Petrosian-Pachman came up the other day. The opening was not what interested me at first - it was the combination at the end which jogged my memory - but looking up the game itself, I was surprised to see it was a King's Indian Attack. It's a while since I saw one of those.
I used to see quite a few of them, albeit only when I was playing for Newcastle at the turn of the millennium and our top board (whose name, unfortunately, I don't recall) liked to roll over his opponents with the Attack, opening with 1.e4 and playing it mostly against the French and Sicilian. Korchnoi, by contrast, delayed moving the e-pawn until as late as move ten in his 1968 Candidates' quarter-final against Reshevsky. His note to his eighth move (in Viktor Korchnoi's Best Games, Korchnoi, Philidor Press, 1978, p.185 - I've translated descriptive notation into algebraic) is vintage Korchnoi:
"Why prepare" - he evidently thought - "when there is the sound defensive scheme suggested by Lasker?"Claws in, Viktor! He does however go on to explain what's wrong, in the specific position, with the sound defensive scheme suggested by Lasker:
White has refrained from playing c4, so he can choose between various plans, and in particular, prepare the advance e4. In this case the position of the black pawn at c6 will seem not altogether logical.
Viktor renders the c6 pawn not altogether logical
Very subtle. Fischer was more straightforward: like my erstwhile teammate, he played e4 on move one. (No, really, he did.) He actually played the King's Indian Attack in his very first US Championship game in 1957 and he still thought enough of it a decade on to roll it out against - amongst others - Ivkov in 1966, and both Panno and Hubner in 1970. Though quite likely the 1967 demolition of Miagmasuren is his best, and best-known, game with the line.
Perhaps he didn't choose to play it against the greatest players on the greatest of occasions, but there's some pretty good players, and some pretty important events, in that list. But none of these games date from 1970. After that, what?
It seems such a long time since I saw a top-level player try it out: in fact, as I'm not sure I even learned the moves until after all the games above had been played, it seems almost as if it pre-dates me completely. Since I started playing competitively, I can't honestly recall seeing it played over the board, my brief Newcastle interlude excepted. Nor can I recall any genuinely top-level player giving it a go. (Karpov actually played it a couple of times, but as a junior, in the Sixties.)
Occasionally it crops up in a repertoire book - how to meet the King's Indian Attack if you play the French, or the Sicilian, or the Caro-Kann, or sometimes the Attack via 1.Nf3 (in which instance Kaufman's 2004 book recommends lines with ...Bg4, a sound defensive scheme suggested by Capablanca). But the only time I can recall seeing the King's Indian Attack recommended for White, during my time at the chessboard, was - I think - in Leonard Barden's Guardian Chess Book. And as it happens, that book was old by the time I saw it. It was written in 1967.
Ray likes it of course, and my copy of Flank Openings (the fourth edition, issued in 1988) devotes almost a third of its pages to the Attack, though here we run into problems of definition, since Ray doesn't assume that e4 is necessarily played - and indeed omitted it when nearly beating Paul Keres at Dortmund in 1973, a game curiously given as lasting 100 moves in Flank Openings (p.144) but only 98 on Chessgames.
Must have expected a rather shorter draw against Ray
Ray gives a lot more examples of the greats playing the King's Indian Attack than this short piece is able to, but it's probably fair to say that at the level of world-title contenders, there's not much on view after, say, the death of Jimi Hendrix.
Are you experienced?
So, to sum up much as I summed up the first in this series: where did it go? Was it, if not refuted, rendered positively harmless? If so, how, and by whom? Has it maybe just had a long spell out of fashion? Or have grandmasters been happily playing it for the past forty years somewhere out of my limited sight?
[Ray Keene index]