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  WCC Overview
Fischer vs FIDE, 1975
Fischer forfeits.

After defeating Spassky in 1972, Bobby Fischer stopped playing serious chess, turning down several lucrative offers to play in public.

Fischer, circa 1971 In 1974, Fischer's challenger was decided: he was an emerging Russian chess superstar, Anatoly Karpov, who had defeated Korchnoi in the candidate's final to earn him the right to challenge Fischer.

In September, 1973, Fred Cramer, Vice President (Zone 5) of FIDE, proposed that the world championship match be decided on 10 wins, draws not counting. He also proposed that the champion retains his title if it were a 9-9 tie. This became known as the Cramer proposal. Fischer telegrammed FIDE informing them that they should adopt the Cramer proposal.[1]

Opponents of the proposal argued that the unlimited format is impractical, and that the 9-9 rule affords the champion too great of an advantage. Proponents claimed that the proposal would encourage exciting chess (because draws do not count) and that it more accurately determined the better player. Fischer argued the merits of the proposal in a 1974 letter to FIDE:

The first player to win ten games, draws not counting, with unlimited number of games wins the match. If the score is nine wins to nine wins, draws not counting, the champion retains title and the match is declared drawn with the money split equally. Versus the old system of the best of 24 games wins the match (12.5 points) and if 12-12 the match is drawn with the champion retaining the title and prize fund is split equally. Draws do count in this system.

The unlimited match favors the better player. This is the most important point, because in the limited game system the match outcome can turn on a very low number of wins, giving the weaker player a chance to "luck out." Also, in the limited game system the player who takes a game or two lead has an advantage out of all proportion. This creates an added element of chance. The player who wins the match should be the player who plays best over the long run, not the player who jumps off to an early lead.[2]

In June, 1974, the FIDE Congress in Nice approved the 10-win regulation and the elimination of draws from the scoring, but imposed a 36-game limit and rejected the 9-9 proposal. On June 27, 1974, Fischer sent a telegram from Pasadena, California to the FIDE Congress:
As I made clear in my telegram to the FIDE delegates, the match conditions I proposed were non-negotiable ... FIDE has decided against my participation in the 1975 World Chess Championship. I therefore resign my FIDE World Championship title.

In March, 1975, an extraordinary FIDE Congress was held in Osterbek, Netherlands, and it was agreed to have an unlimited number of world championship games, but still refused the 9-9 rule (32 votes for it, and 35 votes against it). [3] Fischer, unwilling to budge, refused to defend his title.

In Karpov's memoirs he recounts how he was disappointed to not have a chance to become champion in the traditional manner:

I don't know how Fischer feels about it, but I consider it a huge loss that he and I never played our match. I felt like the child who has been promised a wonderful toy and has it offered to him but then, at the last moment, it's taken away.[4]

On April 3rd, 1975, Karpov was declared the 12th World Champion.


  1. Robert James Fischer, by Bill Wall
    2 Bobby Fischer letter to FIDE, 1974
    3 Robert James Fischer, by Bill Wall
    4 Karpov on Karpov: Memoirs of a Chess World Champion, by Anatoly Karpov, Athenuem Press, 1992.

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jul-03-15  Sally Simpson: I agree Joska,

I do not think I'm being unkind to Karpov by saying one of the reason he was so disappointed the match never took place because of the money he would have made.

Win or lose that one match would have set him up life. Nothing wrong in that.

In '75 everyone would recall the headline hogging publicity Iceland received. They could have started the bidding at 2 millon and up it would go.

But I don't think we can blame FIDE. If they had agreed to all of Bobby's original demands he may have found other demands. It does seem that he did not want to play a world championship match and it must appear that FIDE were at fault and not him.

But who really knows?

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: FWIW, in his book "The Rating of Chessplayers" by Dr. Arpad Elo (highly recommended for anyone interested in how the Elo rating system was developed and the math behind it), Dr. Elo calculated that the probability that the match would have ended with a score of 9 9 to be 0.128. And, as he so adroitly put it, "The reader, without assigning blame, may judge for himself whether the probability was worth the price paid."

Of course, there is no way to know if Fischer might have come up with other "requests" prior to playing the match, or what FIDE's reaction to those "requests" might have been.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <keypusher> Hey no need to get yourself all worked up!;-) I'm just presenting the facts whether you like it or not. It's easy for you to say, oh he never would have played anyway, but only the 9-9 draw provision was nixed. That would have shortened the match which is what they WANTED!! They screwed themselves and the chess world. So you deal with it.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <keypusher> Well there ya go again with your personal attacks/name calling/ and you keep repeating an opinion that is not a fact. You keep thinking that Bobby was never going to play, and of course you can never know that. Please if you do not enjoy tackling the subject why do you come to this site??
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Joshka> I think that FIDE was more concerned about the perceived fairness, or lack of it, of the clause that the champion retain his title if the score reached 9 9 than they were about shortening the match. If they were really concerned about keeping the match short they would never have agreed to a potentially unlimited match with draws not counting.

Although unfortunate, I suppose that it is understandable that many of FIDE's delegates were frustrated given that Fischer had made a lot of demands and FIDE had agreed to all of them but one, and yet Fischer refused to compromise. Particularly since, given that Fischer was the better player, the chances that the match score would have ever reached 9 9 were small.

Jul-03-15  Mr 1100: Let's leave aside the '75 match for a moment...

Did no-one ask why the World Champion didn't play a single professional game all through '73 and '74 - even before there were any arguments over the T's & C's for '75 itself?

I'm not very clear about that, I have to say...

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Joshka><keypusher> <Well there ya go again with your personal attacks/name calling/ and you keep repeating an opinion that is not a fact. You keep thinking that Bobby was never going to play, and of course you can never know that. Please if you do not enjoy tackling the subject why do you come to this site??>>

There's lots to do on this site besides obsess about Bobby Fischer. The better question is why do I come on this page. The answer is that it is my duty to point out what incredible idiots Fischer fanatics like you are.

Jul-03-15  nok: <knockout champion Ponomariov> He did beat Ivanchuk in a match.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <keypusher> There you go with name calling again......I would hope I'm having discussions with adults but it sure seems you are resorting to childlike elementary behavior. You think you have a duty to act like a child with your name calling?? Have to report you for these outbursts for sure.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <AylerKupp> Well see, that's the irony!! I'm old enough to remember all this that went down, and the talk was that they could never have a match so long to last maybe 6 or 7 months. The 9-9 draw clause would actually shorten the match. Also set up another Fischer-Karpov rematch. Anyway, thanks for responding. Unlike others on here who act childish, with name calling and personal attacks, you always conduct your discussions like an adult. As a side note, I see nothing wrong with the challenger having to win by 2. Makes for fighting chess, and actually gives the match some limit in this unlimited match version.
Jul-04-15  ughaibu: It's obvious, a priori, that an unlimited match discourages fighting chess. But even if it weren't, it should now be completely obvious from the first Karpov vs. Kasparov fiasco.

There was no excuse for the idea then, and there's none now, and this is before we even consider the 9-9 nonsense!

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A first-to-10-wins match would definitely have taken a long time. I seem to remember Fischer thinking that after 3 months there might have to be a break. For a start, both men were very hard to beat. Karpov lost 1 game in 1973, 3 games in 1974 (2 to Viktor Korchnoi) and, in the year when the F-K match was supposed to take place, just the one game - to Ulf Andersson. In Fischer's great run of 1970-72 he lost 6 games while playing against the best players in the world.

Karpov-Korchnoi Candidates Match (1974) ended up 3-2 to Karpov after 24 games. So the F-K match would certainly be longer than that.

I think that owing to rustiness on Fischer's part, combined with strong opening preparation from Karpov and Karpov's habitual way of starting matches off well, I'd say that Karpov would take an early lead. If that happened I would expect Fischer to abandon the match for some reason.

If he continued I'd expect two long series of draws. Fischer would end the match strongly, possibly winning something like 4 or 5 wins out of 6 or 7 games.

The match would be 60-64 games and Fischer would win 10-6. The match would last 5 months.

Jul-04-15  piltdown man: Time to block Peanut King, I think.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Block whom?

Oh, y'all mean that there poster Ah caint see, cuz he's histry. The one that talks bout barrycudies and goldfishies like he knows something.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Joshka, I apologize. I was out of line attacking you like I did.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: situation was unlikely to happen based on the difference in their ratings and Fischer's greater experience, to which must be factored in somehow the offsetting factor of Fischer's rustiness. Still, after having given in to all of Fischer's previous demands, this one didn't seem to be a deal breaker. As Dr. Elo might have put it, it's too bad that the decisions were made by the politicians and not the mathematicians.

I also don't see anything wrong with the challenger needing to win by 2. It's common in many other sports (like tennis and volleyball) to require that a game be won by 2 points and/or to give either the defending champion or league winner some sort of an advantage, even if that is no more than a home court advantage. Besides, if a challenger is to be considered a new champion, it's not unreasonable to expect him to win the match by more than the slimmest of margins. And in chess that slimmest of margins is often the result of a single instance of chess blindness and a bad move, or an error made in time pressure.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <offramp> Ever the frustrated mathematician, I also calculated that the most likely score of the match would have been Fischer 10-6 or maybe 10-7 based on their 75 point rating differential and a resulting P(Win) for Fischer of 0.60. But I couldn't figure out how calculate the most likely length of the match using, say, the trinomial distribution.

I do agree that it would have been a long match. And perhaps Karpov might have taken an early lead due to Fischer's rustiness, but then Fischer would play himself back into shape and win going away. Not necessarily like Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes, but decisively. So in that respect an unlimited length match would have been to Fischer's advantage. But I don't think that Fischer would have abandoned this match since he I think that he would have known that Karpov could not be manipulated like Spassky was and so he wouldn't put himself into a position where he would have felt obligated to abandon the match because of some new condition he might have come up with. But that's just my opinion.

Too bad that we will never know.

Jul-04-15  ughaibu: "I also don't see anything wrong with the challenger needing to win by 2. It's common in many other sports (like tennis and volleyball) to require that a game be won by 2 points and/or to give either the defending champion"

What complete and utter rubbish. You can't possibly believe such a ridiculous assertion, so why in the living ultra @#$% would you even consider posting it?

You embarrass yourself with this crap, that's all.

Jul-04-15  Sally Simpson: Hi AylerKupp,

"I also don't see anything wrong with the challenger needing to win by 2."

Neither do I if I don't want the match to take place.

Liking it to Tennis and Volley ball you miss out hundreds of other sports when one extra point has always been a winner. Every Chess match before 1975 would be a good place to start.

I could never understand the rational behind it other than nobody would agree to it.

A truly great player who left us many great games but the 1975 conditions were never going to be met - I fear that was the intention.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <"I also don't see anything wrong with the challenger needing to win by 2."

Neither do I if I don't want the match to take place.>

Do you think the Soviets wanted the match to take place?

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <ughaibu> That's OK, I don't embarrass easily. Besides, I've posted many even more ridiculous assertions in the past. Where were you then to point these out? :-) Yes, that last part was meant to be a joke. Not the other two, though, I think that both of those are correct. Then again, I might be wrong about the first one.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Sally Simpson> Yes, there are many (most) other sports where a single point has been the margin of victory, including chess. But there are <some> sports where that is not the case and that is all I was trying to say, that were was <some> precedent. So whether one or two points is required as a margin of victory is basically, I think, a matter of opinion. And if <Joshka> and I are in the minority, so be it. We disagree on enough other things to make our discussions interesting.

But, yes, I agree with you, I don't think that the 1975 conditions were going to be met. And, if they were, I don't think that the match would have necessarily taken place anyway. Fischer's behavior prior to and after the match lead me to believe that he had no intention of playing it. Before the match he did not play any international games at all, and there didn't seem to be any conclusive evidence that he had continued to study chess and practice in private. And after the match, up to and including his rematch with Spassky in 1992, Fischer was still claiming to be the World Chess Champion (distinguishing that title from FIDE's World Chess Championship title), so it seems that Fischer didn't really care whether he lost the title <outside of the chessboard>.

But, if he had lost the title at the chessboard, no matter how unlikely that might have been, I think that would have been a different story in Fischer's mind. He couldn't claim to be the World Champion after that. So I think that, had FIDE agreed to all of his original demands, including the 9 9 clause, that Fischer would have come up with more demands. And I am perversely curious to find out what those new demands would have been. Maybe requiring that the challenger give him pawn odds for each game? :-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<Miss Scarlett> Do you think the Soviets wanted the match to take place?>

That's a good question that I don't know if it has been asked before and, if it has, probably not often. In other words, would the Soviets have preferred what actually happened (Karpov winning the title by default) or having Karpov lose at the chessboard and cementing Fischer's reputation as the best player in the world?

I don't know. I guess that would depend on which Soviet you ask. I would suspect that Karpov, at least in private, would have preferred to play the match even if he had lost. He indicated later that it would have been a great learning experience and made him better. Of course, that might just have been Karpov talking after the fact. Other Soviets might have preferred the certainty of a win regardless of the circumstances and a return of the title to the USSR.

So I suppose that then leads to the question of how much influence the USSR had in the voting against acceptance of the 9 9 clause. The vote was close but, as I said earlier to <Sally Simpson>, possibly irrelevant since Fischer might not have played the match anyway. But I doubt that the Soviets, alt least those that wanted the title back regardless, would have been willing to risk that.

Much room for speculation.

Jul-04-15  Sally Simpson: Hi AylerKupp,

I sure the Soviets wanted the match to take place. But they were not going to allow their man to be put off in any way by Fischer.

Everyone wanted the match to take place. Some have replaced their disappointment with an anger towards Fischer.

Been thinking about other sports, those like tennis that have the win by 2 point rule. Is that not so a player cannot win on serve alone. To win by 2 points you must have at least once broken the other players serve.

Maybe that was the new clause up Fischer's sleeve. The Challenger has to win at least one game with the Black pieces.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Sally Simpson> I personally try to avoid thinking, it gets in the way of things that I want to say. But that brings up an interesting point, if the champion has the White pieces for the first game, then he could theoretically win the match by having one more game with the White pieces than the challenger.

But the selection of color for the first game is done by chance, isn't it? So that would negate the potential advantage of the champion having the White pieces for the first game about one half of the time. Oh well, another theory down the tubes.

But I like your thinking about a possible new clause up Fischer's sleeve. Maybe we can start a discussion to see who can suggest the most outlandish new demand that Fischer could have made. My mind boggles at the possibilities.

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