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Anatoly Karpov vs Lev Polugaevsky
Karpov - Polugaevsky Candidates Quarterfinal (1974), Moscow URS, rd 4, Jan-23
Sicilian Defense: Najdorf. Opocensky Variation Modern Line (B92)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-04-05  RookFile: This is not a very good game. Polugaevsky should have won this easily. Mednis says:

18..... Bc4! is a clear edge for black

20..... Qa5 was very strong, with the
double threat of ...Bb6 or Qb4

Even after all this, black was still
clearly better, for example, 30.... Re8 borders on an outright win for black, according to Shamkovich.

But even after all of this, 32... Rc5
wins for black.

Bobby Fischer was supposed to be afraid of this kind of play from Karpov??

Aug-04-05  euripides: I don't know if 'Mednis says' is meant to have the same force as 'Simon says', but ...

Karpov was not better out of the opening, when on move 20 he appear to refuse Polugaevsky's draw offer. But not all the improvements offered are wholly persuasive.

18...Bc4 19 b3 Bxe2 20 Ndxe2. Has Black achieved enough to justify the disadvantageous exchange of the white-squared bishops ?

20...Qa5 21 Nb3 Qb4 22 Qd4. How is this worse for White than the game ?

Griffiths in an old BCM thinks Black was at least equal by move 20 but that the mistake that put Karpov in serious trouble was 26 Be3 rather than Bxg4, denying the knight access to c4.

Presumably Shamkovich doesn't like the g5 idea. Griffiths thinks Polu should have played it earlier, on move 27. After 30...Re8 Black is more comfortable but White has 31 Nd5 Nxd5 32 exd5 Ne5 33 Rd2.

On 32...Rc5, Grffiths and Mednis (or <rookfile> ?) agree. Griffiths gives 33 Nxf6 Rxf6 winning a pawn with the 'twin threat' of g4 and Nb6. I don't see it. 34 Ke2 Nb6 35 c3 and Black's weaknesses on h5 and d6 appear to be as problematic as white's weakness on a4.

Griffiths, incidentally, is full of admiration for Karpov's play except for move 26 and a ?! for move 32 which he thinks 'may be the best practical chance'.

All my comments are by eye from the screen. There are no doubt mistakes, and I would prefer to be Black for parts of this game. But an easy win for Polugaevsky ? I remain to be convinced.

Aug-04-05  RookFile: Well, I salute you for thinking for
yourself, and doing your own analysis.
I fed this stuff into Fritz, and
here's what I get, just letting it run
for like 30 seconds:

18... Bc4 19. b3 !? Bxb3! 20. Ncb5
is a complex line that seems to favor
black.

Your try, 20.... Qa5 21. Nb3, is met
by 21.... Bxb3 22. cxb3 Qb4, which
Fritz says is better for black.

Mednis agrees with you that 26. Bxg4
is better, and white gets a draw. Mednis agrees with Griffith that 27.... g5 is the best move.

Mednis quotes Shamkovich in saying
that 30....Re8 borders an an outright
win, because on 31. Nd5 Nxd5 32. exd5
Nb6 wins a pawn for black.

Well, I don't have time right now to
look at the 32nd move, will have to come back to this.

Aug-04-05  euripides: <rookfile> interesting lines, which offer some winning chances for Black, though none of them is easy. After 30...Re8 31 Nd5 Nxd5 32 exd5 Nb6 I wonder about 33 Rc3 Rxc3 34 bxc3 Nxa4 35 Rxb7 Nxc3 36 Ra7 Re5 37 Rxa6 Nxd5 38 Bxd5 Rxd5 when I think White has reasonable drawing chances.
Aug-05-05  euripides: ... or rather 30...Re8 31 Nd5 Nxd5 32 exd5 Nb6 33 Rc3 Rxc3 34 bxc3 Nxa4 35 Rxb7 Nxc3 36 Ra7 Re5 37 Rxa6 Nxd5 38 Rxd6 and White has the better of a drawn ending; or 37...Ke7 38 Ra7+ Kf6 39 Ra6 etc. (In my previous line Black should win after 38 Bxd5 Rxd5 39 c4 Rd2+ 40 Kf3 Ke7).
Aug-05-05  RookFile: Good work euripides! When I feed this through Fritz, giving it maybe a minute to think (which is a long time for a computer), it veers
off from this, playing 35.... Nc5
instead of 35....Nxc3. Now black
is not in fact up a pawn, although
Fritz says black is better, which is
a reasonable statement. Is it enough
for black to win? It might be, I don't know.

Mednis didn't explain enough. After
some digging, and this may not represent the ultimate truth, (because I could let Fritz run longer), what I'm eventually seeing is something that goes like this:

30..... Re8 31. Nd5 Nxd5 32. exd5 Nb6 33. Rc3 Ree7 34. a5 Rxc3 35. bxc3 Nc4 36. Be2! Nd2! 37. Rb6 Ne4+ 38. Kf1 Nxc3 39. Bf3 and black has in fact won his pawn.

There is some subtle play here, for example after 36. Be2 the natural 36.... Nxa5 runs into 37. Ra1 and now black has to play ....b6 to save the
knight and the a6 pawn drops.

Having said all this, Fritz isn't sure that 31. Nd5 is necessary. Let it run for a good 5 minutes on this (a long time), it doesn't agree with
another point Mednis made. Mednis
had said that after 31. h3 R8c8, white
must lose a pawn. (The idea being
....Nxb2 I think.) Fritz isn't seeing
it this way. It's true that black
doesn't need to rush, black has all the pressure here. He can continue to improve by putting his king on e7,
and advance his kingside pawns to gain
some space.

But, it appears that Mednis is overstating the case that white is "helpless" here.

Aug-18-05
Premium Chessgames Member
  pawnQueenblack: 33...Ne5?!
After 33...Nb6 34.Rxg5 Rxc2+ 35.Ke3 Nc4+ black have at least draw
Nov-20-09  M.D. Wilson: Karpov vs. Polugaevsky: a contrast of practical chess and preparation.

Karpov was perhaps one of the last great player who did not devote most of his energies towards off the board preparation; players from Kasparov onwards led this new paradigm shift.

Sep-06-14  Captain Hindsight: Better would have been <39... Ke7!=>
Mar-26-18  AgentX: Well, it seems like some people here deliberately choose to ignore Karpov's better games and focus on his bad games.
Oct-25-18
Premium Chessgames Member
  fredthebear: <AgentX> I agree. Karpov deserves a lot more love (but he won't get it from FTB -- just respect). Perhaps he is a lingering victim of the Cold War.
Oct-25-18  Inocencio: Humility is the utmost virtue of Karpov!
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