Spassky's visit to San Fran
By John Donaldson   
October 8, 2006
Photo by Richard Shorman courtesy

This past weekend the Mechanics' Institute was honored by a visit from Boris and Marina Spassky. The 10th World Champion, who became a household name in the United States following the Fisher-Spassky match in 1972, gave a series of lectures, talks and a simul. The program began on Saturday morning when Boris met and worked with many of the Bay Areas best juniors including WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs, NM Sam Shankland, plus Daniel Naroditsky and Nicholas Nip (respectively the top rated ten and eight-year-old players in the US).

Later in the day he faced twenty-five players in a simul scoring 20 wins and five draws. Those splitting the point with Spassky were Alan and Daniel Naroditsky, Ewelina Krubnik, Stanley Eng and Bryan Reinhardt. Among those who lost were NM Albert Rich and Expert Alan Freberg and a slew of Class A players including Bruce "Mustard" Kopet. Part of the exhibition was televised on NBC ( KNTV) that evening on the local news. Heads up to Anthony Corrales for making the latter possible.

Sunday morning Boris gave an advanced lecture for members of the Mechanics' Institute US Chess League teamand GM Patrick Wolff. The topic was Rook and Pawn versus Rook. The former World Champion gave a very informative and entertaining talk on the theme of Master and Dog - that to play Rook and Pawn endings correctly you must understand the relationship between the Master (King) and Dog (Rook). The Mechanics are now leading the league with 5.5/6, so Boris must have helped. Read the SF Mechanics' blog. -CLO.

Later in the day, after brunch at the Sheraton Palace hotel, Boris gave a 2 hour talk and question and answer to an over flow crowd that warmly greeted one of the greatest ambassadors the game has ever known. The event brought out many well-known faces.

Among those attending Spassky's talk were GM Tal Shaked, IM David Strauss, IM Anthony Saidy, SM Richard Lobo, NMs Robert Hammie and Alan Benson and Expert Robert Moore, the noted chess bibliophile. Sunday night Boris suffered a mild stroke that caused him to have to cancel his talk at the MI on Tuesday and trip to Reno for the Western States Open the following day.

Thankfully Boris is making a complete recovery with no diminishment of his physical or mental abilities. Marina and Boris would like to thank the many individuals who have helped and wished them well during their stay in San Francisco. The Spassky's hope to return to San Francisco.

A fantastic collection of photos of Spassky's talk to the kids on Saturday and his simul can be found at The team of Richard Shorman, Kerry Lawless and Mark Shelton did a fantastic job.

San Francisco Expert Alan Freberg kindly shares his game with Boris from Saturday's simul:


1. e4

Spassky had everyone play the Caro Kann.
I knew he liked to play the King’s Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4) and in fact I saw him play a few KGs before he got to my board. My simple response to the KG has always been the Falkbeer Counter Gambit (2…d5). I knew that would be no good against him, though it has served me well in 5 minute chess. I played the Caro-Kann Defence (1…c6 and 2…d5) to avoid his KG. At his Q & A the next day he said he had never lost with the KG, spoke of having played many thousands of KGs and that he had played it at every opportunity in the simul.
2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4. Ne4 Nf6 5. Nf6 gf 6. c3 Bf5 7. Nf3 Qc7 8. Nh4 Bg6 Perhaps my first inaccuracy. Varnusz, in “Play the Caro-Kann,” cites the game Durasevic-Hort, Marianske-Lazne 1962 where 7. Nf3 Qc7 8. g3 e6 9. Bg2 Nd7 10. Bf4 e5 11. Be3 O-O-O 12. O-O Kb8 13. Nh4 Be6 14. Qc2 Nb6 was played “with slight advantage to White.” With Spassky’s move order the Bg6 may be misplaced, while playing Be6 blocks the thematic …e5.
9. g3 Nd7 10.Bg2 O-O-O 11. O-O e6 12. Bf4 Bd6
12…e5 is probably better. 13. Be3 Kb8 would probably have resulted. However, I was nervous about him obtaining the two Bishops in an open position and chose the B exchange instead.
13. Bd6 Qd6 14. Qf3 f5
Again, 14…e5 looks better. I should have aimed for …e4, …f5 and Nf6. I thought activating my B was more important. The B did some good work keeping his Rooks off the d1 square in some later fantasy variations, but was otherwise useless at h5. Bad idea.
15. b4 Nf6 16. b5 Bh5 17. Qd3 c5
After this move I’m completely lost. Even though I save myself from his immediate mating attack with 22…a5 my position is a shambles while he has no weaknesses. Taking 17…cb 18. Qb5 leaves me having to play an eventual …b6 which loses to his a-Pawn’s advance.
18. Qc4 b6 19. a4 Qc7 20. Bc6 Ne4
With 20. Bc6 he takes away my K’s escape square (I had visions of running it over to the safety of the K-side) and sets up the mate. With …Ne4 I looked at 21.a5 Nd2 22.ab Qb6 23. dc Nc4 24. cb ab with material equality and hopes of running my K to safety.
21. Rfe1 Nd6 22. Qa2 a5 23. d5 f4 24. de fg 25. hg Ne8
Terrible move. 25…fe would have been better, but for some reason his 26. Qe6 looked worse than what actually happened.
26. e7 Rd6
I sacked the exchange as he had several options that included Nf5, Be8 and Ng7—meanwhile my Rook has no good squares. Hmmm—Just thinking--maybe I should have let him play 26.edQ like he did in his game against Bronstein in the 1960 USSR Championship, except that I had no follow up and Spassky did. The next day he spoke at length about that game, David Bronstein and the use of a position from that game in the opening scene of the James Bond movie “From Russia With Love” where Specter’s evil Kronstein played Spassky’s side of the game. Naturally, it was a Kings Gambit.
27. Qc4 Rc6 28. bc Qc6 29.Re5 Bg6 30. Rd1 Nc7 31. Nf5 1-0 Black resigns.

Spassky’s comment was “Yes, it is time.” Truth to be told, I could just as easily have resigned at least six moves earlier, but a simul is, to some extent, a group effort. While I doubted that I would get lucky, I could occupy his efforts which might allow others to get lucky—and in the mean time, you never know. In fact, he offered two or three draws to some strong younger players during that time. He was a real gentleman.

Walnut Creek Class A player Clarence Lehman shares his loss to Boris:


1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Bc4 Be6 7.Qe2 Be7 8.O-O Nc6 9.d4 Nxc3 10.bxc3 Bxc4 11.Qxc4 Qd6 12.a4 O-O 13.Ba3 Qf6 14.Bxe7 Qxe7 15.Rae1 Qd6 16.Ng5 Qg6 17.Ne4 Qf5 18.g3 Rae8 19.Rxf4 Qg6 20.Qd3 f5 21.Ref1 b6 22.g4 Rf7 23.Ng3 Ne7 24.gxf5 Qc6 25.c4 Qxa4 26.Ne4 h6 27.f6 Ng6 28.Rg4 Nf8 29.Rxg7+ Rxg7+ 30.fxg7 Nh7 31.Ng3 Kxg7 32.Nf5+ Kh8 33.Nxh6 Nf8 34.Nf7+ Kg7 35.Ne5 Rxe5 36.dxe5 Qe8 37.Qg3+ Ng6 38.Rf6 a5 39.h4 Kh7 40.Qg5 1-0

The Mechanics Institute would like to thank Vega Capital Group and the following individuals whose financial contributions helped to make the Spassky's visit possible: Mingsen Chen, Neil Falconer, Andy Ansel, Joe Russell, Charles Maddigan, Jim Flack, Michael Hilliard, Jim Eade, Jerry Lerman and Agnis Kaugars. It is not too late to contribute to the Spassky fund which is still running a deficit. Donations, payable to the Mechanics Institute, are tax deductible and can be sent to 57 Post, Room #408, SF, CA 94104.

I would also like to thank Alan Benson, Patrick Wolff, Sam Shankland, Tony Lama, George Sanguinetti, Steve Brandwein, Anthony Corrales and Agnis Kaugars for their help over the weekend in getting the Chess Room ready for various Spassky activities and to Chris Mavraedis for kindly providing transportation for the Spasskys.

Reprinted on CLO courtesy of IM John Donaldson at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco.