It is with deep regret to have to announce the death of the Czech-American chess legend Lubomir Kavalek, not only a long-time colleague and dear friend but also one of the world’s best players through the 1970s and a successful second and chess coach at the very highest level, including aiding Bobby Fischer and Nigel Short during their title matches in 1972 and 1993. Above all, he will probably be best remembered by many chess fans worldwide as an accomplished writer, especially through his always entertaining chess columns for the Washington Post (1986 to 2010) and then Huffington Post.
Lubomir “Lubos” Kavalek was born in Prague in 1943, and at the age of 19 became the youngest player ever to win the Czech Championship, in 1962. But six years later, he had to flee his homeland following the Soviet invasion, escaping eventually to the USA, which he quickly adopted as his new home. He passed away following a short illness on January 18 at his Reston, Virginia suburb home, aged 77.
A lifelong enemy of Communism, Lubos – which he was always know to his friends and colleagues as – always enjoyed telling the story to this writer about how, when the Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, with quick-thinking he used his winnings from a recent Polish tournament to load his Skoda car with vodka and beer, to enable him to bribe the border guards en route to his escape to freedom in West Germany; and not long after then on to the USA.
Once settled in the U.S., Lubos went on to win the national championship three times. He also represented the US at the Chess Olympiads as player and coach, winning one gold and five bronze medals with the American team. In 2001 he was also inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. In 2012, Lubos received what he felt was his highest accolade and ultimate fulfilment as a US citizen, by being named that year as the Carnegie Corporation of New York ‘Great Immigrants Recipient’.
There’s a full appreciation and tribute to Lubomir Kavalek at US Chess Online.
Playing under the Stars and Stripes, Lubosh played with great vigour and entertainment value at Wijk aan Zee, winning several of the fabled tournament’s “Spectator Prizes” for the best game for each round. Of course, due to Covid protocols, we no longer have spectator polls, but if we did, then the candidate for round 3 of the 83rd Tata Steel Masters would have gone to the US world #2, Fabiano Caruana, who almost pulled off a near flawless display of controlled pyrotechnics against Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland.
To his credit, the young Pole determinedly hung on by his fingertips to stage a quite a remarkable save in easily the best game of the round – a save that would likely have seen the Spectators Prize deservedly being shared by both players. Missing out on the win denied last year’s runaway winner, Caruana, from moving into the outright lead – and now going into the first rest day today of the tournament, Caruana is in a five-way tie for first place alongside Magnus Carlsen, Pental Harikrishna, Anish Giri and Nils Grandelius.
1-5. Pental Harikrishna (India), Fabiano Caruana (USA), Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Nils Grandelius (Sweden), 2½/4; 6-10. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Jorden Van Foreest (Netherlands), Andrey Esipenko (Russia), Alireza Firouzja (FIDE), Radoslaw Woktaszek (Poland) 2; 11-13. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), David Anton (Spain), Aryan Tari (Norway), 1½; 14. Alexander Donchenko (Germany) 1.
Photo: R.I.P Lubomir “Lubos” Kavalek, 1943-2021 / © U.S. Chess Hall of Fame
GM Fabiano Caruana – GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda
83rd Tata Steel Masters, (3)
Petrov’s Defence, Nimzowitsch Attack
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 Before the Berlin Defence came to the fore after Vladimir Kramnik rehabilitated it in 2000 during his successful title challenge against Garry Kasparov, the big elite-GM battlefield to equality was the Petrov Defence. 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 The Nimzowitsch Attack is the current favoured method of attacking the Petrov. The trouble for Duda, is that Caruana most likely had all this preparation leftover from last April’s postponed Candidates – and he has to unload it somewhere! 5…Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 Nd7 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 Nf6 10.Bd3 c5 11.Rhg1 It’s a straightforward all-out kingside attack for White, who is looking to bust the game open by opening up as many lines as possible to the Black king – and for this reason, Duda has to react just as energetically on the queenside to create counter-play. 11…b5 12.g4 Bb7 There’s no time to snatch the pawn with 12…Bxg4? as 13.Bh6! g6 14.Qf4 and White’s attack is ready to strike hard; and also if 12…Nxg4 13.Ng5! g6 14.h4 with a promising attack brewing on the kingside. 13.Qe2 c4 14.Bf5 Re8 15.Nd4 Nd5 It’s the most obvious move, threatening …Nxe3 – but Caruana has a nasty surprise in store for Duda. 16.Ne6! [see diagram] Boom! And with it, now comes an amazing display of pyrotechnics from Caruana, that should really have have ended with a deserving full-point for the US world No.2. 16…Qa5 One obvious try is the counter-sacrifice with 16…Nxc3!? 17.bxc3 fxe6 18.Bxe6+ Kh8 19.g5 Be4 which the engine assesses as roughly level – but eating away at the back of your head, is the fear that Caruana and his team may well have “crunched” this line down to a clear winning plan of attack. In such circumstances, players generally try to avoid what looks like the mainline and steer the game to one of the sidelines, which is what Duda does. 17.Qf3! Too ambitious was 17.Nxg7 as Black has 17…Nxc3! 18.Qd2 (And not 18.bxc3?? as Black has 18…Bf6! all but winning with the attack on g7 and the mating attack on the White king.) 18…b4! 19.a3 Bf6 20.Nxe8 Rxe8 21.Qxd6 bxa3! 22.bxc3 (The only move again, as 22.Qxa3?? Ne2+ 23.Kb1 Qxa3 24.bxa3 Bf3! and the only way to avoid the mating attack with …Rb8 is a heavy loss of material with 25.c3 Nxc3+ 26.Kc1 Bxd1 27.Rxd1 Nxd1 28.Kxd1 a6 and White is hopelessly lost.) 22…Bxc3 23.g5 Bb2+ 24.Kb1 a2+! 25.Kxb2 a1Q+ 26.Rxa1 c3+ 27.Kb3 Bd5+ 28.Qxd5 Qxd5+ 29.Kxc3 Qxf5 and Black will win with the White king wandering dazed and confused in No Man’s Land. 17…Bf6 18.g5 Bxc3! To Duda’s credit, the young Pole is matching Caruana blow for blow here in the survival stakes – but things are about to heat up! 19.Bxh7+! Kxh7 20.g6+! A wonderful disruptive move that leaves Black’s defences in tatters. 20…fxg6 21.Ng5+ Kh8 22.Bd4!! Caruana’s ace dual-purpose move, as it not only threatens a mating attack with Qh3+, Qh7+ and Qxg7++, but it also defends against Black’s attack. 22…Bxd4 The only move – but now comes the threat of Rd4-h4+ mating that has to be defended against. 23.Rxd4 With the not-too subtle threat of swinging the rook over to h4 mating, and now forcing Black’s reply. 23…Nf6 The alternative of 23…Re1+ lost quickly to 24.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 25.Rd1 Nf4 26.Qxf4 Qe2 27.Qxd6 Qxf2 28.Qd8+!! Qf8 29.Qd4 Bf3 30.Rf1 and the bishop is lost, as is the game. 24.Qxb7 Rab8 25.Qf7 The dust may well have cleared, but Black still has to defend against a potential mating attack. 25…Re1+ 26.Rd1 Rxg1 27.Rxg1 Re8 28.Ne6! Caruana hasn’t missed a beat with his vicious attack that started with 16.Ne6!, as the knight now returns to the scene of the crime. 28…Rxe6 29.Qxe6 Qxa2 30.Qh3+ The obvious human move when you are handicapped by the flag on your digital clock metaphorically starting to rise by now, but the critical move was the more ambitious rook lift of 30.Rg3! Qa1+ 31.Kd2 Kh7 32.Rh3+ Nh5 33.Qe4! Threatening Rxh5+. 33…Kh6 34.Ra3! Qg1 (It’s wise to try and keep the queens on the board right now, and for this reason 34…Qxb2? walks right into 35.Qe3+ g5 36.Qc3 Qxc3+ 37.Kxc3 and with Black’s king and knight marooned on the h-file, White’s king and rook will quickly pick-off all of the queenside pawns that saves Duda in the game.) 35.Qe3+ Kh7 36.Rxa7 Qxh2 37.Rb7 and with b5 set to fall, White should easily clear up now. 30…Kg8 31.Qe6+ Kh7 32.Qh3+ Caruana isn’t interested in a draw, he’s just wasting a couple of easy repeating moves on his clock. 32…Kg8 33.Qa3 Qxa3 34.bxa3 and with the queens exchanged, and all of Black’s pawns vulnerable to being attacked by Caruana’s rook, White should be winning. But there’s a big difference with this position and the queens-traded note above, as the White rook isn’t as active, and this makes all the difference as Duda survives to hang on by his fingertips to grab his saving chance when it comes his way. 34…Kf7 35.Kd2 a6 36.Ke3 It leads to the same thing after 36.Kc3 Nd5+ etc. 36…Nd5+ 37.Kd4 Ne7 Duda is going the right way about trying to establish a fortress with his knight and pawns – but it is going to take a slip from Caruana to help the young Pole to pull off an unlikely save. 38.Re1?! Regretfully Caruana’s only slip-up in what was turning out to be a leading best game candidate for the tournament. Best was the immediate 38.a4!, as all the rook move does is to give the Black king an extra move to rush over to the queenside, where it wants to be. Now after 38…Ke6 39.axb5 axb5 40.Rg5! Nf5+ 41.Kc3 and Black can’t hold both the kingside and queenside pawns; something will have to give. 38…Ke8! With Duda being gifted an extra move, the young Pole quickly finds the best saving chance by swiftly getting his king over to d7 and c6 to hold his game-saving fortress together. 39.a4 Kd7 40.axb5 axb5 Amazingly, Duda’s knight and pawns are now an effective fortress to stop White’s king and rook coming into the game. 41.Rg1 Kc6 42.h4 Nf5+ 43.Kc3 Nxh4 Any trade of pawns now only helps Duda achieve the draw. 44.Kb4 Nf3 45.Rxg6 Nd4! The draw is in the bag now for Duda. 46.c3 Ne2 47.Rxg7 Nf4! 48.Ka5 White has to be careful, as Black could end up with a winning position after 48.Rf7? Nd5+ 49.Ka5 Nxc3 50.f4 d5 51.Rf6+ Kd7 52.Kb4 d4 and Black’s pawns are the more dangerous. 48…Ne2 The constant hit on c3 coupled with the threat of …Nf4-d5+ can’t be defended against. 49.Kb4 Nf4 50.Ka5 Ne2 51.Kb4 ½-½