#12 Stahlberg-Kotov (click here to view on chessgames.com)
In this game Stahlberg, who ended up as the 1953 Interzonal dead-ender (no shame given the company), is very close to the better side of a draw. But Kotov finds a way to swindle him, and after the game it didn't matter whether he won by way of consummate skill or blatant blind luck (just like I did the other night in the club championship).
Bronstein: ...it might seem that the maneuver ...Nd7-e5-f3+ could not be prevented. Stahlberg dissipates that illusion by means of a forcing variation.
33. Nf4 Re8
34. Ne6+ Rxe6
35. dxe Bxc3
36. exd7 Qxd7
So White has won the exchange but elects to immediately return it. This was surprising to me, but looking at possible continuations should convince us that this is a case where the bishop is no worse than a rook. Black's bishops have outstanding support points in the center, and the congestion of White's pieces combined with the exposure of his King make the exchange hard to keep. A variation I made up to try to push the pawns and get room for the rooks illustrates this: 37. Rd1 Bd4 38. Kh2 Bf7 39. f3?! Bh5 40. Qg2 exf3 41. Rxf3 Bxf3 =
37. h5 Bxe1
38. hxg6?! Bc3 (38. Rxe1 looks better to me, but Stahlberg may have been playing to win)
39. gxh7 Rh8!
Bronstein: The game is about even here, and after 40. Kg2 and 41. Rh1, the draw would have been quite obvious. But with his last move in tome-pressure, Stahlberg trustingly attacks the bishop, no doubt expecting that Black would find nothing better than 40. .... Bf6
40. Qe3? Kg6!! (A tragedy of the back rank, wherein the security of the king is worth more than a piece)
41. Rd1 Bd4
42. Qf4 Qxh7
43. Kf1 Qh1+
44. Ke2 Qh5+! (provoking 45. g4 to head to a better endgame - 45. Kf1 is met by Qf3!)
45. g4 Qxg4+
46. Qxg4+ fxg4
47. Bxe4+ Kg5
Bronstein: Here's the rub: despite the bishops of opposite color, White has a lost game. Let's see why:
1. Black's bishop is well supported, and stands very well at d4, while the same cannot be said for the bishop at e4.
2. Black's king is far more active than its white counterpart, and in fact assumes a leading role in the fight.
3. Nor are the pawns on f2 and g4 equivalent: where the pawn on f2 is weak and needs protection, the pawn on g4 stands ready to assist its pieces in their assault on the pawn on f2.
All of these advantages would lose their importance if White could just manage to get the rooks traded off, but he can't. The game's concluding phase is most instructive.
48. Rh1 Re8 (48. Bxb7? Rb8 or Rh2)
49. f3 b5!? (Black creates an entry point for his rook, and only then pushes the g-pawn)
50. Kf1 bxc4
51. bxc4 g3
52. Rh7 Rb8!
53. Bb7 Be5
Bronstein: Stahlberg...denies the black rook entry into his camp. Were it not for the passed g-pawn, that might have been enough to save the game.
54. Kg2 Kf4
55. Rf7+ Ke3 (The decisive inroad by the black king).
56. f4 Bxf4
57. Re7+ Be5
58. Rf7 a5
59. a4 Kd4
60. Bd5 Rb2+
61. Kf1 Ra2 0-1
A high-class, creative swindle.