Fischer-Fine, Skittles Game 1963
Fine was well-retired from chess at this point, but was at one time in the world's absolute elite, tying for first in the 1938 A.V.R.O. tournament (but second on tie-breaks behind Paul Keres) that was supposed to serve as a candidates' event to face Alexander Alekhine for the world title. Further, he was invited to the 1948 world championship match-tournament to find a successor to Alekhine, who had died with the title in 1946, but declined to participate.
Fine played well in the skittles match with Fischer from which the game in MSMG was taken, even winning one game, but in the game in the book he gets hammered:
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.O-O dxc3 8.Qb3 Qe7 9.Nxc3 Nf6 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 Ne5 12.Nxe5 Qxe5 13.Bb2 Qg5 14.h4 Qxh4 15.Bxg7 Rg8 16.Rfe1+ Kd8 17.Qg3 1-0
Black's resignation is altogether appropriate, as 17...Qxg3 18.Bf6 is mate, while other 17th moves lead to the loss of the queen with the king's death to ensue shortly thereafter.
Fine's play in the opening was a model for those who eager to lose in a quick and stylish way, and Fischer does a good job in his notes of pointing out various ways Black could have improved. Victor Reppert (who has himself just started a blog covering a diverse array of subjects from C. S. Lewis to Buddhism to, of course, chess) thinks that Fischer did miss something, however, in his notes to Black's 14 move. We begin with a celebratory diagram:
Fischer quickly dismisses 14...Qh6 on account of 15.Qa3, when the dual threats of Qxa5 and Rfe1+ followed by Qe7# are fatal, but 14...Qg4 is more interesting. After 14...Qg4 15.Rfe1+ Kd8 16.Qe3 Bb4, we come to the critical position:
Now follow three lines, in order of increasing strength:
(1) First, Fischer's line, which wins in the artistry department: 17.Qh6 gxh6 18.Bf6+ Be7 19.Bxe7+ Ke8 20.Bg5+ Kf8 21.Bxh6+ Qg7 22.Re8+! Kxe8 23.Bxg7, winning, because saving the rook with 23...Rg8 comes at the king's expense: 24.Re1+ Kd8 25.Bf6#
It's very nice, but if Black keeps his wits about him with 17...Be7, it seems the best White can do is reach a substantially better ending that might be winning but will certainly take some work after 18.Bxg7 Rg8 19.d6 cxd6 20.Rxe7 Qxg7 21.Qxg7 Rxg7 22.Rae1 Kc7 23.Bxf7.
(2) Next comes Reppert's line, which looks like a genuine improvement, pursuing the same goal of crushing Black on the long diagonal, but in a more forceful way: 17.Qe5 f6 18.Qxf6+ gxf6 19.Bxf6+ Be7 20.Rxe7 Qg6 21.Re6+ Qxf6 22.Rxf6 with a favorable version of the endgame we saw in the previous line.
(3) Finally, a line to dispense with endgames: 17.d6! At the cost of a pawn but with gain of tempo, White bottles up the Black position and makes the d-file another attacking line, and that proves too much for Black to handle.
Black must address the threat of Qe7#, and as 17...Qxh4 is a dismal failure due to 18.g3, Black must choose between 17...cxd6 and 17...Bxd6. So:
(3a) 17...Bxd6 18.Bxf7 (threatening 19.Qe8+ Rxe8 20.Rxe8#) c6 (18...c5 19.Rad1 Qf5 [19...Qf4 20.Qxf4 Bxf4 21.Bxg7 wins a rook for free] 20.Rxd6 Qxf7 21.Qg5+ Kc7 22.Qxc5+ Kd8 23.Qg5+ Kc7 24.Rac1+ Kb8 25.Be5 with a quick mate) 19.Rad1 Qf5 20.Rxd6 Qxf7 21.Bd4 Kc7 22.Qe5 and wins.
(3b) 17...cxd6 18.Qe7+ Kc7 19.Rac1+ Kb8 20.Bxf7 a5 21.Rc4 Qf5 22.Rxb4+ axb4 23.Qxd6+ Ka7 24.Bd4+ forcing mate.
In sum, Fischer's analysis on move 14 wasn't as accurate or comprehensive as it could have been, though in all fairness I think his goal with the variation with 17.Qh6 was at least as much to display a beautiful idea in a sideline rather than rigorous analysis of a serious game. I think we get the best of both worlds then - an elegant tactical idea from Fischer and a very useful attacking motif arising from further analysis. Indeed, that's part of the value of going through great chess books new and old - there is much to learn from them, but it's a conversation to which we can contribute as well.