40 Years of Spectacular Chess

Lubomir Kavalek
International Chess Grandmaster
Posted: 01/06/2015 3:49 pm EST
Updated: 01/06/2015 3:59 pm EST

In 1975, the organizers of the traditional chess tournament in the Dutch coastal town of Wijk aan Zee inaugurated a prize for the most spectacular game. They expected breathtaking encounters, griping contests, and some glamour and charm.

Throughout the four decades many grandmasters were rewarded for their thrilling play, including some world champions. Magnus Carlsen won it in 2004 at the age of 13 and was called the Mozart of Chess in the Washington Post. Garry Kasparov created an incredible masterpiece against Veselin Topalov in 1999, perhaps the most brilliant game he has ever played. Vishy Anand’s amazing attacking symphony against Levon Aronian in 2013 brought memories of the legendary Akiba Rubinstein.

Forty years ago, the Leo van Kuijk prize for the most spectacular game was given to me by his son (right on the photo). I earned it for a positional queen sacrifice for a mere bishop against Lajos Portisch. It was a fascinating draw and the Hungarian grandmaster thought we should split the prize. “You got my queen,” I told him,”I get the prize. Mind over matter.” Portisch didn’t come up short. He won the 1975 Wijk aan Zee tournament.

The game was analyzed by strong grandmasters such as Jan Timman, Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Ulf Andersson, Jonathan Speelman, Ludek Pachman and many others. I analyzed it on 15 pages in the tournament book, but it is presented here in much shorter version. It also appeared in Andrew Soltis’ ” The 100 Best Chess Games of the 20th Century, Ranked.” The computers more or less confirmed our findings.

The play of six acts begins with the Saemisch variation of the King’s Indian defense – Portisch’s favorite line.

Portisch,Lajos – Kavalek,Lubomir
Wijk aan Zee 1975

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 c6 6.Be3 a6 7.Bd3 b5

The Accelerated Robert Byrne variation. The b7-b5 strike is usually played after Black castles.


Boris Spassky’s advance allows White to grab space. He made this novelty during our game in San Juan in 1969.


An improvement to 8…dxe5? 9.dxe5 (White now has the square d4 for his knight) 9…Ng8 10.f4 Nh6 11.Nf3 Bf5 12.Be2! Qxd1+ 13.Rxd1 f6 14.Nd4! and White has a clear advantage. Spassky beat me in 27 moves.

9.f4 0-0 10.Nf3 Nb6?! 11.b3!

Restricting the black pieces.


The black knights are entangled and Portisch strikes immediately.


Threatening to win the knight with 13.a5. After 12.c5 b4! Black is fine.

12…bxc4 13.bxc4

Act One: Against the wall

“The safer 13…a5 would cut Black’s risks considerably, compared with the game, but white would still be better after 14.c5. The natural continuation 13…Bb7 14.a5 Nc8 would leave black minor pieces in a mess,” wrote Andrew Soltis.


The incredible journey begins with a knight sacrifice. Black lights up the fire with the central undermining, ignoring the material loss.

Full article here.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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