Shortest Losses by World Champions, Part 4

By Matthew Grinberg, Founder of Alamogordo Chess Club

This week we feature World Chess Champions Boris Spassky, Bobby Fischer, and Anatoly Karpov.

Korchnoi, Victor – Spassky, Boris, 1:0, 1948

Sicilian Defense, Dragon Variation

This game was played in the semi-final of the USSR championship in 1948.  Spassky was a 14 year old wunderkind destined to win the World Chess Championship from Petrosian in 1969.  Korchnoi at 19 was also a very strong player and years later would challenge Karpov for the World Championship.  This was the first of 81 games they would eventually play against each other in competition.

  1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. f4

[More common today is 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O  +0.02|d15 Rybka4]

6… Bg4!? Unusual in the present day, but the theory of the Dragon Sicilian was not well developed at this time.

[Better is 6… Nc6 as played by the same two players a year later. 7. Bb5 Bd7 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. O-O Qc7 10. h3 Bg7 11. Be3 O-O 12. Qd3 Rab8 13. b3 Rbd8 14. Rae1 Bc8 15. f5 Nd7 16. Qd2 Ne5 17. Bh6 f6 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Nce2 g5 20. Ng3 d5 21. exd5 Rxd5 22. c4 Rdd8 23. Qe3 Rf7 24. Ne6 Bxe6 25. fxe6 Rff8 26. Nf5 Kh8 27. h4 gxh4 28. Qh6 Rg8 29. Re4 Rg6 30. Qh5 Rg5 31. Qxh4 Rdg8 32. g3 Ng6 33. Qh3 Ne5 34. Rh4 R8g7 35. Nxg7 Rxg7 36. Kg2 Qd8 37. Qf5 Qd6 38. Qf2 Qxe6 39. Rd1 Nf7 40. Rhd4 Rg8 41. R1d2 Ng5 42. Rh4 c5 43. Qxc5 Qe1 44. Qf2 Qe6 45. Qd4 Qc6 46. Qd5 Qc7 47. Rd3 e6 48. Qb5 Nf7 49. Qd7 Qe5 50. Rxh7 Kxh7 51. Qxf7 Rg7 1/2-1/2, Korchnoi Viktor (SUI) 2564  – Spassky Boris V (FRA) 2548 , Leningrad 1949.  If the game had continued, then a draw by repetition was inevitable. (52. Qe8 Qe2 53. Kg1 e5 54. b4 Qxd3 55. Qh5 Kg8 56. Qe8 Kh7 57. Qh5 Kg8 58. Qe8 Kh7 Draw by three fold repetition)]

  1. Bb5 Nbd7 8. Bxd7!? Korchnoi is hoping for the mistake Spassky makes, but he really should not exchange the bishop for the knight until Black forces it by playing a6.

[8. Qd3 a6 9. Bxd7 Bxd7 10. e5 dxe5 11. fxe5 Ng4 12. Bf4 Bg7 13. Qe2  +0.17|d15 Rybka4]

8… Qxd7?! The trouble with this move is that it leaves the bishop with no good retreat.

[8… Bxd7 9. Qd3 Rc8  -0.04 Rybka4]

  1. Qd3 e5!? Leaving both d6 and f6 weak. In general it is not a good idea for Black to play e5 in an open Sicilian if he has already played g6. If the dark square bishop  develops to e7, then the dark squares on the king side are weak, but if the bishop develops to g7, then the pawn on d6 is weak.

[9… Rc8 10. Be3 Bg7 11. O-O O-O  +0.38|d17 Rybka4]

  1. Nf3 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 Qg4? Spassky’s plan is to exchange queens with an equal position, but…

[better is 11… d5 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 Bg7 14. Bd2 Rd8 15. c4 O-O 16. O-O b5! when he has good play for the pawn.]

  1. Nd5! The twin threats of Nxf6+ and Nc7+ leave Spassky with no good move, so he resigns.

[12… Kd8 13. Qxg4 (Not 13. Nxf6? Qh4 14. g3 Qxf6  +1.27|d16 Rybka4) 13… Nxg4 14. h3 Nh6 15. fxe5  +2.32|d17 Rybka4 dxe5 16. Bg5 Kc8 17. Bf6 Rg8 18. O-O-O b6 19. Bxe5 f5 20. Rhe1  +2.61|d17 Rybka4 White has an extra pawn and better development.  Black’s king is exposed to attack and his pieces are in disarray.;

12… Qxf3 13. Nxf6 Ke7 14. Nd5 Ke6 15. gxf3  +3.26|d15 Rybka4;

12… Qh4 13. g3 Qh3 14. Nxf6  +4.46|d5 Rybka4]


Unzicker, Wulfgang – Fischer, Bobby. 1:0, 1960

Sicilian Defense, Najdorf Variation

Bobby Fischer, though only 17, had already been U.S. Chess Champion for three years and a World Champion Candidate when he travelled to Buenos Aires to play in this tournament.  His opponent, Wolfgang Unzicker, was one of the leading players from West Germany.  Fischer uncharacteristically loses his way in the opening and never gets on track.

  1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 The Najdorf Variation is named after Miguel Najdorf. He was originally from Poland, but Argentina became his home when he was stranded there after the 1939 Chess Olympiad due to the German invasion of his home country.
  2. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Be7 8. Qf3 Qc7 9. O-O-O O-O!? It is too early to signal where the king is going to be. Frequently in the Najdorf Black will leave his king in the center as long as possible so as to keep open his options as White develops his attack. The king is reasonably secure behind the phalanx of pawns on f7, e6 and d6.

[9… Nbd7 10. g4 b5 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. g5 Nd7 13. f5 Nc5 14. f6 gxf6 15. gxf6 Bf8 16. Rg1  +0.00|d15 Rybka4;

Or as Fischer played three years earlier in the U.S. Championship 9… h6 10. Bh4 Nc6 11. Nxc6 Qxc6 12. Bd3 Bd7 13. Qe2 Rc8 14. Kb1 b5 15. Rhf1 b4 16. Bxf6 gxf6 17. Nd5 exd5 18. exd5 Qc7 19. Bxa6 Rb8 20. Rfe1 Bc8 21. Bxc8 Rxc8 22. Rd4 O-O 23. Re4 Rfe8 24. f5 Kh7 25. c3 bxc3 26. Rxe7 Qb6 27. Rxf7 Kg8 28. Qg4 Kxf7 1/2-1/2, Seidman Herbert – Fischer Robert J (USA) 2780 , New York 1957 Ch USA]

  1. Bd3 Unzicker begins to aim all of his forces at the castled king.

10… Nc6 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Qg3 h5? Apparently Fischer played this to secure g4 for his knight.  Whatever he hoped to gain by playing this is not worth the weakening of his king side.

[Blocking White’s light square bishop out of the attack is much better. 12… e5! 13. Rhf1 Nh5 14. Qh4 Bxg5 15. fxg5 g6 16. Ne2 Qd8 17. g4 Ng7 18. Ng3 Rb8 19. b3 Ne6 20. Rf6 Qa5 21. Kb1 Nc5 22. Nf5 Bxf5 23. gxf5 Na4 24. fxg6 Nc3 25. Kc1 hxg6 26. Qh6 Qa3 1/2-1/2, Borngaesser Rene (GER) 2390  – Stean Michael F (ENG) 2275 , Groningen 1972 It (open)  Both players recognized that a draw by repetition was inevitable. (27. Kd2 Nxd1 28. Rxg6 fxg6 29. Qxg6 Kh8 30. Qh6 Kg8 31. Qg6 Kh8 32. Qh6 Kg8 33. Qg6 Draw by three fold repetition)]

  1. e5! Now the light square bishop is fully in the attack.

13… dxe5 14. fxe5 Ng4 15. Bxe7 Qxe7 16. Ne4 Qc7? Fischer ignores the defense of his king to go after a measly pawn.

[There is still a chance after 16… Kh8 17. Be2 Nh6 18. Bxh5 c5  +1.45|d10]

  1. h3 Nxe5?? Still paying more attention to the pawn than his own king, Fischer walks into a mating net. But he does not have a good move anyway.

[17… Nh6 18. Nf6 Kh8 19. Qg5 Rb8 20. Nxh5 Nf5 21. Bxf5 Qxe5 22. Rd8 Bb7 23. Rd3 Rg8 24. Ng3 Qf6 25. Qh5 Qh6 26. Qxh6 gxh6 27. Bg4  +3.08|d14;

17… Qxe5 18. hxg4 Qxg3 19. Nxg3 hxg4 20. Bh7 Kh8 21. Be4 Kg8 22. Bxc6  +3.47|d19 Rybka4]

  1. Nf6! Kh8 19. Qg5 Nxd3 20. Rxd3 gxf6 21. Qxh5 Kg7 22. Qg4 Fischer resigns because he will be forced to give up his queen to avoid mate and even then Unzicker will mate quickly anyway.

[22… Kh7 23. Qh4 Kg6 24. Rg3 Qxg3 25. Qxg3 Kh7 26. Rf1 Rg8 27. Qh4 Kg7 28. Qxf6 Kh7 29. Rf4 Rxg2 30. Rh4 Kg8 31. Qh8#]


Christiansen L. – Karpov A, 1:0, 1993

Queen’s Indian Defense

Back in the good old days there was a National Chess League.  The team from Washington, D.C. was the Washington Plumbers.  I was at their site one evening watching one of their matches.  After the games were over, one of the players on the Washington team, International Master Eugene Meyer, was playing over his game from the match and taking questions from the audience.

After one of his moves someone asked, “Why did you play that move?”  Indeed, from my point of view the move did not have a point.

Meyer replied, “Because it defends the knight.”

“But there is nothing attacking the knight.”

“True, but even when not attacked, the more pieces you have undefended, the more likely it is that something bad will happen.”

Profound!  I had never thought of that!

Perhaps Karpov should have been at that Washington Plumbers match.

At the time former World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov, lost the game below, it caused a sensation.  How could the second best player in the world (after World Champion Gary Kasparov) play such a simple blunder in a simple position?  Karpov’s opponent, Larry Christiansen had been U.S. Champion in 1980 and 1983.

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 Ba6 5. Qc2 Bb7 This move and White’s 4. a3 are not the kind of moves I would play in the opening, but this is a normal book line and they are Grandmasters, so what do I know?
  2. Nc3 c5 7. e4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Nc6 9. Nxc6 Bxc6 10. Bf4 Nh5 11. Be3 This is still normal book stuff, but now…

11… Bd6?? This move is hard to fathom.  Not only is there the positional objection that it blocks his d-pawn, but more important, it leaves the both the bishop and the knight undefended and exposed.  Furthermore the refutation is ridiculously simple.

[My best guess is that Karpov intended to keep following the normal line and simply got the move order mixed up. 11… Qb8 A few months EARLIER Karpov played this move against Christopher Lutz and won. 12. O-O-O Bd6  +0.27|d17 Rybka4 Again, these are not the kind of moves I would play, but what do I know?]

  1. Qd1! It doesn’t take a genius to see that either the bishop or the knight is gone, so rather than continue a hopeless game, Karpov resigns. [1:0]

1 thought on “Shortest Losses by World Champions, Part 4”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *