Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Happy 50th Darryl Johansen

Today is GM Darryl Johansen's birthday, his fiftieth. Happy birthday Darryl and may you have another half century ahead of you. More fighting chess!

From the couple of times when I had beers with him in Dresden, I can say that he is one funny guy. Ask him about the time when he was "almost" saved from drowning, for example. And how about that time in an Irish pub, in Dresden, when he suddenly leans over and whispers, "if he (a famous GM who shall remain nameless) touches her (an Aussie Olympiad rep), I'm gonna kick him in the balls"? I thought it was funny, but I tell you, Dazza was completely serious!

Let's look back at a couple of nice things said about our second ever grandmaster. Guy West in Australian Chess into the Eighties.

Coming from a working class background, Darryl is tuned in to people's thoughts and emotions when stripped of their veneer of sophistication. A certain lack of tact amounting to an almost offensive bluntness and a humorous way of putting things, gives Darryl a tremendous ability to make people laugh. His perceptives also leads to sensible and logical views on contentious matters through easy recognition of the motives of those involved.

More recently, the Victorian grandmaster was featured in what could perhaps become an important training book, Ivan Sokolov's Winning Chess Middlegames - An Essential Guide to Pawn Structures (published in 2008 by New in Chess).

Back in the 1992 Manila Olympiad, the then 2485-rated Johansen handed out a lesson to his more powerful opponent - Ivan Sokolov, who was then rated 2630 and still playing for Bosnia & Herzegovina (later in action for Holland from the 2002 Olympiad in Bled). The game made such a critical impression on Sokolov that the encounter is actually the first fully annotated specimen in his book! Here, I quote the relevant parts (see pages 14-17):

1992 Manila ol (Men)
Sokolov, Ivan
Johansen, Darryl Keith

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 b6 5. Nge2 Ne4 6. f3 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Be7 8. e4 Nc6 9. Ng3 Ba6 In a separate commentary (see Megabase), GM Ian Rogers comments: "By a strange move order the players have reached a highly thematic Nimzo- Indian position. Black's plan is to attack the doubled
c pawns while White must attack in the centre." 10. Bd3 Na5 11. Qe2 d6 12. O-O Qd7 13. Rb1 h5 14. Re1 At this point, Sokolov says, in part, "In the game I definitely saw the possibilities associated with 13. f4!, but playing White against some under-2500 Australian guy, I thought 'regular' moves should suffice, and the win should arrive without any risks involved. This is perhaps a reasonable way of thinking when you play some Catalan line with white, but not in this type of Nimzo. White is about to learn this lesson soon." 14...h4 15. Nf1 c5 16. Be3 Rc8 17. Nd2 e5 18. f4 Bf6 19. dxe5 dxe5 20. Nf3 Qe6 21. fxe5 Be7

Position after 21...Be7

Sokolov again: "Looking at my horrible pawn structure and slowly becoming aware of the long and difficult defence that lay ahead, I could not help but wonder abut the speed of my positional collapse: in a mere 20 moves, playing White against an opponent I had never heard of and not having made any clear mistake - except that my whole concept was a positional blunder." 22. Rf1 Bxc4 23. Bg5 Bxd3 24. Qxd3 Nc6 25. Bxe7 Qxe7 26. Rbd1 O-O 27. Qd7 Qxd7 28. Rxd7 h3 29. gxh3 Rce8 30. Kg2 Nxe5 31. Rxa7 Nc4 32. Rf2 Rxe4 33. Ng5 Re5 34. Nxf7 Ne3+ 35. Kg3 Rf5 36. Re2 Nf1+ 37. Kg2 R8xf7 38. Rxf7 Kxf7 39. Kg1 Kf6 40. Kg2 b5 41. Kg1 c4 42. Kg2 Kg5 43. Kg1 Kh4 44. Kg2 Rf4 45. a3 g6 And Sokolov's last words? "And White resigned. A painful defeat and a positional lesson that I have taken to heart". 0-1

Very nice! And bravo to GM Sokolov for his wonderful honesty and humility. We patzers can surely learn some important lessons from these two.

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