‘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.’
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 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
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.
Trying to exchange a queenside pawn to isolate Black’s remaining one.
See next note.
Getting rid of the queens in order to carry out the strategic plan with a little interference as possible.
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.
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.
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)
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