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Boris Spassky vs Robert James Fischer
Fischer - Spassky World Championship Match (1972), Reykjavik ISL, rd 5, Jul-20
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Huebner Variation. Main Line (E41)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Methinks <Fusilli> is more'n capable of playing without an engine: to wit, one of last week's POTD featured this fine player.

K Gulamali vs M Sana, 2014

Aug-20-14  Petrosianic: <Fusilli>: <But I posted it that way to be nice to the guy who was saying that Spassky was lost already.>

All right, it's nice to be nice, just don't be patronizing. You really don't need an engine to see that Qc2 is a blunder, and quoting one may make the blunder sound harder to identifiy than it really is. Especially in this case, where the engine's eval is not entirely reliable. White may not be actually lost after Qb1, but he has some serious problems to deal with that the engine doesn't see. My engine shows a slight plus for White after Qb1, which is very misleading. So, if we're using the engine to answer two questions, and it's definitely wrong on one of them, why use it to settle the other one, when we don't need to?

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <Petrosianic> I don't follow your logic. How can you say the engine is definitely wrong when it shows a slight plus for White after 27 Qb1

It is very surprising, sure. But the difference between a Komodo -.05/30 and a very slight advantage for White by some other engine is negligible.

You could say in fact that the engines agree that the position is even.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <Petrosianic> Frankly, I think you are influenced by your knowledge that the player manning the black pieces was Fischer, and we know how this match ended up. But white's position is sustainable. It's not clear to me what kind of plan black should follow that cannot be thwarted. And simplification would benefit white, who has a potentially winning pawn endgame.

The problem with engine evaluations is that engines are unable to judge how difficult it can be for humans to find the good moves, but white is not walking on a minefield here.

Aug-20-14  Petrosianic: Maybe I am influenced by that, but I'm not claiming White is dead lost, only in trouble. Given Fischer's ability for grinding wins out of positions like these, I think it's quite possible that he might have succeeded. Maybe not. Spassky was the world champ, after all, and at least it's not a tactical minefield, as you say. But I think White would have been made to work hard for that draw if he got it, and given Spassky's form in the first half of the match, who knows?
Aug-20-14  Howard: Regarding Tamar's comment from three comments back....White has a "slight plus" after 27.Qb1 ??

That's news to me ! How about if someone could post some engine analysis supporting that claim?

Good luck !

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: One thing I blame Fischer for is that he never annotated this match or his run up to the title. The plan he had in mind after 27 Qb1 would be invaluable in giving a verdict.

I'm not discounting that Spassky would have blundered later- he acknowledged that the most difficult part of playing Fischer was matching his concentration level during play.

I keep hoping they find a locker with a secret thick notebook ( and its not Ed Trice who finds it!)

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <Howard> It's not so strange. I don't have the analysis for that evaluation. Komodo 5 gives a very slight edge to Black, but a .06 variance would put it in plus White territory.

As Fusilli said, engines don't give an idea how hard it is for humans to find all the resources available in a position. They just indicate they are there.

Aug-20-14  Petrosianic: I'd be happy to see Spassky write a book on the match.

In no way, shape or form, does White have a plus after 27. Qb1. He might not be lost, but he doesn't have a plus. The computer might be overrating the two Bishops.

Ask yourself this. If this were Game 24, and the score was Fischer 12, Spassky 11 (meaning Spassky HAD to win, while a draw gives Fischer the title), what possible winning attempt could White make if Black were determined to draw? All but two of White's pawns are blocked, and the kingside pawns are outnumbered. There's no way the Bishops could get into Black's rear area and pick anything off. If Black were determined to draw this game, White could do nothing to stop him. I'd submit that if Black can try for a win, but White can't, that White can't possibly have any advantage.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: <Petrosianic>I'd wager that if you gave the engine more time, it would veer toward 0.00 or into Black territory.

What the plus for White is likely telling you is that you interrupted analysis of a line that was favorable for Black at lower levels, but at higher levels was shown to have created counter chances.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <Petrosianic: Maybe I am influenced by that, but I'm not claiming White is dead lost, only in trouble. Given Fischer's ability for grinding wins out of positions like these...>

Okay, that's fair.

Aug-21-14  Petrosianic: One notable footnote to the game. Gligoric came up with a significant improvement a few months later against Mecking.

Gligoric vs Mecking, 1972

Instead of Spassky's 13. fxe5, which locked up the center and left his Bishops passive, Gligoric played O-O and f5 and got a much better game. He was pressuring for a while too, but didn't bring home the full point.

Aug-21-14  Olavi: And Larsen vs Ivkov, 1973 is another classic in this line. Then, Unzicker vs Timman, 1981
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Kasparov made it his thesis in "Revolution in the 70's" that the Fischer -Spassky match triggered a surge in opening preparation.

Had Fischer chosen to play in 75, he would have had to revamp all his openings, because his ideas, while new, had flaws that came to light when countless masters experimented with them.

Fischer was talented enough to adapt, but it would have entailed working with others, which he hated, or later, working with computers, which he thought was cheating, just to process all the new information.

Aug-21-14  Petrosianic: I think Karpov also described Fischer as the last of the "Old School Champions", who worked mainly on his own. Players are backed up by teams of analysts these days.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Party Animal: This game demonstrates Fischer's genius! Spassky never seen Bxa4 game winning move, coming!
Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: A temptation for any kibitzer / annotater to avoid is "reverse engineering" commentary driven by the game outcome. That is, "player x won the game, therefore any move played by player x during the course of the game has a deep and profound meaning." This temptation seems to be greatest when kibitzing on Fischer games.

I came across this game in John Watson's section on the Nimzo-Indian opening in "Mastering the Chess Openings, Volume 2." Watson writes of the position after black's 7th move ... d6:

"This is the 'real' Hubner Variation, made famous by Hubner himself, but also by Fischer with his positionally devastating win over Spassky in their world championship match."

"Positionally devastating" seemed to me a game worth further study. However, upon further review (some extensive deep analysis with Komodo) a surprising finding is this:

<Black never has a positional eval in his favor until Spassky's blunder 27 Qc2.>

It's clearly time for us to re-think how we remember this game, and in particular to remember it more as a "blunder" than as "positionally devastating." Along this re-thinking, we need to re-examine Petrosianic's suggestion that the Gligoric / Mecking 13 o-o and 14 f5 are "improvements" on Spassky's gameplay. Komodo finds a .37 eval for Spassky's fxe5 continuation, and a -.03 eval for Gligoric's "improvement" (which is a curious eval difference for an improvement).

Premium Chessgames Member
  moronovich: Shortly after this game my real chesslife started.
Jan-01-17  RookFile: So where's the analysis. Is it a secret?
Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: There is the prior claim that,

<White is significantly worse, possibly lost, even after 27. Qb1 or Qf3. It's just that the strategic problems with White's position exceed Stockfish's horizon.>

There is no line that I can find to back up this claim. There seems to be an claim that White's e-pawn is a weakness which black can attack, but I can find no plan to attack White's e-pawn.

After 27 Qb1 by white:

Boris Spassky - Robert James Fischer

click for larger view

What I find are lines like this one:

1. = (0.07):
28.Bd2 Kg8
29.Be3 g4
30.g3 Nh3+
31.Kf1 Bd7
32.Ke1 Qf6
33.Be2 Qg6

Black's pieces merely "dither" around. At some point, one of his pieces or pawns is going to have to move (in Bronstein's terminology) "across the equator." How he can do this Komodo cannot find.

Jan-01-17  RookFile: The one minor annoyance for black is that b6 needs to be defended. The queen would rather be attacking. Black can address that by trotting his king over to the queenside - let's say a7 - and then the queen and pawns and powerful knight can press forward on the kingside. As you can imagine, this may take 15 moves to implement, but it is a clear plan.
Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: Noting all the positional features:

(i) there is one passed pawn in the game - and it is White's d-pawn.

(ii) Black's b-pawn can never advance.

(iii) Black has a pawn majority on the kingside, but it's not clear how he can ever create a passed-pawn out of that: he can advance either his g-pawn or his h-pawn, but say he advances his g-pawn to g3. White does not exchange, but advances his h-pawn to h-3, and the pawn structure is locked.

(iv) If White has a weak e-pawn, black's e-pawn is equally weak. With two bishops, White will always have one bishop to defend his e-pawn, and one to attack black's e-pawn. Black is very in the squares from which his bishop can attack White's e-pawn.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <tamar....Had Fischer chosen to play in 75, he would have had to revamp all his openings, because his ideas, while new, had flaws that came to light when countless masters experimented with them....>

The reason Fischer switched openings and adopted new ones in 1972 was his respect for the Soviet analytical team and their capabilities, much as he loathed their methods--he was fortunate to hold the game played before this, and never again adopted the variation employed in that game.

Jan-01-17  RookFile: Let's think schematically, like Capa used to do. Let's just magically pick black's king up and put it on c7. (c7 might be preferable to a7 to ensure white's d pawn isn't going anywhere.)

We'll just assume a position that looks like this, after both sides have shifted wood:

click for larger view

I let Stockfish run for a couple of minutes, it's showing an advantage of roughly -0.5 to -0.6 for black. Apparently, the first committment by black (crossing the equator) is the move ...g4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: <Rookfile>

If I run Komodo on your position, I get this line:

... h5
Bf2 Qf6
h3 g4
hxg4 Bxg4
Bxg4 hxg4

New game

click for larger view

Which Komodo evaluates as -.07.

Note that Black's pawn majority on the king-side has been converted to two doubled pawns on the g-file, opposed by White's single pawn on the g-file. None of these pawns are going anywhere in an endgame.

Sometimes, more important than an evaluation in these positions is an examination of the continuation. Does have Black have a line which advances towards a winning position?

In my mind, the key to finding winning chances for Black are two:

(i) attack and win White's e-pawn

(ii) convert black's king-side pawn majority into a passed pawn.

Unless someone can demonstrate a line which advances one of those two strategic goals, I'll have a hard time believing that Black, "is winning" after 27 Qb1

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