by Jonathan Hilton
In this second installment, we will examine two more structures Wojtkiewicz routinely played with the White pieces. As you will see, whether Wojtkiewicz won through complicated tactical play or simply squeezed out his opponents, his victories always came from his superior abilities to coordinate his pieces based on his deep understanding of piece and pawn structure.
The Open Catalan Structure
The Open Catalan starting position
Last time we explored in great detail Wojtkiewicz’s methods for dealing with the Closed Catalan structure, in which Black reinforced his d5 pawn with …e6 and …c6. First on our list for this article is the Open Catalan, which many of Wojtkiewicz’s opponents used to complicate the position. They would open the position from the get-go, and this led to rich play due to the immense number of different piece setups Black had at his disposal. The major downside, however, was the weakness of the c7 pawn along the c-file. Wojtkiewicz could often put enough pressure on the half-open c-file to bring even Grandmasters to their knees. Even though opening the position as early as move four often afforded Black a range of possibilities for development, Wojtkiewicz understood how to generate positional pressure against a wide variety of set-ups.
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.Qa4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2 Bd6!?
Goldin plays quietly. The idea behind this system is to prepare a quick ...e6-e5, hoping to gain equality. 7...Nd5, the main line, is much more ambitious. 8.Bc3! A quiet but very potent move. Rather than immediately taking the c4 pawn, White prevents Black's counterplay. The previous year Wojtkiewicz had gobbled the c4 pawn, and Goldin equalized easily.
8.Qxc4 0–0 9.Bf4!?
It was still not too late for 9.Bc3! 9...Qe7 10.Nc3 e5 and the players agreed to a draw in Wojtkiewicz,A (2570)-Goldin,A (2585)/Mashantucket 1999.
8...0–0 9.Qxc4 Qe7 10.Ne5!
White aggressively places his pieces to rid Black of counterplay.
One might think White's doubled pawns would be a type of disadvantage - after all, Black now has a queenside pawn majority. However, Wojtkiewicz knows that his extra half-open c-file, combined with his spatial advantage, will allow him to put tremendous pressure on his opponent's position.
Of course not 12.Bxd5? , giving away the prized light-square bishop while falling dangerously behind in development.
12...Rd8 13.Rd1 Bd7 14.Nd2 Nxc3 15.Qxc3 Be8 16.Nb3
Compare the respective positions of the two bishops! Wojtkiewicz always thrived off of the power of the kingside fianchetto.
16...Rxd1+ 17.Rxd1 Rd8 18.Rc1!
Preserving a pair of rooks. Black, who is cramped, has no real means of exploiting the open d-file. Therefore, White abandons the d-file to Black in favor of pressuring the c7-pawn. 18...f6 A natural choice, breaking up white's bind and freeing the e8 bishop.
19.exf6 Qxf6 20.Qxf6 gxf6
White has achieved what looks like only a very meager endgame advantage. Is there any possibility of exploiting it? Wojtkiewicz follows a routine for success he developed through a lifetime of endgame play: he continues to gain space, he brings his king to the center, and he puts pressure on Black's position until the opponent cracks.
21.f4 Kf7 22.Kf2 Ke7 23.Nc5 Rd2 24.Nd3!
With this skillful knight maneuver, White succeeds in centralizing his pieces. The d2 rook is now trapped, and Black must give up a pawn in order to free it.
A skillful transition into the endgame!
25...Rxe2+ 26.Kxd4 Rxg2 27.Rxc7+ Kd6 28.Rxh7
White is now up a pawn, but Goldin's position is hard to crack. Wojtkiewicz's talent for endgames was part instinct, part genius, and a thousand parts of hard work: his ability is shown clearly in this game.
Forcing a weakness.
29...f5 30.Rh7 Re2 31.Ne5
A tactic: the b2-pawn cannot be taken, as this would lose the rook.
31...Re4+ 32.Kc3 Kc5 33.b4+
Again, the b-pawn cannot be taken.
White has managed to partially tame Black's aggressive rook while putting his pieces on their best squares. Wojtkiewicz now begins an attack.
34...Bxa4 35.Rxb7 a6 36.Rb8 Re3+ 37.Kd2 Ra3 38.Nd3!
The knight returns to the d3 square. Wojtkiewicz now has a definite winning plan: he will place his knight on c5, attacking e6 and a6. As we know, Wojtkiewicz is deadly when given only one weakness to work with - given two, it's lights out.
38...Bb5 39.Rd8+ Kc6 40.Nc5 Ra2+ 41.Kc3 Re2 42.Rd2!
A simple but effective retreat. By defending his kingside, Wojtkiewicz allows himself to focus on improving his king position - he sees a weakness on e5, and he heads for it!
42...Re3+ 43.Kd4 Re1 44.h4 Kd6 45.Rh2
White switches plans. The threat of the h-pawn's promotion ensures a victory. 45...Rd1+ 46.Kc3 Rg1 47.h5 Rxg3+ 48.Kd4 Rg7 49.h6 Rh7
All of black's pieces are tied down! His king must guard the e5 square, while his bishop must defend a6. The rook on h7 is miserable. Wojtkiewicz repeats a few moves before proceeding to break down Black's position.
50.Rh3 Bf1 51.Rh1 Bb5 52.Rh2 Bf1 53.Nb3 Bb5 54.Nd2 Bc6 55.Nc4+ Ke7 56.Ke5 Bb5 57.Nd6 Bc6 58.Ra2!
Based on a cute tactical trick.
58...Rxh6 59.Rxa6 Rh1
The bishop could not be saved: 59...Bd7 60.Nxf5+!
60.Rxc6 Re1+ 61.Kd4 Rd1+ 62.Ke3 1–0
Some of Wojtkiewicz’s opponents refused to let him play this kind of positional grind. They were absolutely uncompromising in their desire for complex, tactical chess. In such cases Wojo would rely on his tactical skill, which had been honed from years of training.
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6
Black spends his next several moves developing in such a way as to permit him to play ...b7-b5 in a brave attempt to hold his extra pawn. Wojtkiewicz ignores his opponent's queenside expansion and cunningly maneuvers behind his center.
6.0–0 Nc6 7.e3 Bd7 8.Qe2 b5 9.Rd1 Be7
Thus far Wojo's play has been fairly quiet. It may seem he has simply allowed Black to develop and hold on to his extra wing pawn. However, White's center and his pieces have tremendous potential. The time is now right for White to advance in the center: he has two major pieces perfectly aligned at the enemy queen and king, respectively, and a ferocious team of energetically placed minor pieces to further embolden his center pawns in their mighty charge.
10.e4! 0–0 11.Nc3 Qc8?!
Black seems to be dodging the dogfight here. Black coyly slides his queen off the d-file, which will be extremely important if White chooses to break with d4-d5. However, White's center is a force to be reckoned with. Black is giving White a free hand to commence a powerful kingside attack. In my opinion, Black should have launched a counterattack with 11...b4! Here White would have a choice between keeping his center intact with the somewhat awkward 12. Na4, or breaking in the center with 12.d5 exd5 13.Nxd5 Nxd5 14.exd5 Na5 15.Ne5, when it appears that White still has the initiative. Here, however, the position is wide open and Black could embark on counterplay using his bishops. His light-squared bishop could go to b5 or a4; his dark-squared bishop could choose between an aggressive post on f6 or a solid blockading position on d6. The way Black plays in the game affords him no such prospects.
12.e5! Nd5 13.Ng5!
White plays energetically to exploit his attacking prospects on the kingside. 13...Bxg5!?
Black defends against one set of threats, but at too high a cost. Without his dark-square bishop, Black's position crumbles quickly. Possibly better was 13...h6 14.Nge4 , when Black could either launch a risky but exciting attempt to occupy d3 with ...Ncb4, or do his best to fortify his kingside with relatively passive moves such as ...Rd8, ...Bf8, and ...Kh8.
Perhaps the losing move, but otherwise each of White's minor pieces will occupy an overwhelmingly powerful post.
Trusting in the potential of his pieces and Black's lack of dark-square cover, Wojtkiewicz sacks.
15...gxh6 16.Qg4+ Kh8 17.Qh4!
Controlling the key dark squares with a gain of tempo.
17...Nxc3 18.Qxh6+ Kg8 19.Qg5+ Kh8 20.bxc3 Qd8
Black seeks to regain control of the dark squares, but now the weakness of his remaining light-squared bishop becomes obvious. Wojtkiewicz simply switches to attacking on the light squares!
21.Qh6+ Kg8 22.Be4! f5
Finally, this attempt to stave off mate loses Black his extra piece.
Cashing in. Black is soon overrun.
23...Rc8 23...Bxc6 24.Qxe6+ 24.d5 Qe8 25.Qg5+ Kh8 26.Rd4 Rf7 27.dxe6 Qxe6 28.Bd5 1–0
The Half-Maroczy Bind Structure
When Black preferred to stake out his early claim in the center with …c5 rather than …d5, Wojtkiewicz was ready with one of his most potent setups yet. The dreaded “Half-Maroczy Bind” featured a ironclad grip on the d5 square combined with an unopposable Catalan bishop. Wojtkiewicz would use his queenside influence to prevent or stall Black’s counterplay on that wing. Then he would often mount a large-scale kingside assault, possibly involving the maneuvers Qd1-d4-h4 and Bc1-h6. After a game was played, the party playing Black may have found improved opportunities to generate counter-play; however, I would have simply advised Black not to allow Wojtkiewicz this set-up in the first place!
1.Nf3 c5 2.g3 b6 3.Bg2 Bb7 4.0–0 Nf6 5.c4 g6!? 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4! Bravo! White refuses the trade of light-squared bishops. Dull is the capture on d4 with the knight; after 8.Nxd4 Bxg2 9.Kxg2, Black may either simply allow White to play f2-f3 and e2-e4, not fearing the bind due to the reduced number of minor pieces on the board, or engineer a way to break in the center with ...d7-d5 before f2-f3 and e2-e4 can take place. Wojtkiewicz's move allows White to swing his queen over to h4 to generate an attack.
8...0–0 9.Qh4! d6 10.Bh6! Nbd7 11.Rfd1 Rc8 12.b3 Qc7?!
Black embarks on a plan offering few prospects for counterplay. More enterprising is the active 12...Rc5!? , a common theme for Black in this sort of position. Wojtkiewicz himself faced this move two years later in Wojtkiewicz-Mascarinas, Manila Open 1991, after which he decided to settle for the positional 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Qd4 Kg8 15.Ne1 Bxg2 16.Nxg2 followed by Ng2-e3, with a solid - but not immediately dangerous - build-up on the d5 square.
13.Rac1 Qb8 14.Bh3!
White, the attacker, wishes to keep all the pieces on the board. He transfers his bishop to a more aggressive post while preparing to play Nf3-g5. From h3 the bishop can take part in many tactical combinations, especially those involving the deflection on the f6 knight via Bh3xd7.
14...Rfd8 15.Ng5! Rc5
Black seeks counterplay too late. White rushes to secure the d5 outpost to deny Black's c5 rook any influence on the kingside.
16.e4 Nf8 17.Nd5 Nxd5 18.exd5 Rc7
Dejected, Black's rook returns home. Over the next few moves White undergoes a delicate operation of probing Black's kingside followed by overrunning Black on the queenside. From the center White's pieces will have command over both fronts, while Black - whose lines of communication are cut by his pawn on e7 - will not be able to keep up the defense.
19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.Qd4+ f6 21.Re1 Bc8 22.Bxc8 Rdxc8 23.b4 Qb7 24.Ne6+ Nxe6 25.Rxe6 Qa6 26.Rce1 Kf7 27.c5 bxc5 28.bxc5 1–0
A twenty-eight move masterpiece.
In How Wojo Won: Part III, Jonathan Hilton will show how Wojtkiewicz reacted to the King's Indian and Grunfeld Defenses.