The Longest Plan In Chess

I really enjoy Serper's articles, and I think that is in part because of the sort of intellectual honesty that he projects here.

I've actually always thought of Gligoric-Smyslov Zurich 1953 as an excellent example of a game where the opponents were very closely matched, but the winner really didn't calculate more than a couple of moves ahead at any given time.

Gligoric miscalculated coming out of the opening, ended up down a pawn, and then Smyslov just made normal moves. I really don't think there was some sort of a grand plan, starting at move 20, to first exchange a pair of rooks, then distract White's remaining rook, then take over the file, then force an exchange of rooks by threatening to either create a central passer or move the king over to the queenside, then win the (obviously won, at that point) knight endgame, 20+ moves later.

I think here's how it went: a) Black should exchange a pair of rooks, this is obvious, because then we should be able to take over the file because we have a kingside majority. Done. Now, b) take over the file. Done, c) now what -- ok, we need to create a passed pawn. We can do this, because most pawn endgames are won, meaning most knight endgames are won.

No 20-move plan, just excellent technique, a deep understanding of chess, and the ability to almost subconsciously evaluate the outcome of exchanges.

It would, however, have been incredibly easy to write an article (as countless others have done, and as Alekhine liked to do with his commentary) talking about how the game was the logical outcome of a flawless long-term plan.

Instead, Serper outlines a plan, states plainly that it's easy to compose a plan after the game, and leaves it to you to think. Could I have foreseen the knight endgame at move 20? If so, would I have evaluated it correctly? If so, would I have known how to achieve it?

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