Igor Zaitsev celebrates his 85th birthday

Igor Zaitsev, a legendary analyst and pioneer of many trails in chess openings, has turned 85 today.

His most valuable contribution to opening theory is, arguably, the so-called Zaitsev Variation. Indeed, Igor was first to realize that the rook could move back – over a half-century it had not occurred to the best players in the world – and then developed the most complicated systems that became one of the main lines in such a thoroughly analyzed opening as the Ruy Lopez.

Another illustration of his creativity is brilliant 11.Ng5! – a true revelation, a touch of genius.

How many other interesting ideas, shown to Karpov (with whom he worked for many years), remained unseen?

That said, Zaitsev has always been a creative rather than a practical person. He generated the brightest ideas but was not cut out to play at the highest level. After becoming a GM, Zaitsev quickly switched to coaching and analytical work. Most and foremost, he relished the depth and beauty of chess.

Since, with such an approach, it became increasingly difficult to keep it up in the computer age, Zaitsev withdrew from elite chess at the turn of the century. Still, he has constantly analyzed and had numerous publications. He even refuted computer analyses on many occasions in those blessed years when this was still possible.

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