My copy of Clarke’s 100 Soviet Miniatures came last week. And I had this long weekend to play over many of the games. Here is what I found.
First, the book is in Descriptive Notation (DN), not Algebraic Notation (AN). I knew this before as I have old copies of the British Chess Magazine (BGM), where the games first appeared in a series of articles titled, “Soviet Miniatures”. But I am mentioning this as many younger players are not familiar with DN and will find the games hard to follow. I translated the following games into AN, but obviously not the entire book.
Secondly, Clarke separated his collection into several thematic chapters such as “Queen Sacrifices”, “The Object is Mate”, and “King in the Centre”. That makes it easy to find games that fit your favorite style of attacking.
And finally, there are an incredible number of Sicilians. Of course, the Sicilian is well known to be a sharp opening. Still, there thirty-five (35) Sicilians in the book. Which comes out to 35%, a rather large percentage. The situation is not helped by the fact that one of chapters is titled, “Sicilicide”.
But it is an enjoyable book.
And now, onto the games!
Russian Ch., ½ Finals, 1957
[Clarke, 100 Soviet Miniatures, #6]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Na5 (A natural move but not a very good one. Better is 9… Nxd4 10. Bxd4 Be6, as Black need not fear the doubling of his e-pawn.) 10.Bb3 Bd7 (Too passive. … Probably he should have tried 10…a6 and if 11.Bh6, then 11…e5 12.Nde2 Be6.) 11.Bh6 Rc8 12.h4 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.h5! e5 16.Nde2 Nxh5 (This is suicide. The only way to continue was 16… Be6 17.g4 Qe7 18.hxg6 fxg6.) 17.g4 Nf6 18.Qh6+ Kg8 19.g5 Nh5 20.Rxh5 gxh5 21.Nd5 f5 22.g6 hxg6 (All Black’s moves ae forced.) 23.Qxg6+ Kh8 24.O-O-O 1-0
Karaganda, May 30 1958
[Clarke, 100 Soviet Chess Miniatures, #42]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng8 9.Bd4 f6 (A better defence is 9…c5 10.Bxc5 Qc7 11.Bd4 Bxe5. The text move results in a weakening of Black’s pawn formation.) 10.f4 Qa5 (If 10…d5 11.exd6 Qxd6 White can play 12.Qf3! with advantage. Posting the Queen on f3, where it continually hits at c6 is an ever-recurring motif in this variation, as it will be seen.) 11.e6! d6 [If 11…dxe6, White intends 12.Qf3! Bd7 (or 12…Bb7 13.Bc4) 13.O-O-O followed by Bc4 and Rhe1, when Black would find it hard to defend all his weak spots. 11…d5 could be met by 12.f5! consolidating the advanced pawn (12…gxf5? 13.Qh5+, etc.).] 12.Qf3 Bb7 13.Bd3 Rb8
14.b4! Qxb4? [This leads to summary defeat. He had to play 14…Qc7 (the Queen is dubiously placed after 14…Qa3 15.Qe3!), upon White could maintain his advantage (consisting of easier development and greater command of space by 15.Qe3.] 15.Rb1 Qxd4 (A good as forced, for 15…Qxd4 permits Rxb7, etc. The susceptibility to attack of the point c6 has already been illustrated several times; but never so forcibly as in the following play.) 16.Qxc6+!! Kf8 17.Rxb7 Rd8 (A terrible blunder would be 17…Re8? 18.Qxe8!) 18.Qc7 Re8 19.Rb8 Qe3+ 20.Kd1 Qxe6 21.Rxe8+ Kxe8 22.Bb5+ Kf8 23.Qb8+ 1-0
USSR Ch., 12 Finals
[Clarke, 100 Soviet Miniatures, #76]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 f5 (The Cordel Variation of the Classical Defence. Like the Schliemann, it is suspected of being too loosening.) 5.d4 (Of the several alternatives here 5.Bxc6 is perhaps the simplest and best.) 5…fxe4 (Also playable is 5…exd4.) 6.Ng5 (At this stage 6.Bxc6 is usual; after 6…dxc6 7.Nxe5 Bd6 8.O-O! the position is considered to favour White. The text move poses certain new problems, and they are not solved by Black’s play here!) 6…Be7 7.dxe5! (A surprise. Black discovers that 7…Bxg5 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qxg5 Qxg5 10.Bxg5 Nxe5 is answered by 11.Bf4 and 12.Bxc7 with a better ending for White. So he decides to take the e-pawn straightaway – while he can!) 7…Nxe5?? 8.Ne6! 1-0
GM Alexander Tolush-Lev Aronson
[Clarke, 100 Soviet Miniatures, #28]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.cxd5 (This is not thought to be the best, since it helps Black to bring out his pieces rapidly. Both 3.Nc3 and 3.Nf3 are preferred and in both cases White can count on some positional advantage.) 3…Qxd5 4.Nf3 Bg4? (A typical maneuver in this defence, but quite wrong here. Correct is 4…e5! 5.Nc3 Bb4 and Black has achieved his goal: active play for his pieces – and more, equality in the centre.) 5.Nc3 Qa5 (Nor is 5…Qd7 very good, e.g. 6.d5 Bxf3 7.exf3 Ne5 8.Bf4 and the threat of 9.Bb5 is decisive.) 6.d5 O-O-O 7.Bd2 Bxf3 [Helping White still further by developing his f1-bishop for him. However, the position was already hopeless; for example, 7…Nb4 8.e4 Qb6 (or 8…e6 9.a3 Na6 10.Na4, etc.) 9.Rc1 with a winning attack.] 8.exf3 Nb4 [Or 8…Ne5 9.Rc1 Qb6 10.Be3 Qxb2 (10…c5 11.Na4 Qa5+ 12.Bd2! or 10…Qa5 11.a3!) 11.Nb5 again with a winning position.] 9.a3 Nxd5 (Aronson resigns himself to loss of material at once; but as we have seen, the threats were not to be denied for long, e.g. 9…Na6 10.b4 Qb6 11.Be3, etc.) 10.Na4! 1-0 [At best he can reach a lost ending by 10…Nb6 11.Bxa5 Rxd1+ 12.Rxd1 Nxa4 13.Bb5 Nb6 (not 13…Nxb2 14.Rd2) 14.Bxb6 axb6 (or 14…cxb6 15.Rc1+ Kd8 16.Ke2!) 15.Bd7+ Kb8 16.Be6!]
Clarke may not have known that this game is an exact duplicate of Alekhine-Nenarokov, Moscow, 1907. Then again, there was no Soviet Union at that time, only Russia.