Boris Spassky, the overshadowed genius

by ChessBase
2/13/2008 – He is one of the great legends of chess, but Boris Spassky had the misfortune to be continually overshadowed by others – especially Mikhail Tal and Bobby Fischer. A grandmaster at 18 and a Candidate at 19, he did win the world championship title. Our lecturer Dennis Monokroussos looks at an exciting game from his 1968 Candidates match with Efim Geller. Enjoy.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

After three weeks of Bobby Fischer's games, it's time to take a look at his great predecessor, Boris Spassky. Spassky is a legend of the game, but he had the bad luck of being continually overshadowed by others, especially Mikhail Tal and Fischer. Boris Spassky became a grandmaster at 18 and a Candidate at 19; only to have Fischer achieve both titles at the age of 15. Having become a GM and a Candidate, he'd at least seem the likeliest Soviet to achieve great successes. But Tal zipped past him to win a couple of Soviet Championships and ultimately the World Championship, while Spassky suffered from bad nerves and bad luck, missing out on two consecutive Candidates' cycles.

It looked like one of the greatest talents in chess history up to that point might go to waste, but in the mid-60s Spassky finally pulled it all together. He made it to the World Championship in 1966, losing a tough match to Tigran Petrosian, and the next time around he again qualified and this time beat the great Armenian.

We'll look at a game from his second run to the title match, from his 1968 Candidates match with Efim Geller. In all of his games with white in that match, Spassky faced the Sicilian with the Closed Variation, and each time it turned into a race between Geller's queenside counterplay and Spassky's king-hunting. In the second and fourth game of the match, Geller managed to get a better position, though Spassky's outwitted him in the complications and won both games. In game six, however, everything worked perfectly for Spassky. He found the best way to handle the opening, and he conducted the attack perfectly.

It's a beautiful game, and it also gives us the chance to take a look at the ever-popular Closed Sicilian. If you're interested in playing or meeting this line, or if you just want to see Spassky's fine creative achievement, you'll want to tune in tomorrow - Wednesday - at 9 p.m. ET. Hope to 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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