12/03/2008 20:27


NAJDORF : Life and Games


Tomasz Lissowski

Adrian Mikhalchisin

Miquel Najdorf

Foreword by Liliana Najdorf

It is time to admit it!  I am a sucker for biographical games collections and recently I have had plenty of opportunity to feed my addiction.  Only a few weeks ago I had a copy of "Fire on Board Part 2" which in the normal course of events, would have sated my craving for a couple of months but now my cup is over- flowing.  Batsford have seen to that by publishing "Najdorf : Life and Games."

Miguel Najdorf was a colourful personality who led a colourful life. Born in Warsaw on 15th April 1910 he discovered his natural ability to play chess and by 1939 he had acquitted himself so well that he was included in the Polish team for the Olympiad in Buenos Aires.  This proved to be a major turning point in his life as well as many other European chess players present at the Olympiad.  Whilst Najdorf was in Buenos Aires, German forces overran Poland at the start of the Second World War.  This occupation happened so quickly that he had no opportunity of returning to his native land.  He and many other chess players decided to stay in Argentina and all had to start a new life.  Although he did not know it at the time, Najdorf lost his wife and child in the course of the war.

Initially, he tried to make a living from chess activities but this would have given a very frugal return.  Eventually he gravitated to selling insurance and this gave him enough scope to carry on playing chess without the frantic need to make it pay.  In fact his performance in the insurance business was so successful that he became one of the richest active grandmasters of his era.

Batsford have called on Tomasz Lissowski - a respected chess historian -  to provide the biography and this is supported by a foreword written by Liliana Najdorf a daughter from Najdorf's second marriage, who herself has written a book on his life.

The book contains 130 complete games of which 62 are annotated by Najdorf himself.  The others are annotated by either contemporaries of Najdorf or Grandmaster Adrian Mikhalchisin.  In addition Mikhalchisin has added notes to other annotations bringing to bear an authoritative modern commentary.

Najdorf was for many years on the fringe of the top masters of the time and challenged for the World Championship in the Candidates Tournaments of Budapest (1950) and Zurich (1953).    

His ebullient character served him well during this period but he was denied the opportunity of getting closer to the world crown by dedicated and very professional adversaries.   Now and again his wit and almost patent gamesmanship could have had repercussions but he seemed to live a charmed life.  Gligoric tells a story that in one game against him, Najdorf played a move which offered him a pawn and then clapped his hand to his forehead as if indicating that he had blundered.  Gligoric, in time trouble,  naively fell into the trap and took the pawn after which Najdorf grabbed a whole piece!  Najdorf's sails were set very close to the wind! 

In addition to the games, biography and forward, the book contains a table of all the events in which Najdorf played, a section on his endgames that was considered to be his Achilles heel, 12 diagrams to "Find the winning moves in Najdorf's games" and a postscript which relates many anecdotes of his bubbling character.

In all the book has  256 double columned pages and is priced at 14.99.

I consider this to be extremely good value, but having declared my addiction there are some of you who may feel that I am biased.  If you buy the book, the quality will reassure you that my leanings have not held sway.  For those who, like me, have a biographical games collection addiction, this book sits very comfortably on my bookshelves with all the others I have collected over the years.

Three games from the book follow.  These are all annotated by Najdorf and the notes injected by Mikhalchisin are given in red type.


(1) Najdorf,Miguel - Porat,Yosef [E43]
Amsterdam ol (Men) fin-A Amsterdam (10), 23.09.1954

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.d4 Bb7 4.e3 e6 5.Bd3 Bb4+ 6.Nc3  

Avoiding the theoretical move. 6.Nbd2 ; If after 6.Nc3 Ne4 White plays 7.0-0! Then after 7...Nxc3 8.bxc3 Bxc3 9.Rb1 His open lines fully compensate for the pawn sacrificed, as in a similar position between Denker and Fine in the 1944 USA Championship: alternatively after; 6.Nc3 Ne4 7.0-0 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Nxc3 9.Qc2 Bxf3 10.gxf3 Qg5+ 11.Kh1 Qh5 12.Rg1 Qxf3+ 13.Rg2 Qd1+ 14.Qxd1 Nxd1 15.Ba3 Nc3 16.Rxg7 White soon regains the pawn with a tremendous position. A beautiful piece of analysis!

6...0-0 7.0-0  

Now a well-known variation of the Nimzo-Indian has been reached by transposition. Here Taimanov played 7....d5 against Szabo in the Candidates Tournament.


This was played against me in the Candidates Tournament by Smyslov, Bronstein and Euwe. Against Smyslov I played 8.a3, against Bronstein 8.Bd2 and against Euwe, as here, 8.Na4.

8.Na4 cxd4 9.a3 Be7 10.exd4 Bxf3  

A theoretical novelty. In the fifth Botvinnik - Bronstein match game, Black played 10...Qc7 11.b4 Ng4 ; Later on, Filip tried 10...Be4 against Pachman in their 1953 match, but got a bad position after 11.b3 ; Against me at Mar del Plata earlier in 1955, Eliskases tried 10...d5 whereupon I obtained a powerful queenside majority by 11.c5!  

11.Qxf3 Nc6 12.Be3  

Not 12.d5 Ne5 13.Qe2 Qc7 followed by 14.-- Bd6 when Black is well placed.

12...d5! 13.Rfd1!  

I decide to maintain the tension in the centre rather than liquidate the position by 13.cxd5 Qxd5 14.Qxd5 Nxd5 15.Rac1 Rac8 16.Ba6 Rc7 17.Nc3 Nxe3 18.fxe3 Nb8! when White has no advantage.


A very hard move to meet! At this stage I spent no less than one and a half hours working out the best reply. All the other moves for White are inadequate: 13...e5 14.cxd5 Nxd4! 15.Bxd4 (or 15.Qg3 Qxd5 ) 15...exd4 16.Bc4 a6! and suddenly White loses a piece!; 13...e5 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Qf5 Nxd3 16.Qxd3 (16.Rxd3 Qe8! wins a pawn.) 16...dxc4 17.Qxc4 Qc8! with a perfectly satisfactory game.; 13...e5 14.Bc2 Nxd4 15.Bxd4 exd4 16.Rxd4 Qc7! taking advantage of the unprotected bishop.; Furthermore after 13...e5 14.Be2 the queen's retreat to is blocked, while on; 13...e5 14.Bf5 Black plays 14...g6 Therefore the following move, so incomprehensible at first sight, is the only way to keep the advantage! 

14.Bf1! Rc8?

Black doesn't find the best reply to White's surprise move and rapidly loses ground. Another unsatisfactory try is 14...e4 15.Qf5! ; Black should play 14...Nxd4! 15.Bxd4 exd4 16.Rxd4 Bc5! 17.Nxc5 bxc5 18.Rh4 d4 though with 19.b4 White keeps a slight but definite edge - he has chances both of a kingside attack and of exploiting his queenside majority after b4-b5. The text move is bad because the great problem that Black faces is to find a satisfactory square for his queen. Given this difficulty, it is essential to keep c8 available for the queen and not to occupy it with anything else. The white queen, by contrast, is a very strong piece.


Now the line in the last note no longer works for Black; in the event of 15.Nc3 exd4 16.Bxd4 Nxd4 17.Rxd4 Bc5 18.Rd2! followed by either 18...-- 19.Nb5 or b2-b4. the d-pawn falls.




But not 16.d5 Na5 17.d6 Bxd6 18.Nb5 Ne8 19.Rxd6 Nxd6 20.Rd1 Nxb5! and Black has enough material for the queen.

16...Nxe5 17.Qf5!  

Now we see that Black's queen could have done with the square c8.


Forced. White wins against the alternatives as follows: 17...Qc7 18.Bf4 ; 17...Bd6 18.Nb5 ; 17...Nfd7 18.f4 ; 17...Ned7 18.Nd5  

18.Bxd3 cxd3 19.Rxd3 Qc7 20.Bd4 Rfd8 21.Re1!  

Now Black is virtually in zugswang! Let us see: 

a) 21.Re1 Qd7 22.Qxd7 Rxd7 23.Bxf6 wins two pieces for the rook.; 

b) 21.Re1 Rd6 22.Nb5

c) 21.Re1 Rd7 22.Bxf6

d) 21.Re1 Qb7 22.Bxf6 Bxf6 23.Nd5 and Black is helpless. In other words, Black has no defence against the coming decisive attack on his king.

21...h6 22.h3 Kf8 23.Bxf6 Bxf6 24.Nd5 Qc6 25.Qh7 g6 26.Ne7!!  

Black resigned, for on 26.Ne7 Bxe7 White plays 27.Qh8# and otherwise Q - g8 mate. A game for the student of attacking chess. 1-0