Kindred’s Special: The Sicilian Closed Variation code B23/24/25

Boris Spassky played the type of chess game that both entertained and educated me in the fine art of attack and defense.  His diverse opening knowledge made him one of the most feared Grandmasters in his prime years of the 60s and 70s with scalps gained from Petrosian, Fischer, Korchnoi, Tal, Portisch, Reshevsky, Geller and Larsen.

Candidates Match 1/2 final, Game 7, Malmoe 1968

White:  Boris Spassky    vs    Black:  Bent Larsen

Opening:  Sicilian Closed B25

1. e4  c5  2. Nc3  d6  3. g3  g6  4. Bg2  Bg7  5. d3  Nc6  6. f4 e6  7. Nf3  Nge7  8. O-O  O-O  9. Bd2  Rb8  10. Rb1  b5  11. a3  11….f5. 12. Be3  Qc7  13. Bf2  Kh8  14. Re1  b4  15. a:b4  c:b4  16. Ne2  f:e4  17. d:e4  e5  18. Qd2  Be6  19. Nc1 (>Nd3)  20. N:e5.

Not quite accurate is 20. Ng5  Bg8  21. e:d5  N:d5  22. B:d5?  Rbd8 with a tiny edge.

20. … N:e5   21. f:e5

Smyslov, a known specialist in the Sicilian Closed says 21. e:d5?  Nc4  22. d6  N:d2  23. d:c7  Rbe8  24. Ra1  B:b2  25. R:a7  Nc8 and Black is better.

21. … d:e4  22. B:e4  Rbd8  23. Nd3  a5  24. Qe2  Bc4  25. Qe3  Nf5  26. Qc5  Q:c5  27. B:c5  Rfe8  28. Bb6  Rb8  29. Bc7  Rbc8  30. B:a5  Nd4 31. Nf2  Bf8  32. Bb6  Ne2+  33. Kg2  R:e5  34. Rbd1  Re6  35. Be3  Rce8  36. Rd2  R:e4   37. N:e4  R:e4  38. Re:e2  B:e2  39. R:e2  Bg7  40. Kf3  Rc4  41. b3   Rc3  42. Ke4  h5  43. Kd5  Rc8  44. Bc5  Bc3  45. Re7  Rd8+  46. Bd6  Kg8  47. Rb7  Bg7  48. Rb8!  Resigns (1-0).

Avoiding 48. R:b4?? R:d6+ 49. K:d6 Bf8+.

Spassky played the Closed Sicilian 11 times in Soloviov’s Boris Spassky’s 400 selected games, handling the system in various ways.  The next game is totally different from the above game.

White:  Boris Spassky   vs   Black:   Hjartarson

Sicilian Defense – Closed Variation

World Cup,  Belfort  1988

1. e4  c5  2. Nc3  Nc6  3. g3  g6  4. Bg2  Bg7  5. d3  e6  6. Be3  Nd4?!  7.  Nce2!  b6?

This adventure by Black’s Knight is somewhat questionable in that it violates the principle of not moving the same piece twice in the opening stage unless forced through some threat.  So is this also true of White’s Knight retreat to e2?  One might call it academic but 7. Nce2 deserves ! because it’s retreat threatens to challenge the Knight outpost by the c-pawn.  It also carries with it the tactical point in that if now, 7… N:e2  8. N:e2  B:b2  9. Rb1  Bg7  10. B:c5  Qa5+  11. Bb4  Q:a2  12. O-O.  In this line, 8…d6 instead is met by strengthening the center with 9. c3.  In both cases, White is better developed.

8. B:d4  c:d4  9. e5  Rb8  10. f4  f6  11.  Nf3  f:e5  12.  f:e5  Qc7  13. Ne:d4  B:e5  14. Qe2  B:d4

If 14. … Bg7, White goes for active central play. Visualize a plan like,  15. Nb5  Qc5  16. d4  Qb4+  17. c3  Qe7 18. Qc4 with White pressure building upon Black’s answers.

15. N:d4  Qc5  16. Nb3  Qg5  17. O-O  Ne7  18. Rae1  Rf8  19. Nd2!  R:f1+  20. R:f1  Nf5  21. Nc4  Ke7?

This turns out bad because,  22. g4  b5 (Nh4  23. Qf2  Qe5  24. d4  Q:c4  25. Qf8#) ; 22….Nd6  23. Qf2  Ne8  24. d4  Ba6 25. Ne5+ and Black defense cannot hold.  23. g:f5  b:c4  24. Qe5  Resigns. (1-0).

The final example is from the Spassky-Fischer rematch.

White:  Boris Spassky   vs.   Black:  Robert J. Fischer

Rematch 20 years later–Game 20

Belgrade  1992

1. e4  c5  2.  Ne2  Nf6  3. Nbc3  e6  4. g3  Nc6 5. Bg2  Be7

Spassky playing Black in game 23 played 5….d5  6. e:d5  e:d5  7. d3  Be7  8. Bg5  d4  9. B:f6  B:f6  10. Ne4  Be7  11. Nf4  O-O.

6. O-O  d6  7. d3  a6  8. a3  Qc7  9. f4  b5  10. Kh1  O-O  11. Be3  Bb7 (Bd7)  12. Bg1  Rab8.

Other moves have been tried here: 12….Kh8!?; 12. …Rfe8;  12….Rcc8–all seeming to fall short of equality.

13. h3  Ba8  14. g4  b4 (Kh8!?)  15. a:b4  c:b4  16. Na4  Nd7  17. Qd2  Rfc8  18. b3!  a5  19. g5  Bf8  20. Ra2  Ne7?!

Perhaps missing any opportunity to complicate things by 20…Nd8  21. Nd4 g6  22. Nb2  e5! but 21. Ng3  g6  22. Be3  Bg7 23. Qf2 keeps the slight edge.

21. Nd4  g6

A bit slow. 21… Nc5 may have been more problematic according to some.  But Fischer wants to reposition his Bishop on the long diagonal h8-a1.

22. Nb2  Bg7  23. Nc4  d5  24. N:a5  d:e4  25. d:e4  e5  26. Ne2  e:f4  27. N:f4  Ne5

Black is in a pickle to find a worthy defense.  So is it close to a Zugswang position?  Probably.  Like Dr. Marchand used to say: You play different, you lose different! But he tries a little arsenic because if now, 28. Nd5? N:d5 29. e:d5  Rb5!

28. Nd3!  Rb5  29. N:e5  Q:e5  30. Nc4  Q:g5  31. Be3  Qh4  32. Nd6  Bc3  33. Qf2  Q:f2  34. R:f2  Rbb8  35. N:c8  R:c8  36. Ra7  Kf8  37. Bh6+!  Ke8  38. Bg5  f6  39. B:f6  B:f6  40. R:f6  Bc6  41. Kg1  Bd7  42. Rd6  Bc6  43. Bf1  Resigns. (1-0).

So concludes a little trip around the 64 squares examining different possible defensive plans over a two decade period with White choosing the Closed Variation against the Sicilian deployment.  There have been many such games illustrating the types of patterns both players can utilize in plans that are alike or come through as quite different yet I categorize as a part of the Closed Variation.

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