Boris Spassky turns 85 tomorrow!
Happy Birthday Boris!
Boris Vasilievich Spassky was born January 30, 1937 in Leningrad. Boris is the tenth World Chess Champion, holding the title from 1969 to 1972. Tomorrow Boris Spassky will celebrate his 85th birthday!
Spassky won the Soviet Chess Championship twice outright (1961, 1973), and twice more lost in playoffs (1956, 1963), after tying for first during the event proper. He was a World Chess Championship candidate on seven occasions (1956, 1965, 1968, 1974, 1977, 1980, and 1985).
The above information is what you would find on WIKI, but what it does not tell you is that Boris Spassky is the most famous chess player alive, the most respected and certainly the best ambassador that chess could ever want. Now long retired from active competition, Boris is a most welcome guest where ever he goes. The millions of friends and fans that he has made in his life all feel honoured to have him in their presence.
It is hard for me to pick which one of his games is my favourite–he has played so many brilliant and unforgettable games–but undoubtedly his victory over David Bronstein in the Soviet Championship in 1960 has a very special place. When Fischer saw this game he was blown away. Left speachless! In his very next interview he said that Spassky was one of the 10 best players in history!
Spassky,B – Bronstein,D
So famous was this game in the 1960’s that it was included in the James Bond film ‘From Russia with Love’.
A number of years ago I wrote a blog entry (Spassky according to Spassky) , and for the occasion of Boris’ 85th birthday I reproduce it here. Enjoy!
”… I gave a simultaneous chess display at the Officers’ House in Minsk. I was eleven at the time. In game I checkmated one officer. He asked to take back his move. After two moves I was checkmated. I began to cry bitterly and the game was stopped for 15 minutes… since that time I never allow taking back moves. It was a very sad experience.”
”The game was adjourned, and I had a good position; but I was very tired from analyzing and went to resume next morning unshaven.
Before I played important games I usually tried to bathe, to put on a good shirt and suit, and to look comme il faut. But on this occasion I had analyzed incessantly and came to the board looking very disheveled and fatigued.
Then I was a like a stubborn mule. I remembered that Tal offered me a draw, but I refused. Then I felt my strength ebb away, and I lost the thread of the game. My position deteriorated, I proposed a draw, but Tal refused.
When I resigned there was a thunder of applause, but I was in a daze and hardly understood what was happening.
I was certain the world went down; I felt that there was something terribly wrong. After this game I went on the street and cried like a child.
I remembered that in 1951 when I lost to Smyslov in his clock simultaneous was the last time I cried, and I promised myself then never to cry again, but after losing to Tal I couldn’t keep my word.”
”It was a revelation to me how seriously and nervously the other candidates took their tournament work. I remember especially Bronstein one evening wanted to reassure himself about his prospects. He took three dice and threw them three times.
Each time three fives came up, and Bronstein decided this was a lucky omen. Next round he had to play against Smyslov and he lost, completely killed. I tried to understand this situation; I was very young and I saw that the other candidates were very nervous and excited.
I felt quite calm, and I understood that I was a very weak player in this company but had to fight and attack.”
”Bondarevsky did a lot not only for my chess knowledge and understanding of positions, but also for my character. I admired him less as a grandmaster than I did Tolush. Bondarevsky used to be a combination player, but then he decided to become like Capablanca and now his chess is rather dull. But when I first got to know him well, I was drawn to him, felt a great respect and saw that this man was a very interesting man.”
”Ocasionally I looked at my games which I played at age of 30, 40, 45 and looked my present games when I was 60 or 62 and I said: ‘Ohhh, I’m crazy…to play such a bad chess after showing such beautiful quality. ‘So I think I stopped playing very late.”
”I believe that the Marshall is good enough for a draw, which was of course all I aimed for with Black. After this match (with Tal,1965) Bondarevsky and I thought we should erect a statue to Frank Marshall; a very sympathetic player!”
Spassky on Karpov:
”When I play chess probably I seem rather unruffled,but this is not really so. It is like a clown’s face which is put on specially for the occasion; when I appear particularly calm I am really feeling specially nervous.”
”Chigorin was probably the first ‘computer-like’ Grandmaster. He always gave lots of concrete variations and looked at positions without prejudice.”
”In my country, at that time, being a champion of chess was like being a King. At that time I was a King – and when you are King you feel a lot of responsibility, but there is nobody there to help you. ”
On Spassky’s technique for encouraging players to resign in the simul: “… his rival is two pawns down in an endgame (king and six pawns v king and four) … Spassky would approach the board, look at it with a frown for 30 seconds as if it was the hardest position he’d ever seen, then look up at his opponent and say in that lovely, lilting Russian voice:‘But where is your army?’ Worked every time. I think he scored 15 wins and 5 draws in the simul.”
”Sometimes I play through games with computer. From time to time computer comes up with very interesting moves…But I think that modern players should learn how to control the computer, as otherwise it would be bad for the game. ”
”When I played Bobby Fischer, my opponent fought against organizations – the television producers and the match organizers. But he never fought against me personally. I lost to Bobby before the match because he was already stronger than I. He won normally.”
”Together with Bondarevsky and Krogius, I came to the conclusion that the World Champion, for all his great positional mastery, was not a player of a strict, classical profile. His style, directed towards limiting the opponent’s possibilities, is unique and, particularly in match play, extraordinarily effective.
On the whole, our idea justified itself: in the Tarrasch Defence, for example, Petrosian was not able even once in five attempts to seize the isolated queen’s pawn.”
”Nowadays the dynamic element is more important in chess – players more often sacrifice material to obtain dynamic compensation. Of course, such players were in my generation too and they existed before (for example, Alekhine) but then fewer people played like that than now. When I spoke with Alexander Nikitin (former coach of Garry Kasparov ), he said that players of my generation had very good understanding of chess, but the game was slower then. Nowadays there is more dynamism in chess, modern players like to take the initiative. Usually they are poor defenders though.”
I remember fondly one conversation I had a few years back with Boris Spassky. We were discussing Victor Korchnoi (‘Victor the Terrible’). Boris and Victor had been bitter adversaries for more than 40 years at the time of this conversation, and they had played more than 60 times in official competitions..(including 2 candidates finals)… only Karpov can boast to have played Victor more times.
- ...Killer Instinct (nobody can even compare with Victor’s ‘gift’)
…Phenomenal capacity to work (both on the board and off the board)
…Iron nerves (even with seconds left on the clock)
…Ability to Calculate (maybe only Fischer was better in this department)
…Tenacity and perseverance in Defense (unmatched by anyone)
…The ability to counterattack (unrivaled in chess history)
…Impeccable Technique (Flawless, even better than Capa’s)
…Capacity to concentrate (unreal)
…Impervious to distractions during the game
…Brilliant understanding of strategy
…Superb tactian (only a few in history an compare with Victor)
…Possessing the most profound opening preparation of any GM of his generation
…Super-human will to win (matched only by Fischer)
…Deep knowledge of all of his adversaries
…Enormous energy and self-discipline