Chess by Jonathan Speelman





Diagram 1 In a variation of the game (see the note to 20...Nd5), Black is almost defending but there is a beautiful knockout punch. Can you see it? Befuddled by the heat, I hallucinated last week in a variation in the note to move 18 which ended 21 Ne6-g5+!. This was on the grounds that after 21...f6xg5 White can play 22 Rf1x(R)f7. However since the said rook was actually on e1 (not f1) it was balderdash. Apologies. As with other sports and mind sports, nationality is a relatively fluid concept in the chess world. Until recently, if an elite player changed countries then there was a substantial transfer payment levied to compensate the original federation. But since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Fide has dropped this, facilitating the movement of Russia’s top players, many if not most of whom oppose the war. One of these – Nikita Vitiugov, the current world No 25 – has transferred to England and is not only our new top player but immediately available to play for the national team. Chess is generally on the up in the UK and following huge amounts of work, most notably by Malcolm Pein and ECF president Dominic Lawson, there is now a commitment from the Department of Culture Media and Sport for an annual injection of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Our top two juniors – Bodhana Sivanandan, who is the world’s top rated eight-year-old girl and whom I help to coach, and 14-yearold Shreyas Royal – went to Downing Street with their parents a few weeks ago to meet the prime minister (see the pictures at In recent weeks I’ve been dusting off my old middlegame books both for teaching purposes and pleasure. In the first of three volumes by the originally Czech Luděk Pachman I was reacquainted with this lovely and powerful game. Mikhail Botvinnik v Max Euwe World Championship 1948 Queen’s Gambit Semi-Slav 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 Nc3 c6 5 e3 Nbd7 6 Bd3 Bb4 Then and now 6... dxc4 7 Bxc4 b5 was and is the main line leading to many complications. 7 a3 Ba5 8 Qc2 Qe7?! This is awkward. 9 Bd2 dxc4 If 9... 0-0 10 0-0 White is threatening Nxd5! and if 10...Bc7 (10... dxc4 is again most sensible) 11 cxd5 exd5 12 Nb5! with a clear advantage. 10 Bxc4 e5 11 0-0 0-0 If 11...e4? 12 Nxe4! simply wins a pawn. 12 Rae1 Bc7 Finally preparing e4. 13 Ne4! A sensible move preventing ...e4 and preparing Bb4 in many lines. 13...Nxe4 14 Qxe4 a5 14...Nf6 15 Qh4 e4 16 Bb4 Bd6 17 Bxd6 Qxd6 was decent for Black. 15 Ba2 Nf6 16 Qh4 e4 Diagram 2 17 Ne5! Offering a pawn to gain two raking bishops. 17...Bxe5? Rather falling in with White’s plans 17...Be6 18 Bb1 Bd5! is very tense but probably about equal. 18 dxe5 Qxe5 19 Bc3 Qe7 Not 19... Qh5?? 20 Bxf6 winning a piece. 20 f3! Opening the f file.20 Bxf6? Qxf6 21 Qxe4 Bf5 22 Qc4 Qxb2 would be terrible. 20...Nd5 20...exf3 is playable but after 21 Bb1 Black has to find 21...Re8!. Instead if 21...h6 22 Rxf3 Nd5 (see diagram 1) White has the gorgeous 23 Rg3!! Qxh4 24 Rxg7+ Kh8 25 Rh7++ Kg8 26 Rh8 checkmate! He can also consider 20 .... Be6 but 21 fxe4! Bxa2 22 Rxf6! looks extremely scary even if today’s engines say that Black can defend after 22...Rfe8 preparing Qf8. 21 Qxe7 Nxe7 22 fxe4 Despite the doubled pawns, White’s raking bishops and active rooks give him a big advantage. 22...b6? If 22...Be6 23 Bxe6 fxe6 24 Rxf8+ Kxf8 (or 24...Rxf8 25 Bxa5) 25 Rf1+ Kg8 (25... Ke8 26 Bxg7) 26 Rd1 White should win. 22...Bg4! was clearly the best chance but White has various strong lines – eg 23 Rf4! Bh5 24 g4 Bg6 (if 24... g5 the exchange sacrifice 25 gxh5! gxf4 26 Kf2 should be very strong) 25 h4 h5 26 Kh2 Kh7 27 Rg1 with powerful pressure. 23 Rd1 Threatening 24 Rxf7! 23...Ng6 If 23...Be6 24 Bxe6 fxe6 25 Rd7 Rxf1+ 26 Kxf1 Rf8+ 27 Ke2 Rf7 28 Rd6 wins a pawn for starters. 24 Rd6 Ba6 25 Rf2 Bb5 26 e5 Ne7 27 e4 c5 A desperate attempt to get in c4 to cut out the a2 bishop. 28 e6! f6 29 Rxb6 Bc6?! This allows a crisp finish. Diagram 3 30 Rxc6! Nxc6 31 e7+ Rf7 32 Bd5 Euwe resigned since after 32 Bd5 Rc8 33 e8Q+! (even stronger than 33 Bxc6) 33...Rxe8 34 Bxc6 White will win the exchange to finish a whole piece up. 1 Mikhail Botvinnik (to play) v Max Euwe 2 Mikhail Botvinnik (to play) v Max Euwe 3 Mikhail Botvinnik (to play) v Max Euwe