Monday, August 30, 2010

2 Fischer - the Opening and the End games

Over 50 years ago now, Bobby Fischer exploded onto the chess world with what was described as the "the Game of the Century". This was the 'Opening game' referred to in the title. Let me begin by quoting from an article by Rene Chun in the Atlantic Monthly (Dec 2002) , thus:

"Contrary to popular belief, Fischer didn't emerge from the womb a full-blown grand master. While he was learning the game, as a child in Brooklyn, he was essentially a hotshot club player—a prodigy, to be sure, but not obviously world-championship material. But at age thirteen, in 1956, Fischer made a colossal leap. That year he became the youngest player ever to win the U.S. Junior Championship. He also dominated the U.S. tournament circuit. What was astounding wasn't simply that a gawky thirteen-year-old kid in blue jeans was suddenly winning chess tournaments. It was the way he was winning. He didn't just beat people — he humiliated them. The thing he relished most was watching his opponents squirm. "I like the moment when I break a man's ego," he once said, during a Dick Cavett interview.

Later in the year he played a game so remarkable that it was immediately dubbed "the Game of the Century." Fischer faced Donald Byrne, then one of the top ten U.S. players, at the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament, in New York. The now legendary battle was packed with more chess pyrotechnics than are typically seen during the course of an entire match. There were complex combinations, ingenious sacrifices, danger and apparent danger—enough to make Fischer, who won, a chess god overnight. Asked to explain his sudden emergence on the world stage of chess, Fischer shrugged and said, "I just got good."

The Fischer-Byrne duel was dissected in newspapers and magazines around the world and won Fischer the Brilliancy Prize, an annual chess award that recognizes particularly imaginative play ... Even the Russians, loath to acknowledge so much as the existence of American players, grudgingly tipped their hats. After the Fischer-Byrne game, Mikhail Botvinnik, the reigning world champion, reportedly said, "We will have to start keeping an eye on this boy"."

Here is the game itself.

One of the more authorative annotations of the game can be found here. There is also an interesting "easy read" commentary here (with a diagram for each move).

To see "every one of his 736 tournament and match games presented with insightful explanations and analysis" then you might consider buying 'Bobby Fischer – Career and Complete Games' by Karsten Müller - reviewed at 'New In Chess'.

You will probably know all about the Fischer-Spassky World Championship match but just in case you missed it - here is one of the most revealing articles about Fischer ever written - on the eve of his historic win. It is entitled "A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma" (by William Lombardy, Fischer's second in Reykjavik).

And so the remarkable (and extremely controversial) 'End game' referred to in the title of the post. This time I will look to ChessBase to set the scene, thus:

"After winning the World Championship match against Boris Spassky in 1972 Bobby Fischer disappeared from public view for 20 years. In 1992 he returned to play a chess match with Boris Spassky in 1992. Fischer was 49 years old, Spassky was 55. The venue was the Yugoslav town of Sveti Stefan, an island resort just off the coast of Montenegro. The prize fund was US $5,000,000, of which the winner – the first player to win ten games – got 3.65 million. Victory went to Fischer. The match sponsor was Jezdimir Vasiljevic, President of Jugoskandic Bank, and a crony of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic."

The game they played in the first round was called "The Return of the King" and attracted much praise eg from Karpov, who said "one game was extremely good, game 1". I like the comment of a certain 'Patzer2' at chessgames.comwho says:

For a while Fischer was indeed back and showing signs of his former brillance in this strange and unlikely rerun of the 1972 championship. The matchup and calling it a "championship" may have been a joke to serious players, but the quality of games such as this are real and historic reminders that Fischer was a world class player even 20 years past his prime.

What's impressive here is how Fischer wins the game first on the Queenside and then focuses on an even more brilliant switch to the Kingside. Then after Spassky sacrifices a Knight for the attack, Fischer quickly returns a piece of his own to counterattack in 39. Bxf4! and tops it off with another piece offering in 42. Nf5!! to continue the attack and secure the win."

Here's an excerpt from Yasser Seirawan's book 'No Regrets':

"Right after the game Bobby and Boris held a postmortem and considered that the position after 17.Nxh6 was critical. Boris was sure that 17...f6 was a mistake. The players immersed themselves in the forcing sequence 17...Bxa1 (probably the best practical try) 18.Qxa1 Qxd6 19.Qxh8+ Ke7.

The next day Bobby, Eugene Torre, Svetozar Gligoric, Yvette Nagel and I spent a late afternoon analyzing this position. It is an excellent position for practical work. I suggest you take a few minutes and look at the lines following 20.Qxh7 and 20.Qg7.

Initially, Bobby was strongly for 20.Qxh7!, munching a pawn. He got bogged down over the line 20...Rf8 21.h4 (to clear the back rank and pound home h4-h5) 21...Qd2 22.Re3. White seems to be on a joyful attacking crunch, but his pieces are misplaced: 22...Qxc2! 23.Qg7 (since 23.h5 runs into ...Qd1+ and Qxh5+) 23...Qc1+ 24.Kh2 Qc5!, again restraining h4-h5. Now Black has two passers on the queenside and his king can trot to safety.

Fischer spent a lot of time trying to make 25.e5 Bd5! 26.h5 work, but came away dissatisfied. At length he was talked into declining the h7-cutie. "Man, I really want that guy!" he exclaimed. We began looking at 20.e5 Rxh8 (20...Qd2!?) 21.exd6+ Kf6 22.Re7 Bd5 before Fischer's "Nah!" ended things there. Finally, 20.Qg7 Rf8 21.Ng8+ Rxg8 22.Qxg8 a5!? (White's queen is trapped) 23.Qg7 a4, when despite being an Exchange down Black is still kicking. Indeed, the whole line isn't forced, as Black doesn't have to sac the Exchange. Bobby was vexed. "You guys are busted. Give me a sec to find the killer!" Finally Bobby said, "First, give me my pawn!" and produced 20.Qxh7! Rf8 21.Qg7 Qd2.

Bobby now uncorked his killer: 22.Qa1!! What a shot! Suddenly, White has a crushingly coordinated attack. He threatens 23.Nf5+ gxf5 24.exf5+ Kd7 25.Rd1, picking up Black's queen. If 22...Qxh6, then 23.Qxa7 regains the piece with an easy win. A line like 22...Rc8 23.Nf5+ Ke6 (23...gxf5 24.exf5+ Kf8 25.Qh8 mate) 24. Nd4+ Ke7 (White has gotten his knight back into the game, all with tempo!) 25.Rd1 Qc3 26.Qxa7 nets two pawns and the attack. We were forced into the ending 22...Qc3 23.Qxc3 bxc3 24.f3 a5 25.Ra1 Ra8 26.Ng4 a4 27.Kf2 a3 28.Ke3 a2 29.Kd4 Ra3 30.Ne3 - and this is hopeless for Black! (Fischer) We all had to concede that Bobby is as sharp an analyst as ever."

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