Wednesday, January 7, 2009


by GM Robert Huebner in World Champion Fischer

The following encounter took place in dramatic circumstances. Larsen had won a string of international tournaments before Fischer returned to the arena. Although he was placed second in the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal, he had the satisfaction of beating Fischer (his only loss) in their individual encounter. A year before the Candidates' Match Larsen had proudly declared,

"I believe in myself. I am sure that I will win the Candidates' event and in 1972 I will win the title of world champion. I heard about Fischer's statement that in the American press that he is the strongest player in the world. I do not agree. The best player in the world now is Larsen. I do not say this out of self-praise, not to cause a sensation, but because I firmly believe it.''

Here is what happened:

Robert James Ficher-Bent Larsen
Candidates' Match Semifinal ( 1)

1.e4 e6

Larsen rarely played the French Defence, so the opening was a surprise to Fischer. In the Palma de Mallorca Interzonal 1970 he had beaten Bobby with his favourite Sicilian Defence. 1...c5.

2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4

''The Winawer Variation has given Fischer consistent trouble. He has had the utmost difficulty cracking Black's tortoise-like shell; even his successes are unconvincing.'' - Larry Evans

In his book My 60 Memorable Games Fischer states, ''I may yet be forced to admit that the Winawer is sound. But I doubt it! The defense is unsound and it weakens the kingside.'' It was the right choice against Fischer as he had lost a couple of games with White, succumbing to the same.


The game Fischer-Kovacevic 1970 went 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 dxe4 6.Qg4 Nf6 7.Qxg7 Rg8 8.Qh6 Nbd7 .....0–1 (30 moves).

4...Ne7 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 c5 7.a4

''Smyslov's favourite, largely responsible for Botvinnk's giving up the Winawer Variation. Sharper is 7.Qg4. I felt that Black's carapace could be cracked by only positional means, but my results have been disheartening.'' Fischer in My 60 Memorable Games. Since then theory has come full circle. 7.a4 loses a valuable tempo according to Kasparov. He prefers 7.Nf3 or the shaper 7.Qg4.

7...Nbc6 8.Nf3 Bd7

Korchnoi played the aggressive 8...Qa5 against Spassky in The Candidates Match Final, 1977 with success. It is this move that has discouraged White players from playing 7.a4.-Kasparov

9.Bd3 Qc7

''Larsen employs a system, aiming to liquidate e5 with ...f6, that Mednis used to upset Fischer in the first round of the 1962-63 U.S. Championship.'' - Soltis

Not 9...0–0? 10.Bxh7+ Kxh7 11.Ng5+ Kg6 12.h4!+-

If 9...Qa5 10.0–0 c4 11.Be2 Qxc3? (Instead 11...0–0–0 , retaining the threat of...Qxc3 may be considered.-NSH) 12.Bd2 Qb2 13.Rb1 Qa3 14.Rxb7 with initiative. - Timman

10.0–0 c4

10...f6 deserves attention according to the annotators in the CD. But it is is risky according to Kasparov, after 11.exf6 gxf6 12.dxc5 e5 (12...0–0–0!? is still possible.-NSH) 13.c4 the White bishops come into play and Black begins to experience serious difficulties.

Again not 10...0–0? 11.Bxh7+! Kxh7 12.Ng5+ Kg8 13.Qh5 Rfc8 14.Qxf7+ Kh8 15.f4!+-

11.Be2 f6! 12.Re1!

12.Ba3!? deserves attention according to the annotators, but Kasparov points out that Fischer had played this move in the aforesaid game against Mednis, and now the reply 12...fxe5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 is possible.

I think Larsen had a close look at this game and probably had an improvement on the line played before. But Fischer anticipates him first. With the White rook on e1, the above line will not work. 14.Nxe5 Qxe5?? and the queen will be lost after Bh5+.-NSH


12...0–0 is safer according to Kasparov. But after 13.Ba3 ! 13...Rf7 14.Bd6± White has unpleasant pressure according to the annotators. His other suggestion, 12...fxe5 13.dxe5 0–0 14.Ba3 Rf7! with counterplay on the f-file and against White's weak pawns is better.-NSH


13.Bf1!? deserves attention.


''The optimistic Larsen believes in his lucky star, otherwise he would have changed his mind and preferred the more cautious 13...0–0–0 or 13...Kf7 14.Bd6 Qa5 15.Qd2 with a slight advantage for White.'' - Kasparov

However, this evaluation appears rather doubtful. If Black has to free his game, he has to play...fxe5 and exchange a couple of minor pieces. But this would result in the exposure of his own king. In the meanwhile the Black queen is out of play on the queenside.-NSH

14.dxe5 Ncxe5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5

15...Qxe5?! 16.Bxc4± (Larsen) 16...Qxc3 17.Bxd5 (17.Qxd5?

Analysis Diagram: after 17.Qxd5?

17...Qxa1!–+) 17...0–0–0 18.Re3 with attack, Levy, Kholmov


16.Bh5+!? also deserves attention. For example, 16...Nf7 ? (or 16...g6 17.Qd4) 17.Qf3! threatening both Qxf7 and Qxd5.


Other alternatives are bad:

16...0–0–0?! 17.Qxa7 Nc6 18.Qe3± Now Kasparov gives 18...e5 (or 18...Qe5 19.Qd2) 19.Bc5. 16...h5?! 17.Qh4!± Timman;

16...Nc6?! 17.Bh5+ Kd8 18.Qxg7±


17.Qxg7? 0–0–0 with an unclear position. - Suetin


17...0–0–0 fails to18.Qxa7 b6 ! 19.Qa8+ Qb8 20.Qxb8+ Kxb8 21.a5 !-Timman

I. 21...bxa5 22.Bd6+ Kb7 23.Bxg6! Securing the e5-square for the other bishop .- Kasparov. (Here the annotators have considered only 23.Rxa5 Ra8? 24.Rc5!, missing 23...Kc6!) If 23...hxg6 24.Rxa5 Ra8 25.Rc5 Ra7! 26.Rc7+ Ka8 27.Rxa7+ Kxa7 28.Be5 ±

II.21...Kc7 22.axb6+ Kxb6 23.Bxg6 (Timman's move cited in the CD, 23.Bg4 is met by Kasparov's 23...e5!) 23...hxg6 24.Bd6 Ra8 25.Be5± Kasparov.

III.21...b5 22.Bc5+- Horowitz.
Here White has the upper hand for sure, but I do not see a forced a win. - NSH


Threatening 19.f5 exf5 20.Re7+.-Soltis

18...Rhe8 ! 19.f5! exf5 20.Qxd5+± Kf6

20...Be6 ? 21.Rxe6 ! 21...Rxe6 22.Qxf5+ Rf6 23.Qd5+ Re6 24.Rf1++

Or 20...Re6? 21.Qxf5+ Rf6 22.Re7++- Suetin


The annotators following contemporary analysis give this move an exclamation mark. Instead Fischer should have played 21.Bd6!

21...Qc6 22.Qd4+ Kg5 23.Bf3 Qb6 24.Bc5 Qc7 and now Kasparov's move 25.Be7+! wins. (The annotators offer a long and unconvincing line with 25.h4+?! ) 25...Rxe7 26.Rxe7 +-

21...Qb6+ 22.Bc5 Qc6 23.Qd4+ Kg5 24.Bf3 Qc7 25.Be7+ Rxe7 26.Rxe7 +-

21...Ne5 ! 22.Qd4 Kg6 23.Rxe5

23.Bxb7? Qxb7 24.Rxe5 Rxe5 25.Qxe5 Re8 =Timman


23...Rxe5? 24.Bd6+-

24.Qxd7 Rad8

Not 24...Qxc3? 25.Qd6+ Kg5 (25...Qf6 26.Qg3+ Qg5 27.Qxg5+ Kxg5 28.Rd1! with the threat of 29. Rd7 wins-Kasparov. Black cannot stop White rook's march with 28...Rad8?? 29.Rxd8 Rxd8 30.Be7++- -NSH) 26.h4+ Kxh4 27.Qf4#; Or if 24...Qe3+ 25.Kf1 Qxc3 26.Qd6+ Kg5 27.h4+ Kxh4 28.Qf4#

25.Qxb7 Qe3+?!

Black misses 25...Qxc3!

Analysis Diagram: after 25...Qxc3!

26.Qc6+ Kg5 Now the imaginative attempt 27.Bc1+ f4 28.h4+ Kf5 29.g4+ fxg3 30.Kg2 Qd4! 31.Kxg3 and White's attack appears stronger according to Timman. The annotators also award White's position a plus sign citing Timman and then contradict it by showing a drawing line found by Zaitsev. 31...Qxa1 32.Bg4+ Ke5 33.Qc5+ Kf6 and White has only perpetual check. If he overreaches himself with 34.Bg5+ , he loses to 34...Kf7 35.Bh5+ Kg8 36.Qxc4+ (36.Bxe8 Qe1+ –+) 36...Kh8 37.Bxd8 Qg1+ –+

The other attempt 27.h4+? Kxh4 28.Qc7 Qxa1+ 29.Bc1! Qxc1+ 30.Kh2 also fails to 30...Rd6!!

Analysis Diagram: after 30...Rd6!!

31.Qxd6 (31.g3+ Kg5 32.Qxg7+ Rg6–+ -NSH) 31...Kg5–+ Kasparov.



Played in the heat of the moment. Black should have secured a safe haven for the king first with 26...h6! 27.Qc6+ Kh7 28.Qc5 (28.Qxc4) 28...Qxc3 29.Rc1 Now Kasparov gives 29...Re3! (29...Re5 suggested in the CD allows counter-chances for White with 30.Qb4) 30.Bb4 (30.Qxf5+ Kh8 31.Bd6 Rxd6! 32.Qf8+ Kh7 33.Qxd6 Rxf3+! 34.gxf3 Qxf3+= draws by perpetual check.) 30...Rxf3+ 31.gxf3 Qxf3+ 32.Qf2 Qh1+ 33.Qg1 Qf3+= and White cannot escape from checks.

27.Qc6+ Re6 28.Bc5!

This is what Larsen must have missed. He might have seen only the line, 28.Qc5?? Rf2+ 29.Kg1 Rxf3+ –+

28...Rf2+ 29.Kg1 Rxg2+

29...Rxf3+? 30.Bxe3 Rxc6 31.gxf3+- Soltis

30.Kxg2 Qd2+ 31.Kh1 Rxc6 32.Bxc6


This move is a blunder. Black should not have allowed the capture of his pawn on a7, yielding White a passed pawn.

32...a5!? would have given White a tough fight, if not equality claimed by Larsen. Timman shows that White has winning chances with 33.Bd4 33...Kh6 34.Rf1! This line is cited by the annotators. 33.Rg1+ Kf7 34.Bd4 g5 (34...g6 35.Bd5+ is good for White according to the CD.But Kasparov does not agree. He gives 35...Kf8 36.Bxc4 Qxc2 37.Bd5 Qxa4 claiming fighting chances for Black. But after 38.Rb1 White should have winning chances-NSH.) 35.Bd5+ Kg6 36.Bxc4 Qxc2= is even according to the annotators. But Kasparov shows that White has winning chances after 37.Re1!

33.Rg1+ Kf6 34.Bxa7 f4

If 34...Qxc2 35.a5 Qd3 36.a6 c3 37.Bb7 c2 38.Rc1 Qd1+ 39.Rxd1 cxd1Q+ 40.Bg1 Qb3 41.Ba8 f4 42.a7 f3 43.Be4 Qa2 44.Bxf3+- Kasparov

35.Bb6 Qxc2 36.a5 Qb2 37.Bd8+ Ke6 38.a6 Qa3 39.Bb7 Qc5

The plausible move 39...c3? loses to 40.Bb6 c2 41.a7 c1Q 42.Rxc1 Qxc1+ 43.Bg1+-

40.Rb1 c3 41.Bb6! 1–0

In view of 41...c2 42.Re1+ Qe5 43.Rxe5+ Kxe5 44.a7 c1Q+ 45.Bg1+-

A terrific struggle!

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