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FURTHER research into the opening variation of the 15th Spassky-Fischer game indicates that Bobby has been working harder than we thought. After 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 d6 4. Nc3 g6 5. e4 Bg7 the continuation 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 has never been trusted. The point is that after 7 . . . g5 8. Bg3 Qa5] it is hard for White to avoid the exchange of his black-squared bishop. The threat is 9 . . . Nxe4 and 9. Qd2 allows Nh5. Even after 9. Bd3, Black can play Nh5 (since 10. Qxh5 Bxc3+ regains the piece) but Fischer's 9 . . . Nxe4] is a more severe test of White's play.

The tactics continue with 10. Bxe4 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Qxc3+ 12. Kf1 f5 when the threats of fxe4 and f4 ensure that Black regains his piece. He never has to worry about Qh5+ since the king is perfectly secure on d8.

This has all been known from a game of Leonid Stein's in the mid-1960s, but Spassky's continuation of 13. Rc1 Qf6 14. h4, far from being, as it appeared from the mess he got into, a piece of unsuccessful improvisation in an unprepared opening, was, in fact, a recommendation of the Russian grandmaster Yefim Geller, allegedly good for White. After 14 . . . fxe4 15. Qh5+ followed by hxg5 does indeed leave Black considerably worse off.

What Geller and Spassky had missed was the force of Fischer's 14 . . . g4], the point being that 15. Bc2 f4 16. Bh2 g3] still regains the piece with a fine game for Black. Spassky thought for a long time after g4, but was unable to equalise.

The tantalising question to ask is when did Fischer discover the force of 14 . . . g4. Is it something he knew 25 years ago and kept in reserve during his hibernation? Was it something he came across when brushing up his openings in preparation for this match? Or, most intriguing of all, is it the first glimpse of the mountain of work that Fischer has been doing in private for 20 years?