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Boris Spassky vs Robert James Fischer
Fischer - Spassky World Championship Match (1972)  ·  Nimzo-Indian Defense: Normal Variation. Gligoric System Bernstein Defense (E56)  ·  1-0
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Boris Spassky vs Robert James Fischer (1972)

Kibitzer's Corner
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May-03-14  PJs Studio: I have to agree Fischer did not only play to win. He was a scientific player who took last chances against strong competition. Spasski was plenty strong in '72.

As I said, he overlooked Bxh2 as the ultra dangerous move it was. It's ok, he mutilated Spasski after game 2. Just as he had destroyed the candidates months before.

May-03-14  PJs Studio: As far as the greatest players Morphy was WAY ahead of his time, but his competition wasn't up to snuff. The really strong players came after Staunton. By Lasker's and Tarrash's times things started to heat up.

Kasparov, Fischer, and to some degree Capa outdid their peers at a time when the competition was anything but fish.

Jul-22-14  jerseybob: <Shams> <"One need only glance at the photograph".> Exactly. I've always loved this shot, and the look on Fischer's face echoes how I, a Fischer fan, felt at that moment. And after the Game 2 forfeiture, even more so!
Aug-01-14  SpiritedReposte: I think Bxh2 was simply Fischer's fanatical will to win.

Call it a blunder or whatever he was just trying to shake things up and squeeze out a win where there wasn't one.

He miscalculated obviously but still it shows his will to fight.

Aug-01-14  Petrosianic: What shows his will to fight? The blunder itself, you mean? Any GM would have played the move if they thought it were sound.

If you're saying that Fischer was a reckless player whose will to win frequently caused him to lose games this way, that's not true. He was usually quite cautious in his aggression. He'd grind out an advantage for hours, but didn't pursue risky plans that might end up causing him to lose. In this case, he simply made a blunder, that's all. Possibly caused by his distraction over arguing about the cameras, but no grandiose explanations are necessary.

Aug-01-14  RookFile: Ah yes. Fischer played lines like the poisoned pawn Sicilian and the Benoni because he was cautious in his aggression. It's all becoming clear to me now.
Aug-01-14  Everett: <RookFile: Ah yes. Fischer played lines like the poisoned pawn Sicilian and the Benoni because he was cautious in his aggression. It's all becoming clear to me now.>

Ah yes, it is clear that Fischer analyzed the <openings> extensively to take the surprises and risks out of them, much like Botvinnik with the Semi-Slav. He clearly played the middlegame differently.

Aug-01-14  Petrosianic: The Benoni and Poisoned Pawn are both sound lines. Both aggressive and sound, exactly as I said. So Rookfile's point is pointless.

Byrne tells the story of how he analyzed an analyzed an ending with Fischer once, and went over possible winning attempts. Fischer refused to consider lines that carried a significant risk of loss. He wanted to win very badly, but wasn't going to risk a loss doing it.

He didn't believe that he was risking a loss in this game either. If he had SEEN that the Bishop was trapped and played it anyway to stir things up, then yes. In <that> case, he would have been reckless. In this case, he thought he was going to end up with a slightly superior pawn structure, and have some kind of small advantage to try to grind a win out of. It was a miscalculation, pure and simple.

Aug-01-14  SpiritedReposte: Yes a miscalculation where almost everyone else would have took the easy draw, that's my point.

I never said his reckless will to win caused him to lose many games. It caused him to win many. He wasn't "risky" but he never took easy draws.

He tried to squeeze a little too much from that position. Hardly a grandiose explanation.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <<SpiritedReposte> "I never said his reckless will to win caused him to lose many games. It caused him to win many.">

The way that sentence reads you seem to say that it was his reckless will to win that caused him to win many games and I don't think that's what you meant to say since you correctly indicated that Fischer wasn't "risky". It was his plain and simple "will to win" that caused him to win many games that others might have given up as draws. In that sense I think that Carlsen today has a similar will to win.

Aug-01-14  RookFile: There has never been a modern player who has put wins up on the board with the black pieces the way Fischer has. By definition these means he took more risks than others did. There's no getting around that.
Aug-02-14  SpiritedReposte: <AlyerKupp> I stated Fischer's "fanatical will to win" evidenced by him refusing an easy draw in a stale ending on the chess world's highest stage.

<Petrosianic> assumed I meant Fischer was reckless. Which I guess you can definitely call Bxh2 reckless but hardly the norm for his career.

No one can know what he was thinking but to me, in that dead drawn ending, it looked like he was trying to win it.

Aug-02-14  SpiritedReposte: <What shows his will to fight? The blunder itself you mean?>

Yes. He had an easy draw as Black and decided against it.

Aug-03-14  Everett: <RookFile: There has never been a modern player who has put wins up on the board with the black pieces the way Fischer has. By definition these means he took more risks than others did. There's no getting around that.>

Actually, he played demonstrably weaker competition throughout his career in the west. It was only late in his career that he was finally getting plus scores vs the Russians, for example. And he skipped a lot of the toughest competitions in the middle of his short career, including entire championship cycles.

In any case, Fischer studied the KID and Najdorf like no other at the time, and analyzed a lot of the risk out of these openings, and he deserves all the credit for that.

Aug-03-14  Everett: When Fischer had no chance to lose, he would happily grind. Much like Karpov and Carlsen after him.
Aug-08-14  asiduodiego: Come on. Fischer wasn't a "reckless" player. He was an "aggressive" player. He normally would shun complications, and usually went for clear paths in his games. Of course sometimes he made nice tactical sacrifices or tactical shots, but those were always straight-forward variations. I don't recall any instance of Fischer making unclear tactical shots, or going for risky and unclear variations, such as Tal did, for example, and that was one of the keys of his success: he was an aggressive, but objective and very careful player.
Aug-08-14  Petrosianic: That's right, the move was aggressive, but not reckless. If the combination had gone the way we think Fischer had planned it, White would have regained the pawn but been left with a slightly weakened pawn structure. Mind you, this would STILL be a drawn ending, but it would give Fischer something to make probing attacks against, and try to turn it into something bigger.
Aug-11-14  Doniez: It is almost unbelievable how Fischer's WS Bishop is trapped by Spasssy's King! It's worth a whole life at the chessboard!
Aug-11-14  Petrosianic: What part do you find unbelievable? If you're saying it looks like it should be intuitively obvious that the Bishop should escape, it's really the other way around. It looks like it shouldn't. And indeed it doesn't. The gut reaction is right.

The conventional wisdom is that Fischer was thinking:

29. ...Bxh2 30. g3 h5 31. Ke2 h4 32. Kf3 h3 33. Kg4 Bg1 34. Kxh3 Bxf2

...But that he didn't see that the Bishop was still trapped after 35. Bd2! And so, what he was originally thinking was that it would go something like:

29. ...Bxh2 30. g3 h5 32. Ke2 h4 32. gxh4

And White gets the pawn back but he's got an isolated h pawn now. Black probably wouldn't win, but at least he could put on a little pressure and be able to say that he was the one on the offense in Game 1.

Really, the only unbelievable part about it is the inexplicable fascination it holds for people. There's no way that Bxh2 should be the most memorable move of the match, but for some reason it is. It's probably one of the reasons Fischer couldn't keep playing, if every minor miscalculation was going to be treated like the bombing of Hiroshima.

Aug-11-14  Petrosianic: It's odd, but if you asked someone to name the two most memorable moves of the match, they'd surely be the over-criticized Bxh2 and the over-praised Nb1.
Aug-11-14  ughaibu: How about 1.c4 in game six? Or 1..... in game two?
Aug-11-14  Petrosianic: Yeah, I think 1. c4 is one of the really memorable moves. In hindsight, maybe it shouldn't have been. Fischer had played it recently against Polugaevsky, and even experimented with 1. b3 in 1970.

But to see him abandoning 1. P-K4 on such a serious occasion, yeah, it was pretty electrifying. Spassky fell back on his 1969 prep and played the Tartakower, which Fischer was probably expecting. I've always wondered what would have happened if Spassky had returned the surprise and played the Tarrasch Defense (his alternate defense in 1969).

Aug-11-14  Petrosianic: Another thing that made that move so memorable was that at least in the Fischer-Polugaevsky game, Fischer had played a kind of reversed Dragon Sicilian formation which was, at least vaguely kinda sorta in his style. Against Spassky he turned it into a full blown Orthodox Queen's Gambit.
Aug-17-14  coldsweat: It seems to me that little has been said about what actually happened in this startling opening game. For what it's worth, here's my take. Fischer wasn't playing merely for the moment, but for the history books. He was at the peak of his powers. He was there not just to play chess, or even to win the championship, but to play great chess – interesting, creative, daring, innovative, brilliant chess … chess that was provocative and compelling for a much larger swath of humanity. He accomplished this in game 13, sacrificing his bishop and burying his rook so that he could take on Spassky's rook with his pawns and win. Botvinnik called this the “highest creative achievement of Fischer.” Might not Fischer have had an inkling, a foretaste, a premonition of this type of use of his pawns with his ill-fated 29. … Bxh2? In playing through the game, it seems to me that it's not until Spassky's 47.Be3 that Fischer realizes that his e & g pawns are hopelessly lost. So during his deliberations of his 29th move, it's fair to say that his analysis of moves 30 – 47 was faulty – a sequence of some 34 half-moves into the future. And we armchair quarterbacks, using our computers to do our chess thinking for us, criticize him. How ludicrous this is. It isn't inconceivable to me that the distractions Fischer complained about after this game were real enough to him to make him feel that they were impeding him from playing his best chess … and this was unacceptable to him – enough so to make him feel willing to walk away of necessary. But fortunately for all of us, and for future generations, it didn't come to that.
Aug-17-14  RookFile: Topalov does the same thing. He keeps trying to set problems for the opponent, no matter what. In this case, Bxh2 didn't work. It happens.
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