Kasparov - Portisch; Niksic, 1983. 


This is a game I started to analyze right after it was played. (1983.) 
(I think everyone in the whole world did as well!!)  My initial opinion of most games normally is very  accurate, but as concerns this game  ...  
 I WAS DEAD WRONG!!  (I felt that eventually an adequate defense to this sacrifice would be found. But  TWENTY YEARS  of analysis - much 
 of it assisted by very powerful chess programs - has completely failed to find a refutation to this grand game of chess!) 

I found some analysis in one of my old spiral-bound notebooks.
(A lot of it was done shortly after this game was played. I also continued to look at this game sporadically throughout the late 80's and 90's. I don't 
 claim this to be the definitive analysis of this game. If it is any good, it is mostly  because of the extreme excellence of the annotators who preceded me.) 

  Many of you have written me to ask my opinion of this game.  
(I have had close to 50 e-mails, {more or less - I have not kept an exact account}; in the last 5 years, all asking me to analyze this game, and post my analysis.)

I have tried to do my own work here, much of this analysis is completely new, and it was generated by me. (Where I did quote a line from another source, this is  clearly  indicated!!) I have not gone to extreme lengths here.  My analysis of this game, with only a small number of diagrams, now runs more than 25 pages.  I am sure I will not publish all of that here ... it is simply too lengthy.  (Too much work!) 
  (In the final analysis, I WENT FOR A GREATLY SHORTENED VERSION!!)   

This game was left out of a few books, like  GM A. Soltis's  book: "The 100 Best.
(This is regrettable, as I greatly value his opinion. He placed a high emphasis on originality.)  
But this game has appeared in so many books and magazines over the years, that there is certainly no lack of reference material as concerns this game. It has been featured and annotated an almost countless number of times. (In both books and magazines.) 

Many have stated that this game - maybe even including the sack on Black's KN2 - was worked out  in advance.  So what? Does this make this game any less brilliant? I don't think so. (Click  here  to see another game - with heavy sacrifices - that much of it may have been worked out in advance.)  Masters have been preparing lines for literally hundreds of years. Why this alone should be a qualifier {alone} for brilliance seems a little superficial to me.

For an explanation of the symbols that I use, please click  here.


This is mostly a text-based page, with only one diagram. Therefore, you will probably need a chess board.  (Re-play this game here.) 


 GM Garry Kasparov (2675) - GM Lajos Portisch (2630) 

[E12]
(Super) GM Tournament
 Niksic, YUG;  1983.
 

[A.J. Goldsby I]

***

 (The ratings would be at least 50 points higher today ... this would balance out nearly 20 years of inflation.) 

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One of the most brilliant games of chess ever played ... it almost certainly belongs in: "THE 100 BEST"  of all time!!

Many GM's have told me they were very shocked and surprised by the sacrifice that Garry plays here. 
(Some GM's have told me this is one of the most complicated and brilliant sacrifices ever played.) 

Some have suggested that this line was worked out in advance. I don't know if anyone has proven this beyond a reasonable doubt, and it really does not matter anyway. 

  (This is my extremely short version of this game.)   

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The game starts off as a relatively routine QP opening.
1.d4 Nf6;  2.c4 e6;  3.Nf3,  {Diagram?}  
This was probably played to avoid a Nimzo-Indian. (move-order)

     [ More usual is:  3.Nc3, "+/=" ]   

 

3...b6;  
Black uses the Queen's Indian Defense. This was fashioned into a respectable opening by A. Nimzovich and was all the rage in Master-level chess for at least a decade back in the period, from the late 70's into the early 90's. 

     [ By playing  3...d5{Diagram?} 
       Black transposes back into a Queen's Gambit. ]    

 

4.Nc3!?,  
This was a little unusual, but nothing out of the ordinary.  (good development)  

     [  At that time, the main line was considered to be: 
         4.g3{Diagram?}  
         which was patented by the great Rubinstein, and played 
         at the master-level for 50-75 years. 

          [See any good opening book.]  ]   

 

Now play transposes into the Petrosian System. Both sides continue to develop in pretty much a standard way. 
4...Bb7;  5.a3 d5!?; 
Black fights for the center in this particular line.  

     [ 5...Be7!? ]  

 

6.cxd5 Nxd5!?;  7.e3 Nxc3!?;  8.bxc3 Be7;  9.Bb5+!,  
This forces things, and is probably superior to the older line of Bd3.  

     [ 9.Bd3!? ]   

 

9...c6;  
This is probably positionally forced. 

     [  The move:  9...Nd7!?{Diagram?}  
         places the steed on a less active square than the game. ]

 

Both sides continue to develop from this position.  
10.Bd3 c5;  11.0-0 Nc6;  12.Bb2!? Rc8; 13.Qe2 0-0;  
14.Rad1,  {Diagram?}  
While this is the main line - and considered to be a virtual obligation at the master level, this (obviously) is not the only (reasonable) move for White in this particular position. 

     [ 14.e4!?, "+/="  or  14.Rfd1!?, "+/=" ]  

 

14...Qc7!?;  
Portisch had played this many times before ... and had done very well  with this line.  

     [  Black could play the modern main line - by transposition -  
        with the continuation of:  
        14...cxd415.cxd4 Bf616.e4 Na5; "<=>"  {Diagram?}  
        Black is thought to have good play in this line ... see any 
        good opening book on the Q.I.D.  

        [ See also MCO-14; page # 558,  
          column # 1, & also mainly note (c.). ]  ]  

 

15.c4!!  (TN)  {Diagram?}  
This is a tremendous new move and one of unbelievable importance.  It could be one of the most important theoretical novelties of the whole of the twentieth century.  

  (It completely overturns some GM analysis and nearly 20 years of master-level praxis.)  

  White has to be careful, in some lines his whole center could be decimated.   

Most annotators only give this one exclamation mark. Because of the complexity, depth, and importance of this new move, I award it two.  

     [  The older line was:  15.e4, "+/="  {Diagram?}   
         but Portisch had a very good  record from this position.  ]  

 

15...cxd4!?;   
This opens the game ... in hindsight perhaps Black should try to keep the game closed. 

(Black has decided to play against White's 'weakened' center ... many GM's who were present when  
 this game was played thought that Black stood better here!)  

     [ 15...Bd6!? ]  

 

16.exd4 Na5;  17.d5!,  
Garry - almost stereotypically - plays the most aggressive move. And he cares little if he loses a pawn. (Or two!)  

This move clearly gives White a very powerful initiative.

     [ Possibly Portisch expected Garry to play the move:  
       17.Ne5!?, "+/=  {Diagram?}  with a slight advantage. ]  

 

17...exd5;  
This is probably best.  

 (After the game, Garry said that if Black had captured on c4, he had worked out a line all the way to mate!!!) 

     [  A line that was simply too risky for the second player was: 
         </=  17...Nxc4?!18.Qe4! g619.Bxc4! Qxc420.Qe5! f6[]; 
         21.Qxe6+ Rf722.Rc1, "+/="  {Diagram?}  
         and White clearly has an advantage here.  (Maybe - '')   ]  

 

18.cxd5 Bxd5;  
Black has won a pawn, but White has a simple method of regaining it.

     [ Black should not play: 18...Bd6?!; ('?')  19.Qe4, "+/="  {Diag?}  
        White has a strong attack. ]   

 

19.Bxh7+ Kxh7;  20.Rxd5 Kg8;  {See the diagram just below.}  
The King retreat was nearly forced.  

Now some GM's thought Black was better, mainly because in the ending the second player will have a distant, passed-pawn on the Queen-side.  

*******

   The game position just after ...Kg8. White to move, what move would YOU play?  (kas-por_n83.gif,  96 KB)

*******

      [ 20...Nc4!? ]  

 

Now comes one of the most shocking moves ... ever played in Master chess. 

21.Bxg7!!   (Probably - '!!!'  ...  Maybe even - !!!!')   {Diagram?}  
White logically continues the process of tearing away the pawn cover in front of the Black King.  

The players present could almost be heard to gasp ... in unison, nearly as one person! 

GM A. Soltis calls this move astonishing and totally unexpected. (As does GM John Emms.) 

     [ Possibly Portisch expected:  21.Ne5!? "+/=" ]  

 

21...Kxg7; 
Black has no choice but to accept. 
(If he did not, White's attack would continue unabated; and the first player would not even be penalized materially for his idea.)

     [  21...Rfe8?22.Ne5!, "/\"  {Diagram?}  
         White probably has a winning attack from this position. ]  

 

22.Ne5!,  (Maybe - '!!')  
Amazingly, White does not hurry here.  

"An astounding quiet move ... for a man who has just sacrificed a piece," wrote one columnist.  

 (Most of my students want to play Nd4, with the idea of Nf5+.)  

     [ 22.Ng5; or  22.Re1;  or  22.Nd4 ]  

 

22...Rfd8;  (Maybe - '!')  
This is forced or best.
(The main idea is that Black gets the f8-square as a flight route for his King.) 

     [  All of Black's other moves lose here ...  and some do so extremely quickly:  

        Variation # B22-A.)  
        22...f523.Rd7 Qc524.Nd3, "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
        White regains a piece ... with a virulent attack.  

***

        Variation # B22-B.)  
        22...Rh8!?23.Qg4+ Kf8;  {Diagram?}  
        This is forced.  

          (23...Kh6??; 24.Nxf7+ Kh7; 25.Rh5#)    

        24.Qf5 f625.Re1,  {Diagram?}  
        with a {probably} winning attack ("+/-") from this position. 

          (25.Re1, if 25...Nc6!?;  then 26.Nd7+ Kf7; 27.Rxe7+! {D?}    
           and White wins.)    

***

        Variation # B22-C.)  
        22...Qc2?!
23.Qg4+! Kh724.Rd3, "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
        and Black has to give up the Queen in order to prevent 
        a checkmate.  (On the edge of the board.) 

***

        Variation # B22-D.)  
        22...Rcd8!?23.Nd7!, ''  (Maybe "+/-")  {Diagram?} 
        and White probably has an overwhelming attack here.  ]  

 

23.Qg4+ Kf8;  24.Qf5!,  
This is much better than any immediate attempt to try and regain the material. 

     [ 24.Nd7+!? ]   

 

24...f6;  {Box?}  
This is probably best.  

     [ </=  24...Bd6!?25.Qf6!!, "--->"  - GM G. Kasparov. ]  

 

25.Nd7+,  (Maybe - '!')  
This is also clearly the best.  

     [ 25.Ng6+!? Kf7!; "~" ]  

 

25...Rxd7;  26.Rxd7 Qc5;  27.Qh7,  {Diagram?}   
I like this, but Garry was to later claim that Qh3 is better.  
(I am not so sure. Computer analysis does not show a clear win for White.)  

     [ Possibly:  27.Qh3!? ]  

 

Many annotators give Black's next move an exclam. 
27...Rc7!;  28.Qh8+!   
This is the best and is given an exclam by Kasparov himself.  

     [  An insidious trap was:  28.Rd3!? Qxf2+!!29.Kxf2,  {D?}  
         White has no choice here.  

           (29.Rxf2?? Rc1+;  30.Rd1 Rxd1+; 31.Rf1 Bc5+;    
            32.Kh1 Rxf1#.)     

        29...Bc5+30.Kg3 Rxh7; "/+"  {Diagram?}  
        and Black has the advantage. ]   

 

28...Kf7;  29.Rd3 Nc4!?;  
Logically, for Black to have a chance at defending, this Knight must be brought back into the game. 

     [  29...Qc2? 30.Qh5+!, ("+/-")  ]  

 

30.Rfd1!,  
The doubling of the Rooks looks pointless  ...  at least upon a superficial inspection. 

 ---> But it is decisive.  (Exchanging here kills the attack.) 

     [ 30.Qh7+!? ]  

30...Ne5!?;  Probably - '?!'  (Maybe - '?')  
This is not the best defense.  

But analysis has proven that Black was lost in any case. (So it probably did not matter what move Black played.) 

 

     [  Much better was: >/=  30...Bd6!31.Rd5!? Qc6[];  
        32.h4!, "~{Diagram?}  
        when White's h-pawn may just sail down the board.

        (GM J. Nunn later improved with 31.Rh3!,  maybe "+/-".)  

***

        A bad line is:  </=  30...a5?31.Qh7+ Ke8?!;  {Diagram?}  
        Ugly ... but played to demonstrate White's main threat.  

           ( Better was:  >/=  31...Ke6;  but White plays  32.Qg8+, ("+/-")     
             and mates in less than 10 moves from this position. )      

        32.Qg8+ Bf833.Qe6+, "+/-"  {Diagram?}  
        with Rd8# mate next move.  ]  

 

White now finishes off in a quick and ruthlessly efficient manner.  
31.Qh7+ Ke6;  32.Qg8+ Kf5;  33.g4+! Kf4;  34.Rd4+ Kf3; 35.Qb3+,  Black resigns.  
(After ...Qc3; Qd5+,  and mates very shortly.)  

One of Kasparov's very best games.  

*****

  (The following excerpts come from the long version of this game.)   

One of the greatest and most spectacular games played in the 20th century. It is also certainly one of the most brilliant games ever played. It is certainly one of the more shocking and stunning King attacks of all time. And other than Black's flawed 30th move, it is almost perfectly played by BOTH parties! 

A game for the ages. As long as chess is played, it will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest brilliancies of all time. 

This game won the brilliancy prize for this event, I believe. It was also picked as the best game with a nearly perfect score by a distinguished panel of judges for that issue of the Informant. It was also picked as the game of the year by dozens of chess magazines. (Most notably '64.') It was listed in the Mammoth Book for the 100 greatest chess games ever played. 
(See the bibliography.) 

*****

This game was played at an international tournament in Niksic, Yugoslavia. It was dedicated to the 60th birthday of the great veteran player, GM Svetozar Gligoric. Kasparov - really just an unproven talent, (at that time);  - dominated this event, winning with 11 points. (TWO full points ahead of the next player!) Bent Larsen was in second, (9); and Portisch and Spassky finished tied for 3-4 places. (8 points.) 

***

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 Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby I.  Copyright (c) A.J.G;  2003 & 2004. 

 

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:
I consulted dozens and dozens of books and magazines over the years while I studied this great game, but my main sources to annotate this game (here) were the following books: 

#1.)  'Chess Brilliancy, ' 250 historic games;  by  NM Iakov Damsky
          Published by EVERYMAN Chess, formerly Cadogan Books. Translated by K. Neat. (Copyright 2002.)  Game # 78, page # 105. 

# 2.)  [The Mammoth Book Of]  "The World's Greatest Chess Games," by  Dr. (& GM) John Nunn, GM John Emms, and FM Graham Burgess
          Published by Carroll  & Graf books. Copyrighted by the authors, 1998. (Game # 76, page # 422.) 

# 3.)  "Chess Highlights of The 20th Century," ('The Best Chess 1900-1999 In  Historical Context')  by  FM Graham Burgess. (The year 1983.) 
          Published by Gambit Books, Copyright G. Burgess, 1999. 

# 4.)  Several different books by the one and only Garry Kasparov. Mainly  "The Test Of Time,"  by  GM Garry Kasparov
          Published by Pergamon Press. Copyright (c) the author, 1986. (Translated by K. Neat.)  {See also "Fighting Chess" by Kasparov.} 

# 5.)  Several issues of the  INFORMANT.  Mainly 1983. (Published in Yugoslavia.) 

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