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  WCC Overview
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
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Jun-18-15  A.T PhoneHome: <Sally Simpson> I'll have a go at your Fischer-Korchnoi (1975) question...

Well, Korchnoi would've been far less enthusiastic about Fischer's demands. While Karpov tried his best to have the match, Korchnoi might have spread his germs a few times due to constant arguing about the match conditions.

As the arguing would continue, with Korchnoi getting unhappier, maybe FIDE would've put pressure on Fischer to finish the negotiations quickly and Fischer would've either a) said no or b) just threatened not to play.

If the actual match between those two had taken place, Korchnoi would've been a difficult opponent, but I dare not say my take on the score!

Jun-18-15  RookFile: My best guess is that there might have to have been three forfeits. Can't say for sure.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: Hi Petrosianic,

Game 15 - that was a genuine toe to toe slug out. Fischer played the best chess over the 20 games but IMO Spassky played the move of the match. That 36.Re4!in game 15.

The 1972 Fischer beats everyone and anyone. But as Adolf Anderssen once said:

"It is impossible to keep one's excellence in a glass case, like a jewel, and take it out whenever it is required."

1992 gave us a glimpse at the jewel, but one could see the glitter had faded.

The critics claim that Fischer knew the 1975 clauses would never be met and he would not have to play.

Maybe - maybe not. The riddle that was Bobby Fischer will never be solved.


Hi A.T PhoneHome,

Fischer - Korchnoi.

Korchnoi would have shrugged off the demands. He was World Championship hungry. This is a man who defected from the USSR knowing what repercussions would follow.

Look at the intense pressure he was under to qualify for the '78 final (and without being too unkind look at his back team compared to what the USSR would have given him.)

Fischer demands for venue, number of games, lighting etc..etc... would have been nothing compared to the pressure Korchnoi was put under after he defected. This is a tough player with a one tracked mind and a very tough personalty.

Fischer v USSR II would have taken place and the bidding for the venue would have run into millions.

Jun-18-15  A.T PhoneHome: <Sally Simpson> Totally forgot the timeline, should've paid more attention to Korchnoi's situation at the time. Didn't the situation between Korchnoi and Soviets escalate around the Candidates Final in 1974?

Anyways, having nation's paws on you must have felt like hell.

Yes, Korchnoi was a tough man, make that Tough actually. :P

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <A.T> It was in 1974 that Korchnoi gave his notorious 'Unsporting, Grandmaster' interview, a direct consequence of which was his suspension by the Soviet federation from international play for one year.
Jun-18-15  A.T PhoneHome: <perfidious> Korchnoi does have a reputation as an outspoken individual; I can understand why someone would dislike him.

But check the flip side and you will see a fearless, single-minded man who stands up to himself, instead of a foul mouth.

Thank you for the detailed answer! Much appreciated. :) are there any Internet sources for the said interview? Of course I can look up by myself, but you might remember something out of the top of your head!

Premium Chessgames Member
  SteinitzLives: Korchnoi is the Balanchine of chess: Brilliant, Ruthless, Tortured, Selfish deserving of both fame, un-received accolades and disgrace, and a punch in the mouth for making a 14 year old Irina Krush cry during the post mortem, after she beat him.

Viktor the "terrible" and "unfairly treated and cheated" too mean and too tough to die. He has more contradictions than any great southern writer.

Love him or hate him, he remains larger than life, while the rest of chess fans sit like jeering or cheering empty-lived spectating sheeple, while he takes the stage wherever he is.

Premium Chessgames Member
  SteinitzLives: Anytime in the 1970's, Fischer would have beaten Korchnoi in a match. A couple of years into the 1980's Korchnoi would have beaten Fischer in a match.
Jun-19-15  Petrosianic: Are you stating a wish or a belief?
Jun-19-15  Petrosianic: <Fischer played the best chess over the 20 games but IMO Spassky played the move of the match. That 36.Re4!in game 15.>

Speaking of that, quick quiz. Gligoric only gave two exclams to only two moves in the whole match. One was Nb1 in Game 11. What was the other one? (Hint: Not 36. Re4).

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <diceman> You are overlooking the psychological factors. State of mind is a difficult thing to assess, but It would be a different situation if Spassky had put his foot down and Fischer, his bluff called, had gone down to 0-3. He would have known that his little mind tricks would not work and would have had to figure out what to do next. At any rate, after being down 0-3, there was a good possibility that Fischer would have simply gone home and forfeited the match. Hard to say but it would have been consistent with his earlier behavior.

And being down 1-2 with his confidence intact after winning the third game is also a big difference than being down 0-3 with his confidence probably shattered. No one can say with any certainty that in those circumstances he would have been able to win games 5, 6, 10, etc. For all we know he might have overreached in his attempt to get back into the match and Spassky would have won by a big margin.

Jun-19-15  Howard: Petrosianic, was it that Bb3 move in the 10th game ?
Jun-19-15  Petrosianic: Nope. It's one I wouldn't have guessed if I didn't know.
Jun-19-15  diceman: <AylerKupp: <diceman> You are overlooking the psychological factors.>

Well now we're in the "noise" of how much 2 down vs 3 down bothers Fischer. The real world showed 2 didnt bother him at all.

(I doubt most "experts" saw down 0-2 and "never beating Spassky" as: "this is when Fischer shines")

I find it odd that while the "what's impossible' is being discussed, it actually happened in the real world.

Folks regularly put "normal" win rates, and "normal" psychology, on Fischer, he didnt have them.

<if Spassky had put his foot down and Fischer, his bluff called>

Once again we have the poor "victim" Spassky.
...poor Spassky , poor, poor, hapless Spassky.

Using this "logic" he would have been "more likely" to be crushed being "up' 3-0 vs 2-0.

The irony is while folks try to make Fischer results "normal/pedestrian" they fawn over non-Fischer results.

If we take the 0-2 that "actually" happened.

Karpov wouldnt be Fischer's challenger based on his 3-2 win vs Korchnoi. Karpov also wouldnt have won Baguio City 78 with his 6-5 win if we slap 0-2 into his column.

Magnus wouldnt have got'in into the WC with his "tie-break" candidates entrance. ...or won the second WC Match.

...and Kasparov wouldnt have defeated Karpov in the last round of the WC with 0-2 in his column.

The irony is we talk of "these" folks being "dominate" and "great winners/players" all the time.

Yes, yes, in the real world things may have changed, but the same holds true for Fischer as he may have been much more agressive in games he didnt mind drawing.

(not to say games like when Fischer sacked the exchange(Pirc), or Spassky sacked his knight on d5, or some of their later sicilians, were exactly dull/safe draws)

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <diceman> As I've said before, I don't consider Spassky a victim. He did it to himself, so I have no sympathy towards him. All he had to do was insist that the 2 players adhere to the rules that they had agreed to beforehand. But he got involved in the "fairness", "sportsmanship", and "the match must go on regardless" arguments and he wasn't up to the challenge.

And I am not talking about being "in the noise" 2 down vs. being 3 down. Had Spassky insisted that the previously agreed to rule rules be followed, there was a strong possibility that Fischer would have forfeited the 3rd game as well and might even have left Iceland, forfeiting the match. As it was, Fischer won the 3rd game, so the difference was between being 1-2 and 0-3. Even a draw in that 3rd game would have left Fischer down -2 , not 1-2. Maybe "in the noise", maybe not. It's all a matter of perception and neither one of us know what Fischer's perception would have been.

And I am saying that there is a good possibility that what actually happened would never had happened had Spassky insisted that the rules be adhered to. No one should assume that Fischer's play would have been the same and the results the same had the match started 0-3 against him instead of the actual 1-2. Different situations, possibly different results. Again, we don't know.

Yes, Fischer would likely have been more aggressive in the games that he didn't mind drawing. But that works both ways. Being aggressive when the position does not call for it can often backfire. Fischer was typically very objective in his evaluation of positions and usually did not attempt to press an insufficient or non-existent advantage. But, being down 0-3 in what supposedly was his main goal in life after being put in his place, who knows?

I don't know why you say that folks try to make Fischer results "normal/pedestrian" and fawn over non-Fischer results. There was nothing "normal/pedestrian" about Fischer's results from mid-1966 to mid-1972. Outstanding is probably the lowest-keyed description. And I don't know what the "fawning" is about non-Fischer results. Please elaborate. Nor do I know why you say that Karpov would not have been Fischer's challenger, etc. What would have caused things to be different other than Fischer might not have been the defending WC if he had not beaten Spassky after falling behind 0-3 in their match? We might have had a Spassky-Karpov match in 1975 instead of a Fischer-Karpov match.

Jun-19-15  Howard: Avlerkupp's logic seems pretty sound.

But if Fischer had, say, walked out on the match upon being down 0-3 (a very distinct possibility in my view), he still would have been seeded into the 1974 Candidates. In other words, he would have--in effect--gotten Spassky's place.

But would he have forfeited that spot, like he was to do in 1977 ? We can only speculate.

Jun-19-15  Petrosianic: If Game 3 had been forfeited, I believe the match would have been over, whether Fischer wanted it to be or not.
Jun-19-15  Howard: In other words, you think the organizers would have just simply closed the book on the match at that point, and that they would have wished Fischer a happy, safe trip home to the U.S. ?
Jun-19-15  Petrosianic: Either that or Spassky would have gone back to Moscow, yeah probably.

Otherwise he might win the match and still have people saying he didn't deserve to be champion. He'd never have heard the end of it if he'd won 12-11.

Jun-19-15  A.T PhoneHome: In a nutshell, when Game 3 neared its start, Fischer knew he had to do something and he knew for a fact that Spassky is a gentleman. His cards were on Spassky giving in to Fischer's demand and even that wasn't guaranteed; Fischer had to make numerous pleas to finally turn Spassky around to accept Fischer's request to play in the back room.

Fischer had made all sorts of demands, but after Game 2 he was yet to score even a draw. This was the ultimate demand; Fischer who wanted chess to grow as spectator sport, was now the guy to demand the opposite: NO spectators.

I know there was a small security camera or something like that, but Fischer made a demand which fought against EVERYTHING his demands had been made for before Game 3.

Jun-19-15  Petrosianic: Being a gentleman doesn't mean bending over for him completely. For example, after Game 3, Spassky refused to play in the back room again. He probably meant it, and Fischer didn't ask.

Fischer behaved so badly in that game, that Spassky might easily have walked out. Fischer actually got in a shouting match with Lothar Schmid while Spassky was on the move. In 1977, Spassky said that when that happened, he should have just resigned the game right then and there and walked out. Of course that's easy to say in hindsight, knowing that he lost it anyway.

Jun-19-15  A.T PhoneHome: To Fischer it probably meant that at the time as he REALLY needed Spassky's consent. He probably had more "pressing" issues on his mind than what being a gentleman in fact means.

Such as winning Game 3.

Jun-19-15  Petrosianic: It's an opinion, of course, but my opinion is that Spassky would have bailed had Fischer forfeited Game 3. Either that or the organizers would have pulled the plug before they got too much bad publicity. But either way, the match would have been off.
Jun-19-15  A.T PhoneHome: Yes, first game Fischer DID play, losing it. Then he forfeited the next one. Had he forfeited third game as well, Spassky would've got the hint.
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: footage: post match interview w/ Spassky
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