Weekly Article: The Game of the Century

Weekly Article: The Game of the Century

Sep 24, 2011, 12:06 AM |

The Game of the Century: Week 7  -  September 23, 2011

The Game of the Century was played on October 17, 1956 between Donald Byrne and Bobby Fischer. 
At that time, Donald Byrne was one of the leading chess masters in the U.S. He played in the 1962 Olympiads. This was the same year he first became an International Master. 
Here is the game, itself, annotated [courtesy of chessgames.com]:

Game Analysis - Wikipedia

1. Nf3

A noncommittal move by Byrne. From here, the game can develop into a number of different openings.

1... Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7

Fischer defends based on "hypermodern" principles, inviting Byrne to establish a classical pawn stronghold in the center, which Fischer intends to target and undermine with his fianchettoed bishop and other pieces.


4. d4 0-0

Fischer castles, bringing his king to safety. The Black move 4...d5 would have reached the Grunfeld Defense immediately. After Fischer's 4...0-0, Byrne could have played 5.e4, whereupon 5...d6 6.Be2 e5 reaches the main line of the King's Indian Defense.


5. Bf4 d5

The game has now transposed to the Grünfeld Defence (5.Bf4, D92), usually initiated by 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5.


6. Qb3

A form of the so-called Russian System (the usual move order is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3), putting pressure on Fischer's central d5 pawn.


6... dxc4

Fischer relinquishes his center, but draws Byrne's queen to a square where it is a little exposed and can be attacked.


7. Qxc4 c6

Also possible is the more aggressive 7...Na6 (the Prins Variation), preparing ...c5 to challenge White's center.


8. e4 Nbd7

In later games, Black played the more active 8...b5 followed by 9...Qa5. An example is Bisguier - Benko, U.S. Championship 1963–64. Fischer's choice is a little slow, although one would not guess that from the subsequent play.


9. Rd1 Nb6 10. Qc5

An awkward square for the queen, which leaves it exposed to a possible ...Na4 or ...Ne4, as Fischer brilliantly demonstrates. Since both of those squares are protected by Byrne's knight on c3, he understandably did not appreciate the danger. 10.Qb3 would have left the queen better placed, although it would have invited further harassment with 10...Be6.


10... Bg4

Byrne's pawns control the center squares. However, Fischer is ahead in piece development and has castled, while Byrne's king is still in the center. These factors would not have been very significant had Byrne attended to his development on his next move.


11. Bg5?

Byrne errs, moving the bishop a second time instead of completing his development. Burgess, Nunn and Emms, as well as Wade and O'Connell, suggest 11.Be2, protecting the king and preparing king - side castling. Flear–Morris, Dublin 1991, continued 11.Be2 Nfd7 12.Qa3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 e5 14.dxe5 Qe8 15.Be2 Nxe5 16.0-0 and White was slightly better. Byrne doubtless thought that Black's slight lead in development would be transitory, not anticipating the maelstrom that his young opponent now initiates.


11... Na4!!

"One of the most powerful moves of all time." [Jonathan Rowson] Fischer offers an ingenious knight sacrifice. If Byrne plays 12.Nxa4, Fischer will play Nxe4, leaving Byrne with some terrible choices:
  • 13.Qxe7 Qa5+ 14.b4 Qxa4 15.Qxe4 Rfe8 16.Be7 Bxf3 17.gxf3 Bf8 produces a deadly pin;
  • 13.Bxe7 Nxc5 14.Bxd8 Nxa4 15.Bg5 Bxf3 16.gxf3 Nxb2 gives Fischer an extra pawn and ruins Byrne's pawn structure;
  • 13.Qc1 Qa5+ 14.Nc3 Bxf3 15.gxf3 Nxg5 regains the sacrificed piece with a better position and extra pawn;
  • 13.Qb4 Nxg5 14.Nxg5 Bxd1 15.Kxd1 Bxd4 16.Qd2 Bxf2 with a winning material advantage (Fischer).


12. Qa3 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Nxe4!

Fischer again offers material in order to open the e-file and get at White's uncastled king.


14. Bxe7 Qb6 15. Bc4

Byrne wisely declines the offered material. If 15.Bxf8 Bxf8 16.Qb3, Fischer analyzes 16...Nxc3! 17.Qxb6 (17.Qxc3?? Bb4 wins the queen) axb6 18.Ra1 Re8+ 19.Kd2 Ne4+ 20.Kc2 Nxf2 21.Rg1 Bf5+, which he considers winning for Black. Also strong is 16...Re8 17.Qxb6 (17.Be2 Nxc3!) axb6 18.Be2 Nxc3 19.Rd2 Bb4 20.Kf1 Ne4 21.Rb2 Bc3 22.Rc2 Nd2+! 23.Kg1 (23.Nxd2 Bxe2+ 24.Kg1 Bd3! 25.Rc1 Bxd2 leaves Black with a winning material advantage) Rxe2 24.Rxc3 Nxf3+ 25.gxf3 Bh3 26.Rc1 Rxa2 leaving White absolutely paralyzed.

15... Nxc3!

Now if 16.Qxc3, Rfe8 pins the bishop to White's king, thus regaining the sacrificed piece with an extra pawn.


16. Bc5 Rfe8+ 17. Kf1

Byrne threatens Fischer's queen; Fischer brings his rook into play, misplacing Byrne's king. Now Fischer's pyrotechnics seem to be at an end. Surely he must save his queen, whereupon White can play 18.Qxc3, with a winning material advantage.


17... Be6!!

This stunning resource is the move that made this game famous. Instead of saving his queen, Fischer offers to sacrifice it. Fischer pointed out that 17...Nb5? loses to 18.Bxf7+ Kxf7 19.Qb3+ Be6 20.Ng5+ Kg8 21.Nxe6 Nxd4 22.Nxd4+ Qxb3 23.Nxb3.


18. Bxb6?

Byrne takes the offered queen, hoping to outplay his 13-year-old opponent in the ensuing complications. However, Fischer gets far too much for his queen, leaving Byrne with a hopeless game. The move 18.Bxe6 would have been even worse, leading to a smothered mate with 18...Qb5+ 19.Kg1 Ne2+ 20.Kf1 Ng3+ 21.Kg1 Qf1+! 22.Rxf1 Ne2#. White's 18.Qxc3 would have been met by 18...Qxc5! and if...

Read more at wikipedia.com! Thanks for reading!
~ CalbaMan