Great Game Previews In History: 17 October 2013

by J.R.

fischer29-1956Today In History

On October 17, 1956, chess prodigy and future anti-Semite and conspiracy theorist Bobby Fischer, then 13, defeated Donald Byrne at the Rosenwald tournament in New York City in what is now known as The Game of the Century.

Fischer was awarded a brilliancy prize — which is something every sport should have: an award for aesthetically pleasing and interesting game play rather than just wins — for his dazzling play, which featured excellent sacrifices, capitalizing on Byrne’s big mistake: moving the same piece twice in the opening.

The win would start an amazing run for Fischer, culminating with him achieving the rank of grandmaster at 15.

Blues at Blackhawks, 7 PM

Records: Blues (4-1-0, 8 points, 3rd in Conference III); Blackhawks (4-1-1, 9 points, 2nd in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Alexander Steen exploited a bad Brent Seabrook pinch — in chess notation it would have earned at least one ? — and scored with 21 seconds left to get the Blues a 3-2 win at the Scottrade Center October 9.

Last 10: St. Louis 4-1-0; Chicago 4-1-1

Historical Context: Byrne, playing white, opened 1. Nf3 — king’s knight to king’s bishop’s three, the Zukertort Opening. It’s a pretty bleh opening, but it allows a whole series of different openings and, ergo, ways for the board to develop. In other words, nothing about 1. Nf3 indicates what path the game will take.

Wild at Lightning, 6:30 PM

Records: Wild (3-2-2, 8 points, 4th in Conference III); Lightning (4-2-0, 8 points, 4th in Flortheast)

Last Time They Met: Cal Clutterbuck had one of each and Niklas Backstrom made 33 saves in a 3-1 win for the Wild Nov. 28, 2011 — the night the Wild remembered Derek Boogaard.

Last 10: Minnesota 3-2-2; Tampa Bay 4-2-0

Historical Context: Fischer countered that blase opening with 1… Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 — king’s knight to king’s bishop three, followed by flank pawn development by both players and queen’s knight to queen’s bishop’s three by Byrne and king’s bishop to king’s knight’s two by Fischer. The youngster was employing hypermodern chess principles, much as Mike Yeo is suddenly, unexpectedly embracing possession.

Kings at Predators, 7 PM

Records: Kings (4-3-0, 8 points, 6th in Pacific); Predators (3-3-0, 6 points, 5th in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Jeff “The Thirst” Carter had a hat trick and the Kings beat the Preds 5-1 March 4 in LA.

Last 10: Los Angeles 4-3-0; Nashville 3-3-0

Historical Context: After Byrne did a little more pawn development, Fischer castled king side (4. d4 0-0). The game took the long way around to get there, but eventually reached the Grünfeld Defence. That’s a slight advantage for Byrne who was purposely avoiding the King’s Indian Defence, because, even at 13, Fischer was already regarded as one of the world’s best players of the KID. Much as Barry Trotz might be willing to give room to other Kings to shut down Carter, who has a history of hat tricks against Nashville.

Sharks at Stars, 7:30 PM

Records: Sharks (6-0-0, 12 points, 1st in Pacific); Stars (2-3-0, 4 points, 7th in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: The Sharks clinched a playoff spot with a 3-2 win in San Jose April 23 with Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture scoring 30 seconds apart in the third.

Last 10: San Jose 6-0-0; Dallas 2-3-0

Historical Context: In a move described as “one of the most powerful moves of all time,” Fischer followed Byrne’s nothing move of bishop to king’s knight’s five with knight to queen’s rook’s five (11. Bg5? Na4!!). Fischer offered a knight sacrifice that was brilliant. If Byrne accepted the sacrifice, the game would have produced a deadly pin, ruined pawn development or a material advantage for Fischer. Byrne actually denied the offered sacrifice, but his doom was spelled. Later, Fischer had played himself into a seemingly impossible situation, seemingly needing to protect his queen at all costs. Fischer, though, instead sacrificed his queen (17. Kf1 Be6!! 18. BxB6? Bxc4+). It was a series of bold and brilliant moves, with Byrne thinking his experience would win by brute force over Fischer’s guile. He was wrong. Fischer’s big risks are similar to the kind of ballsy play the Stars might employ to knock off the rollicking Sharks.

Red Wings at Avalanche, 8 PM/7 PM Mountain

Records: Red Wings (5-2-0, 10 points, 2nd in Flortheast); Avalanche (6-0-0, 12 points, 1st in Conference III)

Last Time They Met: Pavel Datsyuk scored with 15 seconds left in overtime for a 3-2 Detroit win April 5 in Denver.

Last 10: Detroit 5-2-0; Colorado 6-0-0

Historical Context: The winning sequence: 38. Kd1 Bb3+ 39. Kc1 Ne2+ 40. Kb1 Nc3+ 41. Kc1 Rc2#. Byrne actually had a pretty decent pin on Fischer’s bishop, but the youngster easily broke it. In fact, the game was over back at move 25 (Qxb6 Nxd1). Byrne played on instead of resigning, perhaps knowing that he was watching something special in this youngster, much as the league is sensing that perhaps we are seeing something special in Colorado’s youngsters. This match was a turning point for Fischer’s early career — as we noted — and this game, which we had circled as a big one anyway, may prove that for the Avs.