The class of ’51

As chess generations go, the year 1951 takes some beating. That year saw the birth of a whole group of what became some of the strongest GMs in the world in the 1970s and 1980s. First among them was Karpov, but the group also includes Jan Timman, Ulf Andersson, Rafael Vaganian and Zoltan Ribli. This year, of course, they all celebrate – if that is the operative word! – their 60th birthdays. Of them, Timman and Andersson are the only two that still play with any regularity at all, and even the latter is now playing fewer and fewer rated events. Jan Timman also plays much less than in his best years, of course, and now receives few invitations to strong tournaments. Still, it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good – with the reduction in his playing schedule, Timman has been able to devote more time to endgame studies, in which field he is a prolific and very fine composer. I am delighted to be able to report that New in Chess will soon be publishing a book by Timman, entitled The Art of the Endgame, which deals with his studies. It promises to be a true feast for any lover of the endgame study, and I for one cannot wait to see it.


Meanwhile, though, it would be a mistake to discount Timman as a player.  His rating may have plummeted, but ratings tend to measure form, rather than class, and as everyone knows, form is temporary, whereas class is permanent. Timman is currently playing in a round-robin event in Antwerp, the Inventi tournament, where yesterday, he won the following powerful attacking game against an old rival:

[White “Timman, Jan H”]
[Black “Van Der Wiel, John T.H”]
[ECO “B50”]
[WhiteElo “2555”]
[BlackElo “2459”]
 Inventi Tournament, Antwerp 

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nc3 a6 4. g3 b5 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Bg2 b4 8. Nd5 e6

9. O-O!

Bamboozled by the unusual move-order, Black has stumbled into what is known to be a bad Paulsen line. However, White usually sacrifices on d5 with the “active” move Nc3-d5. I cannot recall ever seeing this standard Sicilian sacrificial motif effected by passively leaving the knight on d5 when it is attacked.

exd5 10. exd5 Be7 11. Re1 Kf8

Black cannot develop normally, since 11…Nf6 runs into 12.Nf5. White’s piece sacrifice is for the long term, but he has a crushing attack, as is well-known in such positions.

12. Bf4 Bc8 13. Qd2 a5

14. a3!

This is a thematic idea, to open further lines on the queenside. It looks strange to make such a pawn move when a piece down, but Black has no sensible way to get his pieces out, so White can fasten onto the “hook” on the queenside.

Ra6 15.axb4 axb4 16. Qxb4 Rb6 17. Qa3 Ra6 18. Qb4 Rb6 19. Qa5 g5

Trying to break the Gordian Knot, but Timman is having none of it.

20. Rxe7! gxf4

After 20…Nxe7 21 Bxg5, Black has an extra rook, but just look at his pieces! White would have an overwhelming attack, as even the materialistic computer will confirm..

21. Re4 fxg3 22. fxg3 Nf6 23. Rf4 Nbd7 24. Nc6 Qc7 25. Qc3 Rg8 26. Rxf6 Nxf6 27. Qxf6

Now White’s arrears are reduced to just an exchange, for which he has two pawns and an ongoing attack.

Bb7 28. Nd4 Qe7 29. Qf2 Rg6 30. Ne6+ Rxe6 31. dxe6 Rxb2 32. Bxb7 Qxb7 33. Rf1 Rb1 34. Rxb1 Qxb1+ 35. Kg2 Qb7+ 36. Kh3 Qe7

37. Qxf7+ Qxf7 38. exf7 Kxf7 39.Kg4 Ke6 40. Kg5 1-0

A nice attacking game by Timman. As the Russians like to say (there is not really a Dutch equivalent – I’ve checked!), “There is still some powder left in the powder-keg”!

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