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Anatoly Karpov vs Boris Spassky
USSR Championship (1973), Moscow URS, rd 7, Oct-11
Spanish Game: Closed Variations. Chigorin Defense (C98)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: Why did Karpov give up the a-file on move 25? Qf2 looks sensible "threatening" the Ba7 moves as played in the Unzicker game in '74. Does black really wish to play into 25.Qf2 Rxa1 26.Rxa1 Ra8 27.Rxa8 Qxa8 white can focus all this energy on the K-side without any pressure from the other wing.
Apr-27-10  Breyannis Nektarios: 1) Lopezexchange, you are absolutely right! Even in the final position Black is better, and it would have been worthwhile for Spassky to try to win. (Take notice: We are in the 7th round of a grandiose Soviet Championship, and Spassky wants to rehabilitate himself after his defeat by Fischer). Perhaps symptomatic of his laziness during the 70's ?

2) Karpov's main mistake is 40.Qe2?. He simply blitzed his moves in the opponent's time-trouble (a "habit" of the young Karpov), hoping to provoke a blunder. He should repeat the position with 40.Rbf1, Rb2 (Black has nothing better), reach the time-control, and then seal his 41st move (with plenty of time available).

Apr-28-10  fab4: You're correct. Spassky had a wunning position but essentialkly could'nt be arsed ( excuse my terminology) to follow it through to the end. This is highly symbolic of the player Spassky had become after losing his title.Unrecognizable from the player who brushed aside everyone in the 60's in his pursuit of his seems he lost all ambition after losing to Fischer..
Jul-26-11  DarkShadows: Actually, the open a-file by itself guarantees nothing for White. The reason why White has a slight edge in this line is because he has the usual Kingside Attack (involving the Knight's Dance) and the Open a-file, which might lead to something tangible at some point.

In the meantime, Black must either try for a timely ...f5 or contest the open a-file himself taking control of it, if possible. The presence of a Black Rook on the 7th (White's 'a2') might be enough to pull back a key White piece for the attack in order to provide a defense should White need it. Otherwise Black remains cramped and without chances to win unless White makes an error.

Black mostly plays this line to avoid a loss rather than an effort to win with the Black pieces, hence the high draw probability.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: <.it seems he lost all ambition after losing to Fischer..> ..after his victory over Petrosian is more likely...
Nov-28-12  Albanius: Fischer is the one who lost his ambition after Reykjavik, as Kasparov once remarked.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: <Albanius: Fischer is the one who lost his ambition after Reykjavik, as Kasparov once remarked.>

Exactly! Spassky lost a bit of motivation and drive after '69/'70, Fischer seemed to have lost a bit more after '72.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <keypusher> Believe this was lightly annotated in the early collection of Karpov's games, published by RHM in the 1970s.
Dec-13-13  poorthylacine: I do not know if Spassky "lost his ambition after Reykjavik", but I know he won this USSR Championship 1973, one of the strongest in history, and in a brilliant way!

And that he crushed Robert Byrne the following year!

Dec-13-13  Petrosianic: Petrosian won the Soviet Championship right after losing the title too. There's something about losing the world championship that makes players want to say "Oh yeah?"
Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: Right, they say "oh yeah?" Once or twice and then cruise the rest of their careers. The fire is gone. I don't blame them, seems quite natural.
Apr-07-15  RookFile: Spassky managed this tournament well. He made draws against the tough guys, sometimes short ones, and wiped out the lower half of the crosstable.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: They were the lower half of the table partly because Spassky wiped them out, of course.
Nov-10-15  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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <zugswangovich> Thank you!
Nov-11-15  Zugzwangovich: <keypusher> To quote our friend <ughaibu>, the pleasure's all mine. Good chess to you, my man.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: After games such as this and Geller vs Smyslov, 1970, the old main line Chigorin practically disappeared from top-level chess.
Nov-13-15  Howard: Going back a few comments, don't you mean that 54...Kf6 should have won. That move is impossible on Move 55, contrary to what you've said.

And how would that move have won?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: I am surprised Flohr didn't comment on 33....fxg5; that seems like the sort of move Black would make only if he absolutely had to.

<Howard> Presumably by advancing the kingside pawns, but I agree, that does seem like a fairly cavalier comment. In the final position, as Flohr points out, it's not so simple for Black, since White has Ne1-c2-a3-xb5.

<lopezexchange: After Spassky outplayed positionally Karpov>

I have to say, that made me laugh. Here's how it looked a few moves before adjournment.

click for larger view

Nov-14-15  Olavi: <keypusher: I am surprised Flohr didn't comment on 33....fxg5; that seems like the sort of move Black would make only if he absolutely had to.> 34.gxf6 Qxf6 35.Ng5 looks like a very strong threat.
Apr-04-20  edubueno: 28...Tb2 is the right move.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Re <After games such as this and Geller vs Smyslov, 1970, the old main line Chigorin practically disappeared from top-level chess.> from a few years ago: that old main line has actually undergone something of a renaissance at GM level, which is probably partly a question of fashion and partly Black players looking for more excitement than the Berlin has to offer.
Apr-05-20  Olavi: Olavi: I think "old main line" refers here to the move 12...Nc6. Karpov vs Unzicker, 1974 is another key game.

I don't think that has had a renaissance, the Chigorin as a whole perhaps.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Olavi.....I don't think that has had a renaissance, the Chigorin as a whole perhaps.>

Agreed, and Karpov-Unzicker was another comprehensive smash. Small wonder such erstwhile sidelines as the Breyer became the main lines when Black ventured into the Spanish Torture at all.

Oct-05-20  fisayo123: This game is a tale of 2 halves of domination by both sides. And you can clearly see the strengths of both players in this one.
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