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Efim Geller vs Viktor Korchnoi
USSR Championship (1960), Leningrad URS, rd 18, Feb-22
Alekhine Defense: Four Pawns Attack. Trifunovic Variation (B03)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Sep-30-03  Cyphelium: drukenk> The point of b4-b5 was probably to cover the e7-pawn, but resigning was sligthly more accurate perhaps. As for your suggestion, I guess you mean 35. Bc1? This loses too: 35. Bc1 Bd3+ and now either 36. Ke1 Qxg1 mate or 36. Kf2 Ne4+ 37. Ke3 Qxg1+ 38. Kf4 Nxd2.
Sep-30-03  drukenknight: in your line why 37 Ke3 and not Kf3? he can then block the Q check with g4
Oct-01-03  Cyphelium: drukenk> On 37. Kf3 Nxd2+ just wins the queen. 38. Bxd2 Rxe7 will probably result in white getting mated quite soon too.
Oct-01-03  drukenknight: hmm 32 Ba3 does not look great. WHy not bring the B to d4? I know it cuts off the Q but BxN is an exchange that has bite and hard to defend against since N holds the ROok, I just have to avoid the checks that will come.
Sep-18-04  Checkmate4327: In 'Chess Is My Life', Korchnoi comments about 17 Bxg7: " It is difficult to admit this to the reader, or even to myself, but I overlooked this move! King safety is one of the most important features in the middle game, and therefore the loss of the pawn at g7 is bound to give White the advantage should the game continue quietly".
Jan-07-05  Hesam7: These are the words of Kortchnoi himself:

<Draws Don't Count

I am often asked which of my games is the most memorable and usually I refer to this one - my game against E.Geller in the USSR Championship when I first became USSR Champion.

Every grandmaster has played many intresting games , but the memory is not stirred by subtle opening ideas, solid middlegame play, or intricate endgames. No, the games that you remember are the games with the most sporting significance. As a rule, the more mistakes there are in the game, the more memorable it remains, because you have suffered and worried over each mistake at the board. In my life as a chess player there have been many such battles; the outcome of them usually had adecisive influence on the final result of a strong tournament. But even amongst games of this importance, the game with Geller is pre-eminent and the tension of the battle is evident.

The game was played in the penultimate round of the 27th USSR Championship in 1960. The grandmaster from Odessa had 12.5 points out of 17, whereas I, who was his nearest rival had .5 point less. Geller had white. A draw would suit him - in that case he would be assured of a share of first place.As for me, only one result was any use, and that was a victory ... But was it really possible to win a with Black against a grandmaster of equal strength? That is the sort of thing that only happens in the last rounds of tournaments! For the sake of objectivity I must add that the psychological situation was not to Geller's advantage; in fact quite the reverse. Whereas I played for a win without any second thoughts, Geller had divided thoughts: on the one hand he did not lose all hope of winning this game (and by winning insure himself against the unexpected happening in the last round), and on the other hand he had not to forget - and he did not forget - that if the best could not happen, then a draw would suit him!>

Jan-08-05  Hesam7: Some comments from Kortchnoi:

1... ♘f6
<It is generally thought that the sharpest and most active defence to 1.e4 is the Sicilian. However is there not a resemblance between the Sicilian defender and the wrestler who begins the fight before he has climbed into the ring?>

<As Black has chosen an unusual, 'incorrect', move order, White does not need to play his queen's bishop to e3, and therefore Geller tries to improve its position compared with the normal line. Nevertheless, playing 'according to theory' with 11.exf6 ♗xf6 12.♗e3 ♘c6 13.♕d2 created more chances>

17... ♘e3!
<Clearly after 17... ♔xg7 18.♕d4+ White has the the advantage - but what about 17... ♘xb2 ? Yes during the game I seriously thought of this possibilit, altough it is quite clear to me now - and everuy master will agree with me without any concrete analysis of lines - that the weakening of Black's king position is more than sufficent compensation the pawn. I played the remainder of the game on the following principle: in view of the weakening of your own king position the greatest harm that you can do to your opponent is to make a breach in the defences of the enemy king!>

<This does not yet lose, but the decision to keep the king on the shattered kingside is wrong in principle. By playing 24.♔e1 White would have forced Black to take the draw by means of prepetual chek: 24...♕g3+ 25.♔d2 ♕f4+. Black would run into trouble if he declined the draw, for example: 25...♕f4+ 26.♔e1 ♖e8 27.♘d5 ♕g3+ 28.♔d2 and black has no satisfactory defense against ♖f1. White also cannot refuse the draw: 26.♔d1 ♘f6 with threat of 27...♗g4 (27.♘d5? ♕a4+ 28.b3 ♕d7), or 26.♔e1 ♕g3+ 27.♔d1 ♘f6 28. ♘d5 ♘e4 and Black has the better chances>

Jan-08-05  Hesam7: 28.♕d4+
<And here 28.♖e1 was simpler, defending against the threatend 28...♖xe7. After 28.♖e1 ♗d3+ 29.♕xd3 ♕xc5 30.♕g3 h5 31.♕f4 ♖xe7 32.♖xe7+ 33.♘d5 White draws>

<White could have still drawn by 29.♕d8, but now he is faced with insurmountable difficulties.>

<if 30.♕g1 then 30...♕h4 (with threats of ...♘h2+ and ...♗d3) and if 31.{Qd4 then 31...b6 32.♗a3 c5 e.g. 33.♕d6+ ♔f7 ♕d5+ ♔xe7! and wins ; or 32.♘f4+ ♔h6 33.♕d5 ♘h2+ and 34...♕xf4.>

<If immidiately 31.♗a3 then 31...♕h4 was very strong.>

<The position has altered radically. Black's attack is irresistible.>

Jan-08-05  offramp: <Hesam7> Thank you very much - that was brilliant!
Dec-25-06  TheSlid: Playing this game over, I wanted to play 25.Rf1, in the style of the 14th World Champion.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: For all Geller's brilliant results, in particular against the world titleholders, he exhibited psychological difficulties in crucial games. For another example, I refer the reader to his loss on time to Lajos Portisch in the 1973 three-way playoff for two spots in the following year's Candidates Matches.
Sep-29-10  Petrosianic: Vik Vasiliev made the same observation in <Tigran Petrosian: His Life and Games>, using as an example this crucial game:

Fischer vs Geller, 1962

where Geller built up a winning advantage, wrote down the winning move on his scoresheet, then erased it and substituted a lemon, and went down to his only loss of the tournament. Had Geller won this game, he'd have played Botvinnik in 1963.

<This was the destruction of all Geller's hopes. A destruction which Petrosian had foreseen, and which could in no way have been accidental. Disastrous reversals of form had accompanied Geller in many tournaments, and here it had come again, a definite psychological instability, which revealed itself in the most dramatic moments of the struggle. Twenty-two rounds without defeat, and now this failure practically reduced to nought his previous efforts.>

I thought this was a slightly indelicate comment, considering that Vasiliev's book was published around 1974, and Geller was still a very active player (he won the Soviet Championship again in 1979).

Another example that the same book gives is Geller's performance in his first Soviet Championship in 1949. Petrosian had an awful tournament, starting off with 5 straight losses, but recovering somewhat to go +1 the rest of the way. Geller, on the other hand, did so well that he nearly won the tournament. Here's what Vasiliev says about that one:

<How self-confident that young player from Odessa was! And how Tigran envied that unshakable conviction that he, Geller, a debutant in the championship, had all moral prerequisites not only to fight on equal terms with famous grandmasters but also to aim at no less than the title of champion. Crossing his hands behind his back, Geller walked confidently about the stage as if he owned it, leaving the impression of unshakable strength on all who beheld him. It was amazing that Geller, who had taken part in the semi-finals as a candidate master, was ahead of everybody up to the last day. And if in the last round he had shown one iota of that caution and common sense which Petrosian knew, Geller could have shared first place and become a grandmaster on his first attempt.>

Sep-29-10  Petrosianic: Not sure what that last round game was, but looking at the crosstable, Geller's losses in that tournament were to Keres, Kholmov, Sokolsky and Lilienthal, so it must have been one of those. Smyslov and Bronstein shared first, with Geller a half point back, tied with Taimanov. A draw would indeed have put him in the tie for first.
Sep-29-10  Petrosianic: The kibitzers seem to think that this was the game:

Geller vs Kholmov, 1949

If so, it does seem to be a model of incaution, to go down with White, against the Bird's Defense to the Lopez. You do get the feeling that White could have drawn this game pretty easily if he'd been of a mind to.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Petrosianic> On seeing your quotes from Vasiliev's book, I realised I'd completely forgotten about Curacao! I have a copy of that, but haven't looked at it in years.
Sep-29-10  Petrosianic: It's a very good book, that does a better job than most at getting inside a player's mind during the most important events in his career. I had those quotes available because I liked the book so much that I made an e-copy of the prose sections a few years back when I was testing out text recognition software.

The Geller-Portisch game you mentioned is a remarkable one too.

Geller vs Portisch, 1973

After fighting for 30+ moves in a dead drawn, pawn up ending, Geller suddenly oversteps in a still-dead-drawn position. I find this game almost impossible to explain, even with psychological theories. He could have played almost ANY move and still drawn this. The only way to lose was to play no moves. Incredible.

Geller is highly underrated, though. One of the all-time greats, but rarely thought of when people talk about the greatest player never to become champion. Leonid Stein is another, but Geller was greater than Stein, IMHO.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Petrosianic> On the loss to Portisch: If I recall correctly, Mednis wrote that he mistakenly circled move 84, not the correct 88th, as the time-check. Been many years also since I last saw that article from Chess Life and Review.

Stein was deprived twice by the rules then in force, at Stockholm 1962 and Amsterdam 1964, of a place in the Candidates-it would have been interesting to see his enterprising play at the very highest level. There was also the playoff for a spot after Sousse, won by Reshevsky over Hort as well.

Sep-29-10  Petrosianic: <he mistakenly circled move 84, not the correct 88th, as the time-check.>

Oh yeah, that would partly explain it. But I still can't imagine why he was in such time trouble in such a simple position in the first place. It's not like it was residual time trouble from when the position had been complicated, because they'd been in that ending for so long.

Feb-19-12  Ulhumbrus: The move 10...f6 refrains from putting further pressure on the d4 pawn by 10...Nc6. This suggests 10 Nh4 displacing a defender of d4 but also attacking the bishop on f5. However on 10...fxe5 11 Nxf5 exf5 12 dxe5 Bc5+ 13 Kh1 Nc6 White's isolated e5 pawn is isolated and exposed to attack, and White's d4 square is also both weak.
Aug-25-13  Zonszein: A draw would have been enough for Geller.
Why not 2-Nc3 then?
Feb-20-15  mcgee: >>A draw would have been enough for Geller. Why not 2-Nc3 then?<< See the point above about Korchnoi looking to tempt Geller into playing the sharpest lines.
Feb-19-17  Emmykarpov: thanks a lot <Hesam>. it will be helpful 12years later
Feb-18-18  Adenosina: I really enjoyed this game! You almost can feel the tension of the battle and how Korchnoi strives to keep the tension with each move
Jul-14-18  Inocencio: I like this game, Viktor the Great!
Jul-14-18  Granny O Doul: <perfidious> So it was explained in "How to Beat the Russians". Somehow, I was never able to put the lesson to use in my own games.
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