Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Bobby Fischer and Damiano's Defense

In the post "Naming and Contingency," I presented some well-known analysis showing that Black loses by force after 3...fxe5 in the unfortunately named Damiano's Defense. An anonymous commentator reported having read (or at least having thought that he read) that a "strong player" beat Bobby Fischer once, in a simul, using said defense.

I don't know about a win, but I think I know what he's referring to. In Bobby Fischer: Complete Games of the American World Chess Champion (first edition), compiled and edited by Lou Hays, we find this (the game score is from the book, but the analysis is mine):

Fischer,Robert James - McGregor,Robert F [C40]
Houston sim Houston, 1964

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.Nxe5 Qe7 4.Nf3 d5 5.d3 dxe4 6.dxe4 Qxe4+ 7.Be2 Bf5

This is a threat White can probably ignore: 8.Nd4 [After the Morphyesque 8.Nc3! Black is destined for misery: 8...Qxc2 (8...Bb4 9.0-0 Bxc3 (9...Qxc2 10.Qxc2 Bxc2 11.Nd4 Bg6 12.Ne6 Kd7 13.Bc4 Nc6 14.Rd1+ Bd6 15.Nxc7+-) 10.bxc3 Nc6 11.Re1 Nge7 12.Bb5 Qg4 13.h3 Qh5 14.Rxe7+ Kxe7 15.Ba3+ Kf7 16.Ne5+ Nxe5 17.Qxh5++-) 9.Qxc2 Bxc2 10.Nd4 Bg6 11.Bf4 Nc6 (11...c6? 12.Ne6 Na6 13.Bxa6 Kf7 14.Nc7+-) 12.Ne6+-] 8...Nc6 9.Nxf5 Qxf5 10.0-0 Bd6 11.Bg4 Qb5 12.Nc3 Qc4

13.Be2? After this lemon, the Black king gets to leave town. White's still better, but a huge part of his advantage is gone. [13.Re1+ Nge7 14.Be6+-] 13...Qf7 14.Bb5 0-0-0 15.Qg4+ [15.Bxc6?? Bxh2+ 16.Kxh2 Rxd1 17.Bxb7+ Kxb7 18.Rxd1 Ne7-+] 15...f5 16.Qh3 Nge7 17.Ne4 h6 18.Nxd6+ Rxd6 19.Bf4 Rd4 20.Be3 Rb4 21.Bxc6 Nxc6 22.b3 Re4 23.Rfd1 Rd8 24.Rxd8+ Nxd8 25.Rd1 Qe6 26.g3 Rxe3

[26...Rxe3 27.fxe3 Qxe3+ 28.Kf1 Qf3+ 29.Ke1 Qe3+ and White can't escape the perpetual without hanging the Rd1.] 1/2-1/2

Hays writes the following of McGregor's opening choice: "Bluffing. McGregor, actually a strong player, wanted Fischer to think he was a beginner." I'm not really sure that the bluff worked - wouldn't a beginner play 3...fxe5? Fischer didn't play a particularly incisive game, but even so, had he not played the 13.Be2 lemon - which had nothing obvious to do with purely psychological factors - McGregor would almost surely have been another simul victim.

So, fans of dubious openings, it's true: someone played one of the absolute worst openings against one of the world's absolute best players and lived to tell the tale, but it's not an example worth emulating.


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