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Friday, September 18, 2020

A Fischer-Rossolimo Slugfest

     Before getting to the subject of this post, today this blog reached over 1.5 millions visits. Disregard the gizmo at the right which has never been quite accurate. The count of 1.5 million is based on Blogger's internal counter. Thanks to all readers! 
     Also, I recently purchased an FOLAI stud finder from Amazon. It arrived in a couple of days and I have no problems whatsoever with either the stud finder or the service from Amazon. However, what left me aghast was the request that I e-mail a copy of my 5-star review to the company and receive an $8.00 Amazon gift card. i.e. they are trying to bribe me for a 5-star review. Amazing! 
     On to the subject at hand. Regarding the last post on the Rossolimo-Kotov game, reader Paul Gottlieb mentioned Rossolimo's loss to Fischer in the 1965-66 US Championship as being another fascinating struggle, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the game which appears in My 60 Memorable Games.
     In the 1965-66 tournament Fischer finished first a full point ahead of Samuel Reshevsky and Robert Byrne, but he lost to both of them and drew with William Addison who tied Bernard Zuckerman for 4th. 
     The two losses scared Fischer. Such a short tournament (12 players) was just too risky because, as he put it, "Something [is] really wrong if a fellow couldn't lose a game in a US championship without practically being eliminated." Thus, for the following year's championship Fischer demanded the event be expanded to twenty players, or if 12 players it had to be a double round affair. Finally, in a phone call to the USCF he eased his demands and would compromise at 16 players. 
     Maurice J. Kasper (1900-1972), a wealthy patron who financed many events, pointed out there wasn't enough time to add more players for the 1966-67 tournament, but promised to try and have a longer tournament following year. He also offered Fischer an extra $500 (equal to about $4,000 today) to play. Fischer relented and agreed to play. 
     Fischer won the 1966-67 tournament ahead of Larry Evans in what turned out to be Fischer's last championship tournament. When the 1968 championship rolled around he didn't even respond to his invitation. 
     In the introduction to the game against Rossolimo, Larry Evans described how twice (moves 17 and 19) Fischer unearthed moves to sustain his initiative and at the same time he was forced to "wage a running battle, no sooner landing a blow than having to duck" and "the outcome was in doubt until the very last punch."
(Corrected some factual errors thanks to reader Mark Weeks)

Robert Fischer - Nicolas Rossolimo

Result: 1-0

Site: US Championship, New York

Date: 1965.12.27

French, McCutcheon Variation

[...] 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.♘c3 ♘f6 4.♗g5 ♗b4 In the McCutcheon variation black sharpens the play immediately and indicates he is playing for a win. Black ignores white's threat and prefers to threaten white's center himself. It's an interesting and sharp strategy that was favored by Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann. 5.e5 h6 6.♗d2 In recent years 6.Be3 has supplanted this as the main line. 6...♗xc3 7.bxc3
7.♗xc3 Fischer called this move which he played against Petrosian at Curacao, 1962 ridiculous. 7...♘e4 8.♗a5 O-O 9.♗d3 ♘c6 10.♗c3 ♘xc3 11.bxc3 f6 12.f4 fxe5 13.fxe5 ♘e7 and black soon obtained the initiative. Actually, Fischer's comment seems a bit harsh because at this point the position is quite even.
7...♘e4 8.♕g4 g6
8...♔f8 This is black's main alternative which Fischer described as risky. Still, it's interesting. 9.♘f3 c5 10.♗d3 ♘xd2 11.♔xd2 ♘c6 12.♕f4 ♕e7 and white is a little better. Anand,V (2690)-Ivanchuk,V (2720)/Linares 1992
9.♗d3 ♘xd2 10.♔xd2 c5 Fischer stated that while this position is well known it has never quite worked out. According to my database after 11.Nf3 white wins 34 percent to black's 26 percent which seems about normal. 11.♘f3 ♘c6 12.♕f4 Fischer believed that 12.Rab1 hindering the development of black's B might be better. Statistically it's only tiny bit better. The more popular 12.h4 does not yield results as good as either of those two moves. 12...♕c7 Fischer claimed the natural 12...Qa5 was better, but the statistics for that move are dismal: white scores 53 percent wins to black's 23 percent! If you want to play the odds then the best move is 12...cxd4 after which both sides score 29 percent of the time. 13.h4 Sharper (and better) according to Fischer is 13.Qf6. 13...f5 This gets a ! from Fischer with the comment "re-establishing parity." 14.g4 Fischer makes no comment on this move, but it seems that 14.Qg3 gives white good play. (14.♕g3 ♘e7 15.dxc5 ♕xc5 16.♘d4 O-O with a good game for white.) 14...cxd4 15.cxd4 ♘e7
15...♗d7 was suggested by Rossolimo after the game, but Fischer believed white was still better after 16.gxf5 gxf5 17.♖hg1 O-O-O 18.♖g6 but later he amended his thinking and stated that black has equality after 18...♘b4 and Stockfish agrees that after any reasonable move, the position id quite even.
16.gxf5 exf5
16...gxf5 was better, but white still has the upper hand after 17.♖hg1 ♕a5 18.c3 ♗d7 19.a4 O-O-O 20.♖g7
17.♗b5 This gets a ! without comment from Fischer, but Stockfish doesn't like it nearly as well as 17.Rhb1 (17.♖hb1 ♗d7 18.a4 O-O-O 19.a5 with a promising attack.) 17...♔f8
17...♗d7 18.♗xd7 ♕xd7 19.e6 ♕xe6 20.♖he1 ♕c6 21.♖xe7 ♔xe7 22.♖e1 ♔d8 23.♘e5 with a good game.
17...♘c6 is even worse. 18.♗xc6 ♕xc6 19.♖hg1 and here, too, white has a very promising position.
17...♔d8 Best according to Fischer. 18.♗d3 ♗e6 and white is better, but it will prove hard to get at black's K. Out of curiosity I ran a Shoot out here and white scored +4 -0 =1.
18.♗d3 The poin t of Fischer's 17th move is that now black's K has been forced to the K-side where it will be vulnerable. 18...♗e6 19.♘g1 The key move. The N is heading for f4 from where it exerts pressure on the g-Pawn. (Fischer) 19...♔f7 20.♘h3 ♖ac8 Preferring active defense to passive defense by just guarding hsi g-Pawn. 21.♖hg1 No comment from Fischer but the auto-annotation by Stockfish slammed this move with two question marks. Personally, because the engines cannot seem to demonstrate anything concrete here, I would go with Fischer.
21.♔e2 A mysterious engine move. Stockfish way over evaluates this position (in my opinion) by assigning white a 2.5 Pawn advantage. Komodo 10's evaluation of slightly less than one Pawn seems more reasonable. Both engines disagree and flop around a lot on what is the BEST move here. 21...♗d7 22.♖hc1 Stockfish cannot seem to find a plan and wants to do what engines do in such situations...make R moves. 22...♕c3 23.♖ab1 b6 24.♖b3
21...b6 This gets two question marks from Stockfish and Fischer criticized it because it takes away any possibilty of black defending himself with a Q check on a5.
21...♕c3 was better and it leads to some interesting play. 22.♔e3 g5 23.hxg5 ♘g6 The point. 24.♕f3 ♖c4 The point of the point! The attack on the d-Pawn gives black counterplay. 25.♔e2 ♕xd4 26.♗xc4 ♕xc4 27.♔d2 ♘xe5 with a messy situation.
22.h5 This eliminates the possibility of the N going to g6. AT this point white's position is strategically won. 22...♕c3 23.♔e2 ♘c6
23...♖cg8 24.hxg6 ♘xg6 25.♕e3 with the R no longer on c8 there is no attack on the d-Pawn.
23...♖hg8 So as to maintain the R on c8, but it doesn't work. 24.hxg6 ♘xg6 (24...♖xg6 25.♖xg6 ♘xg6 26.♕xh6 ♖g8 27.♘g5 is decisive.) 25.♕xh6
24.hxg6 ♔g7 25.♖ad1 ♘xd4
25...♕xd4 is no better. 26.♕xd4 ♘xd4 27.♔e3 ♘xc2 28.♗xc2 ♖xc2 29.♘f4 ♖e8 30.♘h5 ♔f8 31.g7 ♔e7 32.♘f6 winning.
26.♔f1 ♖he8 27.♖g3 Fischer overprotects the B.
27.♕h4 Fischer claimed this is too hasty. 27...♘f3 28.♕f6 ♔g8 29.♗xf5 ♘h2 30.♔g2 ♕f3 31.♔xh2 ♕xf5 and according to Fischer black holds. However, that does not appear to be the case. White scored five wins in Shootouts. Here is the continuation at 21 plies... 32.♘f4 ♖c6 33.♖g3 ♗d7 34.♕h4 ♕f8 35.♖e1 ♖xc2 36.♖f3 ♖c4 37.g7 ♕f5 38.e6 ♗xe6 39.♕xh6 ♕h7 40.♕xh7 ♔xh7 41.♖xe6 ♖g8 42.♖e5 ♖c6 43.♖h5 ♖h6 44.♖xh6 ♔xh6 45.♖g3 ♖xg7 46.♖h3 ♔g5 47.♘e6 winning easily.
27...♘c6
27...♘xc2 is not much help 28.♕h4 ♕xe5 29.♘f4 At a quick glance black seems to be hanging on, but he is quite lost after 29...d4 30.♘h5 ♔g8 31.♘f6 ♔g7 32.♘xe8 ♖xe8 33.♖h3 f4 34.♕xh6 ♔f6 35.g7 ♔e7 36.♗xc2
28.♕h4 ♘xe5 29.♘f4 ♘g4 30.♘xe6 ♖xe6 31.♗xf5 ♕c4 32.♔g1 Rossolimo resigned. A hard game. (32.♔g1 ♘xf2 33.♕xc4 ♖xc4 34.♖xd5 ♘h3 35.♖xh3 ♖xg6 36.♗xg6 ♔xg6)
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