Canadian `native son' springs surprise on a Soviet superstar
As mentioned in a previous column, 34-year-old Kevin Spraggett sprang the biggest surprise of the 1988 Candidates matches when he defeated the young Soviet superstar, Andrei Sokolov. Spraggett, who was the only candidate who did not earn his place by the normal qualifying procedure, was playing as a ``favored son'' of Canada. (The hosting country is awarded one place in the tournament.) Today's featured game, the fifth in the original six-game match, was critical, as Spraggett was trailing by a 2-1 score and Sokolov would have the White pieces in Game 6. A point ahead in the match, it was somewhat surprising that the 24-year-old Sokolov defended the Sicilian with the supersharp poisoned-pawn variation of the Najdorf Defense. A complicated middlegame ensued; when the smoke had cleared, Spraggett was a pawn ahead in an unclear opposite-colored-bishop endgame, which he won in a fashion that may take its place in future endgame anthologies.
The loss took the wind out of Sokolov's sails and he seemed to play scared for the drawn sixth game and the playoffs, which were won by the Canadian in the fifth speed game. (The playoff games were played at increasingly faster tempos, with the fifth game being a 15-minute game.)
Sicilian Poisoned Pawn
Spraggett Sokolov 1. P-K4 P-QB4 2. N-KB3 P-Q3 3. P-Q4 PxP 4. NxP N-KB3 5. N-QB3 P-QR3 6. B-N5 P-K3 7. P-B4 Q-N3 8. Q-Q2 QxP 9. R-QN1 (a) Q-R6 10. P-B5 N-B3 11. PxP PxP 12. NxN PxN 13. B-K2 B-K2 14. O-O O-O 15. R-N3 (b) Q-B4 ch 16. B-K3 Q-K4 17. B-KB4 Q-B4 ch 18. K-R1 N-N5 (c) 19. P-KR3 P-K4 20. N-R4 Q-R2 21. B-B4 ch K-R1 22. PxN PxB 23. N-N6 R-QN1 24. RxP (d) B-Q2 25. NxB QxN 26. R-B5 RxR/N 27. BPxR (e) Q-Q1 (f) 28. BxP P-N3 29. R-B3 B-B3 30. Q-KB2 K-N2 31. B-B4 Q-K2 32. Q-K3 P-B4 (g) 33. Q-B4 P-N4 34. Q-B5 B-K4 35. QxR ch QxQ 36. RxQ KxQ 37. P-R4 B-B6 38. K-N1 K-K2 39. K-B2 K-Q1 40. K-K3 K-B2 41. K-Q3 B-K8 42. B-N5 K-N3 43. K-B4 B-N5 44. K-Q5 K-B2 45. K-K6 B-Q7 46. B-B4 B-B6 47. B-Q5 B-Q7 48. K-B6 K-Q2 49. K-N7 K-K2 50. KxP K-B3 51. K-N8 K-K2 52. K-N7 B-B6 ch 53. K-N6 B-Q7 54. K-B5 K-Q2 55. K-B6 K-Q1 56. B-B6 K-B2 57. B-N5 K-Q1 58. K-K6 K-B2 59. B-K8 B-B6 60. K-K7 B-Q7 61. B-B7 B-B6 62. B-B4 K-B3 63. B-N5 ch K-B2 64. K-K6 B-Q7 65. P-N3 B-B6 66. K-B5 B-Q7 67. P-R5 (h) P-Q4 68. PxP BxP 69. KxP K-Q3 70. B-B4 B-K8 71. K-N6 BxP 72. P-N5 B-B5 73. K-B6 Resigns
A.Fischer used to espouse the Black side of the poisoned pawn, usually with conspicuous success. The last clock game he lost with the Black pieces was in his Spassky match, when the latter tried 9.N-N3. The strategy remained unchanged, Black losing time escaping with his queen and White hoping to utilize this time by attacking the Black king.
B.All this has been seen before: The net result is an unclear position in which White enjoys an enduring initiative at the cost of the proffered pawns.
C.This fancy move, hoping for 19.BxN, P-K4, recapturing the piece with an easy game for Black does not work out well against Spraggett's resourceful play. Admittedly the Black position was not easy, in view of the limited squares available for his queen.
D.So White wins back his pawn and soon nets another to boot. The White knight at N6 is taboo, as is evidenced by 24.... RxR; 25.QxR, RxN; 26.Q-B7, and mate is unavoidable, or 24.... RxN; 25.RxR ch, BxR; 26.Q-B2, and White will use the mate threat at B8 to spear the Black rook.
E.This uncharacteristic capture away from the center is very good. White envisions the win of the Black QRP, when he will have an outside passed pawn on the rook file. This will give him excellent winning chances despite the opposite-colored bishops.
F.Black had no good way to hold his RP. Good for White is 27.... RxR; 28.NPxR, Q-N2; 29.Q-R5. It is likely that Black did not realize that the pure bishop ending, a pawn minus, could be lost.
G.This move may be the game loser, since it later enables White to penetrate on the White squares. A long, fascinating endgame now ensues, in which White eventually uses his QRP as a diversion while he forces the issue on the other wing.
H.Finally overshadowing the victory. After 67.... BxP; 68.KxP, a White win is child's play, so Black chooses to lose another way.
Arthur Bisguier, an international grandmaster for more than 30 years, is a former US champion and has won or shared the US Open title five times.