Dennis Monokroussos on Boris Vasilievich

2/1/2007 – Best known for his two match losses to Fischer, Boris Spassky nevertheless remains, by virtue of his achievements from the early 1950s through the early 1980s, and especially his dominant play in the late 1960s, one of the all-time greats of chess. Our Playchess lecturer takes a look at some highlights from Spassky's career.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Tuesday was the 70th birthday of the 10th World Chess Champion, one Boris Vasilievich Spassky. Although (unfortunately) best known for his two match losses to Fischer, his achievements from the early 1950s through the early 1980s, and especially his dominant play in the late 1960s, mandate his inclusion among the all-time greats of the game. It is meet and right for us to commemorate his career from time to time, and this week we’ll take a look at one or two highlights from his many accomplishments.

Spassky had a reputation as a “universal” player, one at home in all sorts of positions, happy to attack or defend, able to win in complications or positional squeezes, middlegames and endings. That’s all wonderful, but we’ll look at a pair of blood-and-guts games, two miniatures won with vicious kingside attacks against elite opposition. First up, we’ll see his win from the third game of his 1977 match against Dutch great Jan Timman. Timman played a provocative line of the Gruenfeld, and as sometimes happens in this opening the game became a race between Spassky’s kingside attack and Timman’s attempt to crash through the center. You all know what happened, but the beauty is in how it happened!

Likewise, Spassky’s win over Yasser Seirawan from Zurich 1984 showed him at his attacking best. Seirawan, the strongest American player of the 1980s (and currently the esteemed big dog of the ChessBase commentary crew), chose a similarly provocative opening – the Pirc. Like the Gruenfeld, the Pirc invites White to occupy the center with pawns in the hope that Black will succeed in undermining the pawns and eventually seize the center for himself. White’s strategy is to do one of two things: opt for a modest central footprint, so there’s almost nothing to undermine, or play more ambitiously and try to use the extra space before Black’s guerilla warfare succeeds. Needless to say, Spassky picked the aggressive approach, and won with an impressive, seemingly intuitive attack.

So if you want a few tips on attacking, want to improve your knowledge of one of the game’s greatest players, or simply want to see a pair of exciting, entertaining games, I hope you’ll join me tonight, Thursday night, at 9 pm ET. See you then!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Thursdays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Tuesday). 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).


Dennis Monokroussos is 40, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven 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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