Aleksei Suetin analyzes Bobby Fischer's games prior to the Spassky match. Part 2

Aleksei Suetin analyzes Bobby Fischer's games prior to the Spassky match. Part 2

Mar 8, 2019, 2:27 PM |

Continued from Part 1 - Openings


Not only openings

We can surely say that Fischer, especially in the last few years, gives much more thought to the decisive parts of chess games, both in playing and training. No matter how polished is your opening play, the games are always decided in the middlegame and endgame, and Fischer prepares himself especially well for them.

It's not a coincidence that he was not discouraged by the opening hardships he faced in the 1st and 3rd games of the Taimanov match. Most likely, in addition to his ambitions and improvising skills, preparation helped him too: I think that while preparing to the opening system that occured in these games, he'd looked through a lot of various middlegame positions that occurred.

The same thing is indicated by Fischer's interest to a forgotten Steinitz variant in the Two Knights defence: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Be2 h6 9. Nh3!? (see game 45 in My 60 Memorable Games).

Why did this variant attract Fischer? He understood that despite the broken kingside pawn structure, the subsequent middlegame was going to be quiet, and White would be able to organize serious queenside pressure. Of course, it wasn't easy to see that.

Concreteness of the strategy

Fischer as a strategist is very realistic. His plans, his strategical ideas are never baseless, they are always real; they are realized by the position's tactical resources. As he makes a positional decision, he's looking at the tactical opportunities. Here's an example.

To blend strategy and tactics so skilfully, one has to be, among other things, a good tactician. Fischer has a great combinational vision. His combinations have a distinctive "taste", reminding in a way of Capablanca's brilliant petite combinations.

Let's look at another easy, but pretty combination.


Fischer is a very active player. This quality in and of itself isn't rare among the leading grandmasters, but Fischer is gifted especially generously. Even when his partner puts him under pressure, when difficult defence is necessary, he never forgets about counterplay. Like a genie in the bottle waiting for the first opportunity to break free, Fischer is always ready for the "jump". Let's cite the first and third games against Taimanov as an example again, and then let's look at another game against the same opponent, where Fischer's prospects weren't looking too good from the outset.

No compromises

Another Fischer's quality that closely ties with activity is his desire to fight until the last chance. Even in simple positions you have to be very careful against Fischer.

Another great example of endgame technique.

Taimanov's and Larsen's misadventures were caused, among other things, by underestimating Fischer's fighting qualities, especially in the heat of the struggle.

In the 5th game, Larsen (Black) successfully used a relatively new opening system and equalized in the middlegame. But in the moment when the draw seemed inavoidable, Larsen stopped understanding the position and started to play for a win - completely baselessly.

When the plan is clear

Specialists consider Fischer's crystal clarity of plans and (possibly as a consequence of that) the subtlest technique of advantage conversion one of his main distinctive qualities. Indeed, Fischer plays very easily and confidently in a lot of positions with a clear plan.

This position occurred in the seventh game of the Fischer - Petrosian match. Fischer considers this game his best in the match.

Endgame technique

Some readers will perhaps object against such a quick "endgame transposition". Endgame analysis usually signifies that the end of a player's profile is near. However, in Fischer's games, transposing into a complicated endgame is an often-used method which is very natural for his strategy. However, he only uses it if his ending prospects are better. Even if this advantage is minimal, but the opponent has no counterplay, Fischer is always ready to fight in the simplified position. By the way, this is directly connected with Fischer's aforementioned love for clearly-defined positions discussed above.

A memorable example is his fourth game against Taimanov, thought by everyone to be the best one in the match. Fischer played White.

It's hard to find a single example where Fischer in a better endgame squandered his advantage and didn't convert it into a win. He's won a number of subtle endgames. Fisher is dangerous even in theoretically drawn situations if he has some advantage (like with Geller in Palma de Mallorca 1970).

Worse endings are very rare in Fischer's games. But he's rather tenacious in them, as shown by his games against Korchnoi and Brown in Zagreb - we'll get to them quite soon.

Of course, this does not mean that Fischer's endgame technique is perfect. He's much less sure of himself if the partner has some counterplay, counter-threats. Sometimes he makes mistakes in home analysis of even the most important games (for instance, in the second game of the Taimanov match or in the round 2 of the Match of the Century against Petrosian).

Still, playing in well-defined positions and endgame technique, especially when converting advantage, is one of Fischer's strongest suits.

The art of defence

We've already said that Fischer gets roughly equal high results with both White and Black in the recent years. This, of course, can be explained with a very sharp opening repertoire for Black. But both in the opening and in the later stages the main thing for him is counterplay, counterattack, counterpush.

Fischer can recapture initiative even in the most difficult positions. As soon as his opponent makes the smallest mistake, the "genie" breaks free from his bottle.

Let's look at two fragments. The first one is from Fischer's chess childhood.

Another fragment shows the same quality of Fischer, but in the heyday of his chess youth.

In the later years, Fischer has relatively rarely been on the edge of defeat. His methods of defence are still the same. In a worse position, he seizes any opportunity to cause complications, sometimes even "rushing headlong" into them. Not coincidentally, Fischer's favourite measure against a direct attack on his piece is counterattacking another piece.

The following examples are quite telling.

Fischer's reckless playing led to big trouble against Matulovic in Palma de Mallorca.

Fischer also got a very difficult position against Portisch in Siegen 1970.

Despite such an obvious love for counterplay, Fischer is also adept at passive, long defence if the position requires. That's how he managed to save the games with Korchnoi and Brown in Zagreb.

Fischer's position against Brown was even harder.

However, White had a study-like win. Try to find it for yourself!

To be concluded in Part 3.