Bobby Fischer at the Second Piatigorsky

by ChessBase
1/30/2008 – In 1966 the great players in chess were Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky and Bent Larsen. At the Second Piatigorsky Cup in Santa Monica, California, the young Bobby Fischer started with a dismal 3½-5½, against themse players. But then he demonstrated his coming greatness by catching up with a 6½/7 run. Our lecturer Dennis Monokroussos looks at this memorable event.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

We continue to commemorate the career of Bobby Fischer, the late world chess champion, with a look at a win from the middle period of his career. By 1966 he was clearly near the top, but there was a strong case to be made for players like Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, and (by decade’s end) Bent Larsen, too. What was clear is that he was an extremely powerful player on the rise, and that power was seen in a mighty way in the Second Piatigorsky Cup in Santa Monica, California. The event was a double round-robin starring many of the best players of the day, and after the first cycle Fischer’s score was a dismal 3½-5½, leaving him 9th out of 10 players.

At this point, Fischer demonstrated his greatness as a player and turned everything around. In the next 7 rounds, Fischer scored 6½ points to pull into a tie for first with Spassky. They drew each other in the next round, but then Spassky won his last round game while Fischer could only draw against Petrosian. Thus Spassky won first place in the tournament, but Fischer’s fantastic comeback left no doubts about the threat he posed to Soviet hegemony. It took him six more years before he could break through against Spassky and win the title, but performances like this one showed that his time was coming.

Boris Spassky, Gregor Piatigorsky. Mrs Piatigorsky, Bobby Fischer

As you probably guessed, we’ll take a look at one of Fischer’s games from this tournament. In round 11, he faced the “little Botvinnik”, Hungarian grandmaster and many-time Candidate Lajos Portisch. Portisch, like Fischer, was always very well-prepared in his openings, but wasn’t as good at improvisation. That cost him, as the non-standard position that arose from Fischer’s Nimzo-Indian led to a situation where Portisch followed the “rules” and got into trouble. Generally speaking, two rooks are stronger than a queen, and that’s the material balance Portisch eagerly pursued straight out of the opening. What counts, however, is how well one can coordinate one’s forces, and Fischer’s assessment proved superior, and he went on to win a strategic masterpiece.

Table generated from Mega Database 2008

If a player of Portisch’s exceptional caliber can seriously misassess such a position, we can too! It’s therefore in our interest to take a careful look at this game. Material imbalances like this one come up from time to time, and it’s rare that we study them in advance. So this is a wonderful opportunity to learn something new, while simultaneously taking an appreciative look at one of Fischer’s many beautiful contributions to our game. I hope, therefore, that you’ll join me tonight – Wednesday night – at 9 p.m. ET – see you then!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Thursday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.

You can find the exact times for different locations in the world at World Time and Date. Exact times for most larger cities are here. And you can watch older lectures by Dennis Monokroussos offline in the Chess Media System room of Playchess:

Enter the above archive room and click on "Games" to see the lectures. The lectures, which can go for an hour or more, will cost you between one and two ducats. That is the equivalent of 10-20 Euro cents (14-28 US cents).

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Dennis Monokroussos is 41, lives in South Bend, IN, where he teaches chess and occasionally works as an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend.

At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S. and has reached a peak rating of 2434 USCF, but several long breaks from tournament play have made him rusty. He is now resuming tournament chess in earnest, hoping to reach new heights.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for ten years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

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