Did you guess who annotated Rogoff-Spencer 1969?

by Frederic Friedel
10/2/2015 – In a previous article we reproduced a report on the 1969 US Junior Championship in which Ken Rogoff, today a world famous economist, won the title with a two-point lead over the field. The key game in the final round was witnessed by a kibitzing chess columnist, who expressed his admiration for the sixteen-year-old and annotated his game – with advice for budding chess players.

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Bobby Fischer on Ken Rogoff

In our previous article Ken Rogoff: economist and chess player we told you how Rogoff, at sixteen, was the youngest player ever to win the United States Junior, an event in which the eight highest rated players under twenty years of age competed. Among the interested spectators and analysts was Grandmaster Robert Fischer, who felt that Rogoff had great future potential. Fischer wrote the following article for a popular youth magazine.

The October 1969 issue of Boys' Life ("For all boys") cost 40 cents

Pages 8 + 10 contained an article by Bobby Fischer on the US Junior Championship 1969 [Click to enlarge]

By Bobby Fischer

The other day I dropped over to the U.S. Junior Championship at the McAlpin Hotel in New York City and saw some very talented young players in action, struggling for the title. It brought back memories of years ago when I used to be in those events. The player that impressed me most was 16-year-old Ken Rogoff from Rochester, N.Y. What I liked best about Ken – who won the championship – was his self-assured style and his knowing exactly what he wanted over the chessboard. I'm told he's only been playing chess two or three years and it should encourage each of you young fellows who read this column to know that by applying yourself, as Ken did, you can become a fine player in a relatively short time, too.

Incidentally, it might also be interesting to note that Ken drew a game with Bent Larsen in the summer of '68 when Larsen was playing in the U.S. Open championship. Larsen is considered one of the very best players in the world today.

In this game that I'm going to briefly outline, Ken clinched the first prize in the last round of the Junior Championship tournament. Ken plays white against 19-year-old Steve Spencer from Berkley, Calif.

[Event "U.S Junior Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "1969.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Rogoff, Ken"] [Black "Spencer, Steve"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B15"] [Annotator "Fischer,Bobby"] [PlyCount "39"] 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 {The Pirc defense. Also called the "Rubbish" or "Rat" defense because of the cramped but fighting game it gives black.} 3. Nc3 c6 { He wants to chal­lenge white's center with ...d5 next.} 4. Nf3 ({An­other move that I suggested to Ken after the game was} 4. Bc4 {in order to prevent black's ...d5. The disadvantage is that you leave your­self open to shots on the Q side: ...b5 etc., but there were some interesting variations.} e6 {In order to back up his d4 pawn.} (4... b5) ({There was another pretty little line after 4.Bc4. Suppose black tries} 4... d5 {anyway?} 5. exd5 b5 6. Bb3 b4 7. dxc6 $3 bxc3 8. Qf3 {[%cal Rf3f7,Rc6c7,Gc7d8,Gf3a8] with two separate threats: 9.Qxf7 mate and 9.c7, opening up on the queen and queen rook. This is a very difficult spot for black to get out of.}) ({Probably the best move for black after 4.Bc4 is} 4... d6 {[%cal Gb7b5,Ga7a5] followed soon­er or later by ...b5 and a5.}) {then I think} 5. e5 {[%cal Gc3e4,Ge4d6] is very strong for white, threatening N-e4, then to d6 later on.} {If black plays} d5 {then I'd play} 6. exd6 Qxd6 7. Ne4 $1 {a very strong move.} {If he checks me with} Qb4+ {to try and pick off my bishop it'd boomerang because I would play} ({Also if he plays} 7... Qxd4 {I's play} 8. Nd6+ {and if} Kd7 ({Or if} 8... Ke7 9. Nxc8+ Kd7 10. Qxd4+ Bxd4 11. Nf3 Bf6 12. Bf4 Kxc8 13. Ne5 Nh6 14. Nxf7 Nxf7 15. Bxe6+ {re­gaining the knight with a winning ad­vantage of position.}) 9. Qxd4 Bxd4 10. Nxf7 {wins.}) 8. c3 Qxc4 9. Nd6+ {and I'd pick off his queen. -- Incidentally, Ken felt that 4.Bc4 was best also, but his move may be just as good, if not better.}) ({Another good solid move was} 4. f4 {so that when black plays} d5 {white passes him by with} 5. e5 {with a strong pawn formation. }) 4... d5 5. h3 $1 {Good move. Ordinarily you should avoid unprovoked rook pawn moves because there's some­thing more important to do. In this position, though it's justified because ...Bg4 would have been very strong for black, pinning white's Knight and putting pressure on his QP indirectly.} dxe4 6. Nxe4 Nd7 7. Bc4 Ngf6 8. Nxf6+ Nxf6 9. O-O O-O {Now white's advantage is that he has a pawn in the center – which means more space – plus both his bishops have good di­agonals. (And once again remember the four important elements to keep in mind before making any move are space, force or material, time and pawn structure.) Black's pieces, on the other hand, have little scope.} 10. c3 Qc7 11. Qe2 b6 12. Bg5 {Notice how Ken slowly builds up his position. Before he takes any decisive action he brings all his pieces out to their most active posts.} b5 {This move, besides being inconsistent (because we could have moved here last move - in one move!), slightly weakens black's square on c5, creating a "hole" on that square, which could be very helpful to white later on. You may notice just how much I emphasize this business of "holes" or weak squares. That's because it's so im­portant. It has been correctly said that "Pawns are the soul of chess". It is also a truism that pawns cannot move backwards, and a thoughtless pawn move can ruin an otherwise good position.} ({ A much better plan would have been} 12... Bb7 {fol­lowed by ...c5 as soon as pos­sible, hitting back at white's key cen­ter pawn.}) 13. Bb3 a5 14. a3 Ba6 15. Rfe1 {Now Ken has almost every piece developed except for his QR. He's almost ready for decisive action.} e6 16. Qe5 ({Another good move here was} 16. Qe3) ({or} 16. Qd2 {to get out of bishop's diagonal at a6.}) 16... Qxe5 $2 { The losing move.} ({After the game Steve Spencer thought the best move was} 16... Nd5 {and black could still hang on. White's best then would probably have been to play his Q back to e4:} 17. Qe4 {[%cal Ge4h4] then swing the Q over to h4 later.}) 17. Nxe5 Rfc8 {The only way to defend the c6-pawn} ({ because if} 17... Rac8 {(or 17...Bb7)} 18. Bxf6 Bxf6 19. Nd7 $1 {forks the rook and bishop, winning the exchange by double at­tack.}) {[#]} 18. Nxf7 $1 { 18. White explodes his combination.} Kxf7 19. Rxe6 $1 Ne8 ({If} 19... Nd5 20. Rxc6 Rxc6 21. Bxd5+ Re6 22. Bxa8 {and white comes out three pawns ahead.}) 20. Rf6+ (20. Rf6+ {mate is forced after} Ke7 21. Rf7+ {[%cal Rf7e7,Rg5e7]} Kd6 22. Bf4+ Be5 23. Bxe5#) ({After the game another young aspirant for the title, 17-year-old Greg De Fotis, whom Ken had beaten earlier in the tournament, had the satisfaction of demonstrating that} 20. Ree1+ Kf8 21. Be7# {was even quicker.}) 1-0

Now for some tips that I think will be useful to you.

  • Don't "turn off" your mind when it's your opponent's turn to move. Use this time to think ahead to your next possible move. And when he does move, always ask yourself, "Why did he make this particular move?" before you do anything else.

  • Try to control an open file with your rooks, especially when there is only one open file.

  • Don't give up in the middle of the game if you don't think you're doing well – or even if you're in big trouble. There's always the chance that you'll have a flash of brilliance or that your opponent might slip up. Chess is a kaleidoscope – it's ever changing – and opportunities suddenly appear.

  • Don't be discouraged if you are black and think that you're automatically going to lose. With black you have the advantage of not having to show your hand first, and you can play a defense of your own choosing – preferably one you're familiar with.

  • When you have free time, study the game of chess. A good book to look at is Larry Evans's Beginner to Expert (Lee Publications, about five dollars). In it, Evans showsyou the basic moves. He explains the various forces that decide chess games, and shows how to win in the end games. He provides a lot of one-and two-move checkmate puzzles to sharpen your finishing-off techniques. One particularly interesting part of the book is when he replays one of his games and explains what was going on in his head at each move. He also provides an interesting glossary of chess terms.

You can read the full October 1969 issue of Boys' Life at Google Books. It contains lovely adverts like this:

Kenneth Rogoff
is a professor public policy and economics at Harvard University and a chess grandmaster. He recently wrote a favourable review on the new Fischer movie "Pawn Sacrifice". More on Rogoff’s research, opinion pieces, and bio can be found here. He is currently working on an interesting subject: phasing out paper currency, which he began writing about 20 years ago.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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