Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bukhuti Gurgenidze 1933-2008

A few weeks ago I learned from a Chessbase article that chess legend Bukhuti Gurgenidze was dead. Although a very strong player he was more noted as an original chess thinker and a trainer for several women world champions. Below is a game he played in one of the opening lines that are named after him. Actually he didn't play it very frequently himself but his student Nona Gaprindashvili did.

Honfi - Gurgenidze, Kislovodsk 1968
1.e4 g6
Gurgenidze also played the Caro Kann version of his defence: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 g6!? 4.e5 (4.h3!? Nh6 5.Nf3 f6 was a Gaprindashvili specialty) when 4...h5 may be better than 4...Bg7. However, when he played that opening he seemed to prefer another pet variation: 3...b5!?
2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c6
This is the characteristic move of the Gurgenidze system.
4.f4 d5
In contrast to many other lines of the Modern, Black immediately claims a foothold in the centre.
5.e5 h5
! (Dia)

I met this defence in one of my first tournament games and was convinced that Black had gone mad. But only 10 moves later I was very happy to accept a draw offer; I simply could find no active plan.
6.Nf3 Nh6!

Black is breaking all the rules but he has a plan: He wants to block White's pawns on the dark squares in order to gain total dominance of the light squares.

7.Be3 Bg4 8.Be2 e6
Quite frequently Black tries to hold back this move as ...Nd7-f8-e6 can be an interesting option.
9.Qd2 Nd7 10.0–0–0 b5 11.h3 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 h4 13.Bf2

This move occurs surprisingly frequently in this system - the bishop is biting on granite and needs to change diagonal to find active opportunities. Consequently Black has been investigating move-orders where the bishop never leaves f8. I already have mentioned the Caro-Kann version. A paradoxical option is the so-called 'Accelerated Gurgenidze' 1.e4 g6 2.d4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 d5?!?. Black's idea is that while he loses a tempo on ...d6-d5 he saves two by not playing ...Bf8-g7-f8. As far as I know it's now considered close to refuted but I will have to check that more closely.
14.Ne2 Nf5
This knight is the pride of Black's position.
15.Kb1 Nb6 16.Bg4 Nc4 17.Qe1 a5 18.Bxf5 gxf5 19.Ng1 Bb4 20.Qe2 a4 21.Nf3 (Dia)

Even modern software needs some thinking time to appreciate this move. It's easier for Black than for White to bring his troops to the queenside.
22.bxc3 Qe7 23.Be3 b4
There is no way to stop Black opening the b-file against White's king.
24.Qe1 b3 25.cxb3 axb3 26.Bc1 Rxa2 27.Rd2 Qa7 0–1

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