by Jonathan Hilton
Last time we examined Wojtkiewicz's methods for dealing with Open Catalan and English structures. In this third installment, we will wrap up our coverage of his White repertoire by seeing how Wojo tackled the King's Indian and Grünfeld.
King's Indian Structures
When facing the King's Indian Defense, Wojo once again relied on the power of his g2 bishop and a lockdown on the d5 square. However, "miniature" twenty-five move victories were few and far between here. Although Black's structure, shown above, generally lacked space, it was more hearty than any other defensive fortification we have examined yet. Black's bishops on g7 and c8 are well-placed; his kingside is a secure stronghold; his knights and e8-rook team together to place White's e4 pawn under immense pressure. The only way for Wojtkiewicz to make progress against this stalwart formation was to slowly build up around his center and then attempt to advance on the flanks. If he could achieve f2-f4 and e4-e5, his position would be all the better for it; however, other times he had to content himself with queenside expansion with b2-b3, a2-a3, and b3-b4. Here is one of Wojtkiewicz's best victories against the King's Indian Defense.
Wojtkiewicz,Aleksander (2530) - Shulman,Yuri (2490) [E69]
Katowice op Katowice (9), 1995
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.d4 d6 6.0–0 Nbd7 7.Nc3 e5 8.e4 c6 9.Rb1 The subtle rook move helps shore up White's queenside against the bishop on g7. 9...a5 10.h3 Re8 11.Re1 exd4 12.Nxd4 Nc5 13.b3 Qe7 14.Re2!? White has succeeded in bolstering his c4 pawn, which gives him a key clamp on the d5 and b5 squares; now he turns his attention to protecting his e4 pawn. It may appear that some of White's maneuvers lose time; however, White's main goal is the prevention of all Black's various ideas of counterplay. At different stages, White may be willing to "waste" some time for prophylaxis against each possible Black idea. Note that not every singe move White makes must have a definite purpose; the two sides play cat-and-mouse for some time in the middlegame. White must simply wait to advance until he feels the timing is exact. 14...Bd7 15.Bf4 Targeting d6, and luring Black's knight out to the awkward h5 square. 15...Nh5 16.Be3 Rad8 17.Qd2 Qf8 18.Rd1 Bc8 19.Qc2 White has managed to overprotect his e4 point. He hopes this will allow him to strengthen his position on the kingside very slowly. 19...h6 20.Kh2 Nf6 21.Kg1 Nh5 22.Ree1 Kh7 23.a3! Unable to decide to strike against the Black's kingside, which looks very well fortified, Wojo turns his attention to the queenside - an area that Black cannot so readily defend, his king's knight being on h5, his queen being on f8, and his rook being stuck on d8 rather than a8. Note that if White had played a3 very much earlier rather than expending extra moves on feigning maneuvers such as Re1–e2-e1, Black may not have allowed his pieces to be caught off guard in such a manor. 23...Qh8!? Black begins a very interesting attempt to generate counterplay. Sensing White's idea of playing b4 and b5, Yuri exerts pressure on the dark squares on the queenside, which White will have to leave behind to carry on with his plans. 24.b4 axb4 25.axb4 Na6 26.b5! White begins to break down Black's position. He starts, of course, by undermining the d5 square. Black reacts by attempting to plug up the queenside with ...Nb4 and ...c5 - probably the best idea available - but his queenside knight can hardly be said to have an active role in the struggle, which soon drifts to the kingside. 26...Nb4 27.Qb3 c5 28.Nde2 f5 Very logical. Black is cramped and must seek counterplay. However, his d6 pawn remains utterly weak. 29.Rd2! The first step in Wojtkiewicz's methodical plan - exert pressure on d6. 29...Nf6 30.Red1 Qf8 Second step - having forced Black to defend d6, White switches his attention to slowly advancing on the kingside. One of his main ideas is the knight maneuver Ne2-f4, further controlling d5. 31.exf5 Bxf5 32.g4 Be4 33.Nf4 Bxg2 34.Kxg2 Black's position has seemed more or less defensible up to this point. However, Black struggles with the pressure on his position. How can he defend both g6 (against White's upcoming Qb3-b1) and d6 (against White's powerful doubled rooks?) Unfortunately, at this point there is no good answer. For instance, on 34. ... Ne4 Black has to face possible tactics involving Nf4xg6, followed by a pin along the b1–h7 diagonal. And so Black understandably wishes to strike out and actively defend these weaknesses. However, by doing so, he trades on pawn weakness for three square weaknesses - f5, h5, and g6. 34...g5 35.Nfe2 Qe7 36.Ng3 Qe5 37.Nf5 Now, having f5 firmly in hand, White executes a brilliant maneuver to finally conquer Black's d6 pawn. 37...Bf8 38.f3! b6 39.Bg1! Qe6 40.Bh2 Kg8 41.Bxd6 Nh5 42.Ne4 The collapse of the d6 pawn now allows White to lay waste to Black's entire position. 42...Bxd6 43.Rxd6 Nf4+ 44.Kf1 Rxd6 45.Rxd6 Qe5 46.Qd1 Ne6 47.Rd7 Kh8 48.Nxh6 Qh2 49.Nf7+ Kg7 50.Nfxg5+ Kg6 51.Nxe6 Qxh3+ 52.Kg1 Rxe6 53.Qb1 Qh6 54.Nd6+ 1–0
When Wojo's opponents sought to enter a tactical struggle by using the Grünfeld, he would use his keen tactical sense to quickly gain the upper hand. Many masters were miniatured by his swashbuckling and aggressive style against this opening. Wojtkiewicz would strive to open the game by creating a strong d-pawn in the center. He would then coordinate his pieces in an attack aimed down the open central files. Wojo always played his dark-square bishop out to the g5 square to pressure Black's e7 pawn.
Black's plan, on the other hand, would be to play …c6 and …cxd5, opening the queenside for his pieces, which are poised to take action there. A common mistake he often made was to play …h6 and then …g5!? to drive away White's dark-square bishop from it's almighty post. White's bishop would simply return home so that Wojo could play h2-h4 to break up Black's pawn position. From there Black would be history – Wojo almost always succeeded in a quick victory by launching a kingside attack. About two years ago, around the time I first became an Expert, I had the misfortune of being subjected to one such attack myself:
Wojtkiewicz,A - Hilton,Jonathan [D76]
Gem City 05 (1), 04.2005
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.d4 0–0 5.Bg2 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.0–0 Nb6 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.d5 Na5 10.e4 c6 11.Bg5 A move provoking h7-h6 from Black, which ties down his g7 bishop to the h6 pawn. 11...h6 12.Bf4 Nac4 13.Qe2 Natural development. 13...g5? In Wojtkiewicz's eyes, this was the critical mistake of the game! At the time, I thought it would give me a great deal of activity. Afterwards, however, when I asked my famous opponent what I had done wrong, he responded in three words: "g5 was bad." 14.Bc1 cxd5 15.Nxd5 I had expected only exd5, and had overlooked this simple recapture; to my opponent, bringing the knight to its best square and simplifying the position was second nature. For Wojtkiewicz, the weakness I have created on the kingside will become more apparent with each piece trade. 15...e6? A poor move, sealing my fate. My opponent now swiftly shows me the weaknesses in my position. 16.Nxb6 Nxb6 17.Rd1 Qe7 18.h4! Played instantly. 18...gxh4 19.Nxh4 Bd7 20.Bf4 e5 21.Be3 Be6 22.b3 A simple precaution, yet a move many of us club players might never play. 22...Rfd8 23.Qh5 Qf6 24.Nf5 Bxf5 25.exf5 e4?! Desperation. 26.Bxe4 Qe7 27.f6! Qxf6 28.Bxb7 Rab8 29.Bg2 Qg6 30.Qxg6 fxg6 Here, I was under five minutes on my clock and quit keeping score. I tried to resist for about another ten moves, but my opponent's skillful play converted the extra pawn with ease. Note that my opponent executed the entire game using less than five minutes on his clock! 1–0
Having a deep understanding of all of these structures I have described allowed Wojtkiewicz to fully utilize his strengths. He was a brilliant tactician and an expert in the endgame, but above all, he was a magician at piece coordination. I would like to close with a prime example of Wojtkiewicz's almost instinctive skill at simply placing his pieces on the best possible squares. In it, he truly displays his abilities as a world-class Grandmaster by coordinating a force of three minor pieces against a queen and pawn. He even makes this feat look easy! See for yourself.
Wojtkiewicz,Aleksander (2460) - Skalik,Przemyslaw (2245) [D76]
Warsaw op Warsaw, 1989
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.0–0 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.d4 Nb6 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.d5 Na5 10.e4 c6 11.Bg5 h6 12.Bf4 cxd5 13.exd5 Nac4 14.Qe2 Nxb2!? An interesting idea, which may be perfectly valid. However, Wojtkiewicz's skill in coordinating the three pieces he gains for the queen and pawn carry the day. 15.Qxb2 Na4 16.Nxa4 Bxb2 17.Nxb2 Qxd5 18.Bxh6 Re8 At this point, many would be stuck for a concrete plan with White. However, Wojtkiewicz knew exactly what to do: exploit the power of his fianchettoed bishop! He lines up his entire army in a struggle to pry open Black's queenside for that famous piece on g2. 19.Be3! Pointing a piece toward the queenside. 19...Qb5 20.Rfb1 Bd7 21.a4! Qh5 22.Nc4! In the last four moves, White has completely transformed the position. Now all of his pieces are taking part in the struggle, and Black's days are numbered. 22...f6 Black contents himself with defending b7 by tactical means: White cannot take the pawn because of the fork with ...Bc6. If instead the "obvious" 22...Bc6, 23.Nce5 would increase White's advantage. 23.Nd4! b6!? 24.a5! Possible was the greedy 24.Bxa8 Rxa8, when White could still carry out his plan with a4-a5. However, Wojo is not tempted by material: he sees that by keeping his powerful light-squared bishop, he can continue his powerful coordination of forces. He turns his attention to harassing the Black queen. 24...b5 25.Bf3 Qc5 26.Nd2 Qe5 27.N2b3 Qd6 28.Rd1 Qb4 29.Nc2! The result of White's chasing is now apparent. Black is rapidly running out of squares, and the all-powerful queen may soon be trapped. If Black takes on b3, White plays Bf3-d5 for a royal fork: all this due to his light-squared bishop! 29...Qc3 30.Bd5+!? Kg7 31.Bxa8 With Black's bishop on d7 hanging, White cashes in for the material. 31...Bg4 32.Rd4!? Somewhat easier was the simple 32.Rdc1 Rxa8 33.Nbd4 , keeping a large material edge for White. However, the way White plays in the game allows him a clear-cut win in typical Wojtkiewicz style: he invades with his pieces and Black stands helplessly on the sidelines. 32...Bf5 33.Be4 Bxe4 34.Rxe4 Qxb3 35.Nd4 Qd5 36.Re6! White's rook swings into action. 36...Kf7 37.Ra6 Qb7 38.Rc6 Rd8 39.a6! The Black queen is pushed to the edge of the board. 39...Qb8 40.Rac1 Rd7 41.Ne6 Qe5 42.Nc5 Rd5 43.h4 Qh5 44.Rc7 g5 45.hxg5 fxg5 46.Ne4 Qg4 47.f3! The Black queen gets no rest this game! 47...Qh3 48.R7c5 Rxc5 49.Rxc5 Qh6 50.Nxg5+ Ke8 51.Rc8+ Kd7 52.Ra8 A fantastic finish! 1–0