## Spassky – Korchnoi Redux

In Elista 2009 we have Boris Spassky playing a match with Viktor Korchnoi… again.

The two were on very bad terms in their Candidates match contested in the Belgrade 1977. Time and again, Spassky would try to overcome Korchnoi’s French Winawer with overall poor results (for example this reverse). Spassky would retire to the back stage or turn his back on the board and watch on a big projector between moves (shades of Kramnik-Topalov!). I would also become crabby confronted with endless French Defenses. I presume things are not so icy now.

One of their 2009 match games was especially interesting for a wild tactical line that remained behind the scenes – in fact, quite far behind the scenes, but so unique tactically we have to present it. Thanks to GM Alex Baburin’s timely **Chess Today** bulletins for rapidly bringing this game to my attention! Note the duo’s strangely depressed ELO ratings – tempus fugit!

**Elista Match Game 5 12/24/09**

**Viktor Korchnoi (2567) – Boris Spassky (2548). **

**1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. a3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Qc2 Be7 7. e3 a6 8. Bc4
Nb6 9. Bd3 Qd7 N 10. b3 ** (10. O-O! f5 11. b4 e4 12. Nxe4! fxe4 13. Bxe4 with equal chances)

**10… f5 11. e4? **

Again, 11. O-O! e4 12. Nxe4 fxe4 13. Bxe4 with equal chances. Here is precisely where the incredible tactics lie, if we carry out a little.

13…Bf6 14. Bb2 Bxb2 15. Qxb2 O-O 16. Rac1

Qe7 17. Qc2 Be6 18. Bxh7+ Kh8 19. Be4 Bxb3 20. Qxb3 Qxe4 21. Rc5 Qg6 22. Ng5

Rf5 23. Rxf5 Qxf5 24. f4 Rf8 25. Rf3 Na5 26. Qc3 Nac4 27. e4 Qc5+ 28. d4 Qc6

29. f5 Kg8 30. Rg3 Qa4 31. Ne6 Rf7 32. Nxg7!! and here we are starting the amazing adventure. Yes, it’s a little far afield, but it has incredible fantasy value. Take a look.

Black’s king is thoroughly denuded, but his remaining pieces are quite active.

This is just the start of the adventure. Play proceeds 32…Rxg7 33. f6 Qd1+ 34. Kf2 Rg4!

Only move!

Not, of course, 34… Rxg3?? 35. Qxg3+ Kf7 36. Qg7+ Ke6 37. Qe7 mate.

Continuing, white has the delightful 35. h3! which in fact is the only move for white. All these only moves for both sides mean the position is a real tightrope act.

Now we get to another great position!

Now, black has two moves! See if you can spot them both.

The first is 35…Nd2.

The second, more spectacular and good on shock value alone, is 35…Nd5!! – by some perverse “logic of chess”, both moves turn out to have equal value.

Let’s look at the second move.

35… Nd5!! 36. Qxc4? (This is a blunder. Correct is 36. exd5! Nd6! {Only move! But now white faces a difficult problem!} 37. Qe3!! Only move for a draw!} Qc2+ 38. Kg1 Rg6 39. Qe6+ Kf8 40. Qe7+ Kg8 41. Qd8+ Kf7 42. Qd7+ Kf8 (42… Kxf6 $4 43. Rf3+ Kg5 44. Qd8+ Kh5 45. Qh8+ Rh6 46. g4+ Kg5 47. Qd8+ Kg6 48. Qg8 mate) 43. Rxg6 equal, or 43. Qe7+ Kg8 44. Qd8+ {Perpetual check})

Finishing the faulty 36. Qxc4?, that move is met by 36… Qd2+! 37. Kf1 Rxg3 38. Qxd5+ Kh7 39. Qf7+ Kh6 40. Qf8+ Kh5 41. Qf7+ Rg6 42. Qh7+ Qh6 and black wins. So, in conclusion, 35…Nd5!! 36. exd5 Nd6 draws.

Now let’s go to the other, more conventional defense. It leads to very wild situations!

35…Nd2 36. f7+ Kh7!

This surprising king move is the only move, once again, but an amazing resource! Black must avoid the blunder 36… Kxf7?? 37. Qxc7+ Ke8 38. Qe5+ Kd8 39. Rxg4 Qf1+ 40. Kg3 Qe1+ 41. Kf4 Qf2+ 42. Kg5 and white should score the full point.

37. Rxg4! This leads to a draw. Curiously, once again, it’s an only move. Not the optically tempting underpromotion 37. f8=N+?! Kg8 38. Rxg4+ Qxg4 39. Qxd2 Qh4+ 40. Kf3 Qf6+ 41. Qf4 Qxf4+ 42. Kxf4 Kxf8 and black is clearly better.

37… Qf1+ 38. Kg3 Qe1+ 39. Kf4 Qxe4+ 40. Kg3! Once again, an only move!. If 40. Kg5??, well that move is too frisky, and black wins: 40…Qe7+ 41. Kh5 Qxf7+ 42. Kh4 Qf6+ 43. Kg3 (43. Rg5 Qxg5+! 44. Kxg5 Ne4+ and wins) 43… Nf1 mate!

And we conclude this amazing variation with the prosaic

40..Qe1+ 41. Kh2 Nf1+ 42. Kg1 Nd2+ 43. Kh2 Nf1+ {perpetual check draw}) Wow!

Unfortunately, after the game’s lame 11. e4? move, the game concluded quickly in black’s favor:

**11… g5! 12. exf5 g4 13. Nxe5 Nxe5 14. Be4 Nc6 15. Ne2 Bf6 16. Rb1 Qd6 17. h3 gxh3 18. Rxh3 Bd7 19. Rd3 Qf8 20. Bxc6 Bxc6 21. Re3+ Kd7 22. Bb2 Nd5 23. Qd3 Bxb2 24. Rxb2 Qxa3 25. Rc2 Rae8 26. Qd4 Kc8 0-1**

## Match Postscript

The two titans of chess history wound up battling to a draw in the Elista 2009 match. I suddenly remembered a Spassky interview I had read somewhere. Readers, I need help with its time and place. I am also paraphrasing, and need the actual interview text. Somebody asked Spassky to assess Korchnoi’s strengths and weaknesses.

Spassky said something like this: “Strengths: encyclopedic opening knowledge, ruthless fighter, fierce uncompromising will to win, flawless endgame technique. Weakness: no talent.” It drew quite a snicker from us humor-loving fans.

**A Nice Ending**

This ending has occurred twice in the last two weeks! The first, a OTB encounter between GMs. The second…

**Kuzmicz (2415) – Musialkiewicz (2147) Amplico Lite Rapid (6) 12/19/09 **

Position after 76…Bg3

** **

** **In the game, white played **77. Rb5? Kf8** and now there’s no way to prevent Kf8-e8 with a draw. Once black’s king has freedom on the queenside squares, it is still just close enough to run back and stop the h-pawn when white goes for the Rxg3 idea.** **

The correct line is very nice.

**77. Rf5! Bh2 78. Rd5! Kf8 79. Rd4 Bg3 80. Re4! **with a winning zugzwang; black must give up the h-pawn and the game.

Tags: Baburin, Chess Today, Elista, Korchnoi, Kuzmicz, Musialkiewicz, Spassky

January 2, 2010 at 4:55 pm |

Mark,

The Spassky-Korchnoi story you are thinking of is on Kevin Spraggett’s website:

http://canchess.tripod.com/humour.htm

Very good! I see there are even more positive qualities listed!