Yasser Seirawan: Chess Gentleman

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Today brings the release of a free lesson from Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan’s Winning Chess Strategies


Now best-known as a chess author and commentator, Yasser fans of a certain age will also remember him as an extremely strong Grandmaster.

Highlighted course

Winning Chess Strategies

We will return to examine Winning Chess Strategies in due course, but first we will focus on the man himself.

Yasser was twice a candidate for the World Championship (1985 and 1988) and even though he was unable to battle his way through to the latter stages of either event we thought he would still go on to achieve more at the highest level.

However, an early retirement from tournament play left a gap the shape and size of a flamboyant and popular figure on the circuit.

Seirawan’s Chess Duels

I was in the very fortunate position of being able to interview Yasser when he came to the Chess and Bridge Centre in London to publicise his excellent book, Chess Duels (Everyman Chess, 2010). Yasser entertained everyone with a talk and a demonstration of a game against Boris Spassky. Typically, the game Yasser chose to demonstrate was won by Spassky.

Yasser is always modest about his chess achievements, yet he achieved many notable successes His lifetime score against Mikhail Tal, for example, is a highly impressive four wins and one draw from five games.

Beating Kasparov

He had significant wins against other giants of the 1980s, including Karpov, Korchnoi and the Boss of them all in a very important Olympiad encounter.

Seirawan - KasparovSeirawan – Kasparov

USA vs. USSR

Dubai Olympiad, 1986

Kasparov had held the initiative but Yasser always knew how to dig deep. He was never afraid to take his chances either and here, after a spell of passivity, he is ready to cause trouble.

55 g4 f4 56 exf4 Rxa3 57 fxg5 Ra2+ 58 Kf3 c3??

Seirawan Rook Ending

Over to Seirawan, for his comment in Chess Duels: ‘Oh my! After this moves there is no stopping my g-pawn. Garry had to reign in his ambitions and go 58 …Ra3+ 59 Kg2 Ra1 60 g6 Re1, to try to draw. Garry continued in blitz mode like an angry bull. There was no stopping him.’

Indeed, the end was definitely in sight. Kasparov had pushed too hard and was now punished.

59 Rd1 d4 60 g6 d3 61 Ke3 Rxf2 62 g7 1–0

Yasser liked to go his own way in the openings and was certainly not a slave to theory. He favoured the English Opening and the Queen’s Gambit with White and as Black he was especially tough in beat in the French Defence and Caro-Kann.

Seirawan’s Important Novelty

He was also able to spring an important novelty in another of favourites, the Pirc Defence. This happened in the game Gyula Sax – Yasser Seirawan (World Cup, Brussels, 1988.)

1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 c5 6 Bb5+ Bd7 7 e5 Ng4 8 e6 Now 8 …Bxb5 was the routine move, giving Black’s king a flight square on d7 after 9 exf7+, but Yasser uncorked…

Sax - Seirawan

8 …fxe6! 9 Ng5 Bxb5 10 Nxe6 Bxd4 11 Nxd8 Bf2+ 12 Kd2 Be3+ ½–½ due to perpetual check.

Chess Informant went as far as to call this the most theoretically important game of the first half of 1988.

Attacking Karpov’s King

One of his most famous wins came against Karpov in London, 1982. Having spent time as a second to Viktor Korchnoi, Yasser was very familiar with Karpov’s repertoire and style of play. Korchnoi has found a new move in the Queen’s Gambit and Yasser unveiled it in London.

The opening idea worked brilliantly and Karpov was left to try and scramble for counterplay.

Beating Karpov

Seirawan – Karpov

London, 1982

In this position, the pin on the knight looks decent enough but Yasser has it all worked out.

27 Rxd5! Qxa7 (27 …Rxa7 28 Qd3! is the point, when the back rank is terribly weak) 28 Rd8+ Kh7 29 Qd3+ f5 30 Qxf5+ g6 31 Qe6! 1-0

Seirawan - Karpov

Karpov’s king was very rarely so exposed in the 1980s.

Yasser’s series of Winning Chess books remains popular and I can also recommend (if you can find a copy) No Regrets (International Chess Enterprises, 1992) which is undoubtedly the best book on Bobby Fischer’s surprising – but unfortunately short-lived – return to competitive chess.

Highlighted course

Winning Chess Strategies

In addition to the achievements mentioned above, Yasser was World Junior Champion in 1979, won the United States Championship four times (1981, 1986, 1989, 2000), played for the Rest of the World team against the USSR in 1984  and was chief editor of the excellent magazine Inside Chess for 12 years.

Apart from all of that, Yasser has a reputation of being a perfect gentleman and I can personally confirm this is true.

We are releasing a full course based on Winning Chess Strategies very soon, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, head here for your free lesson from Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan and if you still want more don’t forget to read our recent blog post about Yasser’s exceptional strategical play with pawns.

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