WHAT REALLY HAPPENED WHEN
I FOUGHT SILMAN
By FM Craig Mar
The Masters Tournament, nicknamed the Linklater Memorial,
ended with Izumikawa and Cartagena tying for 1st with 4.5
out of 6. This author finished at 3.5 while Silman finished
with 2.5. Let me confess several things; before the game
I intended to beat Jeremy, especially because I had White
and because I thought he had lost a bit of his strength,
due to being older, taking up the writing profession,
and his marriage, which are all distractions. Our game
almost ended up in a fistfight, and the story somehow
got onto the Net! The true story later!
For psychological reasons, I selected a double-edged line
where one of us had to die. I castled Q-side, and Jeremy
castled K-side, and a fight was in store. The nature of
the game mirrored how badly I sought a battle, to avoid
what I thought was Silman's greatest strength; quiet
positions with positional advantage. Silman's time
trouble hastened his position's collapse, as he lost
But inadvertently, I had awakened the "bear" in
Jeremy. I had reawakened his passion for the game which
had made him a great player at one time. After a terrible
start, Silman crushed the tournament leader Cartagena and
Linklater Memorial (SF)
White: C. Mar (2471) Black: J. Silman (2490)
1 d4 d6
2 c4 e5
For psychological reasons, the Queen trade would be
inferior, as too much tension leaves the board.
3 ... e4
4 Nd2 f5
5 e3 Nf6
6 Nc3 g6
7 Be2 Bg7
Pure bluff, "threatening" 9 g4, but Silm
an doesn't care.
8 ... 0-0!
Black isn't afraid of ghosts.
9 Qc2 c5
10 d5 Nbd7
I also liked 10 ... Na6 with the idea of Nc7 and b5.
11 b3 Ne5
12 Bb2 Qe7
13 0-0-0 Bd7
White played quickly to avoid time pressure.
14 ... Rae8
White is already a little worse, but I thought this
would liven things up a bit. Your opponent may be aware
of many different things during the game; of your
confidence, your respect of him, and how badly you want
to win. I felt a strong passion to beat Silman here, and
perhaps he felt I wasn't showing him enough respect. But
times change; I remember how strong Silman was about 15
years ago when he beat me in San Jose, and used that
game in one of his books!
15 ... exf3
Black must respond in this manner, else a later g4 break
will be strong.
16 gxf3 Nf7
17 Bd3 f4!?
The fork in the road. Silman, as always, looked confident.
17 ... Nh5 would lead to a black edge also. The text leads
to a pitched battle.
I mulled this decision over for a long time. Bad is the
obvious 18 e4? Which closes all lines to the King-side.
18 ... Qxe1ch
19 Rxe1 Rxe1ch
Who's better? Black seems to be better with his 2 rooks
vs. Queen, but appearances can be deceiving.
20 ... Bxh3?
Overoptimistic, better was the simple retreat 20 ... Re7,
avoiding complications. Now, I sensed a chance to gain
A radical solution, but logical. The natural move was Ne4
but the master almost instinctively rejects
21 ... Bxf3
22 Ne4 Bd4
Forced. On 22 ... Bg7 23 Qh2 and 24 Kd2 puts the rook in
23 Qh2 Bf1?
This second lemon, puts Black in danger.
Keeps it complicated.
24 ... Re2
A nice little dual purpose invasion, eyeing Black's King
yet affecting white's half of the board.
25 ... Rg2
At this point, I had about a half hour left, to Silman's
26 ... Kg7
A good psychological time to strike, as time pressure
27 ... gf
Played quickly, for psychological value. With the
initiative, complications, and the clock in my favor,
White is better.
28 ... Ne5
"When I check, I fear no one!"
29 ... Kg8
Another important decision, should White capture on f5
with his knight or bishop? Both moves look good.
I aggressively captured the pawn making a clicking sound
which deeply bothered Silman, which I learned later.
It was passion, not some intent to humiliate him. This
was exactly the type of game I was aiming for, a little
wild and complicated.
The time situation got worse, Silman had about 3 minutes
left, while I had about 10 left.
30 ... Rf7
Not bad, considering the time situation.
White cannot resist the material.
31 ... Kg7
32 Nxf7 Nxf7
33 Ne4 Be3ch
34 Kb2? Bd4ch
In severe time trouble, Silman misses 34 ... Bd3! Winning
I spent about a minute on this move, to see it he could
protect the N on f7. Now if 35 ... Rxc2 36 Nxd6! and there's
no way to guard the N.
35 ... Rg6
Silman used about 30 seconds of the 1 minute he had left
to find this clumsy defensive try.
36 ... Rg1
Also played very quickly. The time scramble is on!
I found this strong move with about 2-3 minutes left on
37 ... Bf6
Now comes the move which helped start the fight. To add
insult to injury, I now descended upon the pawn on b7
with the might of Thor, and captured it with an audible
'crack' sound. I was so excited that I couldn't help
38 Qxb7! 1-0 (time)
At this point Silman thought for about 20 seconds and
said very quietly, "My flag is down."
My next comment really started the fight, and yet was
heard only by 2 people, me and Silman. I said,
"Does it matter?"
Silman got up, his face turned red, and he said,
"You don't slam the pieces, you didn't keep score
when you had more than 5 minutes. That's like a slap in
the face, you don't do that."
I got up, so did the TD Mike Goodall, and we both tried
to calm him down, but the verbal assault continued,
"...you jerk, you idiot, you are such a jerk."
Silman knocked the pieces off the board and stormed out
of the room.
And that's what really happened at the "Greatest
Chess Fights of '96."
Copyright 5/10/96 Craig Mar (Printed with Craig Mar's
permission - KHL)