Favorite losses: Kudrin

Okay. This isn’t in the Rob Deer mode. It’s a favorite chess loss for a different reason, with a good story behind it.

Sergey Kudrin – Slater

Metrowest Chess Club, 1999

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 Qb6

Though I’ve been playing tournament chess since 1982, this was my first encounter with a grandmaster. Since the Metrowest club tourneys are held with one game each Tuesday night, I knew my pairing with Kudrin a week in advance. Turns out that’s a lot of time to psych yourself out. My friend spent the week faxing me Kudrin’s games from Megabase, helping me identify his typical openings. I selected this 3…Nf6 line to play against his Tarrasch variation (which is initated by 3.Nd2) and this is probably the first time in my life that I tried to learn a ton of book lines.

Unfortunately, by move 8 I was already starting to get the ideas mixed up. There was a cool game where Korchnoi smashed Kudrin in this line, I believe by eventually playing a maneuver that involved …Qc7, …f6, …g6 and …Qg7. But I couldn’t remember or figure out how to make the development work for black. This is the danger of trying to play book lines when you don’t really understand the underlying concepts.

I started burning ridiculous amounts of time trying to work it all out. Yes, on move 8. Now the kicker: As he waited (interminably) for my moves, Kudrin sat calmly reading The Economist!

9.Nf3 f6 10.exf6 Nxf6 11.0-0 Bd6 12.Nc3 0-0 13.Re1 Kh8 14.Bc2 Bd7 15.a3 Rae8 16.Bg5 a6 17.Bh4 Bc8 18.Qd3 g6 19.Bxf6+ 1-0 

The GM glanced up from his article and took about three seconds to see that he wins buckets of material after 19…Rxf6 20.Nxd5. Not an auspicious start against GMs – a tradition I’ve kept up pretty well – though Ivanov and Christiansen have at least declined to use our games to keep up on their reading…

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