LEV POLUGAEVSKY was one of those Grandmasters from a generation of great players who left a huge good mark in the chess world. A player with a unique style, one mostly positional but also aggressive when the opponent gives him the opportunity.

He was born on 20th November 1934 in Mogilev, Belarus and took his last breath on 30 August 1995. He was a soviet chess player. He was awarded the title of International Grandmaster by FIDE in 1962 and was a frequent contender for the World Championship, but the heartbreaking truth was he never owned the title.

His games are truly delightful and highly professional to study and represent a never-ending source of learning. His first international success came in the early 60s when he won the Mar del Plata tournament obtaining this way the Grandmaster title. Later the “great Poluga” won the URSS in 1967 and 1968 and came up third in 1969.

He was an inspiration to modern super GMs, with the most notable being Boris Gelfand, who has an extremely similar style and approach to chess. With such background, you can already guess that is impossible not to be immediately charmed with this player of chess history.

Already one of the strongest players of his time, Poulgaevsky’s bad luck was having two other great players in his path to the greatest title. As I said he never owned the title, in 1973 he lost to Karpov in the Candidate’s matches and on the next cycle he lost to Viktor Korchnoi who later went on to play for the world title against the afore- mentioned Anatoly Karpov. As you can see, this relevant data reveals that he wasn’t that far off from playing for the chess crown.

Polugaevsky also contributed to several developments in the theory. The most remarkable was the variation that bears his name in the Sicilian Najdorf which he used to beat the magician of Riga, Mikhail Tal.

Polugaevsky had a positional style but was also very open to sharp complications if the chance showed up. His openings repertoire as white was based on 1:d4, 1:Nf3 and 1.c4 lines, all leading to complicated strategic battles but not exempt from tactical actions. With black he was an ambitious player, regularly preferring the Sicilian defense against 1.e4 and fighting for the initiative from an early stage.

Basically he played the Najdorf move order; he often stayed in the Scheveningen territory with e6 rather than e5.

This choice of opening is a clear sign that he was not afraid of taking risks when playing with black.

Such a massive and active mind set player though!

A small tribute to this fantastic player who still lives in every chess lover’s mind.

Let us know what you think about his skills and strategies and in which way you would like to implement it in your personal chess game.