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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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Feb-26-13  tzar: Does anybody know why Fischer's elo dropped from 2785 to 2780 when he retired?. Did he lose points in his match with Spassky????????!!!
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: <Did he lose points in his match with Spassky????????!!!>

Yes, he did.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Eyal: <Did he lose points in his match with Spassky????????!!!>

Yes, he did because the rating difference between them was huge, 2785-2660; and bear in mind that Fischer's loss by forfeit in game 2 wasn't even rated. The Elo "prediction" for a 2785 player is to score 13.4/20 against a 2660 player, and Fischer scored 12.5 (in practical terms, the "expected" result would mean Fischer winning the match a game sooner). Actually, according to the FIDE rating calculator he should have lost 9 points, which presumably means 10 points back then since they were rounding to the nearest five Elo points, so Im not even sure why it was only 5.

Feb-27-13  tzar: Wow, thanks. "Mr. Elo" has very little respect for historic victories!
Feb-27-13  RookFile: Well, he treated every game and match the same. I think that's fair and reasonable.
Feb-27-13  tzar: just joking, the method is quite good. It seems fair to have this "double system" in chess. In the one hand the glory of great victories and titles and in the other a systematic accurate rating.
Feb-27-13  RookFile: In the end, people care about who is champ. Everything else is line noise.
Feb-28-13  tzar: I am not so sure about that nowadays. It doesn't seem that Anand gets much glory out of his title, just visit Carlsen's page.
Mar-14-13  Hesam7: Given the status of this match in chess history, I am surprised that there are only two books dedicated to it (Gligoric & Euwe-Timman).

Personally I would welcome a book which analyzed the 20 games in great detail (say 10 page per game) combining the old literature with modern opening theory and extensive computer analysis.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <Hesam7> I'm not sure what you mean, since there were several "instant" books that came out soon after the match. I can think of Robert Byrne & Ivo Nei's "Both Sides of the Chessboard", a book by Larry Evans and Ken Smith which had a diagram and comment after every move (mostly trivial, of course); books by Fine, Reshevsky, Richard Roberts (a compilation of reports from the New York Times), and doubtless many others.

However, if you're thinking of modern reappraisals of the match, particularly with deep computer and human analysis, that's another matter.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: A look at the current offerings devoted exclusively to the 1972 match (there are some other books that contain information about the match but are not dedicated to it) shows the following:

1. "Fischer/Spassky: The New York Times Report on the Chess Match of the Century" by Richard Roberts, Francis Wyndham, C.H. Alexander, and Bobby Fischer (Apr-1973), $110.23 new (hardcover), $75.43 (paperback). From $ 0.74 used (hardcover).

2. "Chess World Championship: Fischer vs. Spassky 1972" by Larry Evans and Ken Smith (Jul-1973), $59.90 new (paperback) paperback. From $15.00 used (paperback).

3. "Fischer World Champion! The Acclaimed Classic About the 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Match" by Max Euwe and Jan Timman (May-2002), new $25.92 (paperback). Revised in 2008 and available new for $ 18.96 (paperback) and used from $10.87 (paperback)

4. "Fischer v. Spassky, Reykjavik, 1972" by C.H.O'D Alexander (Oct-1972), new $123.30 (hardcover), $93.06 (paperback) and used from $0.01 (paperback).

5. Fischer Vs. Spassky: World Chess Championship Match, 1972" by Svetozar Gligoric and Sam Sloan (Jan-1973), new $61.41 (paperback). From $ 0.01 used (paperback) and $18.00 used (hardcover). This book was updated in Oct-2012 to include the games in algebraic notation as an appendix and is available new for $19.95 (paperback) and used from $ 8.99 (paperback)

6. "Fischer Spassky" by Richard, et al Roberts (1972), used from $7.00 (paperback) or $0.75 (mass market paperback).

7. "Fischer v Spassky: World Chess Championship 1972" by Harry Golombek (Mar-1973), new $62.93 (hardcover), $8.38 (paperback).

8. "Fischer-Spassky Move by Move (Illustrated)" by Larry Evans (Jun-1973), used from $124.05 (hardcover), from $42.00 (paperback).

I was struck by (a) the high prices asked for some of the books, particularly the new books, (b) the ridiculous low prices by some of the used paperbacks; clearly the sellers want to collect the shipping fee, and (c) practically all books were written (Euwe/Timman excepted) were written shortly; those that were updated were done sloppily as evident by the reviews, and (d) all are in descriptive notation except for the Gligoric book which included an appendix with the games in algebraic notation.

So <Phony Benoni> is quite correct; no books in the market today are likely to contain a modern reappraisal of the match with deep computer and human analysis. This makes me think that such a book, if properly done and at a reasonable price, has the potential to sell a substantial number of copies, given the continued interest in Fischer (both good and bad!) as evidenced by the activity in his page on this site.

The reason I bring all this up is that I think we have the talent and expertise at this site to generate such a book as a collaborative effort. I have no experience in book writing but I'm sure that several on this site do; <Once> comes immediately to mind. I would envision someone with book writing and/or book publishing experience taking the lead, organizing a book outline, and then we can divide the various games between those participating to research, analyze, and comment. Plus chapters on the background of the match and an assessment of its aftermath.

If anyone is interested in taking the lead on such a project, let me know. I would be interested in participating and readily volunteer for a deep analysis of the moves in Game 2. :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: Larsen did a book on the 1972 match. Reshevsky also (not the NY Times one). I have both.
Premium Chessgames Member
  TheFocus: The best of all was Pachman's book.
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  Benzol: "How Fischer Won" by Cecil John Seddon Purdy on this match I thought was quite good.
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  TheFocus: <Benzol> I would easily place Purdy's in the top three of books written about 1972.
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  TheFocus: On another note, I don't think Purdy ever wrote a bad book. One of the finest writers in chess literature.
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  Benzol: <TheFocus> I understand that one book of his "The Return Of Alekhine" on the 1937 match later became a collectors piece. The writings of his that I have read I've always thought to be of a high quality.
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  optimal play: <<<<Fischer returns home>

NEW YORK, Monday (AAP). ->

World chess champion Bobby Fischer flew home last night from Iceland where he became the first American in modern history to win the chess championship, United Press International reported.

Mr Fischer walked briskly from the Icelandic jet to a waiting limousine sent by the Mayor, Mr Lindsay. Carrying a wreath awarded to him at the Reykjavik chess match, Mr Fischer said that he did not know whether he would attend the Chess Olympiad at Skopje, Yugoslavia, which begins today.>

- The Canberra Times (ACT) issue Tuesday 19 September 1972>

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <BobbyDigital80> <it must exist somewhere> I agree, and have asked these questions on numerous occasions. I've read a couple of times, that the closed circuit tapes from the WHOLE match are in a Bank Vault in Iceland. Waiting for whom, for what, to be purchased, for how much, ect. Guess the folks in Iceland who sponsored the match have to be questioned first. Don't understand why Brady, has never written about this, but then again, he has neglected to write about many things in regards, to the fallen legend.
May-18-14  RedShield: <AylerKupp: [...]

And, BTW, Fischer made 179 demands with regards to the 1972 WC Match, from the size and color of the board and pieces, his chair, lighting, proximity of the fans to the stage, etc., and FIDE agreed to 177 of them. At the last moment FIDE agree to the 178th demand, that the match consist of an unlimited number of games, draws not counting. But they did not agree to his 179th demand, that the champion retain his title in case of a 9-9 score.>

<Joshka: <AylerKupp> Bobby's so called 179 demands, well, I've read and heard so many different numbers, 181, 182, ect. Have you ever seen them in print? I doubt it, cause I believe this is another one of those events, where something is made up to try to make Bobby look unreasonable in the publics eye. The man is dead and gone, can't FIDE release the appropriate documents so once and for all we can study the evidence?>

Robert James Fischer

Note that <AylerKupp> is apparently uncertain even whether Fischer's demands/conditions refer to the 72 match or the 75 match.

The first thing we need to do is track down some published instances of this legend (if that it be), which shouldn't be difficult if <Joshka> is to be believed.

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  offramp: Visual moving images of the match were preserved in edisonoglyphs inscribed on cylindrical copper scrolls and buried in the Judaean Desert. They are now inaccessible owing to the area being a no-man's-land and in any case edisonoglyphs are no longer readable by any modern machine.
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  Sally Simpson: A book on the '72 match mangled with computer vomit is a non-runner. For a start anyone with a reasonable engine could knock one out. Secondly what will it prove. Nothing.

The only attractive aspect of such a project is that it could done in a weekend.

What may be of interest is a book on the books of the match. Looking at the games and showing how each writer (without a computer) interpretated them.

for instance in Game 8. Fischer has just played 15.Be3

click for larger view

Spassky played 15...b5 and 16.Ba7 wins the exchange.

Three writers on this move all took a different view.

Gligoric said 15...b5 was a result of tiredness and a simple oversight.

Reshevsky says 15.Be3 was a trap. His notes go:

15.Be3 "Setting the trap."
15...b5 "Spassky fell for the trap."

Alexander thinks Spassky knew what he was doing and it was an exchange sac and supplies some good analysis to back this up.

In the game Spassky blundered a centre pawn a few moves later....

click for larger view

Spassky played 19...Nd7? 20.Nd5! and it was that.

These '72 books are out of print so the modern player (who may only have one copy of the games, or indeed none at all) can infact get 4-5-6 takes on the games from different writers.

If you want I'll let you put a Rybka evo number in brackets after each move. (but only as a marketing scam to suck in the dweebs).

Good luck in getting the copyrights. Or simply print it in Russia.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <RedShield> Well, I was clearly wrong in attributing Fischer's 179 demands to the 1972 match. It should have been for the 1975 match; of that I am certain. In 1972, as the challenger, Fischer did not have the necessary clout to make any substantial demands such as the winner of the match being the first to win 10 games with draws not counting. Typing "1972" instead of 1975" was obviously a mistake and for that I apologize.

As far as tracking down the source, one of them is "Bobby Fischer Goes to War", by David Edmonds and John Eidinow, which states in the last chapter that "Fischer had fired off a fusillade of 179 demands, all but two of which FIDE immediately conceded." Here is another source, a reference to an unknown article: But, for all I know, the second source was citing the first.

Karpov has been quoted ( as saying that "The 1975 match situation was very dynamic and Bobby kept making demands about match conditions that never seemed to end." Karpov did not mention the number but his comment implies that there were a substantial number of them. And at least one source ( puts the number of demands at 64.

I have never seen the list of Fischer's demands prior to the 1975 match and I have not been able to find them. But, given FIDE's quick acceptance of most of them, I would assume that they were mostly minor, or at least FIDE considered them to be. And I don't think that whether the number of demands was 2, 64, 100, 179, 182, or whatever is really that important. As indicated in Karpov - Fischer World Championship Match (1975) Fischer said that his demands were non-negotiable, so unless FIDE agreed to all of them (regardless of the actual number), the match would not have taken place. And even then it's uncertain whether Fischer would have come up with additional demands.

But there is a certain magic to the number 179. For instance, did you know that 179 = (17*9) + (17 + 9) ? So "obviously" the actual number of demands Fischer made must have been 179. :-)

May-23-14  chesssalamander: Who were Spassky's seconds for the match?
May-23-14  chesssalamander: Sorry, never mind, it was easy to look up. Spassky's seconds were: Efim Geller, Nikolai Krogius and Iivo Nei.
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