Zugzwangovich: This is for you, <keypusher>, from nine years ago. Salo Flohr colorfully annotated this game for the February 1974 issue of Chess Life & Review. His comments:
(After 15...ab) The grandmasters have selected an old variation that was in style before Spassky and Karpov were on this earth. The system produces a protracted struggle, good for long winter evenings. White has an open a-file, but there is not much he can do with it (as Korchnoi proved in his match with Spassky a few years ago). But simply to let Black have the file, as Karpov does later in this game, is also not to be recommended.
(After 17...Ne8) Karpov does not like this move and suggests that 17...Bd7 is better. He thinks e8 should be reserved for the Rook.
(After 18...f6) This is how the system used to be played. Black built a fortress by g6, f6, Ng7 and Nf7. But that was long, long ago. Styles change in chess. Today it is difficult to build a fortress that cannot be stormed. Spassky's fortress in this game will be laid waste by Karpov's army.
(After 19...Nf7) 19...ef is worse for Black. He would get e5, true, but at too high a price; d4 would become an effective launching post for the White forces.
(After 22.g4) What can be said of the first phase of this game? The left flank is closed for business (at least for the present), but things will develop on the Kingside, where White clearly has the initiative.
(After 25.Rac1) Karpov is playing for a win. Of course, with the Rooks off the board White could not take the Black fortress.
(After 31...Be8) Karpov is correct when he advises 31...Qb6 and then Qd8 to defend the Kingside. The Bishop is better on d7.
(After 34...Qd7) One can hardly say that Spassky's position is very attractive. And soon it will appear rather suspicious.
(After 36.f6) At this most intense point of the struggle (with time pressure), Karpov refrains from 36.fg hg 37.Ng4 and decides: a piece is a piece. It was difficult to see that just this move is the one that would give Spassky serious counterchances.
(After 38.Qg2) Karpov is very self-critical: he scolds himself for the text move. Correct was 38.Qf2! Qf4 39.Nf5 and White still has the advantage.
(After 41.Nbf1) The adjourned position, the focus of much discussion. Many annotators wrote that Karpov had great winning chances, but such an evaluation could be valid only if White's pieces were optimally placed. If the position is analyzed deeply it is found to be difficult to evaluate and terribly confusing. When the game was over, even Karpov stated that he did not like the adjourned position and had to fight not for a win but for a draw! Let that be a lesson to shallow analysts!
(After 43...Bg4) Both sides make the best moves. Obviously, the two grandmasters have examined the position carefully.
(After 44...Kg7) In addition to his very active pieces, Spassky has connected passed pawns to compensate for his missing piece.
(After 48...Ra2) Karpov, thinking about 25.Rac1, must have been muttering: Why did I give him the a-file?
(After 51...Qe4) Pawn number three. The consensus now was that Karpov had a precarious position.]
(After 52...Qe3) Another time-pressure mistake. 52...Qh4 was very strong.
(After 55...Nf6) Spassky's new (rather, old) trainer, Bondarevsky, was following the tense battle and was very nervous: why didn't Spassky march his King to f6, etc.? In the post-mortem analysis, both Karpov and Spassky agreed with Bondarevsky. Actually, 55...Kf6 led to a win for Black.
(After 57.Nd1) The position is still very tense. But Spassky no longer wants to take risks. White now has some counterchances with Ne1-c2-a3.