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Nikolay Pavlov-Pianov vs Alexander Alekhine
USSR Championship (1920), Moscow RUS, rd 5, Oct-10
French Defense: Exchange Variation (C01)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-17-06  Bobak Zahmat: At first look, White seems to have created a strong pawn chain at his Queen side, but Alekhine's Queen is mighty!
Apr-17-06  GenomicChess: What is the point of 27.b3? Other than losing, that is.
Apr-17-06  Bobak Zahmat: It's a kind of a zugzwang position, every move looks losing for White.
Premium Chessgames Member
  ToTheDeath: 19.Kxc2! Qf5+ 20.Kb3 and despite the awkward king placement Black does not have anything definite for the exchange. White should have gone for this, but it's obvious from his play that he was petrified of his opponent and looking only to draw-- so naturally he was crushed.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: White's play does seem timid, but the two opponents had played this game about three months before: N Pavlov Pianov vs Alekhine, 1920
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <PB> Ha. Apparently Alekhine was in the habit of making unsound sacs against this opponent.

In the game here 17...Rxe1 was unnecessary (and actually inferior), but considering that white had played positionally pretty weak up until then, Alekhine must have rightly concluded that Panov-Pianov was having a bad day and would not be able to defend correctly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <ToTheDeath> and <Fusilli> have identified the key themes of this game. Pavlov-Pianov was obviously afraid of his brilliant opponent, and Alekhine took all sorts of liberties--most notably his unsound and unnecessary exchange sacrifice on move 17--on what proved to be the well-founded assumption that Pavlov-Pianov would wilt under the pressure.

1. d4 e6
2. e4

Offering to transpose into a French Defense, perhaps on the belief that the Exchange Variation would be the best route to securing a draw.

2... d5

Offer to transpose to the French accepted!

3. exd5

And now we have the Exchange Variation, which can be drawish. But it also leads to an open game, and that can be dangerous against so formidable an attacking player as Alekhine.

3... exd5
4. Nf3 Bd6
5. Bd3 Ne7

click for larger view

5...Nf6 is most usual and probably best, but Alekhine wanted to get his opponent out of any preparation. The text was thus part of the terror tactics he successfully employed in this game against a weaker opponent.

6. c3

A novelty at the time, and apparently an attempt to establish a "safe" formation. Pavlov-Pianov could of course just have castled or developed his b1 Knight.

6... Bg4

Going all out for complications. Black can achieve an easy equality with 6...0-0 or 6...h6 or even 6...Nbc6.

7. Bg5

Faced with an entirely new opening position (at move 6!) Pavlov-Pianov decides to start exchanging pieces. One way to do this is via a pin of the Black e7 Knight. This timid approach soon led to trouble. White can simply play 7. h3 or 7.0-0 here and enjoy what edge there would be in the position.

7... Nd7

While there is nothing terribly wrong with this move, I suspect Alekhine played it to continue to surprise and keep his opponent off balance, else he might have played 7...h6 or 7...Qd7 or maybe 7...f6.

8. Nbd2 Nf8

Still messing with his opponent's head. Logical and sufficient for equality were 8...h6 or 8...0-0. After the text, the position was:

click for larger view

9. BxN?

This fraidy-cat exchange was the beginning of White's downfall. There were, to put it mildly, a number of better options, especially if Pavlov-Pianov were actually trying to play to obtain an advantage (e.g., 9. h3; 9. 0-0).

9... QxB+
10. Qe2

Perhaps hoping Alekhine would trade Queens and thus cut down the wood a bit. Objectively, 10. Be2 was better.

10... Ne6

Alekhine now has the better game, and the last thing he wanted to do was to trade Queens. As <BobakZahmat> has pointed out, Alekhine's Queen soon became "mighty" and tore White's position to shreds.

11. h3 Bh5

Unlike Pavlov-Pianov, Alekhine wasn't looking to trade pieces.

12. Bf5 0-0
13. 0-0-0?!

With the White squares on his Queen-side weakened as a result of his 6. c3, Pavlov-Pianov's decision to castle long was just asking for trouble. He probably should have played 13. g3 (to prevent Black's Nf4). He could also have castled short, which might have led to the following sharp line (given that Alekhine was in charge of the Black forces): 13. 0-0 Nxd4 14. Bxh7+ Kh8 15. QxQ NxN+ 16. NxN BxQ 17. Bc2 BxN 18. gxB Rfe8 where White's busted King-side gives Black the edge but the Bishops of opposite colors might have led to the draw Pavlov-Pianov obviously wanted.

After 13. 0-0-0?!, the position was:

click for larger view

It is interesting and instructive to watch how Alekhine went to work on his opponent's weaknesses from here.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

13... Qf6!

Alekhine and his "mighty" Queen (to quote <Bobak Zahmat> yet again) immediately exploited White's weak play.

14. Bc2

Another weak move. 14. g4 or 14. BxN were best for White (though hardly sufficient to come close to equalizing).

14... Nf4!
15. Qf1

click for larger view

Black's advantage is obvious.

15... Bg6

15...Rfe8 was stronger.

16. Ne1

Pavlov-Pianov was still playing in a fog. 16. g3 was plainly best.

16... Rae8

16...Rfe8 was even better.

17. g3?

One move too late, and now potentially fatal. He had to play 17. Kb1.

The position after 17. g3 was:

click for larger view

White is now busted, but Alekhine overplayed his hand with what <Fusilli> has--in a major understatement--correctly called "unnecessary":

17... RxN

Had Alekhine been playing a stronger opponent, this could have cost him the game. The winning move for Black here was 17...Ne2+ (18. Kb1 c5 19. dxc5 Bxc5 20. BxB fxB 21. Qg2 Bxf2 22. Qxd5+ Qf7 23. QxQ+ RxQ 24. Nef3 Nxg3 (or 24...Bxg3).

18. RxR BxB

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As it turned out, this proved to be the critical moment of the game:

19. gxN?

As <Total Death> pointed out more than a decade ago, Pavlov-Pianov could have reached a winning position here with 19. KxB Qf5+ 20. Kb3!. The dreadful text, however, handed the game to Alekhine:

19... Bg6

click for larger view

Pavlov-Pianov was at least temporarily up the exchange, but a glance at Alekhine's Queen and two Bishops reveals that the game was effectively over.

20. Re5

White had to return some material here, but 20. Rg1 probably provided the best chance to survive.

20... BxR

Winning back material must have seemed attractive, and the text is probably sufficient to win, but even stronger was 20...c5!

21. fxB Qf5
22. Qd1

Forced. This left:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

22... c5!
23. dxc5

click for larger view

23... Qxf2

This didn't relinquish Alekhine's winning edge, but far better were 23...d4 or 23...Re8.

24. Re1

24. b4 or 24. h4 would have given White somewhat better chances to survive.

24... Qxc5

click for larger view

25. Nb3?

25. Qg4 was pretty much the only hope. Now Black's Queen destroys the White forces.

25... Qf2
26. Nd4 Qg3

click for larger view

27. b3??

This inexplicable move was immediately fatal. But, as <Bobak Zahnat> has pointed out, everything else loses as well.

27... Qxc3+

click for larger view


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