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Strong character! Part 2.


- Let's proceed to your chess career. How many times did you play in the finals of the USSR Championshoip?

- I participated in the USSR finals three times - in the 28th Championship in Moscow (1961), and the 36th in Alma Ata (1969), when A.Zaitsev became champion. And I also played in 1967, when the final was conducted on the Swiss system.

- And when did you become a Master?

- I fulfilled the Master norm in the annual Tournament of Young Masters. Spassky won there, Polugaevsky took the second place, and I was third. I was in decent company; I beat Lev and drew with Boris. Generally speaking, I could have already fulfilled the Master norm at Sverdlovsk in 1951. I should have won the critical game, but at the adjournment I did not write down the strongest move and the result was a draw. Afterwards E.Geller, who played in that tournament, showed me how the game could nevertheless have been won. He possessed a colossal tactical insight!

- And what was the atmosphere of those Championships?

- The 28th Final was notable in that it was a Zonal Tournament for the World Championship. Petrosian became the champion there... In that event there played many outstanding chessplayers - D.Bronstein, V.Simagin, B.Spassky, L.Stein... Incidentally, Boris Spassky should have qualified for the Interzonal. But he lost the decisive game against L.Stein, he resigned in a position which, they say, Stein did not know to win! I.Z.Bondarevsky helped him at that tournament.

- And who helped you?

- I had as my trainer A.Korelov. He helped me in the analysis of adjourned games, and in preparing for the following games. I submitted my best ending with Omsk chessplayer V.Tarasov for a prize. Korelov analysed the ending magnificently, and I consider this ending to be better than that for which V.Smyslov received a special prize. I am sure he was paid a tribute of respect as World Champion. I offer readers themselves to understand the subtleties of this ending. A.Korelov found a winning position, and I found the way to achieve it! It is necessary to create "a triple zugzwang".

A.Cherepkov - V.Tarasov C92

28-th championship, Moscow, 1961.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Be6 10.d4 Bxb3 11.axb3 Qd7 12.d5 Nd8 13.c4 c6 14.Nc3 b4 15.dxc6 Qxc6 16.Nd5 Nxd5 17.cxd5 Qb5 18.Qe2 Nb7 19.Be3 Na5 20.Nd2 Rfb8 21.Kf1 Bd8 22.Ra2 Rb7 23.Rea1 Kf8 24.Qxb5 Rxb5 25.Ke2 Ke7 26.Kd1 Kd7 27.Ra4 Rab8 28.Kc2 Rc8+ 29.Kd3 f5 30.f3 g6 31.R1a2 Bc7 32.Ra1 Bd8 33.g4 f4 34.Bf2 h6 35.h4 Bc7 36.Rc1 Ra8 37.Kc2 Rc8 38.Kb1 Ra8 39.Ka2 Rab8 40.Nc4 Ra8 41.Nxa5 Bxa5

42.Rc6 Bd8 43.Raxa6 Rxa6+ 44.Rxa6 Ra5+ 45.Rxa5 Bxa5

The only winning move, otherwise Black himself plays :h6-h5, fixing the white Pawn at h4.

46... g5 47.Kb1 Kc7 48.Kc2 Kb7 49.Kd3 Bd8 50.Kc4 Ka6 51.Be1 Bf6 52.Bxb4 Be7 53.Bc3 Bf6 54.Kb4 Be7 55.Ka4 Bd8 56.Bd2 Bb6 57.Be1 Bd8 58.Bc3!
Thus, the problem is solved, Black has the move!

58...Bb6 59.Kb4 Ba7 60.Kc4 Kb6 61.Bd2 Ka6 62.Be1 Bb8 63.Bc3 Kb6 64.Kb4!
The final part of White's plan: the Bishop gets to a5 (or b4) and Black is in Zugzwang!

64... Bc7 65.Ka4 Kc5 66.Ba5 Bb8 67.Bd8 Kd4 68.Bxg5 Ke3 69.Bxh6 Kxf3 70.g5 Kxe4 71.g6 f3 72.g7 f2 73.g8Q f1Q 74.Qxb8 1-0

- And what game do you consider to be your best ever?

- I don't know. There were quite a member of interesting games and combinations...Here, for example, I managed to carry out a beautiful combination in the Moscow v Leningrad match against Yu.Averbakh. I myself like this combination very much. I felt flattered that Tal -who happened to be present at that match in 1960 - admitted that he didn't see this combination...

A.Cherepkov - Yu. Awerbach [B77]

Moscow - Leningrad match, Moscow, 1960.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 a6 10.0-0-0 Na5 11.Bb3 Qc7 12.Bh6 Nc4 13.Qg5 b5 14.h4 b4 15.Nd5 Nxd5 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Qxd5 Nb6 18.Qg5 h6 19.Qg3 e5 20.Nf5+ Bxf5 21.exf5 a5

22.Bxf7! Qxf7 23.Rxd6 Nc4?
[23...Qxf5 24.Rxb6 Rac8 25.Qf2 Rfd8 26.h5!?]

24.Rxg6+ Kh7 25.Qg5! 1-0

The chessplayer is still pleased when he carries out a difficult defence. Of my last serious games I can single out a meeting with Grandmaster A.Beliavsky in 1982 in the Semi-final of the 50th USSR Championship in Yaroslavl. It is memorable to me not only because I conducted it cleverly. The Lvov Grandmaster himself rated it highly: "A.Karpov wouldn't even win so against me!".

- When did you begin to participate in Leningrad Championship finals?

- In 1950.

- How did it turn out that on becoming a pensioner you gained a second wind and played like in the your youth?

-It is worth recognizing that chess professionalism has gathered strength gradually. To achieve success today, one must work profoundly at training oneself, in participating in high-level competitions. And trainers, in particular children's trainers, lose practical strength rather quickly. You trainer V.M.Byvshev may serve as an example of one who performed successfully in finals of the USSR Championship - and what chessplayers did he smash! But then had he to work with children, not participating in competitions and everything was finished! Though he tried to play on occasion, he was unsuccesful. Under such conditions one no longer has any place in a serious tournament. But when I finished my trainer's work, and gained my pension, then I could be concentrate on my own chess-playing.

- Still it is surprising that you had enough will-power, health and ambition for this!

- Of course, one needs health. And then one needs to fortify one's character very much. I am considered a strong-willed man among chessplayers.

- And how would you advise others to develop their character?

- Character, first of all, is developed through the overcoming of obstacles. I remember I complained to the now late International Master Boris Vladimirov: "In my life the wind blows all the time in my face, all the time I face obstacles. When I go to work the wind necessarily blows in my face and when I return it is the same!" He roared with laughter and said "In return, you are fighting and pushing!"

- And they still say that you had often no luck.

- It was so, but one had to take risks. Reasonable risk is a basis of everything, to put any experiment to the test, it is a risk! The great purpose is great risk!

- I believe that sporting activity also did much for your longevity as a chessplayer, trainer and man.

- Yes, it is certainly so.

- And what kinds of sports do you prefer?

- I do what M.Botvinnik recommended: ski in the winter. And not just anywhere, but in the wood - a real ski track in the fresh air. In summer I go in search of mushrooms and berries, and I like tourist trips. At one time I studied Hatha-yoga. The idea is that one must absorb 'prana' rich in nitrogen, by holding one's breath. I went with boys into the wood during chess preparations and, in addition, we practiced it... Physical exercise is necessary for the chessplayer, especially today when all problems are solved at the board after several hours of struggle without adjourning. I advise our youth not to be lazy; their chess longevity depends on it! And not only chess...

- In G.Sosonko's book "I Knew Capablanca" there are given M.Botvinnik's words: "No, chess has not changed... this is a fairy tale for little children!"... What do you think of this?

- New rules have not been introduced yet, so chess has not changed. But the laws of strategy have been corrected. If it was considered earlier that one must not play in a certain way, then current practice has displayed that one may play so. In this context I would recall the great Lasker. He could direct the game skillfully in such a channel where his opponent began to make mistakes! He didn't always make the best move, but the opponent had to exploit this somehow, i.e., to play in a new fashion. And here Lasker, it appears, proved to be clearly stronger than the rest! Today perhaps the majority of players are playing in the way that Lasker did! But Capablanca made many draws because he played 'correct' chess.

- But if we say that the style of a chessplayer is a reflection of his character, well then one can suppose that he dared to bluff!

- No, this is not a bluff, it is an example of the principle that one can "swing" the position in a given direction; he thought up this! The position may still be defended, and let the opponent prove the contrary. But chess is such a game that you prove, prove and then make ONE inaccurate move and you have almost lost! Lasker's strategy was evidently based on this. One must "grasp" the point! As I told my former pupils: "Don't be afraid of choosing an opening, work at it! The main thing is to play cleanly." And I myself played risky openings...

- That is - you yourself tested "Em.Lasker's method"?

- Yes, as for example when I played thus against Gufeld in the Cheliabinsk Semi-Final of the 23rd USSR championship (1956): 1.d4 f5 2.e4!? fe 3. Nc3 Nf6. And here I played a very doubtful move - 4.g4... Well, whether doubtful or not, here I knew everything, and Gufeld, having encountered a surprise, played inaccurately. And I beat him cleanly! He was a very emotional man and after the game he was running about, shouting: "Leningraders, the swindlers, have deceived me; they have told me that you're a positional chessplayer! What sort of positional chessplayer are you?". Each great chessplayer put something of his own into chess. I think that V.Steinitz put in the most of all. Then his three successors on chess throne, and M.Botvinnik as well. The others did what they could, but this was less, of course. And if to one mentions 'bluff' in chess, M.Tal used it most of all, and strange as it may seem, B.Spassky too! I remember how he played the Closed Variation of the Sicilian Defence against Geller... Let's do justice to A.Tolush; it was he who taught him "to bluff"! His combinations were not very accurate... And M.Tal had it simply "in his blood"! This proves that "the bluff as well is a strong weapon" and one must know to bluff. But "anti-bluff" is V.Korchnoi. It was extremely risky to bluff against him:

- Thank You, Alexander Vassilievich, for your fascinating story. I'm sure that your good advice and invaluable experience will be useful to chessplayers irrespective of their qualification.

Translated by Sergeev V.V. Town of Pushkin.

We are many thanks to Mr.Douglas Griffin, chessfriend from Scotland, U.K., for help in edit of the interview.

На верхupdate 19-03-2005 

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