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Boris Spassky vs Lev Polugaevsky
"Spassky's Mortal Game" (game of the day Dec-02-2021)
USSR Championship 1961a (1961), Moscow URS, rd 10, Jan-26
Queen's Indian Defense: Kasparov Variation (E12)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-03-03  ForeverYoung: This game was mentioned by Boris in the article "Portrait of a World Champion" which appeared in Chess Life & Review in 1970 and I believe also in Inside Chess in Dr. Minev's column. He considered that game one of his best from that Soviet Championship. Paul W.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: "...I had some very good form in our national championship in Moscow in January 1961. I remember two very nice games: against Polugaevsky, Which I lost, and against Smyslov, which was drawn.(See Spassky vs Smyslov, 1961) Despite the results, these were probably my best games". - Boris Spassky.
Apr-10-04  WMD: A game that deserves to be better known. Spassky having walked his king to g5 misses the final step 34.Kf6 which would have crowned a brilliant victory.
Feb-14-05  refutor: <34.Kf6>

"Had White carried out his planned 34.Kf6!! Qxd4+ 35.Kf7! this would have been one of Spassky's best wins : such bold raids by the king under a hail of bullets can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and are part of the golden treasury of chess. Alas, Spassky suddenly imagined that after 34.Kh5 the checks were at an end. Well, erratic thinking at moments of terrible tension, especially with the opponent's flag about to fall ,occurs even with great players" Garry Kasparov, OMGP Vol. 3 p. 211

Feb-14-05  Albertan: If Spassky had tried 20.cxb5 what would have happened? Perhaps 20...Rf5 21.h6 g6 22.a4 c6 23.Bg5 Bxg5 24.Rxg5 cxb5 25.Rxf5 exf5 26.Qxb5 Qxb5 27.axb5 Nc7 28.Rc1 Nxb5 which would have given Spassky a clear advantage.
Feb-14-05  Albertan: Albertan: An interesting variation that was not played in the game (and which at first glance seems to be dangerous for Black) is 18.Rhg1!? Rf7 19.h5 Kh8 20.h6 g6 21.Rxg6!? hxg6 22.Qxg6 Raf8 23.Ng5 Qe8.However, Black is well-defended after 23...Qe8.
Feb-14-05  Albertan: The move 20....dxc5?! seems dubious doesn't it? What if Spassky had tried 22.Ne5 instead of 22.Be5.. ? Then after 22...Qc8 23.Nc6 Qd7 24.Qe4 Bd8 25.dxc5 Qd5 26.Qxd5 Rxd5 27.hxg7 Bf6 28.Rxh7! Nxg7 (if 28...Kxh7?? 29.g8(Q)#).29.Rgh2 Kf7 30.b4 Rg8 31.e4 seems to winning for White.
Feb-14-05  Albertan: Good analysis Refutor :)
36.Kf6 leads to a forced checkmate:

34.Kf6 Qxd4+ 35.Kf7 Qf6+ 36.Kxf6 Be7+ 37.Kf7 Rf8+ 38.gxf8Q Bxf8 39.Qg6+ Kh8 40.Qg8#

It is hard to believe that Polugaevsky escaped without losing this game let alone that he won!

Feb-14-05  Albertan: 43.a3? could have sealed Spassky's fate. He should have played 43.Kf5 and after 43...Rxf4 44.Kg6 Rg4+ 45.Kh6 Rh4+ the game probably would have ended in a draw due to perpetual check.

The move 47.Kf6? was a mistake. Spassky should have played 47.Kh6 and the game would have probably ended in a draw by perpetual check.

Feb-14-05  Albertan: WMD you are right about the fact that this game deserves to be better known. Thanks for allowing us to find out that this game existed and for allowing us to play through such an interesting and instructive game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Albertan>
<Spassky should have played 47.Kh6 and the game would have probably ended in a draw by perpetual check.>

What if Black tries to play for a win with 47. Kh6 e4? Then if 48. Rc8+ Kf7 49. Rf8+ Ke6 50. g8(Q)+ Rxg8 51. Rxg8 Kd5 52. Kg5 e3 53. Kf4 c2 54. Rg1 Kd4 55. Kf3 Kd3, etc. and the pawns beat the rook.

Feb-14-05  Albertan: beatgiant that is an interesting line of analysis you posted.If instead of 51...Kd5, Black could also try 51...e3! ie. 52.Rg3 Kd5 53.Rg2 Ke4 54.Kh5 Kd3 55.Kg6 c2 56.Rg1 Kd2 57.Rg4 c1(R) 58.Rd4+ Kc2 59.Rc4+ Kb2 60.Rxb4 e2 61.Re4 e1(Q) 62.Rxe1 Rxe1
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Albertan>

On 47. Kh6 e4 48. Rc8+ Kf7 49. Rf8+ Ke6 50. g8(Q)+ Rxg8 51. Rxg8, I didn't like the looks of 51...e3 52. Re8+ Kd5 53. Rxe3, but you are right Black then still looks winning with 53...c2 54. Re1 Kd4, etc.

Feb-14-05  Broon Bottle: Something about Boris.... he's a geezer
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Thanks also from me WMD - I had never heard of the game. It is a massive shame that Boris missed Kf6 because it wins more or less on-the-spot.
Oct-07-14  Superjombonbo: Spassky should have played 34. Kf6! instead of 34. Kh5?, allowing him to force mate.
Oct-08-14  Boomie: <Superjombonbo: Spassky should have played 34. Kf6! instead of 34. Kh5?, allowing him to force mate.>

34. Kf6? Qxd4+ leads to mate or the loss of more material.

May-19-15  siggemannen: <Boomie>, there's nothing after 35. Kf7 in your line
Jun-09-16  ToTheDeath: Are there any defeats that did greatly upset you?

BS: 1961, the game against Polugaevsky. Two moves away from victory. Lyova was "dying" and didn't even try to hide that. He paced back and forth at the board, the time was almost up. The flag was hanging. And then - I was totally paralyzed. I call this state "Begone, demons!" I strained myself too much, and my thinking slowed down. I couldn't even hold on to draw! As a result, the whole chess landscape changed.

What do you mean?

BS: If I defeated Lyova, I would automatically qualify to the Interzonal, and then to the Candidates'. Even back then, I could have competed for the world title.

Nov-29-16  edubueno: Una derrota muy dolorosa.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Knighthawkmiller: At move 22 Stockfish shows Spassky has a substantial advantage. (Black played 22... c4) +3.72 22...Qd5 23.e4 Rxe5 24.Nxe5 Qxd4 25.Qxd4 cxd4 26.hxg7 Bf6 27.Nc6 Bxg7 28.Nxd4 Kf7 29.Rxh7 Rb8 Spassky let this one slip away.
Dec-02-21  nalinw: Super game and pun .....
Dec-02-21  goodevans: What an extraordinary game. Having had the insight to walk his King most of the way up the board I think it's incredible that Spassky failed to find 34.Kf6.

<Albertan>'s suggestions of trying for perpetual with <43.Kf5 Rxf4 44.Kg6 Rg4+ 45.Kh6> or <47.Kh6> make for interesting analysis. <beatgiant> has already provided a refutation of the latter and the refutation of the former is similar:

click for larger view


Now White can win Black's R with <46.Rc8+ Kf7 47.Rf8+ Ke6 48.g8=Q+ Rxg8 49.Rxg8>

click for larger view

... but his K is so far out of position that he'll have to give up his own R to stop the Black c- and e-pawns after which Black mops up White's last two pawns for victory.

Dec-02-21  Ironmanth: What a game!! Tremendous fight: must have been a treat to actually be there to see. Thanks so much for this one, chessgames. Y'all stay safe out there today. :)

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