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Portisch - Spassky Candidates Quarterfinal Match

Lajos Portisch7/14(+1 -1 =12)[games]
Boris Spassky7/14(+1 -1 =12)[games]
* Chess Event Description
Portisch - Spassky Candidates Quarterfinal (1980)

Portisch had progressed from the Rio de Janeiro Interzonal (1979), and Spassky from the Korchnoi - Spassky Candidates Final (1977). Three more matches were held in parallel, the Polugaevsky - Tal Candidates Quarterfinal (1980), Hübner - Adorjan Candidates Quarterfinal (1980) and Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Quarterfinal (1980). The pairings for these matches were determined by a drawing of lots on 17 November at FIDE in Amsterdam. (1, 2) Each match would be played to 10 games; the first player to 5.5 points would advance to the next stage. (2) If tied at 5-5, "there is a provision for further games after which, if the score is still level, the winner is the player who has won the most games with the Black pieces". (2) The "further games" meant first two games (and best of 12), then two more (= 14 games), and if still equal, the player with the most Black wins would advance. The matches were held in order to select a challenger for Anatoly Karpov, the World Champion.

Portisch and Spassky had played in Candidates events several times since the 1960's, but had met under such circumstances only once before, in the Spassky - Portisch Candidates Semifinal (1977). After the Interzonal, Portisch played in the European Team Championship in Skara (Sweden) in January, and Spassky had placed behind Karpov in Bad Kissingen (1980). Now they would meet again in Mexico, which had lobbied within FIDE to bring the first event of this kind to the country. Jorge Aldrete Lobo, the head of Federación Nacional de Ajedrez de México (FENAMAC), announced that a prize fund had been donated, and that the winner would get 180,000 pesos and the loser 120,000. (3) Sponsors were CREA and the Ministry of Tourism. To promote chess in Veracruz area it was agreed to have two games played in Xalapa, (4) where the national chess championship would be held. (3) Match Director was <Carlos Topete>. (5) The opening ceremony took place without the presence of Spassky and his second Ulf Andersson. (5) They were playing tennis in Parque Arturo Mundet! (6) The arbiter <Carlos Encinas Ferrer> (7) told Spassky that the ceremony, which Andersson had been informed about, had already taken place. (5) The players were also welcomed by Willy de Winter Gallegos. (8) Spassky was asked to play blitz exhibition games against Mario Campos Lopez before the match started, but this he firmly refused. (8)

Game 1 started the next day at 5 pm, "in a central hotel in the Mexican capital". (6) It was a closed Sicilian with pawn to f4, which Spassky played a lot (but which is less popular among grandmasters today). Portisch was prepared and gradually built up a winning advantage. The loss did not mean much to Spassky. (9) He congratulated his opponent and declared that it was only the beginning. When the match resumed in the province, he would go for the draw! (9) They now went to Xalapa, about 300 km to the east of Mexico City. Andersson must have been with them, and also Portisch's second Gyozo Victor Forintos. (10) There indeed followed two quite uneventful draws, and perhaps the schedule was a bit tiresome. (9) Back in Mexico City, Game 4 was postponed (apparently by Spassky). After the game (which was a draw), Andersson left (5) for London to play in Phillips & Drew Kings (1980). The Brazilian master Olicio Gadia replaced him. (5, 10) Game 5 (and perhaps also Game 4, and the rest of the match) took place in Museo Tecnológico de la Comisión Federal de Electricidad (MUTEC) (11, 12) at 5 pm. (12) Portisch tried a French Winawer, to improve upon Spassky vs Portisch, 1978, and Spassky varied by playing 7.Qg4. The game was drawn. Game 6 was postponed by Portisch. (13) Spassky had to spend time on an adjourned rook ending, but held the draw. Game 7 was delayed by Spassky and was played in MUTEC at 5 pm. (13) Portisch surprised with a Caro-Kann. Spassky decided on an open game and exchanged pawns in the middle, but it ended in a draw after 20 moves. Game 8 was also drawn. Each player was entitled to three postponements, (13) and Spassky took his last before Game 9. (10) A Caro-Kann again, they reached this position:

click for larger view

Play went 29...Nb6? 30.Kb3, and Stockfish thinks White is winning. Spassky was able to win after 19 more moves. Game 10 was a Queen's Gambit Declined "Tartakower Defense" which Spassky held to a draw after he used another continuation (10...Ne4) than in Portisch vs Spassky, 1967 and Korchnoi vs Karpov, 1978. The score was now 1-1. They had to play two more games, and as both were short draws, two more again. Game 13 was also a short draw, and Spassky had to win in Game 14. He managed to win the exchange for a pawn, but Portisch defended well and the exhausted players took the draw on move 77. Portisch had won the match on the rule of Black wins! This was the first time in history that this rule applied. (14)

Mexico City (1, 4-14) and Xalapa (2-3), Mexico, 30 March - 3 May 1980

Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 1 GM Portisch 2655 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 7 2 GM Spassky 2615 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 7

Portisch had a win with Black and advanced to the Hübner - Portisch Candidates Semifinal (1980).


1) Tidskrift för Schack, vol. 85 (December 1979), p. 328.
2) Harry Golombek in The Times, 9 February 1980, p. 10.
3) El Informador, 2 March 1980, pp. 1-2.
4) Wikipedia article: Xalapa.
5) Pers. comm. (mail) from the arbiter Carlos Encinas.
6) El Siglo de Torreón, 30 March 1980, p. 14.
7) Wikipedia article: Carlos Encinas Ferrer.
8) Willy de Winter in El Ajolotl #506, at
9) El Siglo de Torreón, 2 April 1980, p. 4.
10) Jaque 102, p. 11.
11) MUTEC picture:
12) El Informador, 10 April 1980, p. 11.
13) El Siglo de Torreón, 15 April 1980, p. 4.
14) Jaque 102, p. 12.

Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Portisch-Spassky 1980) by User: nescio2 and Game Collection: Portisch - Spassky Candidates Quarterfinal 1980 by User: Tabanus. Game dates are from Mexican, American and Dutch newspapers. Thanks to User: OhioChessFan for improving the English.

 page 1 of 1; one game  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Spassky vs Portisch 1-0491980Portisch - Spassky Candidates QuarterfinalB18 Caro-Kann, Classical

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A really well-written and comprehensive introduction!
Premium Chessgames Member
  NM JRousselle: I was in Mexico City for this event. GM Bill Lombardy was in the gallery and fell asleep during one of the games (Game 6, I believe). He began to snore very loudly. So much so, that it disturbed the players and an usher had to awaken GM Lombardy!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: < NM JRousselle: I was in Mexico City for this event. GM Bill Lombardy was in the gallery and fell asleep during one of the games (Game 6, I believe)....>

And that was one of the games which was actually played beyond move 25......

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