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Boris Spassky vs Viktor Korchnoi
Korchnoi - Spassky Candidates Final (1977/78), Belgrade YUG, rd 12, Dec-26
French Defense: Winawer. Poisoned Pawn Variation General (C18)  ·  1-0



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Given 5 times; par: 44 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-15-03  drukenknight: dont be so quick to castle k side in this, you dont see white hastening to castle do you? here spassky gives lessons in how to attack this as white.
Feb-20-03  drunknight II: More winawer follow up: this is one of the most interesting of the winawers I looked at.okay maybe I was a little harsch on black. It looks like Korchnoi is blown out of the water but somehow he fights back.

Look at the trouble spots on d4/e5. Rooks and Queens continue to land here and find they are pinneed. It seems to have been started by black trying to sack the N on f5.

some suggestions: what about 15 Bf4 creating another pin on the Q?

17...Nxg4. The N is in danger of losing touch with the game if he sits there for long, this move gets him back into the game. Black is ahead in material at this pt. He has 3 more connected pawns, hmmm a N is worth 3 pts. So sacking the N and breaking up 3 pawns is an = trade for me. When ahead try to exchange. this I think would help black.

28....Bf3 might be better to protect the pawn on d5. im not sure that black needs to grab that pawn just yet. game looks close to equality,so maybe either way.

30...Rc8 31 Qd4 Re1 does this give white more trouble. He is still having trouble with hot spots in the middle.

at the end: 39...Kg8 to break the pin on the h pawn. I dont know if this saves the game but I dont see the win either.

All in all its a fun game, I think black may have just lost it at the end.

Dec-16-03  reekingskunk: 17. Bf4?? Nxd3! (Nxf2ch followed by Nxh3)
Dec-16-03  druid: Why did black resign while up a pawn? I thought there might be some clever winning line for white, but Crafty (eval -1.19, depth 17 ply, 2500M nodes) can't find it even after several hours of thinking.
Dec-16-03  excmo: black lost on time
Dec-16-03  crafty: 41. ♔a2 ♕xg5 42. ♕f2 ♔g8 43. ♖f3 ♖d8   (eval -0.86; depth 14 ply; 1000M nodes)
Dec-16-03  Brian Watson: After 41.g6, white has several threats, but it's difficult to calculate concrete variations b/c white has to move his king out of the pin. For example 41.g6 ~ 42.Ka2 threatens Rf7; 41.g6 ~ 42.Ka2 ~ 43.R(2)f2 threatens Rf8+ or Qxh3 plus gxh7 (and black can't recapture with the queen due to Rh6, so presumably that leads to a won game). Black has at his disposal defensive moves like Rc7, Kg8, h6. In my attempts to calculate variations, white wins both black pawns on the h-file, and keeps his g-pawn.
Dec-16-03  Brian Watson: posted that last comment before excmo's and crafty's comments appeared on my screen -- obviously I'm missing something.
Dec-17-03  Brian Watson: 41.g6 Rf8?? fails to 42.Qxh7+ Qxh7 43.Rxf8+
but I missed that of course 41.g6 Rc6 works
Premium Chessgames Member
  Eggman:, according to the book "Korchnoi's Chess Games", this game ended after White's 38th move (38.Qh4). The remaining moves, 38...Bf7 39.Rd2 Bxb3 40.cxb3 Rc5, are simply provided as a continuation with which Black could have obtained a winning advantage.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A really wild game. I believe this was the first important game that Korchnoi ever lost with the French. Both players played very well in a wide open position.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: 37.Rd8 looks like an immediate and nice K.O. here.

click for larger view

White threatens to exploit "discovered" pin on long diagonal by Rf8+ and I see no satisfactory defence against it. If 37...Rc8, then 38.Rd7 and the game is over. Also 37...h6 does not help for 38.Rxe8+ Bxe8 39.Rxh6#.

Jun-17-08  Granny O Doul: Yes, Rd8 was winning for White at either 37 or 38. This was pointed out in Chess Life mag by both Keene and Gligoric.
May-31-11  Ulhumbrus: An alternative to 13 g4 is 13 ef gf 14 g4 eg 14...Nf5xd4 15 Nxd4 Nxd4 16 g5 f5 17 Bb2 e5 18 f4 attacking the black squares

An alternative to 23 Qe3 is 23 f4 preventing 23...Rf3 as in the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Spassky could not quite finish his ideas off in this match.

As noted, he missed 37 Rd8 Rc8 39 Rd7 What did he miss? Perhaps in time trouble 39...Re4 looks threatening, when the Queen cannot move without losing the rook on d7

click for larger view

But 40 Rf8+! Rxf8 41 Qxg7# succeeds, as do all lines after 37 Rd8

Oct-17-14  DWINS: Spassky finally got a favorable position against the French Defense for the first time in the match, but messed it up (missing a mate), and then managed to win when Korchnoi overstepped the time limit.

Korchnoi ripped off a center pawn with 14...Nxe5, relying on 15.gxf5 Nxd3 16.cxd3 Qc3 17.Ra2 exf5 to yield him an overwhelming counterattack. Another point of his ingenious piece sacrifice was that 15.Bf4? Nxd3 16.Bxc7 Nxf2+ 17.Ke2 Nxh3 18.gxf5 Rxf5 would have put Black three pawns ahead.

Spassky gave up a second pawn with 19.g5, preparing to punish its acceptance by 19...hxg5 20.Rg1 Rf7 21.Rxg5+ Kh8 22.Qg4 Rg7 23.Qd4! which Stockfish 5 evaluates as (1.48).

Korchnoi prevented the opening of lines against his king with 19...e5 20.Qg3 h5, paying the one-pawn price to 21.Rxe5.

Note that Korchnoi could not play 22...Rf3?? because of 23.Re8+, winning the queen. His alternative, 22...Qg7? was a mistake however. Stockfish 5 gives 22...Rac8 23.Rb3 Qg7 24.Qe3 Rxf2 25.Rxb7 Rfxc2+ 26.Bxc2 Qxb7 27.Re8+ Kf7 28.Rxc8 Bxc8 which only gives Spassky a small advantage (0.57).

One mistake led to another and instead of playing 23...Rxf2 (1.23), Korchnoi's 23...Rf3? should have been followed by 24.Re7 Rf7 25.Rbxb7 (2.87).

Note that in the game continuation, 24...Rd8, 25.Be4 Rxf2! 26.Bxd5+ Kh8 27.Rxb7? fails against 27...Rf1+!

Spassky blundered badly with 27.h3?? giving Korchnoi a winning position after 27...Rf1+, instead of playing 27.Bxd5+ Kh8 28.Re7 Qxd4 29.Rxd4 which Stockfish 5 evaluates as (0.91).

Korchnoi returned the favor by allowing Spassky to equalize after 28...Bxh3?, instead of playing 28...Rd1 29.Bd3 Bxh3 (-1.23).

The ping pong game of errors continued with Spassky missing a chance to equalize with 30.Re7 Qxd4+ 31.Rxd4 Rff8 32.Rxa7 Bg2 33.c4 Bxd5 34.cxd5 Rd6 and Korchnoi failing to maintain his advantage by 34...b5 35.Rxf8+ Rxf8 36.Rxb5 Qxc3+ 37.Kxc3 h4 (-0.82).

Korchnoi could have maintained equality with 36...Rce7 37.Rd8 Rxd8 38.Qxd8+ Re8, but instead cracked with the horrendous 36...h4??? most likely due to time pressure. Spassky, who must have been in terrible time pressure also, missed the killing 37.Rd8!! Re7 38.Rf8+ Rxf8 39.Rxf8#

No other defense would have held up either, for example: 37...Rc8 38.Rd7! Rxc4 39.Rf8+ Rxf8 40.Qxg7# or 37...h6 38.Rxe8+ Bxe8 39.Rxh6#

Instead Spassky's 37.Bb3??? should have allowed Korchnoi to equalize with 37...Rce7, but Korchnoi's 37...h3??? gave Spassky another chance to mate with 38.Rd8. Not only did he miss that, but his 38.Qh4?? should have given Korchnoi a possibly winning game after 38...Bf7 39.Rd2 Bxb3 40.Kxb3 Rec8 41.Qxh3 Qxg5. However, his flag fell before he was able to make his 38th move.

Clearly, extreme time pressure was to blame for the sloppy play in this game, but it's an enjoyable game to play through nonetheless.

Premium Chessgames Member
  uriel76: Not for the first time really for the second one i mean spassky got the advantage
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: If you like the pin tactic, you will love this game! Pins galore!
Premium Chessgames Member
  thegoodanarchist: Also, I have pointed out numerous times, unless you are Magnus Carlsen, if you castle first in the French, before your opponent does, it is almost impossible to win. In fact, you will likely lose.

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