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Robert James Fischer vs Vladimir Kovacevic
"Sweet Nothings" (game of the day Jun-18-2018)
Rovinj/Zagreb (1970), Rovinj/Zagreb YUG, rd 8, Apr-21
French Defense: Winawer Variation. Winckelmann-Riemer Gambit (C15)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Feb-24-15  Cmrlec: There is a nice show on Croatian national television called Sahovski komentar (Chess Commentary). Few days ago, Vladimir Kovacevic gave a commentary of this game and the events surrounding it, especially the Cold War folklore (for none of you who speak an obscure Slav language, it is available at:; the episode was broadcasted on 02/22/2015). Although in his 70s, Kovacevic was still very excited about his most famous victory in which he chose to play French defense, like Uhlmann few days before.

First, he described Fischer as a gentleman who perhaps overconfidently entered the game with a lesser player. In what was, in Kovacevic’s words, a battle of David vs. Goliath, Fischer did not go for a draw or tempted Kovacevic with a draw-offer in the early phase, but played actively until the position was lost. Then he shook the young opponent’s hand, said ‘Very good,’ signed the score sheet, and left. Kovacevic has not even managed to sign his own sheet, when Petrosian, excited with Fischer’s defeat, took it from his hands and enthusiastically exclaimed: ‘For Moscow, for Moscow!’ Second, Kovacevic described 10. Qe7 as the key move, speaking of it in terms of religious epiphany: he was in a dark tunnel, and then saw light. Everything fell into its place, and it was downhill for Fischer after that. Third, Kovacevic gave his view of the ticklish moment after Fischer’s 18. f3 with a tactically astute idea of queen sacrifice. He said that he was nervous, not believing he could defeat Fischer. For that reason, he walked around the room. Zealous Rona Petrosian indeed approached him before his move, and said something he claimed he did not understand as he did not speak Russian and was completely concentrated on the game. Kovacevic insisted that he found the right move on his own, sensing that Fischer, obviously not being a patzer, set up a final trap that could save him. The now old grandmaster insisted that only afterwards he realized it was a warning of some kind, and he could not negate that Soviet players had dishonorable intentions.

I see three rough options to interpret this story. First, it is completely true and disenchants one of the miniscule Cold War chess legends. Second, the fact that he was approached, influenced the game – if only subconsciously, making him more alert. He has to compensate psychologically, as his most famous victory is somehow tainted although the outcome was not affected. Thus a bit forced discourse: I did not understand, it did not influence the game, they were dishonest, but I was clean. Third, he really understood what was said to him, perhaps some of the scenario was set up before, and the outcome would have been different if he was not approached.

I would personally go with the first option. In what was a touching and sentimental account, I’ve seen an excited old guy with trembling voice, remembering his glory days, somewhat like Bouboulina from Zorba the Greek. It was his authentic ‘I f.... Brad’ moment.

May-11-15  zanzibar: Shows up as game #24 in Lombardy's 1972 <Modern Chess Opening Traps> - where Lombardy breaks from the usual to identify the source of the game, even if slight obliquely...

<The setting is the Tournament of Peace, Zagreb, YUG, 1970. In an earlier round Bobby Fischer had <brilliantly> up-ended GM Wolfgang Uhlmann, but the experts questioned Bobby's opening analysis. Vladimir Kovacevic of YUG has gone to the drawing boards and found the flaw in the line. Thereafter, the gods had decreed that the great Bobby was to be enmeshed in his own web! >

Rather pedestrian explanation with no hint of controversy.

* * * * *

As for notation, both normal algebraic and descriptive suffer from disambiguity. Maybe descriptive does a little more, but it would be a question of degree only.

Of course, ambiguity can be avoided in both systems if one is willing to notation both squares involved in a move:

One advantage that descriptive notation has, is that it respects the symmetry of the board. So, whereas we can substitute "back rank" for 1st rank, we still use descriptive notation when talking about the 4th rank, etc.

* * * * *

As for 4.a3, didn't I see some blitz game notes by Fischer where he seems to indicate he's following Alekhine's idea by playing this?

Feb-26-18  Allanur: According to Victor Korchnoi's book "Chess is my life" page 71, Fischer set up a trap for Kovacevic in this game, Tigran Petrosian, Tigran's wife and Victor Korchnoi was watching the game and Korchnoi loudly said "How interesting" after realizing Fischer's trap. He explained that if Kovacevic trap Fischer's queen he may lose. Petrosian's wife said she will inform Kovacevic. When Fischer was thinking for his move, she went to Kovacevic and englightened him.
Feb-26-18  sudoplatov: At the time, I heard that some of the Russians thought that Uhlmann's analysis wasn't good in this line and that a better line would give Fischer trouble. They and Kovacevic prepared the day before and Kovacevic sprung 10...Qe7 on Fischer. The only good way to beat one of the greats is to have a good opening then play well thereafter.
Feb-26-18  RookFile: When you see how Fischer varied his openings in the 1972 world championship match, it must have been for reasons such as this.
Feb-27-18  ughaibu: <According to Victor Korchnoi [ ] When Fischer was thinking for his move, she went to Kovacevic and englightened him.>

It's amazing that Korchnoi thought he could write such rubbish without completely blowing his credibility, it's dumbfounding that people actually believed him!

May-20-18  Everett: <Feb-26-18 RookFile: When you see how Fischer varied his openings in the 1972 world championship match, it must have been for reasons such as this.>

So what. The Russians themselves had to deal with each other before ‘72.

Bronstein’s solution was to play Botvinnik’s own systems against him. Spassky played some quite off-beat stuff to get some wiggle room vs Petrosian’s smothering systems.

Of course Fischer made it much tougher on himself due to his ambivalence toward creating a supportive team. That’s his own fault.

May-20-18  utssb: >Of course Fischer made it much tougher on himself due to his ambivalence toward creating a supportive team. That’s his own fault.

Yeah, it is pretty odd. It's almost as if Americans didn't have the same support system that Russians had in chess. I wonder if there is any written chess history concerning Bobby Fischer and the Russian chess system that would address these issues.

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: <ughaibu> Since Kovacevic himself states that Petrosian's wife did say something to him, it is clear that Korchnoi wasn't lying, whether Kovacevic understood her or not.
May-20-18  Everett: <May-20-18 utssb: >Of course Fischer made it much tougher on himself due to his ambivalence toward creating a supportive team. That’s his own fault. Yeah, it is pretty odd. It's almost as if Americans didn't have the same support system that Russians had in chess. I wonder if there is any written chess history concerning Bobby Fischer and the Russian chess system that would address these issues.>

Nice try. Fischer was his own worst enemy regarding rapport with others who could have supported him. All in the history, indeed ;-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Everett....Fischer was his own worst enemy regarding rapport with others who could have supported him....>

For all Fischer's greatness, there is no doubt of this--and not only at the chessboard.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: That is a good post Fischer vs V Kovacevic, 1970 (kibitz #99)

Cmrlec says:

"I see three rough options to interpret this story."

I see a 4th that does need a mention. Fischer shaking hands and saying 'Well Done.'

For all his faults, and Everett is 100% in saying Fischer was his own worst enemy, he was always gracious to his opponent in defeat.

I believe Vladimir Kovacevic's side of the story.

May-20-18  SChesshevsky: It was a lot easier for the top Soviets to have a supportive team environment back then. As basically employees of the chess federation, the players didn't have to worry about making a living but mostly staying in good graces by towing the political line and winning. Especially against non and lesser Soviets.

It was tougher for Americans since the first priority is making a living and friends are usually also competitors for prize money.

But even with Fischer's mostly go it alone attitude, there seems to be many stories of him analyzing with peer masters like Byrne, Zuckerman, Evans, etc. Also instances of just general analysis or just chess talk at the NYC clubs he went to.

I also heard that Fischer had a guy who actually did research. I think mainly openings, and presented it on index cards.

So, apparently Fischer wasn't a total loner chess-wise but I'm sure some of those NYC players of that time can give more accurate and detailed info on Fischer's interaction with other U.S. players.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: There is more than one story of Fischer's graciousness in defeat.

Lends weight to Kovacevic's side of the matter.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Today's pun refers to something which may or may not have been whispered to the winner by someone's wife.

Fischer set a trap! If Black tried to win White's queen, then Black might have lost. But where is the trap? Where could Kovacevic have played to win the white queen.

AFAICS he does do that! He tries to trap the queen but she escapes. And Black wins anyway.

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: Fischer won 10 and lost 1 in the tournament, and what do we get for GOTD? The 1 loss.

It's a Fischer hater conspiracy, I tells ya!

I bet the Bilderbergs are behind it...

Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: Sweet nothings are words exchanged between two lovers

What that has to do this game god only knows


Jun-18-18  posoo: MORFONGO, ur PETOLANCE is matched ONLY by ur lack of IMAGANATION.

Da Petrosan lady and Kuva were OVIUSLY Chesslovers at da time and for them, beating FUSHER was as good as having INTERCORSE.

Jun-18-18  cormier: 13.Bc1 c5 14.Bb5 Nd5 15.Qxe7+ Kxe7 16.Bxd7 Kxd7 17.c4 = +0.12 (23 ply) sf
Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: POSINGYOO The game title is completely accurate: it means nothing
Jun-18-18  weisyschwarz: Smells like demise here.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Jonathan Sarfati: <Then he shook the young opponent’s hand, said ‘Very good,’ signed the score sheet, and left.>

Kovačević was born a year before Fischer.

Aug-23-18  Ricosupercapo: What is the trap Fischer set with 18. f3?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: The trap is here after Fischer played 18.f3

click for larger view

The 'obvious' 18...Nh4 hitting the Queen with a Knight sac coming on g2 after the Queen moves looks very attractive.

But 18...Nh4 19.fxe4 Rxg4 20.Bxg4 and White is getting another piece back for the Queen. The attack is dead, the crisis has passed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: This pitfall, successfully eluded, was mentioned by Mednis in <How To Beat Bobby Fischer>.
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