Jeff Sarwer - Josh Waitzkin (1696) [E76]
US National Primary School Championship/Charlotte, North Carolina (7) 1986
Josh Waitzkin retells the story of this game and his competition with Jeff Sarwer in The Art of Learning (2007), pp. 23-27. Going into the game, Josh knew that he only needed a draw to win the Championship on tie-breaks. The actual game is completely misrepresented in the film version of Searching for Bobby Fischer, which is unfortunate since the actual game is quite dramatic. The score and actual score-sheet is provided by Jeff Sarwer on his website with the note: "I blew a winning position and a draw occured that I never realized would become chess folklore... In short, I was 7, he was 9, and I quickly forgot about the draw and won the world-10 championships 2 months later." I don't think the game has ever been shown in a book or online other than at Sarwer's site.
"He started the game with tremendous aggression, coming straight after me with a very dnagerous central pawn storm against my King's Indian Defense. I had never seen this variation before. He moved quickly, playing with terrifying confidence, and I was on the ropes from the start. His central pawn phalanx seemed to be devouring me, pushing me back before the game even began" (Waitzkin 25).
Black should retain the two Bishops and just hunker down with 17... Rc8
Usually a Rook on the 7th creates counterplay, but here the Rook is easily traded and then Black has no way to protect the weak c5-pawn.
White returns the pawn, perhaps to invite the trade of Rooks, but with equal material the win will be harder.
Bishops are naturally better than Knights in positions where both sides have passed pawns because they can move swiftly to defend against the opponent's pawns while supporting their own. Both sides have played well to activate their passed pawns, but the Bishop gives White a very big advantage, especially due to White's superior passed pawns, which are connected and "outside" the center, making them harder to fight with the slow moving Knight.
39... Ne6+!? 40. Kb4 (40. Kd6? Nd4 and the Knight holds f3 so that the Bishop cannot stop the Black e-pawn from queening.) (40. Kb6? Nd4 41. Bb7+ Kb8 42. c5 e3 43. c6 Ne6 44. c7+ Nxc7 45. Bf3 Nd5+ 46. Kc5 Nc3) 40... Nd4! 41. Be8 e3 42. Kc3 Kd8 43. Bxg6 Nf3 44. Kd3 Ne5+ 45. Kxe3 Nxg6 46. Kd4 Kc7 is not without losing chances for Black, e.g.: 47. Kd5 f4 48. gxf4 Nxf4+ 49. Ke4 Ne6 50. Kf5 Nd4+ 51. Kg6 Nf3 52. h3 Ne5+ 53. Kxh6 Nxc4 54. h4 Kb6 55. h5 Kxb5 56. Kg7 Nd6 57. Kg6!
"I'll never forget the feeling when I sensed my potential escape. Often in chess, you feel something is there before you find it. The skin suddenly perks up, senses heighten like an animal feeling danger or prey. The unconscious alerts the conscious player that there is something to be found, and then the search begins. I started calculating, putting things together. Slowly the plan crystallized in my mind. I had to take my Knight out of play and give up my remaining pawns to set up a long combination that would leave just two kings on the board -- a completely counter-intuitive idea" (Waitzkin 26-27).
A really spectacular move, and probably the only way to draw the game.
Game in PGN
Sarwer, Jeff. "Chess." http://jeffsarwer.com/chess.php Accessed September 21, 2007
Sloan, Sam. "Searching for Bobby Fischer." Avler Chess Forum
Sloan describes in detail the way this game is represented in the film Searching for Bobby Fischer.
Waitzkin, Josh. The Art of Learning. Free Press 2007.