by GM Joel Benjamin
A knight on the side of the board can bring down a whole position if it cannot be activated or rerouted to a more effective location. Be especially careful about blasting open the position when one of your pieces isn’t playing!
Boris Spassky [E66]
World Championship, Moscow (10), 1966
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.0–0 Nc6 6.Nc3 d6 7.d4 a6 8.d5 Na5 9.Nd2 c5 10.Qc2 e5
In this common King’s Indian Variation, Black usually plays 10…Rb8 to allow the knight to participate in a queenside attack. Spassky’s move, looking to attack the king, is certainly reasonable. But in shutting the long diagonal, it signals the a5-knight that it will be on its own for a while.
11.a3 b6 12.b4 Nb7 is another idea but Petrosian prefers to develop and maneuver to meet Black’s kingside ambitions.
11…Ng4 12.e4 f5 13.exf5 gxf5
Every Russian schoolboy knows White is in happy possession of the e4-square after 13…Bxf5?! 14.Nde4.
14.Nd1 b5 15.f3 e4 16.Bb2 exf3 17.Bxf3 Bxb2 18.Qxb2 Ne5 19.Be2
The Black pieces, other than you-know-who, are pretty active here. So a normal developing move, like 19…Bd7 or 19…Qf6, would give Spassky an okay position.
Spassky pushes to hard with one piece so far from the kingside.
20.Rxf4 is probably even stronger.
The better path for Black was 20…Rxf4 21.Rxf4 Qg5+ 22.Kh1 Qxf4 23.Nc3, which still looks nice for White, but at least the good knight on e5 stays in the center.
Petrosian was great with exchange sacrifices, particularly ones that could steal the initiative from the opponent.
Black can again try 21…Rxf4, but after 22.Rxf4 Qg5+ 23.Rg4 Bxg4 24.Nxg4 Nxg4 25.Bxg4 Qxg4+ 26.Kh1 Qd4 he will have a very unpleasant ending (against a guy you really didn’t want to see that kind of thing)
22.Rxf1 Ng6 23.Bg4 Nxf4?
Defense is needed here, though Spassky may have judged 23…Qf6 24.Be6+ Kh8 25.Qxf6+ Rxf6 26.f5 Ne5 27.Ne4± would not have a happy ending.
24.Rxf4! Rxf4 25.Be6+ Rf7 26.Ne4 Qh4 27.Nxd6 Qg5+ 28.Kh1 Raa7 29.Bxf7+ Rxf7
One of those “ripped from the pages of a tactics book” combinations you don’t often see in real life! Spassky resigned because 30…Kxh8 31.Nxf7+ Kg7 32.Nxg5 leaves White up a piece. The sad knight on a5 left Black outgunned on the kingside!
The notes to this game are an expansion of comments excerpted from a video in my Internet Chess Club (ICC) series “Need to Know Basics.” If you liked this bit of instruction, you should watch more of the video series. You can also expect similar high quality instruction from my American Online Chess Academy (AOCA) classes!