08 October 2013

Fischer's Middlegame : Isolating Pieces

Let's return to Fischer's Middlegame one more time to look at a point which mystified me. The Soviet authors of 'Fischer's play: An analysis' wrote,

7. Typical of Fischer is a flair for isolating his opponent's pieces from the battlefield. [ala Capablanca]

along with giving a few concrete examples, including one Capablanca game. Since this was a concept I hadn't encountered before, I decided to take a closer look. The first example from Fischer's games is one I've discussed in the past: Portisch - Fischer, Santa Monica 1966 and Watch Out for 'Etc.'. It was annotated at different times by Fischer, Portisch, and Kasparov; see those two posts for references.

The top diagram shows the best known position from the game. Portisch played 14.Qxa8, to which Kasparov gave a '?' and commented,

Portisch is seduced by the traditional evaluation 'two Rooks are stronger than a Queen'. But in the given instance it is just the opposite: the more numerous White army is unable to achieve coordination!

The italics are mine and are meant to highlight a phrase that corresponds to 'isolating pieces from the battlefield'. In other words, isolated pieces are uncoordinated pieces, and vice versa. (*) The game continued a few more moves before reaching the bottom diagram.

Portisch - Fischer, Santa Monica 1966

Here we see what the commentators mean by isolated / uncoordinated pieces. The White pieces are unable to whip up any threats and are ultimately overwhelmed in the endgame.

There is an unusual angle to this instructive example. The Capablanca game (documented in the aforementioned 'Fischer's Middlegame' post) appears to have little to do with this topic. It was a rather poorly played game by Capablanca. His opponent, William Winter, overlooked a winning move, blundered instead, and resigned immediately. It's not the sort of game one uses to illustrate an important positional theme. I wonder if the Soviet authors of 'Fischer's play' mixed it up with another Winter - Capablanca game, William Winter vs Jose Raul Capablanca; Ramsgate 1929. That game, although I didn't take the time to analyze it any depth, has distinct similarities to the Portisch - Fischer game.


(*) Kasparov considered that Portisch was 'seduced by the traditional evaluation', but Portisch wrote,

White has no compensation for the doubled Pawn and he is condemned to passive defense. Therefore I decided to give up my Queen for the Rooks in a hope to save the game, which nearly succeeded.

He knew he wasn't gaining material -- he was sacrificing material.

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