When they think of Bent Larsen, most American’s probably think “Isn’t he that guy who lost to Fischer 6-0?”
However, there is a lot more to Bent than that footnote would suggest. He was clearly the second best player in the West for many years behind only Fischer.
In fact, in 1970 during the first “USSR vs The Rest of the World” match, the captain of the World Team, former world champion Max Euwe, had decided that he would use Elo ratings to determine board order.
Bent Larsen would not accept this as Fischer had been inactive for some time at this point and he himself had had several successes leading up to this event.
In a gesture that surprised many, Fischer agreed and stepped down to play Tigran Petrosian on Board Two while Larsen faced world champion Boris Spassky on Board One.
After a draw in their first game, Larsen sat down to the board for Game Two and promptly committed a cardinal sin in the chess world by completely ignoring the center in the second game. This allowed Spassky to create the following miniature.
Take this as a lesson…ignore the center at your own peril!
And yes, these days the Nimzo-Larsen attack (1.b3 or 1.Nf3 2.b3) is often used by strong players, but these days the theory and understanding are quite far advanced compared to where they were when Bent was pioneering this setup.
Til Next Time,
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