The Larsen opening, where white begins with a queenside fianchetto, is named after the legendary Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen, who scored almost 85 percent with it during his dazzling chess career. But this wonderful result was almost erased from our memories with Boris Spassky's smashing victory against Larsen in Belgrade 35 years ago. The opening was in trouble again last month when two 20-year-old grandmasters, Ferenc Berkes of Hungary and the Czech champion David Navara, met at the European Team Championship in Goteborg, Sweden.
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 (The provoking 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nf3?! led to a 17-move disaster for white in the game Larsen-Spassky, see below.) 3...Nf6 4.c4 d5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.d3?! (After falling down quickly to Spassky in Belgrade in March 1970, Larsen defied gravity when they met again a few weeks later in the Dutch city of Leiden. He protected the square b4 with 6.a3!? and held the Russian world champion to a draw in 34 moves.)
6...Bc5! (The bishop sacrifice on e3 is in the air.) 7.Nf3 Bg4 8.Nc3? (Allowing an unpleasant pin. White should have tried 8.Qc1 Qe7 9.Nbd2. It is also not easy to finish developing the kingside, since 8.Be2 runs into 8...Bxe3! 9.fxe3 Nxe3 10.Qd2 Nxg2+ 11.Kf2 Nf4 and with three pawns for a piece and strong pressure, black is better.) 8...Bb4! 9.Rc1 (After 9.Qc1 comes 9...Bxf3 10.gxf3 Nd4!, threatening 11...Nb5 and 11...Nxf3+, and if 11.a3 Nxc3 12.axb4? [On 12.Bxc3 Nxb3 wins.] 12...Nxf3+ is a picturesque mate.) 9...Qf6! (With a double threat 10...e4 and 10...Nd4!) 10.h3 (After 10.e4? Berkes saw 10...Nd4! 11.Be2 Nf4 and black wins.) 10...Bh5 (The immediate10...e4?! is not as strong because after 11.hxg4 Nxc3 12.Nd2! white minimizes the damage.) 11.g4 e4?! (After the game Navara was not happy with this aggressive move and proposed the modest 11...Bg6 12.Nd2 0-0-0 with a clear advantage to black.)
12.d4? (Everything will work out well for black after this move. The retreat 12.Nd2!, shown by Navara, was the only way to defend, e.g. 12...Nxc3 13.gxh5! Nxd1 14.Bxf6 Nxe3 15.Bxg7 Nxf1 16.Rxf1 Rg8 17.Bc3 Ba3 18.Rd1 exd3 19.Nc4 Bb4 and black's better pawn structure may not be enough to win.) 12...exf3 13.gxh5 0-0-0 14.h4?! (White finds an ingenious way to escape with his king from the center, where it stands on the brink of a disaster, for example 14.a3? Nxe3! 15.fxe3 Qh4+ 16.Kd2 Qf2+ 17.Be2 [or 17.Kd3 Ne5+ 18.Ke4 Qh4+] 17...Nxd4! 18.exd4 fxe2!; or 14.Bb5? Nxc3 15.Bxc3 Nxd4! 16.exd4 Rxd4 17.Bd3 Qg5! 18.Bxb4 Re8+ and black wins. The best seems 14.Bc4!?, but after 14...Rhe8 15.Kf1 Bxc3 16.Bxc3 Qf5 17.h6 g6 black is clearly better.) 14...Rhe8 (Both black rooks are wonderfully placed on the central files, creating the threat 15...Nxd4.) 15.Bh3+ Kb8 16.0-0 (Looks like a suicide, but white did not have anything else. He first planned 16.Kf1 realizing too late that it allows 16...Bxc3 17.Bxc3 Rxe3 18.Bd2 Rd3 and black wins.) 16...Bxc3 (Good enough, but 16...Nxc3! is stronger, for example 17.Bxc3 Re4! and now 18.Bxb4 allows 18...Rxh4! or 18.Kh2 is met by 18...Bd6+ and black wins.) 17.Bxc3 Re4! (Black's heavy pieces go after the white king.) 18.Kh2 (On 18.Qd3 comes 18...Qxh4!) 18...Rxh4 19.Rg1 Nxc3 20.Rxc3 Rd5 21.Rg3 (The pin on the d-file decides in the line: 21.Rc5 Qd6+ 22.Rg3 Rxc5.) 21...Rdxh5 (After 22.Qxf3 Rxh3+ 23.Rxh3 Qxf3! wins.) White resigned.
Spassky's brilliant miniature against Larsen from the 1970 World vs. Soviet Union match in Belgrade is presented with light notes.
1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.c4 Nf6 4.Nf3?! e4! 5.Nd4 Bc5 6.Nxc6 dxc6 7.e3 Bf5 8.Qc2 Qe7 9.Be2 0-0-0 10.f4 Ng4! 11.g3 h5 12.h3 (Trying to drive the knight back runs into Spassky's amazing combination. After 12.Nc3 comes 12...Rxd2! and black wins either after 13.Qxd2 Bxe3 14.Qd1 Nf2; or after 13.Kxd2 Bxe3+ 14.Ke1 Bf2+ winning the queen.) 12...h4! 13.hxg4 (Larsen spent nearly an hour on this move. After 13.Bxg4 Bxg4 14.hxg4 hxg3 15.Rg1 Rh1! 16.Rxh1 g2 17.Rg1 Qh4+ 18.Ke2 Qxg4+ 19.Ke1 Qg3+ 20.Ke2 [Or 20.Kd1 Qf2! wins.] 20...Qf3+ 21.Ke1 Be7, threatening 22...Bh4+, black wins.) 13...hxg3 14.Rg1 (Black mates elegantly after 14.Rxh8 Rxh8 15.Bf1 Qh4 16.Bg2 Qh1+! 17.Bxh1 Rxh1+ 18.Ke2 Bxg4 mate.) 14...Rh1!! (This magnificent deflection accelerates the attack. Black wins time to bring his queen decisively into action.) 15.Rxh1 g2 16.Rf1 (On 16.Rg1 Qh4+ 17.Kd1 Qh1! is decisive.) 16...Qh4+ 17.Kd1 gxf1Q+ (After 18.Bxf1 Bxg4+ [On 19.Kc1 Qe1+ 20.Qd1 Qxd1 mates.] 19.Be2 Qh1 mate.) White resigned.
Jeremy Gaige's "Chess Personalia: A Biobibliography" was first published in 1987, but has been long out of print. A paperback version of this valuable work is being issued by North Carolina publisher McFarland. Each of around 14,000 worldwide entries offers full name, date and place of birth and death, FIDE title, country of citizenship and citations to mentions in the world's media. It is an immensely useful tool for any serious student of chess. More information at www.mcfarlandpub.com or by calling 800-253-2187. Solution to today's study by H. Rinck (White: Kb6, Be4,Nb1,P:b2,f6; Black: Kc4,Rg1,P:d4,f2,g3): 1.Nd2+ Kb4 2.Nf1! g2 3.f7 gxf1Q 4.f8Q+ Kc4 5.Qc5+ Kb3 6.Qa3+ Kc4 7.Qa4 mate.