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Robert James Fischer vs Mark Taimanov
"Lonely Knight" (game of the day Nov-14-2012)
Fischer - Taimanov Candidates Quarterfinal (1971), Vancouver CAN, rd 2, May-18
Sicilian Defense: Paulsen. Szen Variation (B44)  ·  1-0

ANALYSIS [x]

FEN COPIED

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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 6 OF 7 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Nov-14-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: And he wins even though he has the wrong rook pawn!
Nov-14-12  Marmot PFL: Taimanov played well to reach a drawn position. Possibly if Fischer's technique was better he could have won this without the mistake on move 81.
Nov-14-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Poor horsey! The knight was in the perfect spot,but had to move from its ideal spot.
Nov-14-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<sevenseaman> But aren't we handing over our thinking faculty to an engine/ready-reckoner/ or a move dictionary?>

Much depends on what you consider "thinking" and, specifically, whether you consider memorization part of our "thinking faculty". Most people don't, reserving the use of "thinking" to (among other things) applying known principles to new situations. If we exclude memorization from our set of thinking tools, then we could not properly use memorized opening variations or endgame positions in games without also discarding our "thinking faculty".

And in this game it's just as much of a case of Taimanov missing the moves to draw (81...Nf3, 81...Kd4) than Fischer finding the move to win (82.Bc8). It's not necessarily fair to fault Taimanov since we don't know the time control situation, but by applying a little bit of "thought" Taimanov should have realized that the only way to draw was to either sacrifice his knight for Fischer's remaining pawn or to get his king to h8. Then combining both concepts by blocking the pawn's advance by 31...Nd3-f4 from where it could only be dislodged by capturing it with White's king, giving Black's king enough time to get to h8 via the dark squares, was really not that difficult to find. But given the state of the match at this point and possible time trouble, it apparently was too much for Taimanov. Not to take anything away from Fischer, he found the needed move when Taimanov didn't so he deserved to win. Perhaps this game is another validation of the saying that the winner of a chess game is the person who makes the next to last mistake.

BTW, also save the following link for future reference: http://chessok.com/?page_id=361. I think that it's somewhat easier to use than the other link to the 6-piece Nalimov tablebases and it usually provides the entire line for forced mate variations.

And I think that since in order to draw Black's knight has to play the starring role, "Starry Knight" would have been an even better game title pun.

Nov-14-12  Riverbeast: Just a relentless game.....

<And in this game it's just as much of a case of Taimanov missing the moves to draw (81...Nf3, 81...Kd4) than Fischer finding the move to win (82.Bc8)>

How do those moves draw?

Nov-14-12  SChesshevsky: <AylerKupp: And in this game it's just as much of a case of Taimanov missing the moves to draw (81...Nf3, 81...Kd4) than Fischer finding the move to win (82.Bc8).>

When I first saw this game it did look like Black had at least a few chances to draw the endgame. But I put it toward the weird game scheduling and Taimanov being more prone to fatigue.

But I also thought you really can't fault Fischer's technique with 72. Bg4 securing the pawn, then Ra6 cutting off the King then advancing his own King to a dominant position, where Kf6 was outstanding.

Nov-15-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Riverbeast> After 81...Nd3 82.h4 Nf4 if 83.h5 then 83...Nxh5 84.Bxh5 and White has insufficient material for a mate. The only way to get the knight off the f4 square is 83.Kf5 but then after 83...Kd6 84.Kxf5 Ke7 Black's king gets to h8 and with the bishop not controlling the queening square White can't queen the h-pawn.

If 81...Kd4 then Black's strategy is to either distract the White king by checks to allow the Black king to get to h8 via the dark squares white the White king is chasing and capturing the knight or to force White's king to the h-file where it blocks the h-pawn from queening. A possible continuation might be: 82.Be2 (or 82.Be1) 82...Ke4 83.h4 Kf4 84.h5 Nd7+ and now

(1) 85.Ke7 Kg5 86.Kxd7 Kh6 87.Ke7 Kh7 and the Black king can't be forced away from h8.

(2) 85.Kg7 Kg5 86.h6 Nf6 87.Bd1 (or 87.Be2 if 82.Bd1) 87...Ne8+ 88.Kh7 (otherwise the h-pawn is lost) 88...Nf6+ and a draw by repetition. If instead 87.Bb5 (or 87.Ba4 if 82.Bd1) to prevent 87...Ne8+, then 87...Nh5+ 88.Kh7 (again forced in order to protect the h-pawn) 88...Nf6+ and once again draw by repetition.

Why does 81...Kd4 draw and 81...Ke4 lose? Just the position of the pieces. I'm not aware of any general principles that favor one move versus the other. It's just a matter of calculation. But maybe someone else can find a better reason.

Nov-15-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <SChesshevsky> True, I can't fault Fischer's technique towards the end of the game nor would I likely be able to do so even if it was indeed faulty. But in spite of Fischer's excellent technique around moves 70 – 80 Taimanov still had a draw at move 81 if he had been able to find it.
Dec-13-12  PinnedPiece: GTM Score: 181 Par: 164
Mar-06-13  Garech: Fischer's level of play in the endgame is just awesome. Carlsen is following in his footsteps!

-Garech

Mar-11-13
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Black ends up in Zugzwang,he cannot keep the knight protected,so it must be moved or lost.
Mar-11-13  RookFile: Most of us think about the endgame, but I find the opening remarkable. Black is ahead a pawn, after all. One wrong move, one failure to exploit compensation by Fischer, and black probably wins this game, not loses it.
Aug-27-13  tarashi88: 81. ... Nd3, Kd4 or Kd6 (DRAW!!!)
Apr-10-14  gabriel112000: Incredible! Fischer found the only winning move after move 81 and that is 82. Bc8!!
Apr-10-14  Petrosianic: The win isn't that hard to find after 81...Ke4??? 82. Bc8! is the best move, yes, but not too difficult to find. The incredible thing about the ending is that a GM would forget that the King is supposed to go in the corner in an ending like this.
Apr-10-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Petrosianic: The win isn't that hard to find after 81...Ke4??? 82. Bc8! is the best move, yes, but not too difficult to find. The incredible thing about the ending is that a GM would forget that the King is supposed to go in the corner in an ending like this.>

Well, 81....Kd4 and 81....Nd3 aren't exactly intuitive if the idea is to get the king to h8. 81....Ke4 is a losing error, since Taimanov had a draw before the move and a loss after, but I'm not sure it deserves the two question marks it regularly gets. Certainly it's not anything like him hanging the rook in game 5. Apparently 81....Kd6 also draws -- that is a little more intuitive.

It has been posted before, but Fischer had a winning endgame at the first adjournment. He misplayed it early in the second session, which is why Taimanov had a draw here. As far as I know, that was pretty much the only thing Fischer did wrong in the 12 games against Taimanov and Larsen.

Apr-10-14  Petrosianic: Granted, Game 5 was a lot worse. That was an obvious tactical oversight, where this was an obvious strategic one. It's hard to say which one is more inexplicable. Hanging a rook is bad enough, but how do you simply forget basic principles? The King goes on h8. The Knight can be given up if necessary to make this possible. For a GM, yeah, I'd give it two question marks (for a club player, maybe not).

That's true what you said about the second adjournment.

Apr-10-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Hanging a rook is bad enough, but how do you simply forget basic principles? The King goes on h8. The Knight can be given up if necessary to make this possible.>

But how do we know Taimanov forgot about this possibility, as opposed to carrying it out wrong? Because the white king is closer to h8 than the Black king, it's not exactly obvious how to make that strategy work. Black seems to need more than one idea to draw.

Borrowing some of the analysis <Ayler Kupp> posted, after 81...Kd4 82.Be2 Ke4 (now playable) 83.h4 Kf4 84.h5 Nd7+ and now

if 85.Ke7, then the path to h8 opens: 85....Kg5! 86.Kxd7 Kh6 and draws.

But if 85.Kg7, then of course the black king is never getting to h8. Instead the king has to anchor the knight, which has to block the pawn's progress. 85....Kg5 86.h6 Nf6 87.Bd1 Ne8+ 88.Kh7 Nf6+ and draws. And if 87.Bb5 then there is an echo: the knight oscillates between h5 and f6 instead of e8 and f6.

The second line is a little bit like the game line, except Black can't be zugzwanged like he is in the game after 85.Bf5 and again after 87.Kg6. And why is it zugzwang after 85.Bf5? Because the bishop covers both of the knight's checking squares, as opposed to just one of them in the second line given above.

None of this strikes me as intuitive or obvious. Quoting <Ayler Kupp>

<Why does 81...Kd4 draw and 81...Ke4 lose? Just the position of the pieces. I'm not aware of any general principles that favor one move versus the other. It's just a matter of calculation.>

Apr-10-14  Olavi: Of course 81...Kd4 is just as or more counterintuitive than 81...Ke4, but 81...Nd3 really is obvious. And so is 81...Kd6, also drawing.
Apr-10-14  Petrosianic: <keypusher>: <But how do we know Taimanov forgot about this possibility, as opposed to carrying it out wrong? Because the white king is closer to h8 than the Black king, it's not exactly obvious how to make that strategy work. Black seems to need more than one idea to draw.>

Okay granted, the idea of mind reading is a bit much. We don't know that he FORGOT, exactly. Perhaps he remembered the principle but thought something else would be even better.

What makes the game incredible is this. Look at the position right before Ke4. The first thing you notice is that the Bishop is the wrong colour to queen the pawn. This means Black can lose the knight with impunity as long as the King gets to h8.

Now, suppose Black plays 81...Kd6. White is in a kind of near-Zugzwang. The Bishop is trying to guard two diagonals at once. If he abandons the d1-h5 diagonal, Black plays Nf3 and draws easily (the Knight lodges itself on h4, and if White moves his King to capture it, the Black king scoots to h8. Draw.

Black can also draw with sequences like Nd3-f4. The theme is the same no matter what. Stick the Knight on a Black square where it can keep watch on the h pawn, but the Bishop can't touch it. It doesn't do the White King any good to get to h8 first, because he's the one that has to dislodge the Knight. When it does, Black scoots to h8. All the drawing plans involve Black getting his king to h8. It takes a lot of words to explain, but a GM would know this at a glance, especially after studying the ending so long.

The exact move sequences aren't that obvious, but the general idea is. All roads lead to Kh8. So, why he should run the other way is just incredible. Maybe Taimanov is related to Roy Riegels?

Apr-10-14  Petrosianic: So again, what possible point is there to Ke4? To protect the Knight? The Knight doesn't NEED protection. Give it up. Lose it. Send it to the glue factory. Just get the King to h8.
Apr-10-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: It's perfectly obvious-Fischer hypnotised Taimanov at the finish, a la Tal.

An alternative explanation is that the outcome was the settlement of a karmic debt.

Apr-10-14  Petrosianic: I just wish it were something that simple. I'm afraid I still have to go with the Riegels Theory.
Apr-10-14
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Olavi: Of course 81...Kd4 is just as or more counterintuitive than 81...Ke4, but 81...Nd3 really is obvious. And so is 81...Kd6, also drawing.>

To me 81....Nd3 isn't any more obvious than 81....Kd4.

<Petrosianic>

<So, why he should run the other way is just incredible.> How is it that ...Ke4 is running the wrong way but ...Kd4 isn't? If you use a ruler d4 is further away from h8 than e4 is.

The really funny thing is, on any of e4, d5, d4, or d6, the black king is exactly four moves from h8.

...Ke4 is (i) one of the ways to approach h8 <and> (ii) supports the knight in its effort to block or capture the pawn. It only fails because of Bc8 and the subsequent zugzwang. Ayler Kupp's second line basically consists of wasting a move so White's bishop moves to a bad square, then doing what Taimanov apparently tried to do in the game.

Apr-10-14  Petrosianic: Kd4 and Ke4 are both the wrong way. Kd6 is the right way. Granted, you can get to h8 in 5 moves with all three (if the way is unobstructed), but it won't be unobstructed if you try to go THROUGH the White King. You've got to go around it. You can do this with Kd6 because the King gets diverted capturing the Knight. Also, Ke4 approaches the pawn from behind. The King needs to be in front of it. Rooks belong behind passed pawns, Kings belong in front.
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