Bobby Fischer’s Sicilian Checkmates


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This is the final Checkmate Monday of 2020 and it seems a good time to present some of Bobby Fischer’s Sicilian checkmates.

As we saw earlier today, it didn’t matter which side of the Sicilian Defense Fischer was on; he had a habit winning as both White and Black after 1 e4 c5.

All three of today’s examples date back to 1959, an early year for Fischer’s international outings.

Checkmating after a Sacrifice

Bobby - Herman Pilnik

Bobby Fischer – Herman Pilnik
Santiago, 1959
White to play

This game was another Sozin Attack (6 Bc4) against the Sicilian Defense. I don’t know anyone who would relish trying to defend this position as Black, especially as Fischer now drives another nail into the king’s coffin.

32 f6 Qxd5?

Pilnik misses the threat. He had to drop the queen back to c7 or d7, to add extra protection to the knight.

Bobby Fischer - Herman Pilnik CheckmateWhite to play and checkmate Black in two moves

33 Qxh7+! and Black resigned (1-0), due to 33 …Kxh7 34 Rh3 checkmate.

A fine finish by Fischer, but it is important to keep things in context. Fischer was still inexperienced on the international stage and he ‘only’ shared fourth place at this tournament, with seven wins, one draw and four defeats. Indeed, Pilnik finished half a point ahead of the future World Champion.

Checkmating Keres

Sicilian CheckmatePaul Keres – Bobby Fischer
Bled, 1959
Black to play

This terrific battle came in the first round of the big Candidates tournament. Keres, for one reason or another, never quite managed to battle his way through to the ultimate title of World Champion. Keres was runner-up to Mikhail Tal at this event; the latter went on to beat Mikhail Botvinnik one year later.

Fischer finished in fifth place (out of eight players) but got off to a flying start with a win as Black in this game.

The opening was a Sicilian Najdorf, of course. Keres played an early queen sacrifice but young Fischer wasn’t ruffled and he took the game into a winning ending.

50 …Qxb2

Fischer liked to take material. He is using a tactic here. If 51 c7 then 51 …Qc2+ is a skewer. 52 …Qxc7 will follow once the white king moves out of check.

51 Kc5 Qc3+ 

52 Kd5 g4

53 Rc4

Keres build a bridge with his rook and is ready to push his c-pawn, but Fischer is given a chance to finish the game immediately.

Bobby Fischer Checkmates Paul Keres

Black to play and checkmate in one move

53 …Qe5 checkmate.

Checkmating a Friend

Bobby Fischer - Svetozar Gligoric

Bobby Fischer – Svetozar Gligoric
Bled, 1959
White to play

Gligoric and Fischer enjoyed a long-lasting friendship. They kept in touch during Fischer’s ‘wilderness years’ (a rarity) and contested a training match when Fischer stunned the world by returning to action in 1992.

This game started as a Classical Sicilian but still featured Fischer’s favourite Sozin Attack with 6 Bc4. Gligoric transposed to a Dragon Variation and a race of attacks swiftly followed. Fischer was one step ahead, as usual.

30 g6!

Smashing apart the remnants of Black’s defense. Note how the Sozin bishop, tucked away on b3, suddenly sees daylight along the a2-g8 diagonal. It is no accident that Black’s king is on g8.

30 …fxg6

31 Rh1 Qd4

Checkmating Gligoric

White to play. How quickly can you checkmate Black?

Fischer played 32 Qh7+ and Gligoric resigned; 1-0. This is due to 32 …Kf8 33 Rf1+ and Black can offer only temporary blocks with his pieces along the f-file, all of which will be captured. The cleanest kill was 32 Bxe6+ Bf7 33 Qh7+ Kf8 34 Qxf7 checkmate.

Checkmate Monday will return next week. We will have slipped into 2021 by then, but we still have more checkmates to show to you.

There are many more beautiful checkmate patterns in our course, The Checkmate Patterns Manual, by International Master John Bartholomew and CraftyRaf.

There is a shortened, free version of the course here.

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