Category : Openings

Fischer’s Openings in Reykjavik – Part II

This is Part II of my 3-part analysis of Fischer’s openings in the Match of the Century in 1972. The series was written for my Inner Circle to which you can also subscribe using the yellow form on the right. Once inside The Circle, if you would like to read the other two parts, let me know and I will send them to you. In the meantime, enjoy!

 

Fischer’s Openings in Reykjavik – Part II

Continuing my analysis from last week, we left off with Game 11, Fischer’s only catastrophy in the match. This was the first time he repeated an opening, the Poisoned Pawn from Game 7, but this time Spassky was ready and the punishment was severe.

This serious setback forced Fischer to implement the same strategy of changing his openings after 1 e4 as well. But this was more problematic for him because playing almost only the Najdorf since the US Championship in 1963 he had less solid openings at his disposal.

Fischer’s choices of the Alekhine and the Pirc in games 13, 17 and 19 were the most puzzling for me in the whole match, due to several reasons. Even though Fischer played the Alekhine on several occassions in 1970, the opening is far from being solid enough for a World Championship match. And the Pirc even less so! Yet he still played them in 3 games!

I read an interesting observation somewhere, that Fischer didn’t know how to play solidly for equality. That he always needed dynamism and activity. And this was the only reasonable explanation I could find to explain his choices of those openings.

The Alekhine in Game 13 saw a very poor reaction by Spassky. His improvisation on move 7 in a very-well know theoretical position (7 Nbd2 on which he spent 17 minutes) was of low quality. It is surprising that on both first occassions with an opening (the Poisoned Pawn in Games 7 and 11 and the Alekhine in Games 13 and 19) Spassky reacted badly! And as Russians vs Fischer tells us, he was excellently prepared for all the openings! Puzzling indeed.

In Game 15 Fischer returned to the Najdorf and didn’t venture again in the Poisoned Pawn, choosing the line with 7…Be7. In view of Spassky’s superior preparation he was close to losing after the opening. This was another surprising choice because later Fischer would say that approximately after Game 13 he started to play safe, stopped looking for chances and was leaving it to Spassky to beat him. No reason not to trust him, but how does that go along with his
opening choices with Black?

Game 17 and the Pirc was perhaps the strangest choice. First about the move-order. After 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Fischer went 2…g6. This begs several questions to be asked: why did he allow the King’s Indian that would have most probably arisen after 3 c4 (and he didn’t play it in the first half of the match when Spassky was playing 1 d4)? Since Spassky was sticking to 1 e4 did he really know Spassky so well that he trusted him he wouldn’t switch to a 1 d4 opening once he
abandoned them? And what was he trying to achieve by playing 2…g6 instead of 2…Nf6? The only explanation I could come up with for the last question was that he was avoiding 2…Nf6 3 f3, as Spassky played against Jansson in 1971.

To continue with the questions, did he intend something else after 3 c4 instead of a normal KID transposition, by leaving the knight on g8? And after Spassky’s 3 Nc3 (on which he spent 4 minutes, probably thinking to KID or not to KID) Fischer spent 4 minutes on 3…Nf6. Why? The only obvious alternative is 3…Bg7, so again, what was he trying to avoid?

The following few moves and the times spent on them continue to be mysterious. Being faced with an obvious surprise by Fischer, Spassky again, as in Game 1, chose a line from his youth, one he played only once in his life, in 1960 in Mar del Plata (incidentally a tournament where Fischer also played) – Fischer’s own pet line, the Austrian
Attack. After 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 Fischer sank into a 15-minute think before choosing 5…c5. When playing the Austrian Attack with White Fischer convincingly demonstrated the strength of the line 5… 0-0 6 Bd3, winning several good games with it. So it is perhaps understandable that he wanted to avoid it with Black, but why spend 15 minutes on that decision?

The game was very important theoretically and it established the best way to play for Black in that line of the Pirc (namely to play …Bg4 before White can prevent it by h3) and it was also notable for Spassky’s original middlegame plan of 11 Rad1 and 12 Bc4.

Game 19 saw the return of the Alekhine, with Fischer varying with 4…Bg4 instead of the 4…g6 from Game 13. Another first-ever by Fischer, but Spassky was prepared. I find an interesting parallel between this game and Game 5. Had Spassky taken 12 gf (he took 20 minutes on that decision) the blocked character of the position would have resembled the one from Game 5. Why was Fischer luring Spassky in such closed positions, did he learn in his preparation that
Spassky didn’t like them and played them less well? It was considered that Fischer didn’t like closed and blocked positions, buthere he was actively pursuing them!

Fischer’s choice for what turned out to be the last game of the match was excellent and I wonder why he didn’t come up with it earlier. Again a first-ever, this time in the Sicilian, 2…e6 instead of the automatic 2…d6. (Curiously enough, in Game 20 of their match in 1992, the first game of that match where Spassky played 1 e4, after 1…c5 2 Ne2 Nf6 3 Nbc3 Fischer again played 3…e6, signalling that he wanted to play something else than the Najdorf. Here the most probable is the Scheveningen after 4 d4 cd 5 Nd4 d6, but Spassky played 4 g3).

After 3 d4 cd 4 Nd4 there came 4…a6, a move he so convincingly dismantled with White in Game 7 of his match with Petrosian. So the first question, what did he have in mind against his own choice of 5 Bd3? My guess is 5…Nc6, as Petrosian played, and after 6 Nc6 dc, instead of Petrosian’s inferior 6…bc. The positions after 6…dc are much calmer and more solid, quite in line with Fischer’s admission that he wasn’t trying to look for chances in the second half of the match. And being a Sicilian, it still offers more dynamism and activity than other openings. Still, this is why I think his choice was good, because he finally found a solid and safe line for Black.

But Spassky stayed in line with his established way to reacting to surprises, he chose a line he played before. The system with Be3 and Bd3 brought him the title with a draw from a winning position in Game 23 of his match with Petrosian in 1969, but Fischer played an important novelty after 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Be3 Nf6 7 Bd3 d5 (the game Spassky-Petrosian went via a different move order 7…Qc7 8 0-0 Ne5) 8 ed ed! and Black was already equal. Fischer’s love for old games was crowned by employing a move played by Adolf Anderssen in 1877!

Fischer’s strategy with Black turned out to be very efficient. His frequent changes of openings and sub-lines coupled with Spassky’s predictability and bad first-time reactions enabled him to have the opening initiative in most of the games. The only opening disaster he had was when he himself was predictable, but he didn’t let that happen again.

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Video Game Analysis #8

David decided to take up the QGD and his first game was a success! It’s always a good sign when you win the first game with a new opening!

He got a great position, but then he misplayed it. And as it usually happens, the game was decided by a blunder.

Still, an encouraging start for his build-up process of construction of a new repertoire. Hopefully he continues to win games with the QGD!

Here’s the video of our joint analysis:

 

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Opening Repertoire for Black

I would like to announce that this coming Saturday, the day I usually send my weekly emails, I will be offering an opening repertoire for Black to my readers.

This repertoire will be limited only to the readers of my Inner Circle (that is the yellow box on the right). I am sure that by now you have become well-acquainted with me, my blog and my writing. If you already like what you read and you think that you need a good opening for Black, please subscribe and be patient until Saturday when I will reveal the rest.

The opening is constructed using my own analysis, it includes videos and PDFs and naturally a database in pgn and .cbv format.

Even if you’re just curious, you are welcome to step inside and have a peek. I guarantee you will like what you read.

Until Saturday then!

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Video Game Analysis #7

David switched to OTB games rather than online, which is very important. I have always said that OTB play is hugely different (and infinitely better) than online. The physical presence of the board, pieces and an opponent forces you to concentrate and try harder.

Here we analyse two games of his, I quite liked his treatment of the typical structure arising from different openings (Caro-Kann, Reti, Scandinavian) here:

 

 

In his White game David messed up the opening but then defended well and was richly rewarded!

 

 

 

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A Quick Petroff on my YouTube Channel

I finally managed to find some time to record another video. Inspired by what is happening at the World Cup in Tbilisi I am showing a quick and easy to use set-up for Black in the Petroff. As I mentioned in my post about Tbilisi, the Petroff is experiencing some sort of a revival, just to add to the misery of the White 1 e4 players, if the Berlin wasn’t more than enough.

But that is good news for the Black players who prefer solidity without too much theory. The set-up is simple and straight-forward, but do your homework before trying it out. Here’s the video:

 

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Fischer’s Openings in Reykjavik

I have always been fascinated by the “Match of the Century” in Reykjavik in 1972. Being also fascinated by Fischer and his path to the top, I have spent countless hours thinking about that match.

For the readers of my Inner Circle I plan to write a series of posts where I will analyse Fischer’s openings in great detail. Starting with his match strategy, his choice of openings and the sequence of their implementation, together with the move-order subtleties – all will be in there.

I have learnt a great deal from the match in Reykjavik. And I am not talking only about opening ideas (like the …Nh5 in the Benoni or the …Nc6, …b5 idea in the Semi-Tarrasch), but also about psychology and match strategy (even though I have never played a match in my life!).

I plan to publish the first of these emails on Saturday. If you are interested in Fischer’s legacy and the opening dominance he demonstrated in his greatest triumph, you will love these mails. I invite you to use the yellow box on the right to subscribe or use this link and then sit back and enjoy your Saturday afternoon reading about the battle in Reykjavik.

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New Video On My Youtube Channel

In between flights I managed to make another video for my Youtube channel. This time I talk about Black’s possible reactions and defences against White’s minority attack in the Carlsbad structure.

And also why I didn’t walk around Milan this time.

Hope you enjoy it and find it interesting and useful.

 

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My Youtube Channel

With mixed feelings I am announcing the launch of my Youtube channel. Why the mixed feelings? Well, as I explain in my first ever video, I don’t like the video format so much. I prefer to read as then I can quickly scan and see if the material is useful or not. With the video format I feel compelled to see it all through, in case I miss something useful that may come at the end. Which means I am basically risking looking a useless video and wasting time.

Bearing that in mind, the idea with my channel is to keep it short and sweet. I explain an idea, concept, a plan, or anything really, and that’s it. Useful for the viewer and easy to grasp and apply. At least that’s my idea at this stage.

For now, just one video is up. You can check it out here. And I would appreciate comments and feedback how to make the videos better. I still don’t have a clue of all the fine points of video making, nor do I have an idea how often I’ll be filming myself, but it’s a beginning so let’s see.

The first video is about a typical reaction Black should implement when White jumps Ne5 in a position that can arise from the Queen’s Gambit Declined, the Queen’s Indian or the Zukertort System. Plus I explain a couple of plans Black can retort to if White postpones the jump. For more, please see the video.

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QGD Repertoire for Black III

This is the last part of my Queen’s Gambit Defence repertoire series that I published for the Chessable learning site. To remind you, the first part analysed the main lines of the Queen’s Gambit Declined; the second part took care of all the alternatives after 1 d4 d5, like the London System, the Catalan etc. And now, the third part covers all the other first moves except 1 e4.

An important novelty this time is that in addition to the study material I also recorded videos in order to explain the main ideas of every line. These should serve as an overview of the material and I hope you find them useful.

As a general rule, and to make things easier to learn, I always tried to recommend the usual Queen’s Gambit Declined development of …d5, …e6, …Nf6, …Be7, …0-0 followed by …b6 and …Bb7, solving the problem of the light-squared bishop. This applies equally to the Reti, the Nimzo-Larsen Attack (1 b3) and the Bird Opening (1 f4). One of the main points of this development is that it practically eliminates the need to study the English Opening (1 c4) because after 1 c4 e6 the game will transpose to the other, already studied, lines: the Reti, the Queen’s Gambit proper, or a harmless variation of the Exchange French (which I also analyse).

I was careful and aware of the various move-orders, in order to avoid being tricked into a line that hasn’t been analysed previously. This mostly applies for the Reti move-orders when White can try to tranpose to a Catalan. These have been covered neatly.

The proposed line against the King’s Indian Attack is perhaps the one I like the best. Apart from it being theoretically sound, its main advantage is that it completely changes the character of the game and White can forget about the attack and the automatic setup of e4-e5, Re1, Nbd2-f1, h4, Bf4, Nh2-g4 etc.

I covered pretty much all the sensible tries for White – all the moves and systems that don’t have a name plus the reversed Dutch (Classical, Leningrad and Stonewall), the reversed Philidor, the Sokolsky and the infamous Grob, which even got a main line status (and is probably refuted).

In the lines suggested there are many transpositions to my previous books, mostly to the Catalan, but also to the QGD lines. Needless to say, the books were designed to complement each other.

Apart from showing my own preparation, this time I also developed some lines that looked promising and easy to implement. The general idea to sticking to the QGD development should make things much easier to remember.

This book rounds-up my QGD repertoire series. Now you have a complete repertoire for Black against everything except 1 e4. I hope it serves you well, gets you good positions and brings you many points!

A Grandmaster Guide: The Reti, King’s Indian Attack, and Others, Based on the QGD

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The Move …g5 in the Sicilian

I spent the last week in Spain at the Spanish U16 championship and I watched many games between young and talented players. They play well, follow theory and still have a lot to learn. My student Angel Luis Cubas Cabrera had a tough tournament – he played well, but so did his opponents! He entered the last round undefeated and a win would have brought him a shared 4th place. Alas, he faltered and lost… But today he had a fantastic tournament in the rapid and finished shared 2nd, half a point behind the winner. He is only 15, one year younger than most of the others, so all this looks pretty promising.

While watching the games my subconscious was working and somehow I was reminded of an episode from my tournament in Reykjavik in 2015. In the second part of the tournament I wasn’t playing well and to make things worse I got two Blacks in the last 2 rounds. Still, a last round win would have made it a decent showing.

I was paired against Ni Shiqun. At that time she still didn’t have the success of reaching the quarter-final of this year’s Women World Championship, but it was obvious she was good.

During my preparation I noticed that my young opponent, born in 1997, played some boring lines in the Scotch against 1…e5 and the non-critical 3 c4 against the Sicilian, after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6. Since I was determined “to play for a win” I decided to go for the Sicilian.

I had several ideas in mind against 3 c4 and eventually I settled for the sharp line after 3…Nc6 4 Be2 g5!? In fact, I was convinced this was so good I even started thinking I refuted the whole 3 c4 line! If, for example, White plays 4 Nc3 instead of 4 Be2 then 4…Nge7 is very good, intending …Nd4 and …Nec6, and if White pushes 5 d4 now, then after exchanging twice on d4 and playing 7…Nc6 Black has excellent play on the dark squares.

The last round was a morning game, so I couldn’t prepare as deeply as I wanted – many of the lines were checked to a point where the position was good for Black, even though I sensed they needed deeper analysis. There was one factor, however, that I failed to take into account and that factor was the character of the position.

I noticed that my opponent was an excellent calculator (as most young players are) and my own calculations weren’t to my usual standard during the tournament. And the positions arising after 4…g5 were sharp and required calculation, no matter in which favour they objectively were.

By now you can probably sense how the game developed. Thanks to my good preparation I obtained a better position as early as move 9, but the position required serious calculations and by move 16 I was lost! Here’s the complete game:


 

You can now imagine my regret of not playing the boring Scotch… At the closing ceremony I had a chance to chat with Artur Jussupow and I described to him my last round game, with my line of thought during the preparation and my decision to “play for a win” and choosing the Sicilian.

Artur has seen everything in chess, so he knew what I was talking about. He told me that first and foremost, you must take your own state into account. Evaluate precisely how you feel, how your head is working, how confident you are. Everything else should come from there – the opening choice, the strategy for the game. The opponent’s preferences and how to use them come later, sometimes they are even irrelevant – it’s always better to play what makes you feel comfortable than trying to take advantage of an opponent’s shortcoming.

My game with Ni Shiqun is an excellent example – I did take advantage of her poor opening, but I nevertheless lost the game because she was more comfortable in the ensuing position even though objectively it was a better position for me!

This was a valuable lesson for me at the time. Nowadays I try to listen to my inner state more intently and I try to teach my students to do the same. Once it becomes a habit, it will raise the level of self-awareness and the good results will follow.

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