Understanding before Moving 174: Chess history in a nutshell (55)

by ChessBase
4/21/2024 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books on chess training and strategy. In the 174th 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 (3)

After Boris Spassky lost the World Championship title to Bobby Fischer in 1972 he tried to qualify again as a challenger and in the final of the 1977-1978 Candidates Matches he had to play Viktor Kortschnoi.

Kortschnoi, who like Spassky was born in Leningrad, had for a long time been one of the best players of the Soviet Union, but he had fled the country and taken up residence in Switzerland. For the Soviets, he was a dissident, but he still was a formidable opponent.

The match was characterised by great rivalry and hostility and became one of the most conflict-ridden chess matches in the world.  In this match Spassky found himself trailing 2½-7½ after losing the 10th game. However, he then won four games in a row.

After draws in games fifteen and sixteen, Kortschnoi won the next two games to take the match. Initially, Spassky tried to avoid as much contact as possible with his opponent, and after each move by Kortschnoi he left the board to study the position on the demonstration board. When he had decided what to do, he returned to the board to make a move. It did not take long for Kortschnoi to imitate this strategy of his opponent and as a result the spectators often saw just a chess board on stage, but none of the players...

After a while Spassky changed tactics and started sitting behind the board with a visor on his head (supposedly against the bright lights). This in turn prompted Kortschnoi to put on some very dark sunglasses. Perhaps this helped, as Kortschnoi won the match and became challenger of Anatoly Karpov.

In this episode I will return to a memorable moment in chess history when in 1970 the match between the Soviet Union and the Rest of the World was held in Belgrade. It promised to be an interesting showdown and the Dutchman Max Euwe (who was team captain of the Rest of the World team) had placed Bobby Fischer with his rating of 2720 on board 1 and the Dane Bent Larsen on board 2.

Larsen, who had recently achieved very good results, felt it was unfair to be placed below Fischer, as the American had just had a period of inactivity. After (long) negotiations, Fischer surprisingly agreed! This meant that Spassky would play Larsen and Fischer would play Petrosian.

Coincidentally, Fischer would later meet both Larsen and Petrosian in the famous Candidates Matches. We now know how this turned out for both of them... It was said that Fischer always wanted to win and Petrosian always wanted to draw. But in the end the match ended 3-1 in Fischer's favour: Fischer won twice, Petrosian drew twice!

But what about the match between Spassky and Larsen? It ended in a 1½ - 1½ draw, because Spassky was replaced by Leonid Stein in the last game of the four-game match. Stein lost to Larsen, allowing Larsen to say that he had done brilliantly with 2½ out of 4 on the first board. But what dominates our collective memory is the terrible 17-move defeat Larsen suffered with White against Spassky.

I would like to show you this game with a detailed analysis. At the same time I would like to relate it to a remarkable game played by the late Dutch IM Johan van Mil on his debut in the highest level of club competition in the Netherlands. The analogy between the two games is striking and nicely bridges the gap between modern times and historical highlights!

In the diagram position, Black came up with a very surprising move. Are you as creative as Spassky?

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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