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Milan Matulovic vs Robert James Fischer
Vinkovci (1968), Vinkovci YUG, rd 3, Sep-09
Sicilian Defense: Najdorf. Zagreb (Fianchetto) Variation (B91)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <screwdriver> It all depends what you mean by "dominate". Fischer "dominated" chess for a relatively small period of time, starting somewhere in the middle 60's and ending after his match with Spassky in 1972. Even that is being generous since IMO it's actual results that count. I would have considered 1967 the start of his period of dominance due to his performance in the Sousse Interzonal but then he withdrew after leading comfortably. And I don't think that anyone can argue that he stopped "dominating" after 1972 given that he effectively retired from international competition and forfeited his World Championship. So Fischer was like a supernova that shone brightly for a few years, then fizzled out.

Compare Fischer's actual performance over time with that of Lasker, Karpov, and Kasparov. All won first place in major tournaments over a much longer period of time than Fischer, and all were world champions over a much longer period also. You could also throw in Capablanca and Alekhine into the list if one looks at both their tournament performances while at their peak and the duration of their world championship reign. So in my opinion that puts Fischer no higher than 6th in the list of most "dominant" players of all time.

Could Fischer have been the most dominant player of all time? Possibly. His chess genius, commitment to the game, and work ethic were probably second to none. And he was only 29 in 1972! What he could have accomplished had he played for another 20 years! But his personal demons prevented him from establishing his dominance for a long period of time. And this would like trying to determine how dominant Capablanca could have been if his work ethic matched his talent, if Alekhine didn't become an alcoholic, or if Tal didn't have kidney ailments. We will never know.

If you want to take a look at others' opinions on this subject, and how they arrived at their opinions, see,, and

Mar-27-12  RookFile: It became clear Matulovic was in trouble in this game when he found it necessary to play 15. Bg2. He put the bishop on h3 with the transparent aim of swapping it for something and dominating d5. Then, he has to retreat it? That can't be good.
Mar-27-12  RookFile: Apparently, what Matulovc was supposed to do was just 10. Nd5 rather than a4 first.
Mar-27-12  King Death: <AylerKupp> Unfortunately the comparisons with Fischer get tricky because, like you say ultimately he didn't play for periods in his career. There's way too much "We will never know" about him and it's a shame.
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <King Death> Yes, comparisons between players of different eras is always tricky at best because of the different circumstances in which they played, and not just Fischer. How do we factor in Morphy, whose career was even shorter than Fischer's and his "dominance" over his peers even greater? And how much of a factor have the availability of strong chess engines and chess databases had in Carlsen's performance when Fischer had no access to either? And the issue of comparing players of different eras is not restricted to chess; how do we compare in basketball the "dominant" performance of Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s with Shaquille O'Neal in the 1990s?

Of the 3 links I provided above the article by Jeff Sonas,, most closely addresses the issue of "dominance" (the other 2 links address the issue of "greatest", "best", or "highest ranked" which are not the same thing). Below are the results of Sonas' 10 categories for "dominance" and how Fischer fits within them. Of course, any criteria that takes longevity into account will penalize Fischer.

(1) Longest time as world champion: Lasker (26.9) years. Second (maybe) was Steinitz depending on when you "formally" consider him the world champion; 8.2, 21.7, or 27.8 years. Fischer was 11th with 2.6 years.

(2) Largest rating gap between #1 and #2 player: Steinitz, 199 rating points ahead of Bird in 1876. Second was Fischer, 146 rating points ahead of Boris Spassky in 1971.

(3) Most years with #1 ranking: Lasker, 24.3 cumulative (active) years between 1890 and 1926. Second was Kasparov, 21.9 cumulative years between Sep-1982 and Oct-2004. Fischer was 6th, 9.1 cumulative years.

(4) Highest rating ever: Fischer, 2895, Oct-1971. Second was Kasparov, 2886, Mar-1993.

(5) Highest single-match performance rating: Fischer, 2887, vs. Larsen in 1971. Second was Lasker, 2882, vs. Steinitz, 1896.

(6) Highest single-tournament performance rating: Karpov, 2899, Linares 1994. Second was Kasparov, 2881, Tilburg, 1989. Fischer best single-tournament performance rating was not in the top 10.

(7) Most tournament performance ratings of 2820+ (50 tournaments): Kasparov, 17 tournaments. Second was Lasker, 6 tournaments (what a gap between 1st and 2nd!). Fischer was tied 5th - 8th with Alekhine, Keres, and Capablanca with 2 tournaments each.

(8) Longest straight time (years) as #1 ranked player: Kasparov, 19.8 straight years, Feb-1985 to Oct-2004. Second was Lasker, 12.6 straight years, Jun-1890 to Dec-1902. Fischer was 4th, 7.9 straight years.

(9) Most top performing years (years with the best performance rating): Kasparov, 16 years. Second was Lasker, 12 years. Fischer was 11th with 4 years.

(10) Most top 2 performing years (years with either the best or 2nd best performance rating): Karpov, 23 years. Second was Kasparov, 21 years. Fischer was tied 12th 16th with 6 years along with Keres, Tal, Petrosian, and Zukertort (!)

So who was the most dominant chess player of all time according to Sonas? Well, you'll have to read the articles for his opinions and his reasons and see if you agree with them. :-)

Mar-27-12  SimonWebbsTiger: @<AylerKupp>

I always break ad-lib the Robin Williams "Mr. Keating" quote from <Dead Poets Society> , the bit about J. Evans Prittchard, Phd and how to measure poetry, when people start quoting stats in their quest to prove their hero Grandmaster X was the greatest ever. To wit:

"Be gone J. Evans. NO! I don't want a group of chess players going about measuring chess as if it were American Bandstand. 'I'll give Fischer a 26 but I can't dance to him.'" ;-)

They were all greats, including the GMs who never won the title e.g. Geller who did so much with Gligoric, Bronstein and Boleslavsky to make the King's Indian the weapon it is.

Mar-27-12  Shams: <SimonWebbsTiger> "Tear it out, boys! Tear out the entire introduction! I want it gone!"
Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <SimonWebbsTiger> And the best thing that I can say to those kinds of "objective" arguments is: Who cares? They were all capable of creating games of beauty, and giving us untold pleasure.

Tarrasch probably said it best: "Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy." The rest is not important.

Premium Chessgames Member
  andrewjsacks: Talk about a late resignation...
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <andrew> Believe the final comment by Robert Wade on this virtuoso performance by Fischer was: 'Matulovic availed himself of the privilege of sealing a move and adjourning before resigning'.

J'adoubovic very often thus availed himself in lost positions, so as to postpone that dreadful nought against his name in the following day's sports pages.

Karpov had what I once saw termed a 'near-manic hatred of resigning' and was also known to practise this method of delaying his date with the hangman.

Jan-17-13  RookFile: Games like this show the mystery that is Fischer. He wins this: if you and I play this way with black, we lose. Matulovic had a clear positional plan involving domination of d5 and basically implemented it. He made one or two mistakes in the details, and that's all Fischer needs to win.
Jul-18-13  Zugzwangovich: Andrew Soltis writes of this game, "On 30 Bd3 Black should insert 30...h4! 31 gxh4 before 31...Qxf3 32 Qxf3 Rxf3 because then the e-pawn is doomed." If someone could explain this note to me I'd appreciate it since I'm clueless as to its meaning.
Jan-26-15  G Kasparov: A similar game

Matulovic vs S Tatai, 1967

Jan-26-15  G Kasparov: 13...Ke7!!!!
I would have to give that a puadruple exclamation marks!!
Jan-26-15  515: One of my favorite Fischer games. So seemingly effortless.

Karpov's 11...Ke7 against Kamsky, Dortmund, 1993 has the same feel as Fischer's 13...Ke7 in this game. In both cases the move is counterintuitive and in both cases Black threatens to win on the spot.

Apr-24-15  Artemio: but can any other World Champions has a record of the shut out that Fischer did in the highest level of chess?
Apr-24-15  Artemio: Can anyone beat the record of the performance Fischer did with Larsen in 1971 candidates?
Apr-24-15  Zonszein: Not a big deal. Mr Larsen was psichologically afected. He was not really -6 Fischer!!
May-04-15  Howard: One occasion that comes fairly close was Ivanchuk's wipeout of Yudasin in their 1991 Candidates match.

Ivanchuk won the first four games, and then drew the fifth one.

May-04-15  Petrosianic: Not in the candidates, but two other match shutouts are Steinitz-Blackburne and Capablanca-Kostic. Shutouts are rare because, as in football, it's considered vaguely in bad taste to "run up the score". Also, when a match is effectively over, the sure winner tends to coast the rest of the way and save his strength and TN's for the next encounter. Spassky also started 3-0 against Larsen, and then rested up for the Candidates Final.

One interesting match is the first Korchnoi-Polugaevsky match. Korchnoi started off +5-0=2. Not a shut out, but he was kicking butt and not worrying about running up the score. Then he lost one game and that was it. With his undefeated status gone, he was then content to draw all the rest.

May-07-15  SpiritedReposte: <Artemio> Don't forget he blanked Taimanov as well 6-0.

American chess players got their work cut out for them if they want to eclipse Bobby's achievements.

May-11-15  Zonszein: It was not very "polite" (LOL) from Fischer to "wipe out" Larsen and specially Taimanov, who suffered a lot when he went back home. About Korchnoi-Polugaevsky 1977, I believe that the latter improved in the second half of the match and Korchnoi simply could not beat him anymore
Sep-19-15  Howard: On the contrary, Korchnoi just coasted during the second half of his match against Polugaevsky. After quickly racking up a five-point lead after just seven games, he just settled for draws (and one loss) the rest of the way.
Jan-18-17  WorstPlayerEver: Still I think 28...d5 (or 29...d5) is better.
Jan-18-17  WorstPlayerEver: 27...h4 is also killing.
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