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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.

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 #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; 11 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½451972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB88 Sicilian, Fischer-Sozin Attack
2. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½491972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
3. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½291972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchD41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
4. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½551972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
5. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½401972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
6. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½431972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB99 Sicilian, Najdorf, 7...Be7 Main line
7. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½601972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchC69 Ruy Lopez, Exchange, Gligoric Variation, 6.d4
8. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½451972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB09 Pirc, Austrian Attack
9. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½471972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB69 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 11.Bxf6
10. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½401972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB05 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
11. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½541972Fischer - Spassky World Championship MatchB68 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 9...Be7
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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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).
Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: I (finally) received a reply confirming that the lot remains unsold, and wondering if I'd like to make an offer...
Dec-10-16  savagerules: Karpov said Spassky spent most of his training time for the 1972 match playing tennis. Spassky was undefeated against Fischer and lazily convinced himself that Fischer would continue to play the Gruenfeld or Kings Indian and Spassky was prepared for those.
Premium Chessgames Member
  diceman: <maelith: According to his second, Krogius, Spassky played tennis and went sightseeing instead of preparing during the days immediately before the match.>

<savagerules: Karpov said Spassky spent most of his training time for the 1972 match playing tennis.>

Well somebody did something, because he had a new line against Fischer's Sicilian in Game 4, and against the poisoned pawn.

Problem was, Fischer was too much of a moving target playing a different line almost every game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  morfishine: <diceman...Well somebody did something, because he had a new line against Fischer's Sicilian in Game 4, and against the poisoned pawn. Problem was, Fischer was too much of a moving target playing a different line almost every game.> Well put, especially referencing Game 4. I think in Game 11, Spassky admitted this idea came to him OTB, but maybe I'm wrong on that.

No doubt, Spassky was off balance being hit with so many different openings/variations


Premium Chessgames Member
  RookFile: Well, Spassky was a universal player, able to handle just about everything. I think his issue was that he was somewhat out of practice. There also is the point that Fischer was the stronger player.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <A. T PhoneHome> Think his attitude was , I'll cross that bridge when I get to it, for now it's just winning the title. Life is funny, any little deviation from what happened and another whole universe is played out.......Spassky beating Karpov in their Match in'd have to agree it would almost be 100% that Bobby and Boris have another Match in 1975!!........or Korchnoi beating Karpov in 1974, I'd say Bobby and Victor work things out CAUSE Victor was all ready planning his defection could have a match with Korchnoi for sure in a western fact WHY oh WHY oh why didn't Spassky have a rematch clause in the 1972 match??!!.......oh well.....
Jun-28-17  The Boomerang: " Well, Spassky was a universal player, able to handle just about everything. I think his issue was that he was somewhat out of practice. There also is the point that Fischer was the stronger player."

Nothing to do with Fischer's shenanigans?.....cameras, tables, chairs, lighting....would be unnerving..

Premium Chessgames Member
  WorstPlayerEver: Hmm..

Spasski could have cancelled the 'first' match according to Euwe.

However, the Soviets had a weakness for chess, so withdrawing possibly meant defeat for them. Fischer beat all the other Soviets.

Speaking of weaknesses.. Baturinsky -a KGB colonel- had a weakness for Spasski. When he first met young Spasski, he named Spasski 'a cornered animal.' Spasski himself called Fischer 'a wild animal' or something like that - after the impression he got from Fischer during the third game.

Weird enough Fischer was very popular (under circumstances) in the USSR. The Soviets just couldn't back off - cancel the match, Fischer probably was aware of it. His actions were rather peculiar. I guess he was milking the situation to his 'advantage.' My way or the highway.

Under no circumstances the Soviets would allow Fischer to get them the 'bully status' in '72, pure psychological warfare: Cold War. The world is bigger than chess. My 2c.

Anyway, I think the Soviets could push the FIDE regarded to the match with Karpov; they had responded very generously during the first match. Which must have given them some 'credit' considered to the negotations of the '75 match. The history of the FIDE speaks for itself...

Fischer -on his turn- probably figured out it would not be 'easy' this time. The match Karpov-Korchnoi thereby also speaks for itself; the Soviets would probably have gone as far as -maybe a little further- Fischer himself. To get 'their' title back.

And then again.. Fischer did not play after his title. And Karpov was stronger than Spasski by the year 1975.

You are not going to tell me a guy -32 in '75- who did not play for 3 years will have the same level as the same guy who won the title. That kind of ends this 'discussion' IMHO

However, I think we must leave the last -repetitive- words to Fischer: "I've got nothing to say to you.."

I would say it was a stalemate: to be continued ☺

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<Joshka> WHY oh why didn't Spassky have a rematch clause in the 1972 match??!!"

He didn't for the same reason that Botvinnik didn't have a rematch clause in his 1963 match with Petrosian and Petrosian didn't have a rematch clause in his 1966 and 1969 matches with Spassky. FIDE removed that right prior to Botvinnik's match against Petrosian.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<WorstPlayerEver> Spasski could have cancelled the 'first' match according to Euwe.>

Yes, particularly after Fischer's new demands following his game 2 forfeit. Spassky could have either:

(a) Insist that the game be played according to the agreed upon pre-match conditions; in the arena in full view of spectators. I would then have been "interesting" to see if Fischer would have refused to play under those conditions, returned home, and have FIDE rule the match in Spassky's favor. Or, whether Fischer would have realized that his demands were not getting him anywhere and agreed to play the rest of the match (or at least game 4) with a 0-3 deficit.

(b) After the arbiter, Schmidt, announced that "according to the rules" Fischer had the right to move the match from the arena stage to the back room following game 2, Spassky could have refused to do so, agreed to forfeit the title to Fischer, and gone home. Fischer would then have had a hard time claiming, even to himself, that he was the world's best player since at that time he would not have EVER beaten Spassky. Would Fischer have found this situation agreeable even if he was declared world champion by FIDE? I think not, but I don't really know.

But Spassky was a "gentleman" and "nice guy" and wanted to play the match regardless. And we all know where nice guys finish.

<I think that the Soviets could push the FIDE regarded to the match with Karpov>

They could and probably did. But FIDE's decisions, at least the ones pertaining to the match conditions, are decided by a vote of the representatives of the national chess federations. And they agreed, by majority vote, to all of Fischer's demands except one. So there was a limit to the amount of pushing that the Soviets could do. Had the 9-9 clause have merit (and even Fischer indicated that it didn't), the representatives of the national chess federations could have voted in favor of it.

Jun-28-17  Howard: Interesting points, AylerKupp !

Personally, I still remember the match rather well. My 12th birthday took place during it, in fact.

Incidentally, could you please look at Larsen-Fischer, Game 2, when you have a chance ?

Happy 4th of July !!

Jun-28-17  todicav23: I'm very sensitive to noise. Especially repetitive noise generated by some electric or electronic devices drives me crazy sometimes. I perfectly understand Fischer. Probably that is why he blundered in the first game. It is true that most of the people are not affected by that kind of noise (some people can't even hear that kind of noise).

Moving the 3rd game to another room was the right decision because it offered fair and equal playing conditions to both players. The real point is that moving the game to another room was not detrimental to Spassky in any way. It's not like Spassky offered Fischer pawn odds or something like that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <todicav23> It's understandable to be sensitive to noise, and some people are extremely sensitive. But Fischer's main objection to noise seemed to be from the cameras that, on occasion, were not there when he claimed that they were. And the noise in the hall was measured by the head of the Reykjavik Institute of Public Health with and without the cameras in operation and the noise level was the same, 55 dB. So the cameras did not add any noise while they were operating.

After the third game (which he lost) Spassky claimed that the room where the game had been played was too noisy; from traffic outside, from children playing in the streets, and from the air conditioning. Perhaps Spassky was trying to rationalize his loss, but Fischer didn't complain about the noise during or after the game. But if there really was outside noise in the room and Spassky was sensitive to it, then moving to the small room was certainly detrimental to Spassky. And Fischer agreed after the third game to play the fourth and subsequent match games in the main exhibition hall, as long as cameras were not present and he was not filmed. So perhaps Fischer was selectively sensitive to noise.

Was he? Well, I can personally vouch that Fischer imagined noise where there wasn't any, or at least he was not aware of the source of the noise, if any. As I've mentioned before, I worked during the Second Piatagorsky Cup tournament in 1966 and was one of several boys in charge of moving transparent plastic pieces on a projection machine to show the players' moves to the audience. And, as luck would have it, I was assigned to do this during one of Fischer's games.

Needless to say, we were instructed to be completely quiet and still during the games. And I was perfectly quiet and still while Fischer and his opponent were thinking about their moves. Nevertheless, at one point when it was Fischer's move the turns to me, points his finger at me, and yells "You, be quiet!" At that point I snapped back at him telling him "I am quiet!". At which point Fischer shrugged it off and went back to considering his move without any further outbursts.

So excuse me for not believing that Fischer was inordinately sensitive to noise and, if he was, that he was aware of the source of the noise. I think that, when taken together with the rest of his antics, it was a deliberate attempt to upset Spassky. Which succeeded.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WorstPlayerEver: I am also extremely sensitive to noise. However, it's a psycho-acoustic problem. For instance, if one has tinnitus, then actually there is no such sound; the brain creates this sound itself.
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