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Spassky - Hort Candidates Quarterfinal Match

Boris Spassky8.5/16(+2 -1 =13)[games]
Vlastimil Hort7.5/16(+1 -2 =13)[games] Chess Event Description
Spassky - Hort Candidates Quarterfinal (1977)

Hort had qualified for this match from the Manila Interzonal (1976). Spassky had qualified from the Karpov - Spassky Candidates Semifinal (1974), since by this he became the reserve for ex-World Champion Robert James Fischer, who was directly seeded but had declined to play. The other quarterfinals were: Korchnoi - Petrosian Candidates Quarterfinal (1977), Portisch - Larsen Candidates Quarterfinal (1977), and Polugaevsky - Mecking Candidates Quarterfinal (1977). Each match was of 12 games, and the first to 6.5 points would be the winner. If after 12 games there was no winner, two more games would be played. If still no winner, then two more games, etc., repeated procedure until there was a winner. (1, 2) The matches were held in order to select (after semifinals and a final) a challenger for Anatoly Karpov, the World Champion.

Spassky had played in the Manila Interzonal (1976) and was placed only 10th there, but the former (1969-1972) world champion was, according to FIDE rules, qualified from the previous cycle. (3) And now he was in Iceland again. The venue was the Kristalsal (= Crystal Hall) in Hótel Loftleiðir (4, 5) (Reykjavík). Not the same venue as in the Spassky - Fischer World Championship Match (1972) but the hotel that Fischer then stayed in. Spassky and his wife Marina arrived from Luxembourg on Sunday afternoon 20 February. His second Vasily Smyslov and wife arrived only five minutes later, by plane from Copenhagen. (6) Spassky's warm-up had been training matches in Solingen in early 1977 against Robert Huebner (+2 =3 -1) and Lubomir Kavalek (+3 =2 -1). Hort had come alone to Reykjavík on 18 February. (7) His second Ladislav Alster arrived a week later. Hort had won in Banja Luka (1976) in December.

The players held a press conference on 21 February and went on an excursion together to Vestmannaeyjar two days later. (8, 9) At the opening ceremony on 26 February the players and companions were welcomed by Einar Einarsson, the president of the Icelandic Chess Federation. (10) For the drawing of colors, Hort was provided with a pawn in each pocket. "I trust that you do not have a black pawn in both pockets", said Spassky, who drew White. (11) The venue featured wall boards to help the fans follow the other candidates matches. (10) Chief arbiter: Gudmundur Arnlaugsson, with Gunnar Gunnarsson as assistant. (12) Match committee: Ingi Randver Johannsson (head), Fridrik Olafsson, Margeir Petursson, Helgi Olafsson, Gudmundur Sigurjonsson, Ingvar Asmundsson, and Jón Thorsteinsson. (13) Prize money: 32,000 Swiss francs (or 2,5 million Icelandic króna), with 5/8 or 20,000 francs to the winner, and 12,000 francs to the loser. (13) On Sunday at 2 pm, Spassky sat down, Arnlaugsson started the clock, and Hort arrived with a smile and a coffee in hand. (14)

Photo of the players:

The first two games were drawn. In Game 3 (playing time: 5-10 pm), Hort was better but blundered in time pressure on move 39 and lost on time (move 40). Games 4-9 were drawn, and on the day of Game 7, Alster held two simultaneous exhibitions in Husavík and Hrísey (+43 =4 -1). (15) After Game 9, both players attended a reception held by the mayor of Reykjavík. (16) Game 10 was won by Hort: 5-5. Spassky had hoped to draw the remaining three games so that he could play in Geneva (1977), but that did not happen. (17) Hort commented: "The man must be mad not to play in the checkered sweater". (18) Spassky was now usually wearing an Icelandic sweater. Game 11 was drawn. Spassky and Smyslov with wives attended on 23 March a 15 minute long movie from the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972. Spassky commented: "The movie did not open up any wounds". (19) On that same day, Hort submitted a medical certificate that he was not entirely well. Game 12 was postponed three days, starting at 5 pm instead of 2 pm. (20) It was also drawn: 6-6.

Soon after Game 12 (or during the night) Spassky had stomach pain and was seen by a doctor. (21) He was sent to hospital and had his appendix removed. No decision was taken on whether the match would be forfeited or continued later. (22, 23) Hort was shocked by the news and said he had no interest in winning the match this way. (24) It became clear from FIDE rules and contact with Max Euwe that if Spassky would not show up in time, Hort would be declared as the winner. (25) Spassky requested a triple postponement (while still in hospital) as authorized under the rules, so the match (the playoff games) could begin again on Thursday 7 April. (26) This was accepted and Spassky now also requested postponement from 7 to 9 April. (27) This was rejected, but now Hort got a timely "cold and fever", and requested postponement till 9 April. "Was this to help Spassky?" That was the opinion, but Hort had submitted a valid certificate. (28) According to Chessdom this was "one of the most sportsmanlike acts in chess history". (29) Before he became unwell (and to kill time), Hort played a clock simul on 3 April. He lost two games to Saevar Bjarnason and Harvey Georgsson, drew Gudlaug Thorsteinsdottir and defeated Gudmundur Agustsson, Kristjan Gudmundsson, Bjorgvin Viglundsson, Bragi Halldorsson, Jonas Petur Erlingsson, Stefan Briem and Hilmar Viggósson.30

Spassky was released from the hospital and could go "home" (Hótel Loftleiðir) on 4 April. (30) The hotel's Kristalsal was booked for 9 April, but Einarsson found an alternative in Hamrahlið College, which had more space for the spectators. Moreover, one could present wall diagrams in two places, one for non-smokers and one for smokers! (31) After Games 13 and 14 were drawn, the equipment was taken down and transferred back to the hotel. Game 15 was set for 13 April but Hort got sick again ("the flu" this time), and it was postponed till 15 April. (32) However, Hort was still sick, and Spassky was also weak. (33) Somehow (despite Hort had used his three postponements) it was agreed to have it played on 17 April. (34) Hort had black. He reached a crushing position where he could have forced Spassky's immediate resignation, but with about half a minute on his clock for the last six moves before the time control, he sat "entranced at the thought that the match was his". He forgot about the clock and lost on time. After this disaster he was shattered, and even though he had the advantage in Game 16, he was not able to pull back. (35)

Reykjavík, Iceland, 27 February - 19 April 1977*

Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 Spassky 2610 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 8½ 2 Hort 2620 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 7½

Spassky advanced to the Spassky - Portisch Candidates Semifinal (1977). To console himself after the match, Hort gave a simultaneous exhibition on 21 April: +40 =6 -5. (36) In Seltjarnarnes (at Reykjavík) two days later (23-24 April), he broke the world simultaneous record by playing 550 opponents in 24 hours and 20 minutes: +477 =63 -10. (35, 37)


1) Harry Golombek in The Times, 19 February 1977, p. 9.
2) Tidskrift för Schack, vol. 83/2, p. 46.
4) (in 1966).
5) (after renovation and change of name to Icelandair Hotel Reykjavík Natura in 2012).
6) Dagblaðið, 21 February 1977, p. 28.
7) Vísir, 19 February 1977, p. 1.
8) Morgunblaðið, 24 February 1977, p. 23.
9) Wikipedia article: Vestmannaeyjar.
10) Vísir, 28 February 1977, p. 28.
11) Dagblaðið, 28 February 1977, p. 1.
12) Morgunblaðið, 27 February 1977, p. 48.
13) Dagblaðið, 9 Feb. 1977, p. 9. During the match, however, Fridrik left for Bad Lauterberg (1977), Helgi for Lone Pine (1977) and Sigurjonsson for Geneva (1977).
14) Johann Oern Sigurjonsson in Vísir, 28 February 1977, p. 2.
15) Dagblaðið, 14 March 1977, p. 6.
16) Morgunblaðið, 19 March 1977, p. 40.
17) Tíminn, 22 March 1977, p. 1.
18) Morgunblaðið, 22 March 1977, p. 19.
19) Dagblaðið, 24 March 1977, p. 24.
20) Vísir, 24 March 1977, p. 24.
21) Dagblaðið, 28 March 1977, p. 28.
22) The Times, 29 March 1977, p. 7.
23) Tíminn, 29 March 1977, p. 1.
24) Morgunblaðið, 29 March 1977, p. 48.
25) Tíminn, 30 March 1977, p. 23.
26) Alþýðublaðið, 30 March 1977, p. 1.
27) Morgunbladid, 1 April 1977, p. 32.
28) Alþýðublaðið, 6 April 1977, p. 1.
30) Alþýðublaðið, 5 April 1977, p. 1.
31) Alþýðublaðið, 6 April 1977, p. 1.
32) Tíminn, 14 April 1977, p. 3.
33) Vísir, 15 April 1977, p. 24.
34) The Times, 16 April 1977, p. 4.
35) David Neil Lawrence Levy in The Spectator, 7 May 1977, p. 33.
36) Morgunblaðið, 23 April 1977, p. 31.
37) Tíminn, 26 April 1977, p. 4.

*Games 13 and 14 (9-12 April) were played in Hamrahlið College, Reykjavík. The match was covered in detail in the Icelandic newspapers, which are available at There is a report in British Chess Magazine, May 1977, pp. 205-206.

Original collections: Game Collection: WCC Index (Spassky-Hort 1977) by User: nescio and Game Collection: Spassky - Hort Candidates Quarterfinal 1977 by User: Tabanus.

 page 1 of 1; 16 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Spassky vs Hort ½-½211977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalC50 Giuoco Piano
2. Hort vs Spassky ½-½421977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalE59 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line
3. Spassky vs Hort 1-0401977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalA25 English
4. Hort vs Spassky ½-½261977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalA25 English
5. Spassky vs Hort ½-½241977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalC42 Petrov Defense
6. Hort vs Spassky ½-½441977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalD55 Queen's Gambit Declined
7. Spassky vs Hort ½-½281977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalB08 Pirc, Classical
8. Hort vs Spassky ½-½251977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalC64 Ruy Lopez, Classical
9. Spassky vs Hort ½-½361977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalB08 Pirc, Classical
10. Hort vs Spassky 1-0341977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalC69 Ruy Lopez, Exchange, Gligoric Variation
11. Spassky vs Hort ½-½141977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalA19 English, Mikenas-Carls, Sicilian Variation
12. Hort vs Spassky ½-½401977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalC85 Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation Doubly Deferred (DERLD)
13. Hort vs Spassky ½-½401977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalA37 English, Symmetrical
14. Spassky vs Hort  ½-½571977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalC43 Petrov, Modern Attack
15. Spassky vs Hort 1-0351977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalE14 Queen's Indian
16. Hort vs Spassky ½-½621977Spassky - Hort Candidates QuarterfinalC69 Ruy Lopez, Exchange, Gligoric Variation
 page 1 of 1; 16 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: A long old match, lasting from the 27th February 1977 to the 19th April 1977. That's about 52 days. But during the match Spassky had a terrific bout of Weeping Encephalopagic Haemmorrhoids and poor Hort had a massive attack of Shivering Glottal Tourettiplastic Zombopathia (see introduction). Sounds serious!
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: "On 23 March, Spassky and Smyslov with wives attended a 15 minute long movie from the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972."

Does this movie still exist?

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Yes, in a Reykjakiv bank vault. Allegedly.
Jun-25-19  Howard: The match lasted...52 days ?! That's truly hard to believe, even with Spassky's appendix having to be removed.

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