Zurich Legends: All even at 1:1

These days chess is clearly a young man’s game. World Champion Magnus Carlsen is 24 years old, his future competitors for the title, like Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Wesley So, are all younger than him. In a time when chess is getting younger and younger it is a refreshing change to see two high-class octogenarians battle it out against each other. Sagar Shah reports.

Born in 1931, Viktor Korchnoi is 84 years old and his opponent, Wolfgang Uhlmann, is 80

The two are up against each other in a four game rapid match with a time control of 25 minutes each + 20 seconds increment per move. For me this match is the ultimate display of “love for the game”. Definitely, it is only the love for chess that can motivate a person who suffered from a dangerous stroke two years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair to participate in this exhibition match.

Below Korchnoi’s name is written “Ex-Vizeweltmeister”, which translates to ex-vice World Champion.
Viktor Korchnoi played Anatoly Karpov twice for the World Championship title, 1978 and 1981.

Wolfgang Uhlmann is considered by many as the German chess hero and won the individual gold medal on board one in the 1964 Olympiad. He had also qualified to the quarter-finals of the 1970 Candidates cycle.

Out of curiosity I decided to find the player in the world who has played the maximum number of recorded games of chess. Mega Database which has nearly six million games in it was the perfect source for me.

I found that Viktor Korchnoi (spelt as Kortschnoj) was way ahead of others with 5106 recorded games.
Uhlmann was not far behind with 3556 games to his credit. Phew! What an appetite for chess!

Korchnoi’s wife Petra waiting for the games to begin

“I hope you remember the latest theory in the English!” Final instructions before the game.

Game one

Uhlmann started with 1.c4, a move that has been his main weapon in the past. The players played the theoretical line of the English Four Knights. Korchnoi refrained from exchanging the knight on c3 with his bishop on b4. This seemed to throw Uhlmann in a bit of doubt as he weakened his d4-square with the move 9.e4?!

After 14 moves Korchnoi almost had a technically winning position with his strong d4 knight against Uhlmann’s passive light squared bishop

Korchnoi’s 17…f5 proved to be incorrect as it opened the bishop up on g2

The game became quite complicated and after a few inaccuracies by both sides, it was Uhlmann who had the upper hand. He played the endgame with good amount of precision and won the first game.

Uhlmann, Wolfgang2326Korchnoi, Viktor24991–0A29Zurich Legends 2015115.02.2015Sagar Shah

1.c4 Uhlmann’s main weapon e5 2.c3 f6 3.f3 c6 The Four Knight’s Variation of the English is a classical opening which has a rich history behind it. Both the players are of course very well versed with the strategic plans in this position. 4.g3 b4 4…d4 was a move founded by Korchnoi. 5.xe5 e7 6.f4 6.d3 f3# 6…d6 7.d3 f5 with excellent compensation. 5.g2 5.d5 is another possibility. 5…0-0 6.0-0 e8 6…e4 7.e1 is Uhlmann’s pet weapon in the English. xc3 8.dxc3 h6 9.c2 e8 10.e3∞ With a complex game. 7.d3 h6 Preventing Bg5. 8.d2 a5 9.e4?! This weakens the dark squares in the center and Korchnoi makes excellent use of the d4 square. 9.a3 could have been better. xc3 10.xc3 a4= 9…d6 10.d5?! 10.h3 Preventing Bg4 was better because the knight on f3 is extremely necessary to defend the weak d4 square. 10…xd2 11.xd2 g4! 12.h3 xf3 13.xf3 d4 14.xf6+ xf6 It usually happens in chess that the superior player ends up with a better minor piece. In this position you can see that Black has a beautiful knight on d4 as opposed to the passive light squared bishop. This would have been a technically winning position for a young Korchnoi. But at the age of 84 things are not so simple any more. 15.g2 g5! 16.d1 16.xg5 hxg5 would have left White without any counterplay. 16…c6 17.h2 Defending the g3 pawn in order to go for counterplay with f4. f5?! With this move Korchnoi opens up the diagonal for the g2-bishop. This was not the best decision. Korchnoi could have just played on the queenside without touching his pawns on the kingside. For.eg 17…e7 18.f4 a4 19.f2 eb8 Angling for b5 without touching the kingside pawns. 20.g4 b5 21.af1 bxc4 22.dxc4 a7 23.fxe5 dxe5 24.xf7 xf7 25.xf7 xf7-+ 18.exf5 xf5 19.f4 exf4 20.xf4 White has gained a lot of counterplay. His g2-bishop is now active and the knight on d4 is not so stable any more. c5 21.g4 e6 22.e4 g5 23.xe8+ xe8 24.f1 e5 25.h4 e6 26.f2 d4? A better line of play could be 26…h5 27.f5 xf5 28.xf5 c5 29.d4 d3 30.xh5 a4= 27.f5 h8 28.e4 28.e2! could have led to a winning endgame after f6 29.xf6 gxf6 30.h3 c7 31.xe8+ xe8 32.c8 b5 33.d7 g7 34.xc6+- 28…g6 The only defence. 29.f6+ xf6 30.xf6 d5? 30…c5 Black could have posed more difficulties with 31.xg6 xe4 32.dxe4 xe4 33.xh6+ g8 34.xd6 e2+ 35.h3 xb2 36.d8+ f7 37.h5 xa2 38.g4± This seems like a winning endgame for White, but as with all rook endgames this one is also not so simple. 31.cxd5 cxd5 32.xd5 White is simply a pawn up and confidently went on to convert this endgame. c5 33.d4 d8 34.dxc5 xd5 35.xg6 h5 36.b6 xc5 37.xb7 d5 38.g2 g8 39.f3 d3+ 40.f4 a4 41.b5 a3 42.bxa3 xa3 43.xh5 xa2 44.e5 g7 45.g5 a7 46.h5 h7 47.g4 g7 48.e4 b7 49.h6+ g8 50.h5 b8 51.g5 h8 52.g6 g8 53.e6 a8 54.g5 b8 55.e7 a8 56.h7+ h8 57.h6 a6 1–0

So Wolfgang Uhlmann drew first blood in the four-game match

In the front seat, middle, chess lover and the mastermind of this event: Oleg Skvortsov;
on the left Edvins Lobinsh and his wife Oksana, on the right Dutch GM and author Genna Sosonko.

Arturo Perez Reverte with journalist Leontxo Garcia. Arturo is a Spanish novelist
and has written the very famous book named….

… The Flanders Panel which tells the story of a mysterious Flemish painting

Watching from the sidelines: Ljubomir Ljubojevic, who was at one point number three in the world

Game two

Viktor Korchnoi had the white pieces in game two

Korchnoi also opened the game with 1.c4 but the game soon transposed into the King’s Indian. Viktor the Terrible chose the Averbakh setup with 5.Bg5:

Korchnoi has recorded two DVDs for ChessBase entitled “My life for Chess part I and II”. In one of the lectures he explains his view on the King’s Indian Defence:

“Young people of every generation willingly play the King’s Indian Defence. It’s a question for me, why are they so eager to play it? Well, first of all it is very easy to learn. Black will develop his kingside with bishop to g7 and castle and then he is ready to undertake actions in the centre. During this time, White uses his time to seize the centre, squares, to build up a strong pawn centre. Never mind, Black is ready to fight against this pawn centre, to break it and finally win superiority in the centre. Well I personally have a very large arsenal of weaponry against the King’s Indian Defence. I sometimes play the Saemisch with the pawns on c4, d4, e4 and f3. Sometimes I play the Four Pawns Attack with f4. Sometimes I play with Nf3 and Be2 or sometimes I fianchetto my bishop. Perhaps these games are the best known. I won many interesting games with bishop on g2. Still every new generation starts playing the King’s Indian. It is so easy. The ideas have been developed by the famous masters of the past by Bolesalvsky, Bronstein, Geller, Gligoric, Fischer, and recently Kasparov took it over. So everything is well known. The black knight comes to c6 or d7, Black sometimes plays c7-c5 or sometimes e7-e5. Everything was elaborated by the strong people of the past and young people have to just imitate the play! Nothing special! [Shrugs] To me, this is boring. But for them, they achieve certain practical success and they cannot stop playing it. One needs to punish them many times before finally they give it up! (smiles)”

As a 1.d4 player these are my favourite words and give me great confidence whenever my opponent plays the King’s Indian Defence.

Korchnoi gains more space in the centre by pushing his pawn to f4

Something went horribly wrong for Uhlmann as he played his queen to a5 and followed it up with b5. The move b5 is very common in such structures but it is not played with the queen on a5. Here it gave Korchnoi the opportunity to take the b5 pawn with his knight, as the queen on a5 is hanging and Qxd2 would be met with Nxd2 defending the e4 pawn.

So Uhlmann retreated his queen but after that it was just one way traffic. Korchnoi fortified his centre and very soon won another pawn. It was smooth sailing for Viktor Lvovich, and in 46 moves he chalked up the revenge.

Things went badly wrong for Uhlmann in game two

The match stands evenly balanced with a score of 1-1. With two more games to be played on 16th of February we are in for a treat tomorrow. Korchnoi’s past record of 9-1 (not counting the rapids) against Uhlmann and seeing the quality of today’s games, it seems that “Viktor the terrible” is the favourite to win the match. But you never know! Anything is possible.

Korchnoi, Viktor2499Uhlmann, Wolfgang23261–0E70Zurich Legends 2015215.02.2015Sagar Shah

1.c4 f6 2.c3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 g7 5.g5 The Averbakh System has been one of Korchnoi’s weapon against the King’s Indian. bd7 6.f4 0-0 7.f3 c5 8.d5 a5 This move is already not so good. The queen does absolutely nothing on a5. Uhlmann’s idea was to play b5 in the style of the Benko Gambit. It would have been better to make the move right away. 8…b5 9.cxb5 a6 With good counterplay. 9.d2 b5? Just blundering the pawn. It seems that Uhlmann did not at all consider that the pawn could be taken with the knight. 10.xb5! 10.cxb5 a6 gives Black the Benko-like compensation that he is looking for. 10…b6 10…xd2+ 11.xd2 11.c3 11.d3 b8 12.b1 a6 13.c3± gives White a clear edge. 11…b8 12.b1 e6?! 12…h6 was a better try. 13.h4 h5 with some counter chances. 13.dxe6! correctly taking the pawn. Taking dxe6 is usually a difficult move to make in such structures but Korchnoi assesses it perfectly that Black would not be able to create any counterplay. fxe6 14.d3 b7 15.0-0 d5 Uhlmann understands that he must do something radical or else he is just lost. But his position simply cannot withstand this. 16.e5 e8 16…e4 was obvious but White keeps control. 17.e2 xg5 18.xg5± 17.h1 c7 18.e7 fe8 19.d6 f8 20.xf8 xf8 21.b3 Some would say the rest is matter of technique and even for an 84-year-old Korchnoi it is not at all difficult. He is a pawn up and has wonderful control. He finishes off the game efficiently. bd8 22.a4 c6 23.e3 d4 24.d2 a6 25.g5 b4 A huge tactical blunder which loses another pawn. 26.e4 c7 27.xb7 xb7 28.xc5+- b8 29.ge4 g7 30.a3 c6 31.b4 d7 32.xd7 xd7 33.f6 ee7 34.xd7 xd7 35.d3 e7 36.c5 f5 37.b5 d5 38.c6 c7 39.bc1 h5 40.a4 d8 41.fd1 e3 42.d2 h4 43.b3 f7 44.xd4 xd4 45.xe3 xf4 46.g1 An easy win for Viktor the Terrible. 1–0

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