Boris Vasilievich Spassky was born January 30, 1937 in Leningrad Boris was the tenth World Chess Champion, holding the title from 1969 to 1972. Today he celebrates his 79th birthday!
Spassky won the Soviet Chess Championship twice outright (1961, 1973), and twice more lost in playoffs (1956, 1963), after tying for first during the event proper. He was a World Chess Championship candidate on seven occasions (1956, 1965, 1968, 1974, 1977, 1980, and 1985).
The above information is what you would find on WIKI, but what it does not tell you is that Boris Spassky is the most famous chess player alive, the most respected and certainly the best ambassador that chess could ever want. Now long retired from active competition, Boris is a most welcome guest where ever he goes. The millions of friends and fans that he has made in his life all feel honoured to have him in their presence.
It is hard for me to pick which one of his games is my favourite–he has played so many brilliant and unforgettable games–but undoubtedly his victory over David Bronstein in the Soviet Championship in 1960 has a very special place. When Fischer saw this game he was blown away. Left speachless! In his very next interview he said that Spassky was one of the 10 best players in history!
A universal player, Boris was very fond of the romantic King’s Gambit, having won many games with it, including against the legendary Bobby Fischer. Spassky has a special feeling for the initiative and was , next to Tal, the greatest attacker of his generation.
White gets a strong attack no matter how Black defends: 15… Bxd6 16. Qh7 Kf8 17. cd efQ 18. Rxf1 cd 19. Qh8 Ke7 20. Re1 Ne5 21. Qxg7 Rg8 22. Qxh6 Qb6 23. Kh1 Be6 24. de; or if 15… efQ 16. Rxf1 will most likely transpose into the previous note.
Pirate chess!! Now Bronstein can not refuse Spassky’s gifts…
The chess game between “Kronsteen” and “McAdams” in the early part of the James Bond movie From Russia With Love is based on this same game!! Here we can see ”Kronstein” capturing the Bishop with his Knight (move 22)
Several years ago I wrote a blog entry (Spassky according to Spassky) , and for the occasion of Boris’ 79th birthday I reproduce it here.
”… I gave a simultaneous chess display at the Officers’ House in Minsk. I was eleven at the time. In game I checkmated one officer. He asked to take back his move. After two moves I was checkmated. I began to cry bitterly and the game was stopped for 15 minutes… since that time I never allow taking back moves. It was a very sad experience.”
1958 Soviet Championship; the decisive game
”The game was adjourned, and I had a good position; but I was very tired from analyzing and went to resume next morning unshaven.
”When I am in form, my style is a little bit stubborn, almost brutal. Sometimes I feel a great spirit of fight which drives me on”
On Bronstein in the 1956 Candidates Tournament
”It was a revelation to me how seriously and nervously the other candidates took their tournament work. I remember especially Bronstein one evening wanted to reassure himself about his prospects. He took three dice and threw them three times. Each time three fives came up, and Bronstein decided this was a lucky omen. Next round he had to play against Smyslov and he lost, completely killed. I tried to understand this situation; I was very young and I saw that the other candidates were very nervous and excited. I felt quite calm, and I understood that I was a very weak player in this company but had to fight-attack.”
Spassky on his first GM trainer
Spassky then met GM Bondarevsky in 1961:
”Bondarevsky did a lot not only for my chess knowledge and understanding of positions, but also for my character. I admired him less as a grandmaster than I did Tolush. Bondarevsky used to be a combination player, but then he decided to become like Capablanca and now his chess is rather dull. But when I first got to know him well, I was drawn to him, felt a great respect and saw that this man was a very interesting man.”
On fighting to become World Champion:
”Ocasionally I looked at my games which I played at age of 30, 40, 45 and looked my present games when I was 60 or 62 and I said: ‘Ohhh, I’m crazy…to play such a bad chess after showing such beautiful quality.’So I think I stopped playing very late.”
”I believe that the Marshall is good enough for a draw, which was of course all I aimed for with Black. After this match (with Tal,1965) Bondarevsky and I thought we should erect a statue to Frank Marshall; a very sympathetic player!”
Spassky on Karpov:
Spassky’s heroes :
“My heroes were all tragic!”.
”When I play chess probablyI seem rather unruffled,but this is not really so. It is like a clown’s face which is put on specially for the occasion; when I appear particularly calm I am really feeling specially nervous.”
‘Chigorin was probably the first ‘computer-like’ Grandmaster. He always gave lots of concrete variations and looked at positions without pre-justice.”
” I don’t want ever to be champion again.”
”In my country, at that time, being a champion of chess was like being a King. At that time I was a King – and when you are King you feel a lot of responsibility, but there is nobody there to help you. ”
On Spassky’s technique for encouraging players to resign in the simul: “… his rival is two pawns down in an endgame (king and six pawns v king and four) … Spassky would approach the board, look at it with a frown for 30 seconds as if it was the hardest position he’d ever seen, then look up at his opponent and say in that lovely, lilting Russian voice:‘But where is your army?’ Worked every time. I think he scored 15 wins and 5 draws in the simul.”
”Sometimes I play through games with computer. From time to time computer comes up with very interesting moves…But I think that modern players should learn how to control computer, as otherwise it would be bad for the game. ”
”When I played Bobby Fischer, my opponent fought against organizations – the television producers and the match organizers. But he never fought against me personally. I lost to Bobby before the match because he was already stronger than I. He won normally.”
On Spassky’s preparation against Petrosian:
”Together with Bondarevsky and Krogius, I came to the conclusion that the World Champion, for all his great positional mastery, was not a player of a strict, classical profile. His style, directed towards limiting the opponent’s possibilities, is unique and, particularly in match play, extraordinarily effective.
It is not accidental that Petrosian is a phenomenal match player. All the same, his unsurpassed skill at manoeuvring and tacking is sometimes dictated not only by the requirements of the position but rather by prophylactic tasks.
On the whole, our idea justified itself: in the Tarrasch Defence, for example, Petrosian was not able even once in five attempts to seize the isolated queen’s pawn.”
”Nowadays the dynamic element is more important in chess – players more often sacrifice material to obtain dynamic compensation. Of course, such players were in my generation too and they existed before (for example, Alekhine) but then fewer people played like that than now. When I spoke with Alexander Nikitin (former coach of Garry Kasparov – A.B.), he said that players of my generation had very good understanding of chess, but the game was slower then. Nowadays there is more dynamism in chess, modern players like to take the initiative. Usually they are poor defenders though.”
” I was always fond of the history of chess, and it was very interesting to learn more about the chess world, the first World Champion, the conditions which existed at that time. And what do we have now: if your phone rings you lose the game. I wish I had lived in the 19th century.”
Boris on Korchnoi:
I remember fondly one conversation I had a few years back with Boris Spassky. We were discussing Victor Korchnoi (‘Victor the Terrible’). Boris and Victor had been bitter adversaries for more than 40 years at the time of this conversation, and they had played more than 60 times in official competitions..(including 2 candidates finals)… only Karpov can boast to have played Victor more times.
…Phenomenal capacity to work (both on the board and off the board)
…Iron nerves (even with seconds left on the clock)
…Ability to Calculate (maybe only Fischer was better in this department)
…Tenacity and perseverance in Defense (unmatched by anyone)
…The ability to counterattack (unrivaled in chess history)
…Impeccable Technique (Flawless, even better than Capa’s)
…Capacity to concentrate (unreal)
…Impervious to distractions during the game
…Brilliant understanding of strategy
…Superb tactian (only a few in history an compare with Victor)
…Possessing the most profound opening preparation of any GM of his generation
…Super-human will to win (matched only by Fischer)
…Deep knowledge of all of his adversaries
…Enormous energy and self-discipline