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Boris Spassky vs Anatoly Karpov
Karpov - Spassky Candidates Semifinal (1974), Leningrad URS, rd 6, Apr-24
Caro-Kann Defense: Classical Variation (B18)  ·  0-1


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Given 30 times; par: 101 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <keypusher> Glad to be back in the 'thick of things'.


<tamar, all> Interesting is that after <42.Kf2 Rd8 43.Rf3...> and <43...Kxd6> White must not get suckered into <44.Rd3+? Ke7 45.Rxd8 Kxd8 ...> where Black wins the pawn end-game. Fortunately for White, <44.Rf6+...> looks strong.

However, the continuation I was most wondering about comes after <42.Kf2 Rd8 43.Rf3 Rd7>.

click for larger view

What is White to play now? The natural options of (i) <44.Rd3 Rxd6> and (ii) <44.Rf6 Rg7>, both seem to lead into difficulties. Thus we are left with (iii) <44.Ke2 Rg7 45.Rd3 Kd7 46.Ke3 Rg6 47.Ke4 Rxd6 ...> Now,

<...48.Rf3 Ke6 49.Rf6 Rd4+ 50.Rf5 Rd4+ 51.Kf3 Rf4+ ...>


<...48.Rxd6 Kxd6 49.Kf5 Kd5 50.Kxg5 e4 51.Kf4 Kd4 52.g5 e3 53.Kf3 Kd3 54.g6 e2 55.g7 e1Q 56.g8Q Qf1+ ...>

both lose. But

<...48.Rd5! ...> leads to a draw, say via <48...Rxd5 49.Kxd5 e4 50.Kxe4 Ke6 51.Kd4 Kd6 =>.


<keypusher> This is fascinating: If Kasparov improves on Botvinnik's minor-piece endgame analysis, studying it has to bear fruit!

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Wow, thanks to both of you. <gypsy>, 43...Rd7 is a stunning idea. It takes an equally stunning rejoinder (48 Rd5, which I wouldn't see in a million years) to salvage the draw. <Tamar> 49...Rd2+ is a fine move, but I agree with your conclusion that it doesn't change the final result. But can White not play 50 Ke3? Must he play 50 Kf1?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: OK, now for the minor-piece ending (see diagram above), which arises after 42 Rc3 Rxc3+ 43 Bxc3 Kxd6 44 b4. But before we get to the diagram, Ill give one other Botvinnik alternative: 43Nc5 (instead of 43Kxd6) 44 Kf3 Nxb3 45 d7 Kxd7 46 Bxf6 Nc5 47 Bxg5 Nxa4 48 Ke4. Botvinnik said this is a draw, and Kasparov agrees: since the knight will be unable to help the king with the advance of the pawns, for example: 48Ke6 49 Kd4 Nc5 50 Be3 b5 51 g5 Ne6+ 52 Kc3 Kd5 53 g6. That looks fine to me, e.g. 53Ke5 54 Bb6 a4 55 Kb4.

Alright, now for 43Kxd6 44 b4, the diagrammed position. Botvinniks drawing line ran 44ab 45 Bxb4+ Kd5 46 a5 b5 47 a6 Kc6 48 Ba5! Nc5! 49 Kf3 Nxa6 50 Bc3 b4 51 Bxf6 b3 52 Ke2 Nc5 53 Kd1 Ne4 54 Bd8 Kd7 55 Ba5.

All very well, says Kasparov, but the Patriarch missed 44b4!!. After 45 ab, the winning method is simple: 45a4 46 b6 a3 47 b5 a2 48 Kf3 Ne5+ 49 Kg3 (49 Ke4 Nxg4 50 Kf5 Ne3+ etc.) Kd7 50 Bb2 Kc8 51 Ba1 Kb7 52 Bd4 Nd3 53 Bxf6 Kxb6 54 Kf3 Nc5 55 Bb2 Kxb5 56 Ke3 Kc4 57 Kd2 Nb3+ 58 Ke3 Kd5. Not sure Id call that simple, but it does look winning. He doesnt mention 58 Kc2, but 58a1/Q 52 Bxa1 Nxa1 53 Kb2 Kd4 54 Kxa1 Ke4 certainly looks decisive.

The win is more difficult when the White pawn is more remote: 45 ba ba:

1) if 46 a6 Kc7 47 Kf3 Black wins most simply by 47Ne5+ 48 Ke4 Nxg4 49 Kf5 Nh6+!, for example: (a) 50 Kxf6 g4 51 Bd4 a3 52 Kg5 a2 53 Kf4 Kc6 54 a7 Kb7 [Zugzwang!] 55 Ba1 [Tragically for White, 55 Kg3 is unplayable] Kxa7 56 Kg3 Kb6, or (b) 50 Kg6 g4 51 Kxh6 g3 52 Kh5 g2 53 Bd4 a3 54 Kg4 a2 [My first, bitter endgame lesson from years ago: a king cant catch a pawn from behind.]

2) a fascinating race of two black pawns can be observed in the event of 46 Kf3 Ne5+ 47 Ke4 Nxg4 with the sequel (a) 48 a6 Kc6 [wouldnt 48Kc7 transpose into (1) above?] 49 Kf5 Nh6+ 50 Kxf6 g4 51 Kg5 a3! 52 Bd4 g3 53 Kf4 g2 54 Kf3 Nf5, or (b) the somewhat more complicated 48 Kf5 Ne3+ 49 Ke4 Nd5 50 Bb2 Ke6! 51 a6 f5+ 52 Kf3 Nc7 53 a7 Kd5 54 Bc1 (or 54 Bf6 g4+ 55 Kf4 a3 56 Kxf5 g3 57 Be5 a2!) 54f4 55 Bb2 Na8! 56 Ba3 Ke5 57 Kg4 Ke4! 58 Bc5 [58 Kxg5 f3 looks like a familiar White loss] f3 59 Kg3 g4 60 Kf2 Kd5 61 Be7 Kc4 62 Kg3 Kb3 and wins.

3) the win is the most difficult if White tries by 46 Bb4+ Kc6 47 Kf3 not to allow the Black pawn to reach a3.

click for larger view

Now chasing after the a5 pawn throws away the win: 47Kb5? 48 Be7! Kxa5 (or 48Ne5+ 49 Kg3 Nf7 50 Kf3! [Why not 50 Bxf6?] Kxa5 51 Ke4 Nh6 52 Bxf6 a3 53 Bxg5 Nxg4 54 Bc1 a2 55 Bb2 Kb4 56 Ba1 Kc2 57 Kc4 Nf2 58 Kb4 Kb1 59 Bd4 Nd3+ 60 Nb3 with a draw.

The problem is solved by an unexpected knight manoeuvre: 47Ne5+! [after the last few variations, Ne5+ is hardly unexpected, but whatever] 48 Kg3 Nc4 49 Be7 (49 Bc3 a3 50 Bxf6 a2 51 a6 Kb6 etc. leads to the same positions) 49a3 50 a6 a2 51 Bxf6 Kb6 52 Kf3 Kxa6 53 Ke2 (or 53 Ke4 Ka5 54 Kf5 Ka4 55 Kxg5 Kb3 56 Ba1 Kc2 57 Kf4 Kb1 58 g5 Kxa1 59 g6 Ne5! [Nice!!] 60 g7 Ng6+ 61 Kg5 Ne7 62 Kf6 Ng8+ 63 Kf7 Kb2 64 Kxg8 a1/Q [winning from here was my second endgame lesson]) 53Kb5!

click for larger view

54 Kd1 allows Black an easy win: 54Ne3+ 55 Kc1 Nxg4 56 Bg7 Nf2 57 Kb2 f4 58 Kxa2 [as in variation (1), 58 Bc5 is unplayable] 58g3! 59 Be5 g2 60 Bh2 Kc4 61 Kb2 Kd3! 62 Kc1 Ke2 63 Kc2 Kf1 64 Kd2 Ng4.

But in the event of 54 Kd3 he has to find the study-like 54Na3!!, preventing the king from approaching the a2 pawn. Then neither (a) 55 Kd2 Kc4 56 Kc1 Kb3 57 Bg7 Nc4 58 Bf6 Ne3, nor the desperate 55 Ke4 Kc4 56 Kf5 Kd3 57 Kxg5 Nc4 58 Kh6 Kc2 59 Ba1 Kb1 saves White from defeat.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Argh, above it should read, "All very well, says Kasparov, but the Patriarch missed 44b5!!." What a stupid typo!
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Kasparov spends a good portion of his interview on chesscafe commenting on the Spassky-Karpov match. Without an official championship, he considered it crucial to establishing Karpov as a champion.

His main point is that Spassky underestimated Karpov, who was improving daily, and this game supports that view.

Spassky had several opportunities to draw, none of them easy, but he chose instead a speculative 47 b4 which gave him no chances for creativity.

I would have liked to see the minor piece ending that Botvinnik mentions. Finding 44...b5!! would have been very surprising over the board, and Spassky may well have drawn this crucial game, and kept in the match.

Spassky had previously shown great skill in a bishop versus knight

click for larger view

Spassky vs Fischer, 1966

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: Looked up which of Spassky games, if any, are in the "Good B vs. bad N" Chapter of <Positional Chess Handbook> by Israel Gelfer. Found two, the Spassky-Fischer, 1966 game given by <tamar> and Spassky vs Ljubojevic, 1979. Incidentally, these game collection are bound to be useful:

Game Collection: Positional Chess Handbook I

Game Collection: Positional Chess Handbook II

Apr-14-06  sitzkrieg: Instead of 25. Nd2 Kasparov recommends Qb5. With the line 25. ..e4 26. Nh2 (..) Qe6 27.bxf6 nxf6 28 qb7 rd7 29 Qb4 Nd5 30 Qc5 Rd6. f.e. cant white play Rxe4.
? Wins a pawn. I see white has some vague mate threats after that but nothing substantial so why does Kasparov think it is a line for easy equality?
Aug-28-06  notyetagm: <bishop: ... Spassky should not have gotten into this predicament in the first place. The passed d-Pawn can be strong or weak, in this case it turned out to be weak.>

Yes, Capablanca said that the passed pawn increases in strength -and weakness- as it advances up the board.

Premium Chessgames Member

click for larger view


One of the best moves in the match. I remember it made an enormous impression on me. Its strength was clearly underestimated by Spassky, who was possibly hoping for 23..Bd6? 24.dxe6 Rxe6 25.Qxe6! fxe6 26.Rxd6.

Of course, the pawn sacrifice is only imaginary; 24.Nxe5?! Qxe2 25.Rxe2 Bd6 26.Rde1 Nxe5 27.Bxe5 Bxa3, but Black leaves his opponent with a seemingly powerful passed pawn in the centre. Alas, only seemingly; it will be securely blocked by the knight, and in the endgame it will become an appreciable weakness. This method of 'circumventing' a passed d6-pawn in the Grnfeld Defence was one that I used in my Seville match against Karpov (1987), but for the mid-70's such an interpretation was a revelation, an important step forward in the understanding of chess.> -- Kasparov, OMGP V

Nov-05-07  RookFile: According to Mednis, errors from Spassky in this game included 27. Ne4, 35. Rc4, 36. f4, 39. Kxg3, 42. Bd4 and 44. Kg2.

Apparently, due to these 6 inaccuracies from Spassky, Karpov was able to win.

Jun-11-08  Sergey Sorokhtin: 2keypusher! after kasparovs 44...b5!! is draw))) very simple )) ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ "...3) the win is the most difficult if White tries by 46 Bb4+ Kc6 47 Kf3 not to allow the Black pawn to reach a3. Now chasing after the a5 pawn throws away the win: 47Kb5? 48 Be7! Kxa5 (or 48Ne5+ 49 Kg3 Nf7 50 Kf3! [Why not 50 Bxf6?] Kxa5 51 Ke4 Nh6 52 Bxf6 a3 53 Bxg5 Nxg4 54 Bc1 a2 55 Bb2 Kb4 56 Ba1 Kc2 57 Kc4 Nf2 58 Kb4 Kb1 59 Bd4 Nd3+ 60 Nb3 with a draw.

The problem is solved by an unexpected knight manoeuvre: 47Ne5+! [after the last few variations, Ne5+ is hardly unexpected, but whatever] 48 Kg3 Nc4 49 Be7 (49 Bc3 a3 50 Bxf6 a2 51 a6 Kb6 etc. leads to the same positions) 49a3 50 a6 a2 51 Bxf6 Kb6 52 Kf3 Kxa6 53 Ke2 (or 53 Ke4 Ka5 54 Kf5 Ka4 55 Kxg5 Kb3 56 Ba1 Kc2 57 Kf4 Kb1 58 g5 Kxa1 59 g6 Ne5! [Nice!!] 60 g7 Ng6+ 61 Kg5 Ne7 62 Kf6 Ng8+ 63 Kf7 Kb2 64 Kxg8 a1/Q [winning from here was my second endgame lesson]) 53Kb5!" ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
47.Kf3 is big mistake. 47.Be7!= ( Sergey Sorokhtin). Veri simple draw))))

Jun-14-08  The Rocket: Why 43 rc5 from Karpov?, and then 45 rc8?!, seems that it just wastes time, Chessmaster Gm points out that instead of 45 c5, that the rook should imediately take the d6 pawn which seems to be the most logical move but intstead karpov moves his rook up and down and then plays Knight e5.

It could not be that it was time trouble before reaching adjournment because they were past move 40 so does anybody know why karpov wastes two moves?.

Oct-10-09  birthtimes: "With his usually fine antimaterial nose, Karpov wants more than 43...Rxd6 44. Rxd6+ Kxd6 45. b4 where White has chances for a draw because little material is left and Black's pawns can be attacked by the bishop."

How Karpov Wins, 1994, p. 303.

Oct-10-09  birthtimes: After 25. Qb5 "I don't see what White has after the fairly obvious 25...e4 26. Nh2 Qe6 27. Bxf6 Nxf6 28. Qxb7 Rd7 and Black wins back the b-pawn or wins the d-pawn."

How Karpov Wins, 1994, p. 302.

In spite of this comment by Mednis, if after 29. Qb4 Nd5 30. Qc5 Rxd6, then it is important to note that White does have a structural endgame advantage in that he has a 2-1 pawn majority on the queenside compared to a 3-2 Black majority in the center, which would be easier for White to defend than for Black...

Oct-10-09  birthtimes: If 18. c5 then 18...Nf6 19. Qc2 Nd5 20. Ne5 Bf6 21. Nc4 Qc7 and White has a backwards d-pawn on a half-open occupied file, and the pawns on d4 and c5 are blocking White's bishop. Black should at least be able to draw this game without any difficulty...
Oct-10-09  birthtimes: 39. Re4+ Kd5 40. Re7 Kc6 41. Kxg3 b5 42. axb5+ Rxb5 43. Re3 Ne5 44. g5 fxg5 45. Rc3+ Kd7 46. Bc1 looks like it holds for White for the draw...
Apr-29-16  Howard: 34...Rb8!! was called "vintage Karpov" by the excellent book Karpov: Endgame Virtuoso, though I don't recall, offhand, why. Remind me to look it up when I get home.
Mar-23-17  ughaibu: Howard: Are you home yet? If so, please look it up.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Vintage ughaibu!
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <tamar: Vintage ughaibu!>

Plus ca change....

Sep-20-17  edubueno: 20 d5! cxd5; 21 Cd4 Dg6; 22 exd5 cxd5; 23 Db5!
Aug-07-18  Howard: GM Alex Fishbein analyzed this ending almost a year ago in American Chess Magazine, and he pointed out an error that Kasparov had made.

Remind me (again) to look it up when I get home later today.

Aug-08-18  Howard: Now, that I've FINALLY gotten around to digging out my copy of Endgame Virtuso...

... the book gives double exclamation points to both 33...a5 and 34...Rb8. To the former move, the book states that Karpov purposely fixes White's pawn on a5, so that it can't move, plus he also prevents White from playing his b-pawn to b5.

As for 34...Rb8!! Karpov was apparently threatening to open the b-file by pushing his b-pawn, but the book seems a bit vague on that point.

Not only that, Karpov was to shortly later move his rook to c8, therefore not bothering to pry open the b-file just yet

Fishbein, incidentally, states that Kasparov made an analytical error at one point. Remind me to dig out that ACM issue...

Oct-06-18  SpiritedReposte: Karpov endgame always crispy.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Howard> Have you dug out that ACM issue? Asking for ughaibu.
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