21 SEPTEMBER 1991, Page 52


Latvian legend

Raymond Keene

Latvia occupies a position of great importance in the cultural history of chess, so this week 1 shall be celebrating that country's independence for one final time. Latvia is one of the select group of coun- tries to have had an opening named in its honour. This is the Latvian Gambit: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5. Indeed, in an outburst of optimistic nationalistic fervour the title page of the book on Kemeri 1937 (Latvia's strongest-ever tournament) which I re- viewed last week has a diagram of the Latvian Gambit position bearing the legend 'White to play can only get an equal game.' This conclusion, though, has not entirely been borne out by the sober investigations of theory.

Coincidentally with the book on Kemeri, Swiss publishers Olms have reissued the tournament book of Dresden 1926, a su- perb victory by the greatest Latvian of them all, Aron Nimzowitsch, who scored 81/2 points out of 9, way ahead of Alekhine, Rubinstein and Tartakower. Nimzowitsch, unlike his compatriot Mikhail Tal, never became world champion but his writings enshrined in his books My System and Chess Praxis, have made him the most influential figure in the 20th century. Here is a game from Dresden, knowledge of which is a must for anyone who aspires to a respectable chess education.

Nimzowitsch — Rubinstein: Dresden 1926; En- glish Opening. 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5 NxdS 5 e4 This move, leaving the queen's pawn backward on an open file in violation of almost all known classical theories, was Nimzowitsch's great dis- covery from Dresden. In fact, he won four games there using this concept. The compensat- ing factor is the increased dynamism of the White position which counterbalances his pawn weaknesses. 5 . . . Nb4 6 Bc4 e6 After 6 . . . Nd3+ 7 Keg Nxcl + 8 Rxcl Nc6 9 Bb5 Bd7 10 Bxc6 Bxc6 11 d4 White's development gives him the advantage. We now know that Black should counter dynamism with dynamism and play 6 . . . Be6 7 Bxe6 Nd3+ 8 Kfl fxe6. In this case Black's pawn structure is even more wretched than White's but his pieces are corres- pondingly more active. The move chosen is too passive. 7 0-0 N8c6 8 d3 Nd4 9 Nxd4 cxd4 10 Net a6 As it is, White no longer has the weakness in the 'd' file and Black is already falling behind in development. If instead 10 . Be7 11 Bb5+ Bd7 12 Nxd4 Bf6 13 Qa4 winning a pawn. 11 Ng3 Bd6 12 f4 0-0 13 Qf3 Kh8 14 Bd2 f5 15 Rael

Position after 17 . . exf5

Nc6 16 Re2 Qc7 17 exf5 exf5 (Diagram) 18 NM! A truly remarkable move. It is amazing that this retreat to one of the worst squares on the board for a knight is in fact the prelude to the decisive attack. White's plan is to reintroduce the knight into the game by means of Nf2 — h3 — g5. Nimzowitsch's games are full of these paradoxic- al ideas, which must have looked like witchcraft to baffled and defeated opponents. 18 . . . Bd7 19 Nf2 RaeS 20 Rfel Rxe2 21 Rxe2 Nd8 22 Nh3 Bc6 White's plan becomes clear on 22 . . . Re8 23 Qh5 Rxe2 24 Ng5! h6 25 Qg6! hxg5 26 Qh5 checkmate. This variation reveals the remark- able energy developed by the retreat of White's knight on move 18. 23 Qh5 g6 24 Qh4 Kg7 25 Qf2 This manoeuvre is designed to drive away Black's dark-squared bishop from the defence of his kingside. 25 . . . Bc5 26 b4 Bb6 27 Qh4 Re8 28 Re5 Nt7 29 Bxf7 Qxf7 30 Ng5 Qg8 31 RxeS BxeS 32 Qel Curiously, in spite of the reduced material Black is almost helpless against an

elegant mating attack. The rejuvenated knight on g5 naturally plays a key role in all this.

Position after 34 b5

32 . . . Bc6 33 Qe7+ Kh8 34 b5 (Diagram) The final thrust of the dagger which terminates Black's resistance. If now 34 . . . axb5 35 Ne6 h5 (if 35 . . . h6 36 Qf6+ Kh7 37 Nf8+) 36 Qf6+ Kh7 37 Ng5+ Kh6 38 Bb4. This draws the noose tight round the black king and was the point of the pawn sacrifice on move 34. Black is now helpless, e.g. 38 . . . h4 39 Bf8+ Kh5 40 Nf7 g5 44 h3 with mate to follow. 34 . . . Qg7 35 Qxg7+ Kxg7 36 bxc6 bxc6 Black is a piece down and could resign. 37 Nf3 c5 38 Ne5 Bc7 39 Nc4 Kf7 40 g3 Bd8 41 Ba5 Be7 42 Bc7 Ke6 43 Nb6 h6 44 h4 g5 45 h5 g4 46 Bey Black resigns.

Earlier in the same year the great Lat- vian sought to defend the honour of the Latvian Gambit but in doing so he handed his rival Rudolf Spielmann the most tremendous success of his career:

Spielmann — Nimzowitsch: Semmering 1926; Latvian Gambit. 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5 3 NxeS Qf6 4 d4 d6 5 Nc4 fxe4 6 Nc3 Qg6 7 d5 Nf6 8 Be3 Be7 9 Qd4 0-0 10 Nd2 c5


11 dxc6 Nxc6 12 Qc4+ Kh8 13 0--0 Bg4 14 f3 d5 15 NxdS NxdS 16 QxdS exf3 17 gxf3 Rac8 18 Bd3 Bf5 19 Bxf5 RxfS 20 Qc4 b5 21 Qg4 or 22 Rhgl Nb4 23 c3 Nxa2+ 24 Kbl b4 25 Bd4 Bg5 26 c4 b3 27 Ne4 Qg6 28 QxgS RxgS 29 RxgS 30 Nd6 Qxf3 31 Bxg7+ Kg8 32 Be5+ Kf8 33 Rf5+ Black resigns.

Der Jubilaums Schachkongress Zu Dresden 1926 by F. Palitzsch and G. Wiarda,

published by Olms at £24.50, is available from the BCM, 9 Market Street, St. Leonards-on-Sea. E. Sussex TN38 ODO.