Bernstein-Fischer, New York 0-1: Model Defensive Play
It was said of Mike Tyson that it's not his awesome punching power that made him so great in his prime, but rather his unbelievable defence.
Standing at 5 foot 10 (small for a heavyweight), Tyson in his prime was very difficult to hit, with this head movement allowing him to close the distance against much bigger men.
Bobby Fischer is all the rage this month, with "Pawn Sacrifice" hitting the big screen. I had purchased the Chessbase Masterclass DVD on Fischer, which inspired to undertake some training on Chessgames.com "Guess the Move" feature (I love it ... if only they could give some ranking to compare yourself to others).
This game against Bernstein made a great impression on me ... not for any spectacular combination, but rather the fantastic defensive display by Fischer. Often when I find myself having to defend against a ferocious attack, I crumble either by weakening myself through concessions or becoming too passive.
I appreciated the following lessons from this game, as a model defensive play.
1. After Fischer accepts the piece sacrifice, observe how he absorbs his opponent's attack by securing his position with moves like Re8, Bd8 and Bc8. Retreating into a shell and consolidating.
2. To defend, one needs to also be exceptional at tactics! Namely seeing your opponent's concrete threats and diffusing them.
3. Balancing the right moment to counterattack. Really it's the move 29. ... Be4 which lays that drop of poison to both defend and create your own counterthreats, which ultimately leads to White exchanging Queens and diffusing the situation.
Lesson One: Consolidating Defensively
I really like the calmness in defence. Whereas I'd consider returning the piece with 14. ... 0-0, impressive is how Fischer calmly absorbs the attack.
15. ... Re8 and impressively 17. ... Bc8 as he forsees that it's important to rid himself of the Knight on f5.
He doesn't panic (as I would) and immediately seek counter attack with say 17 ... Bxd5 which would just open the position with Black.
Lesson Two: Preparing Counterplay
20 ... Bf5 is outstanding to me! The drop of poison in threatening mate at c2 with a discovered check from the Knight.
Then calmly playing 21. ... Kh6 where White has no time to pursue the King, due to mate threats on his own.
My Annotations and Analysis