Spassky - Polugayevsky, 1958. 

  GM B. Spassky (2700) - GM L. Polugayevsky (2650)  
25th U.S.S.R. Championship
Riga, Latvia1958.

  [A.J. Goldsby I]  

One of Spassky's very best games, I have seen this epic clash in many, many, many chess books. 
(And also quite a few magazines.) 

I first saw this game in a book of "best games" by Russian Masters. 
(In the late 1960's or early 1970's.) 
But when I was going over this game in a (relatively) new book on Spassky; ... only then 
did I realize just what a fantastic struggle this game really is. (February, 2004.) 

After studying this game (anew) for a little while, I decided I simply had to (briefly?) annotate it, 
and then maybe post it on my web site.  

 1.e4 c5;  2.Nf3 d6;  3.d4 cxd4;  4.Nxd4 Nf6;  5.Nc3 a6;  {Diagram?}     
The extremely popular line of the Sicilian Defense known as the  Najdorf Variation ... 
played by many of the world's top players, even today. 

 6.Bg5 Nbd7!?;  {Diagram?}     
A much older line of the Najdorf, no longer in use today. (Its not that it is unplayable, it is just 
that the move  ...e6;  has been really determined to be the best move for Black in this position.)  

     [  The main line (today) is:  >/= 6...e67.f4 Be7{Diagram?}    
         Development - and I think that this policy is probably best.  

         ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***  

         ( Black can also play the move:  7...Qb6!?;  (the b2-square)  {Diagram?}       
           which could lead to the famous, so-called: "Poisoned Pawn Variation."        
           (This is actually a misnomer and an insult. The pawn can be captured ...       
             as long as you know 20+ moves of the analysis!! And R.J. Fischer was      
             truly the one {and ONLY}  player who proved ...      
             - over and over again, in his games - that this is truly a viable and a         
             playable system for Black. So really this whole opening (sub-} system      
             deserves to be named after its progenitor and creator:       
             GM BOBBY FISCHER!!)        

             After the further moves:  8.Qd2 Qxb29.Rb1!? Qa3;  "~"  {Diag?}       
             we enter one of the most wild and complex labyrinths in all of chess.      
             (Whole books have been written on this line. But it is safe to say that      
               Black is a Pawn ahead ... and White has a great deal of development      
               and open lines as compensation.) )      

         ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***  

        (We return to the main line of the modern Najdorf Variation.)  
         8.Qf3 Qc79.0-0-0 Nbd710.g4!?, ('!')  "+/="  "/\"   {Diagram?}     
         Master level practice seems to indicate that White has a clear and  
         persistent edge in this position. 

        A good example of this position is:  
        (Dr.) GM John Nunn (2595) - IM Thies Heinemann (2465);    
        Bundesliga 01-02; (Team tournament) Germany, 2002.  (1-0,  30 m.)    
        {Nunn won an instructive game.}

        [ See any good opening book like  ECO, NCO, or MCO-14. ]   

        [ Author GM John Nunn has done a whole series of books on the  
           Najdorf Sicilian Defense. I can (highly!) recommend these books to any 
           really serious student who wants to learn these lines in some depth. ]  

           (My favorite move in this position is:  10.Bd3!?{Diagram?}     
             with really sharp play to follow.)    ]    


(We return to the game at hand, after a fairly brief detour and a short exploration 
  of modern opening theory.)  
We continue by marching straight down a fairly well-known  'book'  line. 
Both sides concentrate on getting their pieces out.  
 7.Bc4!? Qa5!?;  8.Qd2 e6;  9.0-0-0! b5;  10.Bb3 Bb7;  11.Rhe1 Be7;  {Diagram?}     
Both sides seem to have done a pretty good job with the opening. There are lots of piece 'hits' 
on the center, and both parties have done an excellent job of developing their respective armies. 
Black lags a touch behind White in the race to get developed ... but as the second player can 
castle in one move - this does not seem all that serious.  

 12.f4 Nc5!?;  13.e5!?,  {Diagram?}        
An interesting pawn advance that seeks to completely disrupt the normal course of the second 
player's developmental scheme. But ... according to about a dozen opening books, and several 
different game collections ... this is not the most accurate move for White here.  

     [  Better was:   >/=  13.Bxf6!,  "+/="  {Diagram?}   
         when White retains a clear edge.  ]   


 13...dxe5;  14.Bxf6!,  {Diagram?}     
This was Spassky's original and very deep idea ... if Black recaptures in the  'normal'  fashion, 
to avoid getting doubled pawns, then White plays PxP/e5 ... with a really (nearly unstoppable) 
initiative for White.  

     [ Interesting was:  14.fxe5!?, "~" {Diagram?}  with a playable game for both sides. 
       (This move is not as accurate as the one that Spassky actually used.) ]     


 14...Bxf6?!; (Maybe just - '?')  {Diagram?}    
This <looks> to be the correct move for Black in this position, as  'Polu' avoids any damage 
to his Pawn structure. (But most authors say - with the benefit of hindsight, of course - that this 
move is an error; and award Black a full question mark to Polugayevky's last move.)  

     [  Better was the continuation:  >/=  14...gxf615.fxe5 b4; "~"  ("=/+")  {Diagram?}  
         when Black is fine. (Maybe better?);   

        ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***     ***   

        But Black should not play:   </=  14...exd4?!15.Bxd4, "+/="  {Diagram?}   
        when White holds a definite edge. (- GM Eduard Gufeld.)  
        (I think Black is OK here. {A.J.G.}) ]   


 15.fxe5 Bh4!?;  16.g3 Be7;   {See the diagram ... just below.}    
I remember reading somewhere that there were many masters and GM's in the room - 
who were watching this game rather intently.  





Just about all the players in the hall felt that Black was OK here.  


Now comes one of the most amazing and shocking chess moves played in a game ... 
and one that was missed by most of the masters that were watching this encounter.  
(Was Tal around?)  
 17.Bxe6!!,  (Really - '!!!' or even '!!!!')  {Diagram?}     
Quite simply - one of the most brilliant moves of all of Spassky's whole career. 
(As Black has a Knight already protecting the e6-square ... and because White's own 
 e-file is blocked by a Pawn on e5 ... many of my students don't understand how  
 this move is even possible.)   

Many of the players in the hall felt that Spassky had sacrificed a little speculatively here, 
but this sack is definitely 100% sound. 

     [ Or  17.Rf1!? 0-0;  "="  {Diagram?}  and Black is fine. ]   


 17...0-0!?;   {Diagram?}   
"A sad decision, now KB5 is weak."  - Andy Soltis.  

If Black tries to take (and win) a piece on the e6-square, he gets murdered. 

Without getting technical, this move could be an inaccuracy. 
But the complications are enormous here.  


     [  Maybe better was:  >/=  17...Qd8; "~"  {Diagram?}     
         but White might be able to sack on f7 ... and gain a perpetual check. 
         (Is this why Black avoided this move? If so ... Polugayevsky made a 
          terrible error in judgment.);  


        Much worse for Black was:  </=  17...fxe6?18.Nxe6! Bf3!?{Diagram?}    
        This could be forced, many of the alternatives at this point were 1000 
         times worse for Black! 


            ( Or if:  18...Rd8!?;   then  19.Nxg7+!, with a winning  ("+/-")  attack. 

               But definitely NOT:  </= 18...Nxe6??;  19.Qd7+, Kf7;  
                20.Rf1+, ("+/-")  {Diagram?}   
                and Fritz says that it is a mate in less than 10 moves. )  


        19.Rf1! Rd8('!?')  {Diagram?}  
         This could be forced ... or Black must play something like this. 

            ( But definitely NOT:  19...Bxd1???;  20.Nxg7#!)     

        20.Nxg7+! Kf721.Qh6! Rhf8!?22.Rxd8!? Qxd8;   23.Qxh7!,  
        23...Rh824.Rxf3+ Bf6[]25.Ne6+!! Kxe6{Diagram?}   
        This is ugly ... Black tries to save the Queen here ... 
        but loses a more important piece. (!)  


             ( Or Black could play:  >/=  25...Rxh7!?;  26.Nxd8+ Ke8;        
                27.exf6,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}     
                but thanks to the promotion threats from the White f-pawn;        
                the first player is winning here as well.  )       


        26.Qf5+ Kf727.Qg5! Nd728.exf6 Rh7!?  
        29.Ne4,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}     

       Black is down  FOUR Pawns  ... his King is sadly exposed ...  
        and he has no real play of which to speak of. 

        (Just so you know where this line came from, it was (hand) written down in a 'book' ... 
         {a pamphlet, really} called  "Spassky's 25 Best Games."  There was a 
         biographical section, about 30-40 pages long. Then the games, which were 
         VERY lightly annotated. There were several blank pages in the back. I had 
         owned this 'book' since I was about 13-14 years old. This variation was written in 
         the margin of that book. I checked this line today - Sat. April 10th, 2004 - with 
         a strong chess program. There might be a few slight improvements ... 
         but  nothing  major. - A.J.G.) 


        Also bad for Black was the try:  </=  17...Nxe6?18.Nxe6 Rd8{Diag?}  
        Something like this is forced for Black in this position.  


            ( Of course not:  </=  18...fxe6?19.Qd7+ Kf7[]{Diagram?}      
               This is definitely forced.  


                  ( If  </=  19...Kf8??;  then  20.Rf1+,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}     
                    and Black will not be able to avoid a very speedy mate. )     


              20.Rf1+ Kg6{Box. / Diagram?}   
              Of course, this is forced.   

                  ( Not  </= 20...Kg8???;  21.Qxe6#. )       

              21.Qxe6+ Bf622.Rxf6+! gxf623.Qxf6+ Kh5;   
              24.Rd4("+/-")  {Diagram?}    
              and White will mate Black in just two more moves from here. )    


        {Returning to the main line of our analysis here - that began ...  
          with the errant move, 17...Nxe6?}   
        19.Nxg7+! Kf820.Qh6 Rxd1+21.Rxd1 b4!?{Diagram?}   
         Everything else loses here for Black as well ... this is probably  
         the most interesting.  (...Bg5+!?)   

        22.Nd5!! Bxd523.Ne6+! Ke8[]{Diagram?}  
        This is 100% forced here.  

            ( </= 23...Kg8??;  ('???')  24.Qg7#. )     

        24.Rxd5! Qxd5{Diagram?}    
        What else can Black do here?   


            (  Not   </= 24...Qxa2?;   25.Nc7#.      

               Also losing for Black is:  
               </=  24...Qb6?!;  25.Ng7+ Kf8;  26.Qxb6,  ("+/-")  {Diag?}       
               with an easy win for White.  )        


        25.Nc7+ Kd7{Diagram?}   
        By now the second player must realize that his goose is cooked.  

        and Black should feel quite free to resign in this position. ]    



 18.Bb3 Rad8;  19.Qf4 b4;    {See the diagram - just below.}     
Black looks to be doing well. 

I remember once studying this game with a young player from Alabama - who went 
on to become a Master - and he thought Black was better in this position. 
(He did not even come close to guessing what White's next move was!)  




What square do you think that Spassky must retreat his threatened Knight to? 
(b1, e2 ... or is the central square e4 the best in this position?)  


 20.Na4!!, ('!!!')  ("A sock-dolager.")   {See the diagram ... just below.}      
Another truly shocking and stunning move. 
(My friends and students are always floored when I show them this incredible shot.)  




  (The position immediately following White's move, 20.Na4!!!)  



I remember a funny story. I took a book on Spassky to a chess tournament back in the early 
1970's. I was going over this game, showing to a few interested players. One of the strongest 
and highest-rated players in the tournament hall walked over. I showed him this move and asked 
him his real opinion of it. He looked at the chess board for a few minutes, then waved his hand - 
dismissing us completely.  "You must have the board set up wrong," he said  ...  "that couldn't  
possibly be the move that Spassky played there!"  (Then he just walked away.)  

     [ Or   20.Nb1 Nxb3+21.axb3 Bd5; "=/+"  
and maybe Black is just slightly better.  ]     


 20...h6!?;  (hmmm)   {See the diagram that follows [after] the analysis.}     
Is Black trying to be sneaky?
What is Polugaeyevsky's threat from this position?  (hint = g5) 

I always felt that Black had to grab the bull by the horns here, and play ...NxN/a4. 
(A true "Do or die," situation.) 

I clearly remember myself and a few friends spending a couple of Saturday afternoons 
when I was in High School; pushing pieces around, yelling and carrying on. And while 
we never really resolved the problem of this particular position, we had a great deal of 
fun  ...  and learned a lot in the whole process.  



     [  Andy Soltis   gives the following  (somewhat superficial)  analysis:   
          >/=  20...Nxa4; ('!')   21.Nf5!! Rxd1+!?{Diagram?}      
         This seems like a fairly natural move for Black, and it also follows 
         general principles as well. 

         ("When you are attacked, trade as many pieces as you can.")   

             ( One book gives the line of:  </= 21...Rfe8?!(but now)  22.Bxf7+!!,    
                22...Kxf7!?23.Rxd8! Rxd824.Nd6+ Kg825.Qf7+ Kh8;     
                26.Qxe7,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}  but White is clearly winning here.         
                {One simple win is if Black plays  ...Bc8;  - to keep from dropping the    
                  Bishop on b7 - White simply
plays QxR/d8+! and Nf7+.} )      

          22.Rxd1 Bc5!?('?!/?')  {Diagram?}   I guess Black is looking to activate   
          this somewhat passive piece.  


     ---> ( It seems much better to retreat the Bishop to the d8-square.   
               >/= 22...Bd8!{Diagram?}    
               An odd-looking move, but a play which is natural when you  
               realize that if Black allows Qg5, he is simply lost. 

               This is the <correct> move according to A. Soltis ... 
               he even praises this play for White.  ('23.Bxa4!'  - Andy Soltis.)    


                    ( Much better is the surprising move - in this position, of:      
                       >/= 23.e6!!, "+/="  "--->"   {Diagram?}      
                       and according to IM S. Soloviov, White will have a      
                       great - and possibly winning - attack. )       


               23...Qxa4?!(Really - '?')  {Diagram?}     
               I guess this is the main idea - but Soltis does not discuss any  
               alternatives here for Black. (Black blindly falls in with White's 
               plan. But the second player has a better move that I wrote into 
               the U.S. Chess magazine about  ...  but never got a reply.)    


                   ( MUCH  better was the move:      
                      >/=  23...h6!; "~"  (in-between)  {Diagram?}    
                      and two week's worth of analysis never revealed any forced       
                      wins here for White.  ('23...h6!!' - IM Sergei Soloviov.)  )     


               24.Rxd8 Rxd825.Qg5,  "+/-"  {Diagram?}      
               and thanks to the mate threat on g7, Black will pick off a whole  
               Rook here. )   <---     


          23.Qg5 g624.Nh6+! Kg725.Ng4!,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}    
          and White has a mating attack,  despite Black's (useless) extra piece 
          in this position.  (If 25...Qb6!?; then White simply plays the thunderbolt, 
          26.Rd6!!, winning the house.)  ]  





  The position just before White executes his 21st move here.  



 21.Nxc5!!,  (White allows ...Bg5?)  {Diagram?}  
A tremendous shock and surprise to Polugaeyevsky's poor nervous system. 
(Now if Black tries to win White's lady, Spassky will net a ton of extra material.)  

     [ Black probably expected:  21.h4!?  {Diagram?} 
       (To prevent his Queen from being pinned.) ]  


 21...Qxc5;  {Box?}  {Diagram?}   
This was probably forced here. 

     [  Not recommended was:  </=  21...Bg5?!; ('?')   22.Qxg5! hxg5    
         23.Nxb7 Qc724.Nxd8 Rxd825.e6!,  ''   (Maybe  "+/-")  {Diag?}    
         when Spassky has gained 2 minor pieces ... AND a Rook! ... for the Q.  
         (All the computers that I tested this position on, considered White to be  
           just clearly winning here.)  ]     


Now the move h4 works ... and also gives Spassky a fairly large edge here.  
 22.h4, ('!')  22...Bd5;  23.Nf5! Bxb3;  24.axb3 Rxd1+;  25.Rxd1 Rc8;     
 26.Qe4!,   (nice)  {Diagram?}      
"The way Spassky combines attack and defense is captivating as well as 
instructive."  - Andrew Soltis.  (Quite right, Andy!)    

     [ Another idea here was:  26.Nxe7+!?{Diagram?}  
        heading immediately for the end-game where White 
        is a whole pawn up. ]  


 26...Bf8;  {Box?}  {Diagram?}     
Black does not want a {later} hanging Bishop on this square.  

     [ Not  </=  26...Qc6?? when   27.Nxe7+{Diagram?}   
        forks all of Black's pieces left on the board. ]   


 27.e6! fxe6;  28.Qxe6+ Kh8;  29.Qe4 Qc6;  30.Qd3!,   {See the diagram below.}    
As Soltis is quick to point out, White is not quite ready to go for the ending,  
there are a few issues, (weaknesses); to be resolved first.  




   (The position immediately following  30.Qd3,  by White.)  


     [ Also good for White was:  30.Qxc6 Rxc631.g4, "+/="  ('')  {Diagram?}   
        but Spassky's method is superior. ]    


 30...Re8;  31.h5! Be7;   {Diagram?}     
This is pretty much forced for Black in this position ... if Polugaeyevsky allows Nh4-to-g6+, 
it will probably result in a complete disaster!  

     [ Not  31...a5?32.Nh4! '' ]   


Many of the masters and other good players in the tournament hall were predicting that 
the game would now end in a draw. (Spassky's position is NOT all that impressive at 
the moment here. And White's extra Pawn on the Queen-side is also doubled and kind 
of clumsy.)  

 32.Nxe7 Rxe7;  33.Qg6! Qe8;  34.g4! Re1;   {Box?}   {Diagram?}    
Black cannot exchange Queens on the g6-square ... the resulting position is completely 
lost for him. (The pawn on g6 would greatly ham-string Black, if his Rook ever left the 
back row; Black would be check-mated!)  

     [ Much, much worse for Black was the following continuation:   
        </=  34...Qxg6?35.hxg6 Re8{Diagram?}   
         This is close to being forced for Black. 

            ( </=  35...Re6??; 36.Rd8+ Re8; 37.Rxe8#. )      

        36.Rd6 Ra837.Rb6 a538.Kd2,  ("+/-")  {Diagram?}     
        The win is pretty simple for White, the first player plays c4, and then  
        marches his King over. Black can't offer any meaningful resistance from  
        this position.  {technique}  ]  




Now a few well placed blows and very finely executed plays by White from this 
position brings Black's struggles to an end.  

 35.Qxe8+ Rxe8;  36.Rd4 a5;  37.Kd2 Re5;  38.c3! bxc3+;     
 39.bxc3 Rg5;  40.c4! Kg8;  41.Rf4!,  ("+/-")   {See the diagram below.}     
(Black Resigns.)  Spassky has alertly fixed all of Polugaeyevsky's King-side Pawns  
prior to entering the R+P endgame. His last move cut the board in half and prevents 
Black's King from crossing the board. White's King comes to c3, then he plays b3-b4. 
After this, White's passed QBP, strongly supported by the WK will easily decide the 
game in Spassky's favor here.  




  (The final position of this fantastic game.)  



One of Spassky's most brilliant and powerful wins. I don't think any player who ever lived ... 
- not Tal, Fischer, nor even Kasparov - can show a game with a greater number of beautiful 
and truly surprising  chess moves. A great game, a classic Spassky showpiece, and a contest 
that should be cherished by chess-players everywhere  ...  for as long as the game is played.  



I have many different books that have this game in it. I also have several game collections of 
this player's best games, like the one by Cafferty. 

But my two main sources for material to aid me in my attempt to annotate this game, NOT 
counting dozens of books on this opening, were:  
# 1.)   "The Best Chess Games of Boris Spassky,"  (1949-1971)  by  IM Andrew Soltis.  
(This book was written and released well before Andy ever got the GM title.) 
Copyright () by the author. (And the publisher, of course.)
Printed in 1973 by David McKay books of New York City. (USA) 

# 2.)  GM  "Boris SPASSKY's  ...  Four Hundred (400) Selected Games,"  
by  IM Sergei Soloviov.  (This book is part of the "Chess Stars" series of books, 
out of Moscow, Russia.)  Copyright (c) by the author, 2003.
Printed in Sofia, BUL.  ISBN:  # 954-8782-29-4 


All my games ... the program that was initially used ... 
to generate the HTML code was:  ChessBase 8.0

  Copyright (c) LM A.J. Goldsby I.  
   Copyright () A.J. Goldsby, 2004.  (All rights reserved.)  

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