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  WCC Overview
Fischer vs Spassky 1972
The Match of the Century

The name Bobby Fischer, at least to Americans, is synonymous with chess. A prodigy in the 50s, a world class player in the 60s, the 70s saw Fischer at his pinnacle. He earned the right to challenge Boris Spassky in a title run without comparison, defeating Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen with perfect scores of 6-0, and ex-champion Petrosian 6½-2½. Now the stage was set, and the only thing standing between Fischer and Spassky was Fischer himself.

 Fischer vs Spassky 1972
 Fischer vs Spassky, 1972
The match was mired in political overtones, during the height of the Cold War. The Soviet chess system had a monopoly on the title since 1948, and the expectations on Spassky were enormous. While Fischer studied chess virtually in seclusion, Spassky had the full resources of the USSR. Victor Baturinsky, head of Soviet Chess Sports Committee, said: "Basically, the Soviet leadership and the powers that be in sport, were interested in just one issue: how to stop Fischer from becoming World Champion."[1]

With the match set to begin in Reykjavik, Iceland, Fischer (who had not signed any documents confirming his participation) began to make a number of demands, including a percentage of television rights, a larger prize fund, and all manner of conditions covering everything from the lighting to the chair cushions. To satisfy Bobby's demands of a larger prize fund, British chess promoter James Slater donated a dazzling $125,000 to be added to the prize fund. Fischer still needed more convincing by Bill Lombardy (Fischer's last-minute choice as second), and one famously persuasive telephone call from Henry Kissinger. Mere hours before he would be forfeited, Fischer arrived in Iceland.

On July 11th, the "Match of the Century" had begun. Whether it was a blunder, or a passion to win at all costs, the first game saw Fischer uncharacteristically lose a simple drawn endgame. Game 2 was awarded to Spassky by forfeit when Fischer failed to appear in a dispute over the presence of cameras in the playing hall.

With the score 2-0 in Spassky's favor, Fischer refused to play unless TV cameras were removed from the playing hall. Only a last minute agreement by Spassky to play away from the cameras permitted the third game to be held. This turned out to be a huge psychological mistake by Spassky. In game 3, in a small room backstage, Fischer beat Spassky for the first time in his life. The games then returned to the main stage, but without cameras. Winning again in games 5, 6, 8, and 10 the Fischer juggernaut had become unstoppable.

On September 3, 1972, Robert James Fischer became the 11th World Chess Champion.

click on a game number to replay game 123456789101112131415161718192021

FINAL SCORE:  Fischer 12½;  Spassky 8½
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Fischer-Spassky 1972]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #6     Fischer vs Spassky, 1972     1-0
    · Game #13     Spassky vs Fischer, 1972     0-1
    · Game #5     Spassky vs Fischer, 1972     0-1


  1. Clash of the Titans, television documentary, BBC
    2The Match of the Century, Wikipedia

 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Spassky vs Fischer 1-0561972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchE56 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6
2. Fischer vs Spassky 0-101972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchA00 Uncommon Opening
3. Spassky vs Fischer 0-1411972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchA61 Benoni
4. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½451972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB88 Sicilian, Fischer-Sozin Attack
5. Spassky vs Fischer 0-1271972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchE41 Nimzo-Indian
6. Fischer vs Spassky 1-0411972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchD59 Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower
7. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½491972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
8. Fischer vs Spassky 1-0371972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchA39 English, Symmetrical, Main line with d4
9. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½291972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchD41 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch
10. Fischer vs Spassky 1-0561972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchC95 Ruy Lopez, Closed, Breyer
11. Spassky vs Fischer 1-0311972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB97 Sicilian, Najdorf
12. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½551972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
13. Spassky vs Fischer 0-1741972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB04 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
14. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½401972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchD37 Queen's Gambit Declined
15. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½431972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB99 Sicilian, Najdorf, 7...Be7 Main line
16. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½601972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchC69 Ruy Lopez, Exchange, Gligoric Variation
17. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½451972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB09 Pirc, Austrian Attack
18. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½471972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB69 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 11.Bxf6
19. Spassky vs Fischer ½-½401972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB05 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
20. Fischer vs Spassky ½-½541972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB68 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack, 7...a6 Defense, 9...Be7
21. Spassky vs Fischer 0-1411972Spassky - Fischer World Championship MatchB46 Sicilian, Taimanov Variation
 page 1 of 1; 21 games  PGN Download 
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Joshka>
Are you talking about 49...Kxd7 in Spassky vs Fischer, 1972? If so, yes the bishop was pinned at that moment, but several moves before that Fischer made a deliberate choice to go into that line, so I think it's fair to say he played a real sac.
Feb-10-21  Petrosianic: It may be a real sac, but if so, it was made earlier, when he played 44...P-K4. On Move 49, there's no way to save the d5 Bishop even if Black wants to.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: What User: Petrosianic said. (Now cue User: Messiah who will reply, "he said that the sac was played on move 44.")
Premium Chessgames Member
  Joshka: <beatgiant> yea, probably like an anticipated sacrifice;-)
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: I've ordered a copy. Looking forward to reading it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <Sally Simpson> Sounds great that it's finally available. How many games are listed in it?

But I think that you should have posted your post in the Karpov - Fischer World Championship Match (1975) page so that more readers were made aware of he book's availability.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Hi AylerKupp,

I thought I had posted in the Bob and Ant thread. (just did).

Copy not arrived yet. Been 6 weeks, I'll send another £50.00.


Apr-12-21  CountryGirl: Interesting to revisit the story of Reykjavik.
Spassky was a great player, a great gentleman and very sportsmanlike. He was also one of the biggest all time suckers in chess. If only he had put his foot down after game 2 and told Fischer where to get off. "You want to change the rules, do you? You want to play in a side room, do you? Who do you think you are! Who made you boss of the world!?" Unfortunately Spassky had known RJF for years and liked him (sucker!) If the bossy Yank had walked off in a huff, then Boris would just have played Anatoly in 3 years time anyway and probably lost in any case...
Apr-12-21  SChesshevsky: <...Spassky was a great player, a great gentleman and very sportsmanlike...>

Also have the feeling that he had a unique view of chess. Maybe the only world class player who truly viewed the play as an art. Remember reading his analysis of the, I think, Karpov- Polugaevsky 1974 match? from USCF magazine. Seemed very, very different than anything else I've read.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: <CountryGirl:
Spassky was a great player, a great gentleman and very sportsmanlike. He was also one of the biggest all time suckers in chess. If only he had put his foot down after game 2 and told Fischer where to get off.>

Yes, but would he then be remembered as <a great player, a great gentleman and very sportsmanlike>?

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: What would have happened to the prize fund if the match was aborted? I wonder if Jim Slater's money came with the stipulation that the match had to be completed.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: <MissScarlett: What would have happened to the prize fund if the match was aborted? I wonder if Jim Slater's money came with the stipulation that the match had to be completed.>

Good point. I don't know. Does anyone know how much of the prize money Spassky were allowed to keep?

Apr-12-21  fabelhaft: <If only he had put his foot down after game 2>

One of the interesting hypothetical questions is what that would have resulted in with regards to how the players are ranked. Fischer is usually one of the leading greatest ever Candidates, while Spassky was ranked outside the top 15 in the Chess24 greatest ever ranking. I wonder how much a career score of Spassky vs Fischer +5-0=2 would have changed, in case Spassky had won the match by Fischer quitting at 0-2...

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Enough to trade in his wife for a newer model, I think.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: <I wonder how much a career score of Spassky vs Fischer +5-0=2 would have changed, in case Spassky had won the match by Fischer quitting at 0-2...>

Hard to say since Fischer quitting the match would probably have prolonged his career.

Apr-12-21  Lambda: So Spassky denied us the opportunity to see Fischer fight Karpov and peak-Korchnoi. Some gentleman. ^_^
Premium Chessgames Member

Don't think I've ever taken notice before of the two desk-stands (for want of a better description) on either side of the playing table. Did they serve any purpose apart from resting a cup or glass?

May-22-21  RookFile: They held the radio transmitters that were influencing Spassky's play.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Was the point that the players would be forced to leave the table from opposite sides? Are accidental collisions a problem in chess? It wouldn't surprise me if, on occasion, one of the players, deep in thought or a funk, inadvertently took a wrong turn and bashed his knee on the offending furniture.

The rest of the decor deserves a more positive welcome; the pastel green carpet is lovely.

Premium Chessgames Member
Jun-20-22  CapablancaDisciple: I have found an incredible source which documents the times (taken by a live spectator) from almost every game of the Spassky-Fischer 1972 Match. It is from a website called

Here is the general account of how the times for each move were recorded and subsequently published:

<<The match schedule:

According to the program, games were scheduled from 5 PM to 10 PM on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Adjournments were scheduled from 5 PM to 11 PM Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 2:30 PM to 6:30 PM on Fridays. Fischer observed the sabbath from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset.

After the first game started on Tuesday, July 11th, Spassky took time outs on Sunday, July 30th and Sunday, August 13th, after losses in games 8 and 13. Fischer took no time outs.

On keeping notes of the times of the players:

The player’s clocks could be seen, from time to time, on the closed-circuit black and white TV system in the hall. It served the lobby, the cafeteria, and the playing hall, and displayed a view of what looked like a wallboard with the pieces perfectly aligned, showing the current position. In addition there were other cameras which showed various views of the players and the board. You could read the clock times on some of them. These views sometimes were briefly substituted for the board position on the TV monitors. The result was that you could follow the moves in the lobby, the cafeteria, and the hall at all times, but the clock times were readable only every few moves.

When the TV did show the clock, I could compute, by totaling the two times, the time of the start of the match. After that, when a player moved, I could figure the total game time from my watch, subtract the time of the opponent, and the difference would be the time of the player who just moved. Then, when the opponent moved a few minutes later, I would repeat the procedure using his opponent’s time, as recorded in my notebook.

When the TV showed the chess clock the next time, I could correct, if necessary, my notes for times taken by the player who was not on the move. After about 6 moves without seeing the clock, my time for a player might be 1 minute off, since I did not record minutes and seconds.

If I was one minute too short for a player, and it was 6 moves since the previous correction, I would add one minute to the three most recent time entries and leave the other 3 entries alone.

In game 3, however, I came upon an error, early in the game, of 9 minutes for Fischer’s time. An explanation was not arrived at until recently, and is noted in the article on the times for that game.

I used a small 24-game scorebook, which I bought at the hall. The small pamphlet sold for 100 Icelandic Kronur, which was a bit more than one US dollar at the match. It had the word “Skak” on the cover, which is the Icelandic word for chess.

On getting to the big match:

I was in California in the summer of 1972, and had decided to go. I had already obtained a ticket for all the games, which cost, if memory serves, about $60, and had contacted a travel agent to arrange for transportation to Iceland. However, due to the uncertainty of Fischer’s appearance, I decided to wait before booking the flights.

Then, on the news that Fischer had gone to Iceland and had started game 1, I called my travel agent to book tickets for the next day. What could go wrong with the match now?>>

Jun-20-22  CapablancaDisciple: [Continued]

<<On the day of travel, the newspapers covered the first session of play, and Fischer’s big mistake of Bxh2. I bought these papers and flew from LAX and arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York. Soon I was on the Icelandic Airlines flight to Iceland and arrived there the next morning.

I took a bus to Reykjavik, and booked a room with bed and breakfast with a family there, since the hotels were filled. When I arrived, they told me about Fischer’s loss in the adjournment session and his protest about the film cameras. I tried to get some sleep about 10 am.

I was a bit late walking to the hall for Thursday’s game 2, scheduled for 5 PM. As I arrived, I saw the closed circuit TV with the starting position. I bought some souvenirs and went to the balcony and sat down.

After a while, Lothar Schmidt, the arbiter, came out and announced that Fischer had forfeited the game.


I had come all this way, and Bobby Fischer had never backed down on any problem before, and I was sure that the organizers would not back down either. Bobby had just gone way too far, and now the match was absolutely over.

I started to think about going to England, since I already came this far, and I didn’t just want to go home right away. In the meantime, I got to know some of the other chess fans. After all, we were all in the same boat.

Still, there was no reason not to go to the hall for Sunday’s game 3. I had a ticket, after all.

So I went there fully expecting to see another forfeit, and was truly amazed when Fischer appeared on the closed circuit TV and started playing.

I could not believe it.

Soon, I started taking notes on the times taken for the moves, as I had seen in the book on the 1963 World Chess Championship Match by R. G. Wade, ARCO Publishing, 1964. It was for my own use; I assumed that some day the real times would be published, as in the Wade book.

But, as far as I know, in the 36 years since the big match, the move times have been unavailable to the public.

Until now.


Hope it helps :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: A picture of just part of the Fischer - Spassky display in Reykjavik

Premium Chessgames Member
  fredthebear: This chess website did nothing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this championship in 2022 even though we the people requested such.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Fischer won more games with Black (Games 3, 5, 13 and 21) than he did with White (Games 6, 8 and 10).
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