Bent Larsen 1935-2010
Thanks to his self made origins Larsen was tremendously strong in unusual positions, much more so than many of his leading Soviet rivals. He was also a very quick player and won many games in his opponents' time trouble. I think he liked Flank Openings largely because of this - they gave him scope to create unusual positions and set his opponents problems from move 1 rather than follow 15-20 moves of theory.
I think that his methods are well worth studying, in fact he's been one of my major sources of inspiration with my own Flank Opening play. There's actually a lot more to be learned from this than just checking for the latest 'theoretical novelties'; those are good for a day or two but understanding some elements of Larsen's thinking is more of a meal for a lifetime. So on to the games...
In the first one he plays 1.g3 against Victor Korchnoi (Larsen - Korchnoi) and then creates a tense and unusual position with 4.Qa4!?:
White was better out of the opening but it was mainly the tense and unusual position that was created that did the damage. It looks as if Korchnoi got into serious time trouble in the latter stages and this cost him the game.
Larsen's patented 1.b3 appears in his games against Kavalek (Larsen - Kavalek) and Eley (Larsen - Eley). Both these games feature devastating attacks against Black's king in which White's dark-squared bishop plays a big role.
Larsen - Petrosian is a Réti in which the mighty Tigran gets ground down in the endgame, something that probably surprised him greatly. Larsen - Timman is also an endgame win, the most notable feature of this game being the bamboozling effect of delaying d2-d4.
Finally there is Larsen - Andersson in which White's unusual treatment of the position with 7.d3 and 9.Qa4+ causes some confusion:
This is then magnified with the Larsenesque 15.h4! with Andersson's time trouble doing the rest.
The practical nature of Larsen's play will not appeal to everybody, not least because it demands a lot of chess ability rather than the 'ability' to study theory. But for the right player there are tremendous practical advantages to adopting this approach, and indeed Larsen was one of the most successful tournament players of the 20th century.
Till next month, Nigel Davies