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Magic on the Chess Board

My game against GM Maia Chiburdanidze at the 2004 Calvia Olympiad is my all time favorite. It has been analyzed by many over the years. Enjoy the various analysis, including my own.

Susan Polgar (2565) - Maia Chiburdanidze (2500) - My own analysis

Calvia Olympiad, 2004

Maia and I first met back in the summer of 1978 in Budapest, just a few month before she became world champion, at 17. I was just 9 years old at the time, and was quite impressed at Maia's dominance it that tournament which was played in my home town.

Six years later in July 1984 for the first time I lead the Women's World Rating list. With that our professional rivalry began. There was a lot of guessing who is better the World Champion (Maia) or the world's #1 ranked player. At the time, my focus was to improve my game and to become a GM. Therefore, I have delayed entering in the women's World Championship cycle until later.

Over the years Maia and I met over the board numerous times at various events (like Olympiads, Candidates tournaments etc.), fortunately I usually had good results against her, in fact I only lost one game from all the ones we ever played.

In 1995 on my way to challenge the then reigning world champion Xie Jun, I had to pass Maia first. I succeeded, by winning 5 ½ - 1 ½ . After I won the classical world title in 1996, I have practically retired and has not played a serious tournament until the Olympiad in Calvia in 2004.The following game is from that event, and is perhaps my all-time favorite.

1.Nf3 I have prepared an interesting idea (see my 9th move) especially for this game, primarily to surprise my opponent.

1...Nf6 2.c4 As a child, I used to be an 1.e4 player, then at the age of 10, I basically switched to 1.d4. In this game I chose the English, which is opening I only rarely employed in my career.

2...e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0–0 5.a3 Bxc3 6.Qxc3 I found a good number of games of Maia's in the database with this position, so far everything was going according to my plans.

6...c5 7.b4 b6 8.Bb2 d6 A smart move to prepare e6–e5, which effectively neutralizes the battery of Bishop and Queen along the a1–h8 diagonal. If 8...Bb7 9.g4 works well.

9.g4! This new idea was the whole reason, why I chose this opening setup. This concept is certainly an exception from the rules, which is: castle early and keep your King safe. After my last move it will be clear that it would not be safe to castle to either side of the board, as both b4 and g4 has already been played.

The standard move is 9.g3 instead.

9...Bb7 Black could not play immediately 9...e5?!, as then White has 10.Nxe5! dxe5? 11.Bg2 trapping the Rook in the corner.

10.g5 Now that the Knight is attacked, it has move, and it can only move to squares that hold on to the g7 Pawn to avoid the checkmate.

10...Nh5 The best move. Also after 10...Ne8 I planned also 11.Rg1.

11.Rg1 The natural follow up of my last two moves. It was important to move my Rook out of the pin and to liberate my Knight.

11...e5! Again the best defense. At this point I started having some doubts about my game plan. But as Maia was spending considerable amount of time so far, I was hoping that eventually she will make some inaccuracies/mistakes.

12.Bh3 With this move, I pretty much completed development, except for my King being stuck in the middle and my Rooks not connected.

12...Nf4 I was a lot more worried about 12...f5!? 13.gxf6 Qxf6.

13.Bf5 The tactic with 13.Nxe5 dxe5 14.Qxe5 did not work here because of the tricky 14…Nd3+! 15.exd3 Re8 counterpunch.

The key moment of the game. Maia spent a lot of time here, but fell into my trap, due to a miscalculation.

13...g6? Maia did not miss my upcoming combination, just misevaluated the position at the end of a key variation.

13...Nc6 was the best alternative. If 13...Nd7 I was going to play 14.Rg4 threatening 15.Rxf4.

14.Nxe5!! At first it seems like a typical combination the open up the long diagonal. However, it is much trickier than it looks.

14...Nxe2 This is what Maia was hoping for, she made this response rather quickly. Some other interesting variations were:

14...gxf5 15.Nc6 and White is winning.

14...dxe5 15.Qxe5 f6 (if 15...Ng2+ 16.Rxg2) 16.Qxf4 gxf5 17.gxf6+ Kf7 (17...Kh8 18.f7+) 18.Rg7+ Ke8 19.Qe5.

14...Re8 15.Nxf7 and Black is lost.

14...Qe8 When I first noticed this defensive idea, I almost gave up on the Knight sacrifice altogether, as I could not move my Knight from e5 due to the checkmate on e2. Luckily I found an elegant counter blow with 15.Be4!!. and after15...Bxe4 16.Ng4! is most accurate and if 16...Nd3+ 17.Qxd3! Bxd3 18.Nh6 checkmate.

Actually, the relatively best defense was 14...Qe7! and after 15.Be4!! dxe5 (If 15...Bxe4 White wins after 16.Nc6! Nd3+ 17.Kf1!) 16.Bxb7 Nxe2! (After 16...Qxb7 17.Qxe5 f6 18.Qxf4+ White has a winning advantage.) 17.Kxe2 Qxb7 18.Qxe5 f6 19.Qe6+ Rf7 20.gxf6. White is two Pawns up, but Black still has some hope to save the game.

The idea behind Black's "counter-sacrifice" (with 14…Nxe2) is, that if now 15.Kxe2 dxe5 and I could not take 16.Qxe5?? due to the pin with 16...Re8.

15.Nxf7!! Not enough that my Queen, Rook and Bishop was already hanging, this move just puts the Knight also under attack.

15...Nxc3 If 15...Kxf7 White wins quickly with 16.Qg7+ Ke8 17.Bf6 Rf7 18.Qg8+ Rf8 19.Qe6+.

16.Nh6+! The key point of the entire combination!

But not 16.Nxd8?? Rxd8 17.Be6+ Kf8 18.Bxc3 Re8 and Black wins!

16...Kg7 17.Bxc3+ Rf6 18.Bxf6+ Qxf6 19.gxf6+ Kxh6 My opponent calculated this far, only thinking that her Rook is still on the board on f8 and that she is up a piece.

Here White has a clearly winning position (being up an exchange and a Pawn). Unfortunately, I forgot the famous advice: when you see a good move, look for a better one!

Instead I played the natural 20.Be6 and missing the appropriate finish to this otherwise elegant game

I was short on time so I was not able to spot the best move 20.Rb1! and Black helpless against the Rook swinging over to h3 via the third rank. 20...gxf5 (20...Bf3 21.Rb3 Bh5 22.Be4) 21.Rb3 and checkmating with Rh3 next.

20...Nc6 21.Bd5 Rf8 22.f7 Nd8 23.Bxb7 Nxb7 24.Rg3 Rxf7 25.Re3 Nd8 26.b5 Rf4 27.d3 d5 28.Re7 dxc4 29.dxc4 Nf7 If 29...Rxc4? White can force the exchange of Rooks with 30.Rd1 Rd4 31.Rxd4 cxd4 32.Rxa7 with an easy win.

30.Rd1 Ng5 31.Rxa7 Rxc4 32.Ra6 Rc2 33.Rxb6 c4 34.a4 Ra2 35.Ra6 Nf3+ 36.Kf1 Nd2+ If 36...Nxh2+ 37.Kg2 Ng4 38.Rd4.

37.Rxd2! Of course moving the King out of the check to the g file is fine two, but this simplifying combination seemed simpler to me.

37...Rxd2 38.Rc6 Rc2 39.b6 and Black resigned as the connected passed Pawns on the a and b files are unstoppable. 1–0


CHESS By Lubomir Kavalek Monday, November 1, 2004; Page C09

Magic on the Diagonals

The top U.S. women's player, Susan Polgar, performed brilliantly in Calvia, scoring 10 1/2 points in 14 games. Her most exciting victory came against Maia Chiburdanidze of Georgia, an English Opening duel between two former women's world champions. A careless pawn move allowed Polgar to cast a magical spell along the long diagonal a1-h8 with spectacular sacrifices.

Polgar - Chiburdanidze

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3 6.Qxc3 c5 7.b4 b6 8.Bb2 d6 9.g4!? Bb7 10.g5 Nh5 11.Rg1 e5 12.Bh3 Nf4 13.Bf5!? (Provoking the next mistake.) 13 . . . g6? (Fatally weakening the long diagonal. The queen on c3 supported by the bishop on b2 can now "look" as far as the square h8. After the correct 13 . . . Nc6!? black had a good game.)

14.Nxe5! (The knight sacrifice, opening the long diagonal, had to be calculated accurately. Obviously, after 14 . . . dxe5 15.Qxe5 f6 16.Qxf4 wins. But after 14 . . . Qe7!? Polgar had to see the astonishing interference 15.Be4!!, for example 15 . . . Bxe4 16.Nc6! Nd3+ 17.Kf1! winning.) 14 . . . Nxe2!? (Black placed all her hopes on this move with the idea 15.Kxe2? dxe5 16.Qxe5?? Re8 and black wins.) 15.Nxf7!! (A stunning follow-up, catching the black king in a mating net.) 15 . . . Nxc3 (Forced. After 15 . . . Kxf7 [On 15 . . . Rxf7 16.Qh8 mates.] 16.Qg7+ Ke8 17.Bf6! wins.) 16.Nh6+ Kg7 17.Bxc3+ Rf6 18.Bxf6+ Qxf6 19.gxf6+ Kxh6 20.Be6?! (Winning slowly and surely. Interestingly, Polgar, drilled in mating finales in her youth, missed 20.Rb1! [or 20.Rc1], for example 20 . . . Nc6 21.Rb3 and the rook goes to mate on h3; or 20 . . . Bf3 21.Rb3 Bh5 22.Be4 and white wins.) 20 . . . Nc6 21.Bd5 Rf8 22.f7 Nd8 23.Bxb7 Nxb7 24.Rg3 Rxf7 25.Re3 (The rook made it to the open file.) 25 . . . Nd8 26.b5! Rf4 27.d3 d5 28.Re7! dxc4 29.dxc4 Nf7 (After 29 . . . Rxc4 30.Rd1 Rd4 31.Rxd4 cxd4 32.Rxa7 the b6-pawn falls soon.) 30.Rd1 Ng5 31.Rxa7 Rxc4 32.Ra6 Rc2 33.Rxb6 c4 34.a4 Ra2 35.Ra6 Nf3+ 36.Kf1 Nd2+ 37.Rxd2! (Simplifying into a clearly won rook endgame.) 37 . . . Rxd2 38.Rc6 Rc2 39.b6 Black resigns.


Polgar back on top form By Malcolm Pein 08 Nov 2004

Polgar back on top form

Zsuzsa now Susan Polgar, the former world champion returned to active play at the Chess Olympiad after a long break during which she started a family. Polgar led the US Women's team to a silver medal, the first medal of any kind to be won by an American team at a Chess Olympiad. Her reappearance coincides with the temporary retirement of Judit, the youngest and strongest of the three chess-playing sisters, who has recently given birth to her first child.

The USA defeated China who won team gold in their individual match and further upset the form book by finishing ahead of Russia who were lead by European champion Alexandra Kosteniuk.

The US team captain and manager Paul Truong secured sponsorship for the team.

The tournament was a triumphant return for Polgar who made a great score of 10.5/14 on board one and was undefeated. She won the silver medal for her performance on the top board. Like in her previous three Olympiads when she represented her native Hungary, Polgar played all the games and she has an unrivalled record of 56 games at Olympiads undefeated. Polgar won two more medals, a gold medal for most points scored and another gold for the best overall performance in the Women's Olympiad.


Women in Chess: A Few Tales By GM Lubomir Kavalek - July 06, 2012

Women in Chess: A Few Tales


Champions come and go and we wish them well. But before they say the final goodbye, we demand another masterpiece. At the 2004 olympiad in Calvia, Spain, Zsuzsa Polgar and Maya Chiburdanidze obliged. Their tactical skills did not diminish with age and they gave us a memorable performance. And again, the square f7 played a major role in Zsuzsa’s combination.

Polgar, Zsuzsa - Chiburdanidze, Maia
36th Olympiad w Calvia ESP (6), 20.10.2004

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3 6.Qxc3 c5 7.b4 b6 8.Bb2 d6 9.g4!
(A vintage Polgar! Where others look to increase a small positional advantage, the Polgar sisters go after the king.)

9...Bb7 10.g5 Nh5 11.Rg1 e5 12.Bh3 Nf4 13.Bf5

(Provoking the next mistake.)

(The weakening of the long diagonal allows a beautiful combination. The queen on c3, supported by the bishop on b2, can now “see” as far as the square h8. Developing the knight 13...Nc6 gives black a good game.)

14.Nxe5! Nxe2

(A good idea, but the wrong move-order. Black should have played: 14...Qe7 15.Be4 dxe5 (15...Bxe4 16.Nc6 Nd3+ 17.Kf1+-) 16.Bxb7 and only now 16...Nxe2! 17.Kxe2 Qxb7 18.Qxe5 f6 19.Qe6+ Rf7 20.gxf6 and although white is clearly better, black can still fight.;
After 14...dxe5? 15.Qxe5 f6 16.Qxf4 wins.)


(Creating mating threats. Wrong would be 15.Kxe2 dxe5 16.Qxe5? Re8.)


(After 15...Kxf7 16.Qg7+ Ke8 17.Bf6 white wins; and on 15...Rxf7 16.Qh8 mates.)

16.Nh6+ Kg7 17.Bxc3+ Rf6 18.Bxf6+ Qxf6 19.gxf6+ Kxh6 20.Be6?!

(This wins slowly. Interestingly, Polgar who was drilled in mating finales, missed to swing her rook from a1 to h3, for example: 20.Rb1! gxf5 [20...Bf3 21.Rb3 Bh5 22.Be4 wins; 20...Nc6 21.Rb3 and the rook goes to mate on h3; 20...Nd7 21.Bxd7 wins.] 21.Rb3 and black gets mated.)

20...Nc6 21.Bd5 (The pin.) 21...Rf8 22.f7 Nd8 23.Bxb7 Nxb7 24.Rg3 Rxf7 25.Re3 (The rook made it to the open file.) 25...Nd8 26.b5 (Taking away the square c6.) 26...Rf4 27.d3 d5 28.Re7! (The rook on the 7th rank limits the knight.) 28...dxc4 29.dxc4 Nf7 (After 29...Rxc4 30.Rd1 Rd4 31.Rxd4 cxd4 32.Rxa7 the b6-pawn falls shortly.) 30.Rd1 Ng5 31.Rxa7 Rxc4 32.Ra6 Rc2 33.Rxb6 c4 34.a4 Ra2 35.Ra6 Nf3+ 36.Kf1 Nd2+ 37.Rxd2!(Simplifying into a clearly won rook endgame.) 37...Rxd2 38.Rc6 Rc2 39.b6 Black resigned.