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Yuri Averbakh - Vladimir Zak;

This is a game I saw quite a while back. A few years ago, I taught it to a number of my Internet students. They all liked it - especially the finale. After much urging ... I finally got around to annotating it. ENJOY! 

  GM Y. Averbakh (2550) - GM V. Zak (2340)  
  Match for Master's Title  
  Moscow, USSR; (Game # 2), 1947  

[A.J. Goldsby I]


  An interesting game ... that may be one of Averbakh's very best efforts.  
   (The combination is both very surprising and extremely stunning.)  

This match was played to see if one of the players (Zak?) could qualify for the Master's title. 

Eventually Zak became both a strong Master  ...  and then a respected trainer ...  of young and talented Soviet players. 
(Korchnoi and Spassky are two very good examples of Zak's {later} students.) 


The ratings are simply estimates. 
(Based on rough calculations of just two tournaments for each player. Sonas gives a rating for Averbakh as '2481' for the end of 1946. 
 This strikes me as a tad low.) 


We start off by marching straight down a main ('book') line. 
1.e4 e5;  2.Nf3 Nc6;  3.Bb5,   
Of course this is: "The Ruy Lopez." 

     [ White could try:  3.Bc4!?,  which could lead to a Giuoco Piano, 
       a Two Knight's Defense, or even the Evans Gambit. ]  


3...a6;   4.Ba4 Nf6;  5.0-0, ('!')   
This is actually a surprise. Yuri had suffered a terrible reversal in 
one of his games. (Prior to this encounter.) Thereafter - for a period 
of close to (or over) three years, Averbakh always played the move 
5.d3,  especially if he could count on facing the Open Line of the 
(Ruy) Lopez. 

     [ Averbakh usually played:  5.d3, to avoid the line Zak now uses. ]  

5...Nxe4; ('!?')   
The Open Variation. 

     [ The main line is:  "The Closed Variation,"  ... ... ...  
        and goes something like: 

        5...Be76.Re1 b57.Bb3 d68.c3 0-0; 
        9.h3, "+/="  {Diagram?}   
        and White has a small - but very solid - advantage. 
        (The first player will play d4 on the next very move.) 

        Black has a huge number of playable moves here, 
        (After White plays 9.h3.);  ...Na5; ...Nb8; and ...Bb7; 
        being the main tries at this point. ]   


6.d4 b5;  7.Bb3 d5;  8.dxe5 Be6;  9.c3 Be7;   
So far, this is all main line. 
(The beginner should note how both sides continue to develop, 
 while hitting key squares.)  

     [ Interesting is: 9...Nc5!? ]  


Not the main line - Averbakh says this is an old move of Alekhine's 
that is rarely used today. (But it certainly appears playable.) 

     [ The MAIN LINE usually begins with the move:  
        10.Nbd2, "+/="  {Diagram?}  
         with an extremely complex position.  

         Play could now proceed: 10...0-011.Qe2 Nc512.Nd4!, 
         12...Qd713.Bc2 f6!?14.b4!? Na415.N2f3 Nxd4;  {D?} 
         It is best to avoid temptation.  

            (</= 15...Nxc3?!; 16.Qd3, "+/=")     

         16.Nxd4 c517.exf6 Rxf6;  {Diagram?}  
         The end of the column. 

         18.Nxe6 Qxe619.Qd3 Rg620.Bf4 Bf8; 
         21.Rae1, "+/="  (Maybe - "+/")  {Diagram?}   
          ... "with strong play on the light squares."  
          - GM Nick de Firmian.  

         GM N. Short - GM W. Unzicker;  Germany, (Bundesliga?); 1988.  

        [ See MCO-14;  page # 73, column # 1, and note # (e.). ]  ]  


10...0-0;  11.Nbd2 Nxd2;  12.Qxd2 Na5;  13.Bc2 Nc4;  14.Qd3!,   
The most aggressive move, which also forces Black to weaken 
 his King-side.  

     [  Playable was: 14.Qc1!?, "="   {Diagram?}  
        but White will not get much of an advantage in this variation. ]  


14...g6;   15.Bh6!?,  ('!')   
White obviously wishes to try and exploit Black's weakened dark 
squares. Apparently this move also involves the first player in the 
gambit of a Pawn as well.  

     [  White could give very serious consideration to:  
        15.b3!?, "="  {Diag?}  to dislodge the Black Knight. ]  


"A theoretical position, given in many books, has been reached."  
  - GM Yuri Averbakh.  

   See the encounter:  P. Romanovsky - A. Tolush;  
   U.R.S. Championships, (semi-finals)
   Leningrad, (RUS);  1938.

   (This game was drawn in 38 moves.) 

     [ Maybe simply  15...Re8; "~" instead was wiser.  ]   


16.Qe3!?,  TN?  {Diagram?}   
An interesting and sharp move.

     [  Averbakh says the main <book> line is/(was) the move: 
        16.Qe2!?, "~"   with good play for White.  ]   


16...Re8;  17.Nd4 Qd7;   
This is a logical-looking move, and is the first choice of many 
different computer programs. 

     [ Also possible was:  17...Bd7!?;  with maybe a playable game for Black here. ]   


18.f4!,   {See the actual diagram - just below.}    
A sharp attacking move, but also a very natural one.


   The position, (r3r1k1/2pqbp1p/p3b1pB/1p1pP3/3N1P2/2P1Q3/PnB3PP/R4RK1); just after White plays f4. It is amazing to see how quickly Black loses.  (aver-zak_pos1.gif, 14 KB)


White obviously intends to attack on the King-side, the only pertinent 
question is:  "What can Black really do about the impending assault?" 

     [ Or 18.Qf4!? c5!; "=/+"  and the second player certainly has little to fear in this position. ]  


18...Nc4!?;  (Maybe - '?!')   
Not the best move ... Averbakh even awards a whole question mark, 
('?'); but I think this is a bit harsh. 

In retrospect - Averbakh may be correct. 
(After this move, I don't think Black can save his game.) 

     [ Averbakh recommends:  >/= 18...c5!19.f5 cxd420.cxd4, 
        20...Bxf5!?;  This could be risky. 

          (Maybe  20...f6!?; "~" instead?)    

       21.Bxf5 Qa7;   This looks to be forced.
       (Averbakh concludes his analysis at this point.) 

          (Of course not: 21...gxf5???;  22.Qg3+,  ("+/-")  {D?}     
            and Black is quickly mated.)    

       And now the move:  22.Bh3,  "+/="  yields a very solid edge for White. 


       The computer likes the move ...f5; in this position:  
       >/=  18...f5!?19.exf6 Bxf620.f5 Bxf521.Bxf5 gxf5;  
       22.Qg3+ Kh823.Rxf5, "~" (unclear?)  
       when I prefer White here.  (The computer calls this nearly dead even.) ]  


19.Qg3! c5!?;  20.f5! cxd4;   
One annotator said this was forced, and he was probably right. 

Of course now one almost certainly would expect White to try and 
capture the Black Bishop on the e6-square ...  and at least try to 
re-establish material equality.  

     [ </= 20...Na3?21.fxe6, ("+/-") ]   


An  "in-between move"  ...  that is both very sharp and also 
very surprising. (Especially considering that White had some 
very playable alternatives which were also better for White.)  

Suddenly - amazingly - Black is completely lost, and there is 
no defense. 

     [  21.cxd4 b422.fxe6; "+/="  or  21.fxe6 Qxe622.cxd4, "+/=" ]   


This re-capture appears to be 100% forced in this position.  

     [ Of course not:  </= 21...Ne3??22.gxh7+, ("+/-")  {D?}  
       and mates the very next move. ]  


22.Bxg6! Kh8;   
This is forced, but now White's assault appears to have 
stalled out. (Or has it?) 

     [ Black definitely cannot play:  </=  22...fxg6??;  
        23.Qxg6+, Kh824.Qg7#. ]  


White now rips open the remaining lines to Black's King ... 
but it requires White to throw "another log onto the fire" ... 
to keep the attack, 'hot.'  
23.Bg7+!! Kxg7;   
This is also forced.  

     [ After the moves:  </=  23...Kg8?24.Bxf7+! Bxf7;  
        25.Bf6+,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?} Black is quickly mated.  ]   


24.Bxf7+ ('!')  24...Kh8;   
This too is forced.   

     [ Or  24...Bg425.e6, "+/-" {Diag?}  and White is winning. 

        Not  24...Kf8??25.Qg8# ]  


25.Qg6! Bf8!?; ('?!')   
A slight error, but Black may have realized he was lost and 
thought to end the game on a humorous note. 

     [ If Black was not going to resign, he had to play ...Bg5 here. 
       But White quickly wins after:  
       >/=  25...Bg526.Qh5+ Kg727.Qxg5+ Kh728.Qg6+, 
       28...Kh829.Qh6#.   but I am sure Zak saw all this. 


       If Black plays: 25...Bf5!?26.Rxf5("+/-")  {Diagram?}  
       Black will have to give up his Queen in order to avoid getting 
       check-mate here. ]  


One of the most incredible mating attacks I have ever studied, 
Black goes from a playable position ...  
with an extra pawn! ... to being dead lost - very quickly. White 
also has to sacrifice two pieces as well. 

I sent this game (unannotated) to an old Internet student of mine. 
We wound up going over this game, and he agreed that this game 
was one of the more spectacular mating attacks he had ever seen 
or studied. 

Another interesting fact is that this game is NOT in most databases. 
(I searched mine ... and about 10 different game collections, on-line.)


I used dozens of old books, opening books, and books on the Ruy 
Lopez. (MCO, NCO, and ECO as well.)
But my main source for this game was the excellent book: 

"AVERBAKH's Selected Games,"  by  GM Yuri Averbakh.  
  Copyright (c) 1998, by the author. (And publisher.) 
  Translated in 1998 by Ken Neat. 
  Published by Cadogan Chess Books. (Of London, England.)  
  ISBN:  # 1-85744-548-1    
  (An excellent book of games and analysis!!)  Read the review! 


   Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.   Copyright (c) A.J.G;  2002.   
Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby, 2003. 

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"Yuri Averbakh is a distinguished Russian grand-master, who has enjoyed a long and varied career as a top-class player, endgame theoretician, judge of chess compositions, writer editor and arbiter."- blurb from the back-cover of his book of his best games.

Averbakh, (1922 - /GM in 1952); is easily one of the stronger players of the period 1945-1960. (Sonas ranks him as high as # 10 in the world at one point.) He competed many times in the USSR Championship. His winning score in 1954, (Clear FIRST; + 10, - 0, = 9), is a very high mark indeed!! He was Moscow Champion several times, and also won significant international tournaments in Vienna, 1961; and also Moscow, 1962. (Undefeated, +5, shared first place with Vasuikov.) Today he is a highly respected teacher, arbiter and writer. (His series of books on the endgame is still highly respected and sought after.)

(You can now go to 'Amazon-dot-com' and read my book review of Averbakh's book of his selected chess games. Outstanding!)

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