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Mikhail Gurevich vs Nigel Short
Manila Interzonal (1990), Manila PHI, rd 13, Jul-14
French Defense: Exchange Variation (C01)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Oct-03-07  notyetagm: <keypusher: A game that is most remarkable for the circumstances under which it was played. If I remember right, this was the last round of the interzonal, and a spot in the candidates was a stake. Not even Lasker-Capablanca, St. Petersburg 1914 had such drama (at St. Petersburg, there were still several rounds to go). A draw was good enough for Gurevich; Short had to win, with Black.>

That is exactly correct. It must have sucked to be Gurevich after this game. All he had to do in order to qualify for the Candidate Matches was draw a White game and he lost, playing the French Exchange(!).

How can you lose a French Exchange as White when you do not need to take any risks in order to win? A shocking loss.

Oct-03-07  BipolarFanatic: <notyetagm: How can you lose a French Exchange as White when you do not need to take any risks in order to win?>

Perhaps he got sloppy, and thought that playing *anything* in this line would lead to a draw.

Oct-12-07  Erdkunde: <Great job by Short to win a ending when having doubled pawns and being down a knight for bishop.> Of course, those doubled pawns allowed Black to penetrate with his Rook down the a-file, and that Knight was sufficient to end the game once it had found the strong e3-outpost. ;)
Dec-15-07  MichAdams: Dominic Lawson wrote about this game in The Inner Game, his book on Nigel Short. Apparently, a terrorist bombing occurred near the players' hotel shortly before the final round, and Gurevich played like a man who'd shat himself.
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: <notyetagm> (incidentally, I like your positive attitude), Gurevich lost precisely because he took no risks. Even the greatest players in these situations will play too "safe," play too "solidly," play too "soundly."

In his excellent book Psychology in Chess, Nikolai Krogius went into great detail in discussing these "I must win!" and "I want to draw!" games. He focused more on the "I must win!" cases and it's interesting that Short played exactly as Krogius recommends: play the same kind of game you always play, only a little bit better! This is a Short type of game; squeezing an endgame where his two remaining pieces are more active than White's, and the White Bishop is on the same color as his central pawn.

Gurevich should have played not for equality, but for the advantage, and as soon as he had a sizable one, "charitably" offered to split the point.

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: IMO <36.Bf2> would have kept the position in balance.

click for larger view

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  whiteshark: In the last two rounds Gurevich needed only a draw to qualify, but he failed. In the last but one round he lost this way: Anand vs M Gurevich, 1990
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  OhioChessFan: 26. Bd6 ends the Queen side expansion. Any time on moves 27-29 Bd6 would also have been better. What in the world was the point of Bh2/f4?
May-22-08  cannibal: <OhioChessFan>
Maybe my eyes are letting me down here, but that looks a lot like a king on d7...
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  OhioChessFan: What in the world was I looking at?! Grrrrrr.
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  OhioChessFan: Well, that explains it. 25. Re1+ <Kf7>
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  OhioChessFan: I plugged <Whiteshark> <36.Bf2> into Fritz and slid forward. I think it does hold.

-.30 at 22 plies.
36. Bf2 g5 37. Rb1 Nb5+ 38. Kd2 Rxb4 39. c3 Rb3 40. Kc2 Nd6 41. g3 hxg3 42. Bxg3 Nf5 43. Bf2 Ke6

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Sep-11-08  Abdooss: GM Keene used to comment in the Spectator: "In the last round, Mikhail Gurevich just needed a draw to qualify to the Candidates level. He chose the French Exchange (despite being a Queen Pawn player with White). Short beat him like a drum, and proceeded to face Kasparov in the World Championship. Gurevich's never recovered from this blow (to qualify to world Championship level).
Jan-25-09  WhiteRook48: piece fork... nice
Jan-27-09  frank124c: My theory is that a strongly posted Knight is worth more than a partially blocked Bishop.
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  Eggman: This famous game is not the only instance where Short won to order in the final round of an interzonal, in the process preventing another competitor from qualifying. There was also Short vs Van der Wiel, 1985 from the 1985 Biel interzonal. The win created a three-way play-off between Short, Van der Wiel, and Torre, from which Short emerged as the lone qualifier.
Oct-11-10  bishop55: Just another french exchange that lead to nothing for white.
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  whiteshark: "How different the chess world would have been if <Gurevich> had won the following game. <Short's win> guaranteed him a place in the subsequent Candidates matches, from which he emerged as the challenger to World Champion Kasparov, from which the PCA arose. And if this game had been drawn? We can only speculate."$...

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  MichaelHalliwell: It should have been easy to guess that Nigel Short would expect an opponent needing only a draw to be attracted to the French Defense Exchange Variation, where notes: "White's K pawn removes Black's QP and offers an exchange, leading to "dull equality and an early draw" (H. Golombek, The Game of Chess) To avoid ground where a capable opponent is bound to have spent substantial preparation time, the inversion of the first two French Defense moves should have been exploited.

By playing 2.f3 after 1 . . . e6, White can cut the number of games "still in play" (in the more than 600,000 data base) down to only 2,608 games. From this it is easy to see that Black's best chance is 2 . . . b5 games, where Black wins are 46.7%. This is far above the 24.8% to 34.6% range for Black wins in the six more popular choices: 2 . . . Nf6, 2 . . . d5, 2 . . . f5, 2 . . . c5, 2 . . . b6 and 2 . . . Nc6.

3.e4 is the obvious choice after 2 . . . b5, since it has only 22.2% Black victories. Whether Black chooses the well traveled 56 games route with 23.2% Black victories or the unpromising seven game route with ao 1/7 chance of winning -- he can be forced off the beaten path in trying to reverse White wins. There are only two choices for Black following 3.e4: The 56 games route is for 3 . . . a6. The seven games route is for 3 . . . Bb7.

4.a4 is a choice following 3 . . . a6. By following this pathway no-choice options for a Black victory seeker leads to choosing for Black between nineteen . . . Bb7 games (15.8% Black wins) or seven . . . Qc7 games (28.6% Black wins) -- but the latter gives White the Palac v. Poetl 2003 White win at move 8. The seven . . . Bb7 path give White the Priborsky v Subrt 2005 victory choice at move 8.

4.Nbd2 is a choice following 3 . . . Bb7. By following this pathway, no-choice options for a Black victory seeker leads to only sixteen 4 . . . a6 games, and White immediately gets to choose Hamrakula v Kadziolka 2006, a won game.


Jun-17-15  Howard: Andy Soltis said in his Chess to Enjoy column sometime in the early 1990's that this was one of the most important games of chess played within the last ten years, given that Short needed to win this game in order to qualify for the Candidates.

On top of that, Short ended up qualifying to become Kasparov's next challenger, but then the two of them agreed to hold a non-FIDE match...and the rest of the story gets murky from there. The bottom line is that if Short had only drawn this game....who knows who would have become Kasparov's challenger and whether a non-FIDE match would still have taken place.

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  offramp: There are not many certainties in life, but one is that Short will respond to both 1.e4 & 1.d4 with 1...e6.

Another is that 3.exd5, the French Abdication Variation, is total garbage and always loses.

Jun-07-18  Howard: This game is annotated in 50 Ways to Win at Chess.
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  Plaskett: Superb performance, demonstrating fabulous human qualities of patience and nerve.
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  FSR: I attended an online workshop with Nigel Short yesterday. His take on this game was that Gurevich committed a crime against chess by playing to draw as White, and the goddess Ca´ssa punished him for it. He had a similar view of Kramnik - Leko Classical World Championship Match (2004), where he said that Ca´ssa punished Leko for just trying to draw the last six games of the match.
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  Williebob: That's food for thought, <FSR>, thanks for sharing. If ever there's a goddess of chess looking down at your board, you can bet it's during a WCC cycle.
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