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On this day in 1967, the Argentine-born revolutionary and guerrilla leader, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was killed during the aftermath of a battle with government army troops in the Bolivian jungle. Guevara – who earned his nickname thanks to his frequent use of the word “che” – was a major figure in the Cuban revolution; and in death, he went on to become a symbol of counter-culturalism around the world, with his image emblazoned on anything from posters to T-shirts even to this day.

Not only that, but he was also an avid chess-player!

In the 2013/6 issue of New in Chess, Adam Feinstein expands on the Marxist revolutionary’s lifelong and abiding passion for chess, in his must-read feature Che and Chess. While the writer takes you through the winding roads of Che’s life, what comes over very clearly is the unquestionable love that this revolutionary and guerrilla fighter had for chess which, in his own words, he unabashedly referred to as “mi segunda novia” (my second girlfriend).

In 1962, as a government minister, Che was also responsible for initiating and organising a memorial tournament honouring the great Cuban chess hero, José Raúl Capablanca (world champion from 1921 to 1927), that’s held annually. And in 1966, he was the inspiration behind Cuba staging the Havana Chess Olympiad – again organised through his government office – which many agree to be one of the best Olympiads on record.

During the 1964 edition of the Capablanca Memorial, Che famously paused between the moves in an offbeat game with the Czech grandmaster Ludek Pachman: “You know comrade Pachman, I don’t really enjoy being an [economic] minister. I would rather play chess like you or make a revolution in Venezuela.” Pachman reply was somewhat prophetic: “Look, Commandante, of course, it’s interesting to make a revolution, but playing chess is much safer.”

Sure enough, three years later, Che was dead, the casualty of that unsuccessful guerrilla foray in Bolivia fifty years ago today.

But in death, Che was hero-worshipped – and many even naming their children after him, including the parents of one of the top Russian grandmasters, Ernesto Inarkiev, who not unsurprisingly is also nicknamed Che.

In mid-August, Inarkiev scored arguably one of the best results of his career by beating the Israeli #1 and former world title challenger, Boris Gelfand, in the marquee event of the Tower of Concord Chess Festival, held in Nazran, Russia.

The 18-game match was split into three elements: six classical games and 12 rapid games (of two different time controls). Although Inarkiev lost the classical match, 4-2, he rallied to win both the rapid matches, 4-2 and 4.5-1.5, for a final score of 10.5-7.5.

GM Ernesto Inarkiev – GM Boris Gelfand
Tower of Concord Match, (4)
Sicilian Defence, Sveshnikov Variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 This is the razor-sharp Sicilian Sveshnikov – but it wasn’t always the case! It started life as the Lasker/Pelikan variation, named after the former world champion, Emanuel Lasker (who first brought it to prominence against Carl Schlechter in their 1910 title match) and the Czech IM, Jiri Pelikan. But it was rightly eponymously named after the Russian GM, Evgeny Sveshnikov, who did more than anyone to popularise and promote his pet-line. 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 The whole Sveshnikov lives or dies over control over the white-squares – either White clamps down his control of the white-squares, or Black breaks the hold with active piece play. 10…f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.0-0 Bxd5 The knight has to be exchanged off, as it holds too much influence from its d5 outpost. 13.exd5 Ne7 14.Re1 Bg7 15.c3 Prophylactically defending b2 -but more importantly, making a path for the White knight to hit f5 with the hop Na3-c2-e3 etc. 15…0-0 16.Qh5 A common theme in the Sveshnikov. If not now, then Black may well get in …f4 and …f5 – but the attack on f5 (which can’t be pushed now with the hit on h7) forces Black’s hand with his central pawns. 16…e4 17.Bf1 Re8 18.Nc2 Nxd5 In the Sveshnikov, Black has to play with a devil-may-care attitude, as being cautious will just favour White – so if 18…Qd7 then White has 19.Rad1! with the plan of Nd4 and a lasting advantage, as it’s not so easy for Black to defend his pawn weaknesses – and he will have to be careful of White getting his rook to the h-file and a mating attack. 19.Qxf5 Re5 20.Qh3 Qf6 21.a4! Yet another theme in the Sveshnikov, weakening Black’s queenside pawns – and just at the right time, as the Nc2 stops Black pushing with …b4. 21…Rd8 22.axb5 Nf4 23.Qe3 axb5 24.Qb6! Not only is the b-pawn coming under pressure, but with the Rd8 also attacked, Black’s overworked queen can’t easily stray from the scene for a sudden attack on White’s king. 24…Kh8 It looks like an awkward move to make, but there’s method in the madness, as Black realises that long-term he’s positionally bust due to his weak pawns, so opts now to ‘go for broke’ with …Rg8 and threatening a kingside attack with all his forces. 25.Ne3 Also possible was centralising the knight with 25.Nd4 – but from e3, White’s knight not only offers vital cover for g2, it also controls f5 and d5. 25…Rg8 26.g3 Bf8 Black has left the b5-pawn to its own fate now, as it is impossible to defend it – but by defending d6, Black’s hoping he can generate counterplay on the kingside with all his pieces loitering with intent there. But will it work? 27.Ra8! The b5-pawn needn’t necessarily be taken right now – so what Inarkiev is doing, is making his own rook(s) as active as he possibly can, while at the same time perhaps a chance to lessen Black’s attacking forces by pinning the bishop and/or exchanging off rooks. 27…Ne6 28.Rd1 h5 No better was 28…Ng5 29.Bg2 Nf3+ 30.Bxf3 Qxf3 31.Rd8! Be7 (There’s no time now for 31…h5? as 32.Qb8! wins on the spot.) 32.Rxg8+ Kxg8 33.Qb7 and it is difficult to see how Black is going to stops Rd5 with a winning advantage, as 33…Bg5 will be easily answered by 34.Qb8+ Kg7 35.Qxd6 Re6 36.Qd4+ Kg6 37.Re1 winning a pawn and consolidating his position. 29.Rd5! Once the pieces start coming off the board, White will have an easily won endgame with all those Black pawn weaknesses. 29…h4 30.Rxe5 dxe5 A sad necessity, as 30…Qxe5 31.Qxb5 will force the exchange of queens and a won endgame. 31.b4 Qg5 32.Re8! If needed in case of an emergency now, White can always sacrifice the exchange with Rxe6 and Qxe6 for a strategically and positionally won game, as all of Black’s pawns will be set to fall – but there’s another cunning little ploy behind this move. 32…hxg3 33.hxg3 Qh5 Black threatens …Ng5 that just might save the day – but Inarkiev has it all covered with his 32.Re8. 34.Qxb5! So simple, yet so effective! 34…Bh6 Now if 34…Ng5 35.Be2! Nh3+ 36.Kf1 Qh6 37.Qxe5+ easily wins…as it also does in the game now. 35.Be2! Qg5 Offering a little more resistance was 35…Qg6 but after 36.Qxe5+ Qg7 37.Qxg7+ Bxg7 38.Rxg8+ Kxg8 39.c4 there’s no way to stop White’s extra queenside pawns rushing up the board now. 36.Bc4 1-0 Gelfand resigns now rather than seeing his pieces being exchanged and having to face a bad endgame.

 

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