Lev Polugaevsky

by Bill Wall


Lev Abramovich Polugaesky was born in Mogilev (now Mahilyou, Belarus) on November 20, 1934.  He did not become a chess master until he was an adult.  He played in 20 Soviet chess championships and finished with a winning score in every one of them.  He won or tied in the USSR Chess Championship three times (1967, 1968, 1969).  He was a noted opening theorist and best remembered for the Polugaevsky Variation of the Sicilian Defense (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 b5).


He was a highly respected chess author, writing seven chess books, and wrote a classic called Grandmaster Preparation in 1984.  About chess books, he wrote, "Ninety per cent of all chess books you can open at page one and then immediately close again for ever. Sometimes you see books that have been written in one month. I don't like that. You should take at least two years for a book, or not do it [at] all."

He died in Paris of a brain tumor in 1995.  He is buried near the grave of Alexander Alekhine in the Montparnasse cemetery.


Polugaevsky - Franco, Havana 1966

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 Ne4 4.Nxe4 fxe4 5.f3 d5 6.e3 Bf5 7.fxe4 Bxe4 8.Ne2 h6 9.Bf4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Bg6 11.Bd3 Bf7 12.O-O e5 13.dxe5 Qd7 14.e6 Qxe6 15.Nb5  1-0



In January 1961, Lev Polugaevsky swindled Boris Spassky in the 28th USSR championship. Spassky overlooked a check of his king and missed a forced win in time pressure. Polugaevsky found the winning combination in the rook-pawn endgame for victory.


Boris Spassky - Lev Polugaevsky, Moscow (28th USSR Championship) 1961


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6

 the Queen's Indian Defense


More common in the Queen's Indian Defense is 4.g3. 


4...Bb4 would transpose into a Nimzo-Indian Defense


Also common is 5.a3


or 5...h6 6.Bh4 Bb4 or 6...g5.  Another common reply is 5...Bb4, played by Alekhine and Euwe.


Other moves are 6.Qc2, 6.Bxf6, 6.g3, and 6.Bf4


Popularized by Capablanca.  The most common alternative is 6...O-O 7.Bd3


or 7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.Nxe4 Bxe4.  White can also try 7.Bf4

7...Bxe4 8.Bf4

First played by Milan Vidmar at London 1922.  White can also play 8.Bxe7 Qxe7 9.Be2 as in

Petrosian-Geller, Moscow 1961

8...O-O 9.Bd3

A new move at the time.  Vidmar continued 9.Nd2 Bb7 10.Bd3 and won in 31 moves (Vidmar-Wahltuch, London 1922).

Later, Polugaeavsky, as White, adopted this move.


the alternative is 9...Bxd3 10.Qxd3 f5 (Polugaevsky-Najdorf, Havana 1962)


If 10.Ke2, then 10...Bxf3+ 11.gxf3 (11.Kxf3 f5 12.h4 Bd6) Bd6 12.Bxd6 cxd6


10...f5 11.Bxe4 fxe4 12.Ng5 Bd6=  Pollak-Neckar, Bad Pyrmont 1969


White now threatens 12.Ng5 and 13.Qxh7 mate

 11...Be7 12.h4!?

or 12.Rc1 d6 13.h4 Nd7 14.g4, winning in 23 moves (Korchnoi-Garcia, Bucharest 1966)


later, Olafsson improved upon this line with 12...Nc6 13.Rc1 f5 14.a3 Bf6, winning in 33 moves (Korchnoi-Olafsson, Iceland 2000).

Another ideas has been 12...d6 13.Ng5 g6 14.Nf3 h5=  Atalik-Roozman, Berkeley 2005.

If 12...d5, the 13.Ng5


White can also try 13.h5

13...d6 14.g4!? Nd7

If 14...fxg4? 15.Ng5 Bxg5 16.hxg5 g6 17.Qe4, threatening 18.Qxa8 and 18.Qxe6+


or 15.gxf5 exf5 16.Kd1

15...fxg4 16.Rxg4

or 16.Ng5 Bxg5 17.hxg5 Rf5 18.Rxg4

16...Nf6 17.Rg5

of 17.Rg2 Nh5 18.Ng5 Bxg5 (18...Nxf4+?? 19.exf4 Bxg5 20.hxg5 g6 21.Qe4 Qd7 22.Rgh2 Rae8 23.Qxg6+! hxg6 24.Rh8+ Kg7 25.R1h7 mate)

19.hxg5 g6 20.Rxh5 gxh5 21.g6 Qf6 and Black should hold


if 17...Qe8, then 18.h5 Rd8 19.h6 g6 20.Nh4 Kh8 21.Rxg6 e5 22.Rg7 exf4 23.Nf3 and 24.Ng5 wins for White


Threatening 19.h6.  18.Rhg1 Rf7 19.h5 Kh8 20.h6 g6 21.Rxg6 hxg6 22.Qxg6 Raf8 23.Ng5 Qe8 should hold for Black

18...Ne8 19.Rg2 b5 20.c5

20.cxb5 Rb8 21.a4 a6

20...dxc5 21.h6 Rf5

21...g6? 22.Rxg6+! hxg6 23.Qxg6+ Kh8 24.Ne5 Qd5 25.Rg1 should win for White

21...c5? 22.Qxh7+! Kxh7 23.hxg7+ Kg8 24.Rh8+ Kf7 25.Ne5+ Kf6 26.Rxf8+ Bxf8 27.gxf8=Q+ Qf7 28.Qxf7 mate


threatening 23.Bxg7


22...Rd8 23.hxg7


threatening 24.Qxa8

23...Qd5 24.Qg4

or 24.Qxd5 exd5 25.hxg7 h5


24...Qxf3+? 25.Qxf3 Rxf3 26.Kxf3 g5 27.Bf4


25.bxc3 g6 and 26...Qxa2+


25...Qxf3+ 26.Qxf3 Rxf3 27.Kxf3 g5 28.Bf4 Kf7 29.Bxg5 and White shouldf hold


26.Bxg7 Qxf3+ or 26...Qb5+

26...Qb5+ 27.Ke3!

27.Ke1? Qd3 28.Bxg7 Bg5 wins for Black; 27.Kd1? Qd3+ 28.Kc1 Qe2 wins for Black

27...Rf7 28.hxg7

threatening 29.Rxh7 Kxh7 30.Qh5+ Kg8 31.Qh8 mate


28...c2 29.Qxe6 Nd6 30.Qh3


29.Qh3 c2 30.Bxf6 c1=Q+ 31.Rxc1 Rxf6 32.e5

Rxf6 30.Rxh7

or 30.e5 Rf7 31.Rxh7

30...Rxf3 31.Kxf3

31.Qxf3? Bg5+ 32.Rxg5 Qxg5+ and 33...Kxh7

31...Qd3+ 32.Kf4 Bd6 33.Kg5

33.e5? Qxd4+


33...Be7+ 34.Kg6; 33...Qb5+ 34.Kh6


34.Kf6! Qxd4+ (34...Kg8 35.Qxe6+ Kh7 36.g8=Q+ wins) 35.Kf7 Qf6+ 36.Kxf6 Be7+ 37.Kf7 Rf8+ 38.gxf8+ Bxf8 39.Qg6+ Kh8 40.Qg8 mate

34.Qxe6? Qxd4


White overlooked this check in time pressure, which lets Black into the game


35.e5 Qe8+ 36.Kh4 Be7+

35..Be7+ 36.Kh3

36.Kg3? Qg5 37.f4 Qxg4+ 38.Kxg4 Kxg7 wins for Black


36...Kg8 37.Qxe6+ wins for White; 36...Rg8 37.Qg6+ wins for White; 36...Bg5 37.Qh5+ wins for White


37.Qxe6?? Qh4 mate

Bxg5 38.Rxg5 Rd8 39.f4

39.Kg3 Kg8 40.Rc5 Rxd4

39.d5 exd5 40.g8=Q+ Rxg8 41.Rxd5


39...Rxd4?? 40.g8=Q+ wins for White


40.d5 exd5 41.exd5 Rd7 42.Re5 Rxg7 wins for Black

Rxd4 41.Rxc7 Rxe4 42.Kg4

42.Kg3 Re2 and 43...Rxa2 should win for Black

42...e5 43.a3?

43.Kf5 Rxf4+ 44.Kg6 Rg4+ 45.Kh6 e4 should draw


or 43...bxa3 44.Kg5 exf4 45.Kf6 Re8 46.Rxc3 a2 47.Rc1 Rd8 wins for Black


44.Kh5 Rf7


or 44...bxa3 45.Kg6 Rg4+

45.axb4 axb4 46.Kg6

threatening 47.Rc8 mate

Rg4+ 47.Kf6??

The losing move.  47.Kh6! e4 48.Rc8+ Kf7 49.Rf8+ Ke6 50.g8=Q+ Rxg8 51.Rxg8 Kd5 should draw


Now Black wins.  47...Rf4+ 48.Kg6


48.Kxe5 Rxg7 49.Rc4 Rg1 50.Kf6 Rf1+ 51.Kg5 Rb1 52.Rc7+ Kg8 53.Kg6 Kf8 wins for Black

48...Kxg8 49.Kxe5

49.Rv8+ Kh7 50.Kxe5 Rg1 51.Kf6 Rf1+ 52.Kg5 Rb1 wins for Black

49...Rg1 50.Kf6

50.Kd5 51.Ke4 Rb1 52.Kd3 Rxb3 wins for Black

50...Rf1+ 51.Ke5 Rb1 threatening 52...Rxb3

and White resigns  0-1