Pure Tactics or Deep Strategy

The purpose of this article is threefold:

The starting point is the position after 15.Qc2 from the famous game R. Byrne – Fischer (USA Championship 1963-4), number 48 in Fischer's 60 memorable games. This position is depicted on the static diagram below, while the animated diagram shows how it evolved.


animated chess diagram
static chess diagram

Black to move and win by a combination. This is a hard problem. I propose a series of seven problems of increasing difficulty of which the final is the position at hand. Each of the seven diagrams below contains its own solution, which can be viewed by clicking on the arrows. You can play these positions against an engine before looking at the solution. You can also open each of these positions in a separate editor window to analyze it on an interactive chessboard.

the whole game R. Byrne – Fischer (USA Championship 1963-4)

It is intriguing to learn that at the moment when White resigned two grandmasters who were commenting on the play for the spectators in a separate room believed that White had won the game.

This game has provoked me to ask the question what is strategy and what is tactics. Here one can think that Fischer, a master of tactics, has simply calculated all the variations — then it's pure tactics. Alternatively, one can think that Fischer, a master of strategy, assessed the situation by intution expecting that tactical shots will be available due to the weaknesses in White's position — then it's pure strategy.

From Fischer's book we can learn that playing 12...e5 he was a bit worried about weakening his d-pawn, but felt that the tremendous activity obtained by his minor pieces would permit White no time to exploit it. If that was his thought process, then it's pure strategy with a minimum of tactics.