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Lajos Portisch vs Boris Spassky
Amsterdam Interzonal (1964), Amsterdam NED, rd 6, May-26
Queen's Gambit Accepted: Mannheim Variation (D23)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: In the Queen's Gambit Accepted, I always considered the Qa4+ / Qxc4 manuveur to be incorrect. It is almost impossible for Black to retain the gambit pawn for any length of time, and in the few lines where he does (e.g. the Geller Gambit of the Slav Defense) White can play the opening as a true gambit and get a good game.

I don't think c4 is not a very good square for the Queen, and the fact that Black will be able to develop with tempo should persuade White to look for other options.

That aside, the way that Spassky wins this ending a pawn down is incredible. I wonder, was there any point where Spassky was playing for a draw, or did he consider himself with the better position throughout the game?

Feb-28-03  ughaibu: Sneaky: Your comments are interesting, I wonder how you feel this opening compares with the Gruenfeld with Qc4? About the ending; I can't see any point at which I would have been unduly worried had I been black (except for the fact that white was played by Portisch).
Feb-28-03  Spitecheck: In the Grunfeld, black's king's bishop is not on the f8-a3 diagonal, and further the centre in the Grunfeld is far more robust for white, so although black can win tempos on the queen, he cannot really throw her out of position. The respect for the Grunfeld is strange at WCC level it has scored very poorly, I remember a web page that quoted only 3 wins for black out of 56 games and one of them only after a one move blunder when white was well on top (Karpov-Kasp G11 1987 Seville probably). Doesn't this particular game transpose into a Catalan.....seems that way with the bishop on g2, it's very solid for white but you wouldn't say he has black tied up in knots. All the d4c4g3 openings are pretty solid for white, however rarely to they pressure the enemy king in the early middle game as the devil on g2 is pointed in the general direction of the queenside.
Feb-28-03  ughaibu: Spitecheck: I'm interested that you feel white's centre to be more robust against the Gruenfeld, I would say the opposite, in both cases black has an open d-file but in the Gruenfeld the position of the bishop on g7 adds to the pressure on d4. Smyslov's manoeuver N(f6)-d7-b6 both opens the bishop's diagonal and pesters the queen and c4 in particular.
Feb-28-03  Spitecheck: Well, I guess it would be safer to say that I like the white side of the Grunfeld. I am generally talking about the central pawn preponderance....You are right that black's pieces can be quite active in the Grun especially the bishop and queen on them black squares......frequently black relies on this factor just to achieve equality. The Russian variation of the Grun and QGA/Catalan are probably very sim because the c4 is occupied by a piece. Take the classical or Alekhine variation though.......Black basically allows white to set up and umbrella centre as I call it, black opens central lines for his pieces but he literally promotes white's b-pawn to a d-pawn in the process of trying to win the centre.
Feb-28-03  ughaibu: I'm interested in the Gruenfeld without the knight exchange, so that there are plenty of pieces left on and the d-pawn is in effect a backward pawn, unless it advances to d5. In practice I prefer to play white, I dont understand what to do as black.
Mar-01-03  Spitecheck: As black, and this is why Kasparov plays the Grunfeld I guess, piece play is paramount to his success. I lost a lot of respect for the Black Grunfeld when I was playing a blitz game against a 2000 player (I had the white pieces) and in the classical I accidentally (lazily) played Ne2 before developing my bishop to c4.......he was laughing his head off, and I shrugged it off and called it a TN....funny thing was in another 6 moves I had the better position with my bishop on g2 and all the pressure. Most Grunfelds crystallize at the very stage when Black runs out of pawns to throw at the white that stage Black had better have established a blockade (of what remains of the white centre).....preferably that which doesn't inhibit his g7 bunny. Than tactical motifs will run rampant as white for the entire time has been only consolidating his centre while black has been more innovative with his pieces.
Nov-01-05  Al Notation: Going back to the QGA, I like what Spassky does to mobilize his Q-side forces. That is a common problem with the QGA. Very good, Boris.
Nov-19-06  Rama: With 21. Bxa7 white wins a pawn, but with 21. ... f5!, black asserts that it does not matter. The extra pawn is doubled and white's majority is immobilized whereas black's 4-3 on the K-side is rolling.

After a period of maneuvering, with 30. ... hxg3, Spassky creates a passed e-pawn; and with 35. ... Kxg5, he is good to go.

He has to give up the b-pawn with 41. ... Ra8, in order to penetrate to the 7th and 8th ranks with the Rook.

43. ... Ke3 threatens Ra1 mate so white must move his King. This allows 44. ... Nxc4, which decisively weakens white's coverage of the queening square.

47. ... f1=Q wins a Rook. 51. ... Rf8, shows that white will never be able shelter the King and shepard his pawn mass -- 52. b4 Rc8+, 53. K-any Kd4, begins their destruction.

Boris must have been pleased. His play was logical and precise in that he recognized a winning position and chose a good plan which, though risky, gained the full point.

Nov-19-06  Albertan: For those of you with a historical interest in the origin of chess openings it appears that the idea of 4.Qa4+ according to my Chessbase "BigBase" the idea should be credited to Fred Brown who played it in a round 7 game against Arthur John Mackenzie at London 1904. Mackenzie won that game playing Black.

Strong grandmasters who used this line as White:
Ulf Andersson Result=9/14 1980-1984 Elo-: 2616 Games: 14 Daniel Fridman Result=5/7 2003-2004 Elo-: 2590 Games: 7 Vassily Smyslov Result=1.5/2 1962-1983 Elo-: 2595 Games: 2 Vladimir Akopian Result=1.5/2 1993-1994 Elo-: 2602 Games: 2 Jeroen Piket Result=1/2 1997 Elo-: 2635 Games: 2
Yasser Seirawan Result=1/1 1987 Elo-: 2600 Games: 1 Evgenij Miroshnichenko Result=1/1 2005 Elo-: 2634 Games: 1 Vlastimil Hort Result=1/1 1978 Elo-: 2620 Games: 1
Rafael Leitao Result=0.5/1 2005 Elo-: 2586 Games: 1 Evgeny Vladimirov Result=0.5/1 2000 Elo-: 2598 Games: 1

Nov-19-06  Albertan: According to my chessbase database the move 6...c6 is the main continuation for Black in that position. In the database I created of 5.Qa4+ games (868 games),Black wins or draws 46% of the games if he/she choses to play 5...c6. After White plays 5.Qxc4 Spassky chose the main continuation for Black in this position (5...Bf5). On move 6 it is more popular for White to continue by playing 6.g3 the move Portisch chose 6.Nc3 is the second most popular move for White in that position. On move 7 Portisch played the most popular continuation for White and Spassky chose the most popular continuation for Black. In my database the idea 8...Bd6 has rarely been played by Black (only 11 out of 275 games in that position).It in fact was first played in this game and has never been used by a top rated GM since this game.The move 10.Nh4 has been used in 6 games in my database since this game was played. The most prominent player to have used it was now deceased GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz who played it against Sarkar at the 2000 World open tournament. Wojtkiewicz won that game in 44 moves.

Nov-19-06  Albertan: The move 10....Bg6 has also been tried by Black (4 games in my database).

Rybka 2.1 preferred to play 12...Nb6 (winning a tempo) with a possible continuation being: 13.Qb3 Bc7 14.e5 Nfd5 15.Ne4 Be2 16.Re1 Bb5=

On move 13 again after analyzing the position Rybka 2.1 chose to win a tempo by playing 13.Qb3 and gave this possible continuation: 13...Rb8 14.Be3 h6 15.d5 Nc5 16.Qc2 cxd5 17.exd5 Nf6 18.Nb5 Rc8

On move 15 Rybka 2.1 preferred to move the White queen to e2 and provided this continuation: 15.Qe2 Qa5 16.a3 h6 17.Rfd1 Rae8 18.e5 Nb5 19.Ne4 Rb8=

On move 15 for Black, Rybka preferred 15...b5 with this variation provided: 16.Nd2 b4!? 17.Na4 (17.Qxa4 allows 17...Nxe4 18.Qa4 Nc3 19.bxc3 Nb6 20.Qxc6 Rc8 21.Qb5 Nd5 22.Rfc1 Bc6=) 17...Be2 18.Rfe1 Bb5 19.a3 a5=

Nov-19-06  Albertan: Rybka gave a better evaluation to the move 21...b6 with this continuation possible: 22.Na4 e4 23.Be2 Ra8 24.Bxb6 Nxb6 25.Nxb6 Rb8 26.Nd7 Rxb3 27.Ra1 f5 28.Ne5 g6 29.Ra2 Bf6 30.Nc4 Nxc4 31.Bxc4 and Black finally regains the pawn after 31...Rxb2 =

Rybka gives Spassky a definite advantage after Portisch played 24...Nf6 Instead it suggested a better idea was to play 24...e4 however and after this continuation: 25.f3 exf3 26.Rxf3 g6 27.Bf4 Ne4 28.Bd3 Bb4 it evaluates the position as .

Rybka evaluates the position after Spassky's 27th move to be Instead it suggests that 27...Bb4 is a better idea with this continuation possible:

27... Bb4 28. h4 e4 29. Kg2 h5 30. Bg5 Rb8 31. Ra4 Bc5 32. Ra5 b6 33. Ra1 b5 34. Be2 Nxd5

After evaluating Spassky's 36th move of the game Rybka concludes that Spassky had given all of the advantage he had previously gained (in that Rybka evaluates the position as equal). However after evaluating Portisch's 38th move it once again gives Spassky an advantage ( ). Instead of 38.Bc5 Rybka suggests Portisch could have gained equality by playing 38.Kg1= after which this continuation is possible: 38...f3 39.Bb5 Rh8 (threatening 40....Rh1 checkmate) 40.Be3+ Kg6 41.Bd4 Kf5 42.Ra4 Ke4 43.Bc3 disck Kxd5 44.Bc4+ Kc6 45.Bxe5 Bxe5 46.Bd3 b4 47.Rg4 Rh2 48.Be4+ Kb6 and White finally gets the pawn back after 49.Bxf3 Rxb2 50.Be2 Rxb3 51.Bxb5!? Rxb5 with a draw according to endgame tablebases. After Spassky's 40th move Rybka gives Spassky a definite advantage

Nov-19-06  Albertan: Rybka did not give a good evaluation to Spassky's 41st move (evaluating that the position is equal = after this move). Instead it evaluated that the move 41....Rh8 gave Black an advantage ( ) after which play might have continued 42.Bf1 Ng4+ 43.Ke1 Rh1 44.Rf7+ Ke4 45.Rxb7 Kxd5 46.Rf7 Nh2 47.Kf2 Rxf1+ 48.Kg3 Rh1 49.b4 Ke4 50.Re7+ Kd4 51.Rf7 Kc4 gives Black a definite advantage.

Portisch makes a mistake on his 42nd move. Instead of 42.Rxb7? he should have played 42.Be2!? and gained equality. Play then might have continued 42...fxe2 43.Rxb7 Ra2 44.Rb4+ Kf5 45.Kxe2 Rxb2+ 46.Kd1 Rh2 47.Ra4 Rh1+ 48.Kc2 Rh3= with an equal position.

Nov-19-06  Albertan: For those of you who believed that Portisch with his 3 pawns might have had chances to win or even draw the game, endgame tablebases show otherwise. Black has a forced checkmate in 22 moves starting with 52.Kb4 ie 52...Kd4 53.Kb5 Rf6 (stops the further advance of the White king) 54.b3 Rg6 55.Kb4 Rb6+ (cutting the king off from the White pawns)56.Ka4 Rb8 57.Ka3 Kc3 58.Ka4 Rxb3 (one pawn gone) 59.c5 Rb8 60.c6 Kc4 61.Ka5 Kxd5 (another pawn bites the dust) 62.c7 Rc8 63.Kb6 Kd6 leaves White in zugswang) 64.Kb5 Rxc7
Nov-19-06  oao2102: Interesting results <Albertan> Thanks. This would be a great endgame to play through. Though it's theoretically won for Black, I wonder how many of us could convert it to the full point, especially if faced against a stronger opponent.
Nov-19-06  Albertan: Hi oao2102. I am glad you found the results interesting. Yes i know I would struggle converting the endgame for Black.Personally I would be terrified of the 3 passed pawns White has in this game LOL.
Dec-20-11  ewan14: What an incredible game ! !

( especially for the 20th century )

Jun-15-15  poorthylacine: Rama: Let's remember just that after 52.b4 Rc8+ 53.Kb5, Black cannot move his king to d4, because after 54.d6 OR 54.Kb6 R OR Kxc4 , d6! would give White a draw; Thats why black has to play in this variant 53..Kd6 (or Rc7) to keep the win.
Aug-22-15  jerseybob: <Sneaky:I wonder, was there any point where Spassky was playing for a draw, or did he consider himself with the better position throughout the game?> One of Spassky's favorite defenses was the Marshall, where black's often a pawn down deep into the middle and even endgame. So that didn't bother him at all. Being the pragmatist he was(as opposed to say, Larsen) he would've taken a draw if need be, but he wasn't playing for it.
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