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1960 Leipzig - Letelier vs. Fischer
Every Move Explained


This game was played between Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer and Rene Letelier in 1960 at the 14th Olympiad. The international team event was played October-November 1960, at Leipzig, located in East Germany at that time. The 40 teams were split into four preliminary groups, where the first three teams in each group would qualify for the final. This game was played in the preliminary.

Fischer won the bronze medal for the third best score on first board. The USA team won the silver medal, behind the Soviet Union (Tal, Botvinnik, Keres, Korchnoi, Smyslov, and Petrosian; all medal winners on their respective boards), and ahead of third place Yugoslavia. Fischer's opponent, Rene Letelier Martner, Chile's first board, was awarded the International Master (IM) title in 1960.

The game was included in Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games, under the heading 'A Queen for the King'.

Next move: 1.d4 • For more about White's first move, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Initial Position.


Statistics show that the most popular first move for White is 1.e4, and the second most popular is 1.d4. If we consider only games played by the world's best players, we might find that both moves are equally popular, with perhaps even a slight preference for opening with the Queen's Pawn.

Given the opportunity, White will follow-up with e2-e4 as quickly as possible, establishing a strong Pawn center. The battle for control of e4 is the first skirmish in the Queen's Pawn openings. Black's most popular moves (1...d5 and 1...Nf6) both address that critical square.

Next move: 1...Nf6 • For more about White's responses to 1.d4, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Queen's Pawn Openings.


Black signals the intention of playing one of the Indian Defenses, where the characteristic first move is 1...Nf6. The move prevents 2.e4 and develops the Knight to its natural square. It is very unusual to find games 1.d4 games where the Knight is developed to any square other than f6.

Next move: 2.c4


After 1.d4, the move 2.c4 (or a later c2-c4 after a non-committal move like 2.Nf3) can be played against all of Black's best defenses. In d4 openings it is highly unusual to play Nb1-c3 before first playing c2-c4. There are several reasons for this.

  • Since the move e2-e4 will likely be problematic for some time, the move c2-c4 is the next best move to deploy a Pawn that controls a central square.

  • Clearing the c2 square lets White develop the Queen on the a4-d1 diagonal. This won't happen immediately -- it is generally better to develop the minor pieces and to castle before developing the Queen -- but all three squares (a4, b3, and c2) will come under consideration.

  • If Black plays ...d5, which is still possible after 1...Nf6, White can exchange the c-Pawn, opening the c-file for the White Rooks and Queen. Because the center files (the d- & e-files) are often blocked in Queen's Pawn Openings, the c-file can become an important route for attacking the opponent.

  • If Black plays ...d5 before preparing it with ...c6 or ...e6, White's exchange by cxd5 will force a recapture by a Black piece. White can play then e2-e4, which is no longer hindered by a Black Pawn on d5.

White sometimes starts 1.c4, intending 2.d4, a simple transposition of moves.

Next move: 2...g6 • For more about Black's responses to 2.c4, see our tutorial Chess Openings - Indian Defenses.


Black initiates a different plan, temporarily abandoning the fight for e4. White will now be able to force that move if desired. In contrast, a move like 2...e6 would continue the fight for e4, preparing to follow 3.Nc3 with 3...Bb4 or 3...d5.

This variation is an example of a Hypermodern opening : 'The Hypermoderns opposed the classical chess teaching that Pawns should be moved to the center of the chess board in the opening (1.e4 and 1.d4). They believed that Pawns in the center presented a target for the opponent.'

Black dares White to continue building a center with e2-e4. If White does so, Black will attack White's center with the c-, d-, e-, and f-Pawns, as circumstances permit.

Next move: 3.Nc3


White follows classical principles and is content to build a strong center. The move 3.Nc3 prepares 4.e4.

Next move: 3...Bg7 • For more about Black's responses to 3.Nc3, see our tutorial Chess Openings - King's Indian or Gruenfeld.


Black has an important choice on this move. With 3...Bg7, Black continues to develop before attacking White's center. The alternative 3...d5 challenges White to continue 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3, loosening the center by exchanging a pair of Pawns and a pair of Knights.

The continuation 3...Bg7 is known as the King's Indian Defense. The alternative 3...d5 is called the Gruenfeld Defense.

One of the hallmarks of Fischer's early career was a narrow opening repertoire. His opponents could often determine in advance which opening variation he would play, especially as Black. He often used both the King's Indian and Gruenfeld Defenses.

Next move: 4.e4 • For more about White's options when faced with the King's Indian, see our tutorial Chess Openings - King's Indian Defense.


White continues with the plan of building a strong center. An alternative to 4.e4 is to continue with g2-g3, developing the light square Bishop on the long diagonal. Letelier had always played 4.e4, a fact probably known by Fischer.

Next move: 4...O-O


The move 4...O-O is somewhat unusual in this position. More usual is 4...d6, followed by 5...O-O. In fact, the two moves are often played interchangeably. Fischer played 4...d6 far more often than 4...O-O. Was there a reason why he chose 4...O-O for this particular game? The record shows that he played the same move three times in the Leipzig Olympiad, without playing 4...d6 even once.

The record also shows that Letelier played several different opening variations after 4...d6. There are no earlier games on record where he played against 4...O-O.

Next move: 5.e5


White's fifth move is definitely unusual. After 4...O-O, most games continue with White's favorite response to 4...d6, where 5.Nf3 and 5.f3 are both popular. Black then plays 5...d6, which is nothing more than a simple transposition of moves by Black, of no further importance in the game.

Letelier decided to steer the game in a different direction. Fischer called the move 'weak', and wrote that his opponent 'snapped at the chance to take me "out of the book", but this premature advance leaves White with all the responsibility of holding his overextended center Pawns'.

The 5.e5 twist moves the game firmly into the realm of hypermodern opening theory. Black has dared White to build an extended center, not really believing that he would do it. White has accepted the dare.

Of the dozen or so known Fischer games with 4...O-O, in only one other game did his opponent play 5.e5. That was as Black against Andrew Schoene in the second round of the U.S. Junior Championship, San Francisco, 1957. Fischer won the game (and later the tournament).

Next move: 5...Ne8


Black's move is forced. If 5...Nh5, White traps the misplaced Knight with 6.g4.

Now White has a number of possible moves. White anticipates that Black will play ...c5 as soon as possible, loosening the protection of the Pawn on e5. The moves to protect that Pawn are 6.Nf3, 6.Bf4, and 6.f4.

Next move: 6.f4


White chooses to bolster the Pawn center with another Pawn. This position is reminiscent of another variation of the King's Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4 O-O), which is called the Four Pawns Variation (or Four Pawns Attack) after the wall of White Pawns stretching from c4 to f4. Fearing the consequences of an overextended center, White rarely continues 6.e5 in the Four Pawns Variation.

Now Black has three ways to challenge the White center: ...c5, ...d6, and ...f6. Playing the f-Pawn has the disadvantage of blocking the Bishop on its a1-h8 diagonal, so the other two moves are more natural. Which is preferable? Fischer opinion was, 'Weaker is 6...c5 7.dxc5 Qa5 8.Be3 f6? 9.Nf3 fxe5 10.fxe5 Nc6 11.Be2 Nc7 12.O-O Ne6 13.Nd5 Qd8 14.Qd2 etc.', citing a 1962 game played in the Soviet Union.

Next move: 6...d6


After having eliminated the alternatives, the only move left is 6...d6. Black has to act quickly in attacking the center. Given a free move or two, White will be able to defend the center with pieces.

Another feature of 6...d6 is that it opens the diagonal for the Bishop on c8. If White tries to defend the center with 7.Nf3, the move ...Bg4 will pin the Knight to the Queen.

In the earlier game against Fischer using the same opening variation, Schoene continued with 7.Nf3. Fischer wrote that it was 'safer [than 7.Be3], though White can no longer lay claim to any kind of initiative', and continued 7...dxe5 8.fxe5 ('better is 8.dxe5') 8...Bg4. Then after 9.Be2, he continued the attack on the Pawn center with 9..c5.

Next move: 7.Be3


White knows that ...c5 is coming, and wants to protect the center with pieces. Since 7.Nf3 allows the Bishop pin, the most attractive alternative is 7.Be3.

Next move: 7...c5


Black continues to challenge White's Pawn center with his own Pawns, not hesitating to give up some material. The move 7...c5 sacrifices a Pawn.

Next move: 8.dxc5


White accepts the sacrifice. After almost any other move, Black would continue 8...cxd4, eliminating one half of the e-Pawn's already flimsy support.

Of course, Black can't continue 8...dxe5?? (or 8...dxc5??), because of 9.Qxd8. The Knight on e8 interferes with the natural protection of the Queen by the King's Rook.

Next move: 8...Nc6


Black develops another minor piece, attacking the Pawn on e5 for a third time and defending the Queen on d8. If White defends the e-Pawn with 9.Nf3, Black will pin it with 9...Bg4. For this reason, among others, the move 8...Nc6 is much better than 8...Nd7, which would block the Bishop on c8.

Next move: 9.cxd6


Faced with the threat of ...dxe5, and unable to defend the e-Pawn, White looks for another solution. The Pawn exchange opens the a7-g1 diagonal for the White Bishop.

Some grandmaster moves are not so easy to explain. Fischer wrote, 'White tries to compensate for his lack of development by continuing to snatch material. Instead he should be seeking to return the Pawn in the least damaging way (by keeping the lines closed)'. He recommended 9.Nf3 Bg4 10.Be2 as better, but didn't say why this is superior to 9.cxd6 exd6 10.Nf3 Bg4 11.Be2, when 11...dxe5 allows 12.Bc5. The move Bc5 attacking the immobile Rook is a recurring tactical theme for the next few moves.

Next move: 9...exd6


Black recaptures the Pawn. The position in the diagram shows a critical point in the game for White. Once again, if White plays 10.Nf3, Black will respond 10...Bg4. Does White have any moves other than 10.Nf3?

One possibility is 10.Nb5, attacking both the a- and d-Pawns. Now 10...dxe5 looks dubious because of 11.Qxd8 Nxd8 12.Bc5 (the recurring tactical theme) 12...exf4 13.Bxf8 Kxf8. If 10...a6, then White keeps the extra Pawn and exchanges Queens with 11.Nxd6 Nxd6 12.Qxd6 Qxd6 13.exd6 Bxb2 14.Rd1. The move 10...Bf5 allows 11.Nf3, when Black must move the Bishop a second time to continue 11...Bg4.

In his notes, Fischer doesn't mention 10.Nb5, so we don't know how he planned to continue. Perhaps he intended 10...Qa5+. Then White has the choice between 11.Bd2 Qb6, and 11.Qd2 Qxd2+ 12.Kxd2. If we could ask Fischer one question about this game, we would ask him the best continuation after 10.Nb5. White's next move was probably not the best.

Next move: 10.Ne4


White avoids the pin by 10.Nf3 Bg4, and attacks the Pawn on d6. Fischer noted, 'After the text White no longer has time to castle.'

Next move: 10...Bf5


Black develops the Bishop by attacking the Knight on e4. Fischer thought that the best continuation now was 11.Nxd6 Nxd6 12.Qxd6 Qxd6 13.exd6 Bxb2 14.Rd1 Nb4 (threatening to trap the Rook with 15...Bc2) 15.Kf2 Nxa2. He wrote, 'Black is better but White may have drawing chances.'

If White's best chance in this position is to seek a draw, this means that Fischer considered White to be lost after the next move.

Next move: 11.Ng3


Instead of capturing the d-Pawn, White moves the Knight to safety while attacking the Bishop on f5.

Next move: 11...Be6


Fischer: 'I also considered 11...Qc7 12.Nxf5 gxf5. White's center must collape'. The move played gives White the idea to break up Black's Pawn structure with f4-f5.

Next move: 12.Nf3


White finally develops one of the Kingside minor pieces. The response ...Bg4 is no longer attractive because Black would simply lose a move with the Bishop.

Instead of his next move, Fischer noted, 'Also playable is 12...dxe5 13.Qxd8 Rxd8 14.Bc5 exf4. But I wanted to fracture him in the middle game.' If 15.Bxf8, Black plays 15...Bxb2 before recapturing on f8.

Next move: 12...Qc7


Black attacks the e-Pawn with another piece and prepares to play ...Rd8. Although a Pawn down, he is willing to allow 13.exd6 Nxd6, which opens the long diagonal for the Bishop and the e-file for the Rooks.

Fischer now gave two long variations.

  • 'On 13.Be2 dxe5 14.Bc5 Qa5+ 15.b4 Nxb4 16.Bxf8 Kxf8 17.O-O exf4 18.Ne4 Bf5 is overwhelming.'

  • 'On 13.Qc2 (in order to prepare O-O-O) 13...dxe5 14.f5 gxf5 15.Nxf5 Nb4 16.Qb3 Bxf5 17.Qxb4 Nf6 is strong.'

White finds a different continuation.

Next move: 13.Qb1


Fischer: 'Continuing his "attack"'. Where's the attack? It's the move f4-f5.

The move 13.Qb1 also protects the b-Pawn, which is vulnerable to the Bishop on g7. The downside of White's move is that the Queen hems in the Rook. Both the Queen on b1 and the Rook on a1 are out of play, especially if the White King comes under attack.

Next move: 13...dxe5


Black is now clearly better developed than White, who is still at least two moves away from castling O-O. What do you do when your development is superior and your opponent's King is exposed? You attack.

The move 13...dxe5 is not so much to recover the Pawn. It is to clear the center of Pawns, thereby opening lines to the Black King. The a1-h8 diagonal, the d-file, and the e-file are all opened with this one Pawn exchange.

The strategic theme for the next few moves involves Black trying to open lines to attack the White King. White will try to keep the lines closed.

Next move: 14.f5


White plays the move prepared by 13.Qb1. As compensation for returning the extra Pawn, White expects that Black's e-Pawn will provide some protection for the White King. Not only will it block the Black Rooks from attacking on the e-file, it will block the dark squared Bishop on the diagonal.

Next move: 14...e4


Black plays an excellent move that deserves a '!'. The Pawn opens diagonals for the Queen and Bishop, and if allowed to capture the Knight, opens the e-file for the Rooks. It also closes the b1-h7 diagonal to the White Queen; if White moves the Knight out of danger by 15.Nd2 or 15.Ng5, Black can continue ...g6xf5.

Fischer noted that 15.Qxe4 is not possible here because 15...gxf5 16.Nxf5 (16.Qh4 Bxb2) 16...Qa5+ wins a piece.

Next move: 15.fxe6


White expects that after trading minor pieces and an eventual recapture by ...f7xe6, the e-file will remain closed to White's Rooks.

Next move: 15...exf3


Black is forced to recapture the minor piece. The net effect of the last two moves was an exchange of Bishop for Knight. If White now plays 16.exf7+, Black has 16...Qxf7, adding the Queen to the force that menaces the White King.

Next move: 16.gxf3


White can't leave the Black Pawn on f3. After Black captures the Pawn on e6, White expects to find some safety for the King on f2 or by castling.

Next move: 16...f5


Black plays another unexpected attacking move. White's extra Pawn on e6 may look strong, but it can't be protected and represents no danger to Black, who can capture it later.

Black's new threats are 17...f4, forking two minor pieces, and, even more powerfully, 17...Qe5. The Queen move would threaten not only the Bishop on e3, but also the Pawn on b2 followed by winning the exchange on a1.

Next move: 17.f4


White's move stops the threat of both 17...f4 and 17...Qe5. The White King now expects to find a safe haven on f2.

Next move: 17...Nf6


The Knight, which has been playing a defensive role on e8 since the fifth move, now comes back into offensive play, headed for e4 and g4. The move also vacates e8 for one of the Rooks.

The move 18.Kf2 would be followed by 18...Ng4+.

Next move: 18.Be2


White finally develops the Bishop. The move also prepares to swap Bishop for Knight if Black plays ...Ng4 now or later.

Next move: 18...Rfe8


The Rook has no future on the f-file, which is blocked by the f-Pawns. On e8 it prepares to recover the e-Pawn, eyes the unprotected Be3, and looks through three White pieces to see the White King. Recovering the Pawn is not really important; it is just an obstacle protecting the King.

Next move: 19.Kf2


White gets the King off the e-file and prepares Rh1-e1.

Next move: 19...Rxe6


Black's attack is accelerating. Black removes the first obstacle on the path to the White King and prepares to double the Rooks on the sensitive, open e-file.

Next move: 20.Re1


With so much pressure building on the e-file, White is happy to move his own Rook to that open line. The move prepares to protect the Bishop on e3 after the other Bishop moves off e2. The King and Rook should provide sufficient protection for the Bishop on e3, which will be attacked by both Black Rooks.

Next move: 20...Rae8


As expected, Black attacks the Bishop for a second time. Now the plausible defensive move 21.Nf1 would allow 21...Rxe3 22.Nxe3 Qxf4+.

Next move: 21.Bf3


White defends the Bishop on e3 for a second time. Retreating it to d2 would allow the Black Knight to reach d4, setting up new threats.

Next move: 21...Rxe3


What's this? Black apparently has a combination in mind. Is it something to do with the Knight and Bishop coming to d4?

Next move: 22.Rxe3


White must recapture or lose a minor piece. The Queen and Rook sit in the corner, far away from the center of action.

Next move: 22...Rxe3


Black continues to execute the mysterious combination. What could be its ultimate point?

Next move: 23.Kxe3


White again recaptures to avoid losing a piece.

Next move: 23...Qxf4+


This is the point of Black's combination: a Queen sacrifice ends the game immediately. Its less than obvious main point is that 24.Kxf4 allows immediate checkmate by 24...Bh6. If 24.Kf2, Black has several ways to win. After 24...Ng4+ 25.Kg2 Ne3+ 26.Kf2 Ne5, the Queen and two Knights are too powerful for White to handle.

When did Fischer first see the Queen sacrifice? Perhaps it was when he doubled his Rooks on the e-file. Whenever it was, it was a marvelous example of combinative vision.

White resigned: 0-1

For all games in the 'Every Move Explained' series, see
Improve Your Game.