This team match was held between March 29th and April 4th, 1970. Participants for the Soviet Team were, in board order: Boris Spassky, Tigran Petrosian, Viktor Korchnoi, Lev Polugaevsky, Efim Geller, Vasily Smyslov, Mark Taimanov, Mikhail Botvinnik, Mikhail Tal, Paul Keres, and the Reserves, Leonid Stein and David Bronstein. Participants for the Rest of the World Team were, in board order: Bent Larsen, Bobby Fischer, Lajos Portisch, Vlastimil Hort, Svetozar Gligoric, Samuel Reshevsky, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Milan Matulovic, Miguel Najdorf, Borislav Ivkov, and the Reserves, Fridrik Olafsson and Klaus Viktor Darga.
Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Serbia), 29 March - 4 April 1970
Results USSR - World: 20.5-19.5 (1)
1 Spassky =10* Larsen =01*
Stein ***0 ***1
2 Petrosian 00== Fischer 11==
3 Korchnoi ==0= Portisch ==1=
4 Polugaevsky 0=== Hort 1===
5 Geller 1=== Gligoric 0===
6 Smyslov =10* Reshevsky =01*
***1 Olafsson ***0
7 Taimanov 11=0 Uhlmann 00=1
8 Botvinnik 1=== Matulovic 0===
9 Tal =01= Najdorf =10=
10 Keres =1=1 Ivkov =0=0
Round 1: 5.5-4.5
Round 2: 6-4
Round 3: 4-6
Round 4: 5-5
NOTE: The following consists entirely of articles published in Sports Illustrated and Chess Life and Review.
The Rest Of The World Sort Of Strikes Back
by Larry Melvyn Evans in Sports Illustrated, April 20, 1970: (2)
"Ten of the best Russian chess players met the ten best from the world at large in a match expected to demonstrate Russia's mastery of world chess. The result was a near tie and a Soviet catastrophe.
The Dom Sindikata in Belgrade is a modern, spacious, domed theater that has now become famous as the scene of the greatest match in the history of chess. The match was a four-round affair that ended last week: the 10 best Russian players against the 10 best from the rest of the world, and there was no question about its importance. The 2,000 spectators who packed the Dom Sindikata every night were convinced of it. So were the 63 foreign correspondents who covered the event. Everyone in the world of chess found the Belgrade match no less than world-shaking—everyone, that is, except the Russian players.
They expected an easy victory. When Boris Spassky, the present world champion, was asked what he thought the outcome would be, he said, "Computers decided we will win by three points. Why not believe the machines?"
Why not, indeed? Five of the Russians sent to Belgrade were world champions—current or former. On first board for Russia was Spassky himself, who had not lost a single game since he won the world title last year. On Russia's second board was Tigran Petrosian, the ex-champion, of whom the American star, Bobby Fischer, said, "He's the hardest player in the world to beat." Then there were the ex-champions: Mikhail Botvinnik, Vassily Smyslov and Mikhail Tal. With these were five leading Russian contenders for the championship.
The rest of the world had, to begin with, Bobby Fischer. But Fischer had not played in a tournament in nearly two years. When he arrived he was asked why he had stayed away from competition for so long. "Hang-ups," he said.
Truly an understatement. In the past bad lighting, a little noise, an exploding flashbulb have been enough to trigger Fischer's abrupt departure. Right away there was a mix-up that seemed made to order for another Fischer walkout. Bent Larsen of Denmark, ranked No. 2 in the world outside Russia, had compiled his best record to date while Fischer was inactive. Larsen threatened to withdraw unless he was allowed to play at the first board. To everyone's astonishment, Fischer gave way. "Larsen's got a point," he said.
By the time the first round started, he had second thoughts. The scene was that of any major tournament, but never before had so much chess talent been gathered in one place, and never before had Russia's finest masters been pitted against the best from everywhere else. Minutes before the match Fischer was asked how he felt about giving up first board. "It was a big mistake," he said. "I shouldn't have agreed to it."
He then took his place on the stage and thoroughly trounced Petrosian. It was an electrifying performance; Petrosian, with a lost game after the 15th move, resigned after 39 moves. There were occasional bursts of applause, and all the enthusiasm was for Fischer.
On the first board Larsen got off to a good, but not sensational, start and drew his game with Spassky. Samuel Reshevsky, seven times U.S. champion, drew his game with Smyslov after failing to press home an opening advantage. In that first round the Russians won three games, lost two and five were drawn, making the score 5.5 for the Russians and 4.5 for the Rest of the World.
Spassky began the second round by doing a quicker job defeating Larsen than Fischer had done on Petrosian — in a hopeless position Larsen resigned after only 17 moves. Things did not look good for the rest of the world. Reshevsky blundered under time pressure and lost. Fischer was a Pawn ahead at adjournment, but when the game resumed the next day his play, for the first time, became desultory. In the end, after nine hours, Fischer posted his second win.
The point he won was badly needed. It was the Russians' best round: the score, 6-4. At the halfway point they were three points ahead, just as the computer had predicted. On the bottom five boards the Russians were mopping up (the Rest of the World won only one game there of the first 10), but they were unexpectedly losing at the top. And their situation was to get worse.
When the third round opened Spassky, for no visible reason, began to play like a patzer. It was incredible. He lost to Larsen, ingloriously, tipping his King in defeat as Larsen bounced back from the second-round fiasco. Reshevsky, playing as well as he ever has, contributed a positional masterpiece and won his third-round game from Smyslov.
Among the prizes were two automobiles — a Fiat for the winner at the first board and a Russian-built Moskvich at the second. "All I need is another half point to win the Moskvich," Fischer said. I was acting as Fischer's second, and this comment told me that the days of hard trying were over; he was going to play it safe. And he did. The game was drawn. Since he does not like to drive he said he was going to sell the car. European chess masters told him not to do it and said it was a fine car, except that it could not always be depended upon to run uphill.
The rest of the world won that third round by a score of 6-4; the match was nearly even. Russian grand masters are subsidized by the state and known as "the vanguard of Communist culture." "It's a catastrophe," one of the Russian players said. "At home they don't understand. They think it means there's something wrong with our culture."
They made an all-out effort to win the final round, as though determined to repair anything wrong with their culture at once. And they failed. On the first board Leonid Stein, substituting for the ailing Spassky, lost to Larsen. Reshevsky, whose religious scruples keep him from playing until after sundown on Saturday, gave up his place to Fridrik Olafsson of Iceland, who lost to Smyslov. Fischer continued to play it safe for his last-round game with Petrosian, but when the game was adjourned he had a slightly inferior position. Moreover, he was increasingly bothered by noise and moved his room at the Hotel Metropole three times. The last time he landed in the room next to Petrosian's suite.
Unlike most masters, Fischer works alone on all his unfinished games. He checks with his second only to discover if there is any glaring flaw in his analysis. At 4 o'clock in the morning there was a knock on my door, and Fischer came in to make a final check of his position. He had precisely the kind of position he hates most, where there is little to do but sit back and wait. He said that in Petrosian's suite he could hear the phone ringing every few minutes as new winning ideas were discussed by teams of Russian chess analysts. He showed up tired and unshaved when play was resumed, and I feared the worst. But he held on to draw the game and remain undefeated, and he gave the world team its best individual result, three points of a possible four.
He emerged as the top celebrity in Yugoslavia—not only among chess players but with the general public. At one of the press conferences, he was asked what chess meant to him. After a minute of serious thought he answered, "Everything."
The last round ended with a tie score, 5-5, but the total was misleading. It should have been 5.5-4.5 in favor of Rest of the World. On the third board, Lajos Portisch of Hungary, playing Victor Korchnoi of Russia, had an overpowering position and nevertheless allowed Korchnoi a technical draw — that is, a draw that results when both players repeat the same move three times. The audience was aghast, and the players who represented the Rest of the World against Russia were astonished, indignant or both. "It's disgraceful," Fischer said. "Korchnoi's position was hopeless." Clearly it was. If Portisch had forced Korchnoi to resign—as he could have done — the score for the entire match would have been even.
An American spectator, Rosser Reeves, the chairman of the American Chess Foundation and famed hard-sell advertising man, proposed a non-title match between Spassky and Fischer for a purse of $25,000 in gold—$15,000 for the winner. Spassky was more than agreeable. But after two days of deliberation the proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would discredit the existing qualifying system.
It is unlikely that the Russians will permit any of their champions to play an unofficial match with Fischer. The final score does not suggest how decisively the Russians were beaten on the top boards, where their strongest players were concentrated. They won only one of the 16 games on the top four boards, and the players from the Rest of the World won six. Soviet chess invincibility was shattered, perhaps for good."
Sidelights by Dragoslav Andric in Chess Life & Review, June 1970, p. 301: (3)
"The Russian team, including the two reserve players, was an average age of 43 years. The world team's average: 38.7. The oldest competitor was Najdorf, born in 1910; the youngest Hort, born in 1944.
The chess table at which Fischer and Petrosian played was different from the rest. Made of white and green marble, it was Fidel Castro's gift (on the occasion of the Olympiad in Havana in 1966) to one of Belgrade's chess functionaries. The chess set, too, had to be special – Fischer demanded that it not be too shiny.
The city lights on the square in front of the match hall were dimmed during the event, so that the outside spectators could better follow the games on the electronic chess board, which is said to be 20 times cheaper than earlier types.
The cost of the match (more than $100,000) should be covered by advertisements, travel firms, the Belgrade municipality, the Serbian government, etc. Although the hall, seating 2,000 people, was full to capacity all along, the sale of tickets brought only about $5,000. This was, however, more than any chess event ever before.
Questioned about the present system of competition for the world title, 15 out of 20 grandmasters on both teams expressed definite disapproval. Spassky, current champion, and Botvinnik, three-time holder of the title, had no opinion, while only Portisch, Hort and Matulovic considered it acceptable.
The grandmasters gathered in Belgrade decided there to form their own international association, as they did not feel that their interests were well served by FIDE. The association's provisional board consists of Spassky, Larsen, Keres, Gligoric and Robert Byrne. (In a letter recently received, Keres states the "Council of Grandmasters," formed with the approval of Dr. Euwe, will prepare "a proposal for World Championship roles" for the next FIDE meeting – ed.)
During his games, Fischer drinks a rather special cocktail: milk and mineral water. They say he wants it neither warm, nor cold, nor tepid.
The Vice-captain of the Soviet team, Lev Abramov, was heard approaching the director of the match: "May I, in the name of the Soviet team, ask just one question – to Fischer's one thousand questions?"
All the players were presented with life insurance policies before the match. One of them was curious: "Couldn't they insure us against defeat?"
The last round was broadcast by Belgrade TV directly for one and a half hours. It is considered to be the longest direct telecast of a chess event.
Portisch asked Najdorf for his autograph. Najdorf said: "Five dollars, please." Portisch was surprised, but Najdorf added: "That's what Fischer would say!" Tal then approached Portisch modestly, with "Please, only two dollars for mine..."
We can testify, however, that Fischer gave out quite a few autographs (for nothing) at the final banquet.
Fischer received many letters from unknown admirers. Among them, even some marriage proposals.
World Champion Spassky on Fischer: "His weak points in chess are a secret."
Larsen on his own daring style: "If I were afraid of what could happen on the chess board, I would do something other than play chess."
Taimanov on the 2,000 spectators: "Look at all the people! It's like a pop-music concert."
Fischer on newspapermen: "Is it against the law to kill a reporter?"
Petrosian on chess personalities: "The chess public sees the grandmasters as if in an oblique mirror. So I am considered to be too cautious, while in fact I try only to avoid danger."
Korchnoi on the match: "This was the best moment for the Soviet team. I do not think it would be this strong five years from now."
Fischer in a TV interview: "I am not in top form."
Najdorf on the world team's opponents: "I do not believe the Soviet players are more talented than the others. They are just more inclined to consider chess work rather than play."
Najdorf on sacrifices: "When Spassky offers you a piece, you could just as well resign right there. But when Tal sacrifices, you would do well to go on playing, as he might sacrifice another piece, and then... who knows?"
Najdorf on Fischer's absence when the official photographs were to be taken: "He prefers to enter chess history alone."
The USSR vs. Rest of the World (1984) was the next major match of Russia versus the World in a match pairings system.
(2) Sports Illustrated, April 1970, p. ??.
(3) Chess Life & Review, June 1970, p. 301.
Based on an original collection by User: TheFocus.