Fischer, the Invincible

Recently, I was going over some games from the 1963/64 US Championship. That tournament stands out for at least three reasons.

 
(1) The winner was the first, and so far, the only one, to achieve a perfect score in the Championship.

 

(2) Fischer won his sixth Championship in a row. He would eventually win eight of them, which was another perfect score as he played in a total of eight Championships.

 

(3) Fischer played a King’s Gambit, a rarity in a national championship. It was also one of his best games.
Here is the game, annotated by Fischer, with a few additional notes (mostly to highlight some background information) by me (RME).

 

 

GM Fischer-GM Evans
US Ch.
New York, Nov. 16 1963
[Fischer, “Exclusive Commentary on Round Two”, Chess Life and Review, Jan. 1964]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 [I knew that my opponent had some prepared line (since he usually plays the Sicilian) but felt that he would be unfamiliar with the King’s Gambit. Besides, I’d made up my mind to play it in this tournament anyway.] 2…exf4 3.Bc4 [Better than 3.Nf3 which is practically refuted by 3…d6 (see my analysis in the American Chess Quarterly.)] 3…Qh4+ [Turning it into an old-fashioned slugfest. The moderns frown on this move and prefer to fight in the center with 3…Nf6 4.Nc3 c6, etc. (But 4…Qh4+ is, by far, still the most common response in the Bishop’s Gambit as it displaces White’s king and prevent him from transposing into other variants of the King’s Gambit. RME.)] 4.Kf1 d6?

[Evans said this game would set chess back a hundred years. He didn’t know how right he was! The defense he chooses was also played by LaBourdonnais against MacDonnell (20th Match Game, 1834) which continued 5.d4 Bg4 6.Qd3 Nc6 7.Bxf7+? Kxf7 8.Qb3+ Kg6 9.Qxb7 Nxd4 10.Qxa8 f3 with a winning attack. More usual is 4…g5 (or d5) 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.d4 Ne7 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.h4 h6 and it’s a hard game.

(Here is the game in its entirety.

Macdonnell-de la Bourdonnais
Match, London, 1834
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d6 5.d4 Bg4 6.Qd3 Nc6 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qb3+ Kg6 9.Qxb7 Nxd4 10.Qxa8 Nf6 11.Na3 f3 12.g3 Bh3+ 13.Ke1 Qg4 14.Be3 d5 15.Qxa7 Nc6 16.Qxc7 d4 17.Bd2 Qxe4+ 18.Kd1 f2 19.Nxh3 Qf3+ 20.Kc1 Qxh1+ 0-1. RME)]

5.Nc3? [Returning the compliment. It’s natural that White should want to save the juicy tempo (5.Nf3!) and I make the same mistake as MacDonnell by delaying this move.] 5…Be6! [I overlooked this move. Now Black has a choice of where to put his Queen once she’s attacked. (This move also eliminates any quick victories by White as his bishop is thwarted. RME)] 6.Qe2

[Moving the bishop back is really not an option.

Harrwitz-Mayet
Match
Berlin, 1847
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d6 5.Nc3 Be6 6.Be2?! Qf6 7.d4 g5 8.d5 Bc8 9.Nf3 h6 10.h4 Be7 11.Nb5 Na6 12.Bd2 Qg7 13.Bc3 f6 14.Kg1 g4 15.Nfd4 f3 16.Bf1 Bd8 17.gxf3 gxf3+ 18.Kf2 Nc5 19.Qxf3 a6 20.Na3 Bg4 21.Qf4 h5 22.Re1 Nh6 23.Rg1 Be7 24.b4 Na4 25.Ne6 Qh7 26.Nxc7+ Kd7 27.Nxa8 Nxc3 28.Nb6+ Kc7 29.Nbc4 f5 30.Kg2 fxe4 31.Kh1 Nxd5 32.Qxe4 Qxe4+ 33.Rxe4 Bf3+ 34.Bg2 Bxe4 35.Bxe4 Nxb4 36.Rg7 Kd8 37.Bxb7 Nf5 38.Rf7 Nxh4 39.Na5 d5 40.c3 Ke8 41.Rxe7+ Kxe7 42.cxb4 Kd6 43.Bxa6 Nf5 44.Bd3 Ne7 45.Nc2 Rg8 46.Nb7+ Ke6 47.Nc5+ Kd6 48.a4 Nc6 49.Nb7+ Ke7 50.Nc5 Kd6 1/2-1/2. Fischer didn’t mention this game, but in all fairness, he didn’t have access to the Internet. RME]

6…c6 7.Nf3 (Inaccurate. Having made the mistake of delaying this move once, White should hold off a while longer and play 7.d4, which does not permit Black’s Queen to retreat to e7 without relinquishing his “f” pawn.) 7…Qe7 (If 7…Qh5 8.Nd5! Now, however, Black has time to consolidate his king’s position.) 8.d4 Bxc4 9.Qxc4 g5 (Despite White’s strong center and great lead in development, Black’s position is not easy to crack. If 10.h4 g4 11.Ne1 Bh6, etc.) 10.e5 d5 [During the game I thought Black’s best defense was 10…dxe5 11.Nxe5 (11.dxe5 Nd7 12.Ne4 Nxe5 13.Nxe5 Qxe5 14.Bd2 is unclear) 11…Nd7 12.h4 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Qxe5 14.hxg5 O-O-O 15.Bxf4 Qf5 with equality.] 11.Qd3 [11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Qc8+ Qd8 13.Qxb7 Nd7 is unsound. (14.Nxg5? Rb8). Now the threat is simply 11.Qf5.] 11…Na6 12.Ne2 (Not 12.Qf5 Nh6 13.Qxg5 Qxg5 14.Nxg5 Nb4 15.Bxf4 Nxc2 16.Rd1 Nf5 and Black wins.) 12…Nb4 (12…f6 loses 13.Qf5 Bg7 14.exf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf4! gxf4 16.Nxf4 with a winning attack. It is important to repel White’s queen from its present diagonal.) 13.Qd1 O-O-O (Very complicated, and possibly better, is 13.c3 which leads to a more active defense.) 14.c3 Na6 15.h4 g4 16.Nh2! h5 (Better was 16…f3 17.gxf3 gxf3 18.Nxf3 f6 although White’s king is quite safe and Black lags in development. Also to be considered was 16…Qxh4 17.Nxf4! g3 18.Qg4+ Qxg4 19.Nxg4 with a powerful ending.) 17.Nxf4

2019_10_10_A
17…Qxh4? [The losing move. Relatively best is 17…Kb8 (preventing Nxh5!) (Fischer is referring to White’s threat of 18.Nxh5! Rxh5 19.Qxg4+, winning the rook and the game. RME) but his game is already bad. (The advanced pawn on e5 which is crippling Black’s play on the kingside. RME).] 18.Kg1 (Black apparently underestimated the strength of this move. He has no adequate defense now to the twin threats of 19.Nxg4 and Nf1.) 18…Nh6 (The only way to avoid outright material loss. Black originally intended 18…Bh6 but 19.Nf1 followed by Rxh5 stands him up.) 19.Nf1 Qe7 20.Nxh5 Rg8 (Black already knew he was lost and was shaking his head in amazement at how quickly White’s dead pieces had sprung to life.) 21.Nfg3 Rg6 22.Nf4 Rg5 (If 22…Rg8 23.Nxd5, etc.) 23.Be3 Nc7 (The last hope. 23…f6 is answered by 24.Qd2 fxe5 25.Nxd5, winning a full rook.) 24.Qd2 Rg8 25.Nfe2 (This piquant retreat wins a piece, putting a clear end to black’s agony.) 25…f6 (Black is still hoping for a miracle.) 26.exf6 Qxf6 27.Bxh6 Bd6 28.Rf1 Qe6 29.Bf4 Rde8 30.Rh6 Bxf4 31.Qxf4 Qe7 32.Rf6
2019_10_10_B
[Tripling on the Bishop file. (And being material up, the victory is not too far off. RME)] 32…Ne6 33.Qe5 Ng5 34.Qxe7 Rxe7 35.Rf8+ (Trading down to skin and bones.) 35…Rxf8 36.Rxf8+ 1-0

 

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