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Fischer vs Spassky 1972
The Match of the Century

The name Bobby Fischer, at least to Americans, is synonymous with chess. A prodigy in the 50s, a world class player in the 60s, the 70s saw Fischer at his pinnacle. He earned the right to challenge Boris Spassky in a title run without comparison, defeating Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen with perfect scores of 6-0, and ex-champion Petrosian 6½-2½. Now the stage was set, and the only thing standing between Fischer and Spassky was Fischer himself.

 Fischer vs Spassky 1972
 Fischer vs Spassky, 1972
The match was mired in political overtones, during the height of the Cold War. The Soviet chess system had a monopoly on the title since 1948, and the expectations on Spassky were enormous. While Fischer studied chess virtually in seclusion, Spassky had the full resources of the USSR. Victor Baturinsky, head of Soviet Chess Sports Committee, said: "Basically, the Soviet leadership and the powers that be in sport, were interested in just one issue: how to stop Fischer from becoming World Champion."[1]

With the match set to begin in Reykjavik, Iceland, Fischer (who had not signed any documents confirming his participation) began to make a number of demands, including a percentage of television rights, a larger prize fund, and all manner of conditions covering everything from the lighting to the chair cushions. To satisfy Bobby's demands of a larger prize fund, British chess promoter James Slater donated a dazzling $125,000 to be added to the prize fund. Fischer still needed more convincing by Bill Lombardy (Fischer's last-minute choice as second), and one famously persuasive telephone call from Henry Kissinger. Mere hours before he would be forfeited, Fischer arrived in Iceland.

On July 11th, the "Match of the Century" had begun. Whether it was a blunder, or a passion to win at all costs, the first game saw Fischer uncharacteristically lose a simple drawn endgame. Game 2 was awarded to Spassky by forfeit when Fischer failed to appear in a dispute over the presence of cameras in the playing hall.

With the score 2-0 in Spassky's favor, Fischer refused to play unless TV cameras were removed from the playing hall. Only a last minute agreement by Spassky to play away from the cameras permitted the third game to be held. This turned out to be a huge psychological mistake by Spassky. In game 3, in a small room backstage, Fischer beat Spassky for the first time in his life. The games then returned to the main stage, but without cameras. Winning again in games 5, 6, 8, and 10 the Fischer juggernaut had become unstoppable.

On September 3, 1972, Robert James Fischer became the 11th World Chess Champion.

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FINAL SCORE:  Fischer 12½;  Spassky 8½
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Fischer-Spassky 1972]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #6     Fischer vs Spassky, 1972     1-0
    · Game #13     Spassky vs Fischer, 1972     0-1
    · Game #10     Fischer vs Spassky, 1972     1-0


  1. Clash of the Titans, television documentary, BBC
    2The Match of the Century, Wikipedia

 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Spassky vs Fischer 1-056 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchE56 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6
2. Fischer vs Spassky 0-10 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchA00 Uncommon Opening
3. Spassky vs Fischer 0-141 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchA61 Benoni
4. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½45 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB88 Sicilian, Fischer-Sozin Attack
5. Spassky vs Fischer 0-127 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchE41 Nimzo-Indian
6. Fischer vs Spassky 1-041 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchD59 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower
7. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½49 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
8. Fischer vs Spassky 1-037 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchA39 English, Symmetrical, Main line with d4
9. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½29 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchD41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
10. Fischer vs Spassky 1-056 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchC95 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Breyer
11. Spassky vs Fischer 1-031 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
12. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½55 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
13. Spassky vs Fischer 0-174 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB04 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
14. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½40 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
15. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½43 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB99 Sicilian, Najdorf, 7...Be7 Main line
16. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½60 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchC69 Ruy Lopez, Exchange, Gligoric Variation, 6.d4
17. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½45 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB09 Pirc, Austrian Attack
18. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½47 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB69 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 11.Bxf6
19. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½40 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB05 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
20. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½54 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB68 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 9...Be7
21. Spassky vs Fischer 0-141 1972 Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB46 Sicilian, Taimanov Variation
 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 21 OF 21 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Oct-12-15  Howard: In response to Petrosianic's inquiry, the closest that Spassky came to a win in Game 4, was probably when he overlooked 31...Rh4. That was certainly the best move in that position, but as far as I know, no forced win has been discovered.

Anyone wanna challenge that claim ?

Oct-12-15  Petrosianic: This is interesting stuff. I don't mind playing the Woulda Coulda Shoulda game, as long as we admit that that's what we're doing. And the name "Imaginary Pluses" makes that very clear.

<(1) Ficher's only serious blunder in the match.>

Yeah, I'd agree, although I'm not sure he'd have lost without further help.

<(2) Forfeit.>

A serious blunder of sorts.

<(3) Conceptually week from Spassky.>

Yes, although he might have held on with a little stiffer defense.

<(4) Excellently begun by Spassky; but he lets a likely win get away.>

Yes, but still a significant game, as it put 6. Bc4 on the shelf for the remainder of the match.

<(5) Probably the worst game by Spassky; his cause is probably already lost when he blunders.>

Yeah, maybe. He had a long fight to get a draw at the least.

<(6) Fischer's technical tour de force. One sided game against week defense.>

Spassky helps, with some weak moves, like d4?, but this is probably the best game.

<(7) Wild game. Spassky pushes too hard in his attack; then desperately defends pawn down. Draw, but American deserved a win.>


<(8) World champion (Spassky) is not playing like world champion: One serious error and the fight is over.>

Worst game of the match, although I'm still not clear whether the initial exchange sac was a real sac or a blunder.

<(9) Least interesting game of the whole match. Draw in 30 moves.>

I find it interesting, just because of the Nc6 innovation in the Semi-Tarrasch.

<(10) Qualitative break in the match -- Spassky begins to play better. In 10th game Spassky gets a promising position in Spanish (Ruy), but a 'wobble' -- queen briefly stranded during a 'hunt' -- lets Fischer superbly collect another full point.>

Is that where the game was won, or later on?

<(11) Clear game: Suspect opening variation that Fischer has been playing for years does not hold up.>

Yeah, maybe. Although the Nb1 move was overly-praised, and even GM's who had praised it loudest didn't play it when they had the chance. The whole Nb3 line seems to have been supplanted by Rb1 after this game.

<(12) Balanced draw.>


<(13) A critical game. Fischer plays Alekhine D for the first time. Spassky does not open well, but then he plays as expected from World Champion. Yet, he lets the game slip away after a steady and resilient defense was about to bring the game to a draw.>

Best FIGHT of the match, but not the best game.

<(14) Spassky went to endgame pawn up. But one weaker move from him nd his chance for win went away.>

This may have been the end. Even when Spassky is playing well, he can't bring the point home.

<(15) Spassky plays an 'all or nothing' game and he finds himself in a lost position. This time, it is Fischer who misses his chance.>

Yeah, but both players missed opportunities in this game.

<(16) Spassky holds a small advantage from the beginning till the end of the game. Fischer draws in technically perfect manner.>

Spassky had a small advantage, but never any serious winning chances.

<(17) About the same as (16).>

Yeah, although he should have pressed longer. Fischer would have.

<(18) Spassky has winning chances: He outplays Fischer conceptually; but one mistake lets Fischer to draw.>

I need to look at this one again.

<(19) A break-neck game, probably the prettiest from the whole match. Fischer successfully defends via a sequence of precise maneuvers.>

Looked like it SHOULD have been a win for White, but nobody's ever found anything. A well played game on both sides.

<(20) Last real chance for Spassky. He repeatedly declines repeating moves, but he is unable to convert the small advantage he got.>

There was nothing to convert. He had a small advantage, but couldn't turn it into more.

<(21) A game played by a resigned man. Spassky could have drawn it a number of times, but, in his head, Spassky was probably still contemplating the now only theoretical chances he had to tie the match; and he lost.>

Still should have taken the draws.

Oct-12-15  Petrosianic: <Howard>: <Still have that issue though I haven't looked closely at the article in decades.>

You should read it if only to see how completely insane even intelligent people can get when they're fixated on an idea. Kalme's idea was that there was a fixed "Draw Expectation" in any match, that was 100% determined by the conditions of the match. Not by how evenly matched the players were, the era, or anything else. He genuinely believed that a match to 10 Wins in 1975 would not go any longer than 23 games, because that's how long they went in the 19th century.

Draw Expectancy is completely unscientific in the first place. We know scientifically why a perfectly balanced coin comes up heads 50% of the time. But there's no way to prove how a chess game OUGHT to come out. His whole argument was based on the idea that that's the way it's always worked (in the very small sample of data we have), therefore all future matches will have nearly identical results, just as if it were a coin toss.

Of course, there are other things besides match rules that determine how likely a draw is. Also, his data pool was small and he whittled it down further. Capablanca-Alekhine was impossible to ignore (A Pure Wins match with a lot of draws), so he threw it out as being a one-time exception. Never happen again. Who knows why it happened even once? But then he made an excuse and quietly tossed out Steinitz-Tchigorin I (A Best Of Match with only one draw).

He also had to toss out the 1961 match because it didn't fit his claim that a Best Of Match would have a "Shootout Phase" and a quiet phase with a lot of draws.

Then he loved the 1974 Karpov-Korchnoi match so much that he included it to prove that a Wins or Points match format was the worst of all for producing wins. But the other 6 1974 Candidates Matches were in the same format, and they all produced a winner by wins rather than points. So all six of those matches had to be thrown out, and only one the lone Candidates match that fit his theory was counted.

It would all be funny if not for the fact that Kalme was a professional mathematician, who had a reputation to lose if his colleagues caught him tossing out data willy-nilly that way.

It was supposed to be Part 1 of a two-part article, but Part 2 was quietly cancelled. Considering that this was November 1975 and the match fell apart over the 9-9 clause, not the Pure Wins format, it's amazing that even Part 1 got published.

Three years later, Kalme was totally disproven with the score of the Karpov Korchnoi match after 24 games of a Pure Wins format was almost identical to what it had been after 24 games of a Wins or Points format (only a half point differnce).

And then six years later, KK-I totally nuked him.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Sorry ... What was the 1961 match?
Oct-12-15  Petrosianic: The Botvinnik-Tal rematch.
Oct-13-15  Petrosianic: Kalme's claim was that the Best of 24 format rigidly requires there to be two distinct "Stages" of a match: A shootout stage with lots of victories, and a quiet stage with lots of draws. The problem was that the shootout might occur in either stage. And Stage 2 of a Best of 24 match didn't begin in Game 13, as you might expect. It began anywhere from Game 13 to Game 19, depending on what fit the best.

The problem was the 1961 match. It wsa a "shootout" from beginning to end, and there was no way to massage the numbers to make it look otherwise. So, that was one of the many matches that Kalme simply threw out.

The whole article was an exercise in futility. He made a theory, picked data that fit the theory, threw out everything that didn't, and then tried to claim that the data he had kept had happened the way it did because of some kind of mathematical certainty. He was trying to reduce human behavior to a coin flip, which simply can't be done.

Oct-13-15  Petrosianic: Some of the other matches didn't fit the pattern very well either. Like 1951 and 1954.

If you remember Botvinnik-Bronstein, there are three decisive games in a row near the beginning and again near the end, with scattered victories in between. I think Kalme cut the numbers by calling Games 17-24 the "Shootout" stage, and 1-17 the Quiet Stage. But it was totally arbitrary, and if his theory had allowed it, you could just as easily have cut the numbers to make it look like there were two shootout stages.

Oct-13-15  Howard: Here we go again with this Woulda Shoulda Coulda game....Kalme was not necessarily "completely disproven" by the score after 24 games of Karpov--Korchnoi 1978. Wouldn't those two have played differently if it'd been a best-of-24 match ?

God only knows what the score after 24 games would have been in that case.

Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <Gypsy: Hort's assessment of each game:

(1) Ficher's only serious blunder in the match.>

<(11) Clear game: Suspect opening variation that Fischer has been playing for years does not hold up.>

If Game 1 was Fischer's <only serious blunder> he wouldn't have lost Game 11.

Mednis calls (Game 11) Fischer's 15...d5 "probably the worst move on the board"

...losing the d-pawn for nothing.

The "poisoned pawn" was played for decades with Kasparov even playing it against Short in the 1993 WC Match.

Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Nothing wrong with the poisoned pawn Sicilian.
Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <Petrosianic:

Korchnoi match after 24 games of a Pure Wins format was almost identical to what it had been after 24 games of a Wins or Points format (only a half point differnce).

And then six years later, KK-I totally nuked him.>

Heh, heh,
interesting how the guy who was going to destroy Fischer,

...who would have no problem generating the 10 wins necessary, the only constant in drawfests.

Oct-24-15  PJs Studio: I understand your point completely that game one showed Spasski's skill as a player but you are ENTIRELY MISSING MY POINT. Spasski was a fantastic World Champion. I expected even a better result from him. Fischer played so well that after a silly blunder and no chess he stood 0-2, Spasski (a tactically sharp World Champion) only scored one win after that. One!

Fischer was a hell of a buzzsaw at that time. Now, I'm a huge Spasski fan and can only defend his play in 72 not by saying he was week, but by saying "wow...Fischer was" because to say a anything less of Fischer besmirches Spasski's image. I won't have it. You're not twisting my words and then also not offer an explanation for what happened in 72 yourself?

Oct-24-15  Zonszein: I think it's not the same to play to become WC than to defend the title. Had this match been played in 1969 rather than 1972.. Spassky would have won a couple of games in which he had a bid advantage. Say, 4th, 14th...perhaps 17th...
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gregor Samsa Mendel: <Zonszein: I think it's not the same to play to become WC than to defend the title.>

Yeah, just compare Fischer's games in the '72 match with his games here:

Karpov - Fischer World Championship Match (1975)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <> Also, this match should be titled Spassky-Fischer. Spassky was World Chess Champion! Thank you.
Dec-26-15  morfishine: <Petrosianic> On this eloquent comment: <...People have a hard time wrapping their heads around that concept> Thats because it isn't even a "concept" at all, but the rambling musings and murky opinion coming from somebody who really doesn't know what they are talking about.


Dec-26-15  CygnusX1: At the time, I wanted Fischer to win but now I wish Spassky had won! Then, for the 1974 Candidates Matches, we would have had: Fischer v Byrne (surely an almost certain win for Fischer), Fischer v Karpov and then (assuming Fischer beat Karpov) Fischer v Korchnoi!

Also, I feel that Fischer deliberately avoided Spassky by not playing during the 1963-1966 and 1966-1969 World Championship Cycles (when Spassky was in his prime). Fischer chose to play during the 1969-1972 cycle (after Benko was paid off!) when, having already won the World Championship, Spassky would be less motivated. After all, since 1948, only one incumbent had won a World Championship Match (Petrosian in 1966) and that was by the narrowest possible margin. Another thought is that the right to a return match for Spassky would have probably been a good idea. Then, we wouldn't have the ludicrous situation of a World Champion who did not play a single competitive game during the specified period (1972 to 1975). As mentioned elsewhere, with hindsight, Fischer's retirement from the game was not too surprising. - During 1971 and 1972, he only played the World Championship Cycle games. So, in 1971 he only played 21 games and in 1972 he only played the 20 games (not counting the default) against Spassky. Contrast this with Karpov, for example, who played in the 1974 Nice Olympiad, in spite of his Candidates Matches!

Dec-26-15  Howard: Regarding Cygnus's comment, if Spassky had won the 1972 match, it would have been a very open question as to how the 1974 Candidates would have shaped up. Fischer would not really have "taken" Spassky's spot, necessarily.

I don't recall how the pairings were done back then, but ratings had something to do with it---in other words, the pairings weren't done by drawing names out of a hat. Thus, Fischer would probably have been the top seed (depending on his tournament results during 1973 and early 1974--assuming he was playing during that time).

That would have affected whom he would have been paired up against.

Dec-26-15  CygnusX1: Perhaps we could check up on how the pairings were done. I thought Fischer would have just taken Spassky's place. Nevertheless, I think that it would have been highly likely that Fischer would have had to play Karpov, Korchnoi or both in the 1974 Candidates. Curiously, Fischer could have played in the 1977 Candidates matches but in this case Spassky took his place (and reached the final against Korchnoi).
Dec-26-15  CygnusX1: Can you imagine Wimbledon (say) being delayed for 10 days because Andy Murray doesn't turn up on time?
Premium Chessgames Member
  zanzibar: Some video footage of a game from the match:

Jan-15-16  Petrosianic: <the pairings weren't done by drawing names out of a hat.>

I believe they WERE, at least into the 1980's.

Jan-15-16  Howard: Let me check Kasparov's MGP---I believe in Volume 4 or Volume 5, he states that they weren't done at random---there was a certain way the pairings were made.

Besides, it would only make sense. Otherwise, in the 1977 Candidates (just to give an example) you could have had Korchnoi and Hort playing in the finals---talk about anti-climatic !

Or in the 1980 version, it could have been Korchnoi-Adjoran (sp) in the finals---hell, talk about a foregone conclusion !

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <---talk about anti-climatic !>

Yup, woulda been agin the climate, right enough!

Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <CygnusX1: Can you imagine Wimbledon (say) being delayed for 10 days because Andy Murray doesn't turn up on time?>

If Andy Murray was Fischer, there'd be a chance.

There was talk in 72, of moving New Years Eve to January 10, because Fischer was "busy."

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