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Garry Kasparov vs Predrag Nikolic
Credit Suisse Masters (1994), Horgen SUI, rd 7, Sep-10
French Defense: Winawer. Poisoned Pawn Variation General (C18)  ·  1-0



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Given 34 times; par: 57 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-31-04  Lawrence: Excellent analysis of this game at Jon Edwards's
Mar-31-04  Lawrence: Presumably Black lost on time. Junior 8 suggests the continuation could have been 39...♖xe5
40.fxe5 ♕f1+
41.♔h2 eval +2.72
Jan-09-05  acirce: This is a great, energetic game by Kasparov. The final phase is instructive for showing how positions with opposite-coloured bishops can be anything but drawish, reminding about the classic chapter on the theme in Dvoretsky's and Yusupov's <Positional Play>. In <Instructive Modern Chess Masterpieces> it's annotated by Igor Stohl giving extremely rich analysis. I won't quote all of it, but giving his lines at the key moments and some other interesting stuff. Beginning with the summary:

<This was a double-edged game, typical of Kasparov's inimitable style. The opening promised a complicated struggle, with Black's vulnerable dark squares balanced by White's wrecked pawn-structure and the closed nature of his position. Although, for example, Fischer has considered the Winawer to be fundamentally incorrect, upholding this verdict is no mean task and usually Black tends to hold his own. Even the provocative 7..Kf8!? has its logic - Black avoids creating any further weaknesses or opening the position for White's bishop-pair (practice has shown that after 7..0-0 Black is sooner or later forced to play the otherwise undesirable ..f5).

Kasparov reacted very aggressively and proceeded to sacrifice his whole pawn-centre to get at Black's king. Undoubtedly he also took into account two important practical considerations. Firstly, from move 15 onwards, Black is very often faced with multiple choices. One can notice that until move 26 we usually analyze only possible and often quite tempting alternatives for Black. White, on the other hand, makes natural attacking moves with the notable exception of 23.Qa4?!. While conducting an intuitive attack, one should try to engage as many pieces as possible in the onslaught, so it is no surprise that the variations prove 23.Rc1!? was better. Kasparov's second consideration was most probably even more subjective - his massive personal score against Nikolic. Sure enough, although Black managed to master the complications of the middlegame quite well, his insecurity led to serious time-trouble and finally to his downfall in a rather simple position.>

To the annotations:


<Hardly anybody is currently interested in the debris of 7..Qc7 8.Qxg7 Rg8 9.Qxh7 cxd4 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 dxc3 12.Qd3, which works out well for White. After 7..0-0 White's most dangerous attacking attempt nowadays is 8.Bd3 Qa5 9.Ne2!? cxd4 10.Bg5 Nbc6 11.f4. Although practical material still remains meagre, Black's king is paradoxically more threatened on the kingside than in the centre. Naturally, the main drawback of 7..Kf8 is also obvious - the h8-rook remains inactive for a long time.>


<Lesser mortals would probably rather give up the pawn on c2, e.g. after 9.Bd2, but Kasparov wants to free his forces by sacrificing his central bastion. This brave concept is not new in his practice; he came up with the idea two years earlier against Anand in a similar position.> (Probably referring to Kasparov vs Anand, 1992 )


<Black's best. Approximately two months later Nikolic decided to test 13..Nbc6?! The retribution was swift: 14.h5! Nxe5 (14..h6 15.Rh4) 15.h6 gxh6 16.Bxh6+ Kg8 17.Rb1 N7g6 18.Rb4 Nxf3+ 19.gxf3 Qe5 20.f4 Qc3+ 21.Kf1 f5 22.Rb3 Qf6 23.c4 and Black's poorly developed forces couldn't stop the powerful white attack in Kasparov vs P Nikolic, 1994 .>


<Sedate continuations such as 15.Bxa6 Nxa6 16.Re1 Qc4 don't give White reasons for satisfaction, so energetic measures are required.>

Jan-09-05  acirce: continued:

<Black doesn't show his hand and for the time being keeps the position closed.> Stohl gives a lot of lines here, but for once I only give the main ones here, unlike later:

<15..Bxc4 16.Bxc4 dxc4> and now <17.Ng5 Qd3 18.Qh5 g6 19.Nxh7+ Kg8 20.Nf6+ Kg7 21.Bxh6+!? Rxh6 22.Ne8+ is a draw, as after 22..Kf8? 23.Qxh6 Kxe8 24.Qh8+ Black would lose his queen> or here instead <Black has some chances to fight for an advantage with 18..Qf5> giving <19.Rac1 Nd7!? 20.Rxc4 Nd5> as the main line <when the position remains tense and unclear>. Instead of 17.Ng5 White also has <the calmer 17.Bb4 Nc6 18.Bd6> with <compensation, as activating his sleepy rook will cost Black a lot of time and possibly even material.>


<Kasparov criticizes this move, but Black's main mistake only comes later on. The other possibility, 16..Qxh4!?, is certainly worth considering. 17.cxd5 (17.g3?! Qd4 only helps Black) 17..Bxe2 18.Qxe2 and now:

1) 18..Nxd5 19.Qf3 Nd8 20.Rfe1?! Qa4 21.Nxe6+ Nxe6 22.Qxd5 Rd8 23.Bb4+ doesn't look ideal; the numerous exchanges only underline the inactive h8-rook.

2) 18..exd5 is somewhat better. After 19.f4!? (not 19.e6?! Nd4) the position is still difficult to evaluate. Black has to be careful about his queen (19..h6? 20.Be1) and premature activity may only entangle his pieces (19..Nf5 20.Qd3 and now 20..Ng3? 21.Rfe1 or 20..Ncd4 21.Nf3!?; just as in line '1' it's not easy to activate the h8-rook once the position opens up). However, a patient approach like 19..Rd8 20.Rac1 also gives White compensation for the sacrificed pawns.

3) 18..Nd4 19.Qd1 (19.Qd3 Nxd5 20.g3 Qg4 gets White nowhere) 19..Nxd5 is tactically justified and probably best. Now after Kasparov's 20.Re1 (20.g3 is weak since after 20..Qh6, 21.Nxf7? fails to 21..Qxd2!) White threatens Re4, but Black can reply 20..Nf4! 21.Ne4 (21.Re4 Nde2+! favours Black) 21..Rd8, and then:

3a) 22.g3 Qh5 and now 23.Bxf4?! Nf3+ 24.Kg2 Rxd1 25.Rexd1 Nxe5!? gives Black a technically won position, while Black is clearly better after 23.gxf4 Nf3+ 24.Kg2 Qg4+ 25.Ng3 Nxe1+.

3b) After 22.Bb4+ Kg8 23.Bd6 Nf5 Black's position remains solid and White still has to find a plan to transform his initiative into something more permanent (note that after 24.g3 Qh3! 25.gxf4? Nh4 White loses on the spot).>

Jan-09-05  acirce: continued:

<Provocative and very risky. Nikolic decides to find out the knight's intentions, but as they are rather destructive, other moves must be examined:

1) 20..Kg7? is worse than the text-move in view of 21.Ne6+! fxe6 22.Rxe6 Be2 (queen moves are insufficient: 22..Qd4? 23.Rxe7+ Nxe7 24.Bh6+ wins for White, while 22..Qb2 23.Qe1 Kf7 24.Bc3 and 22..Qf7 23.Bc3+ d4 24.Bxd4+ Nxd4 25.Qxd4+ Kg8 26.Rf6 both give White a decisive attack) gives White a pleasant choice between playing for the attack with 23.Rxe2, or winning the queen with 23.Bh6+!? Kxh6 24.Qc1+.

2) 20..Rd8? also doesn't contribute greatly to the defence:

2a) 21.Be6 is tempting, but if Black keeps his cool with 21..Rd6! (after 21..fxe6?! 22.Rxe6! Qf5 23.g4 Qd3 24.Re3 Black must return a whole rook to save his king: 24..Qf1+ 25.Qxf1 Bxf1 26.Ne6+), he has every chance to beat off the attack after both 22.Bxf7 h6 and 22.Nxf7 Rxe6 23.Rxe6 Qxe6!? 24.Nxh8 Qf6.

2b) 21.Ne6+! fxe6 22.Rxe6 is thematic and much stronger:

2b1) 22..Qf7 23.Bh6+ Kg8 (after 23..Ke8? 24.Qa4 Bc8 25.Qxc6+ Bd7 26.Rxe7+ Qxe7 27.Bxd7+ Rxd7 28.Bg5 the attack nets White more material) 24.Rc1 Bb7 25.Qe1 is very dangerous to Black, since compared with the game he has even more problems with his rook trapped in the corner.

2b2) 22..Qg7 23.Qf3+ Nf5 (23..Kg8 24.Rxc6! Qxa1+ 25.Rc1 Qe5 26.Re1 leaves Black defenceless; he must give up his queen since 26..Rf8 loses on the spot to 27.Rxe5 Rxf3 28.Rxe7!; 23..Ke8 is better, although after 24.Rae1 White has a raging attack) 24.Rae1 Bb5 (24..Ncd4? 25.Bb4+ Kg8 26.Re8+ Rxe8 27.Rxe8+ Kf7 28.Re7+ Kf6 29.Qxd5! wins for White, as 29..Nxe7 30.Qg5+ leads to mate) 25.Bxf5 Nd4 26.Qc3! Nxf5 (26..Nxe6? 27.Bh6) 27.Qb4+ and white regains the piece with a continuing attack.

3) Black should have covered the sensitive e6-square with 20..Bc8! After 21.Rc1:

3a) 21..Bxg4 22.Qxg4 suits White; e.g., 22..h6 23.Nf3 Nf5? 24.Qa4! or 22..Nf5 23.Ne6+!? with compensation.

3b) Better is 21..h6!? and as 22.Bc3 d4 23.Ne4 Bxg4 24.Qxg4 Qf5 just costs White more material, he still has to justify his sacrificial concept.>



<Does Black really have to concede the long diagonal? 22..Qb2? 23.Qf3+ and Bc3 is simple, but 22..Qg7!? needs to be considered. Now 23.Qf3+ Kg8 24.Bc3 d4 25.Rxe7 Nxe7! 26.Qxa8+ Kh7 27.Qxa7 dxc3 28.Qxa6 c2 leads to a draw at most for White. A more dangerous try is 23.Rc1 Bb7 (23..Nd4 loses immediately to 24.Rxe7!) 24.Bb4!? Nxb4 25.Rc7 Nbc6 26.Rxb7 with a strong attack.>


<23.Bc3? d4 24.Bxd4 Rd8 is a dead end for White, but Kasparov proposed the very dangerous alternative 23.Rc1!?. White's last inactive piece joins the fray; the following lines originate partly from Kasparov:

1) We already know about 23..Nd4? 24.Rxe7!. One of Black's problems is that if White achieves a more normal material balance without substantial simplification, his attack will in all probability be decisive.

2) After 23.. Bc8 24.Rexc6 Nxc6 25.Rxc6 Bxg4 26.Qxg4 Qf5 (26..Kg7? loses quickly due to 27.h5! g5 28.Bc3+ Kh7 29.Rf6) White doesn't have to continue attacking with speculative moves such as 27.Qd4 or 27.Qg3, but can reach a promising rook endgame by 27.Bxh6+!? Rxh6 (Black can't afford 27..Kf7? 28.Rc7+ Ke6 29.Qa4!) 28.Qxf5+ gxf5 29.Rxh6 Ke7 30.Kf1.

3) More resilient is 23..h5 24.Rcxc6! (24.Bh3?! Bc8 25.Rexc6 Nxc6 26.Rxc6 Bxh3 27.gxh3 Kg7 isn't clear any more) 24..Nxc6 (not 24..hxg4? losing on the spot to 25.Bb4) 25.Rxc6 hxg4 26.Bc3. Here White wins Black's queen after 26..Rxh4 (26..Kg8 27.Rf6 and 26..Qd7 27.Qa4! d4 28.Bb4+ Ke8 29.Re6+ are worse) 27.Rf6 and his forces continue the attack via the weakened squares (typical for the Winawer!); e.g., 27..Qxf6 28.Bxf6 Rh5 29.Qxg4 Re8 30.Bc3! Kf7 31.Qd4.>

Jan-09-05  acirce: continued:
<4) However, the most natural continuation is 23..Bc4 24.Rc3 (in his book "Gambits", Burgess proposes 24.Rxc4!? dxc4 25.Qa1, winning Black's queen for two rooks; this deserves serious consideration, although the position after 25..Rh7!? 26.Rf6 Rd8 is far from clear and it's not easy to decide if this is objectively more promising for White than line '4b2') and now:

4a) 24..Nd4?! is not ideal in view of 25.Bxh6+ Rxh6 26.Qxd4:

4a1) 26..Kg8?! 27.Rf3 Qg7 (a nice sample line is 27..Qe8? 28.Ree3! Kh7 29.Qf6 Ng8 30.Rxe8 Nxf6 31.Rxa8 Nxg4 32. Rf7#) 28.Qxg7+ Kxg7 29.Rxe7+ Kh8 30.g3 and the endgame is tough for Black.

4a2) Stronger is the generous 26..Rxh4!? 27.Rf6 Nf5, but even here after 28.Rxf7+ Kxf7 29.Qd1 White is the only one with winning chances.

4b) Cleverer is 24.. h5!? 25.Bh3 (25.Rf3 hxg4 26.Rxf7+ Kxf7 27.Qxg4 is rather speculative) 25..Nd4:

4b1) 26.Rxe7?! Qxe7 (Black can't survive 26..Kxe7? 27.Rxc4! dxc4 28.Bb4+ Kd8 29.Qxd4+ Kc7 30.Qe5+ Kb7 31.Be6) 27.Rxc4 (after 27.Re3 Ne2+! 28.Kh1 Qxh4 29.Bb4+ Kg7 there is nothing decisive in sight for White) 27..dxc4 28.Bb4 Qxb4 29.axb4 Rd8 is very good for Black; he should be able to consolidate and convert his material advantage into victory.

4b2) Therefore just as above White should play 26.Bh6+ Rxh6 27.Qxd4. However, here with the extra pawn on the board Black can afford 27..Kg8 (27..Qg7 is a possible transposition) 28.Rf3 (28.Rf6 Qg7 29.Be6+ Kh8 gets White nowhere) 28..Qg7! 29.Qxg7+ Kxg7 30.Rxe7+ Kh8 31.Rff7 (31.Rf6!?) 31..d4 and a draw is the most probable result.

The conclusion seems to be that even after the tricky move 23.Rc1!? Black can hold his own.>


<Another crucial moment. Black is understandably intent on tucking his king away, but White will still be able to create dangerous threats. The rook can't leave the back rank, but 26..Rd8!? is possible:

1) The point is 27.Be6 Bb5! After 28.Qxb5 (28.Qc3 d4 29.Qb3 Qf6 is similar) 28..Qxe6 29.Re1 Qd7 30.Bb4+ Kg8 White's compensation is insufficient.

2) Better is 27.Bb4+ Kg7 28.Bc3+ (28.Be6?! Bb5 29.Qxb5 Qxe6 30.Re1 Qc8 31.Re7+ Kg8 leaves White struggling) 28..Kh7 29.Be6, when Black can choose between:

2a) 29..Qe7 30.Re1 Rd6 31.Qa4!? b5 32.Qb4 (32.Bg8+ Kxg8 33.Rxe7 bxa4 34.Re8+ Kf7 35.Rxh8 is also roughly equal) 32..Qd8 33.Qc5 Qb6 34.Qxb6 axb6 35.Bxd5! Bxd5 36.Re7+ Bf7!? with a draw.

2b) Safer is 29..Bb5!? 30.Bxf7 (30.Qxb5 is weaker in view of 30..Qxe6) 30..Bxc6 31.Bxh8 Rxh8 32.Rc1 and again a draw is the logical result.>


<Kasparov ignores Black's rooks and attacks with his usual energy.>


<The smoke has cleared for a while. Black has beaten off the first wave of the attack, but his weak king and the opposite-coloured bishops still complicate his defensive task. Moreover, Nikolic was already very short of time.>


<Kasparov rightly points out the more prudent 33..Re6, when it is difficult for White to avoid repetion after 34.Qb8 Re8.>

Jan-09-05  acirce: continued:

<However, this mistake is much more serious, and probably decisive. The right move was 34..Re2! 35.f4 (White must also expose his king, because 35.Bg3 Qe7 leads only to further exchanges) 35..Qg6 36.Qc7+ Kg8 37.Qb8+ Kf7 38.Qxa7+ Kf8 39.Qb8+ Ke7 40.Qc7+ Ke8 41.Qc8+ Ke7 42.g4 Qe6!? 43.Qc7+ Ke8 44.Qg7 d4 and with White's rook still unable to penetrate, a draw seems a fair result.>


<This is the final inaccuracy, which loses practically by force. However, even after the considerably stronger 35..h5!? 36.Rh3 (36.Qd8 Rg8 37. Rf3 Qg7!? gives White nothing) White has managed to activate his rook and retains a strong initiative; e.g., 36..Be2 37.Re3 Bc4 (37..Bf3? 38.Rc3! Rxg2+ 39.Kf1 Be4 40.Bg3! cuts off Black's rook; 37..Rg6 38.Qd8 Rg8 39.Qh4 Rg4 40.Qh3 Bd1 41. Rc3 is also dangerous for Black) 38.f3 (38.Bf4?! Qxf4 39.Re7+ Kh8 only leads to a draw, but 38.Bc3 Re4 39.Rh3!? is a possible alternative) 38..Rg6 39.Qd8 Rg8 40.Qh4.>


<Now Kasparov has coordinated his pieces and Black is helpless against the dark-square concert. White's intention is 38.Rf3! Qe8 (38..Qxf3? 39.Qe7+) 39.Bc3, followed by an effective rook invasion with Re3-e7.>

39.Qd8 1-0

<Now Nikolic lost on time, but this is only another form of capitulation, as there is no defence to the threatened Rg3, and 39..Rxe5 40.fxe5 Qf1+ 41.Kh2 Qf4+ 42.Rg3 also doesn't help.>

Jan-09-05  Hinchliffe: <acirce> You have out done yourself sir. Ulf thank you for your spectacular contribution. It has done a great deal to highlight the many winding paths that were available and dramatically revealed Kasparov's ability to pick the right route through the maze of possibilities. Fantastic effort Ulf.
Jan-09-05  WMD: Yeah, don't quote it all. Just 95%.
Jun-01-08  whiteshark: Kasparov won a 'best game of the tournament' price for this game.

Nicolic defended very well all the time, but from move 34 onwards he had only seconds left on the clock, thus playing a tempo, finally losing on time.

Apr-24-09  falso contacto: kasparov is great. forget the computers.
he was great.
Aug-19-09  Hesam7: Reading Stohl's comments posted by <acirce> one gets the feeling that after 20...Bc8! 21.Rc1 h6:

click for larger view

White stands worse! I have a hard time evaluating the position in the diagram above but if 22.Bc3 does not work as Stohl suggests then White has to play either 22.Bxc8 or 22.Nh3 none of which are promising.

Aug-19-09  WhiteRook48: time controls drag it out
Aug-20-09  RandomVisitor: <Hesam7>From your diagram white has, in addition, the crazy line:

22.Ne4?! dxe4 (22...Bxg4 23.Qxg4 Qe6 24.Qxe6 fxe6 25.Nf6 Kf7 26.Ng4 h5 27.Nh6+ with pressure) 23.Bc3 Ne5 24.Bf3 Bf5 25.Bxe4 Rc8 26.Ba1 Rxc1 27.Qxc1 Bxe4 28.Rxe4 N7c6 29.f4! and white still has pressure.

Aug-20-09  RandomVisitor: Add this line to my above comment: if black plays 24...Bb7 (instead of 24...Bf5) there is 25.Bxe4 Bxe4 26.Rxe4 N7c6 and now:

[-0.29] d=16 27.Qa4 Qe6 28.f4

Aug-01-10  echector: 39...Rxe5
40.fxe5 Qf1+
41.Kh2 Qf4+
42.Rg3 Qf7
43.e6 Qxe6
44.Qc7+ 1-0
May-29-12  screwdriver: Another godlike performance.

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