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I've been studying a series of games featuring the King's Indian Attack and in Hug–Spassky (1973)[1], I don't understand why White delays capturing the rook after 25...Rd2.

Why play 26. Nd3?

Is White avoiding the loss of tempo after (26. Qxd2 Qd8) or (26. Qxd2 Rad8)?

Instead, White plays 26. Nd3 prompting 26...Rxe2. I must be missing something since I don't see the idea behind 26. Nd3.

[Title "Hug (2440) - Spassky (2655), 1973"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
[startply "50"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 { A07 King's Indian Attack } c6 3. Bg2 Bf5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 e6 6. Nbd2 Be7 7. Qe1?! { (0.55 → -0.05) Inaccuracy. Nh4 was best. } (7. Nh4 Bg4 8. h3 Bh5 9. g4 g5 10. Nhf3 Bg6 11. Ne5 Nbd7) 7... h6 8. e4 Bh7 9. Qe2 O-O 10. b3 a5 11. a3 c5 12. a4 Nc6 13. Bb2 Re8 14. Ne5 Nd4 15. Qd1 Qc7 16. Nef3? { (0.00 → -1.29) Mistake. f4 was best. } (16. f4 Rad8 17. Kh1 Nd7 18. Ng4 Nf6 19. Ne5) 16... dxe4 17. dxe4 Red8 18. Re1 Nxf3+ 19. Bxf3 c4 20. bxc4 Bb4 21. c3 Be7 22. Qe2 Nd7 23. Nb3 Ne5 24. c5?! { (-1.33 → -1.93) Inaccuracy. Nd4 was best. } (24. Nd4) 24... Bxc5 25. Nxc5?? { (-1.77 → -4.79) Blunder. Bg2 was best. } (25. Bg2) 25... Rd2 26. Nd3 Rxe2 27. Bxe2 Nc4 28. Bf1 Qc6 29. Bc1 Bxe4 30. Nc5 Bd5 { White resigns. } 0-1

[1] Game with annotations by lichess.org

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    I don't generally recommend looking at engine eval but this is one case where it is good: if you are confused by a move and are wondering why another move wasn't played, after thinking about it for a while, turn on the engine to see how it replies to your move. Just don't become an engine zombie.
    – pkr
    Feb 15 at 17:22
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Why play 26. Nd3?

Is White avoiding the loss of tempo after (26. Qxd2 Qd8) or (26. Qxd2 Rad8)?

No, the idea behind Nd3 is to limit the losses. Black would respond to 26. Qxd2 with Nxf3+ forking the king and queen.

[fen "r5k1/1pq2ppb/4p2p/p1N1n3/P3P3/2P2BP1/1B1rQP1P/R3R1K1 w - - 0 1"]

1. Qxd2 (1. Nd3 Rxe2 2. Bxe2 Nxd3 3. Bxd3 {and white has limited the losses}) Nxf3+ 2. Kg2 Nxd2

After the sequence starting with Nd3 white is down a queen in exchange for a rook and a bishop. After Qxd2 white ends up down at least a queen for a rook.

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    I appreciate this (+1). After I posted my question the answer just popped in my head and I posted at almost the same time (before seeing your answer). How should I handle this here on Chess.SE? Feb 15 at 14:53
  • @SecretAgentMan One way of handling this would be to follow the advice from one angry user on Chess Meta (chess.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/950/…) and just check with a computer first. My advice would be to spend longer thinking about it yourself first, then if you still can't see it (and that would have worked for you here) only then fire up the engine.
    – Brian Towers
    Feb 15 at 15:05
  • Should I delete my question then? I'm getting the distinct impression my question is not up to this site's standards. Feb 15 at 18:18
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    @SecretAgentMan If your question had a score of -3 or worse then I would advise you to delete as that would indicate widespread disapproval but a score of +2 indicates approval. So, no don't delete it.
    – Brian Towers
    Feb 15 at 18:43
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I am not a strong enough player to be sure, but if White takes the rook with 26. Qxd2 then Black has 26...Nxf3+ with a triple attack on White's king, queen, and rook.

Hug would have seen this immediately and thus knew the queen was already lost. I'm not sure why Nd3 is the best move but Stockfish agrees.

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