Click to follow
An ageing master reflects on his misspent youth.

White: Hartston

Black: Gligoric

Hastings 1964-5

Of all my tournament games, this one sticks most fondly in my memory: a mis-remembered opening, an obvious win overlooked, a brilliant finish, its total inconsistency is part of the charm. I was 17 and had begun the tournament with five consecutive losses - still a record for Hastings - and drawn in round six. Then came this game.

1. e4 c5

Most unusual for Gligoric, who almost invariably met e4 with e5.

2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6

5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6

8. Qd2 Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. f5

At the time, everyone was playing 10. e5 here, but I had found an obscure game in which the Latvian player Gipslis had beaten Korchnoi with 10. f5. It seemed worth trying.

10 . . . Nc6 11. fxe6 fxe6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. e5 dxe5 14. Bxf6 gxf6

15. Ne4 Be7 16. Be2 0-0

As Fischer later showed, 16 . . . h5 is the right way to play.

17. Rb3

I was not quite sure what I was going to do after 17 . . . Qxa2, but played this confident that I was still following the Gipslis- Korchnoi game. Afterwards, I discovered that we had already diverged. Creativity often stems from a poor memory.

17 . . . Qa4 18. c4 f5? 19. 0-0]

The knight is immune: 19 . . . fxe4 loses to 20. Rg3+ Kh8 (Kf7 allows Bh5 mate) 21. Rxf8+ Bxf8 22. Qg5 and mate is forced.

19 . . . c5?? 20. Qh6??

Everyone else in the hall saw 20. Rg3+ Kh8 21. Qc3] winning at once since e5 cannot be protected. I was so fixated on the diagonal to h6 that I never even considered moving the queen in another direction.

20 . . . Rf7 21. Rg3+ Kh8 22. Bh5 Qe8 (see diagram)

Now 23. Bxf7 Qxf7 or 23. Rg7 Rxg7] 24. Bxe8 Bb7, threatening Rxg2+ as well as Rxe8, would both be fine for Black. Fortunately, I found something better, which surprised the onlookers as much as my 20th move had.

23. Rxf5]]

I was told that this move was met by comments from attending dignitaries such as: 'What the hell's he playing at?' and 'The stupid young bastard's messed it up'. It made up for move 20.

23 . . . exf5 24. Nd6] Bxd6 25. Bxf7]

The final point. After 25 . . . Qxf7 26. Qxd6 the threat is Qxe5+ or Qd8+, with Qf6+ in reserve if Blakc tries to defend with Qe8. Finally, 25 . . . h5, creating a square for the king on h7, loses to 26. Qh6+ Qh7 27. Qf8+.

Black resigns.

Looking back on the position nearly 30 years later, I am still amazed that I found the winning combination.

(Graphic omitted)