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Vasily Smyslov vs Jan Hein Donner
"On Donner On Blitzin'" (game of the day Dec-23-2017)
Palma de Mallorca (1967), Palma ESP, rd 4, Nov-30
Caro-Kann Defense: Karpov. Smyslov Variation (B17)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member By the way: no, this wasn't a blitz game! We just couldn't resist the pun.
Dec-21-04  isolatedpawn: Excellent Endgame play by Donner.
Dec-21-04  platonov: This is what Donner was famous for. He played endings very well... Nevertheless, he did not scored very well against soviet players.
Dec-21-04  checkpat: Chessgames: sorry I missed the pun!
Is it a bilingual joke?

Tonnerre (french) is thunder and
blitz (german)?

Dec-21-04  pim: Donner wrote about this game: "When I awake suddenly [verschrikt], I know immediately that I have to play against Smyslov, and I see it is already a quarter to four. 'Russians' are difficult for me, I cannot understand why, but I have never won from one of them yet, and Smyslov for me is the most difficult of all. (...) Everything went wrong, but not that afternoon, evening and night against Smyslov. Nine hours the battle took, the game had even to be resumed the next day, but in the end I won. It was at the beginning of the tournament. Perhaps it was the astonishment about my own powers that blew the rest of the tournament for me." (Taken from a book by E.J. Straat on Donner. My translation). In the notes it is claimed that 68. Rg3 would have led to a draw. Moreover, 67...Rb1, 68 Ra4 Rb2, 69 Kg3 a2, 70 Kf3 Kd5, 71 Ke3 Kc5, 72 Kd3 Kb5, 73 Ra8 is evaluated as a draw.
Dec-21-04  quXa: I don't get the pun...
Could someone explain ??
Premium Chessgames Member
  cu8sfan: <quXa> It's X-mas season! Donner and Blitzen are two of Santa 's reindeers (the others are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, and Rudolph). Merry Christmas!
Dec-21-04  Marvol: Blitz and Donner are the German (not Dutch, nor French) words for Lightning and Thunder, respectively.

Good to see a Dutch player win :-)!

Dec-21-04  AdrianP: 16. b4! is a very nice pseudo pawn-sacrifice. If 16...Bxb4? 17. Nc6 Qc5 18. Nxb4 Qxb4 19. Qf3 (hitting the a8 R) Rb1 20. Ba3! wins an exchange (20...Qxa3?? 20. Bh2+ and 21. Qxa3 )
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: <I don't get the pun... Could someone explain ??> For crying out loud, what poor deprived child has not heard of "The Night Before Christmas"??

<When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On Donner, on Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!">

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Is that the zone blitz by Donner? A rare game indeed when a Russian WC is beaten by a non-Russian!

Speaking of Santa's reindeer names ,How does Cupid fall in love,if not by a self-inflicted wound?

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: The original names of St. Nicholas's reindeer, which did not include Rudolph, are from the poem "The Night Before Christmas" (, ) published in 1844 in a book of poetry authored by the episcapal cleric Clement Clarke Moore.

According to, "Rudolph's story was originally written in verse by Robert L. May for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores in 1939 and published as a book to be given to children in the store at Christmas time."

"Johnny Marks, May's brother-in-law, decided to adapt May's story (about Rudolph) into a song, which through the years has been recorded by many artists (most notably by Gene Autry), and has since filtered into the popular consciousness."

An interesting bit of controversy about the poem, "The Night Before Christmas," can be found at This source argues that one of her ancestors, Major Henry Livingston, Jr., actually originated the poem long before Clement Moore claimed credit for writing it. However, since no has yet produced a version of this poem written, published or claimed by Livingston prior to Moore publishing it in his book of poetry in 1844, there is insufficient proof (at least for me) to definitively conclude that Moore plagerized. However, I do find it interesting that Moore never gave the poem a title and that he never obtained a copy right. Another more traditional perspective, asserting Moore as the author, along with some other interesting "facts" about "The Night before Christmas" can be found at

Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: Donner displays excellent defensive and endgame technique. I especially liked the defensive moves 16. Bd6! and 47...Qc4! to parry Smyslov's threats. Donner's endgame technique with 49...a5! in winning the pawn up rook ending is instructive.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <pim>
<In the notes it is claimed that 68. Rg3 would have led to a draw.> 68. Rg3 isn't possible, but maybe it's a misprint for 68. Kg3. It's an interesting and instructive moment.

It is true 68. Kg3 Rb2? only draws since White's king is one move closer in the race: 68...Rb2? 69. Ra4 a2 70. Kf3 Kd5 71. Ke3, etc.

On 68. Kg3 Rb2 69. Ra4, if Black tries to return with 69...Ra2 70. Rc4! Ra1 71. Kg2 Kd5 72. Rc3 Kd4 73. Rf3 Kc4 74. Rf4+ and White can chase Black's king away with checks from the side.

However, 68. Kg3 Ra1! still wins for Black. In this line, if White's king crosses over, Black would have ...a2 followed by the skewer trick, for example 68. Kg3 Ra1 69. Ra4 Kd5 70. Kf3 Kc5 71. Ke3 a2! 72. Kd2 Rh1 73. Rxa2 Rh2+ winning the rook. If White's king remains in place to prevent the skewer, then Black's king can cross over and support the pawn. If White's rook ever leaves the a-file to try the side checks, Black can play ...Ra1-b1-b2 and ...a2 and win as in the game. For example, 68. Kg3 Ra1 69. Ra4 Kd5 70. Kg2 Kc5 71. Ra8 Kb4 72. Rb8+ Kc3 73. Rb7 Rc1, etc. and soon wins a rook for the pawn.

This ending is known with mathematical certainty, and you may find slightly faster wins in Nalimov tablebase with strange computer moves ;-)

So, Donner's play was correct and this is an excellent ending by him!

Dec-21-04  quXa: Sorry Sneaky, I live in the Netherlands. And we do celebrate christmas, but not with Santa. We got our own version of him :P. So i don't know the names of his reindeers. :P
Dec-21-04  jeremykelly2000: How does this game end? I keep getting into a position that I can't solve. Please help.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <jeremykelly2000>:
<How does this game end? I keep getting into a position that I can't solve. Please help.> In the final position, Black is threatening to march his king to b1 to support the pawn, followed by a1(Q). White can't prevent this (74. Ra3 Rb3+ trades rooks then queens the pawn, or 74. Rc8+ Kb3 75. Rb8+ Kc2 76. Rc8+ Kb1 and White runs out of checks, or 74. Ra4+ Kb3 75. Ra8 Kc2 followed by ...Kb1).
Dec-21-04  ragnar0C: i love how black turns over the advantage with 32, and started attacking the white king. i was a sad day for moder russia!!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: Having provided access to a link by a scholar ( Dr. Foster of Vassar at ) asserting Moore stole and took credit for "The Night Before Christmas," I thought it only fair to provide a link to an authority at defending Moore's authorship.
Jul-20-17  Toribio3: Building bridge is never fun!
Dec-23-17  Cheapo by the Dozen: I'm surely missing something obvious, but why is the b-pawn poisoned at Move 16?

16 b4 Bxb4
17 Nc6 (Q moves)
18 Nxb4 Qxb4
19 a4

doesn't look so scary.

What am I mssig?

Dec-23-17  erixn: Cheapo: What about (16 b4 Bxb4 17 Nc6 Qc5 18 Nxb4 Qxb4) 19 Qf3 ...? The idea being that when B saves his R (Rb8 or Bd7), then 20 Ba3 - winning the exchange, as Qxa3 loses the Q to 21 Bh7+
Dec-23-17  JimNorCal: Getting back to reindeer names, as a child I was taught the names "Donder" and Blitzen and told they were Thunder and Lightning.

Some discussion here:

Dec-23-17  JPi: 17.c4 seems to keep the previous idea alive 17...BxN 18.QxB Qxb4 19.Bxh6! Ng4 20.Qe4 mate on h7 and xRa8. After 17...Bb7 simply 18.a3 then 19.Bb2 A better control of center should give White an edge.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: 'Twas the night before Chessmas, when all thru the house Not a creature was stirring, not even my computer mouse; Uncle Chumley was hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that he sober up there;...

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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