Monday, March 10, 2014

Back in the USSR

[Far too much going on to devote any time to the latest AP/ECF manoeuvres. I dare say we’ll get around to it in due course - JMGB]

White to play
Karpov - Malaniuk, Soviet Championship 1988

I wasn’t going to do another one of these Leningrad exchange sac posts, but I stumbled across this game and the temptation was just too great. Not only is there a rather pleasing mirror image of Kasparov - Speelman from last week - again giving up material to get rid of a strong bishop, this time for attacking rather than defensive purposes - but it also gives us a chance to have a little think about the nature of calculation and Andrew Gelman’s contribution to the comments box seven days ago.

All of that, and as a bonus we also get one of those mysteries when a chesser infinitely stronger than you plays down a line that looks very obviously bad for no readily apparent reason.

Can you look at that board position and, from the rook sacrifice, see how everything flows from there? Or do you have to pull out a board too?
Andrew Gelman

"Not at all, but some times it’s easier than others”, and "I much prefer to look at a standard Staunton set when I’m having a proper think”, are my answers to Andrew's questions.

Karpov - Malaniuk is one of those exchange sacs when, at first at least, things are a little more concrete. It’s not difficult to see that Black’s bishop on f6 is holding his whole game together so giving up the exchange is an attractive idea on general principle. Thereafter Black’s need to do something to stop the loose pawn on d6 dropping off whilst also avoiding calamity on the long diagonal does rather limit the number of plausible options.

For me the difficulties come about five or six moves in. Which is considerably further than I get with the position in Standard ISEs that Andrew cited in his comment. It’s not really anything to do with analysing on screen or with a board. A series of captures and a central theme in the position does rather help when it comes to calculation.

Although that does beg another question: how far ahead had Malaniuk seen when he played 20 ... Ne6? Presumably as far as White’s 28th at an absolute minimum, although by then White’s attack  already looks rather strong. Indeed rather obviously so to my eyes. So why go down this route at all? Was there really nothing better?

What am I missing? Any offers?

2014 Exchange Sac count: 17
TISE Index


Anonymous said...

In the position at move 20, Black is struggling to find decent moves. Malaniuk at the time was Mr Leningrad, so presumably should have known the idea of the exchange sacrifice on e7. Was it temporary blindness forgetting that moving the Knight from c8 allowed the sacrifice? Or was it the least worse solution to allow the sacrifice in the absence of anything else. The g5 Knight does look well placed to participate in a direct attack on Black's King.

Are there any annotated versions of the game, to give some perspective on what the players might have been thinking?


Anonymous said...

The Knight was on c7, so not defending e6 anyway. Suppose Black just plays pass, a6 perhaps. White then has Rde1 with the threat of the sacrifice under stronger circumstances.


Jonathan B said...

I found the game in McDonald’s Starting Out: The Dutch. He suggests 20 ... h6, 21 Ne4 Bg7 as an improvement although whether that’s with the benefit of hindsight and knowing the exchange sac killed or not I don’t know.

No idea if it’s annotated elsewhere. Must be, I suppose. Presumably Informator 40-something if nowhere else.

Anonymous said...

Digging the game out of the database and using an engine to try a blunder check type of analysis confirms the McDonald idea. The exchange sacrifice in the position played is assessed as really strong. However if on the previous move the Bishop had retreated to c8 instead of d7, the sacrifice, whilst not changing the assessment that White is better, no longer ranks as the best move.

I haven't figured out the difference made by having the Bishop on c8 instead of d7. So don't blame the straightforward Ne6, it may have been the inaccurate follow up that was the real error. Playing through the moves of the actual game, the position of the Bishop on d7 rather than c8 doesn't matter until move 31 where Karpov's pawn push to d6 would have been prevented. Positionally, perhaps you need to see that the Rook on d8 has a function to defend the d6 and d5 squares.


Jonathan B said...

It occurs to me that McDonald has written at least two books on the Leningrad. I wonder if he analyses this game any deeper in either of those.

Anonymous said...

It does indeed appear in Informator 46, as game 135.

Annotations very sparse indeed once you get out of the opening, though.....

Anonymous said...

Karolyi annotates in his excellent Karpov books.

The game is over by the time of the exchange sac; "Malaniuk does not wish to suffer slowly, and tries to alter the course of the game. In a way he succeeds, as the text move loses by force." is what I'd guess too.

But really instructive game by Karpov. I wouldn't have found the idea behind Qe3! for example.

Paul C

Jonathan B said...

Thanks Paul.

My Leningrad Guru - having a break from being my Catalan Guru - informs me that Karpov’s own book of Best Games includes the following note after ... Ne6

“The extremely dangerous 21 Qa5 was threatened"

Jonathan B said...

Sorry that should have been ‘unpleasant’ not dangerous.

ejh said...

I actually have McDonald's Leningrad book (I may have as many as three books on that opening despite never having played the Black side of it) but I am presently in Sheffield and it is presently in Spain, so I am poorly placed to consult it...

Matt Fletcher said...

Just realised I've got Ehlvest's The Leningrad Dutch (1993) despite never having played the opening (there's a bit of a story as to why).

The game is in there but only very lightly annotated.

11... Rd8 is given ?! (11...d5!? 12. Ne5+/=)
18... Rfe8!? is suggested instead of 18...Bc8
22...Bd7? "more stubborn resistance could have been put up by 22...Bc8!?

Comments by Karpov and Zaitsev apparently.

Jonathan B said...

Leningrad Guru says the first McD Leningrad book contains the game but passes over ... Ne6 without comment.

I doubt it's in the second book which focuses on ...Nc6 rather than ...Qe8.

Andrew Gelman said...


By the way, I pulled out the board, set up the board to that position that you blogged last week, and sat with my son (he's 10 yrs old, i.e. about as good as I am!) to work out the possibilities. It didn't take us long to see that, whether or not White has a forced win, it's certainly a good position for White, as Black has lots of ways to lose it. In an actual game with someone who knew what he or she was doing, I'm sure I'd find a way to lose from that position, but still it was satisfying to work it out on the board for a few minutes.

Jonathan B said...

More on trying to analyse on screen next Monday.