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January 2001

So, a new year/ century/ millennium begins!

I am going to start this year with an in-depth look at the Tartakower Defence- by special request!

Ruslan Scherbakov

Games and theory



1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 0-0 6. Nf3 h6 7. Bh4 b6

Games and theory

A transposition to the Tartakower from the Exchange variation does not look like a very good idea, but very precise play is required to prove it. Garry Kasparov faced this set-up four times in his match against Alexander Beliavsky and RS316 was his only win (thanks to excellent home preparation).

RS317 shows that the Tartakower system makes it very difficult to outplay a weaker opponent with the Black pieces. Garry Kasparov has to spend a lot of energy to justify 300 extra ELO points...

The plan connected with long castling is double-edged. Black achieves excellent compensation for the pawn in RS318 but in time-trouble was in too much of a hurry to win the material back...

RS319 is something special. Juan Manuel Bellon Lopez inspires his pieces with enormous energy. He starts the attack by sacrificing his Queen for a Bishop! Black could have taken a draw but he captured a Rook instead. His greediness was severely punished - White's three minor pieces overcome the Queen and Rook!!!

In the Tartakower, passive and careless play against the hanging pawns on c5 and d5 can lead to disaster. If the d-pawn moves forward, it generally means bad news for White, as RS320 demonstrates.

The types of position which arise in Anatoly Karpov's pet variation frequently give White a small but clear advantage. In several World Title Match games he tried to outplay Garry Kasparov, but Black managed to hold the balance, as in RS321. Such boring defence is not much fun - Karpov has experienced it himself, as Kasparov occasionally forced him to play this line with Black!

Although it is difficult for White to achieve more than a small advantage in the Tartakower system, Black should defend with great care. In RS322 a few insignificant looking mistakes allow Vladimir Epishin to achieve total domination from a simple looking position.

RS323 is an instructive game from Anatoly Karpov. Every move is made according to plan, and at the right moment. The Tartakower system is usually rather quiet but crushing attacks do sometimes occur...

RS324 is an example of Karpov's extraordinary technique. I was one of the spectators and it was really amazing to see how he continually improved a position which looked absolutely impossible to improve!

Vladimir Kramnik is one of the best positional players ever. He has played the Tartakower System with both Black and White with great success. RS325 is a typical victory: despite Arthur Yusupov's excellent defence Kramnik is able to create problems for his opponent till the very end. There are few players who can withstand this kind of pressure!

Introduction to the Tartakower

The fianchetto of the Queen's bishop in the Queen's Gambit Declined was played as early as the end of the 19th century. It can be found in the games of giants like Emanuel Lasker and Jose-Raul Capablanca, but they omitted the preliminary ...h7-h6.

It was Saviely Tartakower who introduced the modern treatment of the system in 1922 by combining ...h7-h6 and ...b7-b6. He played it regularly and successfully so the system was named after him. Later Russian players such as Vladimir Makogonov and Igor Bondarevsky made important contributions to the system, so in Russian the line is often called the "Tartakower-Makogonov-Bondarevsky" or simply the TMB-system.

A lot of great players have polished their positional skills by playing the Tartakower System (and, of course, all the connected QGD systems). It was really astonishing to see the numerous Karpov - Kasparov games in their World Title matches when they played the same positions with either colour. Many famous players, for example Alexander Beliavsky and Rafael Vaganian, also do the same. Recently Vladimir Kramnik has joined their company... Other notable experts in this system are Nigel Short and Smbat Lputian.

The play is usually more quiet than sharp in this complex system. Playing with the Black pieces you get a solid position but you may find yourself under a certain amount of pressure throughout the whole game, while with White you may find it difficult to maintain a small, often vanishing advantage. Both players need to have a good understanding of some typical kinds of positions such as those with hanging pawns or an isolated pawn, so studying books and articles concerning these strategical themes is a very useful way to improve your play in the Tartakower system.

Good luck!