Spassky Versus Fischer: Chess Match of the century by Svetozar GligoricThroughout its centuries long history, chess has been the game of a tiny minority of mankind. Now, strange things have happened within a few weeks. This incredible match and the even more incredible Fischer have made the whole world read about chess.
The Chess Match of the Century took place in summer of 1972 but my fascination with Robert James Fischer (Bobby Fisher, in short) had begun much earlier. On September 10, 1962, Fischer participated in the Poland vs. USA chess match in Warsaw, and I, an eleven-year-old schoolboy, member of my school chess club, watched the handsome, devilishly smart, well-dressed young American man - so unlike the drab, grim, gray Soviet-style role models - play chess in Dom Chlopa (A Farmers House) and winning his game against the Polish champion, Bogdan Sliwa. Since that moment, 54 years ago, I have been interested in world chess, although I stopped playing when still in grade school, having realized I did not have any talent. But I followed almost the entire trajectory of Fischers career, which to me began with the Candidates Tournament at Curacao in 1962, peaked during the unforgettable summer of 1972, and then gradually declined into reclusion and quasi-insanity that ended in 2008 when the quite possibly best chess player ever died in exile in Iceland.
In his short book Fischer v Spassky (1972) the famous chess grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric gives the background of this most important chess match of the 20th century as well as an account of the insanely complicated process of preparations and the equally unusual dynamics of the match itself. The colossal importance of the match was that it broke the Soviet domination of chess. Players from the Soviet empire had been continuously holding the world championship title between 1948 and 1972, and since the very beginning of his career Bobby Fischer had felt that his life mission was to wrangle the chess crown from the Russians, as he incorrectly called the Soviet players. Mr. Gligoric provides astute psychological portraits of the opponents: he contrasts Boris Spassky, the reigning world champion, an urbane, highly-cultured man of many interests with the singularly driven Fischer, for whom life was chess, chess was life, and nothing else mattered.
After the protracted negotiations about the venue of the match between the Americans and the Soviets had ended with the Reykjavik, Iceland, compromise Fischer continued the fight to ensure a bigger cut of the match money for himself. There was a moment - the preparations for the match were already complete - when it became almost certain that the match will be cancelled. Luckily, a rich British chess sponsor, James Slater, saved the event by adding a substantial amount of his own money to the prize fund.
The extraordinary process of pre-match negotiations was totally surpassed in its bizarreness by the dynamic of the match itself. In the very first game, Fischer committed perhaps the greatest blunder of his career and lost. He lost the second game by forfeit because he did not show up at the chessboard complaining about the presence of TV cameras, noises from the audience, etc. Normally, a 2:0 lead after two games should be enough for Spassky to retain his crown. However, Fischer was able to prove that he indeed must be considered one of the very best players of all time, when in the remaining 19 games he destroyed Spassky 12.5:6.5. Yet, while demonstrating his absolute chess brilliance, Fischer continued to complain about the conditions of the match and made new and new demands. This led to such bizarre events as testing the players chairs to make sure they are not used to carry poison and dismantling the 105 glass plates of the huge lighting canopy over the stage, which produced only two dead flies. Perhaps the most hilarious moment came when the Icelandic Chess Federation issued a declaration that it was not its intention to sue Mr. Robert Fischer.
Of course, grandmaster Gligoric, one of the worlds strongest chess players in the 1950s and 1960s, explains every single of the 21 games played between Fischer and Spassky with his own detailed annotations, but that part of the text will appeal only to chess experts.
Overall, while the book is a worthy read, it could be much better. I understand that the speed of coming out with the book was the primary consideration for the publisher: the match ended in August and the book was printed in September, which undoubtedly is why the coverage feels a bit sketchy and the book reads as the series of reports for a daily paper rather than a consistent whole. In fact, I am still waiting for a definitive biography of Robert James Fischer.
From the archive, 2 September 1972: Bobby Fischer wins World Chess Championship
A prodigy in the 50s, a world class player in the 60s, the 70s saw Fischer at his pinnacle. Now the stage was set, and the only thing standing between Fischer and Spassky was Fischer himself. Fischer vs Spassky, 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 , and the expectations on Spassky were enormous. 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. Fischer still needed more convincing by Bill Lombardy Fischer's last-minute choice as second , and one famously persuasive telephone call from Henry Kissinger.
Fischer became the first American born in the United States to win the world title, and the second American overall Wilhelm Steinitz , the first world champion, became a naturalized American citizen in Fischer's win also ended, for a short time, 24 years of Soviet domination of the World Championship. The first game was played on July 11,
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A calm place to learn chess
In our exploration of the endgames from the world title matches, we have now reached the most famous of all matches -- the so-called "Match of the Century. Besides the unusual and brilliant character of Bobby Fischer , this match is so well remembered -- not just by the chess world, but by the larger public -- because of the political implications of a chess battle between the Soviet Union and the West.
Fischer is a synonym for chess. It is a hard to make such a distinction, but a lot of people consider him to be the greatest chess player of all time. Bobby Fischer was quite an extraordinary character. To his opponents, he was an enigma; to the world, he was an eccentric genius and, in his later years, his flouting of U. Following that, he mysteriously disappeared from the public eye for two decades.
It would be an exaggeration to suggest that Iceland went wild when Bobby Fischer finally won the world chess championship here today. True, he got a standing ovation in the face of which he positively bolted and there was pandemonium outside as his car tried to force its way through a struggling mass of police, children and cameramen. It was the nearest to a chess riot one could ever hope for. But the strongest feeling in Reykjavik, a feeling so strong it almost vaporised, was sympathy with Boris Spassky, the gentle Russian who has lost his title and, who knows, all the trappings of his privileged position in Soviet society. We knew something was afoot when neither player turned up on time.
The most exciting world championships of all-time countdown ends with a nearly consensus pick: Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky in in Iceland. The match tallied an amazing 72 points with eight judges, a maximum score would have been 80 , which was 35 higher than second place. Fischer vs. Spassky was the only match that every single judge voted for. Six of the eight panelists from the Chess. Recall that their votes for first place were Kasparov vs.