The $400 Club

Yasser Seirawan


Yasser Seirawan v Anatoly Karpov

Phillips & Drew, London 1982

Queen’s Gambit

White’s first move is very important! 1 d4 allows Karpov the more active Queen’s Indian (in comparison with the Queen’s Gambit). 1 c4 allows 1…e5, as Karpov played against Ribli and Korchnoi. 1 Nf3 would not allow a pure Queen’s Indian as White can delay d2-d4. It also prevents e7-e5. The drawback is of course 1…c5! But this is not Karpov’s cup of tea. So with Viktor’s blessing and prayers…

1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4

I was now concerned with Karpov playing 2…b6. I was begging for the Queen’s Gambit.

2…e6 3 Nc3 d5

Thank you.

4 d4 Be7 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bh4 0–0 7 Rc1 b6

Damn! Now I had to recall our analysis from Merano.

8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 Nxd5 exd5 10 Bxe7 Qxe7 11 g3 Re8

$400-1So, this is Karpov’s improvement over his match games with Viktor. However, this is theory and Viktor had found a novel idea to get an edge.

12 Rc3!

The threat is to neutralise Black’s play on the e-file with Re3. Secondly, in variations with Black having played c7-c5 White will capture on c5 and then Qd1xd5. This usually allows Bc8-b7xf3. Thus the rook move defends the Nf3.


This looks artificial. 12…Bb7 was our preparation.

13 Qa4!

This completely disrupts Black’s game. In view of the intended Re3 White assumes the initiative.


Played quickly and confidently, giving me cause to believe its preparation. In reality Black hardly has choices. [When the players met again in Hamburg a few months later, Karpov played the strong pawn sacrifice 13…b5 and went on to win brilliantly -Ed.]

14 Re3 Be6 15 Qxa6 cxd4 16 Rb3

Having convinced me the line was prepared, Karpov now surprised me by thinking for 34 minutes! Black has 3 choices: 16…Qc5, Rac8, Bf5.

(1) 16…Qc5 seems dangerous for White, but all holds together: 17 Qd3 Qa5+ 18 Qd2 Qxa2 19 Nxd4 Rac8 20 f3! Qb1+ 21 Kf2 Rc1 (threat: Bh3) 22 Nxe6! Fxe6 23 Qd3 +-

(2) 16…Rac8 seems promising… 17 Nxd4 (White should avoid 17 Bg2?! Rc1+ 18 Kd2 Rc4 19 Qa3 Qc7 20 Ne1 Bd7! (threat: Ra4 – 21 Rb4 Qe5 -+) 17…Rc4 (17…Rc1+ 18 Kd2 is completely harmless) 18 Nxe6! (18 e3? Rxd4 19 exd4 Bg4+ -+) 18…fxe6 and White just emerges a piece ahead.


Probably best. But the resulting positions are technically won. Karpov, commenting on his preparation, claimed to have overlooked White’s Bg2-f3 possibilities.

17 Bg2 Bc2

$400-418 Nxd4!

White does not have to be anxious to castle. 18 0-0? Bxb3 19 axb3 Qxe2 20 Qxe2 Rxe2 21 Nxd4 Rxb2 or Rd2 leaves Black with equality.

18…Bxb3 19 Nxb3 Rac8

19…Qb4+ is nothing: 20 Kf1 Rac8 21 Bf3 and Kg2 +-

20 Bf3! Rc2?

The final mistake: misplacing the rook on b2. I had only considered 20…Qf6! 21 0-0 Qxb2 threatening Rc2. although White should be winning, it is not so simple.

21 0–0 Rxb2 22 Rd1 Rd8 23 Nd4

$400-5Very nice. The rook on b2 is completely dominated. Black’s queen must stand guard over a3, whereas the rook on b2 will be a perpetual tactical target. The rest of Black’s pieces cannot possibly prevent inroads.

23…Rd7 24 Nc6!

The foreseen piece sacrifice is immediately decisive. I spent a long time on 24 Nf5 trying to coordinate the possibility of Qa4-c8+ and Qc3 threaten mate and the rook.

24…Qe8 25 Nxa7!

Simply grabbing pawns!


The acceptance of the sacrifice shows the ‘shame’ of the rook on b2. 25…Qa8 26 Rc1! Qxa7 27 Rc8+ Kh7 28 Qd3+ g6 29 Qd4! Rb1+ 30 Kg2 f6 31 Qxf6 Rg7 32 Qf8 g5 33 Qf5+ (33 Bh5) and Qxb1!

26 a4!

Once more challenging black to accept the piece. For if not, just Nb5 and Qxb6. also playable is 26 Rxd3 Rd7 27 Qa4 Rd8 28 Rxd8 Qxd8, but then the ‘conversation’ is longer.


At last the piece sacrifice is irresistible.

27 Rxd5 Qxa7 28 Rd8+ Kh7 29 Qd3+ f5

Not 29…g6 30 Qd4 Rb1 31 Kg2…

30 Qxf5+ g6 31 Qe6!


Not falling for the trap 31 Qf6? Rg7? 32 Qf8, rather 31 Qf4 Rc1+ 32 Kg2 Qg7!

Now faced with 31…Rg7 32 Qe8 or 31…Rc1+ 32 Kg2 Qg7 33 Rd7 Karpov resigned. Not surprising, but when in the ‘aftermath’ I reflected, I have watched Karpov lose four games (two to Viktor, 2 in Mar Del Plata) but I never saw him resign. An historic moment! Pity you weren’t there.

Final note. I am now a member of the $400 club. Entry into the club is for all those who beat Karpov. A $400 cheque from Korchnoi comes very fast!

First published in Kingpin 8 (1985)

Display photograph taken from the cover of Chess Life (August 1982)

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