The name’s Spassky, Boris Spassky

From Russia with Love

Living dangerously will get you noticed!

We have covered a lot of Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in the collection of 1972 games.

To redress the balance slightly, here at thequietmove, we thought it only right to give a shout out to some of the finer moments of Boris Spassky's career. What better place to start than the most televised game ever!

Whilst the film coverage of Macadams (Canada) versus Kronsteen (Czechoslovakia) at the Venice International Grandmaster Tournament, unfortunately misses white's c and d pawn, the game is clearly the Spassky masterpiece below.

Also key to note, Bronstein himself was no patzer, he was a world championship candidate and challenger in 1951 - only losing out to three endgame inaccuracies. Spassky's performance in this game is way ahead of its time and a tip of the cap to the wonders of chess. Few players would have the nerve to carry out the moves, even if they could see the weight of the tactical plusses.

The Game

[Event "USSR Championship"] [Site "Leningrad URS"] [Date "1960.02.20"] [EventDate "1960.??.??"] [Round "16"] [Result "1-0"] [White "Spassky, Boris V"] [Black "Bronstein, David"] [ECO "C36"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 {the infamous King's Gambit Accepted 2...Bc5 would be the declined line. In accepting the pawn, black must either cling on to the pawn for dear life and pray for an endgame a pawn up or work for a position where the pawn can be given back on equal/favourable terms.} 3. Nf3 d5 {Bronstein chooses the mainline - to open his pieces into the game and get some activity} 4. exd5 Bd6 5. Nc3 Ne7 6. d4 O-O 7. Bd3 Nd7 8. O-O h6 {in trying to understand where black goes wrong, it is hard to really criticise such a great player as Bronstein but this move is slow and doesn't get any pieces into the game - it is relying on a future ...g5 advance which gives a lot of air to his king. In the end, the plan is abandoned but lots of time is lost in the following moves.} 9. Ne4 Nxd5 10. c4 Ne3 11. Bxe3 fxe3 {comparing the position to after 8...h6, white has his knight on an active square and a strong bind on the centre. Black has a bishop pair but is lagging in development on an open board - only a real pro could conquer such a minute edge...} 12. c5 (12. Nxd6 cxd6 {is tempting to eliminate the Bishop pair but Spassky has bigger plans}) Be7 13. Bc2 Re8 14. Qd3 e2 {and this is where chess history is made} 15. Nd6!! {after this, white is all in, if it doesn't work, he's had it!} Nf8 (15...cxd6 16. Qh7+ Kf8 17. Qh8) 16. Nxf7 exf1=Q+ (16...Kf7 17. Bb3 Be6 18. Ne5 {double check} Kg8 19. Rf8! Rf8 20. Be6 {is a bloodbath and white wins easily}) 17. Rxf1 Bf5 {this is sensible defending to give back material to try and stem the wound but the attack is too good.} 18. Qxf5 Qd7 19. Qf4 {very cool} Bf6 20. N3e5 Qe7 21. Bb3 Bxe5 {here we join the Bond Film!} 22. Nxe5+ Kh7 23. Qe4+ 1-0
In the film, Kronsteen says "My congratulations, Sir. A brilliant coup!" - we think this is quite fitting!

What to take away from this game

Some openings are high intensity

Like Tal, Spassky was an attacker and even players as good as Bronstein were not spared.

Spassky chose the King's Gambit which sacrifices a pawn for activity. With several chances to play for a marginal advantage, Spassky chose the sharpest lines, requiring high risk but high reward.

You have to be brave to play chess like this!!

In for a penny...

At several points, including after 14...e2, Spassky could have taken a safe route with 15. Qxe2 (for example).

Part of chess is psychology and whilst safe moves are objectively ok, if they are not best, you have to go with your gut. This is particularly true where you have a development advantage, as in this game.

Know your tactics

TheQuietMove has published a few articles on Tactics . In this game, Spassky used his extensive tactical nous to see lots of tactical themes. Let's look at the final position:
Against all defences, white has a crushing edge:
  • 24...Kh8 25. Rxf8! and due to the coverage of g8 by the bishop, white can windmill his knight after 25...Rxf8 26. Ng6+ with a lot of discovered checks to follow
  • 24...g6 and again time to lose the knight! 25. Rxf8 Rxf8 26. Qxg6+ Kh8 27. Qxh6+ Qh7 28. Ng6#