Colorado Dreamin'...

Encounter with a World Champion

Back in the early 80s, the Jacksonville Chess Club was an active organization, under the genial hand of Edwin Butler, a retired real estate wheeler-dealer who turned to chess as an outlet for his seemingly inexhaustible energy.

Spassky in action Among the events organized by the club was a visit by former World Champion Boris Spassky to play a 30-board simultaneous exhibition on September 27, 1984. This was his second stop across the United States during a two-week tour that year. The picture to the right was taken by Florida Times-Union staff photographer Scott Robinson and appeared in the October 1 edition of the paper. In the photograph, I am about as far away from the camera as you can get!

Along with 29 other players ranging in age from 17 to 73, I forked over $50 for the right to sit down and play against Grandmaster Spassky, and the following game was the result. Of the souls who participated in the event, only I and one other escaped with draws; Spassky swept the rest of the boards, finishing the exhibition at about one in the morning.

Here's the score of that game, in PGN format.

[Event "Simultaneous Exhibition"]
[Site "Jacksonville, Florida"]
[Date "1984.09.27"]
[White "Spassky, Boris"]
[Black "Lane, Alex"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[Opening "King's Gambit Declined/Falkbeer Counter Gambit"]
[Variation "Tartakower variation"]
[ECO "C31"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5
  {Playing a counter gambit against an ex-World Champion
   can be attributed to any of a number of character traits,
   such as supreme confidence, flaming arrogance, or
   outright stupidity,... but I digress. At the time, as I
   recall, I was better booked up in the Falkbeer Counter
   Gambit than in the King's Gambit (and, as we'll shortly
   see, that isn't saying much), and I'd much rather
   play an opening I understand than one I do not. Anyway,
   the Falkbeer has a good reputation, so it's not a
   completely off-the-wall choice of opening.}
3. Nf3 Nc6
  {A move suggested by a minor German chess master, Curt
   von Bardeleben, who committed suicide in 1924 for 
   unrelated reasons. As it turned out, both facts were quite 
   useless to me, as I had only been ready (more or less) to
   meet 3. exd5. The hard fact is, it's move three, and I am 
   on my own resources.}
4. exd5 Qxd5 5. Nc3 Qe6 6. fxe5! Nxe5 7. Nxe5 Qxe5+ 8. Qe2
  {After the game, I learned that up to here, our play is 
   mirroring analysis published in a well-known book on the 
   King's Gambit written by Estrin and Glazkov.
   I have gotten to this position by myself, blissfully
   ignorant of said analysis, which states that White has a
   lead in development. Be that as it may, Black is not lost.
   While I do not have the upper hand, for now I appear to be 
   holding my own!}
8...Bd6 9. d4 Qxe2+ 10. Bxe2 Bf5 11. Bb5+ c6 12. Ba4 Ne7
13. O-O O-O-O 14. Bb3 Rhf8
  {Playing very carefully, feeling some pressure, and
   desperately trying not to lose. (Is that so bad?)}
15. Bf4 Bg6 16. Ne2 Nf5 17. c3 Rde8 18. Bxd6 Nxd6 19. Nf4 Be4
20. Rae1 f5 21. Ne6 Rf6 22. Ng5 h6 23. Nxe4 Nxe4
  {It is probably better to recapture with 23...fxe4, creating
   a passed pawn, but also one that is isolated. Perhaps under
   tournament conditions, I would have risked the pawn
   recapture, but here, I am simply trying to hold on. When,
   at this point Spassky offered a draw, I wasted no time in
   accepting his offer. The final position:
   2k1r3/pp4p1/2p2r1p/5p2/3Pn3/2P5/PPB3PP/4RRK1 w - - 0 1