Boris Spassky - Alex Aftonov  

(Click on the arrows, or on the actual moves themselves to play through the game.)

 B. Spassky (2450) - A. Aftonomov (2230) 

  Soviet Junior Qualifiers -
U.S.S.R.   1949 

[A.J. Goldsby I]

Irving Chernev  gives in his book, "The 1000 Best, Short Games of Chess,the following introduction to this game: 
"The newest of the boy prodigies, who was 12 when this game was played, has a style and a grace that many a Master might envy. In this game he gives an indication of the skill which won him the praise of Mikhail Botvinnik." 

Andy Soltis writes: "First fame came to young Boris at age 12 when this zippy miniature found its way into chess magazines all over the world." (Game # 1 of the book - "The Best Games of Boris Spassky." By GM Soltis.)

For my part I will simply say I believe this game to be maybe one of the prettiest short (Miniature) games of chess ever played. 
- LM A.J. Goldsby I. (Easily in the 'Ten Best' of all time.)

1. d4 d5; 2. c4 dxc4; 3. Nf3 Nf6; 4. e3 e6;  
According to many sources this may not be the actual move order. 

[It seems the actual move order is: 4...c5; 5. Bxc4 e6; 6. 0-0 a6
7. Qe2
b58. Bb3 Nc6; 9.Nc3 cxd4!?; ('?!/?') 10. Rd1 Bb7
11. exd4
Nb4!?;  transposing back to the game. ]

I have chosen this move order, (the one given here) as it is the most natural, and the one likely to have arisen from the 'correct' order of moves - correct at least according to modern opening theory.

5. Bxc4 c5; 6.0-0 a6
; 7. Qe2 Nc6; 8.Nc3 b59. Bb3 Bb710. Rd1 cxd4!?; ('?!') 
Black should probably not surrender the center. 

[ Black could consider playing: 10...Qc7!?;  or 10...c4!?. ]

11. exd4 Nb4!?
A most logical move. If Black can blockade the d5-square, then he will have a huge advantage.  
White now plays one of the prettiest moves in all of chess.

12. d5!!
This is actually just a clearance sacrifice for White, which opens up  multiple lines of attack for the first player. 

[It seemed White could also win with: 12. Ne5! Nbd5; 13. Nxb5 Bb4;
(13...axb5??; 14. Qxb5+ Nd7; 15. Qxb7+/- ) 14. a3 Ba5; 15. Qd3! ('+/='),  

White is clearly better. See the diagram directly below.

spaaftrpg0_1.jpg, 43 KB


If Black captures on b5, White wins the Bishop @ b7. Analysis line. {A.J.G.} ]


It would seem this move is forced.

 [12...Nfxd5??; 13. a3 Nc6
 (Not 13...Nxc3??; 14. Rxd8+
, Check!! - which wins for White.)   
 14. Nxd5, ('+/-')
wins a piece. ]

13. Bg5 Be7; 14. Bxf6 gxf6
Again, this is forced, and the first victory for White, who has succeeded in breaking up Black's Pawn Structure.

 [ Not 14...Bxf6??; 15. Nxd5 Bxd5; 16. Bxd5, wins a piece - as - 
; 17. Rxd5, ('+/-') because Black can now resign. 
 (The key to the entire sequence is that the pin on the e-file means 
 that the KP does not exist ... for the purposes of actual protection.) ]

15. Nxd5 Bxd5!?
Black exchanges material off because he would not want to have his Bishop trapped behind the pawn at d5.

 [15...exd5!;  A.J. Goldsby I  (Black should not trade down ... IF he is clearly
 losing.)  I commonly refer to this as the 'The Rule of the Trades.' 
 (Soltis also points out that this move [15...PxN] will "hold out longer.") ] .

16. Bxd5 exd5
White's second victory, he has opened the e-file and spread Black's pawn formation into four separate islands.

17. Nd4
, ('!')  Soltis points out White threatens the immediate Re1, winning.

 [ White could also have played: 17. a4!? ('+/')  Maybe '+/-'. ]

Victory number three - Black cannot castle and his King is exposed on two sides.

 [17...Qd7!?; 18. Re1 Kf8; 19. Qh5 h6; 20. Nf5, ('+/-').  
 Definitely not: 17...0-0??; 18. Nf5, ('+/-')  The threat of the capture at Bishop 
 at e7 AND the threat of Qg4+, followed by mate means Black will lose 
at least a piece. ]

18. Nf5

A square made for this piece in Knight Heaven. 

[White's position is so much better, he can almost afford to play anything and win. 
One almost certain win is: 18.Rd3!?  (A.J. Goldsby I), followed by doubling (Or even tripling!) 
on the d-file. (Amongst other plans.) ]

It seems Black is stuck, and has no good moves. 
Soltis writes: "This prevents Q to h5 and the Qh6+, ... but concedes defeat in the R+P ending that could follow 19. NxB/e7."  


 If 18...Bc5!?; 19. Rac1, ('+/-').

 Or 18...Qc7?!; 19. Rac1! Qe5; 20. Qh5 Qf421. Re1 Qg5

  Or Black can play: 21...d4!?22. Rc7!, Looks like a blunder, but its not! 
  (22. Rxe7?? Qxc1+; wins for Black!)
  Or {sub-variant} 22...Qxc7; 23. Qh6+ Ke8(23...Kg8??24. Qg7#)
  24. Qxf6! Rg8 25. Rxe7+ Kd8; (25...Qxe7??; 26.Qxe7#);
  26.Qxd4+ Kc8; 27.Rxc7+ Kxc728.Qc5+ Kb8 29.Ne7! (+/-) 
  and now 
(after 22...Re8;)  the simplest move is  23. g3!,  and White 
  has an easily winning position.

  Or Black can play: 21...Bd6? ; and now the simplest winning move 
  is: 22.g3, ('+/-')  The easiest. (Black will lose his Bishop at d6 or be 
  mated.).  {White could also win with 22. Nxd6.
  (Junior 6.0:  22. Nxd6 Qxd6; 23. Qh6+ Kg8; 24. Rc3 b4; 25. Rce3 Rf8;
  26. Rg3+ Qxg3
; 27. hxg3 Rc8; 28. Qxf6 Rc2; 5.08/12 and now  29. Re8#)

(Returning to the analysis line after 21...Qg5;) 
22. Qf3!
Qd2; 23. Rcd1! Qa5; 24. Rxe7+/-;

Another line is: 18...Ra7; 19. Qe3! Qa8; 20. Re1! ('+/-'), White wins. He threatens NxB, winning a piece - the B at e7 is frozen in place. Moving the BR@a7 does little. If Black moves his Q back to protect, White captures a free Rook at a7. And if Black plays say 20...Bb4??;  White responds with 21. Qh6+ and mate next move. If 20...Rg8; White wins simply with 21. NxB/e7.


19. Rxd5!!,   
White will simply not let up. 
Soltis writes: (White is) "Finishing off in style." The Rook sacrifice is not merely the flashiest, it is also the most precise. 

[White had other moves to win here, such as: 19.Qf3!?, ('+/-') ('!') 
This is good, probably winning. (Maybe the position could now be appraised as "+/-".); 

White could also win with the very straight-forward (and routine) 
19. Nxe7
Qxe720. Qxe7+ Kxe7; 21. Rxd5, ('+/') (Maybe - "+/-".) 
and White will have practically a won ending. ]

19...Qxd5; 20. Qxe7+ Kg8
21. Qxf6,  Black Resigned,  1 - 0. 

Boris Spassky - Alex Aftonov; 
Soviet Jr. Qualifiers. Leningrad/(USSR), / [A.J. Goldsby I] /1949.

(Black could not adequately meet the dual threats of 22. Qg7#, and - - 22. Ne7+, forking the Royal pair and winning Black's Queen. So Black gives up.)

Irving Chernev writes: " A lovely finish, distinguished by the economy of the material employed." 
("The 1000 Best, Short Games of Chess Ever Played." # 801, pg. # 424.). 

Chernev also wrote in the American press, "This is one of the finest games ever played by a prodigy and bodes well for this young man's talent and his future." (Indeed, Spassky went on to become The Chess World Champion in 1969!). 

Boris was barely 12 years old when this game was played! 
( Black is often named as Avtonomov [Aftonomov] or
{even} Avshalumov. It is not entirely clear which rendering is correct. )  

The notes here are based on three books that I have on Spassky, and an annotated version of this game in my database. The best annotations, and one of my favorite books, is Soltis's book: "The Best Games of Boris Spassky."  

In my own opinion, this is one of the most beautiful miniature games ever played!  {A.J.G.} 

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A.J. Goldsby;  1985 - 2013. 

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