Short's third venture into the Fischer-Sozin (click here to follow along) gave him his best advantage out of the opening yet, as he varied his opening sequence yet again, following this with a stunning, though apparently flawed, queen sacrifice. Uncharacteristically, Kasparov misread the resulting position and found himself in a losing situation. However, Short's time trouble addiction (something that, more than anything else, hampered his performance in the match) made sure that the finish would not be clinical…
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 PxP
4. NxP Nf6
5. Nc3 a6
6. Bc4 e6
7. Bb3 Nbd7
8. f4 Nc5
A third game, a third 9th move. After trying e5 and f5, Short tries a new plan with 9. Qf3. The basic idea is similar to 9. f5, where a key idea is opening the diagonal of the light-squared bishop. Here the queen supports f5 as well as indirect pressure on f6 in some cases (after Bg5). As we'll see Short had a more revolutionary idea in mind. Notice that Short consistently rejects the quiet lines, such as the perfectly acceptable 9. O-O.
9. …. b5
As in games 6 and 8 Kasparov favors this positioning of the knight, although after this game Kasparov gave up the Nb8-d7-c5 maneuver altogether, having obtained difficult positions in all cases.
10. f5 Bd7
11. fxe6 fxe6 Short's pawn exchange is strategically incorrect, releasing pressure on e6 too early, but it's another question as to whether it is tactically justified…
12. Bg5 Be7
13. O-O-O O-O
The product of Short's home analysis, though apprently he realized its flaw over the board, which led to an hour-long think that came back to cost him later in the game. Short's idea is the queen sacrifice which he ultimately executes in the game, however the concept could have been refuted. Kasparov: "…the simple 14. … Nd5 15. Bxe7 Nxe7 16. Qg3 d5 leaves Nigel strategically lost because his bishop on b3 is out of play and I can win automatically by advancing my queenside pawns." But Short's uncertainty at the board may have bluffed Kasparov into thinking the loss of a queen had simply been missed during analysis.
14. … Nfe4? (….Nd5! See above)
15. Bxe7 Qxe7
But this is precisely the position Short had aimed for. A series of forcing moves gives White a winning position.
16. … Rxf3
17. exd6 Nxb3+
18. Nxb3 Qf8
19. gxf3 Qxf3
20. Nec5 Bc6
21. Rhe1 e5
22. d7 Rd8 and from here to the end, Kasparov is one pawn move away from disaster. For the queen Short has a rook, piece, and a monster passed pawn.
23. Rd6 a5
In Keene's book on this match, kindly provided by Lou, Kasparov points out that 23. … Bd6 is met strongly by the simple 24. Nd2 when Black's army gets disorganized, but it sets a trap for 24. Rd1 when 24. … Bxb3 25. Nxb3 e4 gives Black excellent, possibly winning play with his own passed pawn.
24. a3 a4
Likewise 24. Nxa5? gives up too much - 24. …Qf4+ 25. Kb1 Qb4
25. Nd2 Qg2
26. c3 Bd5
27. Nd3 Bb3
Now White is perilously close to a win, but Kasparov is giving himself potential lifelines with mating or perpetual checking threats against the White king which is exposed on the light squares. Also, Short by this time was already in significant time pressure.
28. Nxe5 Qxh2 The pawn on e5 was gold, the pawn on h2 was silver, a good transaction.
29. Nc6! Qxd6
30. Re8+ Kf7
31. Nxd8+ Kg6
With a clever tactical maneuver, Short eliminated Black's defense of d8 and exposed Black's king. For the next several moves, a modestly powered laptop can find winning variations for White…but for a human sitting across from the greatest player of all time with only minutes to play, the problem is more complex. Short: "[It was] possible to play 32. Re6+ Bxe6 33.Nxe6 Qxe6 (33. … Qxd7?? 34. Nf8+) 34. d8 = Q which is winning. However, I thought that Black may be able to cause some problems in my time pressure by running his h-pawn down the board so I preferred to try to win the game immediately. Indeed, the Q+N vs Q ending Short cites would undoubtedly have been tricky under these conditions.
32. Ne6!? Qh2 (again 32. … Qxd7?? 34. Nf8+)
33. Nf4+ Kh6 (33. d8=Q leads to a win…for Black! (mate in four) - you may see the problems Short was facing in making quick choices)
34. Nd3 Qg1+
Here the press center was calling for 35. Ne1?? which is very likely to have been what Short was planning in rerouting his knight from e6 to d3. However, this loses! 35. … Qg4! threatens the pawn on d7 and mate on d1, and after 36. NxB Qxd7 there is a fork winning back the piece, and the game.
35. Re1 Qg5 (covering d8 and pinning the knight)
36. Ne5? g6
The last simple win was here, when after 37. Rh1+ Kg6 38. Ne5+ Kf5 (38. … QxN?? 39. d8=Q) 39. Nc6 [Short] there are no mating threats and White will queen.
37. Rf1 Be6
38. Nf7+ Bxf7
39. Rxf7 Qd5
And with seconds left….
An impulse move, moving the attacked rook. However, the rook was tactically defended because taking it would allow White to queen. Kasparov and Short agreed on the following line for White: 40. Ne4! Qd3 41. Rf2 Qxd7 42. Rh2+ Kg7 43. Rxh7+! Kxh7 44. Nf6+ followed by NxQ winning. If only it were move 41 I would think Short would have found this. As it was after…
40. … Qd6
41. Rf7 Qd3!
42. Ne4 Qe3+
43. Nd2 Qd3 a draw was agreed. White's king won't be able to find shelter enough to avoid perpetual check. Surely a bitterly disappointing result for Short, who had a great opportunity after a powerful queen sacrifice. Unfrotunately for Short, in this match his fighting spirit was not totally matched by high level execution, however for the third White game in a row he came close to taking Kasparov's number...