The fine art of Ulfing (revisited)

Today, we return to the subject of Ulfing, that magical and allegedly Freudian, recipe for chess success, that involves simplifying life by removing the girlies. In the following game, we see the man himself give a masterly demonstration of successful Ulfing. Black puts his pawn on e5, White turns on the hoover, and then, having swept the board clean of all but three minor pieces each, Ulfie gives a masterclass in technique.

“Are you sitting comfortably?”

I took this game from the ultimate guide to successful Ulfing, Edmar Mednis’ classic book, From the Opening into the Endgame. This book examines a whole series of games,   grouped by opening variation, where the queens disappear from the board early. The late Edmar Mednis was one of the best writers on the endgame (his Practical Endgame Lessons was highly praised by Mark Dvoretsky) and his books can be strongly recommended to any would-be Ulfer. Most, if not all, are now out of print, but should be available secondhand (I can recommend my old friend Tony Peterson, whose link can be found on the right-hand side of this page, as an excellent source of secondhand chess books).

[White “Andersson, Ulf”]

[Black “Hazai, Laszlo”]

[Event: Pula Interzonal 1975
1. Nf3 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. d4 d6 4. Be2 Nf6 5. Nc3 O-O 6. O-O Bg4 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2 e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Rad1 Qc8 11. Qc1 Rd8 12. Rxd8+ Qxd8 13. Rd1 Qf8 14. h3 Bxf3 15. Bxf3 Rd8 16. Rxd8 Qxd8 17. Qd1 Qxd1+ 18. Bxd1

For most players, this would be the time to shake hands and head for the bar, but for an Ulfer, of course, the game is just starting! White has the bishop pair and the better dark-squared bishop.

Nd4 19. f3 Ne8?

Mednis recommended 19…a6 here, to keep the WN under control.

20. Nd5!  c6 21. Ne7+ Kf8 22. Nc8 a6 23. c3 Nb5 24. a4 Nbc7 25. Bb3

All of White’s pieces have taken up active posts, whilst Black’s are pushed back.

Bf6 26. Nb6 Ne6

This leads to a virtually forced loss, but it is very hard to find an adequate move for Black. The obvious 26…Ke7 drops a pawn after 27 Bc5+.

27. Bxe6!

All good players have the ability to swap one advantage for another. Ulfie trades in his bishop pair, in return for a crippling of the enemy pawn structure.

fxe6 28. Bc5+ Kf7 29. Nd7

Black hardly has any moves. In particular, if his knight moves, Bd6 wins the pawn on e5.

Kg7 30. Kf2 Bh4+ 31. g3 Bf6 32. Ke2 Bd8

33. Bf2!

Black had been hoping for 33.Nxe5? Bc7 with counterplay, but Ulfers are never greedy! The text defends g3, so threatening 34.Nxe5, and also frees c5, so that 34.Nc5 is also a threat. Black cannot meet both.

Bf6 34. Nc5

Now it really is drop-off time for a black pawn.

Nd6 35. Nxe6+ Kf7 36. Nc5 Bd8

37. b3

A typical Ulfer’s move – White just covers c4 and waits to see what Black will do. Ulfers are never in a hurry!

a5 38. b4 Bc7 39. a5 Bb8 40. Be3 1-0

Black resigned, because after 41.f4 exf4 42.Bxf4, the pawn on b7 will be lost as well.

An immculate example of Ulfing at its best, a careful study of which will do your chess more good than all the opening books put together.

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