The Most Important Opening Novelties From The Modern World Championships

6. Karpov – Korchnoi (1978 game 10) – 11.Ng5

For number 6 I decided to include two games to help to illustrate the powerful effect a novelty can have in a match. This particular novelty that Karpov employed in his 1978 match was arguably one of the greatest novelties of the modern era. The move 11.Ng5 is a thunderbolt that was prepared by Karpov’s team of Soviet seconds (notably Tal). The move was so good that even Korchnoi (who praises his opponents sparingly) said,

11.Ng5 … is the kind [of move] you find once in a century.

And Korchnoi would know wouldn’t he? I read that when Karpov played this move the Soviet delegation went to the bar to toast what they perceived would be an easy victory for Karpov. It’s still unclear who created this novelty as Karpov had a fairly large team of seconds for this match (on account of Korchnoi’s defection to the west). Many believe it was Zaitsev who originally came up with this idea of sacrificing the knight. The game was drawn and the move Ng5 became one of the most dangerous lines in the Ruy Lopez Open variation.

To date this line has been played in 97 games and 36 GM games scoring 27.3% for white in the big database. As a special addendum here is the game between Kasparov and Anand where Kasparov (using Tal’s idea) improves on Karpov’s original play. This is a beautiful example of the breadth and depth of Kasparov’s preparation.

According to Kasparov,

I spent two minutes during the game on the first 20 moves- but 48 hours beforehand. – Garry Kasparov

This pretty much put the dxc3 variation (as first played by Korchnoi) out of commission and now people simply capture the knight on move 11.

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