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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-23-15  Olavi: Spassky got into the Candidates because that was Fischer's spot. Having lost in 1972, Boris was the next in line. Geller got into the 1965 cycle because Botvinnik declined, and Geller was third in Curacao.
Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: That's right, that's how it happened, all right. Spassky got in despite trying and failing to qualify, and it was perfectly legitimate, albeit a little unusual. Just like Fischer got in legitimately.

I'm still trying to track down how Herman Steiner got his spot in 1952, but I don't see how he could possibly have qualified when he wasn't even in the Zonal. Steiner may end up being the Fischer Before Fischer.

Jul-23-15  Olavi: I seem to remember that in the very early years not all zones were able to stage a zonal, and that could explain Steiner. But I'm very unsure here.
Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: I could be wrong here, but my understanding is that Yanofsky got into the 1962 Interzonal from Zone 6 simply by being nominated. No actual zonal was played.
Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: One problem here is that the full history of the zonals has never been written. Probably because a lot of it would be quite embarrassing. A lot of it sounds like it was held together with chewing gum.
Jul-23-15  Olavi: Yes, Canada was a zone by itself. Not very fair, but I suppose they could nominate anybody they wanted. Yanofsky of course was the number one.
Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: The US and USSR were also zones unto themselves. The whole zone system was so odd that it's hard to call it fair or unfair. It just was. Canada was an odd choice to make into a zone, but I guess they felt it would be even odder to lump it in with Latin America or some other remote place.

Where the system generated dissatisfaction was when top players got squeezed out. Smyslov in 1962 is the one everybody remembers. How was a guy who had been world champion 4 years earlier not even in the Interzonal while people like Manuel Aaron were?

But of all the substitutions, Fischer's was the least objectionable because he's the only one who completely justified the faith placed in him.

Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: Spassky was handed another spot, in the 1985 Candidates Tournament. The organizers were given one spot to nominate anyone they wanted. Being French, they nominated Spassky. And believe it or not, that was legitimate too.
Jul-23-15  Olavi: Timman wrote afterwards that the 1985 spot should have been given to Huebner, because he had only lost by the spin of the wheel, while Syslov was in there exactly because of that. I agree.
Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: Yeah, maybe. The organizers went for nationalistic sentiments, to be sure. But if it had been up to me, I wouldn't have picked Huebner either, just because he'd walked out on two previous candidates cycles, and I wouldn't trust him to go all the way.
Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: If you're going to pick somebody who wasn't in the interzonals, Spassky and Huebner were definitely the top choices. And Fischer, of course, but he'd have said no.
Jul-23-15  Petrosianic: Here's something I didn't know about Yahnofsky until today. Fischer is famous for winning the US Championship with an 11-0 score. Yanofsky won the Canadian Championship that way TWICE.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Petrosianic> I don't know about the legitimate part. Spassky got it because that's what the rules stipulated. But there were no rules, either in the USCF or FIDE that covered Fischer's acceptance into the Interzonal. Euwe had to "interpret the rules liberally" as some have said to allow Fischer to play.

There could have been rules to cover this eventuality since it was up to the national chess federations to determine how the qualifiers got selected. The USCF had several years of indications that Fischer was not going to play; even Fischer said that on many occasions. They could have changed the Interzonal qualifying rules to being the top 2 finishers in the qualifying event and a player to be named at their discretion, provided that he met some minimum qualifications such as rating, etc. Then the USCF would have the flexibility to name whomever they wanted for the 3rd spot, and this would naturally have been Fischer. All proper, above board, and no questions asked. A similar system is currently used for the Candidates Tournament when the 8th participant is selected by the organizing committee.

I am not saying that Fischer was not qualified to play; he obviously was. And he was certainly acceptable to the other participants in the 1969 US Championships who gave up their spots in order to allow Fischer to play. And I only object to it because several posters talk about how this player or that player "snuck into" or "slid into" the Interzonal or Candidates tournament without ever including Fischer, who was probably the biggest "snuckee" or "slidee" of them all, and certainly the most notorious.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Petrosianic> You might be confusing Herman Steiner and Lajos Steiner. In Game Collection: 1948 Saltsj÷baden interzonal it says that most participants in the 1948 Interzonal were selected by FIDE ballot,, and that Lajos Steiner was selected by FIDE ballot to represent Australia. Lajos Steiner was born in Hungary (actually, the Austro-Hungarian empire) in 1903 and emigrated to Australia in 1939 (

And at the time I suspect that the FIDE rules for selecting participants to Interzonals were somewhat "flexible", given the newness of the process. It reminds me of a situation in one of my jobs when the newly-appointed General Manager wanted to have an Employee of the Month. I get a phone call that I had been selected to be the very first Employee of the Month. I asked why (it seemed like a reasonable question) and I was told something along the lines of "Well, we had to pick someone. Some day we will have rules for doing so, but this time we picked you." Without giving me any explanation whatsoever.

I suppose that's just as valid a process as others, and probably better than chewing gum.

Jul-24-15  Petrosianic: <You might be confusing Herman Steiner and Lajos Steiner>

I might be, but I'm not. Lajos Steiner was in the 1948 Interzonal, Herman was in 1952. For proof, here's one of his games:

Taimanov vs H Steiner, 1952

<And at the time I suspect that the FIDE rules for selecting participants to Interzonals were somewhat "flexible", given the newness of the process.>

Yeah, but I'd still like to know exactly what happened. Steiner seems to show up a little too often as an unexplained beneficiary. Like after Denker won the US Championship, what title match would you most like to have seen? Denker vs. Fine, of course, since the whole tournament came down to their one individual game.

After the 1951 US Championship, when Evans became the first man ever to win the US Title while Reshevsky was present, what match would you like to have seen? Evans vs. Reshevsky, of course.

Both times the champion played a title defense match against Herman Steiner. Why? I guess he had the backers. But he didn't live up to their hopes either time (Evans really creamed him).

So now, if he gets handed an unexplained interzonal spot, I'm not objecting, necessarily. But I'd like to know what process was involved.

Jul-24-15  Howard: Spassky got into the 1985 Candidates tournament fairly, on my opinion. He had been playing under the French flag since the year before, 1984, plus the host country was allowed to field its top-rated player in return for putting on the tourament.

If one still thinks Spassky didn't deserve to get in, what about Spragget's being seeded into the Candidates matches in early 1988? Was that unfair too ? He was, of course, from Canada, and that's where the first round of the matches was held back then.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Petrosianic> Obviously I need to read posts more carefully. I could have sworn that you said "first Stockholm Interzonal". So I guess I am not immune to FIDE machinations. What are the odds that (1) the first 2 Interzonals were held near Stockholm and (2) both of them would have a player with the last name of Steiner. They must have done it just to trip me up 53 years later! But here, Game Collection: Stockholm Interzonal 1952, <Tabanus> describes how Herman Steiner got a spot in the tournament.
Jul-24-15  Petrosianic: Yeah, I see what you mean. The site for the 1948 Interzonal is usually listed as "Saltsjobaden", and 1952 and 1962 are listed as "Stockholm". But Saltsjobaden and Stockholm are so close together as to be part of the same metroplex, I believe. There are probably some places that say Stockholm for 1948.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Howard> It says here,, that both Spassky in 1985 and Spraggett in 1988 were seeded into their Candidates tournaments by the federation hosting the tournaments, just like it's currently done. Given that the Candidates tournaments for those years were held in France and Canada, it was logical that the at-large selection would be French and Canadian players (Spassky became a French citizen in 1978). Right or wrong, fair or not, that's what the rules specified and that's how Mamedyarov in 2011, Radjabov in 2012, Svidler in 2013, and a TBD player in 2016 were/will be selected for the Candidates Tournament.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Petrosianic> I've seen the 1948 and 1952 Interzonal tournaments listed both ways, Saltsjobaden and Stockholm. And trust me to be one of the ones to find it listed as Stockholm!
Jul-24-15  Petrosianic: Okay, so according to this, Reshevsky was already seeded into the Candidates at this time (I've never been clear on how or when this was decided).

Evans didn't want it. They offered it to Bisguier, it sounds like for no other reason than that he was already in Europe. He said no because his military service was starting. Byrne also had to go home otherwise he might have gotten it. Evans was not only qualified, but was THERE, but he still didn't want it.

So, Steiner got the spot even though he wasn't there, and had to travel. They're not quite clear why he got it. The implication is that it was either because he had won the 1948 Championship or because he'd been recently drubbed in a match by Evans. It sounds like neither of these things was true in a formal, legal sense, and someone just picked him. No mention of even considering Max Pavey, the next finisher from the Zonal.

On the face of it, Steiner is an odd choice. He lived in California. Getting him all the way to Sweden by boat is no small feat. But maybe he was somewhere else at the time.

Jul-24-15  Petrosianic: No, this is still confusing. It DOES mention Pavey in the 2nd paragraph, and implies that the US had two spots. Evans ended up replaced by Steiner, but what happened to Pavey? It says later that Pilnik entered as a reserve player, but he was Argentine. What happened to the second US spot?
Jul-24-15  Petrosianic: However, AylerKupp's links is very useful, because it does establish that the decision to include Steiner was very late in the process. That narrows down the magazines I'll have to search for. I'll just start with September 1952, and see what crops up.
Jul-24-15  Petrosianic: Front page, Chess Life, September 20, 1952:

<76 Players Vie Southwest Open Herman Steiner, in route to the Interzonal Tournament at Stockholm, paused at Dallas long enough to win the Southwest Open...>

No dates are given for the tournament, (although I know some people I might ask). But this is interesting, because maybe the decision to include Steiner wasn't as last second as the link made it seem. If he had enough time to stop and play a 7 round tournament during the journey. No mention of how Steiner got into the Interzonal, but it must be before this issue. I need to go backwards instead of forwards.

Jul-24-15  Petrosianic: <Chess Life, November 5, 1952 EUWE TO PLAY IN CANDIDATES
According to an announcement by FIDE, Dr. Max Euwe has decided to play in the World Championship Candidates Tournament...">

As easy as that. No qualification or anything, he just decided. (I suspect Reshevsky got in the same way). That's why I find it really hard to take issue with Fischer's spot. It seems to be <more> legitimate than some substitutions and additions.

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