Endgame Riddle Fischer vs Spassky, Game 10: Spassky could have drawn!

by Karsten Müller
2/14/2022 – In 1972, the World Championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavik made headlines all over the world, and during and after the match the games were analysed in detail. One of the highlights of the match was game 10, in which Fischer won a difficult endgame after getting the advantage in a complicated middlegame. 50 years after the match Karsten Müller invited the ChessBase readers to take another look at this classic. Here is what the readers found. | Photo: Skáksamband Íslands – Icelandic Chess Federation

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The idea to take a closer look at this famous game and at this famous endgame goes back to Alex Fishbein. Since the Fischer – Spassky match in Reykjavik 1972 this game has been analysed extensively and by a variety of commentators, of which Garry Kasparov in "My Great Predecessors IV: Fischer" (2004) and Jan Timman in "The art of Chess Analysis" (1997) might be the most prominent. However, modern engines throw a different light on the game.

One finding is that Fischer missed the best moves on move 39 and 40, just before the time-control at move 40. He should have played 39.g4!+- and 40.g4!+- to start immediate play on the kingside.

Wolfram Schoen sums up the conclusions of the analyses:

Previous analyses of this game are not always correct. In fact, until move 38 Spassky had a viable position. However, after a series of five consecutive errors (two by Fischer, three by Spassky), which were pointed out by Charles Sullivan in 2018, Black’s position was lost.

  • 38...h5? (38...Be5 = or 38...Ra6 =)
  • 39.Rb6? (39.g4! +-)
  • 39...Rd1? (39...Kf5! =)
  • 40.Kf3? (40.g4! +-)
  • 40...Kf7? (40...Rd3+! =)

Earlier in the game both players made several inaccuracies in the complicated middlegame, and for half a century Spassky has erroneously been accused of bad play.

  • 26.Bb3?! (Objectively harmless. 26.b6 and 26.bxa6! are more dangerous.)
  • 29...Re7 (Not the big/decisive mistake. At least as good as 29...Rad8, if not a bit better.)
  • 32...Bxe4 (Ok, but not forced and the start of Black's practical problems. 32...c4 holds, but 32...b4!, which almost equalises, is even better.)
  • 35...Ra1+ (Ok, but the second reason for Black's trouble. 35...Bd6! holds more comfortably. However, Larsen's 35...b4?, which was considered an improvement/last saving chance, seems to lead to a lost position.)

Helmut Kahovec used his usual block analysis method with Stockfish 14 to analyse the endgame:




Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.


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