- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

"In working on this book, I started from the premise that every full-bodied game of chess is an artistic endeavor, arising out of a struggle between two masters of equal rank. The kernel of a game of chess is the creative clash of plans, the battle of chess ideas, which takes on its highest form in the middlegame."

Thus did the great Soviet grandmaster David Bronstein lay out his approach in the introduction to one of the finest of all chess books. "Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953" might benefit from a sexier title, but players of all abilities will benefit from the wealth of brilliant games and Bronstein's insightful, generous annotations.

The tournament in Zurich, Switzerland, was played 50 years ago this year and was held to select a challenger to Soviet titleholder Mikhail Botvinnik. In the 15-player field were a former world champion (Holland's Max Euwe); two future champions (tournament winner Vassily Smyslov and the great Armenian-born Tigran Petrosian, both of the Soviet Union); and a wealth of players who just missed reaching the summit, including American Sammy Reshevsky, Estonian star Paul Keres and Bronstein himself.

In an era in which Category 19 and 20 tournaments seem to come along twice a year, the tournament book is a sadly neglected genre. Books on the latest trendy opening or game collections by twentysomething grandmasters are a dime a dozen, but a full report of a great event is considered old-fashioned.

Tournament books present chess warts and all, with mistake-filled games, gross mismatches, oversights and short draws. The best of them also present chess competition at its highest, with champions facing a range of opponents and range of situations in the jockeying for top prizes.

The 32-year-old Smyslov was at the height of his powers in the early 1950s, emerging in Zurich as the unquestioned top rival to Botvinnik. His Round 3 match against Euwe was an early sign of his strong form. He would lose only one game in the exhausting 28-round double-round robin, with his 18-10 record two points better than the scores of runners-up Bronstein, Keres and Reshevsky.

Despite being the oldest player in the field, Euwe remained a dangerous foe, and he and Smyslov engage in a spirited middle game in which the Dutchman more than holds his own. On the White side of a Grunfeld, Euwe plants a pawn at d6 and offers a very dangerous exchange sacrifice with 15. d6 Bd3 16. Bxb7!? Rb8 17. Bxg2 Bxf1 18. Kxf1.

The tactics reach a fever pitch on 24. Nf6+ Kh8?! (Bronstein notes that 24…Kg7 was preferable, to keep an eye on f7) 25. Bd4 Be5 26. Nd7!!, a superb in-between move designed to lure the rook to an undefended square.

If now 26…Rxd7, two Black pawns hang after 27. Bxe5+ Qxe5 28. Qxd7 Qxb2 29. Re1, while White wins on 26…Bxd4 (Qa6+ 27. Kg1 Bxd4 28. Qxd4+ f6 29. Nxb8 Rxd4 30. Nxa6 Nxa6 is a better endgame for White) 27. Qxd4+ Kg8 28. Nf6+ Kh8 29. Nd5+ Kg8 30. Ne7+ Kf8 31. Qh8+! Kxe7 32. Re1+ Kd7 33. Qd4+.

But White misses a critical follow-up, and Smyslov pins and wins a piece on 26…f6 27. Bxe5 fxe5 28. Qd2? (Qd6! Rb6 [Rbc8 29. Qf6+ Kf8 30. Qe7 Rxd7 31. Qxd7] 29. Qe7 Nc6 30. Qf6+ Kg8 31. Bh3 and wins) Rbc8 29. Kg1 Qc5! (White missed this shot) 30. Bh3 Qe7 31. Qe2 Rxd7.

Black wins a piece for two pawns, but Bronstein notes that the technique required to bring home the win isn't simple. With infinite patience, Smyslov maneuvers his knight into the game and finally cashes in on 56. Rd6 Ne5 57. Qe3+ Kh7 58. Rb6? (Rd5 would have held out a little longer) Qc7!, and the threat of 59…Ng4 is decisive.

The Zurich tournament came in the midst of the golden age of the King's Indian Defense, when Soviet analysts discovered a wealth of new ideas for both sides in this fighting defense.

Appropriately, we have a King's Indian in our second game, between Russian GM Alexander Kotov and Hungarian great Lazlo Szabo. In this KID Saemisch, the players adopt the unusual strategy of pawn advances in front of their own kings, with Szabo's dangerous flank attack turned back just in time by the Soviet master.

White wins the strategic battle after Black errs with 18. Rhf1 Bh4? (too focused on trading bishops, he creates a chronic weakness on the other side of the board) 19. Bxc5! bxc5 (with the bishop gone from f6, 19…dxc5 hangs the pawn on e5) 20. Ba4 Bxa4 21. Nxa4 Qd7 22. Nc3, with the simple plan of winning the a-pawn with 23. Nb5, 24. Rc3 and 25. Ra3.

Szabo correctly decides to risk it all on the king-side breakthrough and manages to set up a very scary-looking battery on 34…Rh7 35. Rd3 Rh2 36. a3 Nd7 37. Qa4 Qg2 38. Rb3 Bc3! (See diagram.)

Capturing the bishop with the rook or the pawn allows instant mate (e.g. 39. bxc3?? Qc2+ 40. Ka1 Qxc1+ 41. Rb1 Qxc3+ 42. Rb2 Qxb2 mate), but Kotov has a beautiful rejoinder: 39. Ne2!!, inviting 39…Qxe2 40. Rb8+!! Nxb8 41. Qe8+ Kh7 42. Qf7+ Kh6 43. Qg7+ Kh5 44. Qg5 mate.

As Black can't avoid losing material, Szabo resigned.


Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953

Euwe Smyslov

1. d4Nf630. Bh3Qe7

2. c4g631. Qe2Rxd7

3. g3Bg732. Bxd7Qxd7

4. Bg2d533. Qxe5+Kg8

5. cxd5Nxd534. Qe4a5

6. e4Nb635. h4Qd5

7. Ne2c536. Qg4Rf8

8. d5e637. Rd1Qf3

9. 0-00-038. Qc4+Qf7

10. a4Na639. Qc5Qf5

11. Na3exd540. Qc4+Qf7

12. exd5Bf541. Qc5Qf5

13. Nc3Nb442. Qc4+Kg7

14. Be3Rc843. Qd4+Qf6

15. d6Bd344. Qc5Rf7

16. Bxb7Rb845. Rd2Qe7

17. Bg2Bxf146. Qc3+Rf6

18. Kxf1Nd747. Rd4Nc6

19. Nc4Ne548. Rd5Qe6

20. Nxe5Bxe549. Rc5h5

21. Bxc5Qa550. b3Kf7

22. Be3Rfd851. Rb5Qd7

23. Ne4Bxd652. Kg2Qe7

24. Nf6+Kh853. Qc4+Kg7

25. Bd4Be554. Qd3Kh6

26. Nd7f655. Rd5Rf7

27. Bxe5fxe556. Rd6Ne5

28. Qd2Rbc857. Qe3+Kh7

29. Kg1Qc558. Rb6Qc7

White resigns


Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953

KotovSzabo

1. d4Nf621. Nxa4Qd7

2. c4g622. Nc3g5

3. Nc3Bg723. h3Nf6

4. e4d624. Nb5h5

5. f30-025. Rh1Rh7

6. Be3e526. Rc3g4

7. d5Nh527. hxg4hxg4

8. Qd2f528. Ra3Bg3

9. 0-0-0Nd729. Rxh7Qxh7

10. Bd3Nc530. Nc1Qh1

11. Bc2f431. Nxc7gxf3

12. Bf2a632. gxf3Ra7

13. Nge2a533. Ne6Be1

14. Kb1Bd734. Qd1Rh7

15. Nc1Rf735. Rd3Rh2

16. Nd3b636. a3Nd7

17. Rc1Bf637. Qa4Qg2

18. Rhf1Bh438. Rb3Bc3

19. Bxc5bxc539. Ne2Black

20. Ba4Bxa4resigns


David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected].


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