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Jonathan D Sarfati vs Boris Spassky
Plaza (1988), Wellington NZL, rd 1, Mar-15
King's Indian Defense: Kramer Variation (E70)  ·  1/2-1/2


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: This was an international tournament in Wellington, 1988, with invited celebrities and leading New Zealand players (as cannon fodder, basically, although a great opportunity). I happened to be drawn to play Boris Spassky in the first round, and as the reigning NZ Champion, there was added pressure. In the game, Spassky misplayed the opening and I gained the advantage. But given that it was the first round, and I was moderately short of time, we repeated the position and drew. Most thought it was an achievement, but the late GM Eduard Gufeld, one of the leading experts in the King's Indian, berated me in his inimitable broken English, “You had complete win position.” Well, judge for yourself.

Spassky is widely known as a perfect gentleman, and I totally agree with this impression. He was completely friendly in the after-game analysis, not angry that he had drawn with a much weaker opponent.

Nov-11-06  Stanley Yee: Wow! A fantastic draw Jonathan, against a legend. Well done. Stan
Premium Chessgames Member
  ray keene: its very hard for white to break down this sort of position and very easy to overreach-eg reshevsky v bronstein 1953-or euwe v najdorf 1960. i think a draw is quite reasonable-against spassky i wd certainly have seized his hand with glee.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: Thank you for your perspective, Grandmaster Keene. It seems more sober than that of Eddie Gufeld's.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: <JonathanSafarti>
I recall seeing the bulletin for this tournament -then I played Spassky in a simul - I lost as did everyone else! The draw is justified of course... I would have ripped Spassky's arm off!!

Gufeld was an amusing fellow was he not?
I saw the book he wrote.

Sep-11-13  Bobby22: That is impressive Jonathan! ... If you had to play on, what were your plans? Nothing as drastic as 21. f4!? Lazar
May-20-16  sigmastatistics: Hello. I assisted with that tournament by operating demonstration boards. I remember watching Jonathan Sarfati (who I knew while he still lived in NZ) playing Boris Spassky, and being disappointed that the game finished so quickly. After the game, the two players analyzed that Kings Indian game for a few minutes, using another set in another room. Directly afterwards, I bought that set from NZ Chess Supplies, and I have the board and pieces to this day. I, too, remember Spassky's politeness and modesty. I also recall saying hello to Susan Polgar as we both browsed chess books that were on sale in the foyer. She left me with a very positive impression of a friendly and genuine person (in addition to being a fearsome chess player!).

David Lillis

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: Hello David; it's been a while. I've moved countries twice, first to Brisbane then to Atlanta. I didn't know that you have the set that Spassky and I analysed on. Yes, Susan Polgar is a friendly person, easily won the World Women's Championship, and now does a lot of coaching in the USA.
Oct-06-17  sigmastatistics: Hi Jon. It's been nearly a quarter of a century since we met and nearly 30 years since you came one Saturday night to the Wellington Chess Club, flushed with victory after wining the NZ Championship.

That Plaza tournament was tough on the NZ competitors, I'm sure you would agree about that!

I have listened to you and others from AnswersinGenesis, but I don't go along with any of it! I follow Dawkins and Hitchens. Please read the God Delusion and listen to Hitchens on religion. That should make you come to your senses!

By the way - is that guy, Carlsen, really better than Kasparov and Fischer - as some people say he is? I don't think he's better (probably as good, though), but he does have the most up-to-date resources. People forget that Fischer in 1968-72 and Kasparov in 1985-2005 were monsters.

Elos measured in different eras and different chess cultures fluctuate from month to month and have large confidence intervals, and precise ratings don't tell us everything about strength. Fischer played less in absolute terms,less frequently and in different settings, so he's hard to compare with the others. However, purely from his games we can judge his strength as equivalent to Kasparov and Carlsen (and Karpov).

Brisbane is OK, but I have never been to Atlanta. Enjoy!

Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: <sigmastatistics:> Hi again David. Yes, it has been a while. Actually you helped me out a few times, e.g. we stayed with your mum in Auckland for one chess congress, and gave good advice in countering my writer's block for my Ph.D. thesis.

You realize that I am well aware of Dawkins and Hitchens, even writing one book countering the former ( Dawkins' God Delusion displayed such incompetence in philosophy and history that evolution-defending philosopher Michael Ruse said it made him ashamed to be an atheist. As for the Hitchens, he was just a journalist, not any sort of scientist or intellectual, but I did counter one of his attempts to get into science (

I agree with you about trying to compare chess from different eras. Carlsen is stylistically like Karpov, Fine, and Capablanca, and he pulls it off extremely well.

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