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Robert James Fischer vs Wolfgang Unzicker
Siegen ol (Men) fin-A (1970), Siegen FRG, rd 7, Sep-21
Spanish Game: Exchange. Gligoric Variation (C69)  ·  1-0



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Given 33 times; par: 65 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Dec-15-04  notyetagm: Has anyone ever played the White side of the Ruy Lopez as well as Fischer? He is just amazing on the White side of all of the main lines.
Dec-16-04  ughaibu: Notyetagm: In an attempt to answer your question I looked at the decided games of various players against the strongest of their contemparies as given in this database, the results as follow:

Capablanca: +5 -0 100%
Karpov: +18 -2 90%
Kasparov: +20 -3 86%
Lasker: +33 -7 82%
Fischer: +15 -5 75%
Geller: +19 -7 73%
Spassky: +13 -5 72%
Tal: +23 -15 60%
Alekhine: +7 -9 43%

Dec-16-04  ThePurplePimpernel: You can't draw valid statistical data from such small samples. Maybe you should compare their results against their era's top ten?
Dec-16-04  ughaibu: Please feel free to do so. There is no loss with white in the Lopez by Capablanca in this database, so it would initially be tempting to suggest he played it at least as well as Fischer did.
Mar-06-05  Everett: ...except that Fischer lost 5 times.

Statistics are numbers, make of them what you will. The amusing thing is when someone doesn't like the conclusion they may point to, he says "the sample is too small..."

...but it's the only sample we have.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <ughaibu>, how did you determine who <the strongest of their contemporaries> were?

Overall Fischer's results as white in the Ruy Lopez were +77-8=33, which includes a lot of relatively weak opponents, of course.

Interestingly, Fischer had something of a "Spanish crisis" in the mid-60s. In Havana 1965 Kholmov and Ivkov beat him in (very impressive) closed Ruy Lopez games while Wade and O'Kelly held him to draws with the Marshall. At Santa Monica in 1966, Spassky got a draw with the Marshall and Larsen beat Fischer in a closed line.

Presumably this is what led Fischer to start playing the Exchange Variation.

Jun-01-05  ughaibu: Keypusher: I dont remember how I decided. I only spent a few minutes on it so presumably used a "usual suspects" approach and eliminated all those who struck me as insufficiently reputable. I think one can search by rating at Chessbase, if the opponents of Lasker, Capablanca, et al have been awarded ratings, that might be a way to easily undertake a more serious investigation.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: I thought there would be a lot more games, but Karpov's overall record with the Ruy with white as reflected on the DB is +65-6=59. (Very casually gathered from the database; I omitted a blindfold loss to Krabbe and several games from a simul, but there are probably more games that should come out.) If I ever have the time and the energy I'll do the the sort of search <ughaibu> suggests.

Jun-20-05  Hanzo Steel: The question is an interesting one to explore. Unfortunately, I think the data is probably obscured by players largely avoiding the Ruy against guys like Fischer and Karpov. To quote <Eggman> quoting Larsen: "It is madness playing against Karpov's preferred opening systems as Black." (He whipped out the Scandanavian twice against Karpov, and won with it once!) I'm sure there are similar quotes about most of the guys on <ughaibu>'s list.
Oct-27-05  Brown: Though I appreciate <Honza's> great commentary and insightful analysis, I can't agree with 14.f5 being an outstanding move, since Lasker ("coffee house player"-Fischer) pioneered the idea in this exact opening. Fischer's play here is like stealing from Lasker and borrowing Capa's technique. A formidable achievement.

Yet, though it was great technique, but there must have been a dearth of competition for the second half of '70. Personal opinion of a woodpusher, of course.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Mating Net: 14.f5! is undeniably a sharp move, but it took guts to play it because it leaves the e pawn backward on an open file. White scotches the light squared Bishop and proceeds to position all four of his remaining pieces to support the e5 push. Said push trades off the weak pawn and enables White to activate his Kingside majority, which proved decisive.
Oct-29-06  paladin at large: <euripides> You are right - What an extraordinary endgame. We have an open position with pawns on both sides of the board, but whoever saw a better knight or worse bishop in such a general situation. Fischer's knight towers over the scene on offense and defense - see after white's 32nd move - while the black bishop is feebling trying to prevent mate on h8 via e8. The bishop barely manages that, but then is still ineffective the queens are off. And Unzicker was no clown.
Mar-23-07  Owl: It reminds of how Chogorin and Pillsbury use their Knight skills against Lasker and Stenitiz
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <keypusher: Interestingly, Fischer had something of a "Spanish crisis" in the mid-60s. In Havana 1965 Kholmov and Ivkov beat him in (very impressive) closed Ruy Lopez games while Wade and O'Kelly held him to draws with the Marshall. At Santa Monica in 1966, Spassky got a draw with the Marshall and Larsen beat Fischer in a closed line. Presumably this is what led Fischer to start playing the Exchange Variation.>

Good observation. It's also interesting to note that after 1966 Fischer never encountered the Marshall again, even when he didn't go for the exchange variation, although he hasn't really managed to demonstrate that he "solved" it. During 1963-66, Spassky repeatedly demonstrated what a great drawing weapon the Marshall can be for Black, especially in his match with Tal (

Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: A key moment in this game occurs after 23.Rfe4:

click for larger view

Analysis by Fritz 10 indicates that Black has the resource <23...g6!> The point being that after 24.fxg6 Bc6 White can't play Rxe5 because he loses Nf3. So the likely continuation is 25.gxh7+ Rxh7 26.R4e3 Rxf3 27.Rxf3 Bxf3 28.Qxf3 e4 (or Qd2) which seems to be a draw.

In view of what happens in the N vs. B endgame resulting from the queen exchange, Unzicker's last chance to save the game might have been <32...Qd6>, to avoid this exchange. 33.Qe7? would lose now to 33...Qg3+, and the exchange after 33.Qe5? would be favorable to Black: 33...Qxe5 34.Nxe5 h5! In case of 33.Qe8 Qg3+, White would have to interpose with Qe2 at some stage to avoid perpetual check, after which Black can retreat with the queen to d6.

Nov-24-11  Albion 1959: I looked at this game and tried to work out where Unzicker actually lost this game: The Batsford book "The Games of Robert J.Fischer" feature this game (595) on page 316, but give no notes: Also Leonard Barden's book "how to play the endgame" feature it on page 118, with a few comments, but no real analysis: So I analysised the game with Rybka 3 and I concur with Eyal on move 32 Bd7? was the losing move, the best move is Qd6 to negate the threat of Qe7 by challeneging the b8-g2 diagonal and threatens Qg3+, since Fischer could not play Qe8 threatening mate because of Qg3+: Had Unzicker played Qd6, Fischer would probably have to play h5, since black now threatens to play himself undermining the knight on g6: It is fascinating to watch how nimble and adroit the knight is in this ending and how Fischer is able to exploit the achilles heel of the black position e5 and f6:
Jun-11-12  screwdriver: I guess knight c5 has no defense. The light squared bishop of black can't get back to defend. Not to mention black is one pawn down.
Jul-19-12  sorokahdeen: @Eyal

Thanks for that link to high-end Marshall games. It was interesting and enlightening.

Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: This is a sparkling gem of a game. What I like most is Fischers use of in between moves to improve his position. Finally, he gets an unbalanced endgame, knight versus bishop, which was right in his comfort zone. After that, it's just a matter of technique
Jun-20-15  Brandon D Davis: Hey notyetagm,I find it interesting that you asked that question because I've wondered the same thing!But I don't think there's been anyone in the history of the game that played the Ruy as well as he did! While Karpov was also great at it, he didn't have what seems to be that natural feel for it that Fischer possesd... And Kasparov certainly didn't match up in this department...Maybe the other great champion of it was Capa, but he didn't play enough games in it to match Fischer's treasure.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Brandon D Davis> I think that it was Bronstein who said that "playing the Ruy Lopez was like milking a cow". Here Fischer demonstrates how this particular cow is milked.

Perhaps the only top player who might have disagreed with that statement was Korchnoi:

Feb-18-16  Howard: Turns out this gem appeared in Informant 11 (first half of 1971), so it was actually a bit "late" in appearing.

Informant 12 ranked it as the best game of the previous volume.

And Kasparov's MGP states that 32..Qd6 would have held the draw.

Aug-29-16  Howard: I'll have to look at 32...Qd6 in more detail when I get a chance. It looks like a fairly obvious move--thus, I'm surprised that Kasparov's book is apparently the first one that points out that it would have saved the game...

...unless Fischer missed a win at some earlier point.

Apr-22-17  Saniyat24: Ruthless and beautiful...facing Fischer with a Knight in the end-game must have been a terrorizing prospect...!
May-10-17  Mithrain: Another fascinating game by Fischer. He did understand better the middlegame (14. f5 idea) and with his characteristic technique won a great game!
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