Keith Arkell Celebrates a Sage of Strategy


‘Ulf Andersson’s style  is a remarkable blend of Stahlberg and Petrosian, with a sprinkling of Nimzowitsch thrown in for good measure. Its subtlety must appeal to the connoisseur, and his deep understanding of the game make him a Grandmaster of the highest order.’

Harry Golombek
quoted in Keene and Levy, Chess Olympiad Nice 1974 (Batsford 1975), p.126


From time to time players demonstrate their games to me and I have noticed a definite pattern: the weaker the player, the more ‘exciting’ the game. Control is lost by both sides and tactics abound.

There are, though, a few strong players, often those inclined to enjoy gambling, who remain hackers. However, I would argue that while they can provide fantastic entertainment for players of all strengths, a distortion from absolutely correct chess occurs when they impose their nature on the game, perhaps preferring to win or lose rather than draw.ulf photo 2

‘Ulf used to play King’s Gambits, throwing in the kitchen sink in wild attacking games.’

Most great strategic players started out as hackers, but they learned to use their tactical skills to control the game and stop their opponents muddying the waters, enabling themselves to carry out their long-term aims. Thus most variations occur in the strategist’s head and not on the board at all. for me, chess has evolved to its highest level when the tussle revolves around whether a player can make anything out of a fractionally better pawn structure, the equality of strengths between the players ensuring that nothing dramatic happens in the meantime.

According to chess coach Peter Griffiths, when he was younger my hero Ulf Andersson used to play King’s Gambits and such like, throwing in the kitchen sink in wild attacking games. Now as a world-class GM he has sublimated his talents to a depth of subtlety which the average player simply doesn’t understand! For this reason the type of game Ulf plays is completely ignored by chess writers. I expect most people will find the following game boring.

Right from the opening White plans to exchange his wing pawns for Black’s centre pawns. This gives White more influence in the centre and will automatically leave Black with pawns exposed to attack on the queenside. Meanwhile the white pawn formation from the h- to the d-file remains as solid as a rock.

Ulf Andersson–Ivan Radulov

Nice 1974


1 Nf3 d5 2 c4 dxc4

The first favourable exchange!

3 Na3 Nf6 4 Nxc4 e6 5 g3 b6 6 Bg2 Bb7 7 O-O Be7 8 d3 O-O 9 a3 c5 10 Bd2 Nc6 11 Rb1 b5 12 Ne3 Qb6 13 b4 Nd7 14 Bc3 Rab8 15 Qd2 Nd4 16 bxc5

The second favourable exchange.

ulf116…Nxf3+ 17 Bxf3 Nxc5 18 Be5 Rbc8 19 Bxb7 Qxb7 20 Qa5 a6 21 a4

Trying to exchange a queenside pawn to isolate Black’s remaining one.

ulf221…Nd7 22 Bd4 b4 23 Nc4 Nb8 24 Qe5 Bf6 25 Qe3 Bxd4 26 Qxd4 Nc6 27 Qb6

See next note.

ulf327…Qd7 28 Rb2 Nd4 29 Re1 Rb8 30 Qxa6 Ra8 31 Qd6

Getting rid of the queens in order to carry out the strategic plan with a little interference as possible.

ulf431…Qxd6 32 Nxd6 Rxa4 33 Kg2 Rd8 34 Rc1 Raa8 35 Nc4 Rab8 36 e3 Nf5 37 Ne5 Ne7 38 Rc7 Re8 39 Rc4 f6 40 Nd7
Rbd8 41 Nc5 Nc6 42 d4


Forced because White threatened both Na6 and Nd3.

43 Nb3 Rc8 44 d5 Ne7 45 Rxc8 Rxc8 46 e4 Rc4 47 Nd2 Rd4 48 Nb3

The repeating of moves: nothing to lose and Black might just succumb immediately with 48…Rxe4 49 d6 Nc6 50 Rc2.

ulf648…Rc4 49 f3 Kf7 50 Na5 Rd4 51 Kf2 Ke8 52 Nb7 f5

Weakens the e-pawn, but otherwise Nc5-a6 or e6 follows. It is unnerving how often the winner ends up with connected passed pawns on the e- and d-files in games like this.

ulf753 Ke3 Nc8 54 Rc2 Nb6 55 Rc6 Na4 56 Nd6+ Kd7 57 Nc4 b3 58 Nxe5+ Kd8 59 Rc1


Care must be taken when playing such a game, as if Black had been able to keith and gazzaobtain the initiative then suddenly his possession of a passed pawn could have been lethal.

It gives me tremendous pleasure each time I play through a game as smooth and logical as this, especially when I think of the mess Radulov would love to have created!


 First published in Kingpin 15 (Summer 1989)

 Buy this classic number and all available back issues here

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