The King’s Gambit
Game 2: Spassky – Bronstein, 1960.
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5 4.exd5 Bd6
4…Nf6 is another idea. Instead of trying to hold onto the f4 pawn, Black attacks White’s centre and develops quickly.
5.Nc3 Nxd5 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 7.d4 Be7
(7…Bd6? 8.c4! Qe4+ 9.Kf2 Bf5 stopping Bd3 10.c5 Be7 11.Bb5+ c6 12.Bc4 Be6? (12…Bg4 is much better when 13.Re1 Bxf3 14.Qd2 Qf5 15.gxf3 still gives White the edge.) 13.Re1 Qg6 14.Bxe6 fxe6 15.Qb3 is winning for White (Schlechter – Mieses, 1903).)
- Qb3, Schlechter – Mieses, 1903
8.Be2 (8.c4 Qe4+ 9.Kf2 Bf5 and there’s no c5 with gain of time with the Bishop on e7.)
8…g5 9.0-0 allows White to start an attack.
Position after 4…Bd6
By protecting f4 with this Bishop, Black doesn’t have to weaken his Kingside with …g5.
5.Nc3 Ne7 6.d4 0-0 7.Bd3 Nd7 8.0-0 [The Greek Gift sac 8.Bxh7+ isn’t a real threat here as 8…Kxh7 9.Ng5+ Kg8 10.Qh5 Nf6 defends h7.]
8…h6 Unnecessary, Black can just play Nf6. [8…f5? 9.Ng5 Nf6 10.Bc4]
9.Ne4! Now Nf6 can’t be played without the tripling pawns and opening the King position but if Black can take on d5 he’ll be able to move a Knight to f6, right?
9…Nxd5 10.c4! Ne3 This is best.
Position after 10…Ne3
[10…N5f6 11.Nxd6 cxd6 12.Bxf4 gives White the Bishop pair and space and Black the weak d6 pawn 12…d5 13.c5]
11.Bxe3 fxe3 12.c5!
This stops Black from playing …c5 and pushes the Bishop back, restricting the Queen. [12.Nxd6 cxd6 13.Bc2 Re8 14.Qd3 Nf6 15.Rae1 Qa5! causes havoc on the Queenside.
16.a3 b5 17.cxb5 Bd7 18.a4 a6 19.bxa6! Qxa6 20.Qxa6 Rxa6 21.b3 Rc6 22.Bd1 Rc3 followed by Ne4]
12…Be7 13.Bc2 Re8 [13…Nf6 14.Nxf6+ Bxf6 15.Qd3 g6 16.Bb3 Bf5 17.Qxe3]
Position after 14…e2
to gain time by deflecting the Queen although White could just play Rfe1 or, better, Rf2 keeping his Rook on the semi-open f-file.
Position after 15. Nd6!!
“One of the deepest sacrifices this side of The Evergreen Game” – Soltis.
What is this? Spassky puts his Knight where it can be captured by either of 2 pieces and leaves his Rook threatened by capture, with promotion and check! What must have gone through Bronstein’s head when he saw this? Ok, let’s look at Black’s options.
We’ll start with 15…exf1Q+ even though Bronstein didn’t. 16.Rxf1 Now White has a threat of mate in 2 with Qh7+ and Qh8.
- a) ..cxd6?? 17. Qh7+ Kf8 18. Qh8#
- b) ..g6 17.Nxf7! Kxf7 else the Queen is lost (17…Ne5?! 18.N3xe5 still the Queen has nowhere to go as Qd5 is met by Qxg6+ 18…Bf5 19.Rxf5 Qd5 (19…Qc8 20.Nxh6+ Kh8 21.Rf7 mates.) 20.Bb3)
18.Qxg6+ Kf8 19.Qxh6+ Kg8 20.Bb3#
- c) ..Bxd6 17.Qh7+ Kf8
and now we must choose between Qh8+ and cxd6. By checking with the Queen first, we can capture the Bishop with check but our Queen will be under attack from the Re8, gaining Black some time. If we capture the Bishop first, we are threatening Qh8#. Let’s have a look at the lines:
c1) 18.Qh8+ Ke7 19.cxd6+ cxd6 20.Re1+ Ne5 (20…Kf6 21.Rxe8) 21.Qxg7 Rg8 22.Qxh6 Be6 23.dxe5 dxe5 24.Qh4+ (24.Ng5? Qd4+ 25.Kh1 Qf2 26.Rc1 Rac8) 24…Kf8 25.Qh6+ Rg7 26.Qh8+ Rg8 27.Qh6+ White has a perpetual.
Or if 19…Kxd6 20.Qxg7 Rg8 21.Qxh6+ Qf6
White is a Rook down, can he get at Black’s King enough to mate or give perpetual? Black has difficulties of his own, with his Ra8 and Bc8 out of the game. The King is in between 2 open files which the Rook can be brought to and White can control the squares around the King with his Bishop and Knight. Still, White has to make threats without allowing exchanges.
Here is a possible line: 22.Qe3 Qg7 23.g3 c6 24.Qf4+ Ke7 25.Bb3 a5 (to bring the Rook into play with a4 and Ra5) 26.Re1+ Kd8 (26…Kf8?? 27.Qd6#) 27.Bxf7 Rf8 28.Ng5 Qf6 29.Ne6+ Ke7 30.Ng5+) again with perpetual.
c2) 18. cxd6 With this move, we give Black less defensive options and an extra chance to go wrong. If he plays 18…cxd6 then 19. Qh8+ Ke7 is the same as c1.
However, if he tries to prevent the mate with 18…Nf6? he loses to 19.Qh8+ Ng8 20.Ne5
(20.Bh7? Qxd6 lets Black off the hook)
20…f6 21.Bh7 Be6 (Now, 21…Qxd6 fails to 22.Qxg8+ Ke7 23.Qxg7+ Kd8 (23…Ke6 24.Qf7#) 24.Nf7+)
Analysis: 22. d7!
22…Re7? 23.Bxg8 Bxg8 24.Rxf6+! gxf6 25.Qxf6+ Bf7 26.Ng6+ Kg8 27.Qh8#
Black doesn’t have better than 22…Bxa2 23.dxe8Q+ Qxe8 24.Bxg8 Bxg8 25.Rxf6+! gxf6 26.Qxf6+ Qf7 (26…Bf7 27.Ng6+ mates.) where White has material superiority and an easily won position.
When playing 15.Nd6!! Spassky must have seen plenty of ways in which he could win and believed, with the King’s defences smashed, he would have been able to bail out with a perpetual check if necessary. From Bronstein’s perspective, he would have been able to see the great danger and so looked for a different defence. Not many players would have dared expose their King to such an attack.
Garry Kasparov gave this move a !? as, objectively, it’s not the strongest – it only draws. However, the concept is brilliant!
15…Nf8 There is logic behind this move, defend against the mate and leave White with 2 pieces en prise. Over to you, Boris!
16.Nxf7! Having had both his Knight and Rook sacrifice turned down, Spassky offers them again, taking a part of the King’s defence away at the same time.
Position after 17. Rxf1
Of course recapturing with the Rook – it will attack along the f-file. Now White threatens the Queen so Black can either give up material, capture the Knight or move the Queen.
17…Qd5 is the best move, although you can understand Black not liking the look of 18.Bb3 Qxb3 19.axb3 (not 19.Qxb3 Be6) 19…Kxf7 20.Qc4+ Kg6 (20…Be6 21.Ng5+) 21.Qg8! (threatening Ne5+ Kh5, Qf7+) 21…Bf6 22.Nh4+! Bxh4 (22…Kh5 23.Qd5+ Kxh4 24.Rf4+ Bg4 25.g3+ Kh3 26.Qg2#) 23.Qf7+ Kh7 24.Qxe8 Ng6 25.Rf7
Analysis: 25. Rf7
and Black will lose more material. 25…b6? (25…Bf6 26.Rxf6 gxf6 27.Qf7+) 26.Qc6)
Or, 18. Bb3 Qh5 19.Nxh6+ Kh8 20.Nf7+ Kg8 21.Nd8+! Kh8 22.Ne5!
Analysis: 22. Ne5!
White has setup a windmill attack coupled with mating threats on g8.
22…Rxd8 (22…g6 23.Qc4! Qh7 24.Nef7+) 23.Nf7+ Kg8 24.Nxd8+ Kh8 25.Rxf8+ Bxf8 26.Qc4 Kh7 27.Qg8+ Kh6 28.Qxf8.
17…Qd7 allows the other Knight in with tempo, simultaneously opening the file for the Rook.
18.N3e5 Qe6 19.Bb3 Qa6 20.Nxh6+ Kh8 21.Nef7#
17…Kxf7 18.Ng5+ double-check, the King must move. 18…Kg8 19.Bb3+ Kh8 (19…Be6 20.Bxe6+ only slows things by one move.) 20.Rxf8+ and mate on h7 next.
18.Qxf5 Qd7 With Black’s pieces poorly positioned, Spassky isn’t about to give him any breathing space, he maintains the pressure.
19.Qf4 Bf6 20.N3e5
Position after 20. N3e5
20…Qe7 20…Bxe5 21.Nxe5 Rxe5
(21…Qe7 22.Qe4! with the idea 22…—23.Rxf8+ Kxf8 else Qh7# 24.Ng6+)
22.dxe5 Re8 is best, with White much better.
21.Bb3 Bxe5 22.Nxe5+ Kh7
On 22…Ne6 23.Qe4! again wins. Black cannot move his King out of the pin and White will win the Knight after 23…Rf8 (23…c6 24.Ng6 Qd7 25.Nf8! Rxf8 26.Bxe6+) 24.Rxf8+ Rxf8 25.Ng6
23.Qe4+ and Bronstein resigned.
If 23…g6 24.Rxf8 Rxf8 25.Qxg6+ Kh8 26.Qxh6+ Qh7 27.Ng6#
And 23…Kh8 24.Rxf8+ Rxf8 25.Ng6+ Kh7 26.Nxf8+! Kh8 27.Qh7#