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Boris Spassky vs Vasily Smyslov
Bucharest (1953), Bucharest ROU, rd 1, Jan-??
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Leningrad Variation. Benoni Defense (E31)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <euripedes> Yes, but it seems that Smyslov winds up attacking with only a Queen and a pawn. Okay, the bishop comes in but he is still outnumbered by the white pieces. How could he expect that kind of attack to succeed? Spassky was like 16 years old at the time and may have been taken too lightly. Not after this tourney. He finished tied for 4th-6th in a very strong field.
Nov-11-04  euripides: My initial thought was that establishing the bishop on f5 was sufficient motivation for the h5-h4 idea. But in the game the threat of Ne3 forces the bishop out of f5 almost as soon as it gets there. He might have hoped for Be4 but that doesn't seem to work at any point. So I agree the whole plan looks ropey.

Alexander's notes simply suggest 19...Bc8 was motivated by the fear of f5. If 19...Qe7 20 f5 Qxe3+ 21 Kg1 Qg5 22 Ne4 is interesting e.g. 22...Qe7 23 f6 or 23 Rf4 Be2 24 f6 with a promising attack.

May-26-05  Achilles87: What a blunder
Dec-25-05  shaikh123: if Rxd2 then 35.RG3+, Kh1 36.RH4#
Dec-25-05  szunzein: Hi, this is a brilliant game by Spassky, isn't it? It's amazing that he was only 16
Apr-05-06  notyetagm: One of the comments that the chess program Fritz makes is <Control the center and you control the game, my teacher used to tell me>.

This comment well characterizes the board position in this game resulting after 32 ♖e3.

click for larger view

Apr-05-06  notyetagm: Spassky's swinging f4- and e3-rooks remind me of Ljubojevic's swinging f4- and c3-rooks in the famous Ljubojevic vs Ulf Andersson, 1976.

In that magnificent game, the following position with the swinging White rooks is reached after 24 ♖f4:

click for larger view

The threat in the position is 25 ♗xg7! ♘xg7 26 ♕xg7+! ♔xg7 27 ♖g3+ ♔h6 28 ♖h4#, using the swinging rooks to their maximum effect. The resulting <corridor mate> is shown in the diagram below.

click for larger view

Jan-11-07  sandmanbrig: No hope for black even without the blunder.
Jun-11-08  HNP: What a brilliant game by Spassky! I wonder at what point Smyslov realized that he wasn't the one attacking... Interesting that although Black has a light-squared bishop that is not blocked by pawns, it is White who controls the light-squares owing to his active pieces and control of the centre. Once the knight penetrates to f5, it's all over.
Jan-14-09  WhiteRook48: Yikes! a two rook checkmate in the middlegame.
Sep-29-09  kooley782: Isn't 25.Ne3 playable? I think it seems pretty good for White, considering the rolling passed pawns.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kdogphs: SMYSLOV: Yay queen trade!
SPASSKY: Mate in one!
Nov-12-11  Ulhumbrus: 19 Qa4!! denies Black's QB the only good square available to it, the square d7. This suggests that all that in order to place his QB well all that Black need do is to prepare the move ...Bd7. However with the move Qa4 White threatens as well the move f5! cutting Black's QB off from the square d7 and so putting the B on g4 out of play. If Smyslov hopes to place the QB on d7, he has no choice but to withdraw it to c8 before White cuts it off from that square by the move f5.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Ulhumbrus>
How to the tactics work out after <Calli>'s suggested 19...Qe7 20. f5? Can Black then get away with 20...Qxe3+ followed by 21...Qg5 to rescue the bishop? Or even trade the bishop for three pawns with 20...Qxe3+, 21...Bxf5, 22...Qxc3?
Nov-12-11  Ulhumbrus: <beatgiant> After 19...Qe7 20 f5 Qxe3+ 21 Kh1 Qg5 <euripides> has given 22 Ne4 Qe7 and either 23 f6 ie 23 Rf4 Be2 24 f6. On 19...Qe7 20 f5 Qe3+ 21 Kh1 Bxf5 22 Nxf5 Qxc3 White's N should be worth more than three pieces in the middle game, particularly if it is placed well, as on f5 as in this case.

One interesting point is that White's N on f5 defends the d5 pawn. Why? Because the capture ..Qxd5 invites the fork Ne7+

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Ulhumbrus>
White's position looks over-extended, and it's not easy to trap Black's bishop, so I'm still skeptical about that gambit.

Among other things, have you checked 19...Qe7 20. f5 Qxe3+ 21. Kh1 <h5>?

Nov-14-11  Ulhumbrus: <beatgiant: <Ulhumbrus> White's position looks over-extended, and it's not easy to trap Black's bishop, so I'm still skeptical about that gambit. Among other things, have you checked 19...Qe7 20. f5 Qxe3+ 21. Kh1 <h5>?> Suppose we begin with 22 Rae1. If Black tries to keep White's N on g3 attacked ( so as to discourage h3) by 22...Qxc3, 23 Ne4 supports with tempo the advance f6.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Ulhumbrus>
19...Qe7 20. f5 Qxe3+ 21. Kh1 h5 22. Rae1 Qxc3 23. Ne4 Qe5, and it looks like the bishop escapes, f6 doesn't accomplish much, and White's center is collapsing. Is this position really worth the two gambitted pawns?
Nov-15-11  Ulhumbrus: <beatgiant: <Ulhumbrus> 19...Qe7 20. f5 Qxe3+ 21. Kh1 h5 22. Rae1 Qxc3 23. Ne4 Qe5, and it looks like the bishop escapes, f6 doesn't accomplish much, and White's center is collapsing. Is this position really worth the two gambitted pawns?> After 24 f6 what do you suggest for Black?
Jan-03-13  bhsakar13556: i have seen some games of spassky. and in many.. opponent suddenly finds himself in an unavoidable mating is just wondering to see a simple position abruptly turns into a nightmare.
Nov-02-15  chaparral: 19. Qe7
20.e4 instead of f5 and sacrifing the e pawn.White has a strong center,that can be use to attack the black King or a future pass pawm
Jan-22-16  peterh99: A typically brilliant game by the young Spassky leading up to a gruesome mate in the middle game. No player has subjected as many top opponents to such bloody fates! I think of Larsen-Spassky with the "here, have a rook" sacrifice. QA4 with the threat of f5 locking in the black bishop seems key.
Aug-13-16  mandor: Is it bad the plan for black :10...a6 with idea of b5, followed by Nb6 and c4?!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Mateo: <Calli: Nxg7 is nice. The point being 33...Kxg7 34.Rg3+ Kf8 35.Rxf7+ Qxf7 (or Kxf7 Qf4+) 36.Qh6+

Anybody else find 19...Bc8 a bit strange? Qe7 followed by Bd7 looks natural.> The move is strange but it makes sense if you consider that White was threatening to play f5 and the Bishop would be badly placed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Messiah: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bg5 h6 5.Bh4 c5 6.d5 d6 7.e3 exd5

<H Steiner vs Larry Evans, 1952 featured 7...e5.>

8.cxd5 Nbd7 9.Bb5 O-O 10.Nge2 Ne5 11.O-O Ng6 12.Bg3 Nh5

<I like 12...a6 much more.>

13.Bd3 Nxg3 14.Nxg3 Ne5

<Or 14...Bd7, 14...f5, whatever.>

15.Be2 Bxc3

<My gut feeling is that Smyslov was already out of his book at this moment, and this could be the reason of his strange decisions throughout the game. 15...a6, Benoni-style, is something I would expect from a hyper-strong player like him.>

16.bxc3 Qh4

<The other idea is to play 16...Rb8. Maybe even 16...Re8.>

17.f4 Ng4 18.Bxg4 Bxg4 19.Qa4?!

<Very weird and almost ugly move, putting the queen onto the same rank as the other queen is located at. By moving the bishop away (as Smyslov does it in the very next move), suddenly the f-pawn, or after an e4, the e-pawn, are vulnerable because of the pin. 19.Qd3 or 19.Qc2 are completely natural and good moves.>


<Logical, yes, but seemingly more natural is 19...Qe7. The position is an equality with being playable for both sides.>

20.e4 Qg4?!

<I can not understand what was Smyslov's problem with 20...f5 21.Rae1 fxe4 22.Nxe4 Qd8.>

21.Qc2 h5 22.Rf2

<22.Rf3 seems to be more natural, but the resulting positions could be sharper.>

22...b5 23.e5 h4 24.Nf1

<24.Ne4 Bf5 25.Qe2 Qxe2 26.Rxe2 is also playable.>

24...Bf5 25.Qd2

<Or 25.Qb2. This position would require months of analysis to decide which is the proper move.>


<Technically the resulting position is not lost, but something was astronomically misjudged by Smyslov: maybe he did not bear the proper mentality required for playing chess. After something obvious like 25...Rfe8 or 25...Qg6 or 25...Rad8 the position is a total equality, despite not being dry and boring. But now White has a free passer on a guarded file.>

26.fxe5 Bg6 27.Re1

<I like the immediate 27.d6 too.>


<66 years after the game it is very easy to be the smart guy, but I think this is the moment when Smyslov lost. He did not understand that it is not him who attacks. Black's only options are either starting the bombardement of the central pawns, or trying to establish some counterplay on the queenside. I can not work out the first case, for the second one I might recommend some stupid variations like 27...b4 28.d6 Rfe8 29.Ne3 (or maybe 29.c4) 29...bxc3 30.Qxc3 Qe6 and although White is better (just look at the pawn structure!), not winning (yet). I find the thinking about this position to be very difficult.>


<Or 28.Ne3. Black's future is dark.>

28...Be4 29.Ne3 Qe6

<29...Qg6 or 29...Qg5 are not better at all. The pawns are bulldozers.>


<Spassky reaches a total control in the centre.>


<Bombarding the centre in a hurry is a little bit late. 30...f5 31.exf6 Rxf6 32.Ng4 Rxf4 33.Qxf4 and White has the pull.>


<I really like this move. 31.Nxg2 hxg2 32.Qxg2 is also better for White, but 31.Nf5 is even better.>

31...Rfe8 32.Re3 Rad8

<The position is already very bad, but now the young Spassky can finish Black's day with a not too difficult combination. We might find objectively better moves for Black, but why would we try? White's total positional dominance is a harsh reality.>

33.Nxg7 Rxd6

<Nothing helps anymore: 33...Qd5 34.Rg3 Kf8 35.Rh4 f5 36.Qe2 and sooner or later it is curtains.>

34.Nxe6 Rxd2 35.Rg3+ 1-0

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