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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Real Humdinger by Spassky

     Bobby Fischer called this game one of the ten greatest of all time. Pachman called it a modern masterpiece, Soitis ranks it number 32 on his top 100 list, a poll of readers by Shakmatny Bulletin ranked it as one of the very best games of the 1960s and in his book on Spassky, Bernard Cafferty called it one of the finest games he had ever had the pleasure to review or to analyze. Everybody agrees that it is of the most amazing games ever played and one of the more famous games of the modern era. 
     The game is Spassky vs. Bronstein from the 1960 USSR Championship. It's the game that was featured in the classic James Bond movie "From Russia, With Love" as being played by Kronstein against McAdams. I never saw the movie because I am not James Bond fan and rarely go to movies, but I am not sure how it took me 57 years to discover this game!
     Spassky's 15.Nd5, threatening Qh7+, has received the accolades of a lot of fine players. But, it has also been criticized on the grounds that 15. Rf2 would have given him an excellent game whereas the move he actually chose leads, with correct play, to an unclear position.
     That's true, but as Soltis pointed out, chess isn't always about finding perfect moves. (That is unless you're a modern correspondence player seeking perfection by using a bunch of engines and a powerful computer.) In OTB play chess is about making pragmatic choices. In this game Bronstein was short on time and the complications as a result of Spassky's sacrifice resulted in, as Botvinnik used to put it, head whirling complications. 
     If you haven't seen this game, you'll enjoy it.  If you have seen it before, enjoy it again!

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