Yevgeny Sveshnikov (71) was as renowned theorist as notorious grumbler

On Wednesday, the Russian Evgeni Sveshnikov (71), a grandmaster whose name, like those of predecessors such as Grünfeld and Najdorf, will live on forever in the chess vocabulary. It is a reward for an exceptional performance. Anyone can come up with sound moves, but it’s rare that someone develops a revolutionary new opening variant that stands the test of time with flying colours.

In his native city of Chelyabinsk, Sveshnikov and his colleague Gennady Tymoshenko tinkered around 1970 with a variant of the Sicilian opening (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5) which had been dismissed as unplayable by the top players of the time. Undeterred by painful defeats or mocking comments, the pioneers remained true to their ideas, which were soon adopted by many others.

It was with mixed feelings that Sveshnikov saw the popularity of his variant grow. He was pleased that it held up in World Cup matches, but he also complained that others took his finds away and he was left empty-handed. “They dance on my grave,” he once said. He has often argued in vain for the payment of royalties to chess players, whose games were published in newspapers and magazines. As a silent protest, he sometimes refused to hand over his notation notes to bulletin editors.

Especially in the first years of development, the Sveshnikov variant sometimes led to particularly spectacular battles. In the next match from a team match Yugoslavia – Soviet Union, a black walking king plays the leading role.

Ivanovic – Sveshnikovy

Krk 1976

1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Bxf6 gxf6 9. Na3 b5 10. Nd5 f5 11. Bd3 Le6 12. c4 Qa5+ 13. Kf1

After 13. Qd2 Qxd2+ 14. Kxd2 Bh6+ 15. Ke1 Bxd5 Black is in a better position.

13…Bxd5 14. exd5 Nd4 15. cxb5 axb5 16. Nc2 Nxc2 17. Dxc2 e4 18. Dc6+ Ke7 19. Bxb5 Ra7 20. Qe8+ Kf6

Diagram left

The premiere in tournament practice of this exciting position, in which 21. a4 is probably White’s strongest move. Ivanovic allows himself to be seduced into a ferocious attack on Black’s king in the open field.

21. g4 Re7 22. Qb8 Ke5 23. f4+

Stronger is 23. Bc4 or 23. Be2 to be able to play 24. Qb3.

23…Kxf4 24. Ke2 Ke5 25. Rhf1 fxg4!

Cold-blooded. After 25…f4? 26. Rxf4! Kxf4 27. Qxd6+ would fail White’s attack.

26. b4

Diagram right


Bypass the last cliff. After 26…Qxb4? would follow 27. Rf5+ Kxf5 28. Bd7+ Rxd7 29. Qxb4. Now white has to wind up to an endgame in which he has no defense against black’s pawn block.

27. bxa5 Rxb8 28. Tab1 f5 29. a6 f4 30. Bc6 f3+ 31. Kf2 Rxb1 32. Rxb1 Kf4 33. Rb4 Bc3 34. Rc4 Ba5 35. Kf1 Bb6 36. Bb7 h5 37. Rc6 e3 38. Rc4+ Kg5

White gives up.

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