Thursday, June 13, 2013

An afternoon chat with Yasser - Part II

GM Yasser Seirawan at last year's U.S. Open chess championship in Vancouver, WA.

Continued from Part I...


Robert Byrne had a whole repertoire of stories. He was a Candidates player and lost his Candidates' finals match to Spassky famously. Byrne knew so many people in the game of chess. Again, he was a man of great dignity with old world manners, just a genuine fellow with no pretense.

His chess style, I want to say, was quite universal. He could lead with e4 or d4 and he played a lot of different defenses as well, some of which carry his name. His Byrne Defense to the Samisch King’s Indian is still played at the very highest level.


As I understand it, according to Estravios Grivas in a survey published in New In Chess Yearbook #92 (2009), Robert Byrne developed a flexible approach where Black plays ...c6 and ...a6 in order to prepare a push with ...b5. Black's direct counter strike in the center is postponed so that the queen side advance can proceed quickly.

White can decide to halt Black's ...b5 break by playing 7.a4 at the cost of weakening the dark squares on the queenside. After 7...a5, Black has gained control over the b4 square, and will usually win the c5 square as well. If Black wants to transpose into the Byrne while avoiding the 7.Bd3 lines, the flexible 6...a6 can be played first. This way, Black retains the option of playing ...c5 or ...c6 depending on the circumstances.


I remember 1990 New York/Lyon in the fifth world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov when Kasparov as Black led off the match by playing the Byrne Variation of the King’s Indian Defense against the Samisch. That says it all right there, right?

Karpov,A (2730) - Kasparov,G (2800) [E81]
World Championship 35th-KK5 Lyon/New York (1), August 8, 1990
Samisch Kings Indian Defense, Byrne Variation

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0–0 6.Be3 c6 7.Bd3 a6 8.Nge2 b5 9.0–0 Nbd7 10.Rc1 e5 11.a3 exd4 12.Nxd4 Bb7 13.cxb5 cxb5 14.Re1 Ne5 15.Bf1 Re8 16.Bf2 d5 17.exd5 Nxd5 18.Nxd5 Qxd5 19.a4 Bh6 20.Ra1 Nc4 21.axb5 axb5 22.Rxa8 Rxa8 23.Qb3 Bd3 Nd6 25.Qxd5 Bxd5 26.Nxb5 Nxb5 27.Bxb5 Bg7 28.b4 Bc3 29.Rd1 Bb3 30.Rb1 Ba2 ½–½

Byrne was also victimized by the famous game he lost to Bobby Fischer in the 1963/64 U.S.Championship where the assembled commentators all felt that Bobby had over reached.


I saw that Jude Acers in his recent blog called that game the “real Fischer Immortal game” in the U.S. Championship won by Fischer with a staggering 11-0. “Horowitz told me that he really had no time to realize Fischer was a knight down on the large wall demonstration chess board versus Mr.Byrne but heard Rossolimo murmer: What is happening? Fischer is losing the game."

According to Acers, “Chess historians will also remember that gentleman philosopher Mr. Byrne tumbled down the stairway to explain to the baffled crowd why he had just resigned the game…played years after his own brother contested the other Game of the Century."


It’s tough to be the victim of a brilliancy, but that game was very, very special. The attack against White’s king is like, how do you even conceive that White’s king is vulnerable. At what point does Bobby realize he can launch an attack and it’s good. What did White do that was so egregiously bad? A half tempo here and there and it was decisive.


Bobby used the tennis analogy that he was just hitting the ball over the net awaiting his opportunity. Acers quoted Fischer as follows: “I just tried to keep the game alive, trying to win with the black pieces against Byrne. It was partly analysis. I didn’t see everything and was just keeping the game alive.”

The U.S. championship that we speak of was played in New York City from December 15, 1963 to January 2, 1964. The game here was from round 3.

Byrne,R - Fischer,R [D71]
USA-ch New York (round 3), December 18, 1963

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.e3 0–0 8.Nge2 Nc6 9.0–0 b6 10.b3 Ba6 11.Ba3

“After White's 11th move I should adjudicate his position as slightly superior, and at worst completely safe. To turn this into a mating position in eleven more moves is more witchcraft than chess! Quite honestly, I do not see the man who can stop Bobby at this time.” -- K.F. Kirby, South African Chess Quarterly

11...Re8 12.Qd2


“I was a bit worried about weakening my QP, but felt that the tremendous activity obtained by my minor pieces would permit White no time to exploit it. 12...e6 would probably lead to a draw.” -- Fischer


13.Rac1 exd4 (13...Rc8 14.Rfd1 e4 15.f3!) 14.exd4 Rc8 15.f3

13...Nxe5 14.Rfd1?

14.Rad1! 14...Ne4 a)14...Rc8 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.Bxd5 Bd3 17.Bg2 Rc2 18.Qxc2+-; b)14...Nd3 15.Qc2; c)14...Qd7 15.Qc2± Rac8 16.Qb1!; d)14...Qc7 15.Qc1! Ne4!? 16.Nxd5! Qxc1 17.Nxc1 Bxf1 18.Bxe4 Ba6 19.Ne7+ Kh8 20.Bxa8 Rxa8 21.f4±; e)14...Qc8! 15.Nxd5 (e)15.Rc1 Qd7! 16.Rcd1 Rad8; e)15.Bb2 Qf5; e)15.Qc1 Ne4 16.Nxd5 Bxe2 17.Bxe4 Kh8! 18.Qxc8 Raxc8 19.Ne7 Rc7 20.Rc1 Rd7 21.Rfe1 Bf3!–+) 15...Nxd5 16.Bxd5 Rd8 17.f4 Rxd5! 18.Qxd5 Bb7! 19.Qd8+ (e)19.Qd2 Qh3! 20.Nd4 Ng4 21.Rfe1 (e)21.Nc2 h5‚) 21...Nxe3!–+) 19...Qxd8 20.Rxd8+ Rxd8 21.fxe5 Bxe5; 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Bxe4 Qxd2 17.Rxd2 Nc4 18.Bxa8 Nxd2 19.Rd1 Nc4 20.bxc4 (20.Bc6! Averbakh,Y 20...Nxa3 21.Bxe8 Bxe2 22.Rd7+-) 20...Rxa8 × c4

“This is very much a case of the wrong rook. One can understand Byrne's desire to break the pin on the e2-knight, but this turns out to be less important than other considerations.” -- John Nunn

14...Nd3! 15.Qc2

15.Nd4 Ne4 16.Nxe4 dxe4 17.Bb2 Rc8; 15.Nf4 Ne4 16.Nxe4 dxe4 (16...Bxa1? 17.Nd6) 17.Rab1 Rc8 18.Nxd3 Bc3! 19.Qe2 Bxd3 20.Qg4 f5 21.Qh3 Bxb1! 22.Rxd8 Rexd8 23.Bf1 Rd1 24.Kg2 Bd3! 25.Bxd3 exd3–+; 15.f3 Bh6 16.f4 (16.Nf4? d4!) 16...Bg7!

15...Nxf2! 16.Kxf2 Ng4+ 17.Kg1 Nxe3 18.Qd2 Nxg2!

18...Nxd1 19.Rxd1=

19.Kxg2 d4! 20.Nxd4 Bb7+ 21.Kf1

21.Kg1 Bxd4+ 22.Qxd4 Re1+! 23.Kf2 Qxd4+ 24.Rxd4 Rxa1 25.Rd7 Rc8 26.Rxb7 (26.Bb2 Rh1) 26...Rxc3 27.Rb8+ Kg7 28.Bb2 Rxa2–+; 21.Kf2 Qd7! 22.Rac1 Qh3 23.Nf3 Bh6 24.Qd3 Be3+ 25.Qxe3 Rxe3 26.Kxe3 Re8+ 27.Kf2 Qf5!–+]

21...Qd7! 0–1

White resigned because of 22.Qf2 (22.Ndb5 Qh3+ 23.Kg1 Bh6–+) 22...Qh3+ 23.Kg1 Re1+!! 24.Rxe1 Bxd4–+


It’s still a phenomenal game, just remarkable. It really is.


Getting back to tennis, I heard the rumor somewhere along the line that Byrne’s favorite tennis sparring partner was you. Did you play a lot beyond Merano?


Yes, we were at a lot of U.S. Championship events together and played a lot of tennis during world championship match events and some opens here and there. All over, in fact. Mostly, he beat me by the way! Let’s just say that he was better and I was much worse. It seemed to me that Robert took his tennis quite seriously. I’m not trying to excuse my losses, not at all. I saw it as a means of getting some really good exercise.

I remember that Robert would come and he’d have this head band, and these wrist bands as well. He had some types of things on his knees. And after these tennis matches, he took off his various bands and squeezed them as hard as he could. He would look at his droplets of sweat. If it was really a lot of good droplets of sweat, he was really happy. I also believe that he took tennis lessons, but I can’t say exactly from whom. The reality was that Robert was very good at shots. He had very good control. He could put it deep in one corner and on the very next shot deep in the other corner and I would run baseline to baseline.

To be continued...

No comments: