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Shelby Lyman on Chess: ‘It Was too Late, We Were Dead’

Hint and Explanation: Better Than … f2

Bobby Fischer offered chess amateurs and professionals alike many great moments.

One such moment occurred in the third round of the 1963-64 U.S. Championship in Manhattan.

Spectators — including a group of grandmasters and national masters, this writer among them — were following the game in an analysis room with a growing degree of amazement..

After 20 moves, Fischer — a piece down — seemed to be losing badly.

“I don’t understand this at all,” Nicholas Rossolimo, a grandmaster and top U.S. player, said. “Fischer has nothing at all for his piece.”

Suddenly, Robert Byrne entered the room, his broad smile belying his abrupt resignation.

Fischer had created an elegant win in what we had regarded as a losing position.

Fischer’s handling of the game had been so profound, that Byrne — a great talent himself — could only express his admiration.

Perhaps inspired by his own creation, Fischer went on to win the event with an 11-0 score. No one was ever to exhibit such dominance in a U.S. championship, before or after.

A decade later, the Russian grandmaster Mark Taimanov attempted to describe the Fischer phenomenon: “We were playing chess. Fischer was playing something else. … Naturally there would come a time when we finally would understand what these moves had been about. But then it was too late. We were dead.”

Below is a win by Boris Grachev against Maksim Vavulin from Championship of Moscow superfinal.

Grachev Vavulin

1. d4 Nf6

2. Nf3 e6

3. Bg5 h6

4. Bh4 c5

5. e3 b6

6. N(b)d2 Bb7

7. Bd3 Be7

8. O-O O-O

9. c3 Nc6

10. Re1 d5

11. Qe2 Rc8

12. R(a)d1 Qc7

13. a3 e5

14. e4 cxd4

15. exd5 dxc3

16. bxc3 Na5

17. c4 R(f)e8

18. Ne4 Nxc4

19. Bxf6 gxf6

20. Nh4 Bxd5

21. Nf5 Kh8

22. Qh5 Bf8

23. Nxh6 Qd8

24. Ng4ch Black resigns

Solution to Beginners Corner: 1. … Rxc5! (threatens 2. … Rxc7, as well as 2. … f2 followed by 3. … f1=Q mate).