|How Wojo Won: Part VI, the King's Indian Defense|
|By Jonathan Hilton|
|April 30, 2008|
First off, I would like to announce that at the suggestion of IM John Donaldson, I am starting a campaign to preserve Wojo’s remaining undocumented games, particularly those played in Swiss tournaments here in the United States. Wojo won the Grand Prix many times, and I feel that his games—even against much weaker players—from the tournaments that helped him win this prize are an important part of his legacy. |
If you have games you played against GM Alexander Wojtkiewicz that are not documented in any of the major databases, or if you have analysis, anecdotes, and biographical information to share, please write me an email at [email protected] Once school is out for the year, I will be maintaining a website, http://TheWojoProject.googlepages.com , dedicated to sharing readers’ memories of Wojo. During the summer, I will also be beginning work on my first chess book, which is currently titled “Winning the Wojo Way”. The first volume will cover Wojo’s games with the White pieces and will include a complete Wojo repertoire for positional players. I hope to make the book available by late fall of this year. Thanks again to all the readers who have encouraged me to continue writing about the great chess legend. I started almost 1.5 years ago, in December 2006. I began with a three part series on Wojo's White Openings. Review Part I , Part II and Part III.
In the fourth and fifth nstallment of the series,we examined Wojtkiewicz’s Sicilian Dragon repertoire against 1. e4. In this sixth and final installment of the series, we will see how Wojo played the King’s Indian Defense against 1. d4 with a very similar spirit.
In the first games in my database played by Wojtkiewicz, back in the early 80’s, he was a devout Benoni player—an opening he surely picked up from his mentor, former World Champion Mikhail Tal. After a few years, however, Wojo began experimenting with other defenses—the Nimzo Indian, the Queen’s Indian, and even the Benko Gambit. In the early 1990s, he started playing the King’s Indian Defense—and for many years, he stuck with it.
The King’s Indian Defense provided Wojtkiewicz with a weapon similar in many stylistic aspects to his favorite Sicilian. If he wanted to surprise an opponent, he didn’t have to prepare an entirely new opening; he could prepare many surprises within the King’s Indian itself, throwing even a prepared opponent off balance. One of Wojtkiewicz’s favorite offbeat lines was a bizarre deviation as early as move five! In the following game, Wojo’s opponent succumbs quickly to Wojo’s creative maneuvering.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 0–0 5.Nf3 c6!?
This move is one of the most peculiar sidelines in the King's Indian. Black abandons one traditional pawn break, ...c5, in exchange for the possibility of playing ...d5. Black may also choose to transpose into normal lines by playing ...d6 and ...e5 later on. One must immediately ask, however, what if White advances in the center?
The most direct idea, but not necessarily the best one. 6.e5 leads to positions in which White will have extra space in the center, but will be forced to repeatedly defend it. Over the years 6.Bd3! has been established as the main line. 6.Bd3 deprives Black's knight of the e4 square and makes it unappealing for Black to play his planned 6....d5, for instance, 7. e5 Nfd7 8. cxd5 cxd5 9. h4! led to a very strong attack for White in Khalifman-Rodgers, Gronigen 1990. Thus Black should meet 6.Bd3 with 6...d6, when 7.h3! e5 8.0–0 is probably White's best try for an advantage. On the "normal" 6. Be2, 6...d5 7. e5 Ne4 8. 0–0 Nxc3 9. bxc3 has held up well for Black. Peter Svidler's 9...b6!?, with the idea of playing ...Ba6, trading light-squared bishops, is interesting here, as in Topalov-Svilder, Prague 2002.
What can we say about this position? Black has made six moves, and he has no pieces past the second rank, and no pawns past the third rank. However, his pieces are actually well-placed: he has castled and is ready to break in the center with ...d6. White, for his part, finds meeting the ...d6 break somewhat problematic. If he recaptures on e5 with a piece, his d4 pawn could become weak. The move ...c6 helps to hold the d-pawn back. If White captures on d6 himself, he will bring Black's e8 knight back into the game; from d6, it could then go to f5, again attacking d4. So what should White do? The answer is that he should strive to recapture on e5 with his d-pawn. Thus the move 7.Bf4, as played by GM Sergei Shipov against Wojo in 2001, is probably White's best. Although the newly-created e5 pawn is a target for Black, Shipov was able to hold onto it and gain a slight space advantage in the endgame: 7.Bf4 d6 8.h3 Nd7 9.Be2 dxe5 10.dxe5 Qa5 11.Qa4 Qxa4 12.Nxa4 Nc7 13.Rd1 Ne6 14.Bg3 Ndc5 15.Nxc5 Nxc5 16.Bf4 Bf5 17.Nd4 Ne6 18.Nxe6 Bxe6 was tenable for Black in Shipov-Wojtkiewicz, Dubai rapid game 2001, which was drawn.
7...d6 8.0–0 dxe5 9.Nxe5
White should still consider taking back with the d-pawn. Black would then place his knights on d7 and e6, respectively, in order form a very peculiar blockade of White's center. Play might continue 9.dxe5 Nc7 10.Bf4 Ne6 11.Bg3 Nd7, when although Black's light-squared bishop is momentarily suffocating, his other pieces are effective.
The knight heads to f5. White must now concern himself with how to save his d4 pawn.
Black now has three pieces trained on White's d4 pawn.
Too loose! White's pieces are congested and hanging. He should have retreated with 11.Nf3, guarding his center. Black would probably have responded with 11...c5 in this case as well, followed by capturing the dark-square bishop.
White now faces serious problems. His knight on e5 is hanging, and he cannot simply retreat to f3 because he does not have enough pieces defending d4.
Winning a piece by deflecting White's bishop from the defense of the e5 knight. Black could have taken on d4 with a clear advantage, but this is much stronger.
If 13.Bg3, Black simply takes the bishop, removing it from the defense of e5, and then takes with the pawn on d4.
A courageous try that falls short:
Note how Black manages to attack White while defending against White's threats.
15.Bd3 fxg5 16.Qxg5 Nc6 17.f4 e6 18.Bxf5 Qxg5 19.fxg5 exd5 20.Nxc6 bxc6 21.Bxc8 Raxc8 22.Rac1 d3 23.Rfd1 Bxb2 0–1
A neat miniature by Wojo. It is hard to imagine that Black won a tactical battle, considering he had only one piece past the second rank by move six, but such is the power of the Indian bishop.
Wojo didn’t always play this sneaky sideline with 5…c6, however. In fact, he was frequently spotted playing the mainlines. He brought his own style and interpretation to these positions, generally choosing to open the board quickly rather than seeking to play the traditional King’s Indian structures with locked pawn chains. He loved to use his bishops to sweep across the board, and he was not afraid to sacrifice copious amounts of material to generate an initiative. Against weaker players, he would win decisively, but against players of equal caliber he would have dramatic and skillful duels. Here is a typical Wojo slugfest, ending in a draw.
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 0–0 5.e4 d6 6.Be2 e5 7.0–0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nd2 a5 10.a3 Nd7 11.Rb1 f5 12.b4 Kh8
The well-established mainline and a multi-purpose move. It frees up the g8 square for a knight or rook, and gets the Black king off the a2-g8 diagonal, which may open down the road as White begins his queenside play with c4-c5.
It is more common to play 13...Ng8, putting a knight on f6 but leaving the knight on d7 for defensive purposes on the queenside. After 14.f3 Ngf6 15.Bd3!? f4, Black has started his kingside attack. However, Wojo has a more radical idea in mind.
Generating immediate piece play!
Wojo prepares to bring his other knight in to f6, and opens the way for the queen to come to g5.
16.c5 axb4 17.axb4 Ngf6 18.Nc4 fxe4!?
This move is somewhat atypical in the King's Indian. Normally, Black tries to play for ...f7-f5-f4. Here, however, Black must be consistent with his idea of maneuvering his knight to h5—he plans to open the kingside as quickly and as forcefully as possible.
19.fxe4 Bh3 20.Re1 Ng4
Watch the pieces swarm around the White king! The danger for Black is that if his attack peters out quickly, White will benefit from his space advantage. Although he has open lines, Black does not have a structural space advantage on the kingside to combat White's central play.
White begins trading off Black's attackers.
Black's attack seems to be fading fast. His bishop on g7 is inactive, and his knight on h5 seems to have no entry squares. So Wojo throws more pieces into the fire with an incredible sacrifice.
Suddenly the position has changed. If White takes the knight, Black's Indian bishop will once again breathe fire, and all of his pieces will have meaningful functions. Regardless, the aggressive knight should probably be removed...
Flustered, White declines the sacrifice and attempts to defend. 23.gxf4 exf4 24.Bf2 is probably White’s best, as 24…Qg5 can be met by the defensive resource 25.h4! Here after 25...Qh5 (25...Bd1+? 26.hxg5 Bxc2 looks scary, but is easily met by 27.Rbc1 Bxc3 28.Rxc2 Bxe1 29.Bxe1 with a huge advantage for White.) 26.Qd3! would help White to hold on to the weak light squares on the kingside, for instance, 26...Bf3 27.Kh2 (necessary in view of the threat of ...Qg4+) 27...Bf6 28.Nd2! Bg4 29.Kg1 and White seems to hold the fort. White would now be up a piece for a pawn. Black would not be done in yet, however, as all of his pieces are on good squares and the position is open. He could continue his attack by bringing a rook to a3 or by capturing on h4, garnering a second pawn for his piece.
Wojo continues his attack! Alternatively, 23...Nh3+ 24.Kg2 is slightly uncomfortable for Black because his idea of 24...Ng5, taking the light squares around White's king, would drop the d6 pawn: 25.Bxg5 Qxg5 26.cxd6 cxd6 and here either 27.Nxd6 right away or 27.h3 first. In both cases, Black's two bishops and active queen might give him some counterplay, so the position remains unclear.
The defensive idea from before.
The knight must certainly be captured—there is no getting around it this time.
26.Bxf4 Bh3 or 26...Bf3 27.Bg3 Bd4+ would force White to give back some material, with a murky position.
White's rook on f4 is now stranded. White finds a miraculous idea to extricate himself, however:
Dropping the c3 knight but gaining a draw! Although Fritz apparently finds something wrong with this idea, it is still a spectacular move.
Part of White's idea. Now Black is the one suffering from loose pieces!
28...g5!! is a move I might not have found myself but is pointed out by Fritz almost instantly. Black forces White to exchange on f8, bringing all of Black's pieces directly into bearing over White's king. This is a difficult move to find, however, and Black's move in the game is a logical continuation.
29.Qxf4 Be2 30.e5!!
The point of the variation White began with 27. Qh2. White now gets a perpetual check, saving himself from the wrath of Black's bishops.
30...Bxf1 31.Qf6+ ½–½
Game drawn. Black cannot escape the checks of White's queen! This is one of the richest games I have seem in a long time, and demonstrates the way Wojo liked to play the King’s Indian.
Were all of Wojo’s games with the King’s Indian Defense swashbuckling, attacking games? Not surprisingly, the answer is no. Many of Wojo’s wins were won in the style of his White games. By weaving his pieces into a simple tapestry of harmony, he could defeat even the world’s greatest players. In the following rapid-game win over current World Championship Challenger Gata Kamsky, Wojo’s Black opening essentially mirrors a positional opening for White played by both myself and IM John Donaldson: 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 c6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Bf5 5.cxd5!? cxd5 6.Qb3 Qb6 7.Nc3!?, when after 7…Qxb3 8.axb3 e6 9.d3, White strives to play Bc1-e3, Nf3-d4, and eventually e2-e4, with an initiative. Wojo manages to win in this line a “tempo down”!
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bf4 c5 4.c3 cxd4 5.cxd4 Qb6 6.Nc3 Bg7
After the greedy 6...Qxb2?! 7.Bd2 Qb6 8.e4 is one way White could get compensation for the pawn.
By allowing White to exchange queens, Wojo opens the a-file for his rook. His doubled b-pawns will be difficult to attack; ironically, it is White who suffers from weak pawns in this game.
White does not delay the exchange. Otherwise, Black would most likely force White to exchange queens further down the road by way of ...Be6, possibly after ...Nc6 and castling.
8...axb6 9.e3 Nc6 10.Bb5 0–0 11.h3 Be6
Note how, despite the doubled pawns, all of Black's pieces are working in harmony. White is suddenly very uncomfortable because he has no clear targets. Black has a target in a2 and in the weak light squares on the queenside; he also has the thematic plan of playing ...Nd5 and ...e7-e5, gaining the initiative.
Kamsky mysteriously goes down a pawn. 12.Ke2 right away would allow 12...Nd5!, when 13.Nxd5 Bxd5 14.a3 e5 gives Black some initiative. White's king is very uncomfortable in the center in these kinds of positions, so perhaps White's best is to castle. 12.0–0, and if here the thematic 12...Nd5 (12...Nb4!? 13.a3 Nbd5 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 15.Bg3 Bf5 is probably a better try for Black) 13.Nxd5 Bxd5 14.a3 e5, White can equalize by simply trading pieces. 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.Bxc6! bxc6 17.Bxe5 Bxf3! (Note that had the White king been on e2, this move would have come with check.) 18.Bxg7 Bxg2 19.Bxf8 Bxf1 20.Kxf1 Kxf8 is equal.
12...Nb4! 13.Ke2 Nxa2 14.Nxa2 Bxa2
While Black's extra b-pawn may not seem like much, Wojo now begins the process of exploiting his small advantage by marching this extra pawn down the board. First he retreats the bishop to c6 to drive away the blockader on b5.
15.Nd2 Bd5 16.Rxa8 Rxa8 17.f3 Bc6 18.Bc4 h6 19.Bh4 b5 20.Bb3
Now that Wojo has succeeded in advancing his extra pawn, he turns his attention to utilizing the light squares. The d5, c4, a2, and a4 squares suddenly become outposts for Black's harmonious pieces.
Taking the light squares. Black prepares to set up a powerful pawn chain, which, although it restricts Black's c6 bishop, is very powerful.
21.Bg3 d5 22.Be5 Nd7 23.Bxg7 Kxg7 24.Bc2 Ra2 25.Bb3!
A clever move by the resourceful Kamsky. If Black is greedy and takes on b2, he finds his rook trapped!
25...Ra8 26.Bc2 Nb6 27.b3 b4!
Now that Black has taken the light squares on the queenside, he seeks to take the dark squares, too. This move also will allow Black's c6 bishop to breathe freely again.
The knight is headed for the juicy c3 square.
White decides he must act now to generate counterplay, and although his next move does further weaken his position, it gains him valuable activity. White’s play is resourceful and creates a great deal of chaos.
30.e4! dxe4 31.Bxe4 Nb5 32.Rc4! Nc3+ 33.Ke3 Bb5!?
The players were probably in serious time pressure about now. Black realizes he must return one of his b-pawns. After the text move Black retains an advantage due to White's weak pawns on b3, d4, and g2, but another idea was for Black to sacrifice the pawn back with 33...f5! 34.Bxc6 bxc6 35.Rxc6 Nd5+ 36.Kd3 (36.Kf2 Ra2, with an overpowering position.) 36...Nf4+ 37.Kc4 Ra2, with a strong initiative.
Note that White's rook is "trapped" on b4, similar to the trick White tried on move 25! However, White finds it not too difficult to extricate himself.
White’s best shot was to use his activity forceful with 35.Bxb7!?. Then, 37…f5!?, threatening ...f4, is tricky. In time pressure, White might have trouble finding 36.Nc4 Rxg2 37.Kd3, which seems to give him chances.
The tempting 35...Re2+ 36.Kf4 g5+, hoping for 37. Kg3 Nxe4+ 38. fxe4 Bc6, would be met by 37.Ke5!
Black consolidates. White is soon left with weak pawns on b3, d4, and g2.
37.Bxc6 bxc6 38.Rc4
Kamsky tries to generate activity for his rook while preventing Black's knight from coming to d5 via c3. If Black were allowed to bring his knight back into the game, White's position would become untenable. For instance, if 38.g4 Rb2! 39.Na3 Nc3 40.Rc4 Rxb3 41.Nc2, Black has the pleasant choice between swinging his knight back to e7 with 41....Nd5+ or continuing the slaughter of White's pawns with 41...Ne2+ and 42....Ng1.
Now, Black wins the pawn-capturing race: White's pawns are all isolated, but Black's pawns are compact.
39.Rxc6 Rb2 40.Na3 Rxb3 41.Nc4 g5+!
42.Kg3 Ne3! 43.Nxe3
If White does not take, Black will be able to use his active knight to attack d4 via f5.
43...Rxe3 44.Rc7 Rd3 45.Rc4
Still White must defend his pawns! If the more active-looking 45.Rd7 , Black can simply play 45...Kf8, going to attack White's rook and drive it away from the defense of the d5 pawn.
45...h5 46.Kf2 Rd2+ 47.Kg1
If the king plays anywhere else, h3 will fall. If 47.Kg3? h4+ 48.Kg4 Kg6 threatening checkmate is devastating.
47...Kg6 48.Rb4 Kf5 49.Kf1 Rh2
The pawn finally falls.
50.Kg1 Rxh3 51.Kg2 Rh4 52.Rb5+ Kg6 53.d5 exd5 54.Rxd5 Rf4 55.Kg3 h4+ 56.Kg2 h3+ 57.Kg3 h2 58.Rd1 Rh4 59.Rh1 Kf5 0–1
White resigns. After 60. Kg2 Kf4, the game is over. An excellent endgame win by Wojo!
By now you are surely asking, if Wojo played the King’s Indian Defense, what on earth did he do against his own system? Surprisingly, Wojo often struggled to combat the rock-solid fianchetto variation, his pet line. Although Wojo suffered losses, he was usually able to turn around and play the same moves to which he had lost against other unsuspecting opponents! In the following game, Wojo’s friend Jaan Ehlvest demonstrates the power of what was in 1991 a newer move, 8. Qd3, against the so-called Panno Variation. Wojo then turned around and used this move to chalk up two wins with White the following year, 1992.
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.g3 0–0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0–0 Nc6 7.Nc3 a6
This is the Panno variation, a considerably newer line than the time-tested 6.. .Nbd7 or the older 7...e5. Black's idea is to maintain a flexible stance. He often continues by playing ...Rb8 and ...b5 against passive but solid moves by White such as 8. b3. Meanwhile, if White attempts 8. d5!?, Black's knight swerves to a5, from which it puts pressure on c4. Black then follows with ... c5, ...Rb8, and ...b5, with a good game.
Although this is somewhat of a sideline, it scores very well for White in practice. (The mainlines are 8. h3, 8. b3, and 8. d5.) In fact, after this game, Wojo went on to have two smashing victories from the White side of this very position the following year! If the immediate 8.e4!?, Black could try 8...Bg4 9.Be3 Nd7 10.Qd2 Bxf3 11.Bxf3 e5 12.d5 Nd4 13.Bg2 c5 with good play, as in Nikolic-J. Polgar, 2000. The idea of 8. Qd3 is to preempt the ...Bg4 pin, giving White the flexibility to play e2-e4 at will.
This allows White to build his pawn center with a gain of tempo. Although playing ...Bf5 to provoke e2-e4 from White is often a thematic idea, and though this move has been tried by Black several times since this game, it appears that White is simply making off with a free tempo. 8...e5 is more common, but Ehlvest has had success with the line 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Rxd8 11.Bg5 Be6 12.Nd2, for instance, Ehlvest-Bologan, Tallinn, 2000, 1–0, and Ehlvest-Barcenilla, 2000, 1-0. Both games continued 12...h6 13.Bxf6 Rxd2 (13...Bxf6 14.Nde4 Be7 15.Nd5 is also a slight edge for White) 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.b3 Rad8 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.Rfd1, with a positional edge for White. 8...Nb4 , as played by Rustam Kasimdzhanov, is well worth investigating. Carlsen-Kasimdzhanov, World Blitz Championship, Moscow 2007 went 9.Qd2 Nc6!? 10.b3 Rb8 11.d5 Na7 12.Bb2 b5 13.cxb5 axb5 14.Nd4 b4 15.Nd1 Bd7, when Black had open lines and space on the queenside for counterplay. 8...Nd7, played recently by Viktor Bologan, is also a good idea, aiming to generate counterplay with ...e5 or ...c5 down the road.
9.e4 Bg4 10.d5!
White now has his big pawn center.
Black is trying to gain dark-square counterplay. His knight will reroute to c5 via ...a5 and ...Na6, and his light-squared bishop will capture the White knight on f3 guarding d4 and e5. However, Black's counterplay is not enough to gain him sufficient chances; White's center is so strong that White is able to wrestle control of the dark squares and the queenside from Black in due time. 10...Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nd4 12.Qd1 c5 13.dxc6 Nxc6 gives White a space advantage. Wojtkiewicz won from this position against Mikhail Perelshetyne in 1992, the following year after this game was played!
11.Qe2 a5 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 Nd7 14.Bg2
White stays flexible and plans to take back control of the dark e5 square via f2-f4.
White plans to take back b4 and c5 from Black with a2-a3 and possibly b2-b4. This move will also allow White to toy with the idea of playing b2-b3 and Bb2, challenging Black's ultimate source of dark-square control: the Indian bishop on g7.
15...cxd5 16.cxd5 Rc8 17.Bd2 Ne5 18.a3 Na6 19.b3
Notice how cautiously White has gained control of the squares on the queenside, denying Black counterplay.
19...Nc5 20.Rfd1 Ned7 21.Rdc1 Ne5 22.Be3 Re8
Black is not making progress. How can he proceed? His pieces are nearly all on their optimal squares, but he has no targets for counterplay.
23.Rc2 Ned7 24.Rcc1 Ne5 25.Nb5
White logically continues taking and occupying key squares.
An exciting but desperate bid for counterplay.
White removes Black's d6 pawn and creates a pawn storm right up the middle of the board.
26...dxc5 27.f4 Nd7 28.bxa4 Qa5 29.e5 Nb6 30.d6! Rcd8 31.Nc7 exd6 32.Nxe8 1–0
Black resigns. After Black recaptures on e8, White can force Black into a lost ending after 33. Qb5.
In 2006, in the US Championship, Wojtkiewicz finally unleashed a dangerous idea against the Fianchetto Variation. Playing against the strong IM Dean Ippolito, Wojo ventured with Black 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O Nbd7
7. Nc3 e5 8. e4 exd4 9. Nxd4 Re8 10. h3 a6 11. Be3 Rb8 12. Re1 Ne5 13. Qe2 c5! with strong counterplay. After 14. Nc2 Be6 15. b3 Nfd7 16. Nd5 b5 17. cxb5 axb5 18. Rad1 b4, when Black went on to win. This idea of …a6, …Rb8, …Ne5, …c5, and …b5 is known as the Gligoric Variation. Although it offers attacking counterplay, an effective line is simply 11. Rb1! Rb8 12. Re1 Ne5 13. b3 c5 14. Nc2, when Black has more problems defending his d6 pawn than his activity is worth. I play this line with White with success, and I wonder what Wojo would have had prepared against it!
In his later years, Wojo began playing the Slav Defense more and more often. He had several positional victories, in which he simply put his pieces on good squares, but he also had a number of blowouts. Shulman-Wojtkiewicz, 2000 (0-1) is a good example of the former, and Khalifman-Wojtkiewicz, Linares 1997 (0-1) and Epishin-Wojtkiewicz, World Open 1995 (1/2-1/2), are examples of the latter.
This concludes the final installment of “How Wojo Won”. Thank all my readers once again for their avid readership over the past five articles. I hope they have shed light on the genius behind the man, and I hope you have learned more about chess along the way. I hope that after reading this article series, you, too, will be able to win like Wojo.