Spassky Variation 

D.P. Thompson
Macey Nettleton

BDHGS v Burton Road
Barnsley & District Holgate Grammar School

One had to look at Mr Javis’s nose. Yes it was an effort of concentration to avoid it. It sat large and hooked, and covered with a fascinating array of discoloured skin, blotches, freckles… “Thompson won the Yorkshire Championship,” he enthused, “That’s three in three years !” I noted that an artist would have a hard time getting the shades right on Mr Jarvis’s nose, “Ah, well done !” I replied, “I saw his photo on the front page of the Chronicle.” “Yes he beat the Queggs guy,” “Ridley?” I interposed. “Yes, Ridley, - played the Sicilian Najdorf,” Jarvis continued and went into a tortuous description of the game. Jarvis wasn’t a very good chess player. He was an enthusiastic, and able maths teacher. Chess was his hobby, but pretty low down his list of priorities. He ran the Grammar School Chess Club, but that was all the time he devoted to chess. I was surprised that he knew the Sicilian Najdorf, but as he spoke I realised that he didn’t. Thompson had probably told him about it after the game. As I observed Jarvis’s nose I realised that nasal hair was spouting like spring grass. His bushy eyebrows were going up and down as he spoke like hay billowing in the breeze, and his ears had wispy hay protruding ready for harvesting. Why is it, I thought, that teachers are completely unable to pay any attention to personal hygiene, other than shaving, nails and hair cuts. And as for any semblance of style - Jarvis even had leather patches on his tweed jacket. Suits, of course, were a no no. Jarvis didn’t really care what others thought of him – But he should have read Cicero. “To disregard what the world thinks of us is not only arrogant, but utterly shameless”. I almost laughed as I looked at him, but he was encouraged by my enthusiasm for his story, and continued babbling. His bright intelligent blue eyes sparkled while constantly darting around. “Well, see you on Wednesday then for the match,” said Jarvis. “Don’t be late!” He turned to go then turned back and said “Thompson says you have a promising young player.” It was a question, rather than a statement. “ Er plays “Elimination” defence or something,” he continued. I resisted the temptation to say “Yes VERY promising” or go into eulogies. I just nodded slowly and said “Nettleton,…he’s good.” Then I couldn’t resist adding, “ I’m sure he’ll give Thompson a decent game.” Jarvis gave me a quick, sharp look, doing a double take on what I had said. “By the way, he’s going to Oxford you know,… Thompson that is.”. He gave his goodbyes and left looking thoughtful. Derek Peter Thompson – D. P. Thompson or “Dippy” as he was known to his friends, was an imposing figure. A handsome 6ft tall head boy, his large square shoulders covered by an immaculate blue 6th Form jacket with the Grammar school crest on the front.. His brown hair was always neatly combed. He had a wide expressive mouth, with teeth from an American soap opera, and semi circular creases at the side of his mouth as he smiled. He exuded confidence. The most striking part of him was his hands. They were massive. I remember being amazed as he deftly moved the pieces around in a blur of speed on his little pocket chess set. How could those monsters be so agile ? His hands were holding the latest issue of British Chess Federation magazine as we entered the Grammar School library. I froze. My BCF had arrived yesterday. I realised that it had analysis of the main line of the Caro Kann defence with games by World Champion Anatoly Karpov, and former World Champon Mikhail Tal. Thompson had seen Macey Nettleton play before when Macey had been on a lower board, and he knew that Macey played the Caro Kann defence [his “elimination” defence]. I realised that Dippy was well prepared. Dippy’s eyes looked up quickly as we entered and he fixed his gaze on Macey, who was eyeing the chess boards, working out where he was on top board. I stooped down to have a word with Macey, “Macey,” I whispered, “This guy’s Yorkshire Chess Champion.” “I know, you already told me,” said Macey, slightly puzzled. My mouth was partly open as I thought what to say. Any advice seemed superfluous. “So be CAREFUL,” interrupted Angel Himsworth, who was there to watch, “You could LOSE.” Macey looked at her with pity and reproach. “The result does not..” he started. “Matter to the Chess Gods!” Angela finished with exasperation, threw her head in the air, and marched off. Macey looked to me for support. I smiled and nodded. “You see she doesn’t realise that a game is a fascinating puzzle,” said Macey, “I just try to put my pieces on the right squares to solve it – That’s all. Sometimes my opponent solves it with the right moves and wins. Sometimes neither of us solves it, .. but then I always solve it in analysing it afterwards.” He added slyly, laughing. “It’s only a matter of time.” So he always won. He solved the puzzle. That was winning. Yes it was just a game, a puzzle to solve. How do you play this position? He wasn’t fighting a battle, he didn’t have an enemy. The opponent really was irrelevant to Macey. And he always solved the game eventually with analysis. Then he was happy – and moved on to the next game. For some reason I thought of Cicero, “Philosophy is the love of wisdom.” Macey simply wanted to know the truth about a chess position. “Death takes toll of beauty, courage, youth, of all but truth.” [ John Masefield] Then I thought “Know yourself, and in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. “ [Chinese saying] “Macey will never be in peril”, I said to Angela, but I think she took that to mean I was saying something else. Macey hurried over to the board one table, clutching his pen and scorebook, chose his position at the board, and sat down. We had lost the toss. Macey would be Black. Well, I thought, I think you’ll have a puzzle to sort out today Macey. Good luck. Then I thought “luck” – is that a stupid thing to say ? Macey’s little hand was dwarfed by Dippy’s as they shook hands. No doubt Dippy would not take Macey lightly, I thought. This guy knows all the angles. And he’s a fantastic competitor. But then I gave a little laugh. “What’s the matter?” asked Angela. “I was just thinking,” I replied, “ Mind games and psychology won’t work with Macey!” “You GOT THAT RIGHT !” said Angela. Dippy started his own clock and immediately played 1.e4.

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4

The e pawn has been eliminated.

4. Nxe4 Bf5

This activation of the Bishop on the h7-b1 diagonal is the Classical variation

5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nd7

preventing Ne5

7. h4

The main line, but it's double edged for me.

7... h6 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3

This position has ocurred more than 4 thousand times on my database !

9... Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bf4

This is a strong post for the Bishop.

11... Ngf6

11... Qa5+! is now recommended here, gaining a tempo as.. 12. Bd2 (12. c3 Ngf6 White has problems castling Q-side as the a2 pawn is hanging. Macey knew nothing of this and made the obvious developing move.) 12... Qc7 13. O-O-O Ngf6 14. Ne4 O-O-O 15. g3 Nxe4 16. Qxe4 Bd6 17. c4 c5 18. d5 Nf6 19. Qc2 exd5 20. cxd5 Rhe8 is actually 52% Black.

12. O-O-O Be7

This was the position that Dippy had analysed.

He knew that Tal had played Rhe1 here and only drew. But Anatoly Karpov had improved with 13.c4 instead and won against Bent Larsen. This was the game Dippy was following.

13. c4!? Qa5

Now Dippy finally had to think for himself. He was on his own at last.

13... a5 was the move Larsen had played. 14. Kb1 a4 15. Ne5 Nxe5 16. Bxe5 Qa5 17. Ne4 O-O-O 18. c5 Nxe4 19. Qxe4 Bf6 20. Bxf6 gxf6 21. Qf4 f5 22. Rd3 Rd5 23. Rhd1 Qc7 24. Qd2 f4 25. Ra3 Rg8 26. f3 Rdg5 27. Rg1 Rxh5 28. Rxa4 Qb8 29. Re1 Rh2 30. Re2 Rh1+ 31. Kc2 h5 32. Qd3 Kd7 33. Rb4 Rg1 34. d5 cxd5 35. c6+ Kxc6 36. Qb5+ 1-0, Karpov Anatoly 2725 - Larsen Bent 2585 , Amsterdam It (cat.14)

14. Kb1

The natural move, and best. Now Macey sank into deep thought.

"Is he losing ?" asked Angela anxiously. "No, he's just thinking," I replied ,"Of how to reply to World chess champion analysis." Angela's eyes widened. I took out the BCF from my case and showed her the game Karpov had won with White. She paled ever so slightly. "So he's playing against World Chess champion analysis" she inquired. I shrugged, and watched the board uneasily.

14... b5!!

Suddenly this is a lot different from the Tal and Karpov games. One is reminded of Tal's remark "No Battle plan survives contact with the enemy !!" Removing the c4 pawn allows Black a monster outpost on d5 for his knight, and opens the b file to the White King, or allows the b pawn to open up the King position.

15. cxb5

played after a long think.Dippy could afford it as he had hardly used ay time on the clock.

15. Ne5 is probably best. 15... Rc8! Black has all the play. Black will castle and remove the c4 pawn and play the c5 break.

15... cxb5 16. Qe2

Funnily enough, my computer likes this move - though it prefers Ne5. I believe that Dippy was uneasy about Black's Nd5 attacking the Bishop, followed by Nb4 threatening mate and the Queen.

16. Ne5!? Nd5 17. Bd2 Qb6 Black is better.

16... Nd5

A couple of moves out of Dippy's preparation and his position already looks inferior. Dippy was fidgeting on his chair.

17. Be5

17. Bd2 !? Then Black replies 17... Qb6 18. Ne5 N7f6 Black is better.

17... Nxe5 18. Nxe5

18. dxe5!? O-O White has no attack.

18... O-O

Angela was relieved "He's finally castled," she said, "Thank God for that !" I chuckled. Angela could never understand these stupid boys who didn't castle, and got caught out by it.

19. Qe4

It's difficult to find a plan for White. With this move Dippy intends to attack with f4 to f5.

19... b4 20. f4 Rfc8

Now whose King is safer ?

21. Rc1

to nullify the Black Rook

21. f5 Now Dippy realised that this loses 21... b3! 22. a3 Rc2

21... b3!

suddenly Black has a winning attack.

21... Rc3 Macey pointed out after the game that Rc3 was also possible but not as good. 22. bxc3 bxc3 23. Ka1 (23. Kc2? Qxa2+ 24. Kd3 Qd2+ 25. Kc4 Rc8+) 23... Ba3 Here Nb4 does not quite work. 24. Rc2 Bb2+ 25. Kb1 Rb8 26. Nd3 Qa3 White is probably busted.

22. a3

22. axb3 Nb4 and White is lost. 23. Rc4 (23. Rc3 Qa2+ 24. Kc1 Qa1+ 25. Kd2 Qxb2+) 23... Qa2+ 24. Kc1 Qxb3 25. Kd2 (25. Qe2 Bd6 26. Ne4 Bxe5 27. fxe5 Rxc4+) 25... Qxg3 wins easily.

22... Bxa3!

Macey in the zone !

! Macey was running his fingers down his pen, then inverting it and running his fingers down again. Then he held his pen between his first and second fingers and waggled it vigorously. Macey was in the zone.

23. bxa3

23. Nc6 loses to 23... Rxc6 24. Rxc6 Bxb2 25. Kxb2 Qa2+ 26. Kc1 b2+ 27. Kd2 b1=Q+ 28. Qc2 Qaxc2+ 29. Rxc2 Qb3

23... Qxa3

Threatens mate. Here Macey straightened his back, slightly arching his shoulders and lifted both arms, clasping his hands behind his head. He rocked slightly in his chair. It was a sure sign that Macey's opponent was in BIG trouble. Yup Macey had solved the puzzle that Larsen and nine other GM's that had had the position had failed to solve. The Chess Gods were looking down - and they were happy.

24. Qe2

The only move. Dippy's face was white. How could a World Champion position have disintegrated so quickly ? I was reminded of the saying "We can be knowledgeable with other men's knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men's wisdom. "

24. Rxc8+? Rxc8 25. Qe2 Nc3#

24... Rc2 25. Rxc2

Again forced.

25. Qxc2 Nc3+ 26. Qxc3 Qa2#

25... bxc2+ 26. Kxc2

26. Qxc2 Rb8+ and mates.

26... Rc8+ 27. Nc4

The only chance.

27. Kb1 Rb8+ 28. Kc2 Rb2+ 29. Kd1 Qa1#

27. Kd1 Qc1#

27. Kd2 Qc3+ 28. Kd1 Qc1#

27... Rxc4+!

Macey hardly ever played moves instantaneosly, but this was the nearest thing to it. Macey had already seen all the mates in his mind.

28. Qxc4 Ne3+ 29. Kd2 Nxc4+ 30. Kd1

30. Kc2 Qb2+ 31. Kd3 Qb3+ 32. Ke2 Qe3+ 33. Kf1 Nd2#

30. Ke2 Qe3+ 31. Kf1 (31. Kd1 Qd2#) 31... Nd2#

30... Qd3+ 31. Ke1 Qd2+ 32. Kf1 Ne3+ 33. Kg1 Qxg2#

Angela was looking at Macey and slightly shaking her head. "Macey crucified the Yorkshire Champion," she said, "in a World Chess Champion position played by Karpov !" Now I could tell you about the expression on old Jarvis's face, and how well Dippy took the loss, but I don't want to bore you readers. Suffice it to say that as Dippy and co were leaving Angela turned to Macey and said "He's going to Oxford you know!" and giggled hysterically.


Game(s) in PGN