Understanding before Moving 173: Chess history in a nutshell (54)

by ChessBase
4/16/2024 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books on chess training and strategy. In the 173rd episode of his ChessBase show "Understanding before moving" Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell" and continues to take a look at the chess legacy of Boris Spassky, World Champion from 1969 to 1972. | Photo: Pascal Simon

Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2 Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2

In this two-part course the emphasis will be on typical pawn-structures.


Boris Spassky (2)

After Boris Spassky became World Champion in 1969, he could only enjoy his title for three years, because in 1972 he had to defend the title against the eccentric American, Robert (Bobby) James Fischer. From that moment on, Spassky's name was forever linked with Fischer.  This was mainly due to Fischer, who caused a lot of trouble during the World Championship match in Reykjavik, Iceland. Much more will be said about this when Fischer is mentioned in this series.

The Soviets were afraid that this American, who did everything on his own, would take the title away from them, which later turned out to be well-founded. Spassky himself was quite optimistic about his chances. Between 1960 and 1970 he had met Fischer on the chessboard five times.

In their first game in 1960, Spassky used the risky (and perhaps somewhat dubious) King's Gambit. He ended up in a bad position, but still won. The second game did not take place until 1966 and was much more serious.

The Grünfeld Indian, Fischer's main weapon against 1.d4 at that time, was sharply countered by Spassky. In an extremely complicated middlegame, Fischer made a mistake and was severely punished. In the two draws that followed Fischer had the white pieces.

When they met again in 1970 for the Olympiad in Siegen, the Grünfeld Indian was again on the board, and once again Fischer lost. This was Fischer's third loss against Spassky and before the World Championship match in 1972 he had not won a single game against the Russian. However, in the match in Reykjavik Fischer did not try the Grünfeld Indian Defence once...

The diagram position below shows a position from one of these Grünfeld games. GM Mihai Marin, who annotated the game, gives the following instructive commentary on the characteristics of this endgame:

"Despite the reduced material on the board, White has a clear advantage. a) The white king is superior to its black counterpart, which has to defend the weak g6 pawn. b) It's obvious that in a game on both wings the bishop is clearly superior to the knight. c) White will sooner or later penetrate the queenside and win the weak a-pawn. In addition, the black c-pawn is more of a weakness than a strength".

The question is whether White's advantage is as significant as Marin suggests. It is important to assess Black's position in order to move. What should he play? Choose between: A) 38... c4 B) 38... Ke6 and C) 38... Nf7.

Master Class Vol.13 - Tigran Petrosian

Considered a master of prophylaxis, Petrosian sensed dangers long before they actually became acute on the board. In his prime, Petrosian was almost invincible. Let our authors introduce you into the world of Tigran Petrosian.

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