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Boris Spassky vs Efim Geller
"Give 'em the Runaround" (game of the day Jan-31-2017)
Spassky - Geller Candidates Quarterfinal (1968), Sukhumi URS, rd 6, Apr-13
Sicilian Defense: Closed Variation (B25)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Today's pun - a lot of you won't believe this - is based on the loser's first name. The punster detected a consonance between the name Efim and the phrase "Give 'em..." Then a suitable ending to that sentence was found, in this case, "the runaround".

<The Runaround> is an amusing aspect of playground fisticuffs. It occurs when two antagonists are separated by a tree. When the agressor tries to approach the defender, the defender relocates rapidly to a point 180° opposite the aggressor's new position. (Outside the playground, this activity takes place while using parked cars as a pivot.)

This diversion continues until either (a) playtime ends or (b) one or both participants dies of illness or old age.

Fascinating to watch, for a while.

Jan-31-17  maxi: 29.e5 is even faster.
Jan-31-17  RandomVisitor: After 14.b3 what if black avoided the queenside nonsense

click for larger view


-0.57/29 14...Nd7 15.Ra2 Qc7 16.f5 Ra8 17.Rxa8 Rxa8 18.Qd2 Ra2 19.Bh6 Nde5 20.Nxe5 Bxe5 21.Kh2 Qd8 22.Bf4 Bg7 23.Be3 Bf6 24.Nc1 Ra1 25.Ne2 Rxf1 26.Bxf1 gxf5 27.exf5 Qd7 28.Bg2 Qxf5 29.Be4 Qe5 30.Bf4 Qb2 31.Bg5

-0.50/29 14...Qc7 15.Qd2 Ra8 16.Rxa8 Rxa8 17.f5 Ra2 18.Bh6 Bxh6 19.Qxh6 Qd8 20.Qd2 Qa8 21.g4 Nd7 22.Nf4 Qf8 23.g5 Nde5 24.Nxe5 dxe5 25.Ne2 f6 26.Bf3 Qg7 27.h4 Qf7 28.Nc1 Ra3 29.Ne2 e6 30.gxf6 Qxf6

Jan-31-17  ChessHigherCat: <Zhbugnoimt: <moronovich>: Practically it is certainly very easy for black to screw up and get crushed on the K-side, but objectively White's attack is a bluff. Bent Larsen made a mistake in his evaluation because he didn't calculate at 500k nodes per second, I have something to do that for me.> That's interesting you say Spassky was bluffing, because when black played 14...Ra8 white could have responded with Qd2 or something to challenge the file but Rc1 was like saying: Okay, you do your thing, I'll do mine: you pfutz around trying to win that stupid pawn on the queen side while I checkmate you on the king side.
Jan-31-17  Saniyat24: Spassky at his best...!
Jan-31-17  The Kings Domain: Impressive attacking game by Spassky. 25) Nxf7 was a particularly nice touch which sent Geller's kingside crumbling irreparably.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: Black tries to run, but can't fast enough.
May-30-17  Howard: Would someone please verify that 29.e5 would have won quicker? Kasparov--if I remember correctly---doesn't mention this move in MGP.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Retireborn: 29.e5 is evaluated higher by Houdini, but both moves win quickly.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: 29 e5 or 29 g5 is like choosing either a smash or a placement when your opponent has thrown up a defensive lob, and is in the neighboring court flat on his back.

29 e5 is faster, mainly because it attacks the bishop on b7 and threatens to take on f6 with the pawn with mate coming.

The best Stockfish can see is 29...d5 30 exf6 Qe6 31 Qxb7 and the rout is on.

But 29 g5 is a sure win also. There is still a threat of exf6, and 29...fxg5 30 Bg5 is mate in 5. So Black has to delay the inevitable with 29...f5 when White takes the K-side pawns and queens his g pawn

Jun-17-17  edubueno: Una brutal paliza.
Dec-13-17  Howard: To be honest, I just don't understand why 14.b3 is an improvement over a different move that Spassky played in Game 4. Kasparov states that it saves a tempo--but exactly how?
Premium Chessgames Member
  WorstPlayerEver: SF gives 14... e6
Mar-01-18  tgyuid: its a completely different style of play; one wonders....
Aug-27-18  FreeRepublic2: I played through the closed Sicilians of this match. Spassky won the first three, and drew the final game to win the match. Very impressive.

It seems to me like Spassky improvised for his first two victories. Good examples of gutting it out, and that is something one has to do sometimes in the closed Sicilian.

Only in this game does it seem that Spassky powered his way to victory. This is the way white players want to play.

Aug-28-18  Howard: Spassky played the closed Sicilian six times in the 1968 Candidates, and he scored 5.5/6 !
May-15-19  N.O.F. NAJDORF: One of hundreds of master games in which Black's queen goes wandering aimlessly on the queen's side, thus facilitating a successful kingside attack by white.

What on earth was the point of putting the queen on a6?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Knightf7mate: Here is an interesting fact. The only database entries for Spassky OR Geller ever playing the closed Sicilian (B25) are in this match and this match only!

I think Spassky's team decided to use this variation against Geller, based on a shrewd insight into Geller's strengths and weaknesses. Just like Kramnik's choice of the Berlin defense against Kasparov many years later.

Geller just could not cope with it in the limited time available for the match.

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Knightf7mate> <The only database entries for Spassky OR Geller ever playing the closed Sicilian (B25) are in this match and this match only!>

Something must be wrong with the search you cited, because Spassky has a lot of other examples of closed Sicilians (B25) here, like Spassky vs Larsen, 1968, Spassky vs Timman, 1982, Spassky vs Portisch, 1977 to name a few.

(My search was

Dec-02-19  edubueno: HOWARD, in order to answer your question: "To be honest, I just don't understand why 14.b3 is an improvement over a different move that Spassky played in Game 4. Kasparov states that it saves a tempo--but exactly how?" The big advantage of b3! instead of De2?! is that the Tower in a1 will go directly to the defensive line in c1. At the same time, the Queen will go to h4 without hesitation.
Dec-02-19  Carrots and Pizza: After 15.Rc1, it's interesting to see how Spassky prosecutes the kingside attack, because his position looks a little passive at this point. We know g4 is coming and then it's up in the air. Will it be an eventual f5 or g5? Will White take on g6 or push to f6? How will White coordinate the dark square attack without giving Black the tempos to counter on the queenside? Spassky's attack was very instructive to me from this perspective.
Premium Chessgames Member
  carpovius: <edubueno: Una brutal paliza.> cierto.... y mortal
Dec-10-20  Ulhumbrus: One alternative to 8...Rb8 is 8...Ne8 playing for ...Nd4 before White can play d4 as in the game H Wolf vs Lasker, 1923
Feb-15-21  Gaito: The position after White's 21st move was a critical moment of the game (see diagram):

click for larger view

It is clear that Black is ready to undertake a Q-side offensive where the first target would be White's pawn on c2. And that explains Geller's curious knight tour ...Na7-b5 whereupon this knight is bound to land on a3. But what about White's possible K-side offensive? If White's K-side attack should come first, then most of Black's pieces would be found too far away and unable to assist their attacked king. Instead of being cautious with moves like 21...Nh7 or 21...Qc6 (bringing Black's Q closer to the threatened flank), Geller decided to throw caution to the wind and played 21...Na3??, which turned out to be the decisive mistake. After 22.Qh4! it became clear that White's K-side attack would come much faster than Geller probably had expected. Thus we witnessed the same old story of a king being merciless threatened, while most of his pieces were far away in Siberia and unable to come back in time to be of any assistance in the defence of their attacked king.

Feb-16-21  Gaito: Efim Geller is one of my personal chess heros. I have made a deep study of many of his best games, and some of them I have even commented as a kibitzer in this site: chessgames dot com. He was exceedingly strong in some aspects of chess, e.g. in the art of preparing and executing a dirct attack against an unclastled king and also against a castled king. I have noticed, however, that in some other aspects of chess he was way less strong, and his Achiless' heel, as it were, was that he was comparatively weak in the art of defense. As far as the handling of endgames is concerned Geller was not too strong (at least not as strong as Korchnoi, for example). But several of Geller's most famous losses went in similar lines as in this game vs. Spassky. One example that comes to my mind now was the 8th match game against Paul Keres in 1962. See the following diagram:

click for larger view

Notice the similarity with the game Spassky vs. Geller: White (Keres) had previously sacrificed a piece for two pawns and some real chances of attack on the K-side, but we observe that three or four of Black's pieces are scattered very far away from the defense of his threatened king; and particularly useless is the Black knight on a5. Moreover, Black's bishop on b7 is (to use Capablanca's words related to another game) "posted on a square that would be good if attacking but useless if defending". I find a striking resemblance with the game Spassky vs. Geller: White (Keres) has a free hand on the K-side while a number of Black's pieces are far away on vacation in Siberia, without any chance to come back and help his king. The game ended as follows: 23.Rd3! Bd6 24.f4! Qh8 24.Qg4 Bc5+ 25.Kh1 Rc7 (too little, too late) 26.Bh7 double check! Kf7 27.Qe6+ Kg7 28. Rg3+, and mate next move. 1-0. You can see the game in this link:
Keres vs Geller, 1962

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