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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.

click on a game number to replay game 123456789101112131415161718192021

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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Premium Chessgames Member
  Ke2: Wow this "Pawn Sacrifice" move looks good. Premieres in Toronto in September. Fischer is played by Toby McGuire (Spiderman), Spassky by Liev Schreiber, with such a cast it might actually be a chess-themed blockbuster.
Aug-01-14  HeMateMe: It will be in the $5 dvd bin in October. Still, I'll watch it. The chessers will have to watch it.

Perhaps the chess film with the widest appeal in recent years was the documentary about Kasparov and Deep Blue. Casual chess fans know who Kasparov is, and tech people were curious about the computer software and hardware used.

I would guess that less than one in ten people on the street could tell you who Bobby Fischer was. Not good of you are doing a biopic.

Aug-01-14  diceman: <AylerKupp: <<diceman> Cracks me up when folks talk of the Russians as "individuals"> And it cracks me up (or it would, if it wasn't so simple minded) when folks fail to recognize that, yes, the Russians (and the Ukrainians, and the Latvians, and the Finns, and all the other nationalities that made up the Soviet Union at the time) WERE individuals. Sure, they were inhabitants of a totalitarian state and they were subject to harsh measures if they did not toe the Communist party line. But that just constrained their behavior, not their thoughts. Spassky eventually emigrated to France and Korchnoi showed great courage leaving his family behind when he sought political asylum in Holland. Hardly the actions of non-individuals.>

Easy Ayler, down boy.
You guys can sure connect some dots.

Do you think this:
<Soviet officials took away Taimanov's salary and no longer allowed him to travel overseas.> means I thought Taimanov was for it?

Don't you think someone who embraces freedom over tyranny knows what an individual is? doesn't change the fact that handcuffs and gags hamper your match negotiation abilities.

Folks say things like Spassky was nice
to agree to Game 3.

He probably had little to do with it.
The USSR wanted it.
Down 2 games and still never having beaten Spassky they probably thought they had him.

Everything I've heard about Karpov seems to indicate he wanted to play Fischer more than the USSR did.

...but the USSR was burned by Bobby once, and didn't want to contemplate Bobby 2.0.
(at least that's my theory)

Aug-01-14  diceman: <AylerKupp:
the Russians (and the Ukrainians, and the Latvians, and the Finns, and all the other nationalities that made up the Soviet Union at the time) WERE individuals. Sure, they were inhabitants>

For the record I've met and spoken to Spassky several times.

He's a really, really, nice guy.
Calm, soft spoken, jovial.

After actually meeting him, I don't think he could have ever defeated Fischer.

Kasparov in his prime is probably the only modern player who could have taken Fischer on. (psychology would be GK's biggest obstacle)

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <He said it was a mistake. He meant to put it there, then reconsidered and realized it was a dumb move. He didn't deny that he had actually signed it.>

He said it was a tactical mistake. He didn't say he disagreed with the contents of the letter. As for the contents of Talmudic literature, modern liberal sensibilities would rather not go there.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <Fischer must have known (or suspected) that he himself was half or 100% Jewish.>

He may not have been entirely consistent in views, but I think Fischer primarily thought of Jewishness in ideological, not racial terms.

Aug-01-14  Petrosianic: That's the way he judged whether he himself was Jewish, but it's not the way he judged whether other people were.

Heck, his mother and sister were Jewish both ways, and called themselves that, but Fischer insisted that they weren't, so go figure. The idea probably wasn't intended to withstand scrutiny.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Not sure about the sister, but I don't think his mother identified as Jewish or conformed to any form of Jewish practice.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Ke2: <HeHateMe>

The 5$ bin is the eventual fate of most any blockbuster.

But this could really be good. It might spark a mini Chess Boom, like "Rounders" did for poker. Plus the "Millionare" tournament is going on this fall.

But imagine if they made a movie out of Anand - Carlsen 2013... snore... or Anand - Gelfand LOL.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Ke2: (Pawn Sacrifice) might spark a mini Chess Boom, like "Rounders" did for poker.>

The camera which enabled spectators to see players' hole cards at holdem and Omaha did far more to advance the popularity of poker among the hoi polloi than <Rounders>. Period.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Ke2: <perfidious> Of course. I also was forgetting Rounders was an older movie that got rediscovered in the poker boom. But movies can still make a big splash which is good for the game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Ke2: Does anyone know where to find the early version of the Pawn Sacrifice script that leaked?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Garech: Amazing to think that Spassky blundered the exchange in three of the games of this World Championship!

I can't remember the last time that happened recently...


Sep-11-14  Petrosianic: Which three games are you thinking of? Game 8, obviously, but what are the other two? Games 10 and 21 seemed to be deliberate sacrifices.
Sep-11-14  Howard: Petrosianic is quite correct, in my view. In Games 10 and 21, Spassky gave up the exchange on purpose. In particular, in Game 21 Spassky apparently had a "go for broke" attitude, and he made a rather speculative exchange sacrifice....and we all know how that game turned out !
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: By that final game, Spassky must have felt a sense of frustration; he had spent the second half of the match throwing everything he could at his opponent and getting precisely nowhere after the eleventh game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Garech: Petrosianic: Yes, you're right about game 21, my mistake. I don't think he gave up the exchange intentionally in game 10, though. It looks like Fischer just saw deeper with the tactics.


Sep-17-14  Mr 1100: I watched an episode of a television documentary programme on the BBC sometime in 2001 or 2002 (although the programme itself was probably produced sometime around 1999, as I understand). It was titled "Clash of the Titans" and the episode covered the 1972 match. You've heard the story numerous times before, and it's unlikely there's anything covered here that you don't already know, BUT STILL, I'd recommend watching it (if you haven't watched it before).

The following are ten-minute segments of the programme: [Part 1 (The first five minutes appear to be missing)] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

There is very little technical discussion or analysis of the actual games, rather, the key events relevant to the match are presented in somewhat dramatic fashion, i.e. the story of the eccentric yet charismatic genius who single-handedly beat a cold, machine-like organisation, battling against their various underhanded manoeuvrings while he did so - as well as other manoeuvrings from his own team that were needed to persuade Fischer to play at all - all with suitably ominous-sounding and suspenseful background music. There are comments from Spassky himself, as well as archive footage of Fischer from television interviews in the 1970's, as well as several other significant figures from the time, including Larry Evans, Victor Baturinsky, Nikolai Krogius and Robert Byrne.

To me, the most memorable bit of the programme was when the interviewer said to Fischer: "You obviously consider yourself the best chess player in the world. Does it ever strike you that that's arrogant?" To which Fischer replied: "No... I mean, if it's true, it's not arrogant, y' know..." In fact, my vague memory of the quote was what even prompted me to go back and search for this episode. I'm very surprised that that quote didn't become more "famous" [it's at 00:47 in the second segment ("Part 2" above)].

Am particularly curious to know if there's anyone here who hasn't seen that episode before?

Would be interesting to see how "Pawn Sacrifice" compares to the documentary.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <MissScarlett> <conformed to any form of jewish practice> Then why did he become a bar mitzvah?
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Well, the evidence for that is only indirect:

I've no particular reason to doubt Benko's word, but I'm a little sceptical of such neat little stories.

<Pal Benko said that around 1959-1960 while they were at the Grossinger Hotel in the Catskill Mountains Bobby showed him a picture of Hitler and said, "He was a great man. There are too many Jews in chess." Pal asked, "What about you?" Bobby said nothing but gave him a dirty look.>

(Bobby Fischer: Triumph and Despair, pg.22)

Jan-26-15  G Kasparov: See my game collection!!

Game Collection: Fischer - Spassky World Championship Match 1-21

Apr-10-15  A.T PhoneHome: Beholder as I am, I've always got these "cold as steel" juju vibes when I think about this match. Up to this point, there was always a Soviet challenger and World Champion. I bet that after Fischer beat Petrosian, Soviets' mood became VERY serious.

Compared to today's World Championships with sponsorship logos and such, having nothing but the playing stage, some plants and Soviet World Champion vs. American challenger is very bleak. It was a serious affair back then.

When Fischer made it to the World Championship match, you can bet many people had to see what was about to take place regardless of playing skill and background.

But while fascinating in its eeriness, I am happy today's World Championships aren't played under such grey clouds.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Spassky needed an audience. His style of play was such that he wanted applause and gasps.
Apr-23-15  A.T PhoneHome: Spassky needed space.

I can imagine being in Spassky's shoes like, some Soviet official would come to you and say "Our integrity depends on you, you must win for us Boris Vasilievich." and Spassky would be like "Yeah, yeah, I know what I'm doing.", but it would continue. There would always be someone from Soviet government to remind him.

And that was the problem. Spassky's personality demands freedom, not constriction.

May-17-15  TheFocus: <Americans really don't know much about chess. But I think when I beat Spassky, that Americans will take a greater interest in chess. Americans like winners> - Bobby Fischer.
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