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Legendary US player shows lasting mettle

Earlier this summer the Chess Set in Los Angeles featured an eight-game exhibition match between International Grandmasters Larry Christiansen and Samuel Reshevsky. The 28-year-old Christiansen narrowly edged out Reshevsky, who is almost three times his age, by a 41/2-31/2 score. This marked the first-ever match loss to another United States player for the legendary Reshevsky, who played in his first master tournament when he was 10 years old.

Reshevsky, who has been a major force in American chess for six decades, has recorded match victories against Al Horowitz, Isaac Kashdan, Miguel Najdorf, Svetozar Gligoric, Pal Benko, William Lombardy, Donald Byrne, and me. In 1961 he drew a controversial, aborted match with Bobby Fischer - each player had two wins and seven draws when play was discontinued.

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Although Christiansen, at peak age and form, is currently rated more highly than Reshevsky and was favored to win, Reshevsky fought hard and achieved a most creditable score.

The best game of the match, in my opinion, is the one featured today. When Christiansen injudiciously opened the king rook file, Reshevsky engineered a fulminating onslaught to score a signal triumph. I am reminded of the remark attributed to Wilhelm Steinitz: ''I may be an old lion, but when someone places his fingers in my mouth I can still bite them off.''

Nimzo-Indian Defense Reshevsky Christiansen 1. P-Q4 N-KB3 2. P-QB4 P-K3 3. N-QB3 B-N5 4. Q-B2 (a) P-B4 5. PxP O-O 6. P-QR3 BxBP 7. N-B3 N-B3 8. B-B4 P-QN3 (b) 9. R-Q1 B-N2 10. P-K3 N-KR4 11. B-N3 P-B4 12. P-N4 B-K2 13. B-K2 NxB (c) 14. RPxN P-QR3 (d) 15. P-N4 P-N3 16. PxP NPxP 17. P-K4 PxP (e) 18. NxP R-B2 19. R-R5 R-N2 20. N(B)-N5 BxN 21. NxB -K2 22. RxRP! (f) N-K4 (g) 23. P-B4 P-Q4 (h) 24. R-R6 (i) NxP 25. Q-B3 N-Q3 (j) 26. B-Q3 P-K4 27. B-R7 ch RxB (k) 28. RxR Q-B3 29. Q-KN3 Q-N3 (l) 30. Q-R3 R-K1 31. R-R8 ch K-N2 32. RxR QxR 33. Q-R7 ch K-B3 34. Q-R6 ch K-B4 35. P-N4 ch KxNP 36. Q-R3 ch KxP 37. N-K6 ch Resigns

A. This classical variation was one of the earliest methods of fighting the Nimzo-Indian and enjoyed great popularity in the 1920s and '30s as a way of avoiding doubled pawns. After a long period of desuetude it has recently enjoyed a renaissance of popularity.

B. It might have been more circumspect to play 8. ... P-Q4, which would transpose into a known variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined.

C. For a player of Christiansen's strength, this is a severe misjudgment. Apparently he forgets that White is under no compulsion to castle and that the open KR file can be used against him.

D. 14. ... P-QR4 would at least offer possibilities for counterplay.

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E. This opens more arteries for White's attack, but 17. ... P-B5; 18. P-K5 was no more appealing.

F. This attractive pseudo-sacrifice wins material and clarifies White's advantage.

G. Best, since neither 22. ... QxN; 23. RXP nor 22. ... RxR; 23. QxR ch, QxQ; 24. NxQ, KxN; 24. RxP ch and 25. RxB suffices to keep Black in the game.

H. After this, Black is clearly losing. He should at least try 23. ... BxP, maintaining material equality while attempting to cloud the issue.

I. Simpler seems 24. RxR ch, QxR; 25. Q-B3, which wins another pawn or two, since 25. ... NxP; 26. QxQ ch, KxQ; 27. BxN, PxB; 28. R-Q7 ch costs the bishop.

J. To meet 26. Q-R3 with 26. ... N-B2, with some defensive possibilities.

K. Worse is 27. ... K-R1 (27. ... K-B1; 18. N-K6 ch) 28. B-B5 ch, K-N1; 29. B-K6 ch.

L. After this Reshevsky mates, but 29. ... PxP; 30. N-K4 ch, PxQ; 31. NxQ ch, K-B1; 32. R-Q7 leaves Black with nothing left to fight with or for.m