Like most chess players I am a fan of some of the greats; namely Fischer, Alekhine, and Tal.
But I also enjoy the lesser known greats, those IMs and GMs who occasionally can take an original route in the opening, explore what is there to find, and promote original theory.
One of those is the Finnish GM, Jouni Yrjola. He won his country’s championship in 1985 and 1988. And his flair for unexplored openings didn’t prevent him from earning the IM title (1984) or the GM title (1990).
More importantly, at least to this blogger, is that today is his birthday.
Happy Birthday Jouni!
Here is Yrjola, playing against a former World Champion.
IM Jouni Yrjola-GM Mikhail Tal
TV exhibition game, 1986
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.g3!? (Unusual. More common is 11.exf6. Perhaps Yrjola didn’t want to get into a tactical tussle with a Tal.) 11…Rg8 12.h4 Rxg5 13.hxg5 Nd5 14.Qh5 Nxc3 15.bxc3 Qa5 16.Rc1 Ba3 17.Rc2 Qa4 18.Kd1! (Effectively closing off the White’s queenside. Now Black must worry about his kingside.)
18…Nf8 19.Qf3 Bb7 20.Rh8 Be7 (Black wants to castle queenside but first he needs to shore up his defenses on the kingside.) 21.Bh3 Bxg5? 22.Bxe6! 1-0
IM Julian Hodgson (2480)-IM Jouni Yrjola (2425)
Tallinn, Estonia, Apr. 8 1987
1.e4 c5 2.f4!? (The Grand Prix Attack, a very popular way of meeting the Sicilian around this time.) 3…d5 (A strong defence, and one that almost put the Grand Prix out of business.) 3.exd5 Nf6 4.Bb5+ Nbd7 5.c4 a6 6.Ba4 b5 7.cxb5 Nxd5 8.Nf3 g6!? (The fianchetto on Black’s kingside usually leads to unbalanced games, perfect for both Hodgson and Yrjola.) 9.Nc3 N5b6
[This game, heading rapidly into more craziness, now forms theory.
Vladislav Zernyshkin (2319)-Yuri Yakovich (2539), Lev Polugaevsky Memorial, Samara, Russia, July 9 2011, continued with 10.d4 Bg7 11.Bc2 cxd4 12.Nxd4 O-O 13.O-O axb5 14.Ndxb5 Ba6 15.Bd3 Nc5 16.Be2 Nba4 17.Qc2 Nxc3 18.Nxc3 Qd4+ 19.Kh1 Nd3 20.h3 Rfd8 21.a4 Bc4 22.Ra3 Nb4 23.Qb1 Bd3 24.Bxd3 Nxd3 25.Qc2 e6 26.Nb5 Qe4 27.Nc3 Qc4 28.Qe2 Qb4 29.Na2 Nxc1 30.Nxc1 Bxb2 31.Rb3 Qd2 32.Rxb2 Qxe2 33.Nxe2 Rxa4 34.Rc1 Rd7 35.Kg1 e5 36.fxe5 Re4 37.Rc5 Re7 38.Kf2 R4xe5 39.Rxe5 Rxe5 40.Ng1 h5 41.Nf3 Re7 42.Ng1 Kg7 43.Kf3 Ra7 44.Rb3 Ra5 45.h4 Ra4 46.g3 Ra7 47.Nh3 Re7 48.Ng5 Kg8 49.Re3 Ra7 50.Ke4 Kg7 51.Kd5 Kf6 52.Kc6 Kf5 53.Kd6 f6 54.Ne4 g5 1/2-1/2]
10.d4 Nxa4 11.Qxa4 Bg7 12.Be3 Nb6 13.Qa5 O-O 14.O-O-O axb5 15.Qxb5 Ba6 16.Qxc5 Nc4! (Black has penetrated White’s position and his knight will prove to be impossible to dislodge.) 17.Rhe1 Qb8! (Forcing the next move.) 18.b3 Rc8! (White’s queen is trapped. Hodgson grabs the best deal he can make for his queen …) 19.Qxc8+ Bxc8 (…and then promptly resigns.) 0-1
GM Jonny Hector (2535)-GM Jouni Yrjola (2460)
Ostersund, Sweden, Aug. 1992
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Bc4 O-O 9.Qe2 Bd7 10.O-O-O Na5 11.Bd3 (11.Bb3!?) 11…Rc8 12.h4 Rxc3 13.bxc3 Qc7 14.Qe1 d5 15.e5 Qxe5 16.Nb3 Nc6 17.g4 h5 18.g5 Ne8 19.Bd4 Nxd4 20.cxd4 Qd6 (Black could, of course, play 20…Qxd1 21.Rhd1, but that kills his play and he has to respond with 22…e6, which further limits his play. On 20…Qd6, his queen can at least travel to a3 and say “Boo!” Forgive this jest- it’s close to Halloween.) 21.Qc3 b6 22.Rhe1 Nc7 23.Rxe7 Ne6 24.Rxe6 Bxe6 25.Qd2 Rc8 26.c3 a5 27.Kb1 a4 28.Nc1 b5 29.Ne2 Rb8 30.Qf4 Bf8 31.Qxd6 Bxd6 32.Kc2 b4 33.cxb4 Rxb4 34.Rb1 Rxb1 35.Kxb1 Kg7 36.Kc2 f6 37.gxf6+ Kxf6 38.Kd2 g5 39.hxg5+ Kxg5 40.Ke3 h4 41.Nc3 h3 42.Bf1 Kh4 43.Kf2 a3 44.Nb5 Be7 45.Bd3 Bf6 46.Be2 Bd7 47.f4 Bg7 48.Bd3 Kg4 49.f5 Kf4 50.Kg1 Kg3 51.Kh1 Be8 52.Be2 Bd7 53.Bd3 Bf6 54.Nc3 Bc6 55.Ne2+ Kf3 56.Kh2 Ke3 57.Ba6 Bd7 58.Kxh3 Bxf5+ 59.Kg2 Be4+ 60.Kf1 Bxd4 61.Nxd4 Kxd4
(Here, Black’s king is more centralized than White’s and he has an extra pawn. But it’s a draw as White can block the queening of the center pawn and Black’s other pawn is on a rook’s file, Right? Wrong!) 62.Ke1 Bb1 63.Kd2 Bxa2 64.Kc2 Kc5 65.Bb7 d4 66.Be4 Kb4 67.Bf5 Bb3+ 68.Kb1 Kc3 69.Ka1 Bc2 70.Bg4 d3 71.Ka2 Kb4
0-1 [Incredibly Black wins after 72.Bh5 Bb3+ 73.Ka1 d2 74.Kb1 Kc3 75.Ka1 Kd3 76.Bf3 Ke3 77.Bg4 Kf2 78.Kb1 Ke1 79.Bh5 Bc4 80.Kc2 (with the idea of Be2) -+ , or 72.Ka1 d2 73.Ka2 Bb3+ 74.Kb1 Kc3 75.Be2 Kd4 76.Bf3 Ke3 77.Bh5 Kf2 78.Bg4 Ke1 79.Bh5 Bc4 80.Kc2 -+, or 72.Bf3 Bb3+ 73.Kb1 d2 74.Bh5 Kc3 75.Ka1 Kd3 76.Bf3 Ke3 77.Bg4 Kf2 78.Kb1 Ke1 79.Bh5 Bc4 80.Kc2 -+. Now, I had to run the position through a chess engine just to make sure my main ideas had some validity. It’s astonishing what a GM can figure out over the chessboard!]