Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
AFTER A state of field equality for the first two days, the elder of the two great warriors, 68-year-old Viktor Korchnoi, took control of his match with Boris Spassky in St Petersburg in the remaining three to win with a game to spare.

Their contest, which was to mark the 275th anniversary of St Petersburg University, took place from 27 March to 1 April with a final score of 6-4 in Korchnoi's favour; and it featured some excellent play from both players especially in this bruising battle.

Spassky surprised Korchnoi in the opening with the Benko gambit, which it seems he had never before played in a tournament game.

17... g5?! was weakening and 18... g4?! freed the f4 square for the bishop. This position has been played several times previously, including three games by Alexander Khalifman, in all of which he played the better 17... d5.

21.exd5 exd5 and then 22.Nb5 was much safer as was 22.Bd2. After 24... Qxa6 Korchnoi had 32 minutes remaining and Spassky 16. 28.Ra2!? was very bold - 28.Qxg4 Qxa1 29.Rxd7 gxf2 30.Kxf2 is much safer.

In the pyrotechnic diagram, amazingly, 30... f1=Q+ was the losing mistake. Instead, after 30... Rxf3+ 31.Kh2 Rh3+ (31... f1N+ 32.Kg1 Rg3+ 33.Qxg3 Nxg3 34.Rb7! is good for White) 32.Kxh3 f1Q+ 33.Kh2 Qf4+ 34.Kg1 Qf1+ White must acquiesce in perpetual check.

After 32.Rg2 it was simple.

White: Viktor Korchnoi

Black: Boris Spassky

St Petersburg 1999 (8th game)

Benko Gambit

1.d4 Nf6

2.c4 c5

3.d5 b5

4.cxb5 a6

5.bxa6 g6

6.Nc3 Bxa6

7.e4 Bxf1

8.Kxf1 d6

9.Nf3 Bg7

10.g3 0-0

11.Kg2 Nbd7

12.h3 Ra6

13.Re1Qa8

14.Bg5 h6

15.Bd2 e6

16.dxe6 fxe6

17.Qc2 g5

18.a4 g4?!

19.hxg4 Nxg4

20.Bf4 d5

21.Nb5 e5

22.Nc7 .Qa7

23.Nxa6 exf4

24.exd5 Qxa6

25.Re6 Qb7

26.Re7 fxg3

27.Qg6 Qxb2

28.Ra2!? Ne3+

29.Kh3 gxf2

30.Rxb2 (see diagram)

30... f1Q+?

31.Kh2 Nf5

32.Rg2 Qxg2+

33.Kxg2 Nxe7

34.Qe6+ Rf7

35.Qxd7 Nf5

36.Qc8+ Bf8

37.Ne5 Rg7+

38.Kh3 Nd6

39.Qe6+ Kh7

40.Nd7 Be7

41.Nxc5

Black resigns

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