A tribute to Bent Larsen


September 19, 2010|By Jack Peters

Position No. 6125: White to play and win. From the game Vladimir Belov-Jakov Geller, Russian Championship, Irkutsk 2010.

Solution to Position No. 6124: Black wins with 1…Bg4! 2 Nxg4 Qxh5+ 3 Bh3 (or 3 Qh3 Rxg4) Ne5!, as 4 Qg2 Nxg4 and 4 Qxf4 Qxh3+ 5 Nh2 Nd3 lead to mate.

Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen died Sept. 9 at age 75 in Buenos Aires, his home since the 1970s. Larsen was the most successful tournament player of the late 1960s, when he rose to third in the world behind Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer. Only losses to those two stars in Candidates matches kept him from playing for the world championship.

Larsen had a lively mind and strong opinions, enabling him to speak knowledgeably about many subjects in more than a half dozen languages. Among chessplayers, he stood out for his fondness for discarded openings and his disdain for draws. He popularized 1 b3, now called Larsen's Opening. Typically, he used it irregularly over a four-year period and abandoned it when opponents began to take it seriously.

Larsen visited this country frequently, taking first prize in the 1968 U.S. Open in Aspen, Colorado, and the 1974 World Open in New York. The most successful of his four appearances in California was his 71/2-11/2 performance in Lone Pine in 1978, the highest score in that tournament's history.

I had the privilege of playing him in two tournaments and a simultaneous exhibition. He was both frank and gracious, the epitome of a professional player.

International news

Alexey Shirov of Spain won the Shanghai Masters, scoring three wins and three draws against elite grandmasters. Levon Aronian of Armenia and former world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia tied for second place, each with one win, one loss and four draws. Wang Hao of China was fourth, with three losses and three draws. Kramnik defeated Aronian in a blitz playoff for second place.

Shirov and Kramnik qualify for the Grand Slam Final, a double round robin starting Oct. 9 in Bilbao, Spain. World champion Viswanathan Anand of India and top-ranked Magnus Carlsen of Norway provide the opposition in what should be the strongest event of 2010.

The 39th Chess Olympiad begins Tuesday in Khanty-Mansiysk, a small Siberian city in Russia. Teams from more than 120 countries are expected to participate in the World Chess Federation's premier team event.

Local news

Chess Palace, 12872 Valley View St. in Garden Grove, will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a party and a five-round tournament of 30-minute games on Sept. 26. See for details.

The California Youth Chess League plans a fundraising dinner on Sept. 25 in Newhall to benefit Sean's Fund. The fund, which distributes chess equipment to youngsters in hospitals, was inspired by Sean Reader, a CYCL champion who died of leukemia at age 12 in 2006. For more information, see

Games of the week

GM Bent Larsen (Denmark)-GM Tigran Petrosian (U.S.S.R.), Piatigorsky Cup, Santa Monica 1966: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 g6 The Accelerated Fianchetto, a variation of the Sicilian Defense that Larsen often used as Black. 5 Be3 Bg7 6 c4 The Maroczy Bind. Nf6 7 Nc3 Ng4 8 Qxg4 Nxd4 9 Qd1 Ne6 10 Qd2 Some prefer 10 Rc1, intending 11 b4. d6 11 Be2 Bd7 12 0-0 0-0 13 Rad1 Bc6 14 Nd5 Re8? Timid. As Black, Larsen won a game with 14…Nc5 15 f3 a5 16 Bd4?! Bxd4+ 17 Qxd4 e5! 18 Qd2 Ne6, taking command of d4. 15 f4 Nc7 More passivity. Petrosian feared 15…Nc5 16 e5 Nd7 17 Nb4. 16 f5 Na6 17 Bg4 Later Larsen claimed that 17 b4! Nb8 18 b5! was strongest. Nc5 18 fxg6 hxg6 19 Qf2 Rf8 20 e5!? Ingenious, but Black can resist. White should settle for the gain of a pawn by 20 Bxc5 dxc5 21 Qxc5. Larsen wrote that 21…Bxd5 22 Rxd5 Qb6 would draw, which is true, but 22 b4! Qb6 23 cxd5 improves. Bxe5 21 Qh4 Bxd5 22 Rxd5 One point is that 22…e6 drops material to 23 Qxd8 Rfxd8 24 Rxe5 dxe5 25 Bxc5, although 25…Rac8 should be all right for Black. Petrosian's suggestion of 22…Ne4 23 Bf3 Nf6 24 Rb5 d5 should survive too. Ne6 23 Rf3 Bf6?? This is the real mistake. Instead, 23…f5 24 Rh3 Ng7 holds. Then 25 Qh7+ Kf7 26 Rh6 fxg4 27 Qg6+ Kg8 only draws, while 25 Bf3 Kf7! 26 Rb5 Rh8 leads to a tenable endgame. 24 Qh6 Bg7 25 Qxg6! The most famous move of Larsen's career, a Queen sacrifice against the world champion. Nf4 White calculated 25…fxg6 26 Bxe6+ Kh7 27 Rh3+ Bh6 28 Bxh6 Rf5 29 Rxf5 gxf5 30 Bf7, winning. Or, if 25…Nc7, then 26 Qxg7+ mates. 26 Rxf4 fxg6 27 Be6+ Rf7 28 Rxf7 Kh8 Against 28…Be5, simplest is recovering material by 29 Rf5+ Kg7 30 Rfxe5. 29 Rg5! b5 30 Rg3, Black Resigns.

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