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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 #5     Spassky vs Fischer, 1972     0-1


  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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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."

Feb-20-16  A.T PhoneHome: <diceman> I doubt Wimbledon would be delayed like that simply because it isn't the kind of political must Fischer's participation in 1972 was.

I wonder if Fischer felt himself purposeless after this match, having won the title. No idea what to do afterwards.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <A. T PhoneHome> Well he seemed to be in a very relaxed mood when talking with Dick Caveat, and when the question was asked of him he said something like "well first things first, I want to win the title first, then I'll think about (girlfriend other things non chess) all the other things in life." In a way, he did exactly as he kind of really wanted. He won the title, then he started doing other things. Except they were done in private, and we didn't have the 24 hour news format that we all see now.
Feb-20-16  A.T PhoneHome: Well yes, I give you that, but part of me can't help but feel that to Fischer living life after chess wasn't such an obviousness.
Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <A.T PhoneHome: <diceman> I doubt Wimbledon would be delayed like that simply because it isn't the kind of political must Fischer's participation in 1972 was.>

Well, that was the point of my somewhat tongue-in-cheek response. It was really about Fischer.

Folks say things like it only had a lot of publicity because of the "Cold War."

...but Spassky vs. Evans, Byrne, or Benko, wouldn't seem to cut it.

Feb-20-16  A.T PhoneHome: Cold War did have an effect on the popularity of chess (say, Soviets saw it as a way to promote communism).

But Fischer also contributed greatly, not only with his playing, but also by making demands etc. which benefited players and made chess appear more serious plus other stuff which I'm too tired to list here.

Premium Chessgames Member
Nov-20-16  maelith: “In his book Chess Duels Yasser Seirawan has drawn attention to the fact that the legend of the apparently lone fighter Fischer is a myth. In reality Fischer had all the relevant people from the US federation behind him for support. Leroy Dubeck, president of the USCF from 1969 till 1972, had agreed with the executive director Edmund Edmondson that all the resources of the federation should be gathered for the project ‘Fischer plays for the World Championship’. For this purpose they also used all membership subscriptions of the USCF. In addition Fischer had the support of Fred Cramer, also from the federation, as his legal adviser. Amongst the chess players on whose help Fischer could count were the grandmasters Bill Lombardy, Lubomir Kavalek as well as Fischer’s close friend the international master Anthony Saidy. A special role was played by Lina Grumette, who was a sort of mother substitute for Fischer and whenever necessary offered him refuge in her house.”

In addition to many people at home, Bobby had considerable help from the president of the FIDE, during the championship match itself. Fact is, according to the agreed upon match rules, Fischer ought to have been forfeited, but wasn't. Even Spassky managed to help Fischer, by accepting these "accommodations" to the challenger's many "demands."

Nov-20-16  boz: Yes but the USCF was not the Soviet chess machine of the 50s 60s and 70s. What Fischer did was mostly on his own if you measure by chess ideas.
Nov-21-16  maelith: <Yes but the USCF was not the Soviet chess machine of the 50s 60s and 70s. What Fischer did was mostly on his own if you measure by chess ideas.>

Still Fischer has the full support of the US chess groups. Regarding chess ideas,you can't not say on his own as there are gms who helped him.

Nov-21-16  alphamaster: What a nonsense. Wimbledon is not about only 2 persons playing one against the other. Also Fischer for sure had support from American Federation (after 1969) but had not any support in chess from any first class GM (mainly because he didn't want it).
Nov-21-16  Petrosianic: <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.>

In 1971, there were some grumblings in the Eastern bloc that the pairings had been done in private. There were 4 Soviets, but the way it worked out, three of them were in one group, meaning that Taimanov was the only thing standing in the way of a non-Soviet making it into the Finals. And as Euwe was known to personally support the idea of a world championship match between the top Western and top Eastern players, it caused some idle speculation. You didn't think we were the only ones with conspiracy theories, did you?

Fischer was involved in something similar. For his second US Championship, he objected to the fact that the pairings were drawn in private and threatened to withdraw unless they were re-done in public. The USCF answered that they'd do it that way in future but couldn't change them for this year. Fischer backed down and played anyway.

Dec-04-16  maelith: According to his second, Krogius, Spassky played tennis and went sightseeing instead of preparing during the days immediately before the match. Karpov has stated that he had been brought in as a sparring partner for Spassky prior to the match, and that he and Spassky played only one offhand game. Other Soviet sources are on record, including Spassky himself, as to how cavalier Spassky was in preparing for this matc.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <By Bill Hormann, 13abc | Posted: Sat 2:25 PM, Nov 12, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - The historic 1972 title chess match between American Bobby Fischer and the defending Soviet champ, Boris Spassky, was as much about Cold War politics as it was about pawns and bishops.

Now, a chess board used in the "Match of the Century" is slated to be auctioned off in New York City on Friday, in a memorabilia sale timed to coincide with the FIDE World Chess Championship, which began in the city this past Friday.

Fischer and Spassky used the board in games 7 through 21 at the world championship in Reykjavik, Iceland. It replaced a stone board - likely substituted because of Fischer's unpredictable and demanding demeanor - that had been used in the earlier games and now resides in the National Museum of Iceland.

Heritage Auctions has set an opening bid of $75,000 for the board, now owned by an unidentified New York collector.


The chess board, which both players signed in black marker after the legendary match, is on view at Heritage's New York offices. It is being offered with the table and two matching chairs that the players used during the match.

Also in the sale is a set of 1959-1960 Bobby Fischer handwritten U.S. Chess Championship score sheets.>

This AP report, or rewrites thereof, appeared in many other news outlets.

The auction seems to have been scheduled for Friday, November 18th.

However, when I tried to find the result of the sale, these same news outlets had all apparently lost interest. But I did find this:

<NEW YORK — The signed chessboard by both Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, offered by Heritage Auctions, has been pushed to a two-week post-auction buying option, after it failed to meet the reserve price during regular bidding. The highest reported bid was $119,500. The board was used in games 7 through 21 during the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavic, Iceland. It replaced a stone board used in the earlier six games.

The reserve price on the lot is $150,000. Heritage places an estimate of $300,000-plus on the item.

Fischer won “the Match of All Time” and broke the Big Bear’s grip on the sport.

Chris Ivy of Heritage said a key game played on the board was Game 13, in which Spassky “committed a very famous blunder that sealed his fate and the match.

“This board is the symbol of one of the most important moments of the century and a crucial moment in world affairs.”

The board was designed by Icelandic furniture designer Gunnar Magnusson and produced by cabinetmaker Ragnar Haraldsson.

It once was owned by the Emperor of Iran, and currently is owned by an unidentified New York collector.

In addition to the 19 x 19-inch board is the game table, plus two extra tables built after the tournament. The total weight of the lot exceeds 250 pounds. Also part of the lot are the original Staunton chess pieces, which were held in reserve, though never used for the 1972 tournament and a Garde chess clock like the one, but not the one, used in the Fischer/Spassky match.

Also in the sale is a set of 1959-1960 U.S. Chess Championship score sheets handwritten by Fischer.>

I've emailed Heritage Auctions to find out what's happening.

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