30 June 2009

An Ugly Positional Blunder

It's been three weeks since I last looked at Fischer - Reshevsky, Match 1961 (Game 5), and it's time to move on. I mentioned in my introduction to the game that there are many points where Kasparov was critical of the moves played in the game. The first such move occurred in the diagram. For me, the most striking aspect of the position is the Pawn on h4. Fischer explained it with, 'White has to create some Kingside threats before Black consolidates and piles up on the d-Pawn.'

Black played 16...Nd5. Kasparov gave the move '?!' and noted, 'A standard relieving maneuvre, but here it loses strength, since the g5-Bishop is defended by the h-Pawn. 16...Qd6 was better.'

1961 Match (game 5)
Fischer, Robert

Reshevsky, Samuel
(After 16.Ra1-c1)
[FEN "2rqr1k1/pb2bp1p/1pn1pnp1/6B1/3P3P/P1NQ1N2/1PB2PP1/2R1R1K1 b - - 0 16"]

The game continued 17.Ne4 f5. Fischer wrote, 'I knew this was an "ugly positional blunder", but I actually thought Black would get the better of it after 18.Nc3 Bxg5 19.hxg5 Nxc3 20.bxc3 Na5!, threatening ...Bxf3 and ...Qxg5.'

After Reshevsky's 18.Nc3, White's position is the same as in the diagram, while Black has made the moves ...Nd5 and ...f5, and is on move. Now there occurred 18...Bxg5 19.Nxg5, instead of 19.hxg5 as Fischer had assumed, 19...Nf4 20.Qe3, where Kasparov again assigned '?!' to White's last move..

This is one of those positions worthy of the title 'The Critical Moment'. Fischer gave 20.Qg3? Nh5 21.Qe3 Nxd4, but Kasparov demonstrated that both 22.Ba4 and the earlier 21.Qf3 are good for equality.

Instead of 20.Qe3 or 20.Qg3, Kasparov, taking an idea from Dvoretsky, showed that 20.Qf3 is the strongest move in the position. I won't repeat his copious analysis here, but Kasparov's opinion is

Only with the far from obvious 20.Qf3! was it possible to exploit the main defect of the 'ugly positional blunder' 17...f5?! -- the weakening of the Black King. Now, however, [after 20.Qe3] Black can take on d4 and a double-edged struggle develops.

Earlier, when discussing 17...f5, Kasparov gave the move '!?' and called it 'the best practical chance'. Indeed it was.

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