Improvements: How hard work pays off

One of the key aspects of being a great world chess champion is the ability to learn from their mistakes and correcting them.

Warning – both old and new notation used in this article!

Anatoly Karpov  proved Capablanca’s quote to be true when after he had lost to Yasser Seirawan in London 1982. He soon got his revenge in the World Cup 1982 in Hamburg Germany.

This is a wonderful example of how we can self examine our mistakes and search out what went wrong and how to make sure we get it right in that same situation next time we meet it over the board.

I have been so guilty of this personally in the past where after a loss I just put the score sheet in a drawer and never wanted to see it again.


I do not do that anymore after watching Karpov get his revenge on Seirawan in the World Cup 82 Hamburg dvd that I happen own, and listening to the thoughts of the two players when they arrived at the same point where Karpov went wrong and lost – this time though Karpov was ready – and boy did he make Seirawan suffer.

Here is the account of this match  from the New York Times at the time time of the event. Have a play through it first, and it is also repeated later when we look at some variations:

Revenge for Karpov

In the necessary final playoff, which was contested at the even faster rate of 15 minutes each for all moves, Karpov decided the tournament with a victory and a draw.

The first of Karpov’s two victories over Seirawan gave him sweet revenge. The game followed their encounter in the Phillips & Drew International Tournament in London up to the point where Karpov had played the faulty 13 … PQB4?; 14 R-K3, B-K3; 15 QxN, which did not produce enough of an attack to compensate for the lost piece. The 13 … P-QN4! of the present game was suggested in the tournament book, but apparently only Karpov took it seriously.

In the first game Karpov played c5, which lost after Re3 Be6, QxN
In the second game he followed a different path and played b5!

Accepting the pawn was prohibited: for example, 14 QxP?, R-N1; 15 Q-R4, RxP;

After the natural recapture of the b-pawn by the rook, black’s pieces are more active and mate threats will help him win

After White tries 16 R-K3, B-K3; 17 QxN?, Q-N5ch Black forces mate:

White’s undeveloped kingside really shows here!

(Seirawan should have retreated with 14 Q-Q1, although Black gets a good game with 14 … P-QB4!, since 15 PxP?!, NxP; 16 QxP?, N-K5!; 17 QxR, NxR; 18 PxN, Q-R6; 19 Q-Q5, B-N2!; 20 QQ2, BxN; 21 R-N1, R-K3 yields Black a winning attack.)

So, back to the game; After 14 Q-R5?!, Q-K5!, something had to be done about 15 … Q-N8ch, and 15 RQ3?, QxR was impossible. Thus, Seirawan tried 15 K-Q2:

Kd2 looks odd but it is a creative attempt to both defend and eventually develop the kingside! There followed Re6 16.b3 b4 17.Re3 Qb1 18.Rxe6 Qb2+ 19.Kd1
How would you recapture the rook?

Now Karpov’s incisive knight sacrifice with 19 … BxR! comes – based on the vulnerability of the white king and the calculation that the black rook and bishop could be quickly mobilized for the mating attack.

And the rest is history – Black builds an overwhelming attack, a piece down but much more active. Note how it isn’t even the passed pawn’s queening potential that makes the difference, but still the mating attack:

Other variations

On 25 … R-QB3, running with 26 K-K2 would have led to 26 … B-N5ch; 27 P-B3, Q-N7ch; 28 K-Q1, R-B8mate. Thus, Seirawan had to plug the dike with 26 B-B4.

After 27 … Q-N7ch, Seirawan could not escape by 28 K-B3, B-K5ch; 29 K-N4, RN3ch; 30 K-R3, QxBP with a mating net. Moreover, 28 K-B1 permits 28 … B-R6ch; 29 K-N1, PxB; 30 Q-R8ch, K-R2; 31 QxR, Q-K7!; 32 N-N2, Q-Q8ch; 33 N-K1, QxNmate.

Therefore, the white king drifted reluctantly back with 28 K-Q1, but on the rook sacrifice with 28 … PxB!; 29 Q-R8ch, K-R2; 30 QxR, P-B6!, there was no way out, since 31 N-B3 ends in 31 … Q-N8ch; 32 K-K2, B-Q6mate. Thus, Seirawan gave up.

Here are the thoughts of Seirawan when they were following the move order up to the crucial point where Karpov produced his improvement on his mistake he had made previously:

Seirawan- “Oh Geez, 14. Qe4, so simple oh no! “Then after some further analysis he says “My game is now awful and I have fallen in to his preparation, just as he did mine before”


There you have it folks, when we go back to the drawing board like Karpov did and prepare for next time it happens where we can right our wrong then the hard work pays off and it’s worth the time and effort to rid those painful defeats with glorious victories.

Thank you Mr.Capablanca and Thank you Mr.Karpov for this vital advice and demonstration of how to improve ourselves at chess.


Bob is a regular league and tournament player and contributor to BCT

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