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The Sicilian Slayed: Kaidanov on Polgar Match Print E-mail
By GM Gregory Kaidanov   
March 2, 2010
GMs Judit Polgar and Gregory Kaidanov, Photo courtesy Monroi.com
In last week's Sicilian Theme Match in Hilton Head, SC, GM Judit Polgar narrowly edged GM Gregory Kaidanov in a blitz tiebreak. All seven games were decisive. Though the battles involved multiple
queens, queen sacrifices and blistering attacks, Black only managed to win the final game. Kaidanov recounts the genesis of the match, another sisyphean theoretical task for Dragon players, and his early interactions with Polgar.

When Jeff Smith called me two months ago with an offer to play a match against Judit Polgar, I got very excited. Being very busy teaching,  I play rarely nowadays  and this was a great opportunity to go back studying chess again.  Jeff  didn't want us to play some kind of boring opening and after some consultations with Judit we decided to play the four sharpest Sicilian lines: Sveshnikov, Dragon, Najdorf and Scheveningen.  In every game we knew the position after five moves from which the play starts, though we still played those moves ourselves.

 In order to determine colors Jeff flipped a coin, Judit made a guess and since her guess was wrong, I got White in the first game.

To know an opening (and even a variation!)of every game two months in advance is a luxury, but when your opponent knows it as well, you know that you have no time to relax!

It turns out that preparing the Sicilian with Black is much harder, mainly because White can play many different systems against each of the four complexes. It turned out that even two months is not enough to cover them all!

The conditions for the match were fantastic. Jeff created generous prize fund and there was an additional incentive for a win in each separate game.

We stayed in a luxury Hilton Head Marriott with an ocean view and played in a Presidential suite of the same hotel.
A view of the gorgeous match venue, Photo courtesy Monroi.com

Now let's go to the chess content of the match.

Game 1: The Sveshnikov

In the first game, I was hoping to surprise Judit with a relatively rare variation in which White sacrifices a piece for three pawns. However, she was well prepared and surprised me!


Position after 16...0-0

Her 16...0-0 was a novelty.  She bravely gave an exchange back for a chance to attack my king. Fortunately, she looked only at 19.Nf6+ but 19.Ne7+, which I played is better.
17.0–0 Bxf5 18.Qf3 Be6 19.Ne7+! Qxe7 20.Qxa8 d5 21.a5 Nd7 22.Qa7 e4

Position after 22...e4

I was very well aware of Judit's attacking powers, so when she played 22...e4 I had a feeling I am going to be crushed.  Somehow I managed to survive...
23.a6 Qd6 24.Bxd7?!
24.Qb7 Ne5 25.a7 Nf3+ (25...Bh3 26.Be2+-) 26.gxf3 Bh3 27.Kh1 (27.Ra6 Qf4 28.Qxd5 Be5) 27...Qf4 28.Be2 exf3 29.Rg1 (29.a8Q Bg2+ 30.Kg1 fxe2 (30...Be5 31.Qxf8+ Kxf8 32.Qb4++-) 31.Kxg2 Qg4+=) 29...fxe2 30.Qxd5+-
24...Bxd7 25.Qe3 f5 26.Rfd1 Bc6 27.a7 Ba8 28.Qe2 Qc5 29.Qa6 f4 30.Ra5 Qe7 31.Raxd5 e3 32.Qd6

32.Qc4 Kh8 33.Qc5
32...exf2+ 33.Kf1
Position after 33.Kf1

If she played 33...Qe4 (instead of 33...Qe3), I had to find a way to draw the game by perpetual check. To be honest I didn't see the correct move 37.Qe7 in the variation after 33...Qe4 and don't know whether I would find it in a time trouble..  As it happened, I was able to defend and won the game. 33...Qe4 34.Rg5 f3 35.gxf3 Qxf3 36.Rxg7+ Kxg7 37.Qe7+= (37.Qe5+ Rf6 38.Qg3+ Qxg3 39.hxg3 Rf7)
34.R5d3 Bxg2+
34...Qxa7 35.Qe6+ Kh8 36.Rd8 f3 37.gxf3+-; 34...f3 was Judit's original intention, but it doesn't work. 35.Qxf8+ I was, actually going to play 35.gxf3, which is good enough. 35...Bxf8 36.Rxe3 fxg2+ 37.Kxf2+-
 35.Kxg2 f3+ 36.Kh3 Qe2 37.a8Q f1Q+ 38.Rxf1 Qxf1+ 39.Kh4 Qe1+

39...Bf6+ 40.Qxf6

Game 2: The Dragon

The second game saw another novelty by Judit, this time an extremely powerful one.


Technically, 20.Qd2! was a novelty (previously 20.Qe3 was played several times and Black was doing fine.)

Position after 20.Qd2!

But the whole plan with Nce2, followed by Ng3 was prepared by Judit at home. 

Position after 25.Ng3

This time I WAS crushed without making any visible mistake. The line we played was one of the main (if not THE MAIN) lines in Dragon and now the whole system is in jeopardy. Of course over the years Dragon saw many "refutations" and I am sure Black players will come up with an improvement somewhere. I wish them luck, because I've had enough:)

Judit played brilliantly, sacrificed a knight and finished a game with a Queen sacrifice.

Final position after 36.Qd6!  

The queen is taboo because 36....Qxd6 37. Rh8+ Kg7 R1-h7 mate.  If 36...Qc3, 37. Qf6 ends things.

Game 3: The Najdorf
In the third game I played a relatively rare 11.Qh3 and this time Judit  was not prepared well.


 As I said earlier, she had to look at a lot of different systems against Najdorf and considering that I never played 6.Bg5 in a tournament game, it was hard to expect it. Her 14...a5?! was too aggressive and I was able to conduct an attack on her king in the center.

Position after 14...a5

Game 4: The Scheveningen 

In the final game of the match we saw almost the same scenario.


This time Judit played an opening system, which I didn't expect. I struggled right from the opening and decided to grab a pawn to have at least something to struggle for. Unfortunately for me this was kind of a position in which Judit is in her best.

Position after 24. Bxb7! Kaidanov played Rb8 but after Qxf7 Rxb7 fails to Nxd6!

 She played very energetically, and finished game in style with some precise calculation and spectacular tactics.
GM Judit Polgar, the strongest woman player in history, Photo courtesy Monroi.com

After move 26, if I had played Nxb2 instead of Qb6, Judit showed me a queen sacrifice line right after we finished the game.  

Analysis diagram after 26....Nxb2

If 27.Kxb2 Qb6+ 28.Ka1 Rxb7 29.Qxd8+!! Qxd8 30.Nxd6+- 

Blitz Playoff

We played blitz games to break the tie. I won the first one, Judit the second, both with White. Finally, in Armageddon game she won on the black side! Oh, did I forget to mention they all were Sicilians too?

GM Greg Kaidanov, Photo courtesy Monroi.com
All in all it was a very exciting match for both of us and I hope for spectators as well. Each game featured multiple sacrifices, something that every chess fan enjoys. There were no rating points at stake, so we could just play entertaining chess and enjoy ourselves. Besides Jeff Smith, I also would like to thank Zeljka from MonRoi and my friend Ken Troutman, who traveled from Lexington to support me during the match.

The atmosphere at the match was very friendly. We had lots of conversations and a lot of memories to laugh about. 

I first met Judit when she was 6 years old. She and Sofia played against me in a simul in Moscow. Then there was the time I visited Budapest, when I stayed for a few days in Polgar's apartment. I played a lot of blitz chess against all three sisters. Though Judit was only 12, she was already a very good blitz player. And a very competitive one I have to add. After losing one of the games she called me a Hungarian word.

Until now it remains the only Hungarian word I know. It means "garbage man."

Gregory Kaidanov has a website at www.kaidanov.org. He is available for lessons, lectures and exhibitions. You can find more photos and info on the match on Monroi.com. FM Mike Klein contributed to the editing of this article.


March - Chess Life Online 2010

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