Memorial chess tournaments are used to honor some of the game’s greats

July 31, 2018

It’s one of the more civilized traditions of the game the memorial chess tournament that allows us to recall some of the greats we have lost and gives us an excuse to replay some of their greatest hits. Annual events are held to honor such past stars as Tal, Keres, Menchik and Capablanca.

Born in 1934, GM Lev Polugaevsky was one of the world’s best players in the 1960s and 1970s, winning or sharing the USSR national title three times, starring on Olympiad teams and regularly qualifying for the world championship candidates cycle. He made major contributions to opening theory, notably in the Sicilian, and wrote several excellent books before his untimely death in 1995 at the age of 60.

A nine-round Swiss tournament in his honor was held once again this month in the Russian city of Samara, with Russian IM Alexey Mokshanov taking first with 7 points, a half-point clear of five pursuers. One of the five at 7-2 was young Russian GM Maxim Lugovskoy, who paid his own tribute to Polugaevsky’s legendary attacking skills with a fine upset victory at the event over top-seeded Belarus GM Alexey Fedorov.

The early g-pawn push is a staple of modern opening play, as masters (helped by computers) have found that its aggressive properties often outweigh its positional ugliness. But Lugovskoy makes White work to recover his gambit pawn in this Winawer French sideline and then goes on the attack when Fedorov goes pawn-grubbing on the kingside.

Thus: 15. Kb1 0-0-0!? (after 15...0-0 16. Bg2 Nc4 17. Bxe4 Qb5 18. b3+ Nxa3+ 19. Kb2 Nc4+ 20. Kc1 Nd6 21. Bd3, both sides have chances) 17. Qxf7 Rhf8 17. Qxg7 Rxf2 18. Qxh7 Black’s kingside is eviscerated, but White’s king is badly in need of sentries. Black strikes with 18. Rxc2!! 19. Kxc2 Qa2 20. Be2 Ba4+ 21. Kd2 Qxb2+, when White has to try 22. Ke1 Bxd1 23. Qxe4 Bb3 24. Rgf1, and Black’s attack still rages though there is no knockout in sight.

White’s king tries the wrong escape route, and the consequences are drastic: 22. Ke3? Rf8! (cutting off the escape route) 23. Rgf1 (Nxe4 Nd5+ 24. Kd3 Bb5 mate; or 23. Qxe4 Nd5+ 24. Qxd5 exd5 25. Rfg1 Re8+ 26. Kf2 Bxd1 and wins) Qc3+, and White resigns in light of 24. Kxe4 (Bd3 Nc4+ 25. Ke2 Bxd1+ 26. Rxd1 Qb2+ 27. Ke1 Qf2 mate) Bc6+ 25. Ke5 Qe3+ 26. Ne4 Nd7+, and Fedorov must give up the queen to stop immediate mate.


Polugaevsky fashioned some real attacking masterpieces in his career, none more exciting than his win over Soviet master Leonid Maslov in a 1963 Soviet team event. We pick this King’s Indian Attack from the diagrammed position, where Polugaevsky as White is trying to keep his attack alive with a rook, knight and bishop all under attack.

White found 25. Rd5!!? Nxd5 26. Be6! Rxe6? (understandable to meet the brutal threat of 27. Qg8+, but the computers later found Black had a better defense in 26...Rd7! 27. Qg8+ Ke7 28. Qxg7+ Kd8 29. Bxf6+ Nxf6 30. Qxf6+ Kc8 31. Bxd7+ Qxd7 and Maslov may be able to hold) 27. Nxe6+ Ke7 28. Nd4 Qc5 (Kf7!? 29. Nxb5 Rh8 30. Qxh8 Bxh8 31. Bxc7 Bxb5 32. exd5 Bxf1 33. Kxf1) 29. Qxg7+ Ke8 30. Qxg6+ Ke7 31. Rf2!!, a brilliant way to break the pin on the knight and prepare to occupy the h-file.

There’s no good defense: 31...fxe5 32. Qe6+ Kf8 33. fxe5+, and Black resigned as it’s curtains after 33...Kg7 34. Qg4+ Kh6 35. Rh2 mate.

Fedorov-Lugovskoy, Polugaevsky Memorial, Samara, Russia, July 2018

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nge2 dxe4 5. a3 Be7 6. g4 Bd7 7. Rg1 Bc6 8. g5 Bd6 9. Bf4 Ne7 10. Qd2 Nd7 11. O-O-O Nb6 12. Ng3 Bxf4 13. Qxf4 Ned5 14. Nxd5 Qxd5 15. Kb1 O-O-O 16. Qxf7 Rhf8 17. Qxg7 Rxf2 18. Qxh7 Rxc2 19. Kxc2 Qa2 20. Be2 Ba4+ 21. Kd2 Qxb2+ 22. Ke3 Rf8 23. Rgf1 Qc3+ White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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