13 September 2011

'This Pawn Is Garbage'

I've played through a lot of great games annotated by a lot of great players, but one player who hasn't written much is Boris Spassky. His notes, along with those of most of the other players, are in the tournament book of the Second Piatigorsky Cup, Santa Monica 1966, which Spassky won, but I can't think of another source of his annotations. For this reason, it's a pleasure (a word he often uses himself) to listen to him explaining his moves in the 1982 edition of the BBC series that I've linked in Improve Your Chess with the Master Game.

One game that made a real impression on me was Torre - Spassky, played in round 2.1 of that event (see A 'Master Game' Lookalike, Second Attempt for a direct link to the YouTube video). The critical sequence starts at 14:12 into the clip, just after Torre has played 22.Ra1-a3. The image below shows the moment at which Spassky explained the position.

Spassky: My only chance is active play. I need a lot of oxygen here. I don't like the position of my Black Rook on h8. My Rook is just defending the Pawn on h6, but this Pawn is garbage. I give up this Pawn, it doesn't matter. I must do something in the center, intending to play Nd5 or Pd5. Anyway, the first move is good, so Rhc8. • [22...Rhc8]

In other words, the Rook guarding the weak Pawn is passively placed. Giving up the Pawn liberates the Rook for active play. It sounds simple when Spassky explains it.

Torre is oblivious to Black's plan.

Torre: He's attacking my c-Pawn again, but at the moment I can take on h6. If [23...Rxc3 24.Rxc3 Rxc3 25.Rxf6] winning back the Rook, then I will be a piece up. After Rxh6, maybe he can play ...d5. It doesn't matter. I can still play Nb1. Maybe he missed it or what. His last move he played quickly. Maybe he missed this move. I'll take the Pawn on h6. • [23.Rxh6]

Commentators: Spassky will be glad to see the end of the garbage. • There's this nice little tactical point that Torre has just seen. Spassky got rid of his garbage, but it remains to be seen who pays the garbage man.

Spassky: This Pawn is garbage. Now I have some activity. I'm satisfied with my position. I play ...d5. It seems to me a very strong move. • [23...d5]

Torre: As I was planning, I play Nb1 to protect the c-Pawn. • [24.Nb1]

Spassky: Oh, I'm so active just for one Pawn. Ooh! That's a very pleasant surprise for me... Ne4. • [24...Ne4]

Torre: Now he's threatening again my c-Pawn. I play Rb3. This was my intention. • [25.Rb3]

Spassky: That's a very logical move, because in case of [25...Nxc3+ 26.Nxc3 Rxc3 27.Rxb6] White has activity. First, it's very important for me to take the f3 square. My move ...g4 seems very logical. • [25...g4]

Commentators: Now we can begin to see the idea behind Spassky's jettisoning his Pawn on h6 earlier. The Pawn on c3 is under severe attack. The a-Pawn may become weak. Now he's trying to constrain the White King to stop it escaping to f3. He certainly got a strong initiative for the Pawn.

Torre: Ooh, this is very strong. I missed this when I played Rxh6 earlier. I feel I'm worse already. This is incredible. I wish I had played Kd3 instead of taking on h6. How can I miss ...g4? It looks very simple. I miss such simple moves. Unbelievable. I think my position is almost lost already. Missing one simple move and suddenly my position is quite lost. I'll just try to keep on fighting. Maybe I should try to make an early attack on f7. Maybe this is my only chance. • [26.Rh7]

Spassky went on to win in another 20 moves. If you want to play the game, here is the game score from Master Game PGN.

[Event "?"]
[Site "Hamburg-TV (1 h)"]
[Date "1982.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Torre E"]
[Black "Spassky B"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E13/09"]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 Bb7 7.e3 g5 8.Bg3 Ne4 9.Qc2 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 d6 11.Bd3 Nxg3 12.hxg3 Nd7 13.a4 a5 14.Be4 Bxe4 15.Qxe4 Ke7 16.Qc6 Nf6 17.Nd2 Qd7 18.Qb5 Qxb5 19.cxb5 Rac8 20.Ke2 c5 21.bxc6 Rxc6 22.Ra3 Rhc8 23.Rxh6 d5 24.Nb1 Ne4 25.Rb3 g4 26.Rh7 Kf6 27.Rh6+ Ke7 28.Rh7 R8c7 29.Kd3 Nxf2+ 30.Kc2 Ne4 31.Rg7 Nxg3 32.Rxg4 Ne4 33.Rg8 Rc4 34.Ra3 Rc8 35.Rxc8 Rxc8 36.Rb3 Rg8 37.Rxb6 Rxg2+ 38.Kb3 Re2 39.Rb5 Nd6 40.Rxa5 Nc4 41.Ra7+ Kf6 42.a5 Rb2+ 43.Ka4 Rxb1 44.a6 Nxe3 45.Rb7 Ra1+ 46.Kb5 Nc4 47.Rd7 Ra5+ 0-1

The game is also available on Chessgames.com...

Eugenio Torre vs Boris Spassky; Hamburg 1982

...although there is not yet any kibitzing.

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