The Argentinian Surprise Backfires

Gothenburg - 1955

  • In the 1950's, Argentina was a major chess power, with four representatives in the 1955 Gothenburg Interzonal. In round 14 of that tournament, three of the Argentinian GM's had black on the same day against three of the top Soviet GM's Here's a trio of games played with the same variation in the same tournament on the same day. Working together, they prepared a new move, 9... g5 in the Najdorf Sicilian, and resolve to each use it in their game.

    In Round 14, Najdorf, Panno and Pilnik squared off against Keres, Geller, and Spassky, with each one of them playing the new variation. The result was a total disaster. Each of the Soviets found the move 11. Nxe6, sacrificing a piece for a strong attack, and each one of them blew the doors off their Argentinian opponents, the longest game lasting 31 moves. The Gothenburg Variation was dead on its very first day, consigned to the scrap heap.

  • Until Bobby Fischer started looking at it again, with a view to reviving it as a secret weapon of his own. Fischer found the move 13... Rh7 (which none of the Argentinians had tried) which improved Black's chances of defense considerably. Taking it with him to the next interzonal at Portoroz Fischer found himself with a good chance of qualifying going into the last round, but desperately needing a win with Black against Svetozar Gligoric to be certain.

    The time had come to spring the surprise. Repelling White's attack, Fischer made it into an advanced middle-game in which White had three pawns for his piece and real drawing chances, but all the winning chances belonged to Black. A long and protracted battle seemed to be just ahead, but it never happened, as on another board, a tragedy was taking place. David Bronstein, who had never lost in 58 previous Interzonal games, was being demolished by the 19th place finisher, Rudolfo Cardoso. With Bronstein's defeat, Fischer could now be assured of qualification by drawing with Gligoric. Gligoric, who was already certain of qualification had nothing more to play for, and quickly accepted Fischer's offer. After this disaster, Bronstein, who had played in the first three Candidates Tournaments, never made it that far again.