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B. Spassky

(As an homage to Spassky and my father, who taught me the moves around 1971 and from whom I first heard of Boris, here are some of the notes I wrote when I found some interesting stylistic features in Spassky’s games.)

In his games, Boris Spassky is always looking for aggressive moves, moves that pose one threat after another. This is what has been defined as “aggressive-thinking mode”. Instead of using defensive (passive) moves he answer with threats whenever possible. The aim is the attempt to break the coordination of his opponents’ pieces.In the following game we can see this feature in different moments. (Please bear in mind that these notes are totally subjective)

W.: A. Lein (0)

B.: B. Spassky (1)

Sochi, 1964

1. e4 , c5/ 2. Nf3, Nc6/ 3. d4, cd4/ 4. Nxd4, e6/ 5. Nxc6, bc6/ 6. Bd3, Nf6/ 7. 0-0, d5/ 8. Nd2, Be7/9. Re1, 0-0/ 10. Qf3, Nd7/ 11. ed5, cd5/ 12.c4,Nc5  (instead of 12…, Bb7  first) / 13. Bc2, Bf6 ( the plan is the attack on b2 and later the attack on the Q-side with long-range pieces so as to create indirect threats on the K-side. 13…Bf6 prevents White’s b2-b4 too.)/  14. Nb3, Nxb3/ 15. ab3, Bb7/ 16. Qe3, Qb8/   (instead of defending passively with …a6/)  17. Ra2, Rc8  (threatening 18…,dc4) / 18. Qh3, g6/ 19. Bh6, dc4   (another attacking plan side-stepping White’s threats on e6) 20. Rxe6, Re8 / 21. Rxe8, Qxe8/ 22. Qe3, Qc6 (attacking on both sides of the board through files and diagonals)/ 23. Qf3, Qb6  ( this move and the following one threaten…Re1 and prevent white’s h2-h3 or h2-h4 due to …Be5/ )  24. Qg3, Re8/ 25. Ra1, Bxb2/ 26. Rd1, Be5/ 27. Re1, Qa5/ 28. b4, Qxb4/ 29. Qxe5, Qxe1/ White resigned.

As Black, Spassky is always thinking of counterattack. Instead of seeing defence as something passive, he always try to create counter-threats. I think he prefers to isolate his opponents’ concrete threats and try to meet them one by one rather to set up a whole defensive strategy as the order of the day. In purely “Leningrad School of Chess”, he tries to counterbalance his opponents’ attacks in an active -never passively- way. He believes more in active plans than in prophylactic webs. This risky way of dealing with the problem of defence creates terrible clashes over the board.(Perhaps this is his Alexander Tolusch’s trademark -Tolusch was one of his first trainers. In my opinion,in some aspects of Boris approach to Chess, Tolusch influence is more conspicuous than Bondarevsky’s one.Tolusch trained Boris when he was a young boy and was forming his Chess style. Those first childhood influences are hard to erase because, due to psychological reasons, they tend to remain firmly stuck on one’s mind) . All in all, I have always found something elusive (indistint?, unclear?,blurred?, diffused?…) in Spassky’s style, something that is there but cannot be easily brought to the surface. Perhaps it is a blend of Alekhinian influence plus the Leningrad School of Chess, something he learnt as a child and later developed in thousands of games perhaps in a rather subconscious way. It is not only the way he plays Chess, it is also the way he understands the relations among the different elements that compose the game. In my humble and perhaps wrong opinion, this explains why in the sixties he became nearly unbeatable, why he managed to go through two gruelling series of Candidates’ matches   to play for the World Championship in 1966 and 1969, and why the always ferocious Bobby Fischer, with his hate for the Soviets, failed to beat him during those years. In fact , between 1960 and 1971, the score between them was clearly in Spassky’s favour: +3 -0 =2, and forced Fischer to change his approach “to the Spassky problem” so as to beat him in 1972. (Nevertheless, in 1972 Spassky’s wrong approach and wrong punctual decisions helped a lot to allow Fischer play the type of psychological game most favourable to his interests. And this has been admitted by Boris himself.). During those years he also defeated all sort of chessplayers like Petrosian, Keres, Geller, Tal, Korchnoi,  Gligoric, Larsen, Polugaevsky, Bronstein, Smyslov, Reshevsky, etc.

Another feature in Spassky’s style I have found some notes about has to do with his games against Keres in the 1965 Riga Match (5th game) and against Petrosian in Moscow 1966:

Spassky always attack undefended pieces/pawns using it as a sort of intermediate-move device. Whenever possible, he defends his pieces indirectly by attacking his opponents’ ones. This also allows him to improve the position of his own army without restoring to passive defence. Another effect of this way of playing is that he manages to charge the position with energy ready to explode later in the game. He always creates and maintains tension in the position sustaining it as longer as possible. 

In the first game  against Keres, the “e4 Pawn” is indirectly defended for many moves because taking it would mean to liberate all the tactical energy contained in the position. In the game against Petrosian he also uses the “Principle of the Two Weaknesses” and the constant attack on undefended pieces:

W.:  B. Spassky (1)

B.: P. Keres (0)

Candidates’ Match. (5) Riga, 1965

1.e4, e5/ 2. Nf3, Nc6/ 3. Bb5, a6/ 4. Ba4, Nf6/ 5. 0-0, Be7/ 6. Re1, b5/ 7. Bb3, d6/ 8. c3, 0-0/ 9. h3, Na5/ 10.Bc2, c5/ 11. d4, Qc7/ 12. Nbd2, Bd7/ 13. Nf1,cd4/ 14. cd4, Rac8/ 15. Ne3, Rfe8/ 16. b3, ed4/ 17. Nxd4, Bf8/ 18. Bb2, Qd8/ 19. Ndf5, Bxf5/ 20. Nxf5, g6/ 21. Ne3, Bg7/ 22. Qd2, Nb7/ 23. b4, Qe7/ 24.f3, Qf8/ 25. Bb3, Nd8/ 26. Rad1, Rc6/ 27. Rc1, Qe7/ 28. Kh2, Qd7/ 29. Nd5, Nxd5/ 30. Bxd5, Rxc1/ 31. Rxc1, Qe7/ 32. Bxg7, Kxg7/ 33. Qc3, Kg8/ 34. f4, Ne6/ 35. g3, Ng7/ 36. Qc7, Qf6/ 37. Rc2, Rf8/ 38. Qb6, g5/ 39. fg5, Qxg5/ 40. Qxa6, Qe5/ 41. Qxb5, Ne6/ 42. Qf1, Kg7/ 43. Qf5 , Black resigned.

W.: B. Spassky (1)

B.: T. Petrosian (0)

World Championship Match. (19) .Moscow, 1966

1. e4, e6/ 2. d4, d5/ 3. Nc3, Nf6/ 4. e5, Nfd7/ 5. Nf3, c5/ 6. dc, Nc6/ 7. Bf4, Bc5/ 8. Bd3, f6/ 9. ef, Nxf6/ 10. 0-0, 0-0/ 11. Ne5, Bd7/ 12. Nxc6, Bxc6/ 13. Qe2 ( attacks e6 ,undefended), ... Qe7/ 14. Rae1 (attacks e6),…, Rae8/ 15. Bg3, a6/ 16. a3, Qf7/ 17. b4 (attacks b4 , undefended),…, Bd4/  18. Be5, Bxe5/ 19. Qxe5, Nd7/ 20. Qg3, e5/ 21. f3 (with this and then with 27. c3, White prevents …d4 and …e4),… Qf4/ 22. Qxf4, Rxf4/ 23. Rf2, g6/ 24. Rd2 (attacks d4 to decoy the Nd7),… Nb6/ 25. Rde2, (attacks e4),… Nd7/ 26. Nd1, b5/ 27. c3, Rf7/ 28. Bc2, Kg7/ 29. Bb3 (with this and 30.Ne3  “d4” is attacked) 29…, h5/ 30. Ne3, Nb6/ 31. Nc2 (attacks d4 and prepares the opening of a second front on the Q-side. Black’s Re8 is undefended too.)  31…, Nd7/ 32. Re3, h4/ 33. h3, Rf6/  34. Nd4  (attacks the undefended Bc6 and indirectly the Re8  -the Pawn e5 is pinned too.) 34…, Bb7/ 35. a4, Rd8/ 36. Ne2, ba/ 37. Ba4,  Nb6/ 38. Bb3, e4/ 39. Nd4, Kh6/ 40. Rd1, Rc8/ 41. fe, de/ 42. Ne6, Nc4/ 43. Bxc4, Rxc4/ 44. Nc5 (attacks  b7, undefended),… Rf7/ 45. Ra1, (attacks a6, undefended),… Kg5/ 46. Ra5, Kf4/ 47. Kf2, Bd5/ 48. Nb3, Ke5/ 49. Ke2, Rc6/ 50. Nd2 (attacks e4, undefended) … Ke6/ 51. Ne4, Bc4/ 52. Kd2, Rd7/ 53. Kc2, Kf7/ 54. Re5, Kg7/ 55. Nd2, Bb5/ 56. Nf3 (attacks h4, undefended),… Ba4/ 57. Kb2, Rd1/ 58. R5e4, Rf1/ 59. Re4, Rxe1/ 60. Rxe1, Rf6/ 61. Re4 (again h4)… Rf6/ 62. Ng5, Rf2/ 63. Ka3 (attacks a4),… Bc6/ 64. Rh4, Bg2/ 65. Ne4 (attacks f2), Re2/ 66. Nc5 ( attacks a6), Bf1/ 67. Rf4 (attacks f1), …Re1/ 68. h4 , Black resigned.  (Some annotators considered that Petrosian had committed too many inaccuracies, for instance on moves 21st, 31st, 36th, 40th.. But this is Chess!) 
Every Chess game by a GM contains a lot of subtleties. I have pinpointed two of them. You can discover many others.In Chess,the work you do not do is not done by anybody else…
Unfortunately, I have seen some photos of Spassky taken last December when he was taken by Vasiukov to the  Central House of Chess in Moscow. I was shocked and could only remember Shakespeare words in “Hamlet”: ” Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect…”. The man I met in 2007 full of life and vitality… I wonder what we are here for, why so much suffering and pain simply to play the losers’  game we call life… I can forget those days we spent together talking of everything. Nobody can rob us of our memories. I am writing these words on December 29th 2012. Christmas time. Boris is in Russia, his beloved Russia. When he had to abandon it in 1976 little could have he imagine the day would arrive when his salvation would have to come from his friends in his Motherland. I’m sad and depressed. It’s all I can say. Quoting Shakespeare again, “…the rest,let sorrow say”…
In the meanwhile, I remember when Boris beat Karpov at Corsica in 2006  (Match of the Legends). After the match, he wrote to me informing me of the event and said something very curious: “I have beaten Karpov and I am no longer afraid of this man“. Why this?.- Years later I found out why: The overall score Spassky-Karpov is heavily in favour of the younger man (Karpov). In the past, Boris reached the conclusion that Tolya played very very strongly, adding that Karpov process of thought was completely different to his own one and that was why he found so difficult to play against him. He never forgot that fact,  and in 2006 he managed to break the spell! Incidentally, an evidence of how deep feelings among super GMs. are!Here are both games played with a control of 15 minutes( + 3 additional seconds per move:
In the first game, Spassky played a Bogoindian Defence and the game was drawn after 62 moves. The definitive game was as follows:
W.: Spassky (1)
B.: Karpov (0)
Match of the Legends, Porto Vecchio, 2006
1. e4, c6/ 2. d4, d5/ 3. Nc3, dxe4/ 4. Nxe4, Nd7/ 5. Nf3, Ngf6/ 6. Nxf6, Nxf6/ 7. h3, Bf5/ 8. Bd3, Bxd3/ 9. Qxd3, e6/ 10. 0-0, Be7/ 11. c4, 0-0/ 12. b3, c5/ 13. Bb2, cxd4/ 14. Rfd1, Qa5/ 15. Bxd4, Rfd8/ 16. Qe2, Qf5/ 17. Rd3, Qe4/ 18. Qxe4, Nxe4/ 19. Rad1, Kf8/ 20. Kf1, f6/ 21. Be3, Rxd3/ 22. Rxd3, Ke8/ 24. Rxd2, a6/ 25. Ke2, Rd8/ 26. Rxd8, Kxd8/ 27. c5, Kd7/ 28. Kd3, Bd8/ 29. b4, Bx7/ 30. Kc4, h5/ 31. a4, Be5/ 32.b5, axb5/ 33. axb5, Kc7/ 34. g4, hxg4/ 35. hxg4, Kd7/ 36. f4, Bb2/ 37. f5, e5/ 38. Kd5, Ba3/ 39. g5, fxg5/ 40. Bxg5, Bb2/ 41. Bh4 ,  Black resigned (in view of 41…., Bc3/ 42. Bg3, e4/ 43. Kxe4, Bb4/ 44. Kd5,Bc3/ 45. Be5, Ba5/ 46. Bxg7 +-)
(This event was very important for Boris, perhaps also in view of the difference in ELO: Karpov 2672, Boris 2548 at the time.)

Written by QChess

January 3, 2013 at 7:05 am

2 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Just a Pawn in this World.


    January 3, 2013 at 9:21 am

    • Dear Sir,
      Thank you very much for reblogging my post. I have corrected a couple of clerical mistakes I found later. With my very best wishes,


      January 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm

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