Inspirations

Readers of this blog will know that three of my favourite things in chess are Ulf Andersson, Hastings and the Hedgehog. As it happens, all three are related. In a previous post, I recalled seeing the great Tigran Petrosian at Hastings in 1977-8. Over the next three years, the event was dominated by Ulfie, who won it all three times (one shared with John Nunn). In the second of those victorious years, I witnessed the following game, after which I became a firm and lifelong Hedgehog fan. 

The game is a classic Hedgehog. The opening is all about counterattack, luring White forward, and hoping to exploit the weaknesses thus created. In the following game, the strategy unfolds to perfection. First, Larry Christiansen decides to advance on the queenside. After a few deft manoeuvres by Black, he finds that his queenside attack has been strategically busted, so he decides to attack on the kingside instead. This is met by a fantastically deep prophylactic idea, that would have delighted Nimzowitsch himself, and which leaves White’s ambitions on the kingside in tatters too. In desperation, Christiansen opens up the centre, whereupon his whole position collapses at once!

White: Larry Christiansen

Black: Ulf Andersson

Hastings 1979-80 

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0–0 Nc6 7.e4 d6 8.d4 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 Be7 11.b3 0–0 12.Bb2 Qb8 13.h3 Rd8 14.Rad1 Bf8 15.Kh2 Nd7 16.f4 Bc6

17.b4

White decides to take space on the queenside, but this weakens the c4-pawn, on which Ulfie pounces.

17 a6 18.a4 Qc7! 19.Rc1 Bb7 20.Rfe1 Rac8 21.Bf1 Qb8 22.Qf2 a5! 23.b5 Nc5

The upshot of White’s queenside aggression is a positionally bankrupted game on that sector of the board, so Christiansen decides to try his luck on the kingside instead.

24.Rcd1 Be7 25.g4

25 h6!! 

Normally, we are taught not to move pawns on the side where the opponent is attacking. However, Ulfie has a gorgeous prophylactic idea: he intends Kh7 and Rh8, after which the white advance g4-g5 will merely open up the h-file against the white king! 

26.h4 Kh7! 27.Bh3 Rc7 28.Re3 Rh8! 29.Kg1 Qd8

Having tried his luck on both flanks, and been comprehensively outplayed, Christiansen now tries a desperate lunge in the centre, but the result is disastrous.

30.e5 Rd7 31.g5 dxe5 32.Rxd7 Nxd7!

All of a sudden, most of White’s pieces are hanging along the g1-a7 diagonal.

33.Qc2+ g6 34.Rd3 Qc7 35.h5 Nc5 36.hxg6+ fxg6


White has managed to stave off immediate material loss, but his position is a wreck, and the following piece sacrifice is a last, desperate attempt to pull off a time-trouble swindle. 

37.Bxe6 Nxe6 38.Rh3 Qc5+ 39.Kh2 Nxf4 40.Rxh6+ Kg8 0–1

Not a game which will ever find its way into any anthology of Larry Christiansen’s best, but the sort of game Hedgehog fans dream of. It was enough to inspire me with a lifelong love of Hedgehog set-ups, which, 17 years later, brought me my “Evergreen” game against Vaganian – but more on that another time! 

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