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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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Aug-27-15  Zugzwangovich: <Mr 1100: Did any player other than Boris Spassky play against both Fischer and Karpov at match-play?> Kinda sorta. In a 1975 Milan tournament a round robin stage was followed by semi-final and final matches among the top four finishers. Petrosian and Karpov drew their match 2-2.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <offramp: Fischer would have been only 32 in 1975. He (with constant practice) would have reached his best in about 1978 but then continued at his top level for about 6 years. At the age of about 42 or 43 his rating would have started to fall, ie in about 1985. Perhaps there would have been four or five matches with Karpov? K I reckon he would have played a dozen top-level games a year, on average, so we have missed out on a huge shedload of great games.>

The reason I said a dozen a year was that I thought it likely that Fischer would have one or two years-off, as he did in 1965 & 1968.

Oct-04-15  thegoodanarchist: <offramp> I think those periods before he became champ, when he did not play, lasted a bit longer than a year, IIRC
Premium Chessgames Member
  Absentee: <Everett: He would either quit before the match (as he did), at the lead up or very beginning of the match, or in the middle when he started feeling like he might just lose.>

Why are you making the assumption that in the middle of the match Fischer would feel like he might lose?

Anyway, Fischer had, for all intents and purposes, already quit chess in 1972. I don't think he had any actual intention of playing. What he WOULD have done, I have no idea (I'm not an expert in alternate timelines).

Oct-04-15  john barleycorn: <Absentee: ...

Why are you making the assumption that in the middle of the match Fischer would feel like he might lose? ...>

Any "assumption" is safe as the match did not happen. That is the kibitzer's bread and butter here. Oh, where is <Joshka>?

Oct-04-15  Howard: Fischer was "off" in 1969, not 1968.

As for his being "off" in 1965, he did play at the tournament in Havana...

...or, rather, he played IN that tournament, but not "at" there. The explanation here is obvious for Fischer buffs.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: While Fischer did not win the Capablanca Memorial in 1965, his performance was most creditable; he would likely have won with ease had he actually been present in Havana.
Oct-04-15  Everett: <Rookfile> like most everyone, kibitzers like to take Karpov's future match history into account when predicting the result of this match, yet the logic gets twisted in the wind when mentioning Fischer's own terrifically poor mental state, the quitting of events when coming to a rough patch (the tied Reshevsky match, the Sousse Interzonal with all those early rest days and games to play back-to-back later on)

I wonder what the prognosticators were saying pre-Karpov/Korchnoi 1974. Who would win, the eventual contender or the champion? Only the ones that predicted Fischer would quit before the match even started were right. Everyone else, just wrong as wrong could be.

Oct-05-15  The Kings Domain: Fischer's argument isn't sound. A match can't take too long or the players and the public lose interest. And what's the point if that occurs? A world championship match has to be controlled with a foreseeable end or it may drag too long to its detriment.

It's disappointing that Fischer never defended his title. One can't help but think his refusal to concede to FIDE's terms was to conceal his fear that he may lose and his ego couldn't take it. Perhaps he thought he gave too much of himself, his whole life really, to gain the crown and to lose it would be too much. He probably breathed a sigh of relief when FIDE refused to budge.

It's a shame the match didn't push through; it would have been one of the greatest championship matches in the game's history.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <The Kings Domain> Well see, we all keep saying, year after year, 'it's a shame, it's a shame, it's a shame"....Bobby WANTED to punish the world, NOT giving us what we longed for!! In Bobby's eyes, he has nothing to gain, by punishing himself, with memorizing line after line after line, he had had it basically.........the only way he would have played was if he got the arrangements and match conditions he wanted, no compromising, from him. Cause, he's compromising anyway just by playing!!!...appeasing the public!!......the gladiators PLEASED the public, they got what they wanted!!..the gladiators themselves probably had wished they could stop the madness!!...oh two cents;-)
Oct-05-15  john barleycorn: there comes <Joshka> and giving us insider knowledge: "Bobby WANTED to punish the world, NOT giving us what we longed for!!"

Yo man.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<RookFile> Look at how many short draws there were. You don't get that in a match with Fischer.>

I'm sure that if Fischer had played he would have done whatever he considered necessary to win. If that would have been a lot of short draws, particularly in the early games of the match to shake off his rustiness, he would have done that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <john barleycorn> I think that Fischer did what he considered to be in his best interest, he always did. If to him that meant not playing chess and "punishing" the world, he would have done that. As to why he actually did that (not playing), no one really knows.
Oct-05-15  john barleycorn: <AylerKupp> I agree with you. Just looked to me like <Joshka> knows more in the affirmative. :-)
Oct-05-15  RookFile: I just don't see the short draws Ayler. Consider each of the 3 possible results after emerging from the opening, around move 20, let's say.

1) Fischer is better. In this case, we can certainly expect Fischer to play right to the end, trying to exploit every possible way of winning.

2) Karpov is better. Same thing. Karpov was pretty ruthless, he would push hard for a win.

3) The game is even. Why would Fischer want to offer a draw? He knows that Karpov is frail physically, and by playing long games, he can tire him out. We both agree that Fischer would have done whatever is necessary to win the match. Punishing Karpov physically would be included. Rememeber the pictures of Fischer's physical training that he put in for his match with Spassky?

Oct-05-15  Petrosianic: <AylerKupp>: <As to why he actually did that (not playing), no one really knows.>

Don't we? The answers seem pretty clear once you know in hindsight that he didn't even play outside of FIDE for 20 years.

Oct-05-15  starry2013: I don't really understand the 9-9 rule even if the vote was close. If it's first to 10 wins why would 9-9 be a result as well? It doesn't make much logical sense.
Oct-05-15  john barleycorn: <starry2013> assume, the challenger leads 9-8. If he wins, he wins the match and the title. If the defending champ wins, the match is drawn but the champ keeps the title. If the defending champ leads 9-8 he has won whoever scores the next win.

However likely a 9-8 score is, the champ has a 3:1 advantage in that particular situation.imo

Oct-05-15  starry2013: So it's really 9 to win for the champ and 10 to win for the challenger. The first to 10 part only applies to one player. I don't like it. It does fit into the whole conservative approach of chess of favouring the champion, but I don't like that much anyway. The finish line needs to be the same for both.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <RookFile> I don't see the short draws either since it wasn't part of his character, but backing away from a challenge wasn't part of his character either, yet that's what he did. All I'm saying is that Fischer would have acted according to what he thought was in his best interest (e.g. forfeiting his 2nd game in the 1972 match with Spassky) and it is hard to determine what Fischer would have thought best interests would have been at the time. If Fischer thought that he needed a few games to play himself into shape and if he believed that a series of short draws would have accomplished that, then I think that's what he would have done. After all, 1.c4 in game 6 of the 1972 match did not pass his "best by test" criteria, yet he played that move because, I assume, he felt that it was in his best interest to do so.

I agree with you overall that short draws would have been unlikely, or at least much less likely, towards the end of an unlimited length match. But I don't know if it was clear to everyone at the time, or if it was even true, that Karpov was going to get tired after playing long games or after a long match. In 1975 Karpov was only 24, not the 33 that he was at the time of the first Karpov Kasparov match. So that might not have entered into Fischer's strategy. After all, Fischer was 32 in 1975; couldn't he have been the one that got more tired after long games or after a long match?

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<Petrosianic> Don't we? The answers seem pretty clear once you know in hindsight that he didn't even play outside of FIDE for 20 years.>

Well, we were talking about 1975, not 1992, when we didn't have the benefit of hindsight. And while many of us <think> we know the real reasons why Fischer refused to play Karpov in 1975, we don't really <know>. Shoot, even Fischer might not have known, or had refused to admit what his real reasons were. All we know is his official reason, and for all we know he might have convinced himself that his official reason was the real one.

Oct-05-15  Petrosianic: <Shoot, even Fischer might not have known, or had refused to admit what his real reasons were.>

We probably know better than he knew. For example, at Sveti Stefan, when asked why he hadn't played anybody in 20 years, he said that that wasn't the case, rather it was that nobody had played him. That may have been the way he explained it to himself, but we know better.

<All we know is his official reason, and for all we know he might have convinced himself that his official reason was the real one.>

If you want to be technical, we don't even know his official reason. We only know he claimed it. Of course, he also claimed the exact opposite; that the champion's advantage was unfair, and that he would abolish it.

But it's not that big a mystery as to why he retired or that he wasn't going to play in 1975 no matter what.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <starry2013> Oh boy here we go again....LOLOL...why would 9-9 be a result?....cause it IS the first to win 10 WINS the MATCH!! And you only WIN the match when you win that 10th Game, BEFORE your opponent gets HIS 9th. 9-9 is a DRAWN/TIE match/proceeds are split..........very easy to understand. In fact I do believe in case the match was drawn, we'd have had Fischer vs Karpov 2 REMATCH!!
Oct-05-15  Petrosianic: <joshka> First to 10 Wins"" means "First to 10 wins". There's nothing there about stopping at only 9unless we arbitrarily add that in after the fact. So, in fact you have misunderstood the question (LOLOL), which was not <whether> Fischer wanted it, but <WHY> it was a good idea. LOLOL.
Oct-05-15  beatgiant: <Joshka>
<DRAWN/TIE match/proceeds are split> By far the most valuable prize is the world title. Are you saying the two players would jointly share it in case of a "DRAWN/TIE match"?
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