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John Henderson
By John Henderson

Yuri Sergeyevich Razuvaev is not exactly a household name. While not so well-known in the West as the other Soviet greats of his era, back in his native Russia he was an enormously respected figure: both as a player with a truly deep understanding of the game, and especially taking these skills to transform himself into an exceptional chess trainer and coach.

Razuvaev was born in Moscow on 10 October 1945 and died unexpectedly in 2012 after a short illness, aged just 66. A historian by profession, he went on to become one of the world’s top players between 1976, when he earned the Grandmaster title, and into the late 1980s, just before the break-up of the Soviet Union. But his destiny lay elsewhere in chess.

Despite his unquestioned talents as a player, Razuvaev was ‘old school’ and he found his true calling as a coach, awarded the venerable title of Honoured Coach of Russia, and moulded in the studious ways and methods of the Soviet School of Chess developed by patriarch Mikhail Botvinnik, whom he studied under.

He became a world-class coach par excellence, who through the 1980s led the mighty gold medal-winning USSR team in numerous Chess Olympiads and European Championship victories. “Yura”, as everyone in the chess world knew him better as, also worked alongside a veritable Who’s Who of prominent elite-players of the era, such as world champions Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik; and later in life, individual sessions with young title wannabes Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.

Late last week, Kramnik – who also wrote the forward to Postovsky’s posthumous tribute to his friend and coaching colleague – paid further homage to his old coach by winning the Razuvaev Memorial online blitz tournament that was jointly organised by the Russian Chess Federation and chess.com.

 

 

The tournament was just as unique as Razuvaev was, with the eight-player field featuring pupils who had studied one way or another under the legendary coach: Kramnik, Boris Gelfand, Evgeny Tomashevsky, and even enticing back to the board Joel Lautier, who retired in 2009, to name but a few. Kramnik and Tomashevsky top-scored in the qualifying all-play-all to go forward to the finals, with Kramnik emerging the victor 1.5-0.5 to take the title. And in a final nice touch, both Kramnik and Tomashevsky donated their split of the prize-money to Razuvaev’s widow.

GM Evgeny Tomashevsky – GM Vladimir Kramnik
Yuri Razuvaev Memorial Final, (1)
French Defence, Rubinstein Variation
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 The super-solid French Rubinstein is an ideal weapon to have in your arsenal, as it is easy to play and almost universal in that it can be played against both 3.Nd2 or 3.Nc3. 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Be3 Bd6 8.Bd3 b6 This is the building bricks of the Rubinstein – Black just wants simple play developing his bishops on their most active squares, d6 and b7, and then force c5 to liquidate the center. 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.0-0-0 0-0 11.Ne5 And this is White’s key motif against the Rubinstein, locking the knight on e5 to orchestrate the kingside attack. 11…c5 12.h4 Thanks to AlphaZero, marching h-pawns is ‘The Big Thing’ nowadays, and indeed the kingside attack looks menacing, but this is perhaps a tad premature right now, and safer was the alternative thrust of 12.f4 Qc7 13.Kb1 Nd5 14.dxc5 and a balanced struggle. 12…Qc7 13.Bg5 Nd5! Tomashevsky is looking to go ‘all-in’ with his attack, but it is clear now that Kramnik is the one holding all the best cards. 14.Rhe1 The White attack is bust even before it gets off the ground. If 14.Qh5 the thematic Rubinstein thrust of 14…f5! and already White is in trouble. 14…cxd4 What’s not to like here? Kramnik has liquidated the center and now has the better-placed minor pieces. All he needs to do now is carefully prevent White’s attacking aspirations on the kingside. 15.Qe4 f5! As we noted above, this is a thematic Rubinstein thrust that usually stops the attack. 16.Qxd4 Bc5 17.Qa4 The queenside is not where Tomashevsky wants to see his queen being forced to – and with it, Kramnik effectively cleans up. 17…Bxf2 18.Re2 Bg3! Another excellent move that hinders White’s attacking chances, as now the knight has to retreat. 19.Nf3 Nf4 20.Re3 Tomashevsky is in a bad way, and this doesn’t help matters – but then again, facing Kramnik, trying to complicate matters might seem preferable than going down timidly with 20.Bxf4 Bxf4+ 21.Kb1 e5 22.Ng5 Bxg5 23.hxg5 Rad8 24.Qh4 e4 25.Rh1 g6 as he ruthlessly pushes the e-pawn home. 20…Nxg2! The Splat! moment, basically – White is now effectively on the morphine drip. 21.Rxe6 Bxf3 22.Re7 Bf4+ 23.Kb1 Bxd1! [see diagram] It’s the simplest and most effective solution, as Kramnik’s active pieces are more than a match for the queen. 24.Rxc7 Bxc7 25.Qd7 Bf4 26.Be7 White is dead in the water. If 26.Bc4+ Black simply plays 26…Kh8 27.Qxd1 Bxg5 28.hxg5 Ne3! 29.Qe2 Nxc4 30.Qxc4 f4 and there’s no stopping the f-pawn. For this reason, Tomashevsky at least attempts to go down fighting. 26…Ne3 27.Qd4 Better was 27.Bxf8 Rxf8 28.Qxa7 but the simplest win was 28…Bh5! 29.Qxb6 Bh6! and just as in the game, there’s no stopping the path of the f-pawn. 27…Bh6 28.Bxf8 Rxf8 29.a4 Bh5 As cool as a cucumber, Kramnik finds the most efficient way to win by just clearing a path for his f-pawn. 30.a5 bxa5 31.Qxa7 f4 32.Qxa5 Bg6 Kramnik is taking no chances, just trading off White’s bishop in case of any possible threat. 33.Qa2+ Kh8 34.Qa3 Rg8 35.Bxg6 hxg6 36.Qb3 f3 There’s just no stopping the f-pawn now, and it’s a very Kramnik-like forcing win. 37.Qf7 Nf5 38.Qxg6 Rf8 0-1 Tomashevsky throws the towel in, not wanting to suffer further with 39.Qg1 Nd6 40.c4 f2 41.Qf1 Ne4 42.Kc2 Nd2 etc.

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