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Shelby Lyman on Chess: Friends Forever

Hint and Explanation: Vacate the f2-Square

Friendships among competitors in sports are not unusual.

The most notable in modern chess is the relationship between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky. Their seven-week match in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1972 is a landmark in chess history.

A major factor in their friendship was Spassky’s respect and affection for his American rival, whose directness and honesty he admired as much as his chess.

After the Russian’s defeat in 1972, Fischer and Spassky retained intermittent contact despite the barrier of the Cold War. Their continued relationship laid the foundation for a second but unofficial match in Sveti Stefan, Yugoslavia in 1992 although both were well past their prime.

Often referred to as the “revenge match,” their second meeting — also won by Fischer — was more exhibition than serious chess.

Curiously, Spassky seemed more concerned about the negative effects of a loss on his vulnerable friend than about winning the encounter for his own sake.

After Fischer’s premature death 16 years later in Iceland, Spassky stood, eyes filled with tears, at his graveside. “Do you think,” he asked, “the spot next to him is available?”

This writer’s favorite recollection of Fischer and Spassky is the moment after Spassky had conceded defeat in the sixth game in Reykjavik. Despite the painful loss, Spassky rose to his feet on stage to join the audience in thunderous applause for his rival.

Below is a win by Evgeniy Najer against Alexander Motylev from the 21st Russian Team Championship in Loo, Russia.

Motylev Najer

1. e4 e5

2. Nf3 Nc6

3. Bb5 a6

4. Ba4 Nf6

5. O-O Be7

6. d3 b5

7. Bb3 O-O

8. Nc3 d6

9. a3 Na5

10. Ba2 c5

11. b4 Nc6

12. Nd5 Nd4

13. bxc5 Nxd5

14. Bxd5 Bg4

15. Bxa8 Qxa8

16. cxd6 Bxd6

17. Bb2 Nxf3+

18. gxf3 Bh5

19. d4 Qc8

20. Kg2 f5

21. dxe5 fxe4

22. Qd5+ Rf7

23. e6 Bxf3+

24. Kg1 Re7

25. Qxd6 Rxe6

26. Qd5 h6

27. Rfd1 Kh7

28. Kf1 Rg6

29. Ke1 Qxc2 0-1

Solution to Beginner’s Corner: 1. ... Nh1ch! 2. Rxh1 R(c2)f2! (threatens ... R(f7)f3 mate) (from Dietrich-Bauer ’67).