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Boris Spassky vs Robert Byrne
Spassky - Byrne Candidates Quarterfinal (1974), San Juan PUR, rd 6, Jan-28
Sicilian Defense: Canal Attack. Main Line (B52)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Oct-29-08  Nietzowitsch: If you havent a clue whats going on you shouldnt call it <a strategic masterpiece>.
Oct-29-08  Riverbeast: Why Byrne would willingly trade all the pieces, and enter a bishop ending with all his pawns fixed on the same color as his bishop, is beyond me.

Isn't this the first principle every child is taught (NOT to do) in endgames?

I don't think this is a strategic masterpiece, because Spassky's winning plan was obvious...Byrne just sleepwalked into a dead lost endgame.

But every game Byrne played in this candidates match was weak - and not just weak chess, but weak hearted...He basically just lay down and let Spassky walk all over him...Then resigned the match before it was even over!

Oct-29-08  AnalyzeThis: The bad bishop ending is death when you're up against a knight, but a lot of times, you can hold it anyway when it's bishop vs. bishop if you can keep the opponent's king out. Spassky here was able to use his far advanced queenside pawns for tactical reasons, and that was the deciding factor.
Oct-30-08  Chessdreamer: Robert Byrne: "I wanted to play 26 ...g5 and I don't know why I didn't."
Jan-21-09  Peter Nemenyi: <Then resigned the match before it was even over!>

This is simply wrong. Three wins were required to win the match and Spassky recorded three, in six games played. Byrne lost badly but he didn't run away.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Mateo: Interesting Bishop ending.

24. a4! <With the idea Bd2, a5-a6 and Ba5.> Be7 25. Ke2 Kf7 26. Bd2 f5 27. exf5 gxf5 28. Kd3 Bf6 29. f3 h5 30. a5 Ke8 31. a6! <threatens Ba5.> Kd7 32. g3 <32.Ba5 Kc7!.> Kc7 33. h3 Kd7 34. Ba5 <threatens Bxb6.> Kc8 <34...bxa5?? 35.b6!, White wins.> 35. Be1 Kd7 36. Bf2 Ke8 37. Be1 Kf7? <A mistake.> 38. Bb4 Be7 <38...Ke7 39.Ba5! bxa5 40.b6!, White wins.> 39. f4 exf4 <39...Kf6 40.fxe5 dxe5 (40...Kxe5 41.Bd2 followed by Bf4+) 41.Bxe7+ Kxe7 42.c5! bxc5 43.b6! axb6 44.a7, White wins.> 40. gxf4 Ke8 41. Kxd4 Kd7 42. Kd3 <At first glance, it looks drawish since White cannot use his queen side majority. White will have to sac the ā€˜cā€™ pawn to make some progress.> Kc7 43. Ke3 Bf6 44. Kf3 h4 45. Ke3 Bg7 46. Kd3 Bf6 47. Bd2 Kd7 48. Be3 <Threatens Bxb6.> Kc7 49. Bf2 Kc8 50. c5! dxc5 <50...bxc5 51.Be1 followed by Ba5 and b6 wins too.> 51. d6 Kd7 52. Bxc5! <threatens Bxb6.> Bd8 <52...bxc5 53.b6!.> 53. Bb4 Ke6 54. Kc4 Bf6 55. Bc5! Bd8 <55...bxc5 56.b6!.> 56. Bd4! Kxd6 57. Be5+ Ke6 58. Bb8 Kd7 59. Kd5 1-0

Jun-17-09  Riverbeast: Good annotations <Mateo>

It is an interesting ending, and instructive....Winning themes like this in bishop endings occur relatively frequently

Premium Chessgames Member
  ajk68: Spassky creates a good-bishop bad-bishop endgame. It was clear he emerged with a superior position, but then 31. a6! seemed like such a mistake to me. I didn't see how he would ever break open the position. Then as I followed the game, it becomes clear that was a critical move.

I've learned a lot from this game.
Initially, black's king is tied down to the corner. Black's bishop needs to return to b8 to free his king. But white's active king or bishop will capture the h-pawn before black can hand off defensive assignments.

When black is about ready to set up a workable defense, 42. c5! changes the entire position.

I'm curious to analyze whether the game was lost as early as move 22, or if there was a mistake after move 22 that sealed it.

A strategic-positional masterpiece!

Jun-17-09  DWINS: Say what you want about Byrne's play in this game, but it was a dead draw.

<Chessdreamer> is correct. Byrne wanted to play 26...g5 drawing, but for whatever reason changed his mind. Bobby Fischer pointed out that 26...Bd8 draws also.

Jun-17-09  WhiteRook48: this was the most unlikely matchup I would have thought of
Jun-17-09  DWINS: Why <WhiteRook48>? Byrne was a solid top 15 player at the time and was playing some excellent chess.

Nobody expected him to beat Spassky, but as Boris said, "Byrne is not here by accident".

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: I thought Byrne traded off the pieces because he was getting the mobile pawn center, his pawn were linked up for a drive, but Spassky's extra pawn was a backward pawn. We've all lost games with white in this kind of position.

Tradiing pawns on the queenside gives Spassky the initiative, so Byrne avoided the pawn exchanges. But by allowing the deep pawn chain, Byrne had to constantly watch for a sacrifice to create a passed pawn. So he lost one of his nice center pawns, as a result of this. It does seem like a position a grandmaster would not allow.

In an interview, Spassky said he became world champion because "I was very strong in the middle game." I can believe it.

Jun-17-09  AnalyzeThis: Very strong, yes. And a universal style, meaning he could outplay anybody in any type of game. That was Spassky when he was at his best.
Dec-30-09  M.D. Wilson: Yes, Spassky considered himself the best middlegame player in the world for some time before and during his Title bouts with Petrosian.
Sep-05-14  Petrosianic: <Say what you want about Byrne's play in this game, but it was a dead draw.>

It was a draw up to Move 26 (not dead exactly, as Byrne showed). But the game continued long after that. Byrne was lost at adjournment, though he wasn't sure about that until just before the resumption.

is correct. Byrne wanted to play 26...g5 drawing, but for whatever reason changed his mind.

<Bobby Fischer pointed out that 26...Bd8 draws also.>

Yes, according to Byrne's book on the Candidates, Fischer did suggest that. It's kind of a vapid suggestion though, as lots of moves draw. Bf8 draws. Kg7 draws. And so on. What gets him in trouble is the alterations to the pawn structure caused by f5.

As for why Byrne didn't play g5, he was probably thinking in terms of putting his pawns on the opposite colour square of his bishop. Normally, that's a sound principle, but wasn't good here, owing to how it weakened the d4 pawn.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Petrosianic: As for why Byrne didn't play g5, he was probably thinking in terms of putting his pawns on the opposite colour square of his bishop. Normally, that's a sound principle....>

Recall seeing two exceptions in my youth which were seminal learning moments: the first came from Pachman's <Modern Chess Strategy>, in which a strong master played the move ....f7-f6, removing a pawn from the light squares in an ending with White the possessor of rook and light-squared bishop vs R+N, but which turned out to be a clear strategic error, as the move served only to increase the range of the bishop.

The second was, I believe, in one of Korchnoi's matches on the way to his 1978 match with Karpov, in which one player, in a bishop ending, placed pawns on the same colour as the bishop, the key being that in defence, to do so was not necessarily a handicap; rather, it could help matters.

Sep-05-14  Petrosianic: Yeah, it varies. If you're trying to create a fortress-like position, sometimes it can be good to have pawns on the same color squares as your Bishop. For passive, blanket defense you might want it that way.

For a more active defense, you usually want it the other way, though. for example, look at this game and imagine that Byrne did play 26... g5. Now, imagine that his Bishop is on d7 instead of e7. This is much better for him because his pawns cover the Black squares, while his Bishop guards against infiltrations on the white ones. Black could probably park his King on g6, move the bishop back and forth on the c8-h3 diagonal, and draw with no effort at all. With the Bishop on Black squares, it's harder, but not too hard in this position, because the Black King can guard against infiltrations adequately, while the bishop is still good for losing tempos when you want to (and it guards adequately against those pesky Bishop sacrifice threats that Spassky set up by moving the a pawn to a6.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: In 1977, I played into this variation in a crucial last-round game and got ground down. Never again, I saith!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: I would not play 5..e5 here. Spassky rightly goes q-side with the b4-pawn push rather than preparing f4. Why? Because playing f4 wakes up Black's sleeping DSB.

This is why another option for Black is <9..a5>, holding up White's q-side play, and only then determine where his king's knight goes.

Just my opinion. I am not exceptionally strong but I play these structures a lot.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Everett> The cheeky pawn snatch 5....Qg4 was played in Browne vs Quinteros, 1974. As this was the penultimate round at Wijk aan Zee and news travelled far more slowly in those days, who knows whether anyone in San Juan even knew of this game, which had to have been played mere days before the game under discussion?

If Black (rightly, in my opinion) opts to avoid the binding 5....e5, in view of theory at the time, he had to allow d4, when his opponent gets a nice Maroczy bind without the dark-squared bishops. Theory and practice appear to take a different view of such things nowadays, but there was a bit more dogma regarding that sort of stuff then.

At move nine, Byrne could ascertain that, in the long run, he could not deter the break with b4 anyway, as with analogous variations of the Symmetrical English, so why create a further queenside weakness?

Do forgive my rambling--happens now and again when I am not feeling particularly clear-headed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: <If Black (rightly, in my opinion) opts to avoid the binding 5....e5, in view of theory at the time, he had to allow d4, when his opponent gets a nice Maroczy bind without the dark-squared bishops. Theory and practice appear to take a different view of such things nowadays, but there was a bit more dogma regarding that sort of stuff then.>

Yes, the LSBs are exchanged, and Black could have played either a hedgehog or dragon formation for a more solid game. 5..e5 does not honor the remaining minors. If, say, White had two bishops and one knight, ..e5 could work, because he could limit two minors with the locked structure.

You're right about 9..a5 being a bad idea. 10.Nd5 already is super annoying. More proof that this line is terrible for Black. Perhaps an immediate 9..f5?!

Black needs to create something...

Premium Chessgames Member
  GIAaron: I could be wrong, but maybe 50...bc draws.
I can't get White to win any of the lines which result from an eventual b6, followed by trading the h4 pawn for the f4 pawn. I could be missing something, of course.

Does anyone know any way White can force a win there?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <GIAaron: I could be wrong, but maybe 50...bc draws>

If 50...bxc5, then 51.Be1 with intention 52.Ba5. One possible line is 50....bxc5 51.Be1 Kb8 52.Ba5 Kc8 53.Kd2 (with intention to pass the move to black) 53...Bd4 54.Ke2 Bf6 55.Kd3 Bd4 (or 55...Kb8 56.Kc4 Kc8 57.b6 axb6 58.Bxb6 Kb8 59.Kb5 Be7 60.Kc6 Bf8 61.Kd7 c4 62.Bd4 +-) 56.Bd8! (of course, the Bishop cannot be taken for 57.b6 +-) 56...Bf2 57.Be7 Kc7 58.Kc4 Bd4 59.Bxd6+ Kxd6 60.b6 and the game is over.

Aug-25-21  Helios727: Given that Fischer said 26...Bd8 would draw, does that mean he was in communication with Byrne during this match?
Aug-25-21  RookFile: It's possible that Fischer still remembered how the pieces moved and played over this game for his own amusement. I highly doubt that he agreed to be Byrne's unofficial second for this match or had any communication with him.
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