Rare Fischer game analyzed in depth

by Albert Silver
1/6/2014 – After reading listening to the BBC Radio program "Across the Board" with great pleasure, a certain curiosity came on the previous chess effort by the British broadcaster, now only available in the book, "Chess Treasury of the Air". Though full of fascinating essays, player profiles and more, the crown jewels are the consultation games. Here is Bobby Fischer analyzed by GM Alejandro Ramirez.

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When the BBC Radio program “Across the Board” was announced, it was pointed out that this was the second time it had chosen chess as a topic. The defunct Network Three ran from 1958 to 1964 and experimented with a  wide variety of ideas, essays, and games for the chess lovers, and those curious about the royal game.

Although the program is long gone, there is a book dedicated to the show and transcribing many of the best moments called Chess Treasury of the Air. Thanks to the wonder that is the Internet, a few clicks were enough to track down the book, available new for the rather hefty sum of $28.80 (it is paperback). I paid $6.50 for a second-hand copy, which seems to have dried up, though some foreign sources still show up cheap copies.  Still, the effort and money was well worth it as it turned out to be a genuine treasure trove of interesting material.

A bit of searching still turns up interesting things for the chess-loving bargain hunters

It starts with a series of essays on the writers who contributed the most to chess, in this case, Philidor, Staunton, Lasker, Reti and Nimzowitsch. There is also a plethora of player profiles, anecdotes, commented games, and a variety of articles covering topics such as time trouble, sportsmanship and gamesmanship, and even cheating in chess! Needless to say, there is no mention of trying to hide a phone in one’s shoe as one of the reviled methods.

In fact, it was with considerable interest that I read that the idea of a player against the world who voted on a move, is not new and was tried more than once by BBC radio! While Garry Kasparov, and other players to follow, had the benefit of the Internet to keep the process going speedily enough, the broadcaster had no such luck. The process reminded me of the tales of Lincoln walking miles and miles to borrow a book, and then doing the same to return it (we are such a spoiled lot). Back then they appointed a master to play a move as white, and the listeners could then choose their move and send it in as their voted choice. A second master, usually Clarke or Golombek, would then choose the most voted move or one of the better ones, and a move was played every two weeks this way.

Mikhail Tal's glare did not help in Leipzig 1960 where he lost to Jonathan Penrose

Still, it was the world class consultation games that must be considered the crown jewels of the series, including not only a game pitting Bobby Fischer with Leonard Barden against Jonathan Penrose and P.H. Clarke, but also Gligoric and Penrose versus Golombek and Tal.  

18-year-old Bobby Fischer in 1961, the same year as the game below

This little known game featuring 18-year-old Bobby Fischer has been all but forgotten over time, and GM Alejandro Ramirez brings his own look at the game with his dynamic commentary and modern perspective.

GM Alejandro Ramirez comments:

[Event "BBC Radio 3rd Network Consultation game"] [Site "?"] [Date "1961.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "R. Fischer/L. Barden"] [Black "J. Penrose/P. Clarke"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B81"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "1961.??.??"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 1. e4 {Best by test, what else would be expected from White?} c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. g4 {The Keres attack on the Scheveningen Variation of the Sicilian Defense has been known for many years. Keres demolished Bogoljubow in a famous game in 1943, a game that impacted how the Sicilian Defense was handled. Fischer of course knew this idea, but it was not until the latter part of the 1990's that the Keres attack built its reputation as the main weapon against this specific move-order. Actually, the move-order has fallen out of grace due to the move 6.g4, though some strong players like Hou Yifan still defend it with success.} h6 {What is nowadays considered the mainline, however back in 1961 this was a very rare idea.} 7. h3 (7. h4) (7. g5 {are interesting alternatives.}) (7. Be3 {Was Keres' choice against Clarke in 1960.}) 7... Nc6 8. Be3 Bd7 9. Qd2 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 {The players have exhibited very modern chess so far. White's kingside expansion was done to control the center - notice how Black's breaks on that side of the board have been temporarily halted. Meanwhile Black doesn't panic and finishes his develompent slowly but solidly.} Qa5 11. O-O-O Bc6 12. Kb1 Be7 13. Bg2 {Even though the bishop seems to naturally belong to g2, it is possible that this move is not the best as it allows Black to castle on the kingside without too much to worry about.} (13. Rg1 {was possibly preferable, keeping the option to strike with g5 and posing the question to Black on where he wanted to castle.}) 13... O-O 14. Qd2 Rfd8 15. Nd5 {A typical tactical motif that nets the White side the pair of bishops. However exploiting this small advantage will prove to be far from easy.} Qxd2 16. Nxe7+ Kf8 17. Bxd2 Kxe7 (17... Bxe4 $5 {Would have been a computer like move.} 18. Bxe4 (18. f3 Bh7 {And the knight on e7 is trapped anyways.}) 18... Nxe4 19. Nd5 exd5 20. Be3 Nf6 21. g5 hxg5 22. Bxg5 Rac8 23. Bxf6 gxf6 24. Rxd5 Rc5 {And the endgame should be defensible but unpleasant.}) 18. Rhe1 Rac8 19. c4 Nd7 $1 {A good regrouping. Putting all of Black's pawns on the darksquares will limit his opponent's bishop and secure his weakness on d6. If there is only one avenue to attack this pawn Black will have little to worry about.} 20. b3 e5 21. Be3 Nc5 22. f3 {Both light squared bishops are rather bad pieces. White's only hope is to initiate a quenside expansion to open up diagonals for his minor pieces. On the other hand, Black has no constructive plan and can only sit passively.} b6 23. h4 Ne6 24. Bf1 f6 25. h5 Be8 26. Kb2 Bf7 27. a4 Rb8 28. a5 $6 {Maybe somewhat impatient. Fischer's successor, Karpov, was a player that loved these kinds of positions. The small advantage, the space edge and the ability to maneuver endlessly until the breakthrough was perfectly prepared was his specialty.} Nc5 29. Ra1 Rd7 30. Kc3 bxa5 31. Bxc5 (31. Reb1 {White doesn't want to trade on c5, but he may have had no choice.} Rdb7 32. Ra3 a4 {and there is no big difference with the game as White's only move here is Bxc5.} 33. b4 $6 Be8 {And White cannot take on c5 because of the pin.}) 31... dxc5 32. Rxa5 Rc7 33. Rea1 Rbb7 {White has a more pleasant position because of the targets that he is attacking, but with this awful bishop and the lack of targets on the other side of the board it is nearly impossible to break through.} 34. Rb1 Be8 35. b4 cxb4+ 36. Rxb4 Rxb4 37. Kxb4 Rb7+ 38. Kc3 Bf7 39. Bd3 Kd7 40. c5 Rb3+ 41. Kc2 Rb7 42. Bb5+ Kd8 43. Bc6 Rc7 44. Bd5 Be8 45. Kc3 Bd7 46. Kc4 Ke7 1/2-1/2

The game ended somewhat controversially as there was no more time left and over eight hours had been spent playing it. As a result Penrose and Clarke offered a draw, which Fischer promptly refused. He was indeed better, but there was nothing clear about it. The game was therefore sent to Max Euwe to adjudicate, and he sent in several pages of commentary and analysis to justify his opinion that a draw was the correct result. Below is but a sample of the analysis found within the book.

Excerpt of Max Euwe's notes:

[Event "BBC Radio 3rd Network Consultation game"] [Site "?"] [Date "1961.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "R. Fischer/L. Barden"] [Black "J. Penrose/P. Clarke"] [Result "*"] [ECO "B81"] [Annotator "Max Euwe"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3k4/p1rb2p1/5p1p/R1PBp2P/2K1P1P1/5P2/8/8 b - - 0 46"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "1961.??.??"] [SourceDate "2014.01.04"] 46... Ke7 {I begin with a few general remarks. The first is that should White succeed in bringing his c-pawn to c6 and his king to c5, the game must be a win for him. An example:} (46... Ke7 47. Ra6 Kd8 48. c6 Ke7 49. Kc5 {The position now reached is not worth analysing any further. It is a clear win for White. I trust you'll agree. But of course, Black should not permit this.}) 47. Ra6 ({I have one more general remark. Should the White rook succeed in definitely reaching the seventh or eighth rank, Black is lost in that case too. By 'definitely' I mean without Black being able to oppose the White rook with his own rook.} 47. Ra1 Kd8 48. Rb1 Ke7 49. Rb8 {etc. Perhaps this is a little more complicated. White threatens 50. Rg8 and should Black close the eighth rank by playing} Be8 {he soon comes into Zugzwang after White's} ({On the other hand, if Black (after the penetration) tries to oppose the White rook by} 49... Rc8 {then White answers} 50. Rb7 {thus occupying the seventh rank, which is equally fatal for Black. Again, Black is not forced to accept any of these possibilities.}) 50. Ra8) 47... Bc8 48. Ra2 {"reculer pour mieux sauter" (Ed: retreat to better leap)} Bd7 {preventing advance of White's c-pawn, although this would not be decisive as things are now.} 49. Rb2 { threatening to penetrate to the eighth rank. This Black prevents with} Kd8 {We therefore drop the check on the eighth rank and play instead} 50. Rf2 {the preparation of a third very artful and dangerous attempt to break through the Black defensive system.} ({For now, if White plays} 50. Rb8+ {Black parries with} Rc8 {and if} 51. Rb7 {by White, then Black answers} Rc7 {and White is no further.}) {For the moment, White's threat doesn't seem acute, as the advance f4 by White would leave his g4 pawn en prise, and after that White's h-pawn would be vulnerable as well. But let us look at it more closely. Suppose Black plays} 50... Ke7 {and White does continue with} 51. f4 {Now we have} Bxg4 {followed by} 52. Rg2 Bxh5 53. Rxg7+ Kd8 54. Rg8+ Ke7 55. fxe5 fxe5 {... the champion correctly concludes this line leads to a win for White, and uses it merely to illustrate the many possibilities he had to consider.} *

You can find the full score of the game in Chess Treasury of the Air. This book — a collection of the best moments, games and discussions from the BBC series-was published originally by Penguin and remains available from the specialist chess publishers Harding Simpole.

You can buy it new at Amazon (for example)

Topics bbc radio, fischer

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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