Bobby Fischer’s Game of the Century


In honor of the upcoming release of Pawn Sacrifice, I present my lesson notes for Bobby Fischer’s Game of the Century.


Byrne D. – Fischer R.

0:1, 1956.

1. ¤f3 The knight is correctly placed on f3 in so many openings that Donald Byrne is keeping his intentions hidden and not committing yet to any plan. 1… ¤f6 Fischer decides to do the same for one move and see what Byrne prefers. 2. c4 A common enough start for the English Opening or a Queen’s Gambit Declined by transposition. 2… g6 Bobby Fischer is opting for a hyper-modern approach. That is to say that Fischer’s pawns are absent from the center of the board early on thus inviting Donald Byrne to occupy the center with his pawns, which later become the targets of Fischer’s attack. 3. ¤c3 With the lack of confrontation on the board, Byrne is in cruise control and just placing pieces where he likes. 3… ¥g7 Once strong players play g6 early, they rarely fail to place the bishop on g7 imediately there after. 4. d4 Fischer has allowed Byrne to establish a nice advantage in the center. Once again, Fischer’s approach is called hyper-modern. 4… O-O White controls the center but black is already castled.

5. ¥f4 Donald Byrne passes up the opportunity to completely occupy the center with pawn e4 in favor of developing another piece. Had he played e4, the game would have entered into the territory of the King’s Indian Defense. 5… d5 Fischer wastes no more time and strikes at white’s center. Now the opening has been defined as a Grunfeld Defense. 6. £b3 This is the Russian System. Donald Byrne turns the tables and attacks Fischer’s center pawn a third time. Fischer can either defend it with c6 or capture on c4. 6… dxc4 Fischer takes on c4 which forces Donald Byrne to recapture with the queen. 7. £xc4 Donald Byrne still is controlling space, time and force. 7… c6 Fischer’s move is a favorite of chess engines but 7…Na6(Kasparov) and 7… Be6(Svidler) are also interesting options for black.

[7… ¤a6 8. e4 c5 9. dxc5 ¥e6 10. £b5 ¥d7 11. £xb7 ¤xc5 12. £b4 ¤e6 13. ¥e5 a5 14. £a3 £b6 15. ¥c4 ¦fc8 16. ¥xf6 ¥xf6 17. ¤d5 £b8 18. ¤xf6 exf6 19. ¥xe6 ¥xe6 20. O-O £b4 21. £xb4 axb4 1/2-1/2, Topalov Veselin (BUL) 2690 – Kasparov Garry (RUS) 2851 , Sarajevo 1999 It (cat.19);

7… ¥e6 8. £xc7 ¤d5 9. £xd8 ¦xd8 10. ¤xd5 ¥xd5 11. e3 ¤d7 12. ¥g5 f6 13. ¥h4 ¦ac8 14. ¥d3 e5 15. e4 ¥c4 16. ¥xc4 ¦xc4 17. b3 ¦b4 18. ¥g3 ¥f8 19. ¦b1 ¦c8 20. O-O exd4 21. ¦fd1 ¤c5 22. ¦bc1 d3 23. ¦xd3 ¦xe4 24. ¦dd1 1/2-1/2, Sokolov Ivan (NED) 2663 – Svidler Peter (RUS) 2735 , France 5/ 5/2004 Ch France (team) 2004]


8. e4 With the exception of castling, white has seemingly achieved a dream positon. 8… ¤bd7 Bobby Fischer patiently develops his other knight. The more aggressive 8…b5 is also playable. However, it would be picking a fight with white when white is in a better position(more development) to fight from. 9. ¦d1 Donald Byrne places his rook where it “sees” more quares and is in the same file as Fischer’queen. For players who want to have the option to castle, Be2 is also fine.

[9. ¥e2 £a5 10. b4 £d8 11. ¦d1 ¤b6 12. £d3 ¤h5 13. ¥g3 ¥e6 14. O-O a6 15. £b1 ¤xg3 16. hxg3 £c7 17. a4 ¦ad8 18. a5 ¤c8 19. ¤a4 ¥g4 20. e5 ¤a7 21. ¤c5 ¤b5 22. ¥xb5 axb5 23. £e4 h5 24. ¦fe1 ¦d5 25. £f4 ¦fd8 26. ¦d3 £c8 27. ¤g5 ¥f5 28. ¦d2 ¥h6 …1-0, Vasilescu Lucian-Mihail (ROM) 2394 – Marjanovic Slavoljub (SRB) 2508 , Bucharest 1999 Memorial V.Ciocaltea (cat.10)]


9… ¤b6 Bobby Fischer begins untangling his position with inititiative. 10. £c5 For decades, many chess pundits criticized this move. Now, most strong engines agree with Donald Byrne in stating that Qc5 is best. However, the natural Qb3 is also interesting:

[10. £b3 ¤h5 11. ¥e3 ¥e6 12. £a3 £d6 13. £a5 ¥c4 14. b3 ¥xf1 15. ¢xf1]


10… ¥g4 and Fischer’s light-squared bishop finally gets to a good square. 11. ¥g5? Donald Byrne’s first mistake. Rather than move the same piece twice and lose time, it would have been better to play Be2 which elimintaes a pin and prepares the white king for castling.

[11. ¥e2 ¤fd7 12. £a3 ¥xf3 13. gxf3 e5 (13… ¦e8 14. ¥e3 +0.18 CAP) 14. dxe5 £e8 15. ¥e3 £xe5 16. f4 £e8 17. e5 f6 18. £b3 ¢h8 19. e6 ¤b8 20. a4 £e7 21. a5 ¤c8 22. h4 b6 23. h5 f5 24. hxg6 h6 25. ¥d4 ¢g8 26. ¥e5 ¥xe5 27. fxe5 ¢g7 28. £c4 ¦e8 29. ¦d3 £xe6 30. £f4 ¦h8 …1-0, Tisdall Jonathan D (NOR) 2500 – Vark Liina (EST) 2051 , Osterskars 1995 It (open)]


11… ¤a4!!! Donald Byrne committed a crime and Bobby Fischer responds immediately with punishment. But isn’t the knight on a4 free for the taking? Not exactly! 12. £a3! I give this move an exclamation mark because Donald Byrne choses to retreat his queen to a relatively useless square rather than fall into Fischer’s brilliant trap.

[12. ¤xa4 ¤xe4 13. ¥xe7 (13. £xe7 £a5 14. b4 £xa4 15. £xe4 ¦fe8 16. ¥e7 ¥xf3 17. gxf3 ¥f8 18. ¥e2 ¦xe7 19. £d3 ¥h6 20. f4 ¦ae8 21. ¦d2 £xb4 is terrible for white.; 13. £c1 ¥xf3 14. gxf3 £a5 15. ¥d2 ¤xd2 16. £xd2 £xa4 17. ¥e2 £xa2 18. O-O £d5 is also terrible for white.) 13… ¤xc5 14. ¥xd8 ¦e8 15. ¥e2 ¤xa4 16. ¥g5 ¤xb2 and after the complicated exchanges, black is much better.]


12… ¤xc3!! At first glance this move looks like a mistake. Why would Bobby choose to exchange knights and allow white to strengthen d4? Because, Fischer removes e4’s defender which allows him to trap Byrne’s king in the center after Nxe4 at the cost of allowing Byrne to fork his queen and rook after Bxe7. It’s complicated and beautiful. 13. bxc3 Byrne has nothing better than simply following Fischer’s lead. 13… ¤xe4 Bobby Fischer is starting to open the center onto his opponent’s uncastled king. 14. ¥xe7 Capturing on e7 and threatening Fischer’s queen seems natural but the side effect is the creation of an open-file in which white’s king sits. 14… £b6 An interesting choice by Fischer. Here is analysis of some of the other options:

[14… £d5 15. ¥xf8 ¥xf8 16. £b3 £xb3 17. axb3 ¦e8 and Fischer is winning but converting this into a win against Byrne would require a lot of maturity and superb technique from the 13 year old Bobby Fischer.;

14… £e8 Looks to capitalize on white’s king safety issues but Byrne would have a nifty reply. 15. ¦d3 with the idea of rook to e3. 15… c5! I believe Fischer would have spotted this stunner. 16. ¥xf8 ¥xf8 17. £b2 cxd4 18. cxd4 £a4 I still prefer black’s position but this is definately very unclear with chances for both sides.]


15. ¥c4! It’s been said that “the best defense is a good offense” and that is why Donald Byrne places his bishop offensively on c4 rather than defensively on e2. It’s a brilliantly aggressive move and that is why I give it an “!”

[15. ¥e2 ¦fe8 16. c4 c5 17. ¥xc5 ¤xc5 18. dxc5 £e6 19. £e3 £a6 20. £b3 ¦e7 21. ¢f1 ¦ae8 Doesn’t look like much fun for white and black is clearly better.;

15. ¥xf8 ¥xf8 16. £b3 ¦e8 17. £xb6 axb6 Even with the queens off the board, Fischer’s attack is decisive. 18. ¥e2 (18. ¥d3 ¤xc3 19. ¢d2 ¤xd1) 18… ¤xc3 19. ¦d2 ¥f5 20. ¤g1 ¥b4 21. ¢f1 ¤b1 22. ¦d1 ¤d2 23. ¦xd2 (23. ¢e1 ¦a8 24. a4 ¦xa4 25. ¦xd2 ¦a2) 23… ¥xd2]


15… ¤xc3! Bobby Fischer offers up a knight for the second time in this game. 16. ¥c5 Accepting the knight offering would have been dangerous for Byrne:

[16. £xc3 ¦ae8! 17. £e3 £c7 18. ¥xf8 £a5 19. ¢f1 ¦xe3 20. fxe3 ¥xf8]


16… ¦fe8 Fischer’s rook enters the game with style. 17. ¢f1 ¥e6!!! In chess, I like to think of moves as statements in a conversation. This move says: “Hello World. My name is Bobby Fischer. My destiny is to become World Champion.” 18. ¥xb6 And Donald Byrne’s move says, “Enough is enough kid. Show me what you got!”

[18. £xc3 £xc5 19. dxc5 ¥xc3 20. ¥xe6 ¦xe6 Had Donald played this improvement, I wonder if this game would still be referred to as “The Game of The Century.” Irregardless, Bobby would have won from this position having extra material and immediate access to both rooks.]


18… ¥xc4 “Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in The windmills of young Bobby’s mind!” 19. ¢g1 forced 19… ¤e2! In chess we refer to this motif as a windmill. 20. ¢f1 forced 20… ¤xd4 yum 21. ¢g1 forced 21… ¤e2 still spinning 22. ¢f1 forced 22… ¤c3 These positions are fun to play. As black you know you at least have a draw with the infinite checking possibilities so the pressure is off and you can search for the win.


23. ¢g1 forced 23… axb6! The dizzying windmill stops but Byrne finds that his queen and rook are under attack. 24. £b4 Donald Byrne, of course, decides to save his queen. 24… ¦a4! Bobby Fischer doesn’t allow Donald Byrne to escape. 25. £xb6 This move is almost forced. However, I suppose Donald Byrne could have tried:

[25. £d6 ¤xd1 26. £xd1 ¦xa2 Doesn’t look too fun with black threating to win a queen and/or checkmate.]


25… ¤xd1 After this capture, Byrne’s position is hopeless. 26. h3 It is very sporting of Byrne to continue the game rather than resigning to allow Fischer to complete his masterpiece. 26… ¦xa2 27. ¢h2 ¤xf2 Bobby Fischer’s technique is impeccable.


28. ¦e1 A desperate but necessary method of activating his pieces. 28… ¦xe1 29. £d8 ¥f8 30. ¤xe1 ¥d5 Bobby Fischer is moving in for the kill.


31. ¤f3 ¤e4 32. £b8 b5 33. h4 h5 34. ¤e5 ¢g7 It’s important to take a moment to unpin the bishop. 35. ¢g1 ¥c5 With the activation of the dark bishop, there is no escaping allowed for the white king. 36. ¢f1

[36. ¢h2 ¤d2 37. ¢h1 ¦a1 38. ¢h2 ¤f1 39. ¢h1 ¤g3 40. ¢h2 ¥f2 41. £h8 ¢xh8 42. ¤xg6 fxg6 43. ¢h3 ¦h1#]


36… ¤g3 37. ¢e1 ¥b4 38. ¢d1 ¥b3 39. ¢c1 ¤e2 40. ¢b1 ¤c3 41. ¢c1 ¦c2# A masterpiece!




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