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, January 1968

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. e3 e6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d4 d5 6. a3 Ne4 7. Bd3 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Bb2 b6 11. cxd5 exd5 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Qc2 h6 14. c4 dxc4 15. Bxc4 Kh8 16. Qe4 Bb7 17. Rfd1 Qc8 18. Bd3 f5 19. Qh4 Qe6 20. Bc4 Qg6 21. Rd7 Be7 22. Rxb7 Bxh4 23. Nxh4 Qg5 24. f4 Qg4 25. Be2 Black resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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