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The King’s Gambit
Game 1: Spassky – Fischer, 1960
This famous game (featured in Fischer’s “My 60 Memorable Games”, from which some of the analysis and Fischer’s comments are taken) saw a great clash between the two future rivals. Fischer played 1…e5 instead of his usual 1…c5 and Spassky unleashes the King’s Gambit!
Perhaps insulted by this, Fischer plays a long line of very strong moves to hold onto his material advantage, keeping tension where other players may have looked to calm the position. It is testament to the potential danger of this opening that a couple of hard-to-spot mistakes by Black lead to an impressive win for Spassky. It was this game that led Fischer to publish his famous “Bust to the King’s Gambit” with 3…d6.
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5
This move was often played in the romantic era when the King’s Gambit was one of the most popular openings. Black protects the f-pawn and has the option of playing g4, chasing the Knight around the board. However, Black weakens his own Kingside by doing this.
4.h4 g4 White challenges the pawn and it advances. Both sides have to take care not to get into trouble on this side of the board.
With a double-attack on the g4 pawn. Black has a few reasonable-looking moves.
a) Securing the pawn with 5…h5? allows White to develop with tempo 6.Bc4 Nh6
(or 6…Rh7 7.d4 d6 8.Nd3 f3 9.gxf3 Be7 10.Be3 Bxh4+ 11.Kd2 Bg5 12.f4 Bh6 13.Nc3 “White has more than enough compensation for the pawn. This is vintage analysis” – Fischer)
7.d4 d6 8.Nd3 the f-pawn is going to fall and White will have an excellent attack along the f-file. With all Black’s Qside pieces still at home, it will be difficult for his King to get to safety.
b) 5…Nc6 is tricky as 6.Nxc6 dxc6 7.d4 Nf6 8.e5 (8.Nc3 Bb4) 8…Nh5 makes it difficult for White to regain the pawn and his development is impeded by the f and g-pawns.
b2) 6.Nxg4 d5 7.exd5 Qe7+ 8.Be2 (8.Qe2?? Bxg4 9.Qxe7+ Ncxe7) 8…Nd4 (8…Bxg4 9.dxc6) 9.Nf2 Bf5 10.d3 0-0-0 11.Nc3 and Black has all the pressure.
b3) 6.d4! is the recommended move as 6…Nxe5 7.dxe5 d6 8.Bxf4 Qe7 9.exd6 Qxe4+ 10.Qe2 Qxe2+ 11.Bxe2 Bxd6 12.Bxd6 cxd6 13.Nc3 gives White the advantage. He has a lead in development which can be used to pressure the weaknesses in Black’s position such as the d6 pawn (which is necessary, White is still a pawn down).
Play could continue 13…Be6 14.0-0-0 0-0-0 15.Nb5 winning the pawn back. Moves such as Rd4 and Rhf1 could follow, targeting the pawns, and moving the Knight back to d4 will take away their defender, the Bishop on e6.
c) 5…Be7 is another idea. What to do about Bxh4+?
6.Bc4!? counter-attack! 6…Bxh4+ 7.Kf1 d5 allowing the Bc8 to protect g4
(7…Nh6 8.Nxg4 Nxg4 9.Qxg4 d5 (9…Bg5 10.Qf5! with threats such as 10…d5? 11.Qe5+; 9…Bf6 10.Rxh7!)
10.Bb5+ c6 11.Qxh4 Qxh4 12.Rxh4 cxb5 13.exd5 and White is going to be up material.)
8.Bxd5 Nh6 9.d4 Bg5 10.Nc3 c6 11.Bb3 f6 12.Nd3 Qxd4 13.Bxf4 Bxf4 14.Nxf4 Qxd1+ 15.Rxd1 Nf7 16.Ng6 Rg8 17.Rxh7 is winning (analysis by Bilguier 1880).
5…Nf6 6.d4 White disdains to take on g4 or protect e4, preferring to open up the line for his Queen’s Bishop.
6…d6 7.Nd3 Nxe4 8.Bxf4 Bg7 how to protect the d4 pawn?
9.Nc3!? develop with a counter-attack! Fischer does not like this move, saying White now has no compensation for the pawn. He gives the line 9.c3 Qe7 10.Qe2 Bf5 as preferable because “White maintains a grip on f4”.
9…Nxc3 10.bxc3 c5
Brave play. A lot of players would have gone for a developing move or getting their King off the open file (Keres preferred 0-0) but Fischer goes straight after the weaker points in White’s position.
11.Be2 like a true King’s Gambit player, Spassky’s main interest is getting his pieces into play. [11.Qe2+ Be6 12.d5? Bxc3+ – Fischer.]
11…cxd4 12.0-0 Nc6
An interesting choice. In no rush to castle, Fischer gets some control over d4 and e5 as well giving himself the option of recapturing the Bc8 with the Rook in future. There is no hurry to capture on c3 as White can’t take on d4 yet.
a) 12…h5? 13.Bg5 f6 (if 13…Qc7 14.Nf4 eyes d5 14…Qc5 15.Kh1 Nc6 16.Bd3 and Black’s King is looking exposed 16…0-0 isn’t possible because of 17.Nxh5) 14.Bc1 followed by Nf4 “Black’s Kingside is all messed up” – Fischer.
b) 12…Qxh4 13.g3 and where does the Black Queen go to? It would be uncomfortable on either the e- or f-files. (13.Bxd6?? g3) 13…Qd8 14.Bxg4 0-0 15.Bxc8 Qxc8 16.Bxd6 Rd8 17.Be5 Black is ok after 17…Nc6 but Fischer is not interested in allowing Spassky equality. He is a pawn up and playing for the win. To do this, he gives Spassky plenty of play too.
13…Qxh4 is too dangerous now 14.Re1+ Ne7 (14…Kf8 15.Bxd6+ Kg8 16.Bxc8 Rxc8 17.Qf3) 15.Bxc8 Rxc8 16.Bxd6 Bf8 17.Qf3 dxc3 18.Qxb7
13…Bxg4 14.Qxg4 0-0?? 15.Bh6
13…Bd7 14.Bg5 f6 (14…Qb6 15.Bxd7+ Kxd7 16.Rxf7+) 15.Bh5+
14.Bxc8 Rxc8 15.Qg4 f5!
This denies White a square on the g-file as well as giving the Rf8 more scope (for instance, Rf6-g6 becomes possible).
The Black Queen can also shelter behind this pawn if required.
15…Qf6 16.Bg5 Qg6 17.h5 f5 18.Qh4 Qf7
15…Ne7 16.Bg5 Kh8 17.Rae1 Rc7 18.Qe2 f6
16.Qg3 dxc3 Black is two pawns up, White needs to show something.
17.Rae1 17.Bxd6 Rf6 18.Bf4 Rg6 and White’s Queen is much less of an attacking threat.
17…Kh8 unpinning the Bg7 and making space for the Rook
17…Re8 18.h5 taking away g6 from Black as well as threatening h6 (18.Rxe8+ Qxe8 19.Re1 Qg6 just leaves Black up a pawn, White’s attack is coming to a close.) 18…Kh8 19.Bxd6 Bd4+ 20.Kh1 Qf6 (20…Rg8 21.Qh2 (21.Ne5!? is interesting but Black comes out on top after 21…Rxg3 22.Nf7+ Kg7 23.Nxd8 Rg4 24.Ne6+ Kf6) 21…Qf6)
18.Kh1 to stop any ideas of Rg8 and Bd4+ winning the Queen
“More accurate is 18.Bxd6 Rf6 (18…Rg8 19.Ne5!) 19.Be5 Nxe5 20.Nxe5 with a little play left for White” – Fischer.
18…Rg8 [18…d5 19.Nc5]
“The key!” – Fischer
The more obvious 19…Bf6 leads to 20.Qf4 Rg4 21.Qxf5 Rxh4+ 22.Bh2 Bg7
19…Bd4 20.Qh2 (20.Qf4 Rg4) 20…Rg4 21.Be5+! “to prevent Black from doubling Rooks on the g-file. 21…Kg8 (not 21…Bxe5 22.Nxe5 Rxh4? 23.Nf7+) 22.Bg3 holds for White.” – Fischer
20.Be5+ Nxe5 21.Qxe5+ Rg7!
Keeping control of the g-file, making it tough for White to hold onto the h-pawn.
22.Qf4 Rg4; 22.Rf4? Bd6; 22.g3 Bd6; 22.Qxf5 Qxh4+ 23.Kg1 Qg4 forces the Queens off as 24.Qf2 Be7 with the idea of Bh4.
22…Bd6 23.Qe4 Re7 24.Qd4+ Rg7 (24…Kg8 25.Rg5+ Kf7 26.Qd5+ Ke8) 25.Rd5 Rc6 26.Nb4
23…Qg3! 24.Qxg3 (24.Qe2 Bd6! threatening 25.– Qh2+ 26.Kf1 Qh1+ 27.Kf2 Rxg2+) 24…Rxg3 threatening Rxd3 and c2 is best, as pointed out by Spassky after the game.
24.Rf2 Be7 25.Re4 Qg5?
Black could have taken a draw with 25…Qd1+ 26.Re1 (26.Rf1 Qxc2 27.Rg4 Rcg8) 26…Qg4 27.Re4 Qd1+ 28.Kh2 Rc6 29.Qb8+ Rg8 30.Qe5+ Rg7
26.Qd4! it’s getting tough for Black to find a good move with his Rg7 pinned, Bishop en prise and Queen without many safe squares.
26…Rf8? concerned about Ne5, Black makes the final mistake.
26…Rd8 27.Qxc3= (27.Qxa7 Rxd3 28.cxd3 Bc5 29.Re8+ Rg8 30.Rxg8+ Kxg8 31.Qb8+ Kg7 32.Qxb7+ Kh6 is a draw) ;
26…Bc5 27.Nxc5 Qxc5 (27…Rxc5 28.Rf8#) 28.Re8+
27.Re5! Winning material.
27.Ne5? Rxf2 28.Qxf2 Bc5! – Fischer
27…Rd8 27…Qg6 28.Rxe7; 27…Qh4 28.Rxf8+; 27…Bf6 28.Qd6!
28.Qe4 [28.Qxc3 Bf6]
Black resigns. If Qg3 then Rxe7.
Some great defence from Fischer but the space controlled by White’s forces made it easy to slip up.
Note the control of the open e- and f-files by White’s Rooks, the same files that began to be opened by the first two moves of the game.