Sicilian Love: Polgar-Kaidanov Match

Judit Polgar - Gregory Kaidanov Sicilian Theme Match

I remember being a rising junior in Chicago and a Sicilian fanatic. In my arsenal were the Najdorf, Dragon and Sveshnikov. I walked around with a large amount of theory… in some cases reaching into the endgame. I also cherished a book called “Sacrifices in the Sicilian” and was influenced a great deal by sacrificial attacks with white and spectacular counterattacks with black.

I recall with joy the Lev Polugaevsky theme tournament in Bueno Aires in 1994 where all games began with 1.e4 c5! The tournament was won by GM Valery Salov, who would retire unexpectantly in 2000 leaving the world wondering how far he could have gone.

Judit Polgar - Gregory Kaidanov Sicilian Theme Match

The tournament also included luminaries such as Viswanathan Anand (2nd place), Vassily Ivanchuk, Judit Polgar, Anatoly Karpov, Gata Kamsky, Alexei Shirov and Ljubomir Ljubojevic. All players lost at least one game and the games with exciting and cutting-edge. A beautiful book came out chronicling the event. It included a history of the Sicilian Defense as well as historic games featuring the dynamic defense.

One of my favorite games in that tournament was between Judit Polgar and Alexei Shirov. (see game). My chess life was forever changed when I saw Polgar’s 10…g5! This display and dynamism is why the Sicilian is such a dangerous weapon. I would later employ this same idea years later against Jamaican Master Geoffrey Byfield. (see game)

Polgar has been a Sicilian expert for decades and has had thrilling victories from both sides of the board. Rekindling this affection for the most vigorous black defense, a match was set up between Polgar and Gregory Kaidanov in Hilton Head, South Carolina by Jeff Smith. Smith is a board member on the Susan Polgar Foundation and agreed to host the event in an attractive tourist haven.

The game were as exciting as billed although many expected Polgar to run away in the four-game series. The match was drawn at 2-2 with white winning all the games. Of course the Sicilian did not fare well in this tournament, but it remains a fierce weapon in the hands of capable handlers.

See Games!


  1. Kimani,

    I had a conversation once with Emory about doing a book of annotated games… about 20. I think I’ll have to revisit this idea with him. I plan to do a few books on chess history and will certainly include several of his gems.

  2. Daaim and Kimani,
    Maybe we’re talking about a different Tate. If you are referring to IM Tate, I don’t think his Sicilian is a good example. Just from personal experience from his Sicilian games. They are full of holes. Tate will play moves in Sicilian that are second, or third best to get his opponent out of the book. He gets in trouble by doing this. The games that I played IM Tate in the Sicilian he stood very badly after about 15 moves. One game he escaped (with a draw), the other he lost. Just look up his Sicilian games on a database and you will see my point. We know IM Tate as a great tactician. His tactics come from original positions, out of book, this is difficult to do against strong players in the Sicilian Defense, from the White or Black side. Dr. Kimani are you playing in the Philly Open, 31 March – 4 April? Dr. Daaim, I know you are not playing.

  3. I’m talking about when he was 22-23 years old Glenn… years ago in Chicago. He was rated 1797, but was already near Master strength. We played Najdorf main line stuff… all theory and sharp. I was basically talking about the sacrifices he made as white. He introduced me to the Bxb5 sacrifice. I learned the hard way. I got him on one when a kibitzer (a young Steven Szpisjak) told him I didn’t know the Bxe6 sacrifice. I did get the better of him in a 4.Qxd4 Sicilian at the 1989 U.S. Open. I played a nice pawn sacrifice, won the exchange, but got into time pressure and lost. We know about his brilliant wins with white against the Sicilian including the brilliancies against Yudasin and Sagalchik. From the black side he has his share of stirring wins. Check these…

    vs. Kaufman:
    vs. Kudrin:
    vs. deFirmian:

    Not sure about tournament… hadn’t considered it. Generally it’s hard from me to play during when school is in session. I probably need to look into it more.

  4. Didn’t know you played Tate when he was so young, very interesting to know you and Tate had such battles, Daaim. I know that you teach during the school terms, so its impossible for you to play more often. I also know that Tate knows theory but he don’t like to play it. I think he would be a GM, if he didn’t take so many risks, but it would not be Tate.

  5. Glenn,

    True enough!

    Yes… I played Tate when he was just coming up. I had heard of him because he already had a reputation even in the early days. My friend Marvin Dandridge told me about him.

    When his rating was 1797, the USCF had frozen the ratings to update the database. He kept that rating for about a year and was terrorizing unsuspecting Masters. He won’t remember our games because I was one of many challenging him and he’d play anybody. I remember that our games were wild Sicilians with sacks blazing everywhere. I believe he won the games, but they were close.

    One funny story about Tate. In one game with Brent Chromczak, a strong player in Chicago, he refused a draw offer by saying, “Are you out of your mind?” After Brent got a good position, he positioned a knight that was headed to Tate’s King six square. Tate went on to lose the game. Dandridge told me that Tate said, “Man… when I saw that knight going to King-six, I almost cried.” Tate always had a quick wit and sense of humour.

  6. The organizer of the Polgar-Kaidanov match sent me the e-mail below. I hope he doesn’t mind.


    Greg Kaidanov said that this match had a sacrifice in each game. I have the same book -1994 and was inspired to do this event. I liked your blog comments.

    By the way Judit is a down to earth person and just so much fun to interact with. Greg is just as nice. The games were just really great to watch and no draws.

    Judit missed a win in game one Sveshnikov by moving her Queen one square too far.

    jeff smith

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