Happy birthday, Rafa!

Today marks the 60th birthday of another of the great 1951 generation, the Armenian GM, Rafael Vaganian. He is probably the most creative and original of the top players to emerge from that annus mirabilis. He is also the subject of one of Genna Sosonko’s moving essays, this one entitled “The Reliable Past”, which I can highly recommend.

Photo: Chessgames.com 

I have always had a soft spot for Vaganian, not only because of his superlative general play, but also because he was for many years one of the best players of the French Defence, which was my own chosen weapon against 1.e4 (OK, I admit it – the game Vaganian-Giddins, Antwerp 1986 also played its part in cementing Rafa’s place in my affections…). One of the games which inspired me to take up the French was the following blistering tactical destruction of a chess legend:


[Event “Skopje”]
[Date “1976.”]
[Round “5”]
[White “Reshevsky, Samuel Herman”]
[Black “Vaganian, Rafael A”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ndf3 Qa5 8. Kf2 Be7 9. Bd3 Qb6 10. Ne2 f6 11. exf6 Bxf6 12. Kg3 cxd4 13. cxd4 O-O 14. Re1

Now the fireworks start.

14…e5!! 15. fxe5 Ndxe5! 16. dxe5

16…Bh4+!! 17. Kxh4 Rxf3 18. Rf1 

18.gxf3 Qf2+ mates.

18…Qb4+ 19. Bf4 Qe7+ 20. Bg5 Qe6

The result of Vaganian’s sacrificial orgy is a one-piece deficit, but a winning attack.

21. Bf5 Rxf5 22. Nf4 Qxe5 23. Qg4 Rf7 24. Qh5 Ne7

25. g4 Ng6+ 26. Kg3 Bd7 27. Rae1 Qd6 28. Bh6 Raf8 0-1

Happy Birthday, Grandmaster, or   Ծնունդդ շնորհավոր, as I understand they say in downtown Yerevan, on such occasions!

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