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James Bond – and chess.

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Chess: Spy Style – from the movies: James Bond: From Russia with Love

It’s time for chess – again – and this time – from the movies. This game of Boris Spassky, is the game played in the James Bond movie as well.  You can read what Nigel Short said in 2004 about Spassky’s game.

The name is Spassky, Boris Spassky
1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d5 4. exd5 Bd6 5. Nc3 Ne7 6. d4 O-O 7. Bd3 Nd7 8. O-O h6 9. Ne4 Nxd5 10. c4 Ne3 11. Bxe3 fxe3 12. c5 Be7 13. Bc2 Re8 14. Qd3 e2 15. Nd6 15Nf8 16. Nxf7 exf1=Q 17. Rxf1 Bf5 18. Qxf5 Qd7 19. Qf4 Bf6 20. N3e5 Qe7 21. Bb3 Bxe5 22. Nxe5 Kh7 23. Qe4 [see an annotation of the game lower down in this entry]

Click HERE to play through the game on Chessgames.com

Nigel Short: [see resource at the end of the text] If chess is a vast jungle – deep, relatively unexplored and slow to yield its myriad secrets – computers are the chainsaws in a giant environmentally insensitive logging company. If our beloved game is not to be reduced to a glorified naughts and crosses – an arid computational desert – then, like a beautiful and intelligent woman, it must retain an element of mystery. If I sound uncharacteristically sentimental, it is probably because my wife and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary this week and thus, for once, my thoughts are jolted out of their quotidian rut onto matters of the emotions. A little romance does not come amiss in either chess or love, or so I try to remind myself from time to time. In my opinion perhaps the most romantic of all openings is the King’s Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. f4!). A few years ago I sat in a bar with Vladimir Kramnik discussing theory. At that time the future World Champion was contemplating a switch to King’s Pawn openings and he wanted to bounce his preliminary ideas off me. He opined that the Evans’ Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4!) was very logical: White sacrifices a fairly unimportant wing pawn to open lines and accelerate his development. This was not necessarily to say that it was Vlad’s preferred method of starting the game, but at least he could understand the rationale behind it. In contrast, the King’s Gambit, however, was for him totally incomprehensible: it loses a pawn and weakens the King-side, for all he could see. Of course Vlad was absolutely right; my scientific deductive side had to agree – the King’s Gambit has had a somewhat dodgy reputation ever since it was first mentioned in Lucena’s manuscript of 1497. And yet my irrational mystical side revolted and still revolts against so cold and sober a judgement. There is something inspiring about voyaging into storm-tossed seas.
Over the years the most successful practitioner of the King’s Gambit has been Boris Spassky. His record of 16 victories and no defeats (with some draws) is unsurpassed. His victims include two of the most illustrious names in chess history – Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov – and his famous brilliancy against Bronstein was used as the opening scene of the Bond movie From Russia with Love.
Click on this link to read the article on the site of the Telegraph.

From Chessbase:


From Leningrad with Love

The movie Nigel mentions, From Russia with Love, was produced in 1963. One of the villains is Kronsteen, played by Vladek Sheybal, master plotter for the terror organisation SPECTRE. Kronsteen is also a world-class chess player who, when asked if his plan would be successful, replies: “It will be. I’ve anticipated every possible variation of counter move.” And Bond’s colleague, the Turkish operative Kerim Bey, says of him: “These Russians are great chess players. When they wish to execute a plot, they execute it brilliantly. The game is planned minutely, the gambits of the enemy are provided for.”

In the famous chess scene at the beginning of the movie we see Kronsteen playing the Canadian McAdams in an “International Grandmaster Championship”. The score is 11½–11½. The position on the board is the following:

Kronsteen – McAdams, From Russia with Love, 1963

Here Kronsteen gives his opponent a long glare and then plays 1.Nxe5+ (as you can see in the picture above). He ominously says “check” while the move is displayed for the audience on a large demonstration board. McAdams nervously plays 1…Kh7, after which Kronsteen smiles and plays 2.Qe4+.

McAdams is horrified and knocks over his king as a sign of resignation, muttering “Congratulations sir, that was a brilliant coup.” The audience bursts into applause as Kronsteen leaves the room to get on with his evil plottings.

Click HERE to read the article on the site of Chessbase.

This is the game annotated by my chess friend, Dan. [see his message in the message box].

1.e4 e5 2.f4 Prior to Spassky, Bronstein was considered to be the foremost grandmaster practitioner of the King’s Gambit, so Spassky’s move has an air of provocation about it.

exf4 3.Nf3 d5 The Abazzia, or “Modern,” Defence to the gambit. After 45 years, though, should it still be called “modern,” especially since it dates back to at least 1913 (time of the Abazzia Gambit Tournament, from which it gets its alternate name)?

4.exd5 Bd6 A rarely played continuation, the usual line being 4…Nf6.

5.Nc3 This move comes up in several of Spassky’s King’s Gambit games (see his game with Fischer in the same year). It’s like his philosophy is, “when in doubt, play Nc3.” In many lines of this opening, a handy solidifying move for White is Pc3, which the Knight now blocks. More active, it seems to me, is the line (5.Bb5+ Bd76.Bxd7+ Nxd7 7.0-0), which should lead to a considerable advantage for White. White could have also tried 5.d4 followed by 6.c4 with a Pawn phalanx. Both plans seem better than the text.

5. … Ne7 Black plans to put his Queen’s Knight on f6, hence the King’s Knight gets developed on e7.

6.d4 O-O 7.Bd3 Nd7 Heading for f6 …

8.O-O h6 … which he doesn’t play right away because of (8…Nf6 9.Ng5! h610.Nge4) and White has a nice, centralised game (although, due to White’s Pawn minus, the game could be considered equal).

9.Ne4 White might also have tried the manuever 9.Qe1-h4.

Nxd5 10.c4 Ne3 11.Bxe3 fxe3 12.c5 White prefers to gain space rather than prosaically win back his Pawn with 12.Qe2.

Be7 13.Bc2 This looks almost like a beginner’s plan: doubling the Queen and Bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal, move the Knight/e4 out of the way, then mate on h7. Of course, that’s assuming Black does nothing to stop it.

Re8 14.Qd3 e2?! Black is trying to gain time with his useless e-pawn, but the threat on h7 is real. Better would be (14…Nf6 15.Rae1 Be6 16.Rxe3) and White is only marginally better.
15.Nd6!? One of the more spectacular sacrifices in chess history. “The most brilliant sacrifice since the Evergreen Game,” exclaimed one commentator. The question is: is it sound? (15.Qxe2) sould lead to a small advantage for White, and, objectively speaking, may be the better move. Another possibility is 15.Rf2, with the idea of(15.Rf2 Nf8 16.Rxe2) followed by Rae1.

15. … Nf8 (15…exf1=Q+ may transpose to the game if, after 16.Rxf1 Nf8). KK suggests the following: (15…exf1=Q+ 16.Rxf1 Nf6 17.Nxf7!) with advantage. However, I think Black has a better move here with 15 or 16…Bxd6, e.g.,(15…exf1=Q+ 16.Rxf1 Bxd6 17.cxd6 cxd6 18.Qh7+ Kf8 19.Qh8+ Ke7 20.Re1+Ne5 21.Qxg7 Be6 (21…Rg8 22.Qxh6 Qb6+! 23.Kh1 Be6 24.dxe5 d5 25.Qf6+ is unclear) 22.dxe5 dxe5 23.Bb3 Qb6+ 24.Kh1 Rg8 25.Qxe5). I’d take Black for choice.

Chessworld member jim42078, Lord Ptarmigan did the following analysis with the aid of his “Fritz” computer: “I have found what seems to be the best defence for Black(well, my fritz has anyway). The key idea is to maintain the pawn on e2 for as long as possible, e.g., (15…Bxd6 16.Qh7+ this check really just gives White a chance to peer through the fogginess of this position, but is not disadvantageous 16…Kf817.Qh8 probably not best; this is merely for illustrative purposes 17…Ke718.Qxg7 Rg8 19.cxd6+ cxd6 20.Qxh6 and now Black has to take on f1 with check, or else he will find himself lost or level.

20…exf1=Q+ 21.Rxf1 Qb6) and this position differs from the …exf1 before …cxd6 lines because Black has made time to give his King somewhere to run to and has not needed to interpose with the Knight to e5. Black is better off here, although there is work to do.

To counter this, White could play his King’s Rook to e1 or f2 and not sacrifice it. Thus(15…Bxd6 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.Rfe1 Nxc5! 18.Qh8+ Ke7 19.Rxe2+ Ne6 20.Qxg7 Rg821.Qxh6 c6 22.Rae1 Kd7 23.Ne5+ Bxe5 24.dxe5 Ke8 25.Qf6) seems White’s best on a first, rushed glance, but Black cannot have much to fear here.

Alternatively, White could force the early sac by (15…Bxd6 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.cxd6when Black has to take on f1 if he wants to claim a refutation 17…exf1=Q+18.Rxf1) and we are back in the main idea Norfolk suggested. This is White’s best.”

Another example of the inexhaustible riches of chess! Admittedly, these complications are almost impossible to wade through over the board, so who can blame Bronstein for losing his way?
16.Nxf7 exf1=Q+ 17.Rxf1 Bf5 This looks like desperation, but Black’s options are limited. If instead (17…Kxf7 18.Ne5+ Kg8 (18…Ke6 19.Bb3+ Qd5 20.Qf5 mate) 19.Qh7+! Nxh7 20.Bb3+ Qd5 21.Bxd5+ Be6 22.Bxe6+ Kh8 23.Ng6 mate). Black’s best bet may be to try to block the key diagonal with 17…Qd5, e.g.,(17…Qd5 18.Bb3Qxb3 19.Qxb3 Be6 20.Nxh6+ gxh6 21.Qxb7). White is better, but Black can fight on for awhile.

18.Qxf5 Qd7 Otherwise he loses at least the Queen. Maybe White will swap Queens?

19.Qf4 No such luck. White has a marked advantage now.

Bf6 Trying to cut off the Knight from the Queen’s protection.

20.N3e5 Qe7 Another try is (20…Bxe5 21.Nxe5 Rxe5 22.dxe5 Re8 23.Qe4) with advantage for White.

21.Bb3 Threatening a deadly discovered check.

Bxe5 This leads to a quick end, but (21…Ne6 22.Nxh6+ gxh6 23.Qxf6 Qxf624.Rxf6) also loses, as does (21…Kh7 22.Qf5+ g6 23.Qxf6 Qxf6 24.Rxf6) etc. The position following the text, and the remaining moves of the game, were featured as the game “Kronstein vs. McAdams” in one of the early scenes of the James Bond movie, “From Russia With Love” (although I was informed that the position in the movie was slightly altered). Quite a distinction and honour for an actual grandmaster game of chess!

22.Nxe5+ Kh7 Or (22…Ne6 23.Qe4 Rad8 24.Qg6 Qg5 25.Bxe6+ Rxe626.Qxe6+), winning easily.

23.Qe4+ On (23…g6 24.Rxf8!) wins. Bronstein (and McAdams in the aforementioned movie) resigned.

23. … 1-0

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