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Other books by Reuben Fine
























The Psychology and Tactics

of the Title Match


International Chess Champion


Tab/,e of Content s

Preface v



CHAPTER 1. History of the World Championship 3

CHAPTER 2. The Preliminary Skirmishes 16
CHA PTER 3. Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 22
CHAPTER 4. Boris Spassky-The Ex-Champion 57
CHAPTER 5. The Psychology of Chess 74


CHAPTER 6. Review of the Match 95


GAME 1. Bobby's First (and Last?) Blunder 109

GAME 2. The Nongame 119
GAME 3. A Bomb Exp"lodes, This Time as an
Extraordinary Move 121
GAME 4. Spassky Misses a Win 129
GAME 5. Spassky's Blunders 138
GAME 6. Is Boris Godunov? 145
GAME 7. A Battle Royal 153
GAME 8. Another Spa.ssky Blunder 162
GAME 9. The Pause That Didn't Refresh 167
GAME 10. Pravda Praises Bobby's Ingenuity 172
GAME 11. Bobby Becomes a Mortal Again 183
GAME 12. Bobby Plays It Cautious 190
GAME 13. At the Halfway Mark 198
GAME 14. On Playing for a Draw 217
GAME 15. Prepared Variations 224
viii Table of Contents

GAME 16. AU Quiet on the Fischer Front 235

GAME 17. Who's Crazy Now? 245
GAME 18. Two Dead Flies, a Piece of Wood
and a See-Saw Draw 256
GAME 19. The Shape of Things to Come 269
GAME 20. The Seventh Draw 278
GAME 21. Grand Finale 286
Part !



Histor y of the World Cha mpion ship

.A LT Ho u G H the game of chess has been traced back as far as

the sixth century A.D., the idea of an official chess champion of
the world is scarcely more than a century old. In 1843 the English
man Howard Staunton ( 1810-1874) defeated the Frenchman St.
Amant, as a result of which he was considered the strongest
player around. But there was so little serious competition among
the top players that no one could really prove anything. In
addition to his over-the-board strength Staunton, with his Hand
book of Chess, remained the leading authority on the game for
almost fifty years.
The first large-scale international tournament ever held was
at London 1851, in connection with the international exhibition
at the Crystal Palace. It was won by Adolf Anderssen ( 1818-
1879 ), a German mathematics teacher, ahead of Staunton and
virtually all the known champions of that day. On the basis of
this victory Anderssen was then considered by many to be the
Anderssen was badly beaten by the young American genius
Paul Morphy ( 1837-1884 ) in 1858, who was also most eager to
play Staunton. However, the Englishman sidestepped him, the
first of several such incidents in the history of the world title.
Unfortunately Morphy withdrew from chess after little more
than a year, never again playing seriously. In his later years he

4 The Players and the Setting

became mentally ill. He has been called "the pride and the sor
row of chess."
With Wilhelm Steinitz ( 1836-1900 ) the real era of modem
chess begins. Morphy could still give some of his strongest oppo
nents Pawn and move, something that has been utterly impossi
ble since. Steinitz initiated the modem epoch of international
tournaments and set matches with clocks, which were introduced
in 1870. As a consequence the number of international masters
increased enormously, several important tournaments were held
every year, a considerable chess literature developed, and chess
truly became an international sport.
In 1866 Steinitz defeated Anderssen in a set match, which
gave him the right to call himself world champion; he was actu
ally the first to use the title. If this date is taken as the true
beginning of the world championship series, the champions have
been: Steinitz,1866-1894; Lasker, 1894-1921; Capablanca, 1921-
1927; Alekhine,
1927-1935 and 1937-1946; Euwe, 1935-1937;
interregnum period 1946-1948, with Fine and Keres official can
didates or cochampions; Botvinnik, 1948-1957; Smyslov, 1957-
1958; Botvinnik, 1958-1960; Tai, 1960-1961; Botvinnik, 1961-
1963; Petrosian, 1963-1969; Spassky, 1969-1972; and now Fischer,
Much confusion has been generated about the history of the
world championship, especially in the period 1938-1948, when
world tensions prevented normal competition. Inasmuch as Keres
and I tied for first prize in the AVRO tournament of 1938, which
was officially designated as the tournament for the selection of
the challenger, when Alekhine died in 1946, logically a match
should have been arranged between Fine and Keres to decide
the title. This was never done for a variety of reasons, mainly
political. The tournament arranged in 1947 was called off by the
Russians as part of a kind of blackmail scheme to force the play
ers to compete .in Russia. My own refusal to play in 1948 was
motivated in part by the unce1tainty about whether the Russians
History of the World Championship 5

would come to the playing hall at all, and if so, under what
In the light of this historical record, it seems to me only fair
that Keres and Fine should be listed as co-champions for the
period 1946-1948.
It can be seen that prior to Fischer the world championship
for most of its tenure was dominated by five men of superlative
genius: Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Botvinnik,
while the others, in spite of their great strength, did not seem to
quite match these champions. More details of the histories of
these men are of interest.
Steinitz was in more than one sense the founder of modern
chess. Born in what was then Bohemia, he emigrated to England
at a fairly early age, where he spent the major part of his life. A
superb fighter, he went out of his way to challenge any opponent
who seemed capable of putting up a good battle. In set matches
he defeated every one of the greats of his day, maintaining his
supremacy until his defeat by Lasker in 1894.
In addition to an active career as a player, Steinitz edited a
journal, The International Chess Magazine, which was outstand
ing for the quality of the annotations, most of which were pro
vided by Steinitz himself. His extraordinary command of the
English language, which was not his native tongue, reminds one
of the Polish-born novelist Conrad. Several books also came from
his pen, of which one, The Modern Chess Instructor, remained
a standard text for a long time, replacing Staunton's work.
Prior to Steinitz the principles of the game were poorly under
stood. Openings were misplayed, combinations overlooked, posi
tional strategy had no firm foundation. All that was changed by
him. Ever since, the solid basis of chess strategy has never really
changed, though the particular lines chosen for the openings
have shown and still show considerable variation.
Emanuel Lasker ( 1868-1941) was an entirely different kind of
man than Steinitz. After Lasker won the title he returned to the
6 The Players and the Setting

university, where he obtained his doctorate in mathematics with

a distinguished dissertation on the algebra of ideal numbers. He
looked upon himself as a philosopher, not a professional chess
master, and spent his time writing and lecturing, with occa
sional forays back into the chess world. There is no doubt that
he could have made his mark in a number of fields, but he chose
to be a free-lance intellectual in the traditional style of the
European man of letters. He regarded his book on Philosophy
for Everyman as his most significant contribution.
Even though he played comparatively little, as compared with
his predecessor Steinitz, Lasker is often ranked as the most suc
cessful tournament player of all time. Generally he won first
prize, or near first, every time he competed.
Stylistically, Lasker introduced nothing of consequence. He
was a practical player who was out to win, not to start a new
school. Even when the "hypermodem" school was introduced
after World War I, he could feel himself at home in its intricacies,
and avoid its exaggerations.
Partly because of lack of interest, and partly because of his
financial demands, Lasker evaaed many of his most dangerous
rivals in set matches for the title. No international body of conse
quence had charge of the title; the champion could do as he
pleased. Generally Lasker pleased to meet his less dangerous
opponents: Marshall, Janowski, Schlechter (to whom he sur
prisingly almost lost), avoiding the more threatening Pillsbury,
Tarrasch ( until later), and Rubinstein. Tarrasch, for many years
his chief rival, was finally so frustrated by Lasker's behavior
that he set up a tournament championship of the world, as con
trasted with a match; this however never really took hold.
Finally, after World War I, when Lasker was desperately in
need of money because of the German inflation, he accepted a
match with Capablanca for a purse of $20,000. Although he had
beaten Capa at St. Petersburg in 1914, and was again to :finish
History of the World Championship 7

first ahead of him at New York in 1924, in the title match in 1921
Lasker played very inferior chess, losing by a wide margin.
Jose Raw Capablanca, the Cuban genius ( 1888-1942 ) , or
Capa, as everyone called him affectionately, soon built up an
aura of magic about himself. After a brilliant start as a child
prodigy, in the course of which he won the Cuban championship
at the age of 12, Capa entered the Cuban diplomatic service,
which gave him the leisure and the means to play in interna
tional tournaments. For some thirty years, from 1909 to 1939, he
was among the most successful of all competitors. Further, peo
ple came to speak of him as a chess machine, the most perfect
instrument God had ever devised to play the royal game, the
man who never made a mistake, etc. Although he always did
exceptionally well, his reputation was more of a fantasy on the
part of the chess world than a reality. Evidently the chess world
has a need to project the image of a superman onto sorrie mere
While Capa did not avoid any of his competitors, he surpris
ingly lost the :first title match he played, to Alekhine, at Buenos
Aires, in 1927. It was a gruelling contest, lasting several months.
One player had to win six games first, draws not counting. (The
International Chess Federation-FIDE-now appears to be
returning to this system.) The fun-loving Cuban, who by this
time clearly preferred wine, women and song to the rigors of
the chess board, was worn down by Alekhine's unsparing deter
Alexander Alekhine ( 1892-1946), was the scion of a wealthy
Russian family. His chess genius appeared at an early age, but
he did not take it too seriously until the reyolution had swept
away all the great Russian fortunes. Like other famous Russian
artists, such as Chagall and Chaliapin, for a while he stayed on
under the Soviet regime. But as an aristocrat he was suspect,
and for several weeks he was even in a Cheka prison. Because
8 The Players and the Setting

of his knowledge of languages he was sent on a mission abroad,

from which he did not return to his native country.
The defeat of Capablanca was the result of years of prepara
tion. As he records in the prologue to the tournament book of
New York 1927, Alekhine spent much of his time studying Capa's
games, looking for his weaknesses, devising new variations which
his opponent could not meet, and looking forward to the day
when he could beat him for the title. This work helped him
become one of the great annotators of the game, and his books,
such as the New York 1924 tournament book and his collection
of his best games, are still valuable items for any chess player's
After gaining the title, Alekhine withdrew from chess for
several years to take a degree in law, which allowed him to call
himself "Dr." from then on. The brief retirement seemed to impel
him to ever greater heights in his play, as his stirring victories at
San Remo 1930, Bled 1931 and Berne 1932 showed. From 1930
to 1935 he was the leader wherever he played, and also the most
feared attacking player of his generation.
A less savory aspect of his personality emerged in his dealings
with Capablanca. For years he bent his extraordinary ingenuity
to deny his rival a return encounter. The 1927 match had been
played for a purse of $10,000. Capa was required to raise this
amount on his own, but once he had it Alekhine demanded the
purse in gold, since the intervening depression, he alleged, had
weakened the value of the dollar. If Capa arranged a match
for the summer, Alekhine asked for the winter, if Capa had it
set up for the winter, the Russian wanted the summer. So it went
for years, and a return match which the chess world had so
eagerly demanded never materialized. In 1934, when I was a
budding young star, Capa once showed me the voluminous cor
respondence of himself and his representatives with Alekhine,
detailing the numerous maneuvers the Russian had adopted to
History of the World Championship 9

stay out of his way. Alekhine even demanded an exorbitant fee

for playing in a tournament with Capa, thereby barring the
Cuban from meeting him in serious play until Nottingham 1936.
Since Capa tied for first in that tournament with Botvinnik, while
Alekhine finished in a tie for sixth, the Russian's tactics obviously
had some justification.
As time went on, and a new generation grew up, Alekhine
began to meet opponents who were not such easy marks. Losing
was always such a trial for him that he had to prove himself
superior in every encounter. I can recall that when I first met
Alekhine in New York in 1932, we played a number of quick
games, in which I gained the upper hand. Enraged by losing to
a nobody (I was then 17 years old, with little reputation outside
New York) he demanded that we play a set match of six games
at ten second5 per move, where he squeaked through to a nar
row victory.
In 1935 Alekhine was defeated by the Dutchman Max Euwe
(1901- ), currently the president of e international chess
federation, FIDE (Federation Internationale d'f:checs). Euwe,
who like Lasker has a doctorate in mathematics, was not a pro
fessional chess player, and therefore had no stake in imitating
Alekhine's evasive tactics. He turned the organizational set-up
for the title over to the FIDE, first allowing Alekhine the privi
lege of a return match. Despite extensive tournament successes,
Euwe did not have a record on a par with that of previou
champions. When the return match with Alekhine was played in
1937, he lost.
Again the chess world was faced by what to do with Alekhine.
At a FIDE meeting in Stockholm in 1937 it was decided to run
a tournament with the eight leading grandmasters of that day
(Alekhine, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Euwe, Fine, Flohr, Keres and
Reshevsky) to select an official challenger. This tournament was
arranged by a large Dutch radio network (AVRO) the following
10 The Players and the Setting

year, 1938, in Holland. Keres and Fine tied for first place. Shortly
thereafter World War II put an end to international chess for the
During the war Alekhine remained in Nazi-occupied Europe;
legally he was a citizen of Vichy France. Unlike the other masters
who remained in Nazi-occupied territory Alekhine was glad to
play in chess tournaments. Further, he wrote a series of notorious
anti-Semitic articles proving that only "Aryan" chess had a
future, and arguing that his major opponents were "degenerate
Jews and communists." Towards the end of the war he was
hospitalized briefly, whether for alcoholism or mental illness is
not c lear.
When World War II ended, in 1945, all the leading masters of
that day, incensed by his behavior, objected to his participation
in international tournaments. The Soviets broke the boycott by
having Botvinnik challenge Alekhine to a match for the title in
1946. Actually this was illegal, since Keres and I had prior
c laims. But Keres, born in Estonia, was a Soviet citizen, while I
was no longer so interested. Shortly before the match was to take
place Alekhine died, leaving the title vacant for the first time in
eighty years.
No provisions had been made for such a contingency. At the
U.S.-Soviet team match in 1946 in Moscow I took the initiative
to propose that a six-man tournament be arranged for the cham
pionship, with the remaining AVRO competitors. The tourna
ment was to be held in Holland in 1947.
Before the tournament a Dutch newspaper charged that the
Soviet players would throw games to one another to make sure
that a Soviet master would become champion. 0 The Soviet gov
ernment demanded that the Dutch government censor its news-

Fifteen years later, in 1962, Fischer was to make a similar charge, and
voluntarily exile himself from FIDE tournaments for a number of years
because of it.
History of the World Championship 11

papers, or they would withdraw. Faced by such an obviously

impossible demand, the tournament was cancelled.
Finally the tournament was arranged in 1948, half in Holland
and half in the Soviet Union, with Smyslov taking the place of
Flohr. First prize was $5000, with the other prizes in proportion.
By this time I was absorbed in another profession, psychology,
and no longer cared to participate. The tournament was there
fore held with five players, three of them Russian.
The result was an overwhelming victory for Mikhail Botvinnik
(1911- ) . By now the FIDE was again officially in charge of
the whole procedure for the world championship. A regular
system was introduced, with national, interzonal and challengers'
tournaments, the final winner to play the champion for the title.
Before World War II the U.S. had had a world championship
team. In four successive world team tournaments, Prague 1931,
Folkestone 1933, Warsaw 1935 and Stockholm 1987, the U.S.
had taken first prize each time. It is true that the Soviets did
not participate in these .;tournaments, because at that time they
did not recognize the existence of "nations." But it would scarcely
have made much difference, since Botvinnik was the only out
standing Soviet grandmaster before World War II.
It was therefore all the more amazing when the Soviet team,
in a cable match with the Americans right after the war ended,
scored an overwhelming victory, 151h to 41h. The next year in a
personal encounter in Moscow, they won again, by 12112 to 7112.
It seemed clear that the Soviets had the best team in the world.
In subsequent team tournaments, the Soviets won first prize
every time they played.
So it was not too surprising when the leading contenders for
the world title after the 1948 tournament consistently turned out
to be Soviet grandmasters. For a while the only non-Russian who
was in the running was Reshevsky, the American who had been
a Wunderkind in Poland before emigrating to America hi the
12 The Players and the Setting

Although he lost several matches, only to regain the title in

the return match, Botvinnik kept the crown for 15 years, until
1963. His opponents in this period were David Bronstein, Vassily
Smyslov and Mikhail Tai. Finally Tigran Petrosian ( 1929- ),
an Armenian, defeated him in 1963 by a score of 121h to 91h. The
rules were changed; Botvinnik was denied a return match, and
he withdrew from active participation in the game. He is an
electrical engineer by profession, a doctor of technical sciences
(roughly equivalent to our Ph.D. ). Recently he has developed
an algorithm for computer chess.
Petrosian was faced by Boris Spassky in 1966. He won by the
odd point ( 121h to 11 lh ) . But finally he was dethroned by
Spassky in 1969 ( 121h to 101h).
The preliminary contests for the world title in 1970-72 were
noteworthy particularly because of the presence of numbers of
non-Russian grandmasters, most of them younger than their
Soviet counterparts, and seemingly more promising. Would the
Soviet hegemony in chess finally be challenged, or perhaps
broken? Above all there was the American Bobby Fischer, who
at 14 had performed the unprecedented feat of winning the
American championship. But there were others: the Dane Lar
sen, the Hungarian Portisch, most recently the Swede Anders
Fischer, obviously the most gifted of all the contenders, was
also the most erratic. On a number of occasions he became so
enraged about playing conditions that he simply left, without
even bothering to collect his prize money. As recently as 1967,
in Sousse, Tunisia, when he was far ahead of the field in the
Challengers' tournament, he left because the committee had
refused to rearrange the hours to conform to his religious observ
But not long before the end of the Challengers' tournament, in
Majorca in 1970, it became clear that it was Fischer who was to
History of the World Championship 13

dominate the scene. First, he won every one of his last six games,
apparently determined to crush every opponent regardless of
the score.
Then came the match with Taimanov, in Vancouver. It was
only after much bargaining that Vancouver was accepted as a
playing site by both sides. Thereupon began that extraordinary
combination of chess genius and erratic unpredictable personal
behavior that has always been his hallmark and has propelled
him into a world celebrity.
At Vancouver Fischer was suspicious of the envelope that
determined the choice of pieces in the first game; he demanded
to see th other envelope. Then he began to vary his conditions
for playing, from demanding indirect strong lighting to clearing
the first nine rows of the audience. While they were arguing
about the hall, it seemed as though the match would never start.
Finally Bobby, who privately admitted his debt to American
chess, said "Let's get going."
The result was totally unexpected. Bobby won every game.
Six to nothing. Such a one-sided result had never occurred
before in the history of the game between two such strong play
ers. What had happened? Was Taimanov unstrung? Was Fischer
in a class by himself? Analysis of the games showed that he was
not lucky, but had played strong solid chess throughout. It was
Taimanov who had brought along a novelty against Fischer's
favorite King's Indian Defense, and although he seemed to get
the better game Bobby consistently beat him.
Surely, the chess world thought, the next match, against Lar
sen, would be much more difficult. The Dane had proved him
self against the strongest opposition available. It was generally
felt that he was not quite as good as Fischer, but that he was
better than anyone else in the democratic countries. Further,
Larsen was an original, gifted, brilliant master; a tough contest
was to be expected. Even Bobby had deferred to him the year
14 The Players and the Setting

before at Belgrade, allowing the Dane to play first board for the
free world, in a rematch against the Soviet Union.
Once more-Bobby won every game! One such victory was
unprecedented; what could one say of two such victories? Was
Fischer a superman? Had a new era dawned in chess, the
ancient game which fifty years earlier the great Capablanca had
declared to be a clear draw, recommending that the board be
enlarged and new pieces added to make it more of a contest?
Still, these were only preliminary matches; what would Bobby
do against the redoubtable Petrosian, who had beaten Botvinnik
and retained the championship for six years?
As usual, the preliminary negotiations for the Petrosian match
were carried on in a heated atmosphere. Bobby wanted to play
in Argentina, the Soviets wanted to play in Greece. Genial Dr.
Max Euwe, caught in the middle, insisted they agree on a locale,
if necessary he would toss for one. Buenos Aires won out.
This time Bobby found it much tougher. True, he won the
first game against a prepared variation, although he should only
have drawn, or even lost. In the second game he played badly
and lost. Then came three draws. After five rounds the score was
In the meantime Bobby's eccentricities became public knowl
edge. The first three rows of the auditorium had to be free of
spectators. The lighting had to be just so. Hotel rooms were
changed frequently, not as often as at Santa Monica five years
earlier, where he had changed every night, but often enough.
Surely, everybody thought, such a person could not be a demi
god in chess.
Then came the sixth game with Petrosian. The Armenian held
his own for fifty moves. Then an inexplicable blunder-and
Bobby won. At this point Petrosian seemed to collapse. The next
three games were won by Bobby with ridiculous ease. He took
his share of the $12,500 purse.
History of the World Championship 15

The road was now clear for the final match with Spassky.
Bobby was the favorite. I predicted that he would win 121h to
8'2. Others came up with other figures. And so the stage was set
for the memorable event. What happened on the board was
predictable; what happened off the board nobody had antici
pated. The preliminary maneuvers make a fascinating story.

The Prelimi nar y Skir mi she s

Acco Rn 1 NG to FIDE regulations each side was required to

submit a list of fifteen acceptable playing sites, on th basis of
which a suitable choice was then to be made. With the initial
offers the world-wide interest in the match became quite evident.
Sums of anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 as prize money, ex
clusive of expenses, were proposed by a wide variety of locales,
from Chicago to Belgrade. It was however well understood that
Bobby would not play in the U.S.S.R. and that Spassky, ap
parently in retaliation, would not play in the U.S., even though
according to all reports he liked the country. So it had to be
outside these two countries.
As anticipated, the cities chosen by Spassky were unaccepta
ble to Fischer, and vice versa. It was up to Max Euwe, former
world champion, and now the president of the FIDE. Euwe
ruled in the manner of Solomon: half the match was to be played
in Belgrade, which had bid $155,000 and was Fischer's first
choice, and half in Iceland, which had put up $125,000 and was
Spassky's first choice. Fischer now dispensed with the help of
U.S. Chess Federation officials and began to negotiate either on
his own or through his own lawyers; one representative of U.S.
chess, Fred Cramer, a retired engineer who specialized in light
ing, did however continue to function on his behalf, but he did
not officially represent the U.S. Chess Federation.
Even though there were mutterings from TASS that Euwe

TM Preliminary Skirmishes 17

had exceeded his authority and had favored the American, the
Soviets finally agreed to the split locale idea; the honorarium of
course was totally immaterial to them. Things seemed to be all
set for what everybody was now referring to as the "battle of the
At this point Bobby suddenly played a new gambit, never
before seen in chess: he demanded 30% of the gate receipts over
and above the guaranteed prize money! Nobody knew what to
do with this totally unexpected request. The Yugoslavs promptly
refused, and Fischer was given a deadline by which to notify
them whether he was going to plaY. or not. If he defaulted,
Petrosian would take his place. At the last minute Bobby agreed.
Then the Yugoslavs came in with a demand of their own,
which, though it seemed uncalled for at the time, later seems
quite justified: they asked Bobby or his American backers to
furnish a financial guarantee, either in cash or in an insurance
bond, that he would appear for the match. The amount
requested was said to be $35,000. When this was refused, the
Yugoslavs withdrew their dffer.
Again the match hung in thin air. After some behind-the
scenes negotiations the Icelanders finally decided to host the
entire match and came up with an acceptable figure: $125,000,
of which 62112 % would go to the winner, 371/2 % to the loser. Both
sides finally agreed, with the usual audible-inaudible protests.
The match was scheduled to begin in Reykjavik on July 2, 1972.
Fischer retired to Grossinger's, a resort in upstate New York,
where he remained more or less incommunicado for months,
immersing himself in a big red book containing all of Spassky's
games. Spassky, much less flamboyant, prepared in the usual
manner, getting himself into the best shape both physically and
mentally. He arrived in Iceland about ten days before the match
was to start.

0 The Yugoslavs had made the same demand of Spassky, whose federation
did furnish a bond.
18 The Players and the Setting

But the new Fischer gambit had not yet run its course. Even
though the purse was astronomically out of proportion to any
thing ever heard of before in chess, and he was due to receive
perhaps another hundred thousand dollars or more from film and
television rights, he again demanded 30% of the gate receipts.
Fischer's representatives went to Reykjavik to dicker with the
Icelanders, while Bobby remained out of sight somewhere in or
near New York. For a week before the match was to start, the
papers carried front-page news items, generally asking: Where is
Bobby? and Will he go? The Icelandic Chess Federation firmly
but politely refused the request for the additional money; Fischer
had agreed to play, and it was expected that he would show up.
On July 1 a gala state dinner was held in honor of the occasion.
The President and Prime Minister, as well as numerous other
dignitaries, and of course Spassky and his entourage, were there,
but no Bobby. Would he go or not? If he did not arrive by the
next day Euwe might forfeit him. Reporters anxiously scanned
every plane leaving Kennedy airport, but there was no sign of
On July 2 it was announced that Bobby was too ill to play, a
medical certificate was rumored to be on its way (it did not
exist), and a postponement was requested of and granted by
Euwe. The match was now supposed to start on Tuesday July 4.
It still looked as though Bobby was not going to appear,
throwing away the chance of a lifetime, in somewhat the same

0 I might register some reason for my own astonishment here by com

paring these figures with what I was used to before World War II. In the
AVRO tournament in 1938, probably the strongest tournament ever held,
first prize was about $550. In 1939, when the U.S. team was scheduled to go
to Buenos Aires to defend its title in the international team tournament, I
was asked to be first board. The Argentines had sent a ship to New York
for the American players, and all expenses in Buenos Aires would be taken
care of by them. I requested a retainer of $500 from the American committee,
which was headed by George Emlen Roosevelt, a wealthy investment banker,
part of the "Oyster Bay" Roosevelts. When he turned down the request, I
declined to go. The American team accordingly did not take part in the
The Preliminary Skirmishes 19

manner as he had walked out of lesser tournaments before. At

the last minute a "deus ex Inglaterra" arrived: the British finan
cier James Slater0 offered to double the purse, to be used in
any way the committee saw fit, to induce Bobby to play. With
the purse now at $250,000 Bobby Hew off to Reykjavik, without
so much as an advance reservation, incidentally bumping a young
man from the plane, who wrote an indignant letter of protest to
The New York Times. (Icelandic Ai:r;lines said that he flew out
on the next plane, about two hours later).
Once he was in Iceland, the Rus1>ians, who had up to this
point remained silent, entered the picture. They demanded ari
apology from him, an admission by Dr. Euwe that he had
behaved incorrectly, and a forfeit of the first game. Euwe
promptly admitted that he had violated the rules, stating that
if he had not done so there would have been no match, and
commenting that "Bobby lives in another world." Fischer also
delivered an apology through his second, Lombardy. The forfeit
was denied.
It looked as though tFte match would really begin. But the
Russians rejected the apology from Fischer, stating that he had
not signed it, and had not delivered it in person. Spassky felt
insulted, both personally and as representative of the Soviets. It
was noted that under much milder provocation in the past the
Soviets had simply packed up their bags and gone home; this
time they were obviously prepared to be conciliatory.
By this time the match had all the earmarks of international
diplomacy, almost on a par with other negotiations going on
between the Americans and the Russians. It was stated that
Brezhnev was personally directing Spassky's moves, while Kissin
ger was said to have been in touch with Bobby:

"What motivated Slater is not known. He, like Bobby, started with
nothing and worked his way to wealth and fame; no doubt there was some
identification. Later the newspapers reported that Slater did not have the
permission of the British government to transfer such a large sum into
dollars. It appears that eventually permission was granted.
20 The Players and the Setting

As so often when pushed to the wall Bobby pulled the game

outof the fire. He penned a personal apology to Spassky, which
was carried in the press: He said that "I have offended you
and your country, the Soviet Union, where chess has a prestigious
position." He also apologized to Euwe, the Icelanders and the
thousands of fans he had in the world, and especially to the
millions in the United States.
Rejecting the request for a forfeit, which he said he knew
Spassky did not want, he said: "I know you to be a sportsman
and a gentleman, and I am looking forward to some exciting
chess games with you."
According the papers, Bobby delivered the personal apol
ogy to Spassky 4 in the rooming, placing it on the table next
to the sleeping Russian's bed. Finally the match was all set for
July 11.
Newsweek, describing what it called the "Iceland caper,"
opined that Fischer, who was widely viewed as an eccentric
and ascetic genius, had by his machinations had an enormous
impact on the game. Many felt that he had altered the economic
structure of the sport as much as Arnold Palmer had done in golf,
making it into big business.
The opening gambit had now run its course, and play did
July 11. But the high drama of the preliminary negotiations
had heightened the interest of an already excited world. No
chess event in history had ever received such extensive publicity .
In New York City the Times, News and Post all carried daily
stories. The AP and other wire services covered it nationally.
Several hundred papers must ha-tie reported the results of every
game, with extensive technical comments. The witty music critic
Harold Schonberg paired up with Al Horowitz and later Samuel
Reshevsky to cover for the Times; Larry Evans wrote for the
Post and Robert Byrne for the News. Kashdan reported for the
AP. Bisguier commented for cable 1V, while Shelby Lyman
held forth for five hours on Channel 13 TV during every game
The Preliminary Skirmishes 21

played. In fact, at one time when the Pemocratic Convention

nosed Lyman out of his TV coverage, so many protests were
received from listeners that the Democrats were bounced off the
air. IBM financed the last part of Lyman's broadcasts with a
donation reported to be $10,000 per week
In spite of the peace that finally prevailed, throughout the
match Fischer kept up a barrage of sensational and odd
demands. He had to have a special chair fl.own in from New
York, the lighting had to be just so, t:b;e room had to be very
dark with only the stage lit up, the first nine rows of the audi
torium should be emptied, the cameras and TV should be
removed, he should have the swimming pool in the hotel to him
self, the pieces should be smaller (or larger), the board should
be different, and so on. After a certain point the Icelanders,
who remained extremely polite throughout, simply ignored his
demands. Fischer's refusal to let the cameras film the event,
even after tests had revealed that they made no noise, led to a
lawsuit by the film company. who alleged that he had breached
his contract with them.
The Polish master David Janowski had settled in New York
after World War I. At the Manhattan Chess Club he was famous
for his complaints, all of which served as alibis when he lost.
Finally one tournament committee complied with every one of
his requests, sensible or senseless; for the first time Janowski
had nothing to complain about. He lost. "You have deprived me
of any alibi," he cried. "How did you expect me to pl:w good
But Fischer, despite his incessant barrage of complaints and
possible alibis, played excellent chess and won the title.

Bobby Fischer -American Fo lk Hero

WITH the conquest of the world championship Bobby Fischer

has deservedly staked out a place for himself as one of chessdom's
immortals. Apart from his genius at chess he is also such a color
ful and temperamental man that he has done more to advance
the popularity of the game than any previous champion. His
victory marks an important turning point in the history of the
Nothing in his early life could have led anyone to predict his
great future. Born in Chicago on March 9, 1943, of a German
born physicist and a Swiss mother (Regina, a nurse, teacher,
later physician), his childhood years were full of sorrow. The
parents broke up when he was two. His father has never been
heard from, even now when Bobby is at the height of his fame.
Nor will Bobby or his mother talk about him. No one even knows
whether he is dead or alive.
His mother, Regina, is a colorful determined person in her
own right. Born in Switzerland, she was brought up in St. Louis,
where her father was a dress cutter. From 1933 to 1938 she
studied medicine at the First Moscow Medical Institute in the
Soviet Union, but did not receive a degree that was valid in the
United States. She and Bobby's father met while she was on
holiday in Germany in 1938. They were divorced in 1945 after
two children were born, Bobby and his sister Joan, who is five
years older.

Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 23

When Bobby first became famous, his mother supported his

efforts in every conceivable way. She picketed the White House,
appeared on TV shows, manufactured trinkets with her son's
name, all to cover the meager expenses for his trips abroad.
Then a serious rift between mother and son developed in 1961.
In that year she participated in a much-publicized peace march
from San Francisco to Moscow. After that she remained in
Europe, where she married her second busband, Cyril Pustan, a
college English teacher, and resumed her medical studies. In
1968, at the age of 55, she received her medical degree from
the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, East Germany. Evi
dently, like Bobby she persists until she reaches her goal.
Her present husband is about 16 or 17 years younger, more or
less Bobby's age when the permanent break between mother
and son occurred. In an interview with The New York Times,
she commented that her marriage was '1ike robbing the cradle"
but that he had made her an offer that she co u).d not refuse.
What led to the battle be!Ween her and Bobby no one knows;
neither one is in any way ommunicative. But 'sometime in his
adolescence there was a terrible fight, and since then the two
have allegedly not spoken to one another. Even when Bobby
won the world championship, his lifelong dream, his mother was
not present to congratulate him.
After the divorce Mrs. Fischer moved around to several Amer
ican cities, finally settling in Brooklyn. Both children and the
mother had emotional problems, and there were constant serious
strains throughout the years, which evidently erupted openly
only when Bobby reached adolescence.
Some time around his sixth birthday Bobby aquired a chess
set. Almost immediately chess became the essence of life for
him, replacing school, friends, family and even other games. At
seven he played against the late Dr. Max Pavey in a simultane
ous exhibition, his first public appearance. He lost mercilessly;
but this did not prevent him from feeling that he should have
24 TM Players and tM Setting

won. Apparently even at that age he was cherishing the hope ol

becoming world champion.
Left very much to his own resources by his working mother.
Bobby seems to have done little else besides play chess from tht
age of six. This accounts for the obvious eccentricities in his
character, which led Euwe to remark during the match that
"Bobby lives in another world." No one knows what he could do
if he devoted his mind to anything else besides chess, but he
never has, and shows no inclination to do so now.
His single-minded devotion to chess led to a constant increase
in his playing strength. In 1956, when he was only thirteen years
old, he won the junior championship of the United States. Since
the junior championship included all players under twenty-one,
this already marked him out as a player of great promise.
Apparently, though, this success dismayed his mother, who
shortly thereafter came to consult me about what could be done
to dissuade her son from devoting all his time to chess. At that
time I sent him copies of my books, and had a few talks \\-ith
him, almost entirely limited to chess.
In retrospect, it becomes one of the ironic twists of history
that of the two leading American chess masters of the twentieth
century one almost became the psychoanalyst of the other. But
Bobby was not receptive to the idea of any kind of help. He came
to see me about half a dozen times. Each time we played chess
for an hour or two. In order to maintain a relationship with him
I had to win, which I did. Evidently at that point he was not yet
up to his later strength. I do not recall the games, but I do
remember that he was not yet strong opposition. My family
remembers how furious he was after each encounter, muttering
that I was "lucky."
Hopeful that I might help him to develop in other directions,
I started a conversation at one point about what he was doing
in school. As soon as school was mentioned, he became furious,
screamed "You have tricked me" and promptly walked out. For
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 25

years afterwards, whenever I met him in clubs or tournaments

he gave me angry looks, as though I had done him some
immeasurable harm by trying to get a little closer to him. By
now he may well have forgotten the whole experience.
In the summer of 1956, during a visit to England, I discussed
Bobby with Ernest Jones, the famous analyst who wrote the
classic paper on Paul Morphy. This was: before I had any really
personal knowledge of the boy. Jones replied with almost pro
phetic insight: "Leave him alone; he'll become a second Paul
For many years afterwards, chess players approached me with
the request to try to help Bobby out of his obvious personal
problems. In spite of his genius, he was socially awkward, pro
vocative, argumentative an.d unhappy. But in the end his
extraordinary self-limitation to chess won out. Chess seems to
have been the best therapy in the world for him.
For a number of years Bobby's progress in the chess world was
directly upwards. Although' he was already sure that he would
be world champion some day, indeed he frankly conceded that
he was the greatest player who had ever lived, he still had to
fight his way through on the chess board. Some of his pedorm
ances were indifferent, merely indicating that he was a player
of great promise, but chess history is full of young players of
great promise who strut their brief hour on the stage, moving
quietly on into oblivion. Even great masters, like Tal and Keres
in this generation, have hit high-water marks, only to decline
into the general ranks of leading grandmasters, on a par with
many others. On top of that, Bobby's boasting at this tender age,
before he had done anything really remarkable in the adult
world, led everybody to complain about his "colossal egotism."
Later many came to secretly or openly admire him for the same
In 1957 came his first big chance: he was invited to play ii'.1
the U.S. championship, which was also the qualifying touma-
26 The Players and the Setting

ment for the Interzonal step on the ladder for the world cham
pionship. Reshevsky was the strong favorite, but all the othe
active American masters were also present. To everybody's sur:
prise but his own, Bobby won first prize in January 1958, short!J
before his fifteenth birthday. And without losing a game! Am
his chess was of a remarkably mature caliber: thorough know1.
edge of the openings, solid in the middle game, technicall)
perfect in the endgame. Here was an authentic genius, the
second such to appear after World War II, the first having been
the Russian Mikhail Tai.
Not yet fifteen, Bobby was already ranked as one of the lead.
ing grandmasters in the world. The troubled little boy had sud.
denly metamorphosed into a candidate for the world champion
ship. In his own mind he was already world champion, but to
others he had yet to demonstrate this by the hard logic of the
It would require a most extraordinary school to offer anything
to such a youngster. Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, which he
attended, was not extraordinary; many questioned whether it
was even ordinary. Small wonder that Bobby dropped out
shortly thereafter, with the acid comment, similar to many that
followed, that "teachers are all jerks."
In later years, Erasmus Hall gave him a special gold medal,
while Brooklyn established a special commemorative exhibit at
the Brooklyn Museum during the 1972 match. But it does no
good to reconstruct history. At that time he simply dropped out.
ignored by the authorities, bewildered and uncertain about his
At fifteen he was launched on a lifetime chess career. Yet
American chess is a particularly unrewarding field in which to
become a professional. No American master since Frank Mar
shall had succeeded in making a living at it for any length of
time, and Frank was helped by a fortunate gift of a house from
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 27

a wealthy patron. No doubt at fifteen the matter of making a

living, when he was still living at home with his mother, did not
concern Bobby; later it did. Yet he pei:sisted. Not only was he
to make a living at it, he was destined to change the nature of
the sport in the United States.
Besides scoring an outstanding victory, he had also played a
game against Donald B yrne which has gone down in history as
an immortal masterpiece. It may well be, as some claim, the
game of the century. Since his victory qualified him for the
Interzonal the next year at Portoroz in Yugoslavia, he was already
an international celebrity. The Russians showed their concern in
the usual way by disparaging his achievement. Botvinnik, who
made hiimelf look silly for propagandistic reasons by writing

about the "Soviet school of chess," commented quite inappropri-
ately: "Both Fischer's strong and weak point lies in that he is
always true to himself and plays the same way regardless of his
opponents or any external factor." This, comment is much more
trne of Botvinnik than of Fischer.
After some publicity stunting by his mother, who thereby
managed to raise the expense money for his trip, Bobby played
in the Interzonal that year ( 1958) at Portoroz, Yugoslavia. Before
the tournament he announced his scheme for qualifying to the
Yugoslavian journalist Radojcic : "I can draw with the grand
masters, and there are half-a-dozen patzers in the tournament I
reckon to beat."
As it turned out, the scheme work ed by the narrowest of
margins. After an uncertain start, he pulled himself together to
carry out his plan. Drawing with the grandmasters proved easier
than expected, while beating the "patzers" proved much harder.
His fellow-American Sherwin, not really in Bobby's class, lasted
90 moves. Even the Filipino Cardoso, whom he had demolished
in a set match the year before, put up such stiff opposition that
the game lasted 62 moves before Bobby scored. At the end
28 The Pl.ayers and the Setting

Bobby had squeaked through by a narrow margin, tying for fift

and sixth places, and thereby qualifying for the Candidate
tournament the next year.
Impressive as it was to the chess world, Bobby's score left hiJ\
deeply disappointed. He determined to do better the next timr.,
Between Portoroz and the Candidates' tournament in 195l
Bobby participated in four tournaments. In the U.S. champion
ship he won with great ease again, with a score of six wins and
five draws. But the international scene was different. At Mar dcl
Plata he finished 3-4, Santiago 4-7 and Zurich 3-4. Clearly h
"colossal egotism" at this point was justified only by his age, not
by his results. On the international scene the masters and grand
masters were a far cry from the pushovers the Americans seemed
to be for him.
My feeling, however, is that even at that time his results were
not commensurate with his abilities. The foreign masters, with
the exception of a few top Russian stars, were not so much
stronger than the Americans. It was probably the apprehensions
and excitement about being in strange countries, without friends.
or even a lmowledge of the language, as well as the usual adoles
cent conflicts, which accounted for his poor scores.
Then came the great test in Yugoslavia, in the Candidates'
tournament. All the best players in the world were there, except
for the world champion himself, who was scheduled to play the
winner. Bobby, over-confident as usual, suffered a severe set
back: he finished tied for fifth-sixth in a field of eight. Although
still the youngest grandmaster in the history of the game, twice
U.S. champion, and now clearly the best player in the world out
side the U.S.S.R., he considered it a defeat rather than a victory.
And defeat has always been a bitter pill for Bobby to swallow,
from the time that he played his first game of chess to the pres
The winner of that tournament, Mikhail Tai, went on to best
Botvinnik the next year, thereby becoming the youngest world
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 29

champion since Paul Morphy. 0 In my opinion, Tal is the only

true. genius Soviet chess has produced since Botvinnik, in spite
bf the claims made for the others. The Russian strength histori
cally has resided in the large number of first-class grandmasters
whom they can field in any tournament, rather than creative
genius at the very top. Like Fischer, Tal is a creative genius.
But his superiority did not last long. The next year he lost the
return match to Botvinnik, and since then he has merely been
one of many also-rans. His decline has been attributed to poor
health, but there may well be deeper reasons, which will be
discussed in the chapter on Spassky and Russian chess.
In 1959 came his third try in the U.S. championship, now
known also as the Rosenwald tournament. Before this contest the
other side of his personality came to the fore publicly for the first
time, the eccentric and the prima donna. He demanded that the
pairings for the tournamnt be drawn publicly, according to an
obscure FIDE ruling. Actually, unless someo1,e is trying to cheat
(and it is impossible to see how he would so in such a tourna
ment) it does not make the slightest bit of difference whether
the drawings are done publicly or privately. Bobby even went
so far as to allow the committee to ch(iose a substitute before he
fi'nally consented to play. This was the first of many incidents
that helped to shape the image that has since become a legend.
Needless to say, he again won the U.S. championship with
ridiculous ease. In American tournaments, except for the match
with Reshevsky, he was henceforth without peer. He won eight
times running, every time he participated. In the 1963-64 event
he won every game, something which had happened only half
a dozen times before in the history of the game. t

0 Morphy was the strongest player in the world at age 22, although an
official world championship did not yet exist.
I In 1940 at Dallas, and in 1941 at St. Louis I won every game in the
U.S. Open, while in 1939 in the North American Championship in New
York I won with a score of lOlh. out of 11, qualitatively perhaps the equal
of Fischer's feat.
30 The Players and the Setting

Nevertheless, the idiosyncrasies and the eccentriciti1

remained, primarily against the top opposition. In one garn
against Reshevsky Bobby had his lawyer on the podium t
make sure that nothing untoward occurred. A peculiar phobi
about lighting developed, which made him state that the light
ing was never quite right for his taste.
Since Reshevsky had been the dominant figure in Americat
chess after my retirement, a match between Reshevsky am
Fischer seemed a natural. One was finally arranged in 1961, bj
the wife of the well-known cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Here fo1
the first time Fischer could not demonstrate his superiority to his
leading American opponent. Although he had come ahead ol
Reshevsky in tournaments, match play turned out to be quite a
different story. After eleven games the score stood two wins.
two losses and seven draws--even. Bobby had failed to prow
that he was the top American player in match competition.
Then came one of those incidents that has helped to make1
Bobby famous. Because of another engagement Mrs. Piatigorsky
asked Bobby to rearrange his game one Sunday. When he
refused he was forfeited. No doubt this would have been lifted
-but Bobby walked out. He quit the mat ch0 entirely. The
winner's share of the prize money was awarded to Reshevsky.
Technically therefore Bobby lost the match. Nevertheless most
people continued to rank him as better than Reshevsky, even
though Sammy, a master since the age of six, was in his declin
ing years while Bobby still had far to go.

0 In writing this book many memories of my own chess career have come
back, and I am amused to see how history can repeat itself. In my second
game with Reshevsky at Pasadena in 1932, we adjourned in a position which
was a clear win for me. The adjourned time fell on a Jewish holiday and was
therefore postponed, over my objections. For the second adjournment the
game was rearranged for an early time, which I failed to keep. This time
I was forfeited, in spite of my objections. The tournament director, a Dr.
Griffith, took me into the men's room and consoled me with a medicinal
shot of Scotch ( those were still the days of Prohibition ) . I was then 17 years
old, about the sa:me age as Bobby in his match with Reshevsky.
Bobby Fischer-Amrican Folk Hero 31

In international competition, as a blose study of his record

shows, Bobby also behaved in a rather peculiar way. After his
defeat ( self-judged ) in the Candidates' tournament in 1959, he
played in two Argentine tournaments in 1960. In the first, at
Mar del Plata, he shared fust prize with Spassky, a forerunner
of things to come. But in the second, three months later at
Buenos Aires, he finished thirteenth, the worst result of his life.
In their early years Alekhine and Keres had similar swings.
But to Bobby a defeat at the chess board is more than a game
lost, it implies a virtual destruction of his way of life. Except for
the Interzonals, where he had to participate if he was to play for
the world championship, he did not trust himself to play in a
really big international tournament outside the U.S. again for
ten years, until Buenos Aires in 1970, where he did finish first
with a magnificent score of thirteen wins and four draws,
although here too the bottom five players were local second
Although Fischer demanded a match for tli'e world champion
ship in the early sixties, Botvinnik, or rather the Soviet hierarchy,
refused to allow it. As I indicated in the first chapter, the present
FIDE set-up was designed to prevent the champion from
dodging an able challenger on either financial or ideological
grounds. After the Yugoslavian tournament in 1959, when Fischer
had demonstrated his superiority over all others in the Western
world, a match with Botvinnik would have been the logical next
step. But the American Chess Federation, which has never
treated its masters kindly, did not have the courage to press for
it, while Bobby alone could not do it. In one sense it is all for the
better, since in 1959 or 1960 the odds would have been heavily
in Botvinnik's favor, or Tal's; Tai had won every game against
Fischer in the Candidates' tournament.
In any case it was clear to Bobby that to play for the world
title he would have to follow the FIDE rules. So he did go to the
Interzonal in Stockholm in 1962. Here he finished first with the
32 The Players and the Setting

astounding score of thirteen wins and nine draws. The stage wd

set for the next step on the ladder towards the world champion:
ship, the Candidates' tournament, at Curaao.
Up to this point Bobby's rise had been virtually straight
upwards. A few setbacks, such as the inability to beat Reshev;
sky, or the poor form at Buenos Aires, were inevitable. Clearly
he was marked out as the chess phenomenon of the sixties.
At the West Indies island, which to most Americans is known
as a warm hospitable tourist resort, Bobby was faced by five
Soviet grandmasters and one Czech, with his only ally thir
naturalized American ( formerly Hungarian ) Pal Benko. Petro
sian won first prize, primarily by not losing, drawing nineteen
games out of a total of twenty-seven played. Tal became ill and
had to withdraw. Bobby finished fourth, with eight wins, seven
losses and twelve draws, behind Petrosian, Keres and Geller. It
was a bad blow to his ambitions, since he would now have t<f
repeat the entire procedure of qualifying, waiting at least three'
years for a match for the world title.
Bobby's reaction was a strong one. "The Russians have fixed .
world chess" was his sensational accusation, in one of the few
articles he has ever written. He claimed that they had conspired
with one another to let a Russian win, and that world t:hess was
so rigged by the Russians that no non-Russian could ever get.
This had been my feeling in 1946-1948, and one reason for my
withdrawal from the world championship tournament at that
time. Others had made similar charges. Just around that time the
bridge expert Tobias Stone, who had started life as a chess
player, accused his English opponents of cheating, which earned
him a suspension for one year from international bridge competi
Bobby charged not only that the Russians arranged the results
of games in advance, in accordance with a master plan dictated
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 33

from above, but that they actually consulted during the game
with one another. Since there were no American observers on
the scene who knew Russian ( under similar circumstances the
Russians usually put observers on the scene who understood
English, to prevent American players from consulting with one
another ) , there is no way of knowing whether this charge is true
or not.
It might however be interesting to recall several incidents
from my own experience. At the international tournament in
Folkestone in 1933, the Americans were fighting for first place
with the Czechs, who were headed by Salo Flohr, then the
strongest candidate for the world championship. Alekhine, who
was about to go off on an American tour, headed the French
team; apart from Alekhine they were all terrible patzers. Instead
of playing against the Czechs, Alekhine took a bye, saying that
he had to prepare for his American trip. But he remained in the
playing room during the entire match, and the French players
could all be seen going up to him, and engaging in animated
conversation. "Surprisingly" the Czech team lost to the French in
a terrible upset. And at the Nottingham tournament in 1936,
when I was playing Euwe, then world champion after his defeat
of Alekhine in 1935, both Alekhine and Capablanca spontane
ously came up to me during the game to suggest moves, even
though I had not asked them to do so.
Thus cheating at chess matches is by no means unknown,
motivated either by politics or passion. Whether Bobby's charges
about Curaao are true or not, they did have a strong impact on
the chess world. Keres was given the assignment of replying by
the Russian press. In itself this was a surprising choice, since
Keres, as an Estonian who had seen his country ravaged by the
Soviets after World War II, was almost rabidly anti-Soviet. By
rights Keres should have been permitted to play a match for the
title with Botvinnik in 1948, but was denied the chance partly
34 The Players and the Setting

for political reasons. His article carried the hidden implicatio

that he had not been discriminated against by the Russiam
either, so therefore Fischer had no cause for protest.
Nevertheless, the protests did continue. The logic of the situa:
tion was too compelling, in addition to which the Soviet Unio
was in the post-Stalin thaw. On top of everything after Botvinnn
lost the title to Petrosian in 1963, he was denied a chance for a
return match himself, which led him to retreat from active chess
at the relatively early age of 52. He too objected to the arduous
task of climbing up the FIDE ladder all over again.
In spite of all the political machinations involved, eventually
the FIDE did change its system to allow more latitude to non
Russians, and to make it impossible for the Soviet players to
engage in any kind of collusion beyond the Interzonal level. Set
matches among the leading players replaced the older touma
ment system.
However, this did not satisfy Bobby. Loudly he had cried that
he would never again play in a FIDE tournament, that he was
the best player in the world, and that a title match should be
arranged where he could prove it. When his demands were
refused, he retired from FIDE tournaments, sticking to his word.
At the Interzonal in Amsterdam in 1964 he just did not show up,
in spite of several attractive offers. At the Olympiad in Tel Aviv
in 1964 he demanded a fee of $5000 for playing, knowing that
this would be refused, so again he did not go.
Finally at Sousse, in Tunisia, in 1967, he broke his vow and
participated. Although he was leading by a wide margin, and
was almost certain of first prize, after some ten rounds a dispute
erupted about his religious observances, somewhat similar to the
fight with Reshevsky in 1961. When he did not appear he was
forfeited. Efforts to solve the situation were reportedly blocked
by the committee of the FIDE, which at that time was stil
headed by a Swedish lawyer who was purportedly pro-Soviet.
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 35

Once more Bobby walked out of a tournament as his only solu

tion, a senseless one, since even if he had accepted the forfeits
he would have ended in first place. Something of the same kind
happened in the Spassky match, but fortunately there at the last
minute he decided to stay on and win.
By 1962 Bobby was already an international celebrity. That
year an article about him by the well-known writer Ralph Ginz
burg appeared in Harpers, which drew a lot of attention because
it cast more light on his personality than anything that had ever
appeared before.
Ginzburg, stating that never before had a chess champion
aroused either so much admiratiori or so much antipathy,
reported Bobby's constant boast: "I know that I deserve to be
World Champion and I know I can beat Botvinnik. There's no
one alive I can't beat."
The interview on which Ginzburgs article was based was
arranged for three o'clock. At four Bobby phoned that he didn't
feel like coming. When he did appear he was again an hour late
( shades of the Spassky match, where he came late for almost
every game).
Bobby was remarkably candid with Ginzburg, who included
numerous quotes from the interview (the last one Bobby has
ever given to any serious reporter ) .
Ginzburg told Bobby that Lisa Lane considered him the great
est chess player alive. "That statement is accurate," replied
Bobby, "but Lisa Lane really wouldn't be in a position to know.
They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared to men.
They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners.
They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman
player in the world I can't give Knight-odds to and still beat."0
When asked whether he considered himself the greatest playr

0 Incidentally an incorrect statement, but the spirit is clear.

36 The Players and the Setting

that ever lived Bobby said: 'Well, I don't like to put things likt
that in print, it sounds so egotistical. But to answer your ques
tion, Yes."
In response to a question about how he made a living, the1
estimated at about $5000 per year, Bobby uttered his grievancei
against other chess players. "It's the fault of the chess playen
themselves [for the lack of support by millionaires] . I don't
know what they used to be but now they're not the most gen
tlemanly group. When it was a game played by the aristocrats ii
had more like you lmow dignity to it. When they used to have
the clubs, like no women were allowed and everybody went in
dressed in a suit, a tie, like gentlemen, you know. Now, kids
come running in in their sneakers--even in the best chess clulr
and they got women in there. It's a social place and people are
making noise, it's a madhouse." Even Jews angered him, although
he is half Jewish, half unknown. "Yeh, there are too many Jews
in chess. They seem to have taken away the class of the game.
They don't seem to dress so nicely, you know. That's what I
don't like."
After relating how he had broken up with his mother the
previous year by having her move out of the Brooklyn apartment,
Bobby described a typical day in his life. "Lots of the time I'm
travelling around, Europe, South America, Iceland. But when
I'm home, I don't know, I don't do much. I get up eleven o'clock
maybe. 111 get dressed and all, look at some chess books, go
downstairs and eat. I never cook my own meals. I don't believe
in that stuff. I don't eat in Automats or luncheonettes, either. I
like a waiter to wait on me. Good restaurants. After I eat I
usually call up some of my chess friends, go over and analyze a
game or something. Maybe I'll go to a chess club. Then maybe
I'll see a movie or something. There's really nothing for me to do.
Maybe I'll study some chess book." In re the subways he said:
"Unfortunately, [I do travel on them ] . It's dirty-kids there see
I have nice shoes on so they try to step on them on purpose.
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 37

People come in there in their work clothes and all, people come
charging in like animals, it's terrible. People sitting and staring
directly across the aisles at you. it's barbaric.'' ( The same fear of
being looked at led to the difficulties with the cameras at Ice
land, apparently. )
On the subject of clothes Bobby said: ''Yeh, I used to dress
badly until I was about sixteen. But people just didn't seem to
have enough respect for me, you know? They were sort of prid
ing themselves. They would say he beat us at chess, but he's
still an uncouth kid. So I decided to dress up.'' He commented
that he had all his clothes made to order, that he had seventeen
suits, all hand-made, five pairs of Hungarian shoes made to order
at $100 a pair, not counting ready-made shoes, shirts at $25 each,
and so on. "I like to dress classy," he explained.
Asked if he had any interests outside of chess and clothes, he
said no. A short time before he had dabbled in judo, then gave it
up. He regarded palmistry as a definite science, stating that his
own palms show a flexible mind and a soul that has been cal
loused by the hard knocks of life.
At that time he did not believe in God. He agreed with
Nietzsche that religion is there to dull the senses of the people
( later this was to change).
Since he had so many obvious dislikes, Ginzburg inquired
whether there was any group that he admired without qualifica
tion. After a short pause Bobby replied: "Well, I gee . I
don't know. Wait! There is : the aristocrats! I admire the aristo
crats. You know, the millionaires, except they're millionaires the
way millionaires should be, not the way 'millionaires are. They're
the European millionaires. The French people, you know. Not
like the American millionaires. Here you can't tell them apart
from the other people. Some of them even drive Chevrolets.
They dress casually and all, like they're afraid to be looked at.
They should be setting the standards for other people. Instead;
they dress like slobs, you know." He admitted that he had never
38 The Players and the Setting

met any such people, only read about them in books like
Dickens' Tale of Two Cities.
On the way back from Ginzburg's office the two stopped at
an espresso coffee house for a bite to eat. Bobby ordered a slice
of pecan cream pie, a side order of butter cookies, and an
elaborate frozen pineapple drink. When he had finished his pie,
Ginzburg mentioned that the place was reputed to be owned
and operated by homosexuals. This aroused great consternation
in Bobby. He said of his drink: "Maybe they put something
here. I better not drink it." He refused to eat or drink anything
else in the restaurant.
Just before they parted Bobby was asked what he would do if
he became world champion. This led to a series of interesting
"First of all I'll make a tour of the whole world, giving
exhibitions. I11 charge unprecedented prices. 111 set new stand
ards. 111 make them pay thousands. Then I'll come home on a
luxury liner. First-class. 111 have a tuxedo made for me in Eng
land to wear to dinner. When I come home 111 write a couple
chess books and start to reorganize the whole game. I'll have my
own club. The Bobby Fischer . . . uh, the Robert J. Fischer Chess
Club. It'll be class. Tournaments in full dress. No bums in there.
You're gonna have to be over eighteen to get in, unless like you
have special permission because you have like special talent. It'll
be in a part of the city that's still decent, like the upper East
"And 111 hold big international tournaments in my club with
big cash prizes. And I'm going to kick all the millionaires out of
chess unless they kick in more money. Then 111 buy a car so I
don't have to take the subway any more. That subway makes
me sick. lt11 be a Mercedes-Benz. Better, a Rolls-Royce, one of
those fifty-thousand-dollar custom jobs, made to my own meas
ure. Maybe I'll buy one of those jets they advertise for business
men. And a yacht. Flynn had a yacht. Then I'll have some
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 39

more suits made. I'd like to be one of the Ten Best-Dressed

Men. That would really be something. I read that Duke Snider
made the list.
"Then I'll build me a house. I don't know where but it won't
be in Greenwich Village. They're all dirty, filthy animals down
there. M aybe I'll build it in Hong Kong. Everybody who's been
there says it's great. Art Linkletter said so on the radio. And
they've got suits there, beauties for only twenty dollars. Or
maybe I'll build it in Beverly Hills. The people there are sort of
square, but like the climate is nice and it's close to Vegas,
Mexico, Hawaii, and those places. I got strong ideas about my
house. I'm going to hire the best architect and have him build
it in the shape of a rook. Yeh, that's for me. Class. Spiral stair
cases, parapets, everything. I want to live the rest of my life in
a house built exactly like a rook."
The per;i.od from 1962, after the Curaao tournament, to 1970,
when he began his present comeback, actually represents a par
tial withdrawal from competitive chess' in Bobby's career. He
seemed reluctant to play Ol;ltside the 'O .S., where however he
continued to win every U.S. championship, though another
match with Reshevsky was never arranged.
His public utterances merely reflected his grandiose opinion of
himself. When in 1964 he picked a list of the ten greatest players
of all time he omitted the previous world champion Botvinnik,
as well as Emanuel Lasker and a host of other great names.
Naturally he waxed enthusiastic about Morphy, adding that he
could beat Morphy, thus making him the greatest player of all
time. At that time Bobby was merely one of perhaps a dozen
international grandmasters of whom any one might win the
world title.
Somehow he eked out a living, probably only because he was
a bachelor and his needs were minimal His private life was
shrouded in mystery; after the famous interview with Ginzburg
he had the sense not to talk to reporters any more. Some time
40 The Players and the Setting

in his teens he had a fight with his mother, who thereupo

moved to England; some of her life is described above.
Bobby's aversion to girls became legendary. He even refuse
to participate in one tournament because the woman's charnpio
Lisa Lane was allowed in. The only woman who has ever bee1
connected with his name is an intriguing Mrs. Grwnette fror
Los Angeles, who is old enough to be his mother. Indeed, if, a
in Bobby's case, the mother marries a man young enough to h
her son, and the son consorts only with a woman old enough t,
be his mother, one does not have to be a Greek to recognize ;
marked Oedipus complex.
In the late sixties he suddenly experienced a religious conver,
sion, joining a sect known as the Worldwide Church of God. Thi!
sect, founded in Oregon 40 years ago, is a blend of Old Testa.
ment Judaism and fundamental New Testament Adventisrn. Il
imposes Hebrew dietary and Sabbath proscriptions and preaches
the imminent return of Jesus Christ to set up a superorganized
world government. It is said that he lives up faithfully to the
rules of his church, and that he contributes twenty per cent oi
his income to it.
Sudden religious conversions have been a subject of psycho
logical investigation for a long time. Generally they are seen as
part of the search for a father. Since Bobby never knew his own
father, apparently never even seems to have met him after the
divorce, his yearning for a father through a religious group
becomes understandable. On top of that since chess competition
involves a constant attack on the father-figure, both realistically
and symbolically, it must have been important for him to find
some father whom he could not destroy.
My contacts with Bobby were rare and superficial. Once we
met by accident in a chess club, and played some offhand
games. To my surprise they were recorded by someone present,
and Bobby even reprinted one in his book My Sixty Memorable
Games.To record offhariJ games is unheard-of in modern times;
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 41

the last one who did so, significantly, wa Morphy. In the official
record of all his games, recently published, this game was not
included. To the best of my memory the over-all score was
slightly in his favor.
In the middle sixties Bobby once approached me with an
offer to co-author a book. He had many new variations in the
openings, and wanted them incorporated in print. I knew how to
write; he offered to revise my Practical Chess Openings. The
t-xtent of his erudition and research were indeed amazing. Even
the Austrian Gruenfeld, whom we used to refer to as the card
index of the chess openings, did not come up to him. Bobby
seemed to have analyzed in depth every opening in the books.
I urged him to put the moves together, _ while I would write the
introductions; my professional commitments did not allow me
more time. "Why don't you give them up?" was his only com
ment. He declined to undertake the job of putting the moves
down; if I did not write the book with him, the deal was off.
At that time, curious bow.. he made a .living, I asked him how
much he was paid for a simultaneous exhibition. "$500," he said.
"And do you give many at that fee?" 1'No," he replied, "that's
too high, so nobody ever asks me. And that's just as well.''
By 1970, somehow be got over the feeling about the Cura9ao
defeat, and decided to try it the FIDE way. It became clear to
him that his stubborn refusal to compromise his demands was
getting him nowhere. Although be had not taken part in the
previous U.S. championship because of a senseless demand that
it be turned into a double-round affair, the participants gra
ciously permitted him to play as a qualifier in the Interzonal at
Palma de Majorca anyhow. But this tim;e it became clear that
Bobby had finally moved up another step beyond his competi
tors. In the last six rounds he won every game. The rest is
history: the two six-zero victories against Taimanov and Larsen,
and the 121/2 to 81,.-2 win against Spassky.
In evaluating a personality and situation as complex as Fischer
42 The Players and the Setting

and the chess world, we can consider Fischer as a chess maste!

as a champion, as a human being, as a symbol and as a sporll


Now that Bobby is champion, the question arises : how does hi

compare with the great names of the past?
Although the world championship has officially been in exist
ence since 1866, or one hundred and six years, it has large!)
been dominated by five players in that period: Steinitz for 2!
years (1866-1894 ) , Lasker for the next twenty-seven ( 1894
1921 ) , Alekhine for nineteen ( 1927-1946, except for the briei
period 1935-37 when Euwe was champion ) , Capablanca for sil
and Botvinnik for fifteen ( 1948-1963 with several 'brief excep
tions for Smyslov and Tai ) . Certainly in terms of technical skill
Fischer should be classed among these giants. That he is bettei
than they were at their best there is no reason to believe as yet
That he may advance again in the future, as he has in his
unbelievable spurt of 1970-1972, is quite possible.
What has always been most striking about Fischer is the
maturity of his play, even when he was only fifteen. He was a
past master of the openings, an expert tactician in the middle
game, and sharp as a razor in the endgame. He seemed to have
no obvious weaknesses, except for his emotional instability, but
that has cost him many a point including some in the current
His attitude to chess can best be compared with that of
Lasker, who viewed life as a struggle, of which chess was one
aspect. And Fischer has said: "I would compare chess to basket
ball. Basketball players pass the ball around until they get an

It is best to leave out the pre-Steinitz era. Morphy e.g. could give
some of his strongest opponents the handicap of Pawn and move, and even
average opponents Knight odds, something which has never been possible
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 43

opening. Like chess, like a mating attack.'' You play until you
find an opening, then you hit him with all you've got. This was
obviously his strategy in the present match, a strategy which
earned him a well-deserved victory.
On the other hand, if he is compared with the other five
champions, there are noticeable differences. Steinitz lived in an
era when chess was still poorly understoqd; he made it his life
work to establish its basic principles, and show how they should
be applied. Lasker was an intellectual more than a sportsman,
regarding chess as but one of many interests in his life.
Alekhine is perhaps most comparable to Fischer. After the 1917
revolution and his departure from the Soviet Union he made
chess his life career. Like Fischer he trained for years to beat a
dangerous opponent, Capablanca. But there was the difference
that Alekhif!-e's primary goal was as a rule to play beautiful chess
rather than merely winning chess; Bobby is satisfied to win,
though in the process he produces beautiful games.
Capablanca lost interest in ;Chess when he became champion.
This is not likely to happen to Bobby. For Botvinnik chess was
always secondary to his major interest in electrical engineering.
It is no accident that he has devised a system for computer
chess. Further, he had to see himself as a product of the Soviet
system, which prompted him at one time to write a pointless
article on "The Soviet School of Chess.''
Fischer stands out because he has been more devoted to chess
than any of his predecessors. He eats, thinks and breathes the
game. Hence his total absorption, which has led him to con
tribute so much to opening theory, but above all led him to
make the extra push needed to become world champion. Indeed,
one can only admire the dogged persistence with which he has
pushed himself to the top.
On the other hand Fischer comes at a point in history when
the amount of novelty that is involved is highly limited. Steinitz
revolutionized all the openings in order to place chess on a
44 The Players and the Setting

scientific footing. Lasker cared nothing about the openings;

just played the board. Alekhine, who once told me that he spej
four hours a day studying the game, was full of amazing an
ingenious innovations. Capa switched from chess to women. Bol
vinnik introduced a number of important new lines, though h
was not completely rounded in all the openings.
In the meantime, however, a host of masters and home am
lysts, many of them top-Hight, have combed every opening ii
creation. The game has been pretty thoroughly analyzed up b
the twentieth move. To introduce new ideas and new line
becomes increasingly difficult. Fischer stars by correcting 0!1
errors. Yet, as this match shows, his repertoire of innovations i
also limited by reality. It is not enough to introduce a new move
it must also be good. Actually, careful examination of this mate!
shows that Spassky demonstrated more originality in the open
ings than Fischer, only to throw away his win at one weal
moment or another. Fischer won primarily because of his super1
tactical ability. As he put it, you toss the basketball around unti:
you find an opening.
Fischer has had the intuition to realize that it is not enough t
have an encyclopedia which describes the best moves; the prac
tical player also has to find those moves over the board. And so
he has studied and restudied the openings until they have
become second nature to him. Herein lies one of his weaknesses
which was exploited by Spassky, and could be exploited by some
future opponent: he can be drawn into a prepared variation
which has been hitherto thought sound, but one in which the
opponent has saved up a resounding refutation.
Among the many myths spread about Fischer is the one that
he never plays for a draw. Careful analysis of his style shows
that almost the opposite is true. He always chooses openings, or
tries to choose them, in which he has at least easy equality. Once
the game is on an even keel, he begins to toss the basketball
around, giving his opponents a chance to make a mistake, which
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 45

they do often enough. One of the most characteristic features of

his style is precisely that he takes so few chances. In this respect
he stands in marked contrast to Alekhine, Keres, and, of his con
temporaries, Tal. He has developed a knack for choosing open
ings which will give him some winning chances, but where the
risks are minimal, e.g. the ninth game of the present match.
Perhaps his greatest strength lies in the rapidity and ferocity
with which he punishes any mistake. Once in the saddle he
pushes home with a vengeance. Apparently this also gives him
the greatest personal pleasure. As he told the TV personality
Dick Cavett: "I like to see 'em squirm."
Yet, with all due respect to Fischer's genius, it would be a
serious mistake to regard him as in a superclass, with no competi
tion. Chess just is not made that way a,ny more. Even in the pres
ent encount_er, in the first ten gam Spassky scored only 3'h
points, one by forfeit. But in the next ten he played even: one
win, one loss and eight draws. With a little luck and fewer errors,
as in the. fourteenth game, fo,r example, where he threw away
an elementary win, or in the tenth game where he discarded an
elementary draw, he might well have won.
The psychology of the challenger is qmte different from that
of the titleholder. As challenger, he is the son tackling the father.
Once in the title seat, he becomes the father. How Bobby will
handle that nobody knows. He is not the only man in the world
who is out to get to the top, nor the only genius around. Chess
masters have a way of gunning for a world champion. It remains
to be seen how he will fare against the younger generation.
It is intriguing to speculate on how long Fischer will remain
champion. First of all, the historical record shows that shortly
after a new champion wins the title, some unknown rises to the
top who becomes the main challenger and eventually champion.
When Anderssen won first prize at London in 1851, in effect
defeating Staunton for the world title, Morphy was unknown .

When Morphy beat Anderssen in 1858, Steinitz was unknown.

46 The Players and the Setting

When Steinitz beat Anderssen in 1866, the next challenger Zukei

tort was unknown. When Steinitz played Zukertort in the 1880'1
Lasker was unknown. When Lasker beat Steinitz, CapablanQ
was unknown. And so on down to Fischer. When Botvinnik Woj
the title in 1948, Fischer, his real successor in a certain sens
was unknown. Certainly someone new will show up to challen
Fischer in the next five to ten years, but who it will be no 011
can tell.
Apart from the unknown of the future, Fischer's superiori
over his present-day rivals is none too secure. As a careful stu
of his career shows, it is only in the last two years that he hai
moved ahead of his competitors. They too might decide to stud)
harder and forge ahead further. That was how Alekhine defeate(
Capablanca after inferior results for many years, as did Euwt
with Alekhine, and Tal and Smyslov with Botvinnik.
Conceivably Spassky, if given a chance at a return matd
( which seems unlikely ) might reverse the score, just as in tht
present match he held his own in the second ten games after a
disastrous start in the first ten.

Throughout his li,fe Fischer has been his own worst enemy. II
is little short of miraculous that his antics did not lead to a can
cellation of the present match. His chess was by no means of th
highest order. In another match his opponent might easily take
better advantage of his numerous mistakes. Like Muhammad.
Ali, who is somewhat similar to him in personality, towards the
end he seemed to take some pleasure in taunting Spassky. That
can become dangerous on the chess board, as the eleventh game
shows. And again some other challenger might punish him for his
audacities. Yet it is equally possible that Bobby will move ahead
even further, overcoming the weaknesses shown in the present
match. Only time will tell. Since I do not share Bobby's belief
in the occult, I will leave aside further speculation.
Bobby Fischer-Arrwrican Folk Hero 47

From now on and for an indefinite future, this period in chess
history will be known as the Fischer Era. His personality, his
achievements and even his idiosyncrasies will dominate the game
in the same way that previous champions ruled in their day.
The match has already set off a chess craze the like of which
has never been seen before in the Western world. Sales of sets,
books and other chess equipment have been soaring. The mem
bership of the U.S. Chess Federation has increased astronomi
cally. Chess has become a big-time sport.
Certainly Fischer's personality has contributed enormously to
this trend. He is, despite his difficulties, an easy person to iden
tify with. Play chess and win-what else is there to life? There
is even a Horatio Alger twist to his life story which makes him
all the more interesting. A kind of childlike simplicity makes him
easy to understand, even if some do not sympathize with some
of the devices he has used.
Still, his behavior to date. creates a eertain uneasiness about
future world championship matches. Certainly Fischer will never
retire from chess, as Lasker did for many years. But it is possible
that he will set such extraordinary conditions for any future
challenger that it will be impossible to meet them. He may not
even realize himself that they are impossible, much as he seems
to have been unaware of the nature of some of his actions in the
present match. If that does happen, the official world body will
have to decide whether he really wants something or whether
he is dodging a challenge. It certainly seems desirable to clarify
the conditions surrounding a title match before any incident


Some of Bobby's behavior is so strange, unpredictable, odd
and bizarre that even his most ardent apologists have had a hard.
48 The Players and the Setting

time explaining what makes him tick. Apart from the interest i
chess which he helped to spark he has therefore also sparked
interest in the psychology of chess.
When I wrote my book The Psycho'logy of the Chess P"laye
almost twenty years ago the chess world paid little attention t
it; they were much more interested in my technical writings. Bu.
in the past four or five years there has been a considerabt
change. No doubt part of this is due to the vastly increasd
interest in psychology. But part of it is also due to the attemp
to grasp what Bobby Fischer is up to.
During the match I was approached by a variety of journalist
who had read my book and wanted to ask some questions aboli
Bobby. The range of persons eager to find out more was amaz.
ing: from the Wall Street Journal to the London Times.
Bobby is a completely one-sided genius, with everything in hu
life devoted to chess. At one time Tai recommended that lli
expand his education, to which Bobby replied with some dis
paraging remarks about Tal's intellectual pretensions. Since the
age of six chess has been the be-all and end-all of his existence,
the final goal being what he has now achieved: the world
Deserted by his father when he was two, and by his mothei
when he was in his teens, Bobby has for much of his life been
parentless. No doubt hurt by these rejections, he has retaliated
by becoming a social isolate. It has generally been very difficult
even to communicate with him. He has lived in hotels, shifting
from room to room and from hotel to hotel, receiving his mail al
the Manhattan Chess Club or some other public locale. Even
people who have been ready to offer him money have had a
hard time getting through to him.
The social isolate necessarily is turned in upon himself. H
does not develop the skills and graces with which to handle
other people. Frequently he builds up grandiose notions about
his own abilities or future, which he is reluctant to put to the
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 49

test He becomes all the more cautious and suspicious about

future social contacts, since any further rejection is all the more
All of this certainly holds for Bobby. Throughout the years he
has had extreme difficulties in handling human beings. These
have been publicly commented upon by cores of people, many
of whom have excoriated him unmercifully.
Contrary to expectations the social isolate suffers from terri
ble anxieties. He feels lonely wrapped up in his own cocoon, yet
to approach others means to court a rejection similar to the awful
ones that have occurred in the past. So he is caught up in end
less conflict and in reassurance which does not reassure.
Few people realize how insecure Bobby really is; he may very
well deny it to himself. His boasting, arrogance, disparagement
of others ar.e typical ways of covering up his deep inner insecu
rities. They jar others only because they do not realize how
much he is on the defensive.
Chess is almost his only way of making contact with people,
yet by beating them he destroys the contact. In his younger days,
when he was still coming up in the world, he frequented the
chess clubs and coffee houses where he could find opponents.
When he got to be too good for that, he spent many long hours
alone in his room.
Let it be clear that none of this explains his genius. There are
many such social isolates in the world, but few become chess
masters. What it does explain however is the persistence with
which he pours everything into the game.
For months before the present match Bobby retreated to
Grossinger's, allegedly absorbed in the big book of Spassky's
games, with few if any friends, little if any female companion
ship and ahnost incommunicado. Presumably he was preparing
himself thoroughly.
Yet a close review of the match reveals little of his innovative
genius in the openings. Quite the contrary: almost all the inno-
50 The Players and the Setting

vations, as for instance in the 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th an(
16th games, came from Spassky, who seemed to be thorougblJ
familiar with Fischer's opening style. One gets the impression u
fact that Bobby hardly prepared at all, relying only on his fa
tastic ability in across-the-board play. In public pictures of wh
he was doing at Grossinger's he was more often seen with ;
punching bag than with a chess board.
It could also explain his peculiar behavior before the matcb
and in the first two games. Had Jim Slater not come througb
with the additional $125,000, Bobby stood to forleit not only the
match but his entire chess future, since no matter how mud
of a genius a man is, if you cannot deal with him you sidestep
him. There is a saying in chess that when a move is unclear you
wait until the end of the game. If you win it was a sacrifice, ii
you lose it was a blunder. Bobby won, so many people think that
he was engaged in a brilliant maneuver to bring chess into the
realm of big-time sports.
This explanation does not seem plausible. It seems more likely
that Bobby was enormously apprehensive about the match. For
his opponent not too much was at stake. He had lost to Petrosian
in 1966, he had won in 1969. Nothing threatened his life of ease
in the Soviet Union; he would remain a popular hero as long as
he lived. But for Bobby it was almost literally a matter of life or
death. So his great anxiety is understandable.
It is in fact a minor miracle that Bobby did get away with
what might well have been a bluff. With much less provocation
the Soviets had walked out of tournaments and matches before.
Had they insisted on the fodeit of the first game, demanding
that Euwe either forleit Bobby or call off the match, it might
indeed never have taken place, and this time they would seem
to have had some justification for their actions.
Perhaps fortune favors the fearless. Perhaps it was a result of
Nixon's visit to Moscow and the apparent thaw that has devel-
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 51

oped in U.S.-Soviet relations. Or perhaps the Russians, used to a

quarter of a century of easy victories, simply underestimated
their opponent and overestimated their own strength. Nobody
will ever know. At any rate the Fischer Gambit succeeded.
On the other hand, Bobby's forfeit in the second game is in
an entirely different category. No chess player likes to lose,
Bobby least of all. The loss in the first game must have been a
bitter blow. Enter the usual string of alibis about noise, TV,
cameras, etc. His behavior in the second game has all the ear
marks of an attack of panic. He stayed alone in his room, talking
to nobody, tore the telephone out of the wall, was reported to
be very agitated, and forfeited the game.
His recovery after that was all the more remarkable, revealing
the deep strengths in his character and his capacity to spring
back from defeat. But his recovery should not blind one to the
abyss in to which he had sunk before.
Primarily Bobby has found his adjustment as a sportsman. It
can be seen that in the few pontacts he makes apart from chess
he tries to engage in a game with somebody: tennis, ping pong,
skiing. Much less is involved for him in these other games, still
they are his preferred means of dealing with other people.
Apart from the inner insecurities, the main external problem
in the isolated man comes up in his relations with women.
Everybody has agreed that there is much amiss for Bobby in
this area. The only woman mentioned in his life is the mysteri
ous Mrs. Grumette, apparently more of a substitute mother
figure than anything else. As Bobby gets older the pressure to
form a satisfactory love relationship with a woman is bound to
become increasingly acute.
Because of his well-known antipathy to girls, every time Bobby
has a date it becomes almost front-page news. Larry Evans got
him a girl in Argentina; he got married in Yugoslavia; he danced
with a girl in Iceland; the rumors are both silly and frequent.
The Players and the Setting

None of his predecessor hero-champions, whom he resemble

most closely, had a particularly happy time with women. Bobb
has a long way to go in this variation.
On the surface Bobby may now seem like an ebullient boyisl
young man who is enjoying the greatness which he has deserv
edly earned. Yet he now remains a troubled human being
Whether the world championship will mellow him, or whethe
he will at some point need professional help only time can tell.
Incidentally, it is not at all unusual for men with grea
achievements to suffer from serious neurotic or even psychotil
difficulties. Isaac Newton is a prime example. He was l
depressed, paranoid man who never managed to relate tc
women. After the epoch-making discoveries of his early yean
( theory of gravitation and the calculus) he really never did
anything else of scientific value in his life, wasting his time iri
useless quarrels with the Royal Astronomer Flamsteed and in
exploring obscure religious questions which have long since been


In the current chess craze which Fischer has set off he seems
to have acquired symbolic value for. many people. He belongs
to the "hero" group of world champions, in which I include
Morphy, Steinitz, Capablanca and Alekhine, as contrasted with
the non-hero group which would include all the others.
Heroes are created, in a sense, by their admirers. Morphy is
popularly looked upon as "the greatest chess player of all time."
Steinitz as "the father of modem chess." Capablanca was known
as "the chess machine,, and publicly announced that he had
mastered the game once and for all, advising the world to move
on to another game. Alekhine came to be talked about as "the
greatest attacking player of all time."
Needless to say, all these superlatives derive from the chess
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 53

player's need to find some hero whom he can worship. But the
champions themselves played into the hands of their worship
ers and derived great satisfaction from the idolatrous groups
which grew up around them.
Fischer is well on his way to becoming one of the folk heroes
of our time, if that has not already happened. Technically, the
claim that he is "the greatest player of all time" does not stand
up to serious scrutiny as yet; the same applies to Morphy.
But there is a deep need on the part of many people to project
their own grandiose ambitions on to him.
Certain external facts lend themselves to his symbolic value.
For a quarter of a century the Russians have dominated the
chess world; champion and challengers have all been Russian.
Perhaps half the chess players in the world live in the U.S.S.R.
They mount tournaments with a million players, print books
with first editions of hundreds of thousands of copies (although
the Russian chess literature is surprisingly skimpy ) . To beat the
Russian champion thus ac quires the symbolic meaning of defeat
ing the Russians.
Bobby is a man who is devoted heart and soul to chess.
Experts may see in this some kind of neurotic maladjustment,
but to the average person the fact is more important than its
motivation. There are hardly any other professional chess play
ers in the U.S., nobody really who makes a living at playing
chess, as golf, tennis, basketball and other champions live from
their sport. The few Americans who are professionals make
money by writing about the game, not by playing.
Since the champion thinks about almost nothing but chess, the
hero-worshiper in turn can by identification devote all of his
energies to chess, forgetting the cares of wife, children, work,
health and everything else.
Chess is an outlet for aggression, like all sports. It differs from
other sports in that it is an intellectual outlet, involving, as a
rule, no physical violence. In a war-weary world, millions hope
54 The Players and the Setting

for a peaceful resolution of all the pent-up aggressions in the

world, rather than a military one. Legend has it that chess started
out as a substitute for war, and many people see it that way. A
peaceful battle between an American and a Russian, rather than
the bloody one which has been a nightmare since World War
II, is especially symbolic of this hope.
The entrance of high political figures at certain stages lent
added meaning to the symbolic interpretation of the match.
Brezhnev was personally in contact with Spassky, it was said;
Kissinger was coaching Bobby. In fact, it was even announced
during the match that Nixon had invited Bobby to visit him at
the White House.
Money played a role as well in the symbolism. Who cares
about a sport in which the first prize is $100 ( as it was in my
first tournament forty years ago ) ? But push it up to a quarter of
a million, or even a million, as the talk is now, 0 and matters look
different. At the moment these vast sums have to come from
individual patrons. But once the possibility of TV transmission of
games is worked out, they may well come from the general
public, as is the case in other sports.
My feeling is that the chess craze now going on is due partly to
Fischer, and partly to a social revolution which results from
changing world conditions. Sports generally have become much
more popular, and the rewards for the top players have sky
rocketed. Chess is the universal game of the Western world. It
is played all over Europe, the U.S., Canada and Latin America,
but not in Asia or Africa ( except for small groups ) . It thus
serves as a symbol of the unity of Western civilization.
Previous champions have largely been intellectuals, which led
to the idea that chess is a "smart man's" game. They have been

0 A Las Vegas hotel reportedly offered $1.4 million for a return match
with Spassky, which Fischer refused, demanding $10 million. I have also
challenged Fischer to a match for a purse of $1 million. Some are now
openly wondering whether Fischer will ever play again.
Bobby Fischer-American Folk Hero 55

plagued with doubts about whether to play chess or not. Chess,

they felt, was too hard to be a game, and too easy to be a
Not so with Fischer. He has discarded all intellectual preten
sions. Chess is a sport, like basketball, like tennis. You toss the
ball around until you make your point. You move the pieces
around until you find a weak spot.
Fischer's anti-intellectual stance is incredibly pronounced. One
newspaper report had him to the right of the John Birch society
politically. After centuries of religious freedom he reverts to a
Bible-thumping revivalist sect. In an age of sexual revolution he
looks for a virgin. He seems to be almost illiterate in world
So it becomes easy for Fischer to symbolize a shift from
chess as a pastime for intellectuals to chess as a popular sport
which anybody can play. Nor is this particularly to be deplored.
Whatever its intellectual merits or demrits, chess is after all a
sport in which two men fight. it out, and let the best man win.
It is in this sense that Fischer's victory marks a turning point
in the history of chess. The codification of the openings does not
have far to go before it is complete; tl).e middle game is well
understood, the endgame is a matter of precise analysis. With
the theoretical problems of the game resolved, what remains is
how well the individual can handle himself over the board.
The "pure player" which Fischer is, almost the purest in chess
history, lends himself readily to the identification with sport. He
is in the style of other sports figures, like Bo Belinsky, Joe
Namath, Lee Trevino and Muhammad Ali. A recent article in
The New York Times about the Rumanian tennis sar Ilie Nastase
compares him to Bobby Fischer, ranking him as a close second
to the chess champion in freelance, full-tilt gamesmanship. Like
Bobby, "Nasty" is a combination of notorious bad manners and
magnificent reflexes.
As chess becomes big-time sport, the kinds of people who are
56 The Players and the Setting

attracted to it will necessarily undergo some change. There wil

no longer be any reason for making it the only game permittei
in the British Parliament or referring to it as the game of kingi
Bobby seems to have some kind of nostalgic longing, as th
interview with Ginzburg shows, for the old days when it wa

literally true that only aristocrats played chess. His own exampl
proves better than anything else that commoners can enter th
game as well, and that where the next genius will come from
wholly unpredictable.
It is precisely this fact, that the chances of becoming a che:
champion are much greater than anyone had thought, whic
Fischer symbolizes, that is so essential to the widespread ado]
tion of the game.
In addition, chess readily lends itself
to all kinds of variation
Already a dozen new ones have appear ed on the market: largt
boards, smaller boards, circular boards, three-dimension
boards, and so on. These too are easily learned, and can becon
the basis for wide-ranging contests. Yet no doubt chess prop
will remain the core of the sport for a long time to come.

Bori s Spas sky-The Ex-Champion

I T would be hard to find two chess masters more unlike than

Spassky and Fischer. From two different cultures, with two en
tirely different backgrounds, leading radically different styles
of life, all that they have in common is a genius for chess coupled
with an insatiable love for the game.
Boris Spassky was born in Leningrad on January 30, 1937.
Just past four when the Nazis began the siege of Leningrad, his
early years were spent in political and personal turmoil. Boris,
his older brother and younger sister ( who later became a check
ers champion ) were evacuated. The stresses consequent upon
these years led to a break-up of the family. The parents were
divorced in 1944, after a move to Moscow. Since then Boris has
seen his father only a few times a year, even though both live in
the same city.
Boris's mother is described as an uncomplicated person, who
is both puritanical and religious. She is depicted by her son as a
woman who believes that everything is good in this world, and
that calmness is an attribute of great merit; this may account for
his extraordinary calm in the face of Fischer's provocations at
Boris was propelled into the father position in his family at
an early age. He tells us that his mother could not work after
she was forty, due to an accident resulting from weight-lifting,
whereupon he had to become the chief, even though he was
only six or seven. His father had apparently left entirely, and

58 The Players and the Setting

was of no support to them, even financially. It may be th

because Boris was pushed into an important role too soon, I
pushed himself to the top of the chess world, only to find tl
burdens too onerous.
Boris learned to play chess when he was five. He too, lil
Bobby, loved the Rook "because it moves in a straight line
When the family returned to Leningrad after the war, Bori
then aged eight, developed a great passion and respect for tli
game. He played it day and night, first in the chess pavilion i
the park, then in the Leningrad House of Pioneers.
An unusual feature in his history is the reliance on trainer
His first was Vladimir Zak, a candidate-master and senior coac
at the Leningrad Palace of Pioneers. Later he moved on t
Grandmaster I. Bondarevsky. This too helps to account for hi
curious ambivalence about chess, and the uneven character o
his results. Chess players do not ordinarily look for trainers; ii
fact I have never heard of one apart from Spassky. Chess is a1
individual game, in which the player relies on his own work tc
propel him forward in the competitive race.
Spassky's progress was rapid. By 1947, at the age of 10, he wru
promoted to the second category ( the Soviet Union has a rank
ing system of five categories, of which first is highest, prior to
candidate-master), and two years later, at twelve, he was a
candidate-master. In 1952, when only fifteen, he was second in
the Leningrad championship, behind Taimanov, but ahead of
both Levenfish and Korchnoi. Qualitatively, this is not too far
below Fischer's achievement in winning the U.S. championship
at the age of fourteen.
Unlike Bobby, Boris continued in school. But he switched
from one field to another, finally ending up in the sinecure of
"journalism." In the Soviet Union leading chess masters are sub
sidized by the state in the guise of some official position, of which:
"student" and "journalist" are the most common. In view of \
Boris Spassky-The Ex-Champion 59

the great playing strength he had already demonstrated, he was

already on his way to becoming a professional chess master.
In 1955 two signal achievements first brought him to the atten
tion of the international chess world. He became world junior
champion at Antwerp, with a score of thirteen wins, two draws
and one loss, and, even more striking, he tied for third in the
U.S.S.R. championship, only half a point behind the joint win
ners Geller and Smyslov, and equal with Botvinnik, Petrosian
and Ilivitzky. Since he was only eighteen, he was already being
hailed as the Crown Prince of ches; Botvinnik was then still
champion. By the next year, 1956, he was third in the Candi
dates' tournament at Amsterdam, an international grandmaster,
and though barely nineteen, ranked as one of the world's top ten.
In marked contrast to Fischer, Spassky always remained exces
sively modest. He stated later that he never believed at that
time that he could become world champion. Only years later,
in 1964, he jokingly told Bondarevsky that he would become
champion, after which he began to take the idea more seriously.
Yet even after h gained the title, he seemed quite uncom
fortable in his role, a discomfort which must have played a
strong part in his loss of the match.
After this brilliant start, which went along with over-the-board
chess of the highest order, Boris began to slip. In the years from
1959 to 1961, his results were mediocre, accounted for in pa1t
by his personal troubles, which culminated in divorce. Of his first
wife he used the curious phrase that they were like "bishops of
opposite colors," meaning apparently that they each went their
separate ways, never even touching physically. During this
period he was in trouble with the Soviet authorities as well, who
three times kept him away from play in foreign countries.
As is customary in such situations in the Soviet Union, the
nature of his defiance was never disclosed. It was however
reported much later that after the Soviet invasion of Czecho-
60 The Players and the Setting

slovakia in 1968, he had had the daring to shake the hands of t

Czech delegation at one chess event.
In later interviews Boris also revealed how different his ps
chology is from Fischer's. He emphasized how he possesses po
fighting spirit; if he lost a game, he could not sleep. Later l
said that once he is beaten he makes a great attempt to con
back, believing that the defeat is even helpftil to him. i
another time he explained how his surface calm covers up a
inner volcano: "Actually I feel very nervous inside during
game, as if there was an explosion in progress. But when I mak
a mistake I try to keep myself under control, to remain qui1
and calm and to :6.nd the best way out of a difficult situatiot
When I play chess probably I seem rather unrufBed, but this i
not really so. It is like a clown's face which is put on specially o
the occasion; when I appear particularly calm I am really feelinj
specially nervous."
Beginning in later 1961, Boris's results resumed their upwar<
course. For the :6.rst time he won the U.S.S.R. championship
with the splendid score of ten wins, nine draws and one loss
Several other outstanding victories brought him the right to pla}
the match for the world championship with Petrosian in 1966. It
was a closely-fought contest, typical of modern chess. Aftei
twelve rounds, Petrosian was leading with two to nothing and
ten draws. Spassky was particularly upset because of his failur
to win the :6.fth game. He wrote later: "When I failed to win th
'won' :6.fth game, to a certain degree I lost confidence in myselP:
and my opponent was right there to pick up his own confidence .I
It was by no means coincidental that after the twelfth game he
was leading the match with a two-point margin."
But even though he had lost confidence, Boris still managed
to :6.ght back pluckily. In the second half of the match, again a.1
later with Fischer, he almost drew even, forcing Petrosian to
stretch the match to the required twenty-four games, which the
champion won by the odd point. In the second half Spassky's
Boris S'f'<l8sky-The Ex-Champion 61

score was actually superior, three wins to two, with seven draws.
rt would seem that Spassky, imitating Fischer, should make the
impossible demand that the first half of each match should not be
counted in the final score, merely looked upon as a warming-up
period, as in baseball or golf.
After this defeat came another series of victories. In the power
ful tournament at Santa Monica 1966 he finished first ahead of
Fischer, and at Beverwijk 1967 he also topped a strong field.
Finally he again won the elimination matches, giving him the
right to another try against Petrosian in 1969. This time he won,
with a score of six to four, with thirteen draws.
Once he had become world champion, hints came out here
and there that he was not comfortable in the role. He lacked the
zest in winning that is so marked in Fischer. Once he wrote:
"Sometimes I find it difficult to play well against a close friend.
In Sochi when I had a bridge foursome with Malich, Damjanovic
and Jansa, I couldn't play against them seriously in the tourna
ment, and proposed draws;;" At other times he remarked that he
would rather not be world champion, he would much sooner be
an ordinary guy just playing chess for the fun of it. After his
loss to Petrosian he wrote with prophetic insight:
"I hope I shall be stronger in three or four years' time than
now (1966 ) ; but after that I shall decline and another strong
player will take my place. Chess is an abnormal way of life, and
to remain at the top you need to be very self-disciplined. Botvin
nik is a very dedicated man, and has this discipline, but it is a
quality you need to be born with. I ai:n quite the opposite; very
impractical and completely disorganized."
Spassky's personal life has also been closer. to normal than
Fischer's. In 1967 he remarried, and has one child by the new
marriage. He is described as an avid reader, with both Dostoev
sky and Solzhenitsyn as favorite authors. He is said to be very
moody at times, occasionally falling into deep depressions ( this
will be discussed later) . Unlike Bobby, he never boasted about
62 The Players and the Setting

his achievements, nor did he ever try to glorify himself in a:

way. He is a perfect example of the non-hero type of wot
champion, just as Bobby is a perfect example of the hero tn
( see the following chapter on the psychology of chess for a full
discussion ) .
The present match is characterized by a series of incredil
blunders on his part, a number so gross that they would not I
expected of a strong club player, much less a world champion.
the match is reviewed in detail, it appears that his slump :
games three to ten, where he made four terrible blunders,
him back so far that he could not catch up. But in later ganu
he also missed important chances : the draw in game thirteei
and the wins in games fourteen, fifteen and eighteen. Someho1
he lost his nerve at the critical moment far too often.
His preparation for the match was superb, far superior t
Bobby's. It was he who introduced most of the opening innov;
tions which will stick. Evidently he had studied the American
games much more intensely than the American had studied hi
But he was consistently outplayed in the middle game becaus
of the tear of his own aggression.
Nevertheless, it should not be thought that Spassky shoul1
now be written off. At his best he is as good as anybody. H1
has been at or near the top now for at least fifteen years. In spitl
of his weaknesses he will no doubt be one of the world's leadinl
players for a long time.
During the match it was reported that some Texas millionai11
had offered to put up a purse of $1 million for a return matd
with Fischer. That would be the fairest thing to do under th<
circumstances. Though the outcome would be anything but i
foregone conclusion, it is likely that Fischer would win by s
smaller margin.
Many have speculated that Fischer's antics were designed to
"psych out" his opponent, in fact that that was what it was ail
about. This seems unlikely, since it would imply that Bobb)
Boris Spassky-The Ex-Champion 63

manipulated his activities quite consciously, i gnoring the fact

that he has behaved that way more or less all his life. Bobby's
latecoming in almost every game may well have been a conscious
attempt to show contempt for his opponent. But Spassky did not
have to react to such childish provocation.
The chess playing differences between the two champions are
so slight that there is no doubt the outcome was strongly influ
mced by psychological considerations. More important than
Bobby's antics, however, were Spassky's own inner conflicts and
the position of a world champion in the Soviet Union.
Spassky's own inner conflicts have already been alluded to at
various points. His deficiency in the pleasure of winning is so
great that one wonders how he ever got to be world champion at
all. Obviously his aggression must waver back and forth, respond
ing somewhat better to defeat than to victory. This constant
vacillation explains his uneven tournament results, as well as his
difficulties in the present match.
A close examination of his rrors in the presen match yields
a surprising finding ( as does an examinatjon of Fischer's): there
was an excessive tendency to retreat. The first mistake, m the
third game, where he failed to punish Bobby's bold adventure,
derived from excessive caution. Successively, there is a needless
r.etreat visible in the fourth, fifth, sixth, tenth, thirteenth, fifteenth
and eighteenth games. This would fit in more with his discomfort
at being champion than with any reaction to Fischer's "war of
nerves," although there might have been some connection, since
he remained so impassive in a situation which did call for a
strong reaction.
The other side of the picture, the position of a. world cham
pion in the Soviet Union, also requires some more extended
Since chess came to Europe some time in the Middle Ages,
supremacy has passed from one country to another. At first Italy
had the strongest chess masters, which accounts for the many
64 The Players and the Setting

openings which still have Italian names, such as the Giuoco Pian
( quiet game), Ponziani, Sicilian Defense and so on. Then I
passed to Spain, then to France, from there to England, fron
there to Germany in the nineteenth century, with Emanuel Lru
ker as world champion, and finally in the present century mm
chess masters have been either Russian citizens or of Russia:
origin. In itself this is a curious socio-historical phenomeno
which calls for some explanation. Offhand it would seem th.a
after a country reaches its great power politically, some of thi
aggression is siphoned off into the game of chess, which sym
bolically has been the game of Western Europe and America fo
centuries. No doubt there must be other factors which historica
research can uncover.
In any case, Russian supremacy in this century, especialli
since World War I, has scarcely been challenged. But most of the
experts of Russian origin were emigres during the period
between the two World Wars. The powerful contingent who
dominated the chess world between 1918 and 1939 included
men like Alekhine, Rubinstein, Bogolyubov, Nimzovich, Tarta
kower and others who left Russia in the turmoil of the revolu.
tion. Reshevsky could be included in this list, since technically
he was born in what was then Russia. The only truly native son
who reached international prominence before World War II and
stayed on in the U.S.S.R. was Botvinnik.
After World War II the situation altered, primarily in that the
strongest Russian masters were not permitted to emigrate. Of
the old guard, all retired or died out, except for Botvinnik,
Keres and Flohr, the latter two now Russian citizens. Keres
escaped the fate of many of his fellow-Estonians because he was
such a great chess master. Flohr, who saw his native Czecho
slovakia devastated, and anyhow under the domination of the

It is reported that when the Soviet army occupied Tallinn, Keres's

home town, they had special instructions to leave his house untouched.
Boris Spassky-The Ex-Champion 65

Soviets, preferred to be naturalized, especially since he had a

Russian wife, who preferred to stay there.
Because of the popularity of chess in Russia, the Russians had
always been able to field large teams of great strength, unlike
countries like Holland or the U.S., where a wide gap was always
found between the top two or three players and the remainder.
Yet prior to World War II, no top Soviet master reached the top,
with the exception of Botvinnik. In tournaments held on Russian
soil, Capablanca, Flohr, Fine, and Reshevsky consistently fin
ished ahead of other competition.
After World War II the first sign that this was to change came
in the U.S.S.R.-U.S. radio match in 1945, which the Russians
won by the one-sided score of 15 to 4 . However, this was
more of a reflection of the powerful Soviet strength under the
top than of world supremacy as such.
If the eight players in the AVRO tournament of 1938 are
taken as the best of their times, the only ones who were not
either Russian or of Russian origin were Capablanca and Euwe.
Capablauca died, Euwe declined rather precipitously. I retired.
Only Reshevsky, technically no longer a Russian, continued to
fight on in the international arena.
In the period from 1945 to 1960 the Soviet Union seemed to be
developing an inexhaustible supply of grandmasters. First Bot
vinnik won the title, thanks in part to the one-sidedness of the
1948 tournament. Then Smyslov beat him, only to lose the return
match. The same happened to Tal. Bronstein tied, thereby allow
ing Botvinnik to keep the title. Finally Petrosian smashed Bot
vinnik in 1963, more because of Botvinnik's dcline than because
of Petrosian's great strength.
It is noteworthy that of the five Soviet world champions after
Botvinnik-Bronstein, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian and Spassky, none
lasted very long; the longest was Petrosian, who held the title for
six years, from 1963 to 1969. In this period, although he kept
66 The Players and the Setting

the world title because only Spassky was permitted to play

against him, his tournament results were most unimpressive,
certainly a far cry from the solid series of victories which marked
Botvinnik's career.
The Soviet Union is a country which has been torn by enor
mous purges from its inception, which have left no one, not
even the most eminent, untouched. Relative calm within the
ruling hierarchy has existed only since the advent' of Brezhnev,
less than ten years ago.
It seems likely that in such a political atmosphere victory at
chess on the one hand means a great deal, since it gives the
winner financial and social rewards of the highest order (Bot
vinnik e.g. has twice received the Order of Lenin ) , while on the
other hand it exposes him to tremendous jealousies which may
have grave consequences if he allows himself to slip a little.
Even Botvinnik could not tolerate the politics of chess in the
U.S.S.R. and preferred to retire from the game after his defeat
by Petrosian. It is no wonder then that the champion would
become increasingly insecure as time went on.
Furthermore, the Soviets have come to attach inordinate mean
ing to their supremacy at chess. Forgotten is the fact that while
Alekhine was alive he would have been shot on sight by any
Soviet citizen; now he becomes glorified as the "first Russian
world champion." Whether it was dictated to him or whether he
wrote it himself is unknown, but Botvinnik did publish a sense
less book on the "Soviet school of chess," in which he alleged all
kinds of advantages for dialectical materialism. In its own way
this book was not at a much higher level than Alekhine's notori
ous articles during World War II in which he attributed his own
successes at chess to the victory of the "Aryan spirit."
While outsiders may laugh at the attempt to combine chess
and dialectical materialism, the Soviet chess master is required
to take it in dead earnest. If he goes abroad, he must look upon
himself as a representative of his country and his culture. His
Boris Srxzssky-The Ex-Champion 67

exploits have a national more than a personal meaning ( after

each of his foreign victories Botvinnik sent Stalin a telegram
thanking him for the help that had been given to him by the
Russian leader ) . Consequently a defeat is seen as a national
defeat as well.
Furthermore, as appeared after the losses to Fischer, the Soviet
players are subject to political explanations for their losses, and
political reprisals. According to a newspaper dispatch from the
AP, in February 1973 the State Committee on Physical Culture
and Sports issued a decree criticizing Spassky because he "started
to work less in recent years, rarely took part in important compe
titions, and in the course of the match against Fischer he did not
show high moral qualities and determination." Petrosian and
Taimanov, who also lost to Fischer, were in tum taken to task
for "playing well below their abilities."
In order to make the chess masters work harder the Commit
tee ordered all chess masters to take part in the country's cham
pionships from ow on, and fprbade draws in less than thirty
moves without the permission of the referee.
Thus the Soviet grandmasters are now required to stake their
entire careers in one tournament after another, where they are
obligated to compete regardless of their personal wishes. This
certainly does not make for much peace of mind, nor can it be
expected to create better chess.
With such a psychological background it is no surprise that
excellence comes to be as much of a burden as an asset. It can
be understood why Spassky repeatedly expressed the wish not to
be champion-he did not want so much responsibility imposed
on him. If one adds to this the fact that his family situation had
done the same thing to him as a child, it becomes quite compre
hensible that the inner strain involved in the match was enor
mous. Under such tremendous strain blunders can easily occw-,
and they did.
It should further be considered that while Botvinnik's article
68 The Players and the Setting

on the Soviet school of chess could be met with skepticism by

foreigners, it had to be taken as the gospel truth by the Soviet
masters. Thus they were forced to conform to a certain style,
whether they wanted to or not. The nature of this style can be
teased out, and collated with Soviet thought in other areas.
Almost a quarter of a century ago Dr. Leopold Haimson and I
did an intensive study of the Russian mode of playing chess, as
revealed in their master games. While this study was classified
for a long time, it has since been declassified, so that its essential
findings can be released now. The summary of the paper is as
follows :
The Soviet chess style at that time ( 1950 ) , was characterized
by an extreme emphasis on tactics and counter-attack. While
their strategic conceptions were none too striking, their tactical
execution was superb. Above all, they eschewed a passive
defense, relying primarily on a vigorous counter-attack. In pas
sive positions Soviet players frequently went to pieces, unable to
tolerate a long-winded defense in which they had no aggressive
Soviet chess was noted for its highly original ideas, often
markedly different from those common in Western Europe and
America. In part however this originality stemmed from a lack
of familiarity with what was done outside the country. Even
their rules remained slightly different, in that they did not allow
for a draw by a threefold repetition of moves; both Spassky and
Petrosian seemingly forgot this Western rule in games against
Fischer in which they had the upper hand.
A certain intolerance of draws was quite noteworthy. They
played to win or lose, often winning brilliantly because they
took so many chances, and equally often losing needlessly
because they would not choose a safe defensive line.
The fear of deviation which had been such a marked feature
of Soviet society had crept into chess as well. No master dared
Boris Spassky-The Ex-Champion 69

to say that his style was really different from that of others. In
reference to this pressure for conformity I recalled an incident
during my own stay in Russia in 1937. Invited by the newspaper
Izvestia to give my impressions of Russia, after a few comments
about the subways I wisely confined my remarks to chess.
Among other things I noted the rather wild kind of play in
which Russian masters of that day engaged, commenting that
the only exception in the Moscow tournament was Belavienetz,
whose play was much more solid than that of any of the others.
Immediately Belavienetz ( who was later killed in the war )
wrote an indig11ant letter to Izvestia, disclaiming any difference
from the other masters, and attacking me for daring to insinuate
that he was superior.
Apart from Botvinnik, the apotheosis of this first Soviet chess
style was seen in Bronstein and especially Tal. But once it had
become routine to see only Soviet world champions, noticeable
changes in style began to appear. They familiarized themselves
with what foreign masters w::re doing. They began to play more
solid defensive chess. They "showed less originality. They not
only stopped avoiding draws, they almost seemed to welcome
them in top tournaments.
The leading proponent of the new style was Petrosian, who
won the title from Botvinnik in 1963. From 1960 to 1972, when
Karpov appeared on the scene, the Soviets produced no new
grandmasters, but were dominated by the same group of experts
-Keres, Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky, etc. Petrosian I have
always thought of as the weakest player who ever held the
world title. His style could best be called bureaucratic, since he
tends to win by persistence more than by imagintion. Further,
his tournament results, even when he was world champion, were
not in the slightest degree impressive.
But even with the new style, the Russian master seemed
required to conform. Everybody now began to play cautious


70 The Players and the Setting.

careful chess, and a high percentage of draws became the order

of the day. In one tournament it was reported that Spassky had
offered a draw to every opponent.
The old style, prior to 1950, seemed to fit in with Soviet socio
political conditior.s. Attack was the constant order of the day. No
man was safe for any extended period of time, so there was no
point to caution. Champions did not last long; enjoy it while you
can. Dr. Haimson noted striking similarities to the Soviet mili
tary mind, and to the general atmosphere of Soviet thought.
Once the Soviets had established themselves as a secure first
rate world power, a strong tendency developed to safeguard
their position. Hence the change in chess style was also a reflec
tion of this change in world position and in self-image.
So great was the domination of the Soviets in world chess that
they began to think of themselves as supermen at the game. The
climax came when the first match of the Soviet Union against
the rest of the world was arranged in 1970. Alth<;mgh they won
by an odd point, political combinations were added to those
across the chess board, when the Hungarian Portisch mysteri
ously overlooked an obvious win against his Russian opponent,
after a hasty consultation with the Hungarian ambassador. With
such a frame of mind, it began to matter little whether they beat
one another; what counted was their ability to beat outsiders.
Spassky seems caught between the old Russian style and the
new. His play betrays a sharp ambivalence, alternating sharply
between attack and defense. Although a more original playe1
than Petrosian, and capable of deeper combinations, he is more
erratic. It is not surprising that he seems less eager to confonn
than his colleagues, which has left him out of favor with the
While the Soviet Union continued to dominate the world
chess scene until Fischer's victory in 1972, beginning in the
1950's most of the new names seen in the important tou:.:naments
Boris Spassky-The Ex-Champion 71

were no longer Russian. Besides Fischer . there were the Yugo

slavians Gligoric and Trifunovic, the Polish-Argentine Najdorf,
who had a kind of renaissance after the war, the Hungarian
Portisch, the Dane Larsen, the Icelander Olafsson and many
others. The Soviet team continued to win all the Olympic
matches, primarily because of their strength on the lower boards,
which could not be matched by any other country. At the higher
levels even the world champions like Smyslov, Petrosian, Tai
and Bronstein, while often at or near the top in international
tournaments, were also-rans on many occasions. By the early
1960's it had become clear that Soviet supremacy in chess was
not very different from Russian supremacy fa the pre-World War
II era; twentieth-century chess has been dominated by Russians.
Yet at the highest reaches things were. different. The world
champions could not maintain themselves for long, apparently
nervous under the strain imposed by the Soviet system. They
did keep the world championship after Botvinnik's retirement,
but in considerable measure because of political machinations, as
well as chess genius. It has aJileady been mentioned that Keres
was never permitted to play a match for the title, which he
might well have won.
After Cura9ao Fischer had demonstrated that he was the
leading player in the Western world. A match with Botvinnik
at that time would have been logical. Had Botvinnik played
against Fischer the way he played against Petrosian the next
year he would probably also have lost. So there is some justice in
Fischer's claim that he should have been champion a '1ong time
ago," although he would most likely have lost to some of the other
Soviet masters who defeated him at Cura9ao.
Spassky came to Reykjavik escorted by two grandmasters and
a psychologist. What the psychologist was for was never
explained. It should be remembered though that Soviet psychol
ogy operates at an entirely different level. from American, the
72 The Players and the Setting

clinical branch of which, at any rate, is dominated by the doc:

trines of psychoanalysis. Soviet psychology is still heavily
Pavlovian, with a major emphasis on such questions as conscious
choice and the will to act, which are either underplayed or'
ignored by American psychology. In our terminology the role of
the psychologist for Spassky must have been mainly that of an
expert who could help Spassky manipulate the situations that he
got into with Fischer. Clearly this failed completely.
After game 17 the Russians formally submitted a complaint
with the bizarre charge that Fischer and the Americans were
using chemical and electronic means to influence Spassky. While
the Western world looked upon this as a crude alibi for what
seemed likely to be a certain loss, possibly even an excuse for
pulling Spassky out of the match at the last minute, Soviet
citizens have to take any such complaint with the utmost serious
ness. If the Soviet government was going to claim that Spassky
was going to be held responsible for his actions when he got
back home, that might have damaging repercussions. The net
effect of the Soviet charge must have been therefore to make
Spassky even more nervous than he was, while Fischer could
laugh it off as a bad joke. It does show that the Soviet hierarchy
regarded Spassky's loss as a meaningful blow to their world
image, which he might or might not have to answer for per
sonally. The latest report is that Euwe has offered to amend the
FIDE rules to allow a return match between Spassky and
Fischer, while the Soviets have been cool to the idea. In the San
Antonio "Fried Chicken" tournament, held three months after
the match, Spassky was not allowed to play, so evidently he is
being punished for his loss.
In any case, while there was undoubtedly a war of nerves
going on in Iceland, it was due more to the pressures exerted on
Spassky by his position and the Soviet attitude to chess and
chess masters than to Fischer's childish antics. Bobby sized up
Boris Spassky-The Ex-Champion 73

the situation correctly once with his remark about the Soviet
masters that "to them it's a nine-to-five job. Their heart isn't in
it." What he did not see is that their hearts aren't in it because
of the nerve-exhausting pressw-es put on them.
CHAP T E R 5 .

The Ps ycho log y of Chess

I N addition to the other novelties introduced by this match, i

became clear even before it started that there was an intens1
psychological duel going on as well as a chess duel. Many fel
that Fischer was conducting a deliberate war of nerves, whicl
I do not believe. Towards the end of the match the Russiaru
even came forth with their bizarre accusation about chemic
and electronic influences. In any case some psychological explana
tion of the match is called for, as much as a technical chesi
Chess is primarily a man's game. While no exact figures are
available, there seem to be about one hundred men playing the
game for every woman. The tide is changing somewhat, but one
still sees very few women who take the game seriously. In all of
chess history only two women have ever reached a stage where
they were strong enough to compete in a masters' tournament
with men.
Unlike the more energetic sports, there is no physical contact
between the two players. So chess becomes an intellectual battle
between two men.
In all fields of life men are driven by the will to win. In a chess
game the immediate goal is to beat the other fellow. So chess
becomes an outlet for the man's aggression.
People are generally brought up to conceal their aggressive

The Psychology of Chess 75

v.ishes, and chess players are no exception. Ordinarily they will

say that they play for relaxation, for sport, for companionship,
for anything except the pleasure in beating the other fellow.
In this respect Fischer, with his almost childlike simplicity,
conceals nothing. As far back as anybody could tum, he was
publicly announcing that he was the best player in the world,
actually the best player of all time. He . could beat anybody, and
he enjoyed saying so. As long as he was climbing to the top,
people were horrified, antagonized, or .repelled by his boasting.
Now that he is champion it has to be looked at in a different
The sadism involved in his victories is not hidden by Bobby.
"I like to see 'em squirm," he said whe:n he was younger. When
he acquired more polish he said: "I crush the other fellow's ego."
These statements must be taken literally. Fischer really believes
that through his chess victories he is destroying all the enemies
who made his life miserable and bitter as he was going up the
Boys fight with other bbys from the moment they are old
enough to stand up. As they grow it takes different forms. At
first it may be a magical belief that they can do anything. Later
this magical wish is extended to characters in TV movies and
books, such as Superman. Gradually the boy tests himself out
against other males, first against father, then brothers, then others
outside the home. For many men it remains a physical outlet
long into adulthood, even into old age. Others are socialized
more readily, and learn to channelize their aggression into forms
which do not directly hurt other people.
Usually boys begin to take an interest in ches shortly before
puberty, about the age of twelve, sometimes a little earlier. At
thi time the boy begins to compare hiinself with the grown-up
father, and to take stock of where he might be going in life: The
adolescent period, which ensues shortly thereafter, is dominated
76 The Players and the Setting

by the boy's constant attempts to surpass his father in whateve

way he can.
For this adolescent battle, which almost everybody goe
through in one form or another, chess offers a marvellous outlet
Chess is a game that can be learned in an hour, yet cannot h
mastered in a lifetime. Hence many boys start on a level not tOi.
far below father. With a little assiduous diligence they can sooi
catch up to father, and in many cases surpass him. There are
obvious alibis in the game, as in cards, or even in sports, wher1
a player may complain that he was muscle-bound, or too tired.
That chess players offer alibis so readily is an indication th&t
losing is quite painful. But the boy who beats his father at ches
acquires a sense of satisfaction which is hard to equal in other
Besides the father, boys in early adolescence also play chess ,
lot with other boys of their own age. For many it becomes almost
an addiction for a period of time. I have seen boys of this agt
play chess for ten or twelve hours at a time, even continuing
the game while they went to the toilet.
All the chess masters I have ever known have passed througl1
a period in adolescence where chess was a burning passion. For
years they do nothing that is more important, forgetting school
family, and most other sports.
Sometimes this addiction goes so far as to incapacitate the boy
for other activities. Earlier I related how Fischer's mother came
to me when he was thirteen to see how she could get him away
from his exclusive devotion to chess; fortunately she did not
succeed. Spassky, who won a strong Leningrad junior tourna
ment at 12, probably went through a similar development.
Most boys go through a brief homosexual period in early
adolescence. The figures vary, but most studies report that at
least 50% have a few casual homosexual contacts, such as mutual
masturbation, or seduction by an older man, and then move on
to contacts with girls. Since chess brings boys together for hours
The Psychology of Chess 77

at a time without permissible physical contact, it can serve as

a defense against the homosexual wishes. In fact, one almost
never finds an overt homosexual who :is a chess player. In my
book The Psychology of the Chess Player I drew some sharp
contrasts between the personality of the typical adolescent homo
sexual and the typical chess player.
Generally the homosexual is a passive man who fantasizes
about getting magical omnipotent father-figures to help him out
in life's dilemmas. He tends to be weak, unambitious, fearful of
intimate contacts, with men as well as women. The paradoxical
dilemma of the overt homosexual is that he finds it hard to find
straight men with whom he can just be friends.
By contrast, the chess player is apt to be pushy, aggressive,
ambitious and strong enough to be successful. The reasonable
control of the aggression which is essential to play chess extends
to other areas of living.
Norman Reider has collected a number of interesting legends
about the origins of chess which very clearly bring out the
aggressive factor. In one European legend by Jacob Cessolis,
about 1275, the story goes that an eastern philosopher invented
the game in the reign of Evil-Merodach, who is presented regu
larly in medieval works as a monster of cruelty. Evil-Merodach
chopped up the body of his father, Nebuchadnezzar, into three
hundred pieces and threw them to three hundred vultures. The
sages then invented chess in order to cure him of his madness.
In another legend told by al-Adli, it is said that the game was
invented to assist in the military education of a young prince
who pleaded that he was incompetent to lead his armies into
war, owing to his want of experience.
Legends frequently relate how chess was invented to be a
substitUte for war. In one, a certain king of India who was
peacefully inclined procured the invention of the game in order
that his fellow monarchs might settle their disputes over the.
board without effusion of blood. In another, a king who was
78 The Players and the Setting

passionately fond of war had overcome all his enemies and wai

bored and ill. He instructed a sage to distract him, whereupou

chess was invented and he was shown how to manipulate force\
and devise tactics. The king tried the game, ascertained thal
the philosopher had spoken truly, and found distraction and
health in chess. Still another legend, related by Firdawsi, told 0:
a queen who had two sons, each by a separate marriage, who
quarreled and finally resorted to war. One died in battle, though
not through being slain, and when the news came to the queen
she accused the brother of murder. He could not satisfactorih
explain to his mother how the death happened, and so he called
together the wise men of his kingdom and laid the case before
them. They invented the game of chess and made clear how

king can fall in battle without having been slain. The king then
took his game of chess to his mother and thus explained the
death of his brother. She continued to study the board all that
day and night without desiring food, until death released her
from her sorrow, and from that time the chess board has
remained in the knowledge of mankind.
A frequently repeated story is that of the reward to the
philosopher who is supposed to have invented chess. When the
king invited him to choose a reward for the invention of such a
charming game, he is said to have asked for a quantity of corn
to be placed on the chess board in a special way : the first square
is to hold one grain, the second double, the third double that,
the fourth double that, and so on. At first the king gladly agreed,
but then he realized that there is not enough corn in his kingdom
to comply with the request. Someone has taken the trouble to
compute that the amount of com asked for, a total of 264 -1, is
enough to cover England to a uniform depth of more than thirty
eight feet. In this legend the close connection of chess with
mathematics becomes apparent.
In going from legend to reality it may be observed that the
aggressive element recedes more and more into the background.
The Psychology o-f Chess 79

In the game itself, the King is no longer killed; he is "check

mated," a word linguistically related to "kill" but it no longer has
any meaning outside of chess. Players give check to the enemy
King; they do not attack him. In fact, as the game is played,
the enemy King is not captured at all ; he is only mated. Pieces
are captured, but the ultimate goal-the "death" of the enemy
King-is always denied the player.
As players become more expert, their aggression has to be
held back more and more. Beginners still say "check" when they
attack the enemy King; experts no longer do so. Some beginners
even say "check" when the enemy Queen is threatened; this too
passes quickly. A German wit in fact once wrote a book entitled
Instructions to Spectators at Chess Tournaments. The book con
sisted of three hundred blank pages and one other page on
which was written: KEEP QUIET. Fischer might have done well
to distribute this book to the spectators in Iceland.
Inasmuch as there is no physical contact, the intellectual ele
ment becomes overaccentuatd in the game. Per se chess is a
mathematical exercise, the solution to which could be found if
enough experts engaged in a cooperative effort to do so. As chess
history has gone, the solutions have been contributed by hun
dreds of chess analysts and masters from all comers of the globe.
While chess is theoretically a draw, and the first twenty moves
have been analyzed almost to exhaustion, corrections to the
established analyses are constantly being found, as the current
match once again shows. Hence achievement in chess is in fact
intellectual achievement of a fairly high order, which justifies
the winner's feeling that he has done something worthy of note.
Psychologists are still struggling with the problem of specificity
vs. generality in intelligence: is intelligence a global ability that
can be applied to anything, or is it composed of abilities that
are for some reason specific to a certain area?
In chess the answer to this question seems to be about 50-50.
The Dutch psychologist-chess master Adriaan de Groot has com-
80 The Pl.ayers and the Setting

piled the records of all the leading chess masters of the past
century, listing 55 grandmasters from Philidor to Fischer ( de
Groot's work was published in 1963). Many of these showel
abilities of a high order in other fields, many did not.
The occupations from which the grandmasters come sho11
both similarities and differences. Anderssen, Lasker and Euwc
were mathematicians; Botvinnik is an engineer. Capablanca
began to study engineering but abandoned it in favor of chess
Thus about half came from mathematical-scientific fields, but
many other professions are also represented. Ruy Lopez was a
clergyman, as is Lombardy today. Philidor was a musician; hisi
bust still adorns the Paris Opera. Deschapelles was a soldier
Lewis, McDonnell and Saint-Amant were businessmen; Kolisch
a banker (after his retirement from chess ) ; Zukertort and Tar
rasch physicians; Buckle a historian; Tartakower a poet. Tai
manov is a concert pianist. There was even a chess maste1
named Harmonist who danced at the Opera House in Vienna,
and one who was a professional strong man. There was a serf
on an Indian estate, Sultan Khan, who was ahnost illiterate; he
comes closest to the chess champion of Stefan Zweig's novelette
The Royal Game, who is depicted as a kind of idiot-savant.
From his study of famous chess masters de Groot drew two
main conclusions :
1. Great achievements in chess do not require per se an
exceptionally high verbal-conceptual degree of intelligence;
2. The course which the rest of the chess player's life takes
depends largely on whether or not he was, educationally and
environmentally, in a position to avail himself of a formal train
ing without too much concomitant frustration.
I have the impression that it is becoming increasingly difficult
for even the most gifted persons to acquire great skill in chess

In 1933 the world champion U.S. chess team was invited to spend an
evening at the home of Sultan Khan's master in London, the Maharajah of
So-and-So. Sultan Khan was required to wait at table all evening.
The Psychology of Chess 81

without long years of concentration in adolescence. De Groot

shows that two-thirds of the leading grandmasters have been
professionals at least for the period when they played chess,
though some left later for other fields. So much knowledge about
the game has already been accumulated that long years of study
are indispensable to acquire this knowledge before anyone can
attain real mastery.
Both Fischer and Spassky are full-time professionals. Spassky's
professionalism is concealed behind his alleged occupation as a
"journalist," but everybody looks up0n this as a polite :fiction
which the Soviets maintain for reasons of their own. Fischer of
course has a real monomania about chess.
The question is often raised whether the intellectual abilities
needed for great achievement in chess can be readily applied
or transferred to other :fields . Could Fischer now for example
become a top-Hight mathematician or engineer? There is no rea
son to believe that this is so. For whatever reason, his genius
for the game is specific to c;hess, as is also the case with Spassky.
These facts however are not very relevant to the psychology
of the average chess player. In his mind, victory at chess is an
intellectual achievement, and defeat an intellectual failure, not
merely because the chess problem is so difficult but also because
physical contact has been excluded.
How people react to victory and defeat depends on their
psychological make-up; on the chess board it depends on what
chess means to them unconsciously. In general victory will be
felt as an enhancement of the person's . self-esteem, since he has
done it by his own efforts, while defeat will be seen as a mani
festation of intellectual incompetence. Both of . these reactions
can be exaggerated in extreme directions by the particular
aspects of any person's psyche.
Further, since chess is a battle between two men, the meaning
of both victory and defeat depends on the unconscious meaning
of the enemy to the player. The boy who defeats his father sees
82 The P'layers and the Setting

the world as his oyster. So it is not surprising that he records hi

victories, shows them to his friends, and boasts of his achieve
ments. In contrast, the loss may reinforce the boy's feeling tha
he is a failure in life because he can never catch up to fathet
who will always defeat him. Or it may mean nothing more thai
a loss at a game if his father was a kindly man who allowed hi
son to grow up properly.
When I switched from chess to psychoanalysis my first consul
tation was with a man whose presenting complaint was tha1
chess made him nervous, and that he could not sleep after ht
spent an evening at the game. Later I learned that this is at
extremely common complaint.
Fischer, brought up without a father, from adolescence on
even without a mother, is a man who has been singular ly unsuc
cessful in everything outside of chess. Hence victory in chess fat
him must gratify all kinds of revengeful omnipotent fantasies, in
which he gets back at all the men who have humiliated him
throughout his life. By the same token, defeat brings him back
to the situation of the helpless abandoned little boy, where he
felt so desperately unhappy. Hence defeat involves almost a
total breakdown of his life style, and is thus a drastic threat,
After his loss in the first game, he seemed to have suffered a kind
of breakdown which led him to forfeit the second game, another
unheard-of event in chess history. Spassky had destroyed him the
way he had wanted to destroy Spassky. But then Fischer showed
that remarkable resilience of character which is so typical of
him, making a brilliant comeback in the next eight games where
he virtually clinched the title.
I would think that Fischer's strange behavior before the match.
when he almost talked himself out of the chess world, wa1
motivated more by a terrible fear of loss than by anything else.
His apprehensiveness remains apparent under the surface to
anyone who looks closely.
The Psychology of Chess 83

Since victory gratifies many of the omnipotent fantasies of

childhood for Fischer, he may quite conceivably retire from
active chess for a while in order to indulge these fantasies.
Further, since he developed a rather challenging, essentially
umound style in the second half of the match, which might well
have cost him many points, he may well become fearful of what
any new challenger might do to him. All the champions of the
past withdrew for some time after their conquest of the title;
Fischer's retirement may well be longer because of his emotional
The nature of chess is such that it lends itself to some degree
of withdrawal from the game if the aggression becomes too
strong. The player can resort to correspondence chess, or to one
of the numerous varieties of problem composition and solving,
in which there does not seem to be any open combat at all. Or
the person can give up chess altogether, coming back to it only
at a much later age. In fact, a common pattern of development
is that where the boy plays chess passionately in adolescence,
then gives it up for his life"li work, and finally returns to it in late
middle age or old age.
The respective roles of victory and defeat in the psychic econ
omy help to explain why chess is played so little by women. For
the woman the enemy is generally another woman, whom she
wishes to defeat in order to get a man. Victory over a man is
useless to her, since it brings isolation from men rather than love.
And victory over a woman does not get her closer to a man. So
the whole structure of the game is harder to fit into her central
life scheme. ( Naturally there are many exceptions to this scheme,
especially nowadays when woman's role is changing so rapidly. )
Again in terms of the meaning of victory arid defeat it must
be borne in mind that chess is after all only a game. Victory can
be minimized as incidental to life's main endeavors, while defeat
can be shrugged off as of no more significance than defeat in
84 The Players and the Setting

any other game, such as golf or tennis. It all depends on what

psychologists call the degree of ego-involvement: how much the
game really means to the player, which will vary widely.
While chess is a mathematical exercise in theory, it diffen
from more conventional mathematics in that, firstly, there is no
clear-cut solution, and secondly, it takes the form of a combat
with another person. Actually, where the solution is clear-cut, as
in many endgames, the game is abandoned and a new one is
begun. The absence of a clear-cut solution makes it difficult foi
many mathematicians to appreciate the game. So while many in
the mathematical-scientific fields are attracted to chess, many
others stay away from it because they cannot tolerate its uncer
In addition to being an intellectual battle, the chess pieces
lend themselves to all kinds of symbolic meaning, which again
helps to explain the appeal of the game, since checkers, e.g. or
dominoes, do not offer the same possibilities for symbolic pro
The central figure in chess is the King, which gives the game
its name and its universal character. The word for King, which
is approximately the same in all languages ( unlike the other
pieces, including the Queen, the names of which vary ) is "shah"
in Persian, leading to chess, checkmate, King and various equiva
The King is the acme of individualism; hence a chess player
who identifies with the King is apt to be a highly individualistic
person. Indeed, much of Fischer's behavior through the years
and, in particular in this match, becomes more understandable
if it assumed that he sees himself as one of the absolute monarchs
of the past, commanding others to obey him, do his bidding, or
get out of his way. His glorification of "aristocrats," which was
revealed in the interview with Ginzburg, fits in with this self
The Psychowgy of Chess 85

Psychologically the King stands for the powerful father of

childhood. By winning at chess the player not only unconsciously
defeats his father, but also takes his place, thus gratifying every
boy s goal in the rivalry with father.

Apart from symbolizing the father the chess King also stands
for a self-image which is, like the King of the chessboard, indis
pensable but weak. He is all-important, yet his powers are
strictly circumscribed, and in actual fact he is one of the weakest
of pieces. This contrast between the reality of a weak piece and
the fantasy of a great king sets the stage for the projection of
the boy's developmental conflict about becoming a man. It can
be intense or mild, depending on the boy's background.
Further, a third symbolic meaning of the chess king is the
phallic one : the king is a penis. As in all rivalry with the father,
through his victory the boy gains sexual power. In chess this is
doubly effective because the piece itself ( indeed, all the pieces )
could stand for the penis. Fischer's well-known fantasy of build
ing a house that is shaped like a Rook can be interpreted to
have a typical double symbolic meang: first of all it is the
strong penis for which he apparently finds so little use in real
life, second it is a castle in which he can live in grandiose
fantasy, like the kings of old, shutting out the real world, and pro
tected by moats and soldiers from any danger of attack.
In addition, the pieces and the board lend themselves, again
in contrast to checkers, to all kinds of symbolic meanings. A
woman during the match dreamt that she was the King of a
chessboard, being pressed off the board by pressure from many
sides. This woman, who was carrying on an unhappy extra
marital love affair, had a strong desire to be a man, thereby
gaining the sexual freedom she projected to men. But outside
forces would not let her (they pushed her off the board).
I have suggested that Fischer marks a turning point in chess
history because he stands for the shift from chess as the game of
86 The Players and the Setting

intellectuals to a popular sport suitable for the masses. As a spot.

it can readily be adapted to many different purposes. Anyom
can learn it in an hour, yet it takes years to become a mastet
Competition can be swift and exciting, as the present vogue o!
Swiss system tournaments shows. Masters can take five hours ti:
play a game, or they can do it in five minutes. It can be antiei
pated that exhibitions of quick chess and blindfold chess bj
masters will become much more popular as interest in the gamt
continues to accelerate.
Special variations the rules can lead to contests of different
types. Besides Swiss system tournaments there could be tourna
ments with special time limits, contests with special openings.
even matches that start from certain specified unclear positions.
Up to recently chess masters have had to rely on patronage
from wealthy men to make a living, much as writers did sev
eral centuries ago. The institution of royalties made writers inde
pendent of patrons, but dependent on the taste of the public.
For the first time now through TV and other modern media
chess has a chance to become independent of the patronage sys
tern, which has hampered it so severely in the past. TV perform
ances, mass-scale competitions, such as have been going on in
the Soviet Union for a long time, can provide the basis for a

solid core of professional chess masters who will be real profes

sionals, devoting their major energies to the game.
Psychiatrically the present match was a battle between a
paranoid and a depressive character. Fischer's paranoid traits
have been so obvious for years that it has become almost routine
to refer to them. If his persistent complaints are listed it is found
that they refer to : a ) TV cameras; b ) closeness of audience
( clear the first few rows ) ; c ) noise; d ) lighting; e ) shape of
chair. There is no reason to feel that there is any realistic basis
for his complaints. The noise level was carefully tested, and
found to be adequate. The match was attended by dozens of
The Psychology of :Chess 87

grandmasters who had participated all . over the world; the opin
ion was unanimous that the playing conditions were excellent.
If all his complaints. are put together psychologically, it can be
seen that they express his wish to be treated as a king of old : he
must be seated in a special chair, the room must be specially lit,
no one is permitted to come too close to him, or make any
undue amount of noise, people must stare at him admiringly but
not make it obvious that they are doing so. After a while every
body came to see that his demands had something psycho
logically peculiar about them. Hopefully his victory may mellow
ltim to the point where he becomes more realistic about playing
Because he attaches omnipotent fantasies to both victory and
defeat, his reaction to the loss in the first game was almost
c atastrophic. What is incredible about him, however, is his abil
ity to snap out of these paranoid states, and handle the reality
of the chess board with such remarkable skill.
Now that he is champ:km, the chess world may think that
some of the peculiarities which were so obvious before will
disapp ear. That may happen, but it is a distinct possibility, even
probability, that it will not. Right after the match ended it was
announced that New York's Mayor Lindsay wanted to give him
a ticker tape parade, but officials were holding off because they
did not know whether Bobby would attend. Among his idiosyn
cratic demands on the mayor was one for a bullet-proof car. He
will be a great but at times difficult champion.
The question everybody asks is this : if he has so many emo
tional problems, how can he play such great chess? This is pre
cisely what is so incredible about him, that in spite of such grossly
childish behavior as in the forfeit of the second game, he can
still play tremendous chess.
But a close examination of his play also shows that in spite
of his win, his chess was well below the best form that he has
displayed in other contests. In other words, his nervousness did
88 The Pl.ayers and the Setting

cost him a good deal, and might well have cost him the title i
Spassky had not been equally nervous.
In annotating the games I was struck by two psycho-technica
considerations : the frequency with which he made dubiou
moves of pieces to the edge of the board, and his prefene\
mode of counterattacking against the center from the side.
With regard to the first, moving to the edge of the board, tlili
could be considered meaningful only if the moves themselve
were bad or dubious. That is indeed the case in games one
three, eleven, thirteen, fourteen, seventeen, eighteen and nino
teen, or eight out of a total of twenty, an extraordinarily higt
percentage. This "edge maneuver" is most likely the chessi;
equivalent of the running away that he was always threatepin
As far as the counterattack against the center, this has lon\
been an outstanding characteristic of his style. Chess-wise it 11
often a good idea. But often enough in this match it turned olll
poorly ( the above-mentioned games are examples ) . This ton
may well have some psychological meaning for him : with his
problems about women the center may be an area of excessive
Spassky's depressive personality came out in various ways
Outwardly he is so calm and unemotional that he must be inter
nalizing his aggression, in contrast to the flamboyant way ill
which Fischer displays his aggression to the world. To win a
game requires a conscious aggressive intent. If Spassky is in such
conflict about it, this would explain why time and again he let
victories slip through his fingers. His typical pattern, especially
in the second half, was to play brilliantly in the opening, col
lapse in the middle game, come back sensationally in the end'
A careful analysis of Spassky's errors shows that he was
obsessed with an excessive desire to retreat. This corresponds to
his off-the-board pronouncements that he did not want to be>
The Psychology of Chess 89

champion, that he wanted peace and the life of an ordinary per

son, rather than the onerous burdens of a champion. Indeed the
error pattern of both champions persisted to the very end, in
that in the last game, Fischer let a probable win slip through his
fingers by a poor edge Pawn move ( . P-R4 ) , while Spassky
mi5sed the chance for a draw by omitting an aggressive line
( K-R3). By that time the match was psychologically over, and it
made no real difference, yet it is striking how the unconscious
peculiarities of both players remained in evidence right down to
the last move.
M'iich interest has been attached to the personality of the chess
player : what kind of an individual is he? Why does he pursue
the game? What does he get out of it? A number of years ago I
attempted to approach this question via a careful study of the
champions of the past hundred years, roughly from Staunton to
In this period there were nine official world champions. These
can be divided into hero champions and non-hero champions.
The hero type is the one, like Morphy, Alekhine, Capablanca,
and now Fischer, who uses chess to gratify his omnipotent
fantasies, and in turn is used by the chess amateur as a source
of projection for the amateur's own fantasies of grandeur. Typi
cally the champion is built up entirely out of proportion, thereby
giving the amateur the feeling unconsciously that through identi
fication with him he too can conquer the world.
The prime example of this hero worship in chess history is
Paul Morphy ( 1836-1883 ) . Since Morphy's retirement from the
game after only a few years of active competition, there has
been endless argument about whether he could defeat the cur
rent champions of a later period. Many people have stoutly
maintained that he could beat anybody else who ever came
after him, that he was the greatest of them all. Steinitz, who fol
lowed Morphy after a few years ( 1866 ) , was the first butt of
90 The Pwyers and the Setting

this kind of attack. In a long series of articles he refuted th1

argument unmercifully, but when feelings run high evidenc
becomes irrelevant. Too many people have had a stake in tht
assertion that Morphy was "the greatest of them all" ; obvious!]
the stake derives from their wish through identification witli
Morphy to do the same.
Actually Morphy's major achievement lay in his defeat al
Anderssen in a set match in 1858. Shortly thereafter he retiretl
from chess, lapsing into an increasingly bizarre paranoid condi
tion. Examination of his game shows that he was indeed we
ahead of his time. Where Anderssen and th e other German
masters of that day went in for wild attacks which dissipated
their resources, like cavalrymen assaulting tanks, Morphy playe<l
a solid substantial game in which the principles of modern posi
tion play came to the fore for the first time. But it was Steiniti
who put these principles into intelligible form, popularizing
them through a series of outstanding books which raised the
level of chess skill well above what it had been before.
An intriguing question arises, whether the level of play of
chess masters has shown a progressive increase, or whether it
reached a certain point after which it did not go any higher. In
physical sports there are objective criteria by which such a ques
tion can be answered, e.g. the times required to run 100 yards,
or swim 100 meters. It is clear in the physical arena that the
abilities of the outstanding champions in the various sports have
continually been increasing, so that Olympic records are shat
tered every time the events are held.
No such objective criterion exists in chess. The only way to
approach the question is to subject the scores of the games to
intensive scrutiny.
When that is done, it would appear that a high-water mark
in the history of the game was probably reached with Morphy,
and certainly with Steinitz. Knowledge of the openings has
The Psychology of Chess 91

expanded enormously, and continues to do so, so that opening

play cannot profitably serve as a source of comparison. But mid
dle game and endgame play do not change. In the accuracy of
their calculations, in the depth of thei'r ideas and in the effec
tiveness of their over-the-board play both Morphy and Steinitz
were on a par with all those who followed them.
The differences in chess history lie more in the increasing
number of masters and experts who play excellent chess than in
the caliber of the top champions. Where Morphy could still give
SOJile of his leading opponents odds, that was no longer possible
ten years later, and would be totally unthinkable today. It seems
likely that as time goes on, this process will accelerate, leading
to further increase in the playing strength of the average tourna
ment competitor, and a continual rise in the quality of the aver
age tournament game.
The Soviet Union has already shown how such a multiplica
tion of powerful players can take place on an enormous scale,
which has allowed them fo produce ten first-class players for
eveq one in other countries. Yet with all this, true genius, such
as Fischer, is not created.
It has already been noted that the Soviet Union, which pro
duced one new name after another in the 1950's, several of
whom went on to become world champions, began to give way
to other countries in the 1960's. This parallels a complaint heard
in other fields of Soviet science, that while many top-flight
researchers are produced by the system, first-class geniuses seem
to be missing.
One word of caution should be entered here: The psycho
logical interpretations offered need not and should not interfere
with anyone's enjoyment of chess. If Fischer becomes more
aware of his psychological conflicts it should improve his game,
even though many, caught up in the hero worship typically
attached to such champions, do not see how he could improve.
92 The Pl.ayers and the Setting

Nor need the average player stop playing chess because it

involves aggressive wishes, or symbolizes sexual power through
victory. These things are characteristic of all human activities in
greater or lesser degree; what is important is only that they br
brought out so that a person can make conscious choices, instead
of being driven by unconscious compulsions.
Part II


Review of the Match

ALT H o u G H marred by many errors on both sides, the most

sensational match in the history of chess ended in a fully-deserved
victory for Fischer. He has proved beyond all doubt that he is
the best player alive today.
Broadly, the match can be divided into two parts, with a
sparkling finale. In the first ten games, Bobby forged ahead,
especially in games three to ten, where he won five, lost none
and drew three. Thus in spite of his forfeit in game two and his
blunder in game one, after len games the score stood 6Y2 to 3Y2
in Fischer's favor. True, Spassky's play in this part was marked
by incredible blunders, but his opponent knew how to take
advantage of them.
In the second part, consisting of the next ten games, the
players were even, the score being one to one with eight draws.
In this part, in one game after another Fischer made mistakes
which should have cost him those games, but Spassky was
unable to push home to victory. Had Spassky played as well in
the first part as he did in the second, the final score would have
been much closer.
Finally, in the last game, Spassky lost only because a draw
was equivalent to a loss for him at that point.
In retrospect then, the match was decided mainly by Spassky's
blunders in the first half, especially in games five, six, eight and

96 The Match

ten. Once Fischer was three points ahead, he had the good sense
to coast to victory on a long series of draws, though most of
these were bitterly fought to the very end.
Undoubtedly the circumstances surrounding the match made
both players nervous, and their play showed the strain. Chess
wise the games are of rather poor caliber. Fischer was lost in
eight games, from which he managed to escape with draws, in
one case a win ( games four, ten, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen,
seventeen, eighteen and nineteen ) . A few of these wins, as in
games ten and thirteen, are quite difficult to find over the board,
but the rest are fairly easy. Except for game thirteen, which see
sawed back and forth until Fischer finally won after he had
given his opponent a chance to draw, no games of really notable
stature were recorded.
Nonetheless Fischer, in spite of his strange behavior off the
board, is a consummate pragmatist on the board. The idea of
the game is to win, and he won. When draws were good
enough, he drew; when wins were absolutely required he pro
duced them. No doubt Spassky could do better, but there is
equally no doubt that Fischer is the better over-the-board player .

A detailed summary of the games is useful here.

GAME 1 Queen's Gambit Declined. In a clearly drawn position

Fischer blundered. Spassky won.
Score: Fischer 0 Spassky 1
GAME 2 Fischer forfeited. Opening: Chester Fox Gambit.
Score: Fischer 0 Spassky 2
GAME 3 Benoni Deferred. A dubious innovation by Fischer was

badly handled by Spassky, who lost.

Score: Fischer 1 Spassky 2
GAME 4 SiciUan Defense. Spassky offered a Pawn sacrifice for an

attack. After brilliant play he missed a win, and Fischer

escaped with a draw.
Score: Fischer 11h Spassky 2V2
GAME 5 Nimzo-Indian Defense. Terrible opening play by Spassky
gave Fischer an early positional advantage. But Spasskr
Review of the Match 97

still had a probable draw when he made an outright

blunder, which Fischer promptly punished.
Score: Fischer 21h Spassky 21h
GAME 6 Queen's Gambit Declined. In an easily even position
Spassky made an awful positional blunder, which gave
Fischer his chance.
Score: Fischer 31h Spassky 21h
G.\ME 7 Sicilian Defense; "poisoned Pawn" variation. Fischer got
away with the Pawn capture and should have won, but let
Spassky slip out. The variation was demolished in the
eleventh game.
Score: Fischer 4 Spassky 3
GAME 8 English Opening. In an approximately even position
Spassky put the Exchange en prise, which Fischer grabbed
and won.
Score: Fischer 5 Spassky 3
GAME 9 Queen's Gambit Declined. Fischer produced an improve
ment on one of the Spassky-Petrosian games, which gave

him easy equality. Draw.

Score: Fischer 51h Spassky 31h
GAME IO Ruy Lopez. Spassky equalized in the opening, then missed
a probable win, \hen blundered in a drawn position.
Brilliant attack by Fischer won . .
Score: Fischer 61h Spassky 31h
GA}.ofE 11 Sft:ilian Defense; "poisoned Pawn" variation. Innovation
by Spassky, improvement over Game 7, demolished
Fischer. Brilliant, but last victory by Spassky.
Score: Fischer 61h Spassky 41h
GAME 12 Queen's Gambit Declined. Neither side wanted to risk
much; fairly early equalization and draw.
Score: Fischer 7 Spassky 5
GAME 13 Alekhine's Defense. Greatest game of the match. Brilliant
attack and defense by both sides, though with a number
of mistakes. Fischer finally won extraordi11ary ending.
Score: Fischer 8 Spassky 5
GAME 14 Queen's Gambit Declined. Poor opening play by Fischer
and later oversight gave Spassky a clearly won game,
which he blundered away. First of seven draws on which
Fischer coasted to victory.
Score: Fischer 81h Spassky 51h
98 The Match

GAME 15 Sicilian Defense. Brilliant innovation by Spassky de

molished well-known line played for many years. In
middle game Spassky lost his way. Fischer could have
won but blundered in his tum, game ending in draw.
Score: Fischer 9 Spassky 6
GAME 16 Ruy Lopez. Fischer's favorite Exchange Variation was
neatly parried by Spassky's innovation, which equalized
quickly. No real win ever in sight for either side.
Score: Fischer 911.2 Spassky 611.2
GAME 17 Pirc Defense. Fischer, outplayed in the opening, later
equalized, then made incomprehensible mistake. Spassky,
Exchange ahead in a probably won ending, allowed a
draw by threefold repetition of position.
Score: Fischer 10 Spassky 7
GAME 18 Sicilian Defense. Complex middle game play in which
first Fischer, then Spassky missed a win. Draw.
Score: Fischer 1011.2 Spassky 711.2
GAME 19 Alekhine's Defense. Poor opening by Fischer led to lost
position. Spassky missed way, allowing a draw.
Score: Fischer 11 Spassky 8
GAME . 20 Sicilian Defense. Early equalizing line by Spassky led to
uneventful draw.
Score: Fischer 1 111.2 Spassky 81h
GAME 21 Sicilian Defense. Dubious innovation by Fischer not well
handled by Spassky. In a drawn position, which was use
less to him, Spassky blundered and lost.

Final Score: Fischer 121h Spassky 811.2

One of the most persis tent fantasies aroused by the match was
that Fischer was conducting a "war of nerves" which finally un
hinged Spassky. There is little to support such a theory. Fischer's
relatively poor play indicates rather that he was under constant
tension before and during the match, which he covered up by
constant complaints. At first these were taken seriously, later
they were simply ignored. As late as the seventeenth game, when
he already had the championship virtually in his pocket, Fischer
became so enraged at the "noise" that he booked passage home.
Review of the Match 99

Even in the last game, when informed that Spassky had resigned,
Fischer demanded it in writing. Both players suffered under the
enormous stress which normally attends chess at such a high


The match can in a way be summarized by recapitulating a

nwnber of crucial positions which were turning points in the
various games.

Game No. i;

This position is an easy draw if Black makes any normal move.

Instead he ventured on 29 BxKRP?? and lost.
100 The Match

Game No. 3


Black seems to have come out of the opening with a poor game.
Bobby set the stage for much of the later match by playin[
11 N-R41? The move itself does not stand u p well t o careful
analysis, but it showed his ability to set tasks for Spassky which
the Russia,n could not master over the board.

Game No. 4


A Pawn sacrifice by Spassky led to this position after White's

29th move. Here he could have won with 29 R-Ql. Instead
he played 29 R-Rl?, allowing Fischer to escape with a draw.
Review of the Match 101

Game No. 5


Spassky blundered with 27 Q-B2??, allowing 27 BxPI,

which won at once. After the normal 27 Q-Nl he might well
have drawn.

Game No. 6

After some sloppy opening play in which he missed several

chances for easy equality, Spassky was faced with this position.
The normal 18 N-B3 would have left him with a playable
game. Instead he replied with the peculiar 18 Q-Bl? and
lost quickly.
102 The Match

Game No. 8

In this position, which is approximately even, Spassky blun

dered with 15 P-QN4??, losing the Exchange after 16 B-R7.
He did not last long after that.

Game No. 10


In this position, which Spassky could have equalized earlier,

Fischer played the surprising 26 B-N3111 which unexpectedly leads
to a powerful mating attack, and won handily.
Review of the Match 103

Game No. 11

This position came out of the "poisoned Pawn" variation of

the Sicilian, in which Fischer had captured the QNP with his
Queen. Spassky, obviously well prepared, replied 14 N-Nll!! and
suddenly it became clear that Black was lost. Fischer's worst
defeat in years.

Game No. 13


After a heroic see-saw battle, in which both sides had missed

chances, this position was reached at Whitp's sixty-ninth move.
With 69 R-B3ch White can now draw. Instead he played 69
R-Qlch?? and lost.
104 The Match

Game No. 14


It looked as though Spassky was going to score an easy victory

after a blunder by Fischer had cost him a Pawn. Instead he:
played 27 . . P-B3??, to which Fischer replied 28 BxPI, regaining

the Pawn and drawing the game.

Game No. 15


A well-prepared innovation in the Sicilian Defense gave

Spassky a Pawn and a strong position. All he had to do was
continue the pressure by doubling on the Q-file. Instead he ven
tured on a dangerous attack with 23 P-K5!? After a wild melee in
which both sides missed chances, a draw finally resulted.
Review of the Match 105

Game No. 17


In this position, which adjournment gave him ample time to

analyze, Spassky has the Exchange for a Pawn. Various winning
plans have been suggested, though it is not easy. Instead he
allowed a threefold repetition of position after the game resumed,
leading to an immediate draw.

Game No. 18


In this position Spassky should have played 34 R-Qll,

unleashing a powerful attack. Instead he responded 34
QxQP?, leading to a draw.
106 The Match

Game No. 19


After sloppy opening play by Fischer, Spassky reached this

position as a result of some brilliant attacking moves. With 24
R-B7 he could have won. Instead he played 24 PxP? first, allow
ing Fischer a draw.

Game No. 21


Fischer seems to have set a deep positional trap here, into

which his opponent falls with 14 BxN. Better was 14 B-K5, with
the advantage.
Part III

GA M E 1 .

Bobby's Fir st (and La st?) Blunder

July 11, 1972

WHITE: Spassky BLACK: Fischer

Queen's Gambit Declined

1 P-Q4 N-KB3
2 P-QB4 P-K3
Throughout Bobby is out _to avoid being surprised. His usual
reply here is 2 P-KN3, but he must have feared a prepared
3 N-KB3 P-Q4
4 N-B3
Conservative play. 4 B-N5, leading to standard variations of
the Queen's Gambit Declined, is more aggressive.
Perhaps after all the preliminary shenanigans both sides were
treading cautiously.
4 B-N5
Inviting complications?
5 P-K3
After 5 B-N5, PxP; 6 P-K4 there is room for a lot of prepared
analysis, which both players are trying to avoid.
5 0-0

110 The Games

6 B-Q3
More forceful is 6 P-QR3, for if then 6 BxNch; 7 PxB,
and if then 7 P-B4; 8 PxQP, KPxP; 9 B-Q3 with some
6 P-B4
Choosing easy equalization. The line is one which Bobby had
often played before with success.
7 0-0 N-B3
8 P-QR3 B-R4
Maintaining the tension. 8 BxN; 9 PxB simplifies White's
Bobby's First (and Last?) Blunder 111

9 N-K2
Hoping to build up an attack. The alternatives are : I. 9 PxQP,
KPxP; 10 PxP, BxN; 11 PxB, N-Q2; 12 P-QR4, NxP; 13 B-R3,
P-QN3; 14 N-Q4, B-N2 and Black is safe. II. 9 Q-B2, PxQP;
10 KPxP, PxP; 11 BxP, NxP; 12 NxN, QxN; and White has nothing
for the pawn.
9 QPxP
10 BxP B-N3!
Forcing a simplification. 10 PxP; 11 PxP, B-B2; 12 Q-Q3
is less favorable.
11 PxP QxQ
12 RxQ BxP
The ending is even; White's slight initiative is easily equalized.

13 P-QN4 B-K2
14 B-N2
14 P-N5, N-QR4 does not lead any-Where.
14 B-Q21
A slight improvement on 14 P-QN3; 15 N-B4, B-N2; 16
N-N51, in which White got the better of it ( Spassky-Krogius,
Riga, 1958 ) .

15 QR-Bl
112 The Games

Not 15 BxN?, BxB; 16 RxB, BxR. Nor does doubling Rooks on

the Q-file mean anything; after 15 R-Q2, KR-Ql; 16 QR-QL
B-Kl White still has nothing.
15 KR-Ql
16 N ( 2 ) -Q4
Spassky is content to simplify, since there is no good alternative.

16 NxN
17 NxN B-R5
18 B-N3 BxB
19 NxB RxRch
20 RxR R-QBl
With an eventual view to R-B7. But White has an easy
defense. Under normal circumstances any two masters would
agree to a draw in this position, but these are anything but
normal circumstances.
21 K-Bl K-Bl
If 21 R-B7; 22 R-Q2.
22 K-K2 N-K5
Now he does threaten . R-B7ch.
Bobby's First (and Last?) Blunder 113

23 R-QBl RxR
24 BxR P-B3
25 N-R5 N-Q3
26 K-Q3 B-Ql
27 N-B4
Evidently Spassky is quite satisfied to draw; otherwise he might
have tried N-N3-B5 or Q4.
27 B-B2
28 NxN BxN
29 P-N5
114 The Games

29 BxKRP??
Every beginner knows that this is a blunder, and it does lost
so why did Bobby do it? Afterwards Fischer told me that he ha1
miscalculated, thinking that after 30 P-N3, P-KR4; 3 1 K-Ki
P-R5; 32 K-B3, P-R6; he could escape, but overlooking 33 K-Ni
which traps the Bishop.
I think that a psychological explanation is more in orde:
Bobby is out to show that he can make what everybody woultl
consider an impossible move: caught up in this fantasy he <loo
not calculate properly. At the same time it is the first edg1
blunder of many in the match.
30 P-N3 P-KR4
Trying to rescue the Bishop. If instead 30 K-K2; 31 P-R4.
K-Q3; 32 B-R3ch, K-K4 ( not 32 K-Q4; 33 P-K4ch, K-K4:
34 P-B4 mate ) ; 33 P-K4, P-N4; 34 B-N2ch, K-Q3; 35 BxP, P-NS;
36 B-Q4, P-N3; 37 K-K2, P-KR4; 38 K-Bl, P-R5; 39 K-N2 an
31 K-K2 P-R5
32 K-B3 K-K2
He cannot play 32 . P-R6; 33 K-N4, transposing to th
variation in the note to Black's 29th move.
33 K-N2 PxP
34 PxP BxP
35 KxB
Bobby's First (and Last?) Blunckr 115

With only two Pawns for the piece, Bobby's only chance is to
get to the Q-side fast.
35 K-Q3
36 P-R4
Spassky must still play carefully. If 36 P-K4?, K-B4; and now
Tl P-R4?, K-N5 actually loses. White must play for the draw
with 37 B-K3ch, KxP; 38 BxP, P-K41; 39 B-N8, K-B5; 40 K-B3,
'KQ6 and draws; White's Bishop is of the wrong color for the
36 K-Q4
37 B-R3

37 K-K5?
In time pressure he chooses the weaker move, though 37
K-B5 also loses against exact play. After 37 K-B5 the main
\'ariation is 38 B-B8, and now: I. 38 K-N6; 39 BxP, KxP;
40 P-N61, PxP ( if 40 P-R4; 41 BxP, K-N4; 42 B-Q4 wins ) ;.
41 BxP, P-N4; 42 K-B4, P-N5; 43 K-K5, P-N6; 44 KxP , K-R6;
45 P-K4, P-N7; 46 BxPch, KxB; 47 K-Q5 and wins.
II. 38 P-KN3; 39 B-K7, P-B4; 40 K-B4, K-N6; 41 P-R5,
K-RS; 42 P-N61, P-R3; 43 K-K5, KxP; 44 B-Q8, K-N5 ( if 44
P-N4; 45 BxP, KxP; 46 KxP P-R4; 47 KxP wins easily enough ) ;

45 KxP, P-R4; 46 K-B6, P-R5; 47 KxP, P-R6; 48 KxP P-R7; 49 ,

B-B6 and wins.

116 The Games

Various commentators have claimed a draw for Fischer here

abouts. Although he could have done a little better, as Fische
told me afterwards, no real draw was available.
38 B-B51

It may be that Bobby overlooked the strength of this reply

for if 38 P-QN3; 39 BxP wins at once, since after 39 . .
PxB; 40 P-R5 White queens: if 40 PxP; 41 P-N6 and t
40 K-Q4; 41 P-R6.
38 P-R3
39 P-N61 P-B4
Now there is no longer any real chance.
40 K-R4 P-B5
The adjourned position. Black is clearly lost.
Some commentators have claimed that 40 K-Q4 draws
here, but this is incorrect, for after 41 B-BB, K-B3; 42 P-R5, K-N4;
43 BxP, KxP; 44 K-N5, KxP; 45 K-B6, K-B4; 46 KxP is easv
41 PxP KxP
Bobby's First (and Last?) Blunder 117

42 K-R5 K-B4
43 B-K3 K-K4
If Black goes after the Bishop with 43 K-K5; 44 B-B2,
P-K4, White wins by going over to the Q-side: 45 K-N6, K-B6;
46 B-R4, P-K5; 47 KxP, P-K6; 48 K-B6, P-K7; 49 K-K6, K-N7;
50 K-Q6, K-B8; 51 K-B7, etc.
44 B-B2
44 K-N6 was simpler, but the text is quite adequate.
44 K-B4
45 B-R4 P-K4
46 B-N5
Somewhere around here came the unexpected television varia
tion. Fischer got up from the board and left the room for about
half an hour. Later it was learned that he had been demanding
the removal of TV apparatus and cameras from the room. At this
point it looked as though he was building up an alibi for his loss
in the first game; later it became much more serious.
46 P-K5
47 B-K3 K-B3
48 K-N4 K-K4
49 K-N5 K-Q4
50 K-B5
118 The Games

Another Pawn must go. Black is obviously lost.

50 P-R4
51 B-B2
He must still avoid 51 B-Q2, K-B3; 52 BxP, P-K6; 53 K-K4,
P-K7 and draws since White will remain only with the RP, and
the Bishop of the wrong color.
51 P-N4
52 KxP K-B5
58 K-B5 K-N5
Against 53 K-Q6; 54 B-Kl and 54 K-K6 both win easily.
54 KxP KxP
55 K-Q5 K-N4
56 K-Q6 Resigns
The NP must go.
GA M E 2 .

The Nongarne

July 13, 1972

WHITE : Fischer BLACK : Spassky

Fischer refused to appear and lost the game by forfeit. One

stoiy had him secluded in his room, furious, with the telephone
tom out of the wall, refusing to talk to anybody.
The antics surrounding this game are surely the most tragic
hilarious in the history of chess. After his loss in the first game
Bobby demanded that all cameras and television equipment be
removed from the room, on the grounds that the noise distracted
him too much. Mr. Chester Fox, of the -Chester Fox Film Corp.,
who had contracted for the film rights, and his lawyer then
engaged a sound engineer to test the hall and report on how
much noise the cameras actually were making. The report came
back that they made no noise at all. Curt Baldursson, head of the
hearing division of the Reykjavik lnstitUte of Public Health, who
e.xamined the situation, stated that the noise level of the hall was
55 decibels without the cameras in action, and exactly the same,
55 decibels, with the cameras working. The cameras, hidden in
a ventilator shaft, were invisible except for the lenses at a 4-inch
It was reported that the Fox Film Corp. and the Icelandic
Chess Federation had a contract for the filming of the match and
that the film producer had invested a substantial sum of money.
120 The Games

If the filming were discontinued, the producer threatened to sue

Bobby for damages.
Undaunted by all these rational and mundane considerations,
Bobby sulked in his room, repeating only his demand that all
cameras be removed. At the appointed time, when he did not
show up, his clock was started and displayed on the TV screen,
allowing the audience to see his clock ticking. After an hour of
this nonsense, he was forfeited.
New doubts now ensued about whether the match would con
tinue. Not only did Bobby want all the cameras removed, in
addition he wanted the forfeit rescinded. Euwe washed his hands
of the whole affair, saying that the limit had been passed. Schmid
the referee, refused to take any action.
Nobody seemed to be able to influence the erratic genius.
Kmoch, dean of chess critics, commented that Ame1ica's greatest
player turned out to be a stubborn little boy. Bobby's sister,
Mrs. Joan Targ arrived, but even this was made into a mystery
by half denying that she was there. Lawyers, seconds, friends all
tried to get to Bobby, securely ensconced in his hotel room. His
only reply was to book passage on three flights out of Iceland on
Sunday. Some commentators wondered whether it was chess or
Russian roulette. The New York Times editorialized on "Bobby
Fischer's Tragedy." Whether Kissinger stepped in again is not
For whatever reason, on Sunday Bobby suddenly changed his
mind again. Faced with the loss of the match, which would have
meant the end of his chess career, he agreed to a compromise:
the third game would be played in a private room without
cameras or TV. To his regret Spassky, restraining his aggression
too much, agreed to the same compromise. Had Spassky not
agreed the match might have ended then and there.
GA M E 3.

A Bo mb Explodes, This Ti me as an

Extraordi nary Move

July 16, 1972

WHITE: Spassky BLACK: Fischer

Benoni Gambit Deferred

1 P-Q4 N-KB3
2 P-QB4 p.'.}(3
3 N-KB3 P-B4
4 P-Q5 PxP
5 PxP P-Q3
6 N-B3 P-KN3

122 The Games

This variation, once considered so bad as to be unplayable

has been rehabilitated in the last twenty years. It offers a vigorous
and sharp counter-attack, which was just what Bobby needed.
But why did White accept such a two-edged variation, with twu
points to the good? It may well be that by this time Spassky has
decided that his opponent is too far gone to play decent chess.
He is in for a great surprise.
7 N-Q2
Loses time; the fianchetto is stronger, and generally leads to
an advantage for White. It may be that Spassky feared a pre
pared variation here. But he is already paving the way for his
typical blunder: the needless retreat.
7 QN-Q2
If first 7 B-N2; 8 N-B4 threatens B-B4.
8 P-K4
If now 8 N-B4, N-N3.
8 B-N2
9 B-K2
Stronger here is the classical line 9 P-KN3, 0-0; 10 B-N2, R-Kl;
11 0-0 ( Reinfeld-Reshevsky, Minneapolis, 1932 ) .
9 o
10 0-0 R-Kl
11 Q-B2
Now White's Bishop is somewhat awkwardly placed.
The text move overprotects the KP, allowing White's pieces
to move more freely.
A Bomb Explodes 123

11 N-R41?
The bomb. The alternative "quiet" lines, such as 11
P-QR3, lead to draws at best.
12 BxN
There is nothing better. If 12 P-B3?, B-Q5ch; 13 K-Rl, N-N6ch!;
14 PxN, Q-N4 and mate cannot be avoided. And if 12 P-B4,
B-Q5ch; 13 K-Rl, Q-R5; 14 R-B3, N ( 2 ) -B3 with a powerful
12 PxB
13 N-B4?
A timid and inconsistent continuation. There were two more
forceful continuations : I. 13 P-B4! , B-Q5ch; 14 K-Rl, N-B3
( 14 Q-R5; 15 N-B3 now leads nowhere ); 15 N-N51, B-K6;
16 NxQP!, QxN; 17 N-B4, Q-K2; 18 NxB, NxKP; 19 P-B5! with
a strong positional advantage. II. 13 N-Ql, N-K4; 14 N-K3,
Q-R5; 15 N ( 2 ) -B4, N-N5; 16 NxN, PxN; 17 B-Q2 and White
prevailed. Gligoric-Kavalek, Skopje, 1972.
13 N-K4
14 N-K3 Q-R5
15 B-Q2?
But this is altogether out of place, since it allows Black to
undouble his Pawns. The more logical 15 P-B3 ( now 15 P-B4,
N-N5 is less effective ) , N-N3; 16 P-KN3, Q-R6; 17 Q-N2 is still
favorable for White.
124 The Games

Perhaps he was trying to tempt him into the sacrifice 15

N-B6ch; 16 PxN, B-K4, but after 17 KR-Kl, the White King can
easily escape.
15 N-N5
16 NxN PxN
17 B-B4
To prevent B-K4.
17 Q-B3
18 P-KN3?
Another mistake, after which he drifts into a loss because of
the artificial isolation of the KP. With 18 Q-Q2, P-QR3; 19 P-QR4.
P-N3; 20 P-B3! he can still try to profit from the weaknesses in
Black's Pawns.
18 B-Q2
19 P-QR4 P-N3
A Bomb Explodes 125

Now White is strategically lost.

20 KR-Kl?
Resigning himself to passive play, the psychology of the re
treat. 20 P-B3 still offered some hope.
20 P-QR3
21 R-K2 i>-N4
22 QR-Kl
The attempt to exchange Rooks with 22 PxP, PxP; 23 RxR,
RxR would leave Black with too much initiative on the Q-side.
22 Q-N3
Otherwise 23 P-K5 might be of some value.
23 P-N3 R-K2
24 Q-Q3 R-Nl
25 PxP PxP
126 The Games

26 P-N4
Hoping to block . the position. If instead 26 R-R2, P-N5;
27 N-Nl, B-N4; 28 Q-B2, QR-Kl; 29 N-Q2, P-B4 wins . .
26 P-B5
Naturally not 26 PxP?; 27 N-R2.
27 Q-Q2 QR-Kl
Now the KP, artificially isolated, can be taken almost at will.
The idea is to take it without giving White any counterplay.
28 R-K3
A waiting move; there is nothing that he can do. The alterna
tive 28 B-K3, BxN; 29 QxB, RxP; 30 R-R2, Q-B4 likewise does
not hold out much hope, though it is better than the text.
28 P-R4
29 R( 3 )-K2 K-R2
No doubt to gain time. 29 BxN at once is also possible,
as later on in the game.
80 R-K3 K-Nl
31 R ( 3 )-K2 BxN
32 QxB RxP
33 RxR RxR
84 RxR QxR
A Bomb Explodes 127

35 B-R6
35 Q-B6, B-B4; 36 Q-N5ch, B-N3;
There is no good defense. If
37 BxP, K-R2; 38 Q-Bl, Q-B6 and White is helpless against
35 Q-N3
36 B-Bl
Hoping for B-N2.
36 Q-N8
37 K-Bl
There is no chance in 37 P-B4, PxP e.p.; 38 K-B2, Q-K5. If
then 39 Q-K3, QxP; 40 Q-N5ch, QxQ; 41 BxQ, B-B3; the ending
is won, in spite of the opposite colored Bishops.
37 .B-B4
38 K-K2
Time pressure, but there was nothing to be done anyhow.
88 Q-K5ch
39 Q-K3
So that if 39 QxP; 40 Q-N5ch.
89 Q-B7ch
40 Q-Q2
40 K-Kl, P-B6 is equally hopeless.
41 Q-Q4
128 The Games

The adjourned position. If instead 41 Q-N5ch, B-N3.

41 B-Q6ch

After 42 K-K3, Q-Q8 White is helpless : if 43 B-N2, Q-K7ch;
44 K-B4, Q-Q7ch; 45 Q-K3, QxB, or 43 Q-N2, Q-B6ch; 44 K-Q4
( or 44 K-Q2, QxPch; 45 K-B3, Q-K8ch; 46 B-Q2, Q-K4 mate ),
Q-K5ch; 45 K-B3, Q-K4ch; 46 K-Q2, P-B6chl; 47 QxP, Q-K7 mate.
GAM E 4.

Spas sk y M1: sse s a Win

July 18, 1972

i;mm: F)scher BLACK : Spassky

Sicilian Defense
1 P-K4 P-QB4
A surprise. In the match with Petrosian Fischer consistently
did well against the Sicilian, which he seems to know by heart
But Spassky also has a surprise in store for him.
2 N-KB3 P-Q3
3 P-Q4 PxP
4 NxP N-KB3
5 N-QB3 N-B3
In a later game ( #7) Fischer tried the non-committal 5
PQR3, now often referred to as the Najdorf Variation. The
'poisoned Pawn" variation, which he chose, was mercilessly
(:!lJShed by Spassky in the 11th game.
6 B-QB4
One of Bobby's favorite lines, in fact a line that he helped to
i:opularize. The older 6 B-K2 is also quite strong for white. At
,;ne time I experimented with the variation N ( 4 )-K2, followed
by P-KN3, with considerable success. ( Fine-Najdorf, New York,

130 Tlie Games

6 P-K3
More logical here is the fianchetto, but after 6 P-KN$
7 B-K3, B-N2, 8 P-B3, 0-0; 9 QQ2. the game takes very shaii
turns, which Spassky does not seem to relish. This variation w
played a great deal in the Botvinnik-Smyslov matches. Anyho\
he has something else up his sleeve.
7 B-N3
Forestalling . . . P-Q4.
1 B-K2
8 B-K3 0-0
9 0-0 P-QR3
To fianchetto the QB, and bring pressure to bear on White's KP
10 P-B4 NxN
11 BxN P-QN4
Threatening to win a Pawn with P-N5.
12 P-QR3 B-N2
13 Q-Q3
To protect the KP.
Spassky Misses a Win 131

So far all book,with a slight edge to White, who is threatening

to build up an attack with .P-B5.
13 P-QR41
An unexpected sacrifice: the smell of midnight oil is strong.
Black now gets a strong initiative for a Pawn.
14 P-K5
If 14 QxP, B-R3 and if 14 NxP, NxP, both with advantage to
14 PxP
15 PxP N-Q2
16 NxP N-B4
17 BxN
Forced: if 17 Q-K2, NxB; 18 PxN, Q-Q4 is overwhelming.
17 BxBch
18 K-Rl Q-N4
Spassky is out to win. An easy draw was available with 18
QxQ; 19 PxQ, B-R3.
19 Q-K2 QR-Ql
132 The Games

After a series of forced moves Black has come out with i

powerful attack for the Pawn. At first. sight in fact White loolJ
lost, but Bobby puts up an heroic defense. The immediate threJ
of course is R-Q7.
20 QR-Ql
More or less forced. If he tries to retuni the Pawn immediatei
with 20 N-Q6, BxN; 21 PxB, RxP; 22 QR-Ql, KR-Ql gives Blaci
command of the Q-file because of the threat against White's KN .
20 RxR?
The purpose of this in-between move is not clear; why nr\
20 P-R4 at once? If then 21 RxR, RxR; 22 N-Q6, Bx\!
23 PxB, RxP and again 24 R-Ql is not possible, and if 21 N-:
at once, B-Rl; 22 B-B4, P-KR5; 23 P-R3 ( as in the game), B-K
24 Q-N4, QxP and wins, since White's Knight is now under attack
After 20 P-R4 the best seems to be 21 B-B4, P KR5; i;

B-Q3, P-R6; 23 B-K4, QxP!; 24 N-B3 ( if 24 B-R7ch?, KxB; 'ti

QxQ, PxP mate! ) , PxPch; 25 QxP ( if 25 BxP, QxQ; 26 Nx,
B-R3 as in the main variation ), B-R3; 26 RxR, RxR; 27 R-Kl,
K-Bl! with strong pressure, e.g. 28 Q-R3, R-Q7; 29 Q-R8ch, K-IU.
30 Q-R4ch, P-N4; 31 Q-N3, B-Q31 and White is lost.
21 RxR P-R4
Spassky Misses a Win 133

22 N-Q6??
Another of Bobby's mistakes in the match. This is the other
1ide of the edge problem: improper centralization. Since the
Knight has to get back to KB3, it would have been better to do so
at once with 22 N-Q4. If then 22 P-Kl.1.5; 23 N-B3, Q-B5;
24 Q-B41 is an adequate defense.
22 B-Rl
Now it is quite difficult to see a tvay out against P-KR5-R6.
23 B-B4?
Fearful of too passive a defense, but no iinmediate win is in
iight for Black after 23 P-R3, P-KRS ( threatening Q-N6 ) ;
24 R-Q3. The text should have lost quickly.
23 P-KR5
24 P-R3
134 The Games

Planning to return the Pawn after 24 Q-N6; 2.5 N-Ki

QxKP; 26 NxB, since White's Queen is now defended.
24 B-K6!
25 Q-N4?
He does not want to play passively, but he really has nothing
better than 2.5 B-Q3 B-B5; 26 N-K4, QxP; 27 R-KBl.

25 QxP
The tempting 2.5 QxQ; 26 PxQ, P-R6 is not as good: afte:
27 B-Bl, P-B3!; 28 K-R2! Black can of course regain his Pawn,
but not more.
26 QxRP
There is nothing better now. If 26 B-K2, P-B4; 27 QxRP, B-B4
winning a piece.
26 P-N4
27 Q-N4
If 27 Q-Kl, P-N5 leaves White defenseless.

27 B-B4
In this extraordinarily complicated position Spassky begins; to
go astray. The correct continuation was 27 K-N2 at once,
threatening R-Rl. White must then play 28 B-Bl ( 28 R-Kl
R-Rl ) , and now 28 R-Qll; 29 N-B4, RxR; 30 QxR (if 31!
NxQ?, RxBch; 31 K-R2, B-B5ch; 32 P-N3, R-R8 mate ) , Q-N6;
Spassky Misses a Win 135

31 NxB ( if 31 Q-N4, BxPch; 32 BxB, Q-K8ch ) , QxRPch; 32 K-Nl,

QxNch; 33 K-Rl, Q-B7 and White is lost, e.g. 34 P-N4, PxP;
35 PxP, K-N3; 36 P-B4, P-B4; 37 P-B5, P-N5; 38 P-N5, Q-R5ch;
39 K-Nl, P-N6.
But the combinations are fantastic, which is perhaps why the
champion preferred to play more simply. If e.g. in the diagramed
Position 27 R-Ql; 28 NxPI, RxRch; 29 QxR, Q-N6 ( or 29
Q-K5; 30 Q-KBl ) ; 30 N-R6chl ( in contrast 30 Q-Q8ch, K-N21;
31 Q-R8ch, KxN wins for Black ) , and Black actually loses :
30 K-N2; 31 Q-Q7ch, KxN; 32 QxPch, K-N2; 33 Q-B7ch,
K-R3; 34 Q-B8ch etc.
28 N-N51
To get back to KB3.
28 K-N2
29 N-Q4

29 R-Rl?
Missing his final winning chance. It is true that ter 29
B-Q3!; 30 N-B5ch! forces a draw, but first 29 R-Ql; 30 PB3
( after 30 NxPch, PxN; 31 RxR, Q-K8cb White will be mated )
and now after 30 R-Rl ( still not 30 B-Q3; 31 N-B5ch ) ;
31 N-B3, BxN; 32 QxB, B-Q3 White can no longer simplify with
33 Q- ( Q ) B3. The best defense is 31 R-KBl!, R-R5; 32 N-B5ch,
QxN; 33 RxQ, RxQ; 34 RxB, RxP; 35 RxP, B-B6; 36 B-Bl, RxP dis
136 The Games

ch; 37 K-Nl, K-B3. Now the advance of Black's KP should prove

decisive because of the concomitant mating threats.
30 N-B3 BxN
There is no alternative, since White is threatening QxPch.
31 QxB B-Q3

32 Q-B3
Now this simplification secures the draw.
32 QxQ
33 PxQ B-K4
The alternative 33 BxP; 34 R-Rl, B-N7; 35 RxP, K-B3 is
also good enough.
34 R-Q7 K-B3
35 K-Nl BxP
Spassky Misses a Win 137

The rest is easy. Both sides seem ever reluctant to agree to a

draw, but there is nothing to be done.
36 B-K2 B-K4
37 K-Bl R-QBl
38 B-R5 R-B2
39 RxR BxR
40 P-QR4 K-K2
41 K-K2 P-B4
42 K-Q3 B-K4
43 P-B4 K-Q3
44 B-B7 B-N6
45 P-B5ch
GAM E 5 .

Spa ssky ' s Blunder s

July 21, 1972

So far the games have proceeded along largely expected lines
-weakness by Fischer in the first, by Spassky in the third, a
hard-fought draw in the fourth. But now comes an unanticipated
slump by the champion, in which he loses four out of the next six
games by blunders.
Many explanations have been offered for Spassky's slump. One
is that Fischer's antics finally got to him. True enough, after the
fourth game Bobby submitted thirteen ( or fourteen? ) points to
the match organizers, no doubt in imitation of Wilson's famous
fourteen points. Among Bobby's demands were the right to
exclusive use of the swimming pool in the hotel, quick access to
American publications ( could this conceivably have been denied
to him??) and the right to give or withhold permission in writing
for the use of cameras in the playing room. As usual, there was
the threat, real or implied, that if his demands were not met he'd
just go right home. In any case the committee rejected his
demands out of hand, and the whole incident, except for the
recurrent question of cameras and TV, was forgotten. When
Fischer heard that the story of the fourteen points had been
released to the press, he replied with his standard complaint:
"I've been stabbed in the back."
The only provocation that remained was that Fischer began to
come late to every game. This cost him between five and fifteen
Spassky's Blunders 139

minutes on his clock, but demonstrated a certain obvious con

tempt for his opponent, as though to say: I spotted you a whole
game in the score, and now I am spotting you ten minutes on
each game. Although this behavior hurt Fischer more than
Spassky, the champion seems to have become rattled, and in
some games he, too, began to come late!
All this, however, would not explain Spassky's terrible play in
this six-game stretch. Whatever the reason, Fischer took advan
tage of every opportunity, and after the tenh game Bobby already
enjoyed a commanding lead, even with one game forfeited.

WHITE: Spassky BLACK : Fischer

Nimzo-Indian Defense
1 P-Q4 N-KB3
2 P-QB4 P-K3
3 N-QB3 B-NS
It is characteristic of Bobby that he will rarely let his opponent
anticipate what opening variation he will choose. Hence he rejects
the Benoni Deferred, 3 P-B4, which gained him such a vital
point in the third game. His opening repertoire is so enormous
that he can easily choose enough different variations for a match;
Spassky, by contrast, is much more limited.
4 N-B3?
A rather weak rejoinder. If he is going to try the line played
he would do better to continue with P-K3 and N-K2, avoiding the
weakening of his Pawns.
4 P-B4
5 P-K3 N-B3
140 The Games

6 B-Q3?
Modern chess operates very largely by transposition. Here
Spassky adopts a weak line which had been rejected forty years
ago. Necessary was 6 B-Q2 or 6 Q-N3.
6 BxNchl
7 PxB P-Q3
Consolidating his hold on the Q-side.
8 P-K4?
Another weak move. The best try is 8 N-Q2, 0-0; 9 N-N3,
P-QN3; 10 P-B4, with some possibilities of counterplay on the
K-side. But in a famous game with this variation, Botvinnik
Reshevsky, World Championship, 1948, the Soviet champion was
completely outplayed and lost.
8 P-K4
9 P-Q5
This premature locking is based on an over-evaluation of the
sacrifice he is about to offer. Better is 9 0-0 at once, locking the
center only when forced to do so.
9 N-K2
If instead 9 N-QR4 at once, 10 B-N5 and if then 10
P-KR3; 11 B-R4, P-KN4; 12 NxNPI gives White strong play.
Spasskifs Blunders 141

10 N-R4
So that if 10 N-N3; 11 N-B5.
10 P-KR3
11 P-B41
The sacrifice he had in mind. If in reply 11 PxP; 12 BxP,
P-KN4; 13 P-K5! with a strong attack. White, who is strategically
lost, already has to rely on trappy variations to maintain his
11 N-N3!
Bobby avoids the complications. The text is the strategically
normal move, envisaging the won endgame on the Q-side.
12 NxN
Illogical, probably because he underestimates how bad his
game actually is. Somewhat more hopeful is 12 N-B5, BxN; 13
PxB, NxBP; 14 BxN, PxB; 15 Q-K2ch, Q-K2; 16 QxQch, Q;
17 R-KBl. White's endgame would be very weak because Black
can quickly occupy the square at K4 with his Knight, but it would
at least be better than what he gets in the game.
12 PxN
13 PxP PxP
14 B-K3 P-N3
15 0-0 0-0
142 The Games

It is obvious now that Spassky has been completely outplayed.

White should be able to do much better after fifteen moves than
to have an inferior position where he can at best draw.
16 P-QR4 P-QR4
He must not allow P-R5.
17 R-Nl B-Q2
18 R-N2 R-Nl
Maneuvering to get into a stronger position. Black has all the
play, but whether he can force a win or not is still an open
19 QR-KB2 Q-K2
20 B-B2
To free the Queen.
20 P-KN4
21 B-Q2 Q-Kl
22 B-Kl
Hoping at least to tie Black's Queen down with a later B-KN3.
22 Q-N3
Challenging him to try.
Spassky's Blunders 143

23 Q-Q3
Inconsistent. He can still try 23 R-B3 ( to play B-KN3 ), B-NS;
24 RxNI, BxQ; 25 RxQ, RxRch; 26 KxR, BxB; 27 R-K61 (not 27
B-N3, R-Blch; 28 K-K2, R-B31 ), BxRP; 28 B-N3 with a probably
drawn endgame.
23 N-R4
24 RxRch RxR
25 RxRch KxR
26 B-Ql?
The prelude to a blunder. After 26 B-KN3, N-BS; 27 BxN,
NPxB; 28 B-Ql White at least has some counterplay.
26 N-BS
Zl Q-B2??
144 The Games

Loses .immediately. After 27 Q-Nl Black must still demonstrate

the win.
27 BxP!
Obvious and decisive. If 28 QxB, QxP, threatening both the
Bishop and mate at N7, wins at once.

l s Bori s Godunov?

July 23, 1972

With apologies to the eminent music critic Harold Schonberg
1ose sparkling comments on the games graced The New York
mes every day, we borrow the above caption for the present
me. Here, as so often, Spassky comes out of the opening with
rly obvious easy equality. Then Bobby poses some unexpected
oblem-and he collapses. So the question remains : is he good
ough, or is he off form?

illTE : Fischer BLACK: Spassky

Queen's Gambit Declined (by transposition)

1 P-QB4 P-K3
2 N-KB3 P-Q4
3 P-Q4 N-KB3
4 N-B3 B-K2
The tried path. In other games Fischer played 4 B-N5
ith great success.
s o
6 P-K3

146 The. Games

A traditional position in the Queen's Gambit Declined hai

been reached by transposition.
6 P-KR3
The alternative 6 QN-Q2 was played to death in thi
Alekhine-Capablanca match of 1927, and has never been refutei
Perhaps Spassky was afraid of some prepared variation.
The text is a weakening move, which White does not answe:
properly. If he is going to play P-QN3, he should do so a
once. Lasker's Defense, 6 N-K5, is also quite simple an
7 B-R4
Much sharper is 7 B-B4, and if then 7 P-B4; 8 R-Bl, w1L\
a strong initiative, e.g. 8 P-QN3; 9 N-QN5, or 8 BPx.P,
9 KPxP, PxP; 10 BxBP, N-B3; 11 0-0, N-QN5; 12 N-K5, with the
better of it.
7 P-QN3
And here again 7 N-K5 is the simplest road to equality
8 PxP
Bobby does not exert himself too strongly to get the better 6i
the opening; his real thrust comes later.
8 NxP
9 BxB QxB
10 NxN PxN
11 R-Bl
Is Boris Godunov? 147

To prevent P-B4.
11 B-K3
Rather inconsistent, since 11 B-N2 seems more natural.
But it should be adequate.

At first sight White seems to have obtained nothing from the

Jpening: Black's pieces are reasonably "!ell developed, and his
weaknesses on the Q-side do not appear to be serious.
12 Q-R41
Initiating the pressure. It is clear now that the Black Bishop is
misplaced at K3.
12 P-QB4
13 Q-R3 .
Setting up a dangerous pin against the Black QBP.
13 R-Bl
While not exactly losing, Spassky's play is completely un-
lnspired. The simplest defense is 13 N-Q21 ; and if .14 B-N5,
-B3! If then 15 PxP, PxPI and now:
I. 16 QxBP, QxQ; 17 RxQ, QR-Nl; 18 N-Q4, P-R3; 19 BxP,
RxP with an immediate draw.
Il. 16 RxP, QR-Bl; 17 RxR ( if 17 P-QN4, RxR; 18 PxR, R-Bl ) ,
! QxQ; 18 PxQ, RxR and White must play 19 0-0, when again
19 . R-B7 gives easy equality.
148 The Games

14 B-N5
To force a weakening on the Q-side. The move was first tried
in a game Furman-Geller, Soviet team championship, 1970.
14 P-R3?
This deserves a question mark, not because it is so terribly
weak as such, but because Spassky replies with so little finesse
It is obviously desirable to lift the tension surrounding the QBP
as soon as possible. With this in mind he could have played any
one of a number of freeing moves, such as 14 Q-B3 or
14 Q-B2 "( threatening P-B5 ). Even the routine 14
N-Q2 was quite adequate, e.g. 15 BxN, QxBI and the Pawn may
not be captured. Or 14 N-Q2; 15 0-0, N-B3; 16 R-B2 (to
maintain the pressure ) and now 16 P-R3; 17 B-Q3, Q-R2!
18 PxP, PxP; 19 KR-Bl, P-B5; 20 B-K2, Q-B4 and White has
15 PxP PxP
Apparently without thinking, yet there were several good
alternatives. The most intriguing is 15 . P-Q51 and if 16 NxP,
B-Q4; 17 B-Bl ( after 17 B-K2, BxNP; 18 R-KNl, B-K5; 19 Q-B3,
Q-B3 White has nothing) , PxP; 18 N-N3, N-Q2 and the attach
certainly worth a Pawn.
But even the immediate 15 R-R2 was better, since White
has nothing better than 16 B-K2, PxP; 17 0-0, N-Q2; 18 N-Q4,
ls Boris Godunov? 149

N-K4. If now 19 N-N3, P-B5; 20 QxQ, RxQ; 21 N-R5?, R ( 2)-B21

And if here 19 NxB ( instead of 19 N-N3 ) , PxN; 20 P-B4, N-Q2
White has nothing.

16 0-0 R-R2?
Another sloppy. With 16 Q-N2 he can again unblock: if
then 17 B-R4, Q-N3; 18 R-B3, R-R2; 19 R( l ) -Bl, .P-B5 and again
White has nothing.
17 B-K2 N-Q2
18 N-Q4

18 Q-B i?
An incredible move. Against the natural 18 N-B3 White
has nathing, since 19 N-N3, P-B5; 20 QxQ, RxQ; .21 N-Q4 ( after
150 The Games

21 N-R5, R-B4; 22 P-QN4, R-Bl the Knight is stuck), N-K5; 22

P-B3, N-Q3 is easy enough to handle. Typically the blunder is a
19 NxB PxN
20 P-K41
Typically Bobby: suddenly the position is opened up, and he
emerges with a strong attack.
20 P-Q5?
Good, bad or indifferent he had to play 20 PxP. There
could follow 21 B-B4, Q-K2; 22 Q-K3, N-B3; 23 P-QN4 with con
tinued pressure, but after 23 K-Rl at least he can still defend
himself. After the text he is lost.
21 P-B4 Q-K2
22 P-K5

Black's weakness on the White squares is now decisive.

22 R-Nl
Better was 22 . . . K-Rl at once, so that if then 23 B-B4, N-N3.
But White can reply 23 Q-Q3, getting to positions similar to the
game, for if 23 N-N3; 24 Q-K4 and B-Q3 is decisive.
23 B-B4 K-Rl
Forced, for if now 23 N-N3?; 24 QxBPI ( 24 QxQ ;
25 BxPch ) .
24 Q-R3
Is Boris Godunov? 151

The NP is unimportant.
24 N-Bl
There is no good defense. If 24 RxP; 25 BxKP, P-Q6;
28 QR-Ql, P-Q7; 27 Q-QB3, R(2)-N2; 28 B-N3 is decisive.
25 P-QN3

Spassky has been maneuvered ino a hopelessly cramped posi

tion; the rest is easy for Bobby.

25 P-QR4
Hoping for some counterplay on the Q-side, but even if he got
bis Rook to R7 it would not matter.
26 P-B5 PxP
Zl RxP
Threatening R-B7 or P-K6.
27 N-:R2
28 ' QR-KBl
Winning the Queen with R-B7 is too little reward in such a
29 Q-N3
Threatening Q-N6 and B-Q3.
There is no good defense.
152 The Games

30 P-KR4 R( l )-N2
31 P-K6 R ( N2)-B2
32 Q-K5
32 Q-N6, Q-Kl is a little more complicated.
32 Q-Kl
33 P-R4
A waiting move; he could have proceeded directly with B-Q3,
as he does later.
33 Q-Ql
34 R ( l ) -B2 Q-Kl
Black is reduced to complete passivity.
35 R ( 2 ) -B3 Q-Ql
36 B-Q3
Now the breakthrough begins.
36 Q-Kl
37 Q-K41
For if now 37 RxP; 38 R-B8ch leads to mate.
37 N-B3
38 RxN PxR
39 RxP K-Nl
40 B-B4 K-Rl
41 Q-B4 Resigns
The position is hopeless. If 41 K-Nl; 42 QxRP, and Black
can do nothing against the threat of 43 R-N6ch, R-N2; 44 P-K7
dis ch.
A Battle Ro yal

July 25, 1972

This game is by far the hardest fought of the match so far.
After a bold opening gambit in which Fischer gobbled up one
of his famous "poisoned Pawns" Spassky mounts a vigorous
attack. By skillful defense Bobby turns the tide. Then it is his
turn to be careless and he lets a win slip through his fingers. But
Boris must be given full credit for the 'Yay in which he played
with a Pawn down.

WHITE : Spassky BLACK: Fischer

Sicilian Defense
1 P-K4
Trying Bobby's opening
1 P-QB4
2 N-KB3 P-Q3
3 P-Q4 PxP
4 NxP N-KB3
5 N-QB3 P-QR3
The Najdorf Variation, leaving Black freedom of choice.
6 B-N5
154 The Games

In the fourth game, which also ended in a draw, Bobby tried

his favorite 6 B-QB4.
6 P-K3
7 P-B4

The usual line now is 7 B-K2; 8 Q-B3, with strong pres

sure-a line which Bobby himself has often used to good advan
tage. Spassky used this well in the 15th game.
7 Q-N3?
A two-edged reply, which met its refutation in the 11th game.
Bobby however had up to that point frequently played the line
with success.
8 Q-Q2
8 N-N3, Q-K6ch is obviously bad.
8 QxP
He is willing to take the "poisoned Pawn." Whatever analysis
exists of this otherwise obscure variation has come out of Russian
sources, yet surprisingly the American seems to be more familiar
with it than the Russian. Another example of how victory has
made Spassky too complacent. But he takes his revenge four
games later.
9 N-N3
A Battle Royal 155

The refutation is 9 N-N3, Q-R6; 10 BxN, as in the eleventh

game. But also more dynamic than the text is 9 R-QNl, Q-R6;
10 P-K5, PxP; 11 PxP, KN-Q2; 12 B-K21, for if 12 NxP?;
13 NxPI wins. After 12 Q-B4; 13 0-0, N-QB3; 14 B-K3,
QxP; 15 NxN, PxN; 16 B-B31 Black's game is quite difficult, in
spite of his two Pawns plu_s.
9 Q-R6

10 B-Q3
Post-mortem analysis revealed a much stronger line which
Spassky was given a chance to play with devastating effect in the
eleventh game. 10 P-K5, PxP; 11 PxP, KN-Q2; 12 B-Q3, B-K2 is
good enough for Black.
10 B-K2
11 0-0 P-R3
All this was played fairly quickly by both sides, so it must
have been prepared.
12 B-R4 NxP
13 NxN BxB
156 The Games

White is now two Pawns down; Black is poorly developed, but

has no clear-cut weaknesses. It remains to be seen how Spassky
will continue the attack.
14 P-B5
Preventing castling, against which 15 P-B6 would be too power
ful, e.g. 15 P-Q4; 16 PxP, KxP ( else 17 QxP ) ; 17 Q-B4 and
if 17 Q-K2; 18 Q-N4ch, K-Rl; 19 Q-R5 with a strong attack.
If at once 14 B-N5ch, PxB; 16 NxPch, K-Bl, much as in the
14 PxP
He accepts the challenge.
15 B-N5ch
After this the attack peters out, yet no good alternative seems
available. If 15 Q-B4, Black can try 15 PxN; 16 QxBPch,
K-Ql; 17 QxKNP, R-Kl; 18 B-B4, N-Q21 and it is not clear how
White can make up for his huge material deficit. On 15 Q-B4,
B-K2; 16 N-B3, 0-0 Black also seems to hold.
15 PxB
Bobby does not relish 15 K-K2; 16 B-B4.
16 NxPch K-Bl
Returning the piece: if 16 K-Ql?; 17 NxNP ( 5 ) dis ch wins
the Queen.
17 NxB N-B3
A Battle Royal 157

White is bound to regain at least one Pawn and still be left

with a strong initiative.
18 N-Q6
There is nothing better. An apparently good try is 18 Q-Q7,
P-KN3 and now 19 P-N41 with complications, but after 19
K-N2; 20 PxPI, N-K4!; 21 QxP( 7 ) , QRxN; 22 PxP, Q-K21 White's
attack again comes to a halt.
18 R-Ql

19 NxP(N5 ) Q-K2
20 Q-B4 P-KN3
Black, a Pawn to the good, is consolidating his position.
21 P-R4
Hoping for play on the QN file.
21 B-N4
22 Q-B4 B-K6ch
23 K-Rl P-B5
24 P-N3 P-N4
25 QR-Kl
158 The Games

Spassky again seems to be building towards an attack, so

Bobby decides to simplify.
25 Q-N51
26 QxQ
If 26 Q-K2, Q-K5ch.
26 NxQ
fl:/ R-K2
To protect the BP.
fl:/ K-N2
Black has held on to his Pawn. Fischer later expressed the
feeling that he missed a win here, and that is indeed the case.
28 N-R5! P-N3
29 N-B4 N-Q4
Maintaining everything.
30 N ( 4 ) -Q6
Threatening P-B4 and N-B5ch.
30 B-B4?
Here he does begin to play indecisively. Simpler and more
effective was 30 K-N3. If then 31 P-B4, N-B3 and White is
A Battle Royal 159

31 N-N7 R-QBl
Strongest is
31 N-K6, though White already has threats.
if 31 R-Q2; 32 NxB, PxN; 33 R-Q2, PxP; 34 PxP, KR-Ql;
KR-Ql, N-N3; 36 RxR, RxR; 37 RxR, NxR; 38 P-R5 and Black
;;ill do well to draw the ending.
32 P-B4 N-K6
33 R-B3
Threatening to win a Pawn.
33 NxP
For once Bobby was in slight time pressure. But there is nothing
34 PxP P-N5
35 R-Q3 P-R4
160 The Games

36 P-R31
With this ingenious move he holds for a while, for if no
36 P-B4; 37 R-Q7ch, K-B3; 38 N ( 7 ) -Q6 gives White ti
better of it.
86 N-R4?
After this weak move the win is no longer clear. Correct w
36 KR-Kl and if now 37 R-KN2, R-K8ch; 38 K-R2, P-1
wins . Once again the error is a weak edge move, in contrast to
strong centralization.
37 N ( 7 ) -Q6 BxN
38 NxB R-B8ch
39 K-N2 N-B5
40 N-K8ch! K-N3

The adjourned position. Spassky took 45 minutes to seal

move, but found the most ingenious way out.
41 P-R41
If instead 41 R-Q5, R-B6! is too strong, since N-Kf
threatens both the Rook and the Knight at White's K8. On
R-N5ch, K-R3; 43 N-B6, RxP! 44 N-N8ch, RxNI 45 RxR, N-KS
46 K-B2, R-B6ch; 47 K-Kl, P-N6 wins.
41 P-B3
Interim analysis evidently produced no clear-cut winning l
White was threatening 42 R-Q5 and P-B5ch.
A Battle Royal 161

42 R-K6 R-B7ch
48 K-Nl K-B4
Leads to a forced draw.
No doubt Fischer considered the sacrifice 43 RxN here,
1t after 44 RxR, K-B4; 45 R-QB8, K-K5; 46 R-QN3 Black can
obably manage to draw, but not more.
And on 43 R-Bl; 44 R-Q5 Black might really drift into a
ating net.
44 N-N7ch
But not 44 RxPch?, K-K5; 45 R-Q8, K-B6; 46 R-Q3ch, N-K6
1d wins.
44 KxP
45 R-Q4ch K-N6
Or 45 K-B6; 46 R-Q3ch.
46 N-B5ch K-B6
47 R ( 6 ) -K4!

Threatening to win with 47 R-B4ch, K-K7; 48 R-B2ch. Black.

as nothing better than the perpetual.
47 R-B8ch
48 K-R2 R-B7ch
49 K-Nl
GAM E 8 .

Another Spassky Blunder

July 27, 1972

In a more or less even position Spassky overlooks entirely the
loss of the Exchange. Chess blindness, but one still wonders why.
An easy victory for Bobby.

WHITE : Fischer BLACK : Spassky

English Opening
N-B3 N-B3
B-N2 B-N2
More aggressive is 5 P-Q4 at once.
6 0-0 0-0
Here too 6 P-Q4 is better.
7 P-Q4 PxP
8 NxP NxN
9 QxN P-Q3

Arwther Spa.ssky Blunder 163

A well-known position, generally ranked as everi. In a similar

line in his match with Petrosian, Fischer as Black secured a quick
10 B-N5
A new idea, but its value is not demonstrated by this game.
10 B-K3
11 Q-B4
If 11 P-K4, R-Bl and now 12 P-N3r, is impossible because of
12 . NxPI
Actually, with the line that Black adopts, Q-R4 seems more
logical than Fischer's move.
11 Q-R4
12 QR-Bl QR-Nl
Simpler is 12 . QR-Bl, for if then 13 BxP, R-Nl regains
the Pawn with a good game, and if 13 P-N3, R-B2 is freeing.
13 P-N3 KR-Bl
14 Q-Q2 P-QR3
15 B-K3
164. The Games

As so often, Fischer waits for his opponent to provide the

opening. No doubt he did not expect one so soon.
15 P-QN4??
Loses the Exchange for a Pawn. After the normal 16 R-B2
the game is still approximately even.
16 B-R7
16 PxP
Spassky recognizes his mistake, but there is nothing that he
can do.
17 BxR RxB
18 "PxP BxP
19 KR-Ql
Anofher Spassky Blunder 165

With the elementary threat of 20 N-Q5, QxQ; 21 NxPch.

19 N-Q2??
Which the champion promptly overlooks, preferring instead
another retreat. With 19 Q-K4 there is some slight play
rhough White should win in the long run.

20 N-Q5
Of course.
20 QxQ
21 NxPch K-Bl
22 RxQ KxN
Or 22 BxRP; 23 N-B6, R-N7; 24 RxR, BxR; 25 R-B2 and
White also wins.
28 RxB R-N8ch
24 B-Bl N-B4
25 K-N2
The rest is simple, though Black does develop some slight play
on the Q-side.
25 P-QR4
26 P-K4 B-R8
To forestall P-B4 and P-K5.
27 P-B4 P-B3
28 R-K2
166 The Games

Again threatening P-K5.

28 K-K3
29 R ( 2 ) -QB2 B-N7
30 B-K2
Again planning to break through with B-N4ch.

30 P-R4
31 R-Q2 B-R6
Or 31 P-QR5; 32 R-N4, P-R6; 33 B-B4ch and White
gets in.
32 P-B5ch PxP
33 PxPch K-K4
33 KxP; 34 RxNch, BxR; 35 B-Q3ch loses just as well.
34 R ( 4 )-Q4 KxP
35 R-Q5cb K-K3
Or 35 K-K5; 36 B-B3cb, K-K6; 37 R-K2 mate.
36 RxPch K-K2
37 R-B6 Resigns
GA M E 9 .

The Pause That Didn't Refre sh

August 1, 1972
Because of the gruelling character of chess matches, both play
ers are usually glad when they have a chance to relax. The present
game is the only one to date which ended in a quick draw, when
there literally was nothing left to play for. But it did not serve to
refresh Spassky, who had postponed the previous game because
of illness.

WHITE: Spassky BLACK : Fischer

Queens Gambit Declined

1 P-Q4 N-KB3
2 P-QB4 P-K3
3 N-KB3 P-Q4
In spite of his signal victory in the third game, Fischer has
since then carefully avoided the two-edged line he chose there,
3 . P-B4. Unless he is absolutely sure of himself, ?5 in the
7th and 11th games, Bobby never plays the same variation twice.
4 N-B3
Stronger is 4 B-N5, but Spassky until now thought he had a
refutation of Black's reply.
4 P-B4

168 The Games

5 BPxP NxP
6 P-K4 NxN
7 PxN PxP
8 PxP
So far, all as in the 5th match game Spassky-Petrosian, 1969,
where White secured a powerful attack. That game continued
8 B-N5ch; 9 B-Q2, BxBch; 10 QxB, 0-0; 11 B-B4, N-B3;
12 0-0, P-QN3; 13 QR-Ql, B-N2; 14 KR-Kl, R-B l and now 15
P-Q5 with a powerful attack.
8 . N-B3
Also playable, though cramped, is 8 B-K2.
9 B-QB4

9 P-QN41
The Pause That Didn't Refresh 169

An unexpected innovation, which forces a desirable simplifica

tion. Since Black has the majority of Pawns ori the Q-side, he
prefers to head for the endgame, while White's advantage lies
in the middle game attack.
10 B-Q3
Of course not 10 BxNP?, Q-R4ch.
10 B-N5ch
11 B-Q2 BxBch
12 QxB
Now the NP is threatened.
12 P-Q3
13 P-QR4
Maintaining the initiative. After 13 0-0, 0-0 the QP is threatened.

13 0-01
A dynamic reply, which once more hits at the QP.

14 Q-B3
14 PxP, NxP is obviously unfavorable for Whit.
14 B-N21
Another dynamic defense.
15 PxP PxP
16 0-0
If instead 16 RxR, QxR; 17 BxP, N-R21 regains the Pawn with
a strong initiative.
170 The Games

16 Q-N3
A good alternative was 16 P-N5.
17 QR-Nl P-N5

18 Q-Q2
Contenting himself with a draw.
The only winning chance was 18 P-Q5!, when 18 PxQ?
fails against 19 RxQ, winning a piece. In reply to 18 P-Q5, Q-R4
is virtually forced. There could follow then 19 Q-Q2, PxP; 20
PxP, N-K2; 21 P-Q61 ( not 21 QxP, QxQ; 22 RxQ, BxP and draws L
N-Q4; 23 Q-NSI with a good attack.
But here, as at so many points in the match, Spassky avoids
excessive complications, even when they offer him attacking
chances. This is indeed a sharp reversal of the traditional Russian
18 NxP
19 NxN QxN
20 RxP Q-Q2
The position is now a clear draw.
21 Q-K3 KR-Ql
22 KR-Nl
Inviting further simplification, but there is nothing else of
The Pause That Didn't Refresh 171

22 QxB
28 QxQ RxQ
24 RxB P-N4

25 R-N8ch
If he tries to double on the seventh rank, he finds Black ahead
of him: 25 P-R3, R-R7; 26 R-B7, R ( 6 ) -Q7.
25 RxR
26 RxRch K-N2
27 P-B3 R-Q7
28 P-R4
Useless elegance. It does not matter whether e accepts the
sacrifice or not.
28 P-R3
There is no future in 28 PxP; 29 K-R2 and 30 K-R3 .

But it does not lose either.

29 PxP PxP
GAM E 1 0 .

Pravda Praises Bobby 's Ingenuity

August 3, 1972
From the beginning it was clear that the Soviets had a lot at
stake in this match. When Bobby began his winning streak, they
reported it rather hesitantly. After the sixth game three of the
four Soviet reporters in Iceland went home, but this was stated
to be "routine," since the match was really covered by the grand
masters back home. Then with good sportsmanship the Soviets
began to praise Bobby, freely conceding that Spassky was not
quite up to him. The high point came in the 10th game, where
in an apparently drawn position, Bobby pulled a mating attack
out of a hat. Truly a magnificent conception, even though Spassky
could easily have forced a draw had he foreseen it. But the fact
is that he did not, while Fischer did, which makes a ball game.

WlilTE: Fischer BLACK : Spassky

Ruy Lopez
1 P-K4 P-K4
2 N-KB3 N-QB3
3 B-N5 P-QR3
4 B-R4
For some time Bobby experimented with the Exchange Varia
tion 4 BxN, introducing some ingenious and valuable innovations.

Pravda Praises Bobby's Ingenuity 173

He tried it in the sixteenth game, only to find that Spassky was

well prepared for him.
4 N-B3
5 0-0 B-K2
6 R-Kl P-QN4
7 B-N3 P-Q3
8 P-B3 0-0
9 P-KR3

9 N-Nl
By now this has become a standard defense. The older line
9 . N-QR4; 10 B-B2, P-B4; 11 P-Q4, Q-B2 was analyzed to
exhaustion forty years ago, and evaluated as a draw. Fischer
however has great confidence in the continuation 12 PxKP, PxP;
13 QN-Q2, followed by N-Bl-K3 ( or N3 ) , hitting at the weak
White squares in the enemy position, which is perhaps why
Spassky avoided the line.
10 P-Q4 QN-Q2
11 QN-Q2 B-N2
12 B-B2 R-Kl
With continued pressure against the White KP.
13 P-QN4!
Following Russian analysis, again surprisingly somewhat more
familiar to Bobby than to Boris. If White petinits P-QB4,
174 The Games

Black equalizes easily. But if that is indeed true, Black should

play 12 P-B4 at once, instead of 12 R-Kl.
13 B-KBl
14 P-QR4 N-N3
The analysis continued 14 P-B4; 15 NPxP, PxQP; 1
PxP ( Q4), PxBP; 17 P-K5, N-Q4 with unclear complication!
though White looks better ( Balashov-Podgaets, Moscow, 1967).
15 P-R5 QN-Q2
16 B-N2
Again aiming at the KP. If in reply 16 P-B4; 17 NPxF,
QPxP; 18 PxKP, QNxP; 19 NxN, RxN; 20 P-QB4, R-Kl; 21 P-KS.
N-Q2; 22 P-B4 with a ppwerful attack.
16 Q-Nll
An ingenious defense, reinforcing his K4 square indirectly.
17 R-Nl
To build up pressure on the QN file. In a later game Kavalek
Reshevsky, Chicago, 1973, the Czech-American played the
stronger move 17 P-B4, NPxP; 18 B-R4!

17 P-B41?
Accepting the challenge.
18 NPxP?
Pravda Praises Bobby's Ingenuity 175

Leads to a forced simplification which should have drawn.

More logical was 18 P-Q5, with eventual play on the K-side after
18 . PxP ( 18 P-B5 is no better ) ; 19 PxP and Black re
:nains extremely cramped.
18 QPxP
19 PxKP
Now 19 P-Q5, Q-B2 is weak.
19 QNxP
20 NxN QxN
21 P-QB4 Q-B5
22 BxN

After 19 PxKP all this has been more or less forced.

22 QxB?
Should have forced a draw. But he had much better with
22. PxBI If then 23 PxP, KR-Qll; 24 R-K2, PxPI and Black
should win, since 25 RxP is refuted by 25 B-QR3. And if
24 R K3 given by some annotators, 24
- , P-B51, threatening
both P-B6 and B-QB4, is disastrous for White. Again
however the psychological factor is decisive: Spassky chooses to
retreat rather than risk an attack.
After 22 PxB; 23 P-N3, Q-R3; 24 P-R4, QR-Ql; 25 R-K2,
P-N5 Black has a fine attack, while White is reduced to a passive
176 The Games

23 PxP KR-Ql
Stronger is 23 QR-Ql, for if then 24 PxP, BxRP; 25 R-N6,
Q-QB6 is decisive. After 23 QR-Ql; 24 Q-B l, Q-QB6; 25
N-B3, PxP; 26 RxP, B-R3 draws. With the Queen's Rook at QJ.
White does not have the attack unleashed in the game.
24 Q-Bl Q-QB6
Heading for the trap. Even here 24 PxP; 25 RxP, B-R3;
26 R-N6 ( or 26 R-N3, P-B5 ) , Q-QB6 draws easily enough.
Since Spassky moved so quickly here, it is likely that he thought
that Bobby had made a mistake which gave Black winning
chances. He is soon to learn how wrong he was.
25 N-B3
And now 25 PxP draws immediately.
25 QxP?

26 B-N3! 1 !
With all eyes riveted on the Q-side, Bobby suddenly switches
to the other wing, and reveals a powerful attack.
26 PxP
Oblivious of the danger. Better was 26 Q-B2, though after
27 N-N5, R-Q2; 28 P-K5 White already has much the better of it
27 Q-KB4!
Pravda Praises Bobby's Ingenuity 177

A remarkable tum of events. After a series of desultory posi

tional moves Black has to defend himself against a mating attack.
27 R-Q2?
Loses the Exchange. Obvious and stronger was 27 P-B51 ;
28 BxP, PxB; 29 RxB, P-B3!; 30 Q-N4, Q-R31; 31 R ( 1 )Nl, R-R2!
and Black can defend himself.
28 N-K5!

Now this is decisive.

28 Q-B2
Black suddenly has no defense. If 28 B-Q3;. 29 BxPch,
K-Rl ( or 29 K-Bl; 30 H-K6 dis ch ) ; 30 N-N6chl, PxN;
31 Q-R4 mate. And if now 28 P-B5; 29 BxP, PxB; 30 NxR
178 The Games

29 QR-Qll
The in-between move that kills. If in reply 29 RxR; 30
BxPch, K-Rl; 31 N-N6ch, PxN; 32 Q-R4 mate.
29 R-K2?
In time pressure he is unable to calculate precisely. After the
alternative 29 QR-Ql; 30 BxPch, RxB; 31 QxRch, QxQ;
32 NxQ, RxR; 33 RxR, BxP; 34 N-N5, B-B7!; 35 R-Q8, B-N6!, the
win is much harder for White to demonstrate than in the game.
80 BxPch RxB
31 QxRch QxQ
32 NxQ BxP
After 32 KxN; 33 R-Q7ch, K-Nl; 34 RxB, P-N5; the Black
Pawns can advance more easily, but White still has an extra
Pawn: 35 P-K5 and if 35 P-B5; 36 P-K6, P-B6; 37 P-K7 and
wins : 37 BxP; 38 R ( l ) xB, and Black has nothing.
33 RxB KxN
Pravda Praises Bobby's Ingenuity 179

Now that the smoke bas cleared, White has come out with the
Exchange for a Pawn-normally a winning advantage. The only
danger now is that Black's two connected passed Pawns will
advance quickly, a danger which White promptly scotches.
34 R-Q7ch K-B3
If instead 34 K-Nl; 35 R-N7, P-N5; 36 P-N3, R-QBl; 37
R-QB4, R-Kl; 38 K-N2 will be decisive : Blck's Rook is confined
to the first rank, which gives White the time to shift his King to
the Q-side.
35 R-N7 R-R8ch?
A weak move in time pressure. A better chance was offered by
keeping the Rook on the home rank and trying to advance the
Pawns : 35 P-N5; 36 P-N4, R-Bl; 37 R-B4, R-Kll and
White must still work hard for his point.
36 K-R2 B-Q3ch
37 P-N3 P-N5
His only chance.
38 K-N2 P-R4
If 38 R-QB8; 39 R-N6, K-B4; 40 R-R41 wins, e.g. 40
B-K4; 4 R-R5ch, K-K5 ( or 41 P-N4; 42 P-B4 ) ; 42 R-K6,
P-N6; 43 R ( K6 )xBch, K-Q6; 44 RxBP, RxR; 45 RxR, P-N7; 46
R-QN5, K-B7; 47 P-B4 and Black's King does not get bck in time.
180 The Gumes

39 R-N6 R-Q8
40 K-B3
Playing for a mating net. If 40 K-B4; 41 P-N4ch, PxPch.
42 PxPch, K-B3; 43 K-K2, R-Q4; 44 P-B4 and Black is in zugzwang
for if 44 K-B2; 45 P-N5, B-K2; 46 P-N6ch, K-Bl ; 47 R-N7.
40 K-B2
The last move before adjournment. 40 P-N4 offered some
what better chances.
41 K-K2

The sealed move. Black is reduced to waiting moves.

41 R-Q4
42 P-B4 P-N3
The Q-side Pawns cannot advance.
43 P-N4 PxP
44 PxP P-N4
Desperation: if 44 K-B3; 45 R-N5, as in the game, wins
the NP.
45 P-B5 B-K4
Hoping for B-Q5 and P-B5.
46 R-N5
Simple and sufficient. The QNP must go, for if 46 B-B6
( or 46 B-Q5 ) ; 47 R-N7ch, K-Bl ; 48 R( 4 ) -K7, R-K4ch; 49
RxR, BxR; 50 K-Q3 and should win without trouble.
Pravda Praises Bobby's Ingenuity 181

46 K-B3
47 R ( 4 )xP

With this Pawn gone it is all over.

47 B-Q5
48 R-N6ch K-K4
Hoping for 49 R-Nl, K-B5, with at least some cm.interplay.
49 K-B31
Strongest: he threatens mate on the niove.
49 R-Ql
50 R-N8 R-Q2
51 R ( 4)-N7 R-Q3
52 R-N6 R-Q2
58 R-N6
The advance of the Pawn now makes no differen.ce.
53 K-Q4
54 RxP B-K4
55 P-B6
182 The Games

If now 55 R-KB2; 56 R-Q8ch, K-K3; 57 R-K8ch wins the

55 K-Q5
56 R-Nl Resigns
Against the threat of R-Qlch Black is defenseless.
GA M E 1 1 .

Bobby Becomes a Mortal A gain

August 6, 1972
Capablanca, with whom many have compared Bobby, once
wrote that after a string of successes he developed the feeling
that he was invincible. Something of the sort must have happened
to Bobby in this game. First of all he repeats a variation tried
before, in the seventh game, thus allowing himself to be sur
prised by prepared analysis. Al; a wise precaution . he had never
done this before, here or in previous mtches. Then he plays care
lessly against an extraordinarily brilliant innovation. The result
is a lost position in fifteen moves.

WlllTE : Spassky BLACK: Fischer

Sicilian Defense
1 P-K4 P-QB4
2 N-KB3 P-Q3
3 P-Q4 PxP
4 NxP N-KB3
5 N-QB3 P-QR3
6 . B-N5 P-K3
7 P-B4 Q-N3
8 Q-Q2
All as in the seventh game.
184 The Games

8 QxP
9 N-N3 Q-R6

10 BxN!
First improvement: in the earlier game he played instead 10
B-Q3, B-K2; 11 0-0, P-R3, obtaining a lost game, which he
eventually drew.
10 PxB
11 B-K2 P-KR4?
Overconfidence leads him to create more weaknesses; but his
counter-attack is easily refuted, and the weaknesses remain. After
the natural 11 N-B3; 12 0-0 transposes to the game. Best
is 11 N-Q2 and N-B4, but Black's position remains
The line played here has been tried before, with unclear results.
Spassky's innovation makes it seem quite possible that after Black's
weak eleventh move he is already lost.
12 0-0 N-B3
13 K-Rl
Preparing the combination
13 B-Q2?
which he promptly overlooks. 13 N-R4 was called
for, when it is not clear how White will proceed: if 14 N-Q5,
Bobby Becomes a Mortal Again 185

PxN ( not 14 NxN; 15 NxPch ) ; 15 NxN, PxP; 16 B-B4, Q-B4.

Although Black's game is not easy, it at least seems playable.

14 N-Nlll
A brilliant conception: to trap the Queen with so many pieces in
play. If now 14 Q-N7; 15 P-QR4, R-Bl; 16 N-R3! will win
the Queen : 16 P-B4; 17 P-K5, P-Q4 ( or 17 PxP; 18
N-B4 ) ; 18 KR-QNl.
While the move looks like a prepared variation, Spassky claimed
afterwards that he had found it over the board; in fact, he thought
for thirty minutes before hitting upon it.
It is interesting that this time the retreat, already seen as the
Russian's unconscious tendency, should prove to be so powerful.
14 Q-N5
After 14 Q-R5; 15 Q-K3, 0-0-0; 16 P-QR3! is already de-
cisive, the threat being again to win the Queen with N-B3.
15 Q-K3
186 The Games

Suddenly Fischer is confronted with the loss of his Queen via

P-QR3 and N-B3.
15 P-Q4?
So desperate so soon! Black may well be lost whatever he does,
but if he is going to try he might as well do better than this.
15 N-K2 is possible, but best is the peculiar 15 N-Ql,
so that if then 16 P-QR3, Q-R5; 17 N-B3, Q-B3. Although his
game is cramped and undeveloped he has still given up no essen
ti.al ground, e.g. 18 N-Q5, B-K21
16 PxP N-K2
17 P-B4
Not only does he hold on to the material, but he again threatens
to trap the Queen.
17 N-B4
18 Q-Q3 P-R5??
An ill-conceived project, which is immediately refuted. Neces
sary was 18 Q-N3; 19 N-B3, 0-0-0; 20 QR-NL Black cer
tainly has a bad position then, but he is not immediately lost, as
in the game.
The text threatens 19 . . . N-N6ch; 20 PxN, PxP dis ch; 21 K-Nl,
B-B4ch, but that threat is easily met.
19 B-N4
Crushing. After 19. N-N6ch; 20 PxN, PxP dis ch; 21 B-R3
Bobby Becomes a Mortal Again 187

Black has nothing. And if 19 0-0-0; 20 BxN, PxB; 21 N-B3

leads to a strategically hopeless position for Black.
19 N-Q3
20 QN-Q2

With simple developing moves White increases the pressure.

20 P-B4
If instead 20 PxP; 21 QR-Klch, B-K2; 22 BxBch, KxB;
23 QxP and Black is defenseless.
But Bobby's move is even worse.
21 P-QR3 QN3
His game now falls apart. But on 21 Q-R5; 22 B-B3,
R-Bl; 23 KR-Kl, B-K2; 24 PxP, PxP; 25 P-B5 Black's game is also
22 P-B5
An obvious crusher. At this point Shelby Lyman on New York's
Channel 13 was so flabbergasted that he expressed the opinion
there must have been some error in transmission of the moves.
22 Q-N4
23 Q-QB3
188 The Games

Attacking the Rook, Knight and again threatening to win thP

Queen with P-R4.
23 PxB
Anyone else might well have resigned against Spassky; Fischer
waits a few moves.
24 P-R4
So that if 24 Q-K7; 25 QR-Kl and the Queen is gone.
24 P-R6
More desperation. The rest is silence.
25 PxQ PxPch
26 KxP R-R6
Zl Q-B6 N-B4
With some vague idea such as B-N2, easily countered.
28 P-B6 B-Bl
29 QPxP BPxP
30 KR-Kl
Bobby Becomes a Mortal Again 189

80 B-K2
31 RxKP Resigns
My feelings about this game are best contained 1n a telegram
I sent to Bobby that evening:
Don't horse around. Play for a draw and the mtch is yours.
GAME 12.

Bobby Plays It Cautious

August 8, 1972
As so often, Fischer's play in this game is in marked contrast
to his off-the-board behavior. After his loss in the previous game
his friends announced that he would be "mean." He filed his
usual complaints with the match committee, this time about the
air conditioning, which was turned off, so that both players
literally sweated it out.
But on the board he was cautious to an extreme. After an
unusual ( for him ) Queen's Gambit, he was faced with a surprise
at Black's 10th move. Replying in a circumspect way, a draw
seemed almost sure to result and so it did.
Bobby kept on playing for 20 moves after the draw was certain,
perhaps to feed the myth that he ne".er plays for a draw.

wmTE : Fischer BLACK: Spassky

Queen's Gambit Declined (by transposition)

1 P-QB4 P-K3
When will he try the stronger 1 P-K4?
2 N-KB3 P-Q4
3 P-Q4 N-KB3
4 N-B3 B-K2
5 B-N5 P-KR3

Bobby Plays It Cautiaus 191

Stronger is 5 QN-Q2, but neither master has taken advan-

tage of the chance to reply B-B4.
6 B-R4 0-0
7 P-K3 QN-Q2
8 R-Bl P-B3
9 B-Q3 PxP
10 BxP

So far all well-analyzed book. Here the usual reply is 10

N-Q4, with appropriate equality.
10 P-QN41?
An anti-positional move, so rare that it can be considered novel
in the present age. Usually Black avoids this weakening move
which can leave him with a blocked QBP.
11 B-Q3 P-R3
To play P-B4.
12 P-R4
A natural move, but ne which leads to simplification. At an
other time Bobby might have tried the more aggressive 12 0-0,
P-B4; 13 Q-B2, and if then 13 B-N2; 14 N-K5 with a strong
12 PxP
13 NxP Q-R4ch
192 The Games

14 N-Q2 B-N5
15 N-B3
More or less forced.
15 P-B4

16 N-N3 Q-Ql
If instead 16 Q-N3, as in Stahlberg-Capablanca, Margate
1936, 17 PxP, NxP; 18 NxN, QxN; 19 BxN is better for White.
17 0-0 PxP
18 NxP
The prudent reply. In a somewhat similar position agaimt
Belavienetz, Moscow 1937, I countered with 18 PxP, and won
eventually because of the Black weaknesses.
18 B-N2
19 B-K4
Pursuing the simplification: on the alternative 19 N-K4, B-K2;
20 N-B6?, BxN; 21 RxB, N-K4 is too strong.
19 Q-Nl
As in the 10th game; apparently Spassky likes this square for
his Queen. Weaker is 19 BxB; 20 NxB, B-K2; 21 N-B6.
20 B-N3 Q-R2
21 N-B6 QBxN
22 BxB QR-Bl
Bobby P1.ays It Cautious 193


White's two Bishops have little meaning in a position of this

kind. A draw seems inevitable.
23 N-R4 KR-Ql
24 B-B3
There is no good way for White to keep up the pressure: if
24 Q-K2, N-B41; 25 NxN, RxB is easy enough.
24 P-QR4
25 R-B6 RxR
26 BxR R-QBl
Z1 B-B3
There is no future in 27 Q-B3, Q-R3; 28 R-Bl?, N-N3.
27 Q-R3
194 The Games

Black now has command of the open QB file, but there is little
that either side can do. Both maneuver now to see if the other
fellow will make a mistake.
28 P-R3 Q-N4
On 28 N-B4 White can try 29 NxN, BxN; 30 B-KS.
29 B-K2 Q-B3
80 B-B3 Q-N4
Evidently Spassky is content with a draw at this point, but
Fischer hopes for an error.
31 P-N3 B-K2
32 B-K2 Q-NS
Now he wants to maintain the pressure against the White
33 B-R6 R-B3
84 B-Q3 N-B4
Spassky is getting ambitious. Naturally the repetition 34
R-Bl was also quite good enough.
35 Q-B3
Hitting at the Rook.
_35 R-Bl
86 NxN BxN

Bobby Plays It Cautious 195

Now White even appears to be in a little trouble, since 37

B-QB4? is countered by 37 P-R51.
37 R-Bll
A dynamic reply: if now 37 QxP?; 38 RxB!, RxR; 39
Q-R8ch and mates.
37 R-Ql
He has to free the Bishop.
88 B-QB4
Now 38 B-B7? fails against 38 RxB, which lifts the mate
38 Q-Q7
39 R-Bl

89 B-N5
One move before adjournment, so he doesn't want to try any-
thing. But if 39 B-Q3?; 40 R-Ql ! is too strong.
40 B-B7 R-Q2
41 Q-B6
A menacing gesture-which threatens nothing.
41 Q-B7
42 B-K5 R-Q7
Now Black seems to be conjuring up some real counterplay.
43 Q-R8ch K-R2
44 BxN
196 The Games

Or 44 Q-N7, R-Q2.
# p
45 Q-B3 P-B4
Finally Black really seems to have the better of it, and Fischer
must fight for the draw.

46 P-N41
The best.
46 Q-K5
47 K-N2 K-N3
48 R-Bl B-R6
49 R-QRl B-N5
50 R-QBl
Apparently Fischer now is content with a draw
50 B-K2
But this time Spassky is not. He threatens B-R5.
51 PxPch PxP
52 R-Kl
Losing a Pawn, but not the game.
Bobby Plays It Cautious 197

52 RxPchl
53 KxR B-R5ch
54 K-K2 QxQch
55 KxQ BxR
The extra Pawn has no meaning here.
GAM E 1 3 .

At the Halfway Mark

August 10, 1972

After twelve games the score stood Fischer 7, Spassky 5. One
of Spassky's points was a forfeit which might still be contested.
On the whole Fischer had played better chess. He blundered in
the first game, fell into a prepared variation in the eleventh, and
missed a win in the seventh. But Spassky had blundered badly
in the fifth, sixth and eighth games, and missed a win in the
fourth. It still seemed possible, though unlikely, for the champion
to pull even.
In spite of his victories and his lead Fischer kept up a peppery
series of complaints about the playing conditions. His protest to
the referee Lothar Schmid on August 9th, as quoted in The New
York Times, is typical:

I most vigorously protest the excessive spectator noise in the hall
today, and your failure to take proper action about it when I com
plained about it to you, and the failure of the organizers to heed
several earlier complaints of improper playing conditions and close
ness of spectators.
The Exhibition Hall was not designed for a chess match, and it has
very little acoustical treatment of the type required for such an event.
Hence special precautions are most necessary, one of which is the
removal of at least seven of the rows of seats closest to the stage. The
spectators are so close, and so noisy, and the acoustics are so poor,

At the Halfway Mark 199

that I can hear them opening candy wrappers and I hear bits of
conversation, as well as coughing, laughing, and so on.
This is not suitable for a world championship match, and I demand
that you and the organizers take immediate action to insure full and
complete correction of these disgraceful conditions and furnish me a
full report of what is to be done.
Yours truly
( Signed) Bobby Fischer

Schmid commented that "it was just a normal letter by Bobby's

standards." The match committee refused Fischer's request, stat
ing that to remove the first seven rows of seats would eliminate
half the seats in the auditorium. They did respond to his com
plaint that the hall was being turned into a kindergarten by
posting inspectors to see to it that children did not make too much
Yet, as usual, Bobby's discontent had no noticeable effect on
his game. The first combat after the halfway mark was a monu
mental struggle, which finally ended in., a rather lucky win for

WIUTE : Spassky BLACK : Fischer

Alekhine's Defense
1 P-K4 N-KB3l
The exclamation mark is there only because this is the first
game ever played in world championship history that opened
with this defense. It also shows that Bobby is continuing the
prudent policy of the twelfth game by sidestepping any prepared
variation. It so happens, however, that Spassky does have an
innovation against Alekhine's Defense.
2 P-K5 N-Q4
3 P-Q4 P-Q3
4 N-KB3
200 The Games

The usual line here is 4 N-QB3; 5 P-B4, N-N3; 6 PxP,

KPxP; 7 N-B3, B-N5 with approximate equality.
4 P-KN3
Throws down a challenge by avoiding the standard line.
Perhaps he feared some novelty against the normal 4 N-QB3.
5 B-QB4
After Black's challenging fourth move White seems to have a
variety of ways in which he can get the better of it. Perhaps the
simplest was 5 P-B4, N-N3; 6 PxP, KPxP; 7 P-KR3, B-N2; 8 B-N5,
P-KB3; 9 B-K3, 0-0; 10 Q-Q2 with the superior position.
5 N-N3
6 B-N3 B-N2
At the Halfway Mark 201

7 QN-Q21?
Anxious to keep things complicated. A much stronger line is
7 N-N5, for if then 7 0-0; 8 P-K61 and Blacks game falls
apart, e.g. 8 PxP; 9 BxPch, K-Rl; 10 P-KR41, P-KR3; 11
P-R51 After 7 N-N5, P-Q4; 8 P-KB4 White's game .looks much
7 0-0
8 P-KR3
To prevent B-N5. But the move is not exactly necessary,
since after 8 Q-K2, B-N5; 9 P-K61 Black is again in a bad bind,
e.g. 9 PxP; 10 BxPch, BxB; 11 QxBch, K-Rl; 12 P-KR4,
Q-Bl; 13 N-N5!, BxP; 14 QN-B3, B-B3; 15 P-R5 and wins.
8 P-QR4
9 P-QR4
Safer, and quite strong, is 9 P-R3, but Spassky is eager for
9 PxP
10 PxP N-R3
On the more normal 10 N-B3, continuing the original idea
of Alekhine's Defense, White is almost forced into the powerful
11 0-0
He cannot hold on to his KB: if 11 P-B3?, N-B4; 12 B-B2,
N-Q6ch, with a strong game.
And 11 P-K6 is less effective now because of il BxP;
12 BxB, PxB; 13 Q-K2, Q-Q4.
11 N-B4
12 Q-K2
So that if now 12 B-B4; 13 R-Ql and later N-Q4.
202 The Games

12 Q-Kl
A bold idea: he plays to win the QRP.
But he could have accomplished the same purpose more effec
tively with 12 B-Q2. If then 13 N-K4 ( or 13 R-Ql ) , N ( 3 )xP,
14 R-Ql, Q-Kl and he holds everything, while retaining the free-
ing threat of NxB.
Fischer's play at a number of points throughout this game con
veys the impression that he is double-daring his opponent to do
13 N-K4 N ( 3 )xP
14 BxN NxB

15 R-Kl!?
At the Halfway Mark 203

Speculating on an attack. He can, however, regain the Pawn

with a good game with 15 Q-B4, B-Q2; 16 QxP, B-B3; 17 R-Kll
If now 17 P-N3; 18 B-N51 saves everything ( 18 N-B6ch just
draws, but the text is better ) . Since he was ea er to win at this
juncture he no doubt felt that the attack was the most promising
15 N-N3
Leads to a cramped defensive position. Preferable seems
15 P-QN4, which would have avoided much of his later
difficulties. If after 15 P-QN4; 16 N-Q4, BxKP is playable,
while if 16 P-QN3, N-N3; 17 B-N5 ( as in the game ) , P-R3; 18
B-R4, B-Q2; 19 N-B5, P-R5 and Black has enough counterplay.
16 B-Q2
Spassky has a beautiful idea, but this only loses a move. Better
is 16 B-N5 at once.
16 P-R5
17 B-N5!
The idea: to force the Black Queen to stay at Kl in order to
protect the KP.
17 P-R3
18 B-R4 BB4?
Again provoking him. 18 B-Q2 was more logical, with the
threat of B-N4 and N-B5.
19 P-KN4! B-K3
Not 19 BxN?; 20 QxB and Black remains very cramped.
20 N-Q4 RB5
21 Q-Q2 Q-Q2
204 The Games

White seems to have worked up ample compensation for his

Pawn: how to continue?
22 QR-Ql
Seemingly best. If 22 N-B6ch, PxN; 23 PxP, B-Rl; 24 QxP,
QxN White has no good continuation with two pieces down.
22 KR-Kl!
A skillful defense. If now 23 P-K6, QxN; 24 QxQ, BxQ; 25
PxPch, BxP; 26 RxQ, P-N4 and Black can hold.
23 P-B4
With a seemingly dangerous Pawn advance threat, P-B5.
23 B-Q4!
Making it tough at every move. If now 24 P-B5, BxNI; 25 RxB,
P-B4 and Black is out of the woods.
24 N-QB5
It must have been very frustrating for Spassky to find one varia
tion after another inadequate in this seemingly overwhelming
position. 24 P-K6? is refuted by 24 BxNch.
24 Q-Bl
At the Halfway Mark 205

25 Q-B3
Still reaching for a strong continuation. Three othe possibilities
must have been considered:
I. 25 P-B5, N-B5; 26 Q-B4 ( or 26 Q-B3, NxKP ) , NxNP; 27
P-K6, NxR; 28 PxP, PxNP; 29 Q-B7ch, K-Rl; 30 RxN ( if here
30 BxP, BxNch; 31 K-R2, RxB; 32 QxR, Q-Bl, and White is threat
ened with mate, too ) 30 P-R6; 31 BxP, RXB; 32 QxR, P-R7
and the passed Pawn saves the day.
II. 25 P-K6, N-B5; 26 Q-B2 ( or 26 PxPch, BxP } , NxP; 27 R-Nl
( or 27 P-B5, NxR; 28 RxN, P-R6 } , P-R6; 28 P-B5, P-R7; 29 R-Rl
(or 29 RxN, P-R8=Q; 30 RxQ, RxRch; 31 K-R2, B-K4ch again it
is Black who mates } , P-N3; 30 PxP, PxNP; 31 Q-B7ch, K-Rl;
32 N-Q7, BxNch; 33 K-R2, R-KNl and holds everything, e.g.
34 BxP, R-N2; 35 B-B6, BxB; 36 QxB, BxP; 37 N-K5, K-R2.
III. 25 P-N3, PxP ( if 25 P-R6; 26 P-B4, B-QB3; 27 P-B5
with continued pressure ) ; 26 PxP, N-Q2; 27 NxN, QxN; 28 P-K6,
BxKP; 29 NxB, QxQ; 30 RxQ, PxN; 31 R-Q7. White regains his
Pawn, with a probable draw.
25 P-K3
Locking the position.
26 K-R2
The advance 26 P-B5 would be met by 26 :KPxP; 27 PxP,
PxPI, for if now 28 B-B6, BxB ( forced ) ; 29 PxB, . K-R2; 30 RxR
( after 30 R-K7, R-Nlch Black gets in ) , QxR; 31 Q-KN3 (if 31
206 The Games

NxBP, Q-K7 ) , Q-KNl; 32 NxBP, QxQch; 33 NxQ, K-N3 and

Black has parried all threats, while still holding on to his extra
26 N-Q2
Black is defending desperately.

zr N-Q3?
A serious mistake which lifts the pressure. Best was 27 N-K4,
BxN; 28 RxB and Black still has a vry difficult game. Also good
was 27 N-N5, NxN; 28 QxN, B-QB3; 29 N-Q4, B-Bl; 30 Q-B3.
zr QM
Naturally Bobby seizes his opportunity.
28 N-N5
If 28 N-K2, Q-B3; 29 R-KNl, P-QN4 Black's attack is virtually
as strong as White's.
28 Q-B3
29 N-Q6
The alternative 29 N-R3, P-QN4 is no improvement.
29 QxNI
30 PxQ BxQ
31 PxB
At the Halfway Mark 207

The opponents now enter on by far the most difficult endgame

of the match, full of problem-like sequences.
31 P-B3
To prevent N-K5, and weaken White's hold on the black
squares. While the move gives White chances, the alternative
31 P-R6; 32 P-B4, B-B3; 33 R-QRl, R-R5; 34 N-K5, P-R7;
35 P-B3, KR-Rl; 36 R-K2 is quite complicated too.
32 P-N51
Strongest. If instead 32 P-B5, P-KN4; 33 B-N3, P-R6 with an
easy win.
82 RPxP
A difficult decision, but he has little choice. If 32 P-B4;
83 PxP P-B4
34 B-N3
There is nothing better here because he has to watch the QRP.
If 34 N-B4, P-R6 and the Pawn is taboo: 35 NxB?, PxN; 36
RxRch, RxR; 37 RxP, P-R7; 38 R-Ql, R-K7ch and 'wins.
34 K-B2
Allowing the Bishops of opposite. colors, but he hd no choice.
35 N-K5ch NxN
86 BxN P-N4
Planning on the Exchange sacrifice. If 36 KR-Ql; 37
208 The Games

R-KBl, K-Kl; 38 R-B4, K-Q2; 39 R-R4, K-B3; 40 R-R6 with

possible counterplay.
37 R-KBl
To play R-B4-R4 with at least a draw, and possible mating

37 R-Rll
Obvious and strong. If White accepts, the QP will eventually
go, and the ending will be hopelessly lost.
88 B-B61
At this point Spassky is continuing with great ingenuity. If
Black moves his KR along the rank, White again continues
88 P-R6
39 R-B4 P-R7
At the Halfway Mark 209

With one move to go neither side has time to calculate with

utmost precision. Besides what he played, there are two possibili
ties :
I. 40 P-Q7, P-R8=Q; 41 RxQ, RxR; 42 BxR ( if instead. 42 R-KR4,
RxRl; 43 P-Q8=Q, R-R8ch; 44 K-N3, R ( 8 )xPch; 45 K-B2, R-R7ch;
46 K-Kl, R-R8ch; 47 K-Q2, R ( 5 )-R7ch; 48 K-K3, R-K8ch; 49
K-B4, R-B7ch; 50 K-N3, R-N7ch; 51 K-B4, R-N5 mate ) , K-K2;
43 R-KR4, KxP; 44 K-N3, R-KB8l; 45 IlK5, R-K8l followed by
P-K4 with an easy win.
II. 40 R-QRl, P-K4!; 41 BxP, KR-Kl; 42 B-B6, R-K7ch; 43
K-N3, R-N7ch; 44 K-R4, K-K3; and should win without much
So Spassky does find the best defense in time pressure-then
he bungles it when out of time pressure.
40 P-B4 BxP
If instead 40 PxP; 41 R-QRl, threatening B xR and RxP,
forces 41 P-B6. After 42 BxP the resulting position is quite
favorable for White.
41 P-Q1 B-Q4
Should he try to take advantage of the opportunity to free him
self with 41 P-K4? White plays 42 BxR!, RxB ( forced ) ;
43 R-R41, R-Ql; 44 R-R7ch, K-K3; 45 R-N7, with excellent
210 The Games

The adjourned position. It was generally anticipated tl

Fischer would win handily, but Spassky finds a brilliant defen
42 K-N31 1
Again threatening R-KR4.
42 R-R6ch
The best. If instead 42 P-K4?; 43 BxP, K-K3; 44 Bi
RxB; 45 R-KR41, R-Ql; 46 R-R7, P-R8=Q; 47 RxQ, RxP; 48
R6ch, R-Q3; 49 RxRch, KxR; 50 R-KN7 and White should v.
43 P-B3
Evidently the Soviet analysts relied on the line played in
game, thinking that Black was lost after the piece capture.
instead 43 K-B2, R ( 6 )xPI; 44 Q8=Q, RxQ; 45 BxR, P-K41, '
suddenly White's Rook has nowhere to go.
43 R ( l ) -Rll
44 R-KR4 P-K4
45 R-R7ch K-K3
After 45 K-Nl?; 46 R-R8ch, K-B2; 47 RxR, RxR; 48
Q8=Q Black is lost.
46 R-K7ch K-Q3
47 RxP
47 RxPch
48 K-B2 R-B7ch
49 K-Kl
At"the Halfway Mark 211

Not 49 K-N3?, R-R6ch.

50 R ( 5 ) xBch K-B3

After a series of forced moves the position has been clarified

somewhat: Black has three Pawns for the Bishop, but they are
dangerous passed Pawns. On the other hand White's Rooks are
in a dominant position; the outcome is still unclear.
51 R-Q6ch K-N21
Playing for a win!
52 R-Q7ch
The Black mating threats do not give him time to try his own
with 52 R-K6, for Black can reply 52 R-R6 and if 53 R-Q7ch,
K-Bl; 54 R-KR7?, P-R8=Qch and mates.
And on the waiting move 52 B-Rl Black can counter 52
R-R3!, since after 53 RxR? ( or 53 R-Q7ch, K-N3 ) , KxR; 54
RQ6ch, K-R4; 55 RxP, R-R7 is decisive.
After 52 B-Rl, R-R3; 53 R-Q7ch, K-N3 the variations become
52 K-R3
53 R ( 7 ) -Q2 RxR
54 KxR
No different is 54 RxR, K-N3; 55 B-Rl, P-N5.
54 P-N5
212 The Games

After the simplification White still has to try hard to hold back
the Pawn avalanche.
55 P-R4!
Ingenious : he will quickly force a passed Pawn of his own.
55 K-N4
56 P-R5
Against passive play it is hopeless, e.g. 56 K-B2, P-QB5; 57
K-N2, P-B6ch; 58 K-B2, R-R6.
56 P-QB5!
Threatening P-B6ch and P-R8=Q. After 57 P-R6?,
P-B6ch; 58 K-B2, P-R8=Q; 59 RxQ, RxR; 60 P-R7, R-R8 (not
the cute 60 K-B5?; 61 BxPI ) ; 61 P-R8=Q, RxQ; 62 BxR,
K-B5 with an easy win.
57 R-QRl PxP
58 P-N6
Obtaining some counter-chances. If now 58 P-B6ch?; 59
K-Q3! and Black finds it hard to go further.
58 P-R5
59 P-N7
At tM Halfway Mark 213

He must have regretted moving his Bishop away from the long
diagonal, but on 59 BxP, R-KNl; 60 RxP, RxP; 61 R-R8, P-B6ch;
62 K-B2, R-N7ch; 63 K-Q3 ( or 63 K-Bl, K-B5 ) , PB7; 64 R-QB8,
P-N6 Black's Pawns push through.
59 P-R6
60 B-K7 R-KNl
61 B-B8 P-R7.

A most extraordinary position. The Black Pawns are so strong

that they more than make up for the bottled Rook.
62 K-B2
He cannot take the QRP because the KRP Queens.
62 K-B3
63 R-Ql
214 The Games

To prevent him from crossing over to the K-side.

63 P-N6ch
64 K-B3
It makes no great difference where he goes. White main
the draw by keeping the Black King from crossing over.

64 P-KR8=QI
The best chance, otherwise White counters with R-Q6ch
65 RxQ K-Q4
66 K-N2
66 P-B5
At the Halfway Mark 215

A good try, but he lacks a tempo.

67 R-Qlch K-K5
68 R-QBl
Threatening to take the Pawn with check.
68 K-Q6

69 R-Qlch??
With a draw in his hand Spassky stumbles. Correct was 69
R-B3ch, K-Q5; 70 R-B3, P-B6chl ( or 7o K-K5; 71 R-B3 ) ;
71 K-Rl' P-B7, 72 RxPch' K-K6J 73 R-Bl' K-K7, 74 R-Rl' K-Q7,
75 R-R2ch with a draw; if Black does not take the forced draw
here, he can still lose.
69 K-K7
70 R-QBl P-B6
216 The Games

71 B-B5
Desperation. On 71 RxP, P-B7 wins : 72 R-K4ch, K-B6; 73
R-K6, P-B8= Q .
71 RxP
Equally effective was 71 P-B7; 72 BxP, KxB; 73 RxP, RxP;
74 R-QR4, R-N8.
72 RxP R-Q21
Threatening R-Q8. If now 73 B-Q4, either 73 RxB
or 73 P-B7 wins.
73 R-K4ch K-B8
74 B-Q4
Or 74 R-KB4, R-Q7ch.
74 P-B7

75 Resigns
There is no defense : if 75 R-B4, RxB!; 76 RxR, K-K7; 77 R-K4ch,
K-B6, and if 75 BxP, KxB followed by R-Q8.
Despite the inaccuracies on both sides, this is a game truly
worthy of a world championship match.
GA M E 1 4 .

On Playing for a Draw

August 15, 1972

Although chess is a theoretical draw, with a slight edge for
White, it is by no means easy to force a draw in practical play.
In fact, to reach a draw it is first necessary to make the best
moves, producing a position which is advantageous in as many
respects as possible.
In the present game Bobby appears to be playing for a draw,
but he does so in a rather sloppy manner.
Several off-board events enlivened tlie proceedings at this time.
First of all Spassky postponed the game for two days for medical
reasons; Fischer, suspecting a trap no doubt, demanded to see
a photostatic copy of the physician's certificate. When he heard
the diagnosis ( tired, unable to play ) he lodged a protest, which
was promptly rejected. Then Bobby, threatened with a lawsuit
for his refusal to allow the games to be filmed and televised,
asked the match committee to deposit $46,875 with the U.S.
Embassy; the sum was half the amount due to the loser. This
request was likewise rejected by the Committee, which also made
public its own demand that Fischer autograph the ten boards
which were to be auctioned off at the end of the match to defray
expenses. Finally, it was announced by the n wspapers that
Fischer had "forced" new rules on the FIDE, that in the cham
pionship match the first to win six games, draws not counting,

218 The Games

would be declared the victor. This change was voted by the

FIDE in the fall of 1972.

WHITE : Fischer BLACK: Spassky

Queen's Gambit Declined (by transposition)

1 P-QB4
Consistently staying away from his favorite 1 P-K4.
1 P-K3
2 N-KB3 P-Q4
3 P-Q4 N-KB3
4 N-B3 B-K2
Why Spassky kept on playing this tame defense which offers
few counter-chances is also not clear. Both sides appear cautious.

5 B-B4?

A weak continuation which fails to prevent the freeing
P-B4. Since he did so well with B-N5 in other games, it is also
a mystery why he avoided the move here.
5 0-0
6 P-K3 P-B4
7 PxBP N-B3
On Playing for a Draw 219

8 PxP PxP
9 B-K2 BxP
10 0-0 B-K3
The game has turned into a reversed Queen's Gambit Accepted.
Black has full equality.
11 R-Bl
Threatening NxP, uncovering on the Bishop.
11 R-Bll

A natural sacrifice.
12 P-QR3
Fischer avoids the complications. If 12 NxP, QxNI; 13 QxQ,
NxQ; 14 RxB, NxB; 15 PxN, N-Q5!; 16 R-K5, NxBch; 17 RxN,
B-B5, winning the Exchange.
12 P-KR3
18 B-N3?
Senseless dawdling, which drifts into a lost game. The normal
positional continuation is 13 N-QN5, to occupy Q4.
18 B-N3
14 N-K5
Now on 14 N-QN5 Black can reply N-K5.
14 N-K2
Hoping for continued complications.
220 The Games

15 N-R4 N-K5
16 RxR BxR
17 N-KB3
To reinforce Q4. He must already be careful: if 17 NxB, QxN;
18 Q-Q4, QxQ; 19 PxQ, N-KB4; 20 R-Ql, P-KN41 with continued
pressure, though probably not enough to win.

17 B-Q2
To force the exchange and place his Queen in a favorable
18 B-K5
After 18 NxB, QxN; 19 Q-Q4, QxQ; 20 NxQ, R-Bl Black's com
mand of the QB file can be a problem.
18 BxN
19 QxB N-QB3
20 B-KB4?
Another inconsistent move. One would rather have expected
20 B-Q4.
20 Q-B3!
On Playing for a Draw 221

Apart from the QNP, Spassky has another, even more ominous
threat: 21 P-N4; 22 B-N3, P-KR4.
21 B-QN5??
It had almost been forgotten that Fischer too can make out
right blunders. Note that it is again an edge move.
However, the position was already bad for White. If 21 P-QN4,
P-N4; 22 B-N3, P-KR4; 23 P-N5, P-R5; 24 BxP, PxB; 25 PxN,
PxP; Black has much the better of it.
21 QxPI
Of course!
22 BxN N-B6!
Winning a Pawn. Bobby probably overlooked this move.
23 Q-N4
There is no other move with the Queen.
23 QxQ
24 PxQ PxB
Spassky is now a healthy Pawn to the good, and everybody
expected a quick victory.
25 B-K5
To occupy the QB file : he cannot play R-Bl? at once because
of N-K7ch.
25 N-N4
26 R-Bl R-Bl
Zl N-Q4
222 The Games

27 P-B3??
Spassky counters Fischer's blunder with one of his own. The
easiest way to win was 27 NxN; 28 BxN, K-Bl; 29 BxB,
PxB; 30 K-Bl, P-QB4.
28 BxPI
Regaining the Pawn, for if 28 . PxB; 29 NxN and the QBP
. .

is pinned.
M &N
29 BxB NxB
30 PxN R-Nl

With even material the game is a simple draw. Apparently

neither master was willing to offer it. The rest has little interest.
On Playing for a Draw 223

31 K-Bl RxP
32 RxP RxP
33 R-R6
Again regaining the Pawn.
33 K-B2
34 RxPch K-B3
35 R-Q7 P-R4
36 K-K2 P-N4
37 K-K3 R-K5ch
38 K-Q3 K-K3
39 R-KN7 K-B3
40 R-Q7 K-K3
GAME 15.

Prepared Variations

August 17, 1972

Although both sides had an equal amount of time to prepare,
Spassky seems to have come along with more opening innova
tions than his opponent. Here, in another Sicilian, he again tries
something new. Bobby gives up a Pawn for a questionable attack.
But as so often in this match, Spassky is outplayed in the middle
game. After a wild melee, in which Bobby in turn misses a win,
a draw by perpetual check results.
Two interesting announcements, apart from Bobby's now vir
tually standard complaint about the playing conditions, preceded
this game. One was that IBM had underwritten the production
and broadcast charges for the remainder of WNET Channel 13's
broadcasts of the games. The gift was reported to amount to
$10,000 a week. WNET said that it could now offer the games
played on Sundays to the nationwide Public Broadcasting Service
network of 203 stations. And Chester Fox announced that he had
filed suit against Fischer for $1,750,000 for alleged breach of the
contract giving Fox film rights.

WlllTE : Spassky BLACK : Fischer

Sicilian Defense
1 P-K4 P-QB4
Bobby persists!
Prepared Variations 225

2 N-KB3 P-Q3
3 P-Q4 PxP
4 NxP N-KB3
5 N-QB3 P-QR3
Again the Najdorf Variation.
6 B-N5 P-K3
7 P-B4
Will he try the capture of the "poisoned Pawn" again, which
had such disastrous consequences in the eleventh g!l.Ille?
7 B-K2
No, he avoids it. If Fischer has found a refutation of Spassky's
line, he is saving it for another occasion.
8 Q-B3 Q-B2
A standard variation, which has been played hundreds of times.
Who will vary?
9 0-0-0 QN-Q2
10 B-Q3
Still book. In a game Tai-Fischer, Zurich 1959, Tai tried 10
Q-N3 here ( which Spassky plays later}. Bobby replied 10
P-R3; 11 B-R4, R-KNl; 12 B-K2, P-KN4!; 13 PxP, N-K4, with wild
complications which eventually resulted in a draw.
10 P-N4
11 KR-Kl
Not 11 P-K5?, B-N2.
226 The Games

11 B-N2
Attempts to improve upon Black's play have not succeeded.
So for the present at least it looks as though Black's line here is
completely refuted.
White now has several lines at bis disposal: 12 P-KN4, followed
by BxN, P-N5 and P-B5, as Fischer himself has successfully
played on several occasions, and the complex sacrifice 12 N-Q51?
Spassky takes a simpler tack.
12 Q-N31
A brilliant innovation which seems to destroy the Black defense.
Will Fischer try this line again after the present game?
12 0-0-0
Preparing to sacrifice a Pawn. If instead:
I. 12 N-B4; 13 P-K5, PxP; 14 PxP, NxBch; 15 RxN, N-Q4:
16 BxB, QxB; 17 QxP and wins.
II. 12 P-R3; 13 BxN, BxB ( 13 NxB; 14 QxP ) ; 14
BxPI, PxB; 15 N ( 4 } xNP, Q-B3; 16 NxPch, K-Bl; 17 P-K5, B-K2;
18 P-B51 maintains the attack, e.g. 18 . PxP; 19 NxP(7),
KxN; 20 P-K6ch.
III. 12 P-N5; 13 N-Q5, PxN; 14 PxP with a powerful
attack, e.g. 14 K-Ql; 15 N-B5, B-KBl; 16 Q-K3, K-Bl; 17
Q-K8chl, Q-Ql; 18 QxP, BxP; 19 QxQB, NxQ; 20 BxQ, KxB; 21
B-K4, N ( 4 }-N3; 22 BxR, NxB; 23 NxQP with a winning endgame.
Fischer's reply may well be the best chance.
13 BxN
Prepared Variations 227

13 NxB
The alternatives do not look promising: I. 13 BxB; 14
BxP, PxB; 15 N ( 4 ) xNP, Q-N3; 16 NxPch, K-Nl; 17 P-K5, B-K2;
18 NxP and White comes out with the substantial advantage of
Rook and four Pawns for two pieces. II. 13 PxB; 14 Q-N7,
QR-Bl; 15 NxKP, PxN; 16 QxB and Black has much less com
pensation than in the game.
14 QxP
This time it is Spassky who captures a "poisoned Pawn."
14 QR-Bi
15 Q-N3
A prudent retreat. After 15 P-K5, KR-Nl; 16 Q-R6, N-N5 Black
has immediate counterplay.
15 P-N5
16 N-R4 KR-Ni
Preferring the pressure afforded by a freer game. On the
attempt to regain a Pawn with 16 Q-R4; 17 P-N3, N-R4;
18 Q-B2, NxPI ( for if 19 QxN?, B-N4 ) White has . 19 BxPI, BxB
(or 19 QxB; 20 QxN and the Queen can no longer be
pinned ) ; 20 N-B6, Q-B2; 21 NxBch, QxN; 22 QxN and 'wins.
17 Q-B2 N-Q2,
228 The Games

It is certainly not clear what, if anything, Black has for his

18 K-Nl K-Nl
On the attempt to regain the Pawn with 19 N-B4 there
would follow 20 NxN, PxN; 21 N-B31, QxP; 22 Q-K21, P-QR4:
23 B-R6, Q-B2; 24 N-K51 with an overwhelming position.
19 P-B3
Natural and strong. On the superficially more forceful 19 P-B4,
PxP e.p.; 20 R-QBl, N-B4; 21 RxP, B-KB3 Black is still alive and
kicking hard ( if 22 P-QN4, NxB and if 22 P-K5, RxP ) .
19 N-B4
20 B-B2
Much better than 20 NxN, PxN; 21 N-B3, P-B5; 22 B-B2, PxP;
23 PxP, K-Rl and Black has attacking possibilities.
Now the attempt to open lines with 20 NxN; 21 BxN, PxP
is refuted by 22 R-QBll, for if 22 Q-R4; 23 N-B6ch, BxN;
24 BxB, B-B3; 25 P-K51, PxP; 26 RXBP and Black's King is exposed.
21 NxBP B-KB3
Prepared Variations 229

Bobby is adamantly relying on counterplay with his Bishops.

22 P-KN3
To free the Queen.
22 P-KR4
Hoping for some threats on the KN file. It is a desperate hope-
but it works.

28 P-K51?
A "clever" move which ends up winning another Pawn at the
expense of a ruined King position.
The ingenious Bobby has however set Boris a: difficult task.
If e.g. 23 Q-K2, P-R5; 24 P-KN4, Q-N3 with various threats, e.g.
25 N-N3, BxN; 26 PxB, N-R5; 27 R-Q3, R-Bl and White has a
hard struggle.
230 The Games

Inasmuch as the K-side advance is of little consequence, the

best line was simply 23 R-Q2 and if 23 P-RS; 24 KR-Ql,
PxP; 25 PxP, R-NS; 26 N ( 4 ) -K 2 B-K2 and now 27 Q-Q41 followed

by play on the Q-side, which should win.

23 PxP
24 PxP B-KRll
Avoiding the trap : 24 BxP?; 25 N { 4 ) -N5, PxN; 26 NxP.
Q-N3; 27 RxB and wins.

25 N-B3
Offering to return the Pawn for counterplay: 25 BxN?;
26 QxB, BxP; 27 QxRP. If Black now replies 27 BxN; 28
PxB, K-R2; then 29 Q-K5 also gives White strong attacking
If here 25 N-K4, QxP is an adequate defense.
25 R-Qll
Fischer rightly prefers the attack.
26 RxRch
On other moves Black also has adequate counterplay, e.g.
26 R-QBl, R-NS! and R-QNS.
26 RxR
27 N-KN5 BxP
28 QxP
Prepared Variatwns 231

28 R-Q2
Now Bobby is beginning to play for a win. He could have
regained the Pawn with 28 BxPI, for if 29 PxB?, QxP. But
White has 29 QxQch, BxQ; 30 R-K2.
29 QxRP?
Playing for a win. More correct was 29 Q-K8ch, R-Ql; 30 Q
B7, R-Q2; 31 Q-K8ch, with a draw.
29 BxN
30 PxB Q-N3ch
81 K-Bl Q-R4
32 Q-R8ch
To protect the QBP.
32 K-R2
232 The Games

A dramatic change has occurred: from a cramped defensive

position Black has suddenly emerged with a mating attack. The
question now is whether Spassky can hold the draw.
33 P-QR4
Apparently more inspired by a bad position than by a good
one, Spassky finds a heroic defense.
33 N-Q6ch?
Now Bobby begins to go astray. The most direct winning
method was 33 NxP; 34 BxN, QxB, threatening the Rook,
Knight and a possible mate. Best for White then is 35 Q-K5 (if
instead 35 Q-KB8, Q-R8ch; 36 K-B2, QxR; 37 Q-B5ch, K-Nl ;
38 Q-KB8ch, B-Bl; 39 Q-N4ch, K-Rl there is no perpetual),
Q-R8ch; 36 K-B2, Q-R7ch; 37 K-Bl, Q-Q7ch; 38 K-Nl-( see
diagram ) .

38 R-Q41; 39 Q-K3ch, QxQ; 40 RxQ, RxN; 41 RxP, R-KB4;

42 R-K2, K-N3 and Black should win the endgame, even though
the Bishop is of the wrong color, by not exchanging Rooks.
In the diagrammed position the most difficult variation is
38 B-K5chl; 39 RxBI, Q-Q8ch; 40 K-N2, R-Q7ch; 41 K-R3,
Q-R8ch; 42 K-N4, R-N7ch; 43 K-B5, R-N4ch; 44 K-Q6, RxQ;
45 RxR, QxP; 46 NxP, P-R4; 47 N-B5!, P-R5; 48 NxP, Q-Q5ch;
49 K-K6, QxN ; 50 K-B51, Q-Q2ch; 51 K-B4, Q-Q7ch; 52 K-B3,
Prepared Variations 233

QxP; 53 R-K4 and White draws by shifting his Rook rpm KB4
to KR4.
Increasing time pressure played a role in the players' decisions
34 BxN RxB
Not 34 QxNch; 35 K-B2.

85 K-B21 R-Q4?
Apparently strong, but meets with a b'Hlliant refutation. The
correct line was 35 R-Ql; 36 Q-K5, QxRPch 37 K-Bl,
Q-R8ch; 38 K-B2, Q-R7ch; 39 K-Bl, Q-Q7ch; 40 K-Nl, R-Q4, still
winning as in the note to Black's 33rd move.
36 R-K41!
Giving up a piece, but saving the game. If now 36 RxN;
37 Q-Q4ch, Q-B4 ( 37 K-Nl; 38 R-R4 is a bit dangerous ) ;
38 RxP White has three Pawns for the piece and should draw.
36 R-Ql
One move too late.
87 Q-N1
Pinning the Bishop.
37 Q-KB4
The best try.
38 K-N3 Q-Q4ch
89 K-R3
234 The Games

Now he threatens R-QN4 and Black looks lost again.

39 Q-Q71
To save himself by a perpetual: the best recourse.
40 R-QN4
Forcing the perpetual, but there is nothing btter.
40 Q-B8ch
41 R-N2
The sealed move. If White tries to win with 41 K-N3?, Q-N8ch;
42 K-B4, Q-R7ch; 43 K-B5? he is nailed down with 43 Q-Q4
41 Q-R8ch
42 R-R2
There is no avoiding the perpetual with 42 K-N3, Q-Q8ch,
since 43 K-B4?, QxPch is obviously bad.
42 Q-B8ch
43 R-N2 Q-R8ch
The beginning and the end were played brilliantly by Spassky,
while in the middle he collapsed, a frequent performance in this
GAM E 1 6 .

All Quiet on the Fischer Front

August 20, 1972

The most striking news from Iceland today was that there was
only a chess game in progress. True enough, Bobby had wired
his usual protest about playing conditions to Dr.. Euwe, complain
ing that the setting was not suitable for a world championship
contest and taking a pot shot at Referee Lothar Schmid who was
urged to do more than "wring his hands piously." The Dutchman
rejected the protest, saying that it as outside the FIDE's juris
diction. So play went on in its usual way.

WHITE: Fischer BLACK: Spassky

Ruy Lopez: Exchange Variation

1 P-K4 P-K4
No Sicilian this time!
2 N-KB3 N-QB3
3 B-N5 P-QR3
4 BxN
The Exchange Variation, the recent history of which iS closely
identified with Fischer. For a long time it was used almost exclu
sively by Emanuel Lasker, who handled it to perfection. But
except for Lasker it was considered at best a drawish line, with a
slight advantage to Black because of the two Bishops.
236 The Games

Some seven or eight years ago, Bobby suddenly revived the

line, with a number of exciting new variations. Although he
succeeded almost all the time against top opposition he
abandoned the line a few years ago without any explanation.
Spassky must have prepared for this line, and it will be inter
esting to see how he counters.
4 QPxB

5 0-0
This simple waiting move is Fischer's innovation. In Lasker's
day the standard line was 5 P-Q4, PxP; 6 QxP ( or 6 NxP, P-QB4 ) ,
QxQ; 7 NxQ, B-Q2 and Black's two Bishops more than make up
for his artificial Queenside Pawn majority.
5 P-B3
The problem is that Black, unlike White, has no good waiting
move. Naturally 5 N-B3?; 6 NxP, NxP; 7 Q-K2 loses at once.
On 5 B-Q3 now 6 P-Q4 poses Black another dilemma:
6 PxP; 7 QxP with various threats, and if 6
. Q-K2;
7 PxP, BxP; 8 NxB, QxN; 9 N-B3 with a much freer game in which
Black has lost his compensation of the two Bishops.
Some opponents tried 5 B-KN5 against Fischer, to reply
to 6 P-KR3 with 6 P-KR4. White can however counter with
7 P-Q3 and if 7 Q-Q2; 8 NxPI, BxQ; 9 NxQ, BxP; 10 NxB,
BxN; 11 RxB, KxN; 12 B-B4 with the better endgame.
All Quiet on the Fischer Front 237

6 P-Q4
On the alternative 6 P-Q3, B-Q3; 7 QN-Q2, B-K3 Black holds
on to his two Bishops with a free game.
The sacrifice 6 NxP? is refuted by 6 PxN; 7 Q-R5ch,
6 B-KN5
More natural-looking is 6 PxP and if 7 QxP, QxQ; 8 NxQ,
B-Q2, with standard variations. But White continues with 7 NxPI
and if then 7 P-QB4; 8 N-K2, QxQ; 9 RxQ, B-Q2 ( or 9
B-Q3; 10 B-B4 ) ; 10 B-B4, 0-0-0; 11 QN-B3 with continued pres-
7 PxP
The sacrificial line 7 P-B3, PxP; 8 PxP, BxN; 9 QxB, QxP; 10
N-B3, B-Q3 (not 10 0-0-0?; 11 R-Ql ) ; 11 Q-R3 might con
ceivably be playable, but is too risky for Fischer at this point.
7 QxQ
8 RxQ PxP
Strongest. If instead 8 BxN; 9 fxB, PxP; 10 P-KB4, White
undoubles his Pawn with a fine gae.
9 R-Q3
More logical was 9 B-N5, and if 9 N-B3; 10 QN-Q2,
planning B-R4-N3. But the whole variation was played so quickly
by both sides that it must have been previously prepared.
9 B-Q3
10 QN-Q2 N-B3
238 The Games

Black seems to have a free and easy game.

11 N-B4?
Heading for exchanges-natural enough. A better try seems
the more logical 11 P-QN3 and if 1 1 0-0; 12 B-N2, QR-Kl;
13 R-Kl, P-QN4; 14 P-B4, P-B4; 15 . N-Bl and it is White for
choice, e.g. 15 P-N5; 16 KN-Q2, N-Q2; 17 N-K3, B-K3;
18 N-Q5.
Perhaps with an eye on the score, Fischer chooses the more
quiet line.
11 NxP
12 N ( 4 ) xP B ( 5 )xN
This is forced, since if 12 B-KB4; 13 P-KN4!, B-K3; 14
R-K3, N-B4; 15 N-N5 gains material.
13 NxB 0-0
To castle on the Q-side is less favorable.
14 B-K3
All Quiet on the Fischer Front 239

There seems to be little for either side in this position. Black's

pawn majority on the Q-side offers his only chance, but it hardly
seems very threatening at this point.
14 P-QN4
15 P-B41?
Inconsistent, since it gives Black unnecessary chances. The
logical positional move was 15 N-Q2, to hit at the QB5 square,
the general principle in such positions ;being that White should
not be the first to move his Pawns on the Queen's side. True, then
Black has 15 N-B3; 16 N-N3, N-Q2; and if 17 R-B3, R-B3!
with some difficulty for White. Hence the best line is to con
solidate first with 15 P-KR3 and if 15 . P-B4 ( 15 N-B4;
16 BxN, BxB; 17 R-Kl leads to nothing ) ; 16 R-Kl, P-B5; 17
R(3 )-Ql, QR-Kl; 18 N-Q2 and Black has nothing.
15 QR-Nl.
To get to the seventh rank.
16 R-QBl
Unfortunate necessity: if 16 N-Q4, PxP wins.
16 PxP
For if 17 RxP, RxP!; and the mate threat prevent:S RxN.
17 R-Q4 KR-Kl
240 The Games

Now it looks as though Black has some counterplay.

18 N-Q2!
Holds everything.
18 NxN
Nothing better presents itself: if 18 P-B6?; 19 NxN, PxP;
20 R-Nl Black does not have enough for the piece. And if 18
N-B4 naturally 19 NxP.
19 RxN R-K5
After 19 P-B6; 20 PxP! ( not 20 RxP?, B-N5 ) , R-K5; 21
P-N3 Black still has nothing.
With 19 B-K4; 20 RxP, BxP he seems to have better
chances because of the continued mate threat. After 21 R(2)-B2
Black has the cute 21 B-Q5!! and the Bishop is immune
from capture. However White can play simply 22 P-N3 and if
22 BxB; 23 PxB, RxP; 24 RxP the ending is a clear draw.
20 P-KN3
Relying on a dubious combination. More correct was 20 R-Q4,
R-K3; 21 R( 4 ) xP, RxP; 22 R-QR4 regaining the Pawn with an
even game, for if 22 P-B4 simply 23 P-KN3.
21 R( l ) -B2 K-B2
If at once 21 RxP?; 22 RxR, P-B6 White gets out with a
check. Now it has become a threat.
AU Quiet on the Fischer Front 241

22 K-N2
Threatening the Black Rook with K-B3, but ignoring the reply.
22 RxP!?
Trying for a win. If instead 22 B-B3; 23 K-B3, R-K3; 24
RxP, BxP; 25 R-QR4 with at least a draw.
23 K-B3
Of course not 23 RxR?, P-B6 and if 24 R-Q7ch, K-K3.
23 P-B6
He must have considered the Exchange sacrifice 23
RxBch; 24 KxR, P-B6, but after 25 R-K2 there is too little com
24 KxR
Not 24 RxR?, PxR( N7 ) ; 25 RxP, RxBchl.
24 PxR :
25 RxQP R-N4
After 25 RxR; 26 BxR, K-K3; 27 P-B4, B-Q3; 28 P-N4 the
doubled Pawn is of no real value to Black and a draw can be
26 R-B2 B-Q3
Z'! RxP R-Q'.R4
28 B-B4
242 The Games

Forcing the exchange. There is little left for either side.

28 R-R5ch
On 28 BxB; 29 KxB, RxP; 20 RxPch the ending is an easy
29 K-B3 R-R6ch
30 K-K4 RxRP
31 BxB PxB
2 RxQP RxP
38 RxP RxP
34 K-B3 R-Q7
35 R-R7ch K-B3
36 R-R6ch K-K2
37 R-R7ch R-Q2
38 R-R2 K-K3
39 K-N2 R-K2
The position since the 34th move has been a well-known draw,
as demonstrated in any elementary textbook. Why Spassky keeps
trying is a puzzlement.
4Q K-R3 K-B3
AU Quiet on the Fischer Front 243

41 R-R6ch R-K3
42 R-RS P-R3
43 R-R2 K-B4
44 R-B2ch K-N4
45 R-B7 P-N
46 R-B4 P-R4
47 R-B3 R-KB3
48 R-R3 R-K3
49 R-KB3 R-KS
50 R-R3 K-R3

A picture will serve as a bit of distraction, if the reader insists

on playing out all the moves. It is the writer's obligation to
244 The Games

record them all, but anyone who wants to stop here and go on to
the next game has my blessing.
51 R-R6 R-K4
52 K-R4 R-K5ch
53 K-R3 R-K2
54 K-R4 R-K4
55 R-N6 K-N2
56 R-N4 K-R3
57 R-N6 R-KB
58 K-R3 R-R8ch
59 K-N2 R-R8
60 K-R3 R-R5
GAM E 17

Who's Crazy Now?

August 22, 1972

The sensation today was the Russian charge that the Americans
might be using electronic devices and chemica,l substances to
weaken Spassky's playing ability. Fischer guffawed, The New
York Times editorialized about the Russian alibi, and the Ice
landers solemnly promised first to investigate all charges by an
electronics expert, and second to keep the hall patrolled at night
to prevent Americans from slipping in their secret magic, as the
Russians had charged. Larry Evans reported that Icelandic spe
cial agent KR2, posing as a chess grandmaster named Bobby
Fischer, luckily pulled a draw out of a position that was probably

WHITE: Spassky BLACK : Fischer

Pirc Defense
1 P-K4
What will Bobby try this time?
1 P-Q3?1
Already a surprise. This is an antipositional, counter-attacking
line, more suitable when Black is trying to win at any cost, not
when he is content with a draw.
2 P-Q4 P-KN3
246 The Games

Perhaps Bobby was stimulated by the 16th match game

Petrosian-Spassky, 1966, in which it was Spassky who experi
mented with a similar variation. That game proceeded 1 P-Q4,
P-KN3; 2 P-K4, B-N2; 3 N-KB3 ( omitting the P-KB4 which Spas
sky plays here ) , P-Q3; 4 B-K2, P-K3; 5 P-B3, N-Q2; 6 0-0, N-K2;
7 QN-Q2, P-N3; 8 P-QR4, P-QR3 and Black succeeded in equaliz
ing in spite of his cramped position. But Petrosian's strategy in
that game was obviously very timid.
3 N-QB3
White is careful about the options that Black has left open. On
the bold four Pawns attack with 3 P-QB4, B-N2; 4 P-B4, P-QB4
is liberating, for if 5 N-KB3?, PxP; 6 NxP, Q-N3 with an immediate
8 N-KB3
4 P-B4
This aggressive line is much more logical than the timid varia
tion Petrosian chose in the game cited above.
4 B-N2
5 N-B3

By transposition a position has been reached in which Fischer

scored a brilliant win with the White pieces against Benko at
New York 1963-64. That game continued 5 0-0; 6 B-Q3,
Who's Crazy Now? 247

B-N5; 7 P-KR3, BxN; 8 QxB, N-B3; 9 B-K3, P-K4; 10 QPxP, PxP;

11 P-B51, PxP; 12 QxP! and won handsomely.
5 P-B41
The freeing attempt, much stronger than Benko's 5 0-0.
6 PxP
To keep the lines free and open. However, ere 6 P-Q5 is
stronger, since the freeing 6 P-K3? is refuted by 7 B-N5ch.
6 Q-R41
Threatening NxP.
7 B-Q3
There is nothing better here, for if 7 PxP, NxP .or if 7 B-N5ch,
B-Q2; 8 BxBch, QNxB; 9 PxP equally NxKP.
7 QxBP
8 Q-K2 0-0
9 B-K3 Q-QR4
Preserving an aggressive stance. 9 Q-B transposes to
standard variations of the Sicilian Defense which are none too
good for Black.
10 0-0

An evaluation of the opening reveals that White's pieces are

better placed, in more commanding positions, while Black must
seek his compensation in counterplay on the Q-side. Although
248 The Games

no clear advantage can be demonstrated for White, a sharp strug

gle is to be expected. Again the question arises: why did Fischer
choose such a challenging defense at this point?
10 B-N51
There is otherwise no good place for this Bishop. Black might
have been concerned about an eventual P-B5, shutting out his QB.
This move, suggested by Krudstein, is an improvement on the
more routine 10 N-B3; 11 P-KR3!, e.g. 11 B-Q2; 12
P-R31, KR-Bl; 13 Q-B2, B-Kl; 14 P-B5! with strong pressure.
Olafsson-Benko, Wijk aan Zee 1969.
11 QR-Ql
Needless timidity. More forceful was 11 P-KR3, BxN; 12 RxB,
QN-Q2; 13 B-Q4 and Black is still far from equality.
11 N-B3
12 B-B4
Fischer's favorite move in the Sicilian. Each man is playing
the other's variation.
12 N-R4!?
Another two-edged move, neglecting his development and mis
placing his pieces ( "Place a Knight on the rim and your game
looks dim." ) . 12 N-Q2 was certainly more logical.
It looks as though Fischer is under a psychological compulsion
to challenge his opponent in every conceivable way.
13 B-N3?
Accepting the challenge, but nothing materializes. He should
have tried 13 R-Q5, Q-B2; 14 N-QN5, Q-Q2; 15 P-K5 with pres
sure. But obviously he judges the attacking chances after the Pawn
sacrifice as better for him. In any case he has a strong play for
the win, which he has to have to maintain a hold on the title.
13 KBxN!?
Can such things be? Bobby really must be out to prove that
he can get away with anything.
14 PxB QxBP
15 P-B5
Wlw's Crazy Now? 249

In exchange for the Pawn White has two powerful Bishops.

If now 15 PxP?; 16 PxP, BxP; 17 N-NS; B-N3; 18 NxBP!,
BxN; 19 RxB, RxR; 20 BxRch, KxB; 21 QxNch with a continued
15 N-B31
Simple and secure. There is an immediate thrat of NxP
and if then B-R6, Q-B4ch followed by N-B6.
16 P-KR3
A clear continuation of the attack is not readily visible. If 16
B-R6, KR-Bl; 17 Q-B2, NxP; 18 Q-R4, BxP and there is still no
satisfactory compensation available. After 16 B-R6, KR-Bl if
17 P-KR3, BxN; 18 PxB, N-Q5 with an immediate counterattack.
16 BxN
17 QxB
On 17 RxB, N-K4 threatens to take the Rook with check.
2.50 The Games

White now has all kinds of potential threats on the KB file, but
Fischer is a resourceful defender. Both sides had consumed a lot
of time here, and time pressure is also looming on the horizon.
17 N-QR4
More natural seems 17 Q-K4. Perhaps he was afraid of
18 B-R6, KR-Bl; 19 BxPch, but after 19 KxB; 19 Q-N3ch,
K-Kl Black comes out all right.
18 R-Q3 Q-B2
The best defense. On the more aggressive 18 Q-K4 White
continues with 19 B-Q5!, for if then 19 P-K3??; 20 B-Q4!
wins the Queen. After 19 B-Q5, N-B3 is virtually forced, when
20 B-R6 keeps up the pressure.
19 B-R6 NxB
20 BPxN
Unavoidable for if 20 BxR?, N-B4 regains the Exchange with a
satisfactory game.
20 Q-B4ch
21 K-Rl
Some annotators have claimed that 21 R-K3 wins here, for if
then 21 KR-Bl; 22 P-KN4 storms the Black King. But Black
still has an adequate reply in 22 Q-K4!, for if then 23 P-NS,
R-B71 and if 23 B-B4, Q-Q5, with an adequate defense in both
Who's Crazy Now? 251

The normal reply now is 21 KR-Bl; 22 B-N5, Q-K4 and

it is hard to see how White can get ahead. Score-wise this should
certainly have pleased Fischer, so Spassky would have searched
for something else, but nothing is apparent. And, as noted before,
on the attempt to build up an attack with 22 PKN4 Black has
22 Q-K4!, for if then 23 P-N5, R-B7 wins for Black.
21 Q-K4??
A totally unexpected sacrifice of the Exchange with no apparent
chess rationale behind it ( when the move appeared on the TV
screen I was so surprised that I thought it was a transmission
error) , since in other lines White has at best a draw.
Fischer has played the whole game in a challenging, provoca
tive manner. His fury about the noise had reached such a pitch
before this game that he had actually booked passage home. The
text is another provocation. He has in effect said to Spassky:
I can spot you your seconds, your preparation and I can spot you
a game. I can spot you ten to fifteen minutes on every game.
I can play the weakest openings around and get away with it.
And now I can spot you the Exchange.
22 BxR RxB
24 R-K3 R-B.1
25 Q-B4 QxQ
252 The Games

More logical is 25 R-B7.

26 RxQ

Now that the smoke has cleared, White remains with a theo
retical win, since he has the Exchange for only a Pawn. It is,
however, an extremely difficult ending in which to score the
point. Both sides now maneuver for adjournment.
26 N-Q2
Prevents P-K5. But here too 26 R-B7 is more precise,
forcing a weakening on the Q-side, since 27 P-K5? is met by
27 R-B2 N-K4
28 K-R2 R-B8
Black is reduced to passivity: he must wait for White to reveal
&. possible winning plan. It would however have been more
logical to centralize his King to Q2.
29 R ( 3 ) -K2
Threatening to seize the QB He.
29 N-B3
Blocking him.
30 R-B2 R-K8
31 R ( KB2 )-K2 R-R8
32 K-N3 K-N2
Not 32 N-Q5; 33 R-B8ch.
WJw's Crazy Now? 2.53

83 R ( B2 ) -Q2 R-KB8
Both sides are jockeying for time.
84 R-KB2 R-K8
35 R ( B2 ) -K2 R-KB8
36 R-K3 P-R3
A general precautionary device against the advance of the
87 R-QB3 R-K8
38 R-B4 R-KB8
A trap: if now 39 P-K5, PxP; 40 R-Q7, P-K3! and the Black
QNP is poison (
. N-:R4) .
39 R ( 2 )-QB2 R-QR8
4-0 R-B2 R-K8
2.54 The Games

The adjourned position, which probably kept the players and

their seconds up all night.
41 R ( 2 ) -B2
White now has a number of different possibilities to consider:
1 ) To force a passed Pawn on the KR file with P-KN4, P
2 ) To exchange the Black Rook on his first rank by K-B2,
R-KR8; R-Q2, R-B3 and R-K3 and R-Kl.
3 ) To sacrifice the Rook for the Knight at QB6 and get two
passed Pawns on the Q-side.
4 ) To bring the King to the Q-side and advance his Pawn
there, eventually winning a Pawn.
Of these various plans, 2 ) and 4 ) seem the most plausible and
most likely to lead to victory, though a win is by no means certain.
41 P-KN4
Preventing the first plan, but creating a further weakness.
42 R-Bl
At this point a kind of paralysis seems to have set in upon
Spassky, and he repeats moves prior to clarifying the plan he
will choose.
42 R-K7
48 R ( l ) -B2 R-KB
44 R-Bl R-K7
45 R( l ) -B2
Here Fischer jumped up and called for the referee, claiming a
draw by repetition of the position three times ( after 45
R-K8 ) . Schmid ruled the game a draw.
_Who's Crazy Now? 255

Spassky sat stunned. It was unclear whether he had acciden

tally permitted the three-fold repetition to gain time because this
rule doesn't hold in the U.S.S.R., or whether he simply thought
the position could not be won. Fischer drew in a similar repeti
tion with Petrosian in the third game of their 1971 match.
GAM E 1 8 .

Two Deaa Flies, a Piece of Wood

and a See-Saw Draw

August 24, 1972

To check out the Russian charges that Spassky had been unduly
influenced by American chemical and electronic ingenuity, the
courteous Icelanders performed elaborate tests on the hall and
equipment. Even gas chromatography was used, to determine
whether noxious gases were being released which had differential
effects on Russians and Americans. The chairs in which the play
ers sat were x-rayed to determine Fischer's peculiar preference
for a chair which had been flown in from the U.S. The investi
gation revealed two dead flies in one lighting fixture, and a
knife-like object in Spassky's chair. When this chair was taken
apart, the knife-like object was revealed to be a wood filler.
In the meantime some light was shed on this strange incident
by a correspondent for the Martian press agency INTERPLANET.
He explained that he had sent a message to his home office
repeating what one American had jokingly said, that Boris was
Bobby-trapped. The Russians intercepted this message, but mis
read it as "booby-trapped." Unfamiliar with American slang, they
finally deciphered the message, and were aghast at its meaning.
Then they instructed Geller to deliver the protest. The matter was
finally cleared up after an exchange of veiled threats on the hot
line between the White House, the Kremlin and the Martian
High Command.

Two Dead Flies 9157

In spite of the supercharged atmosphere the game proceeded

according to the standard rules of chess. Spassky as Black tried
to build up an attack against the enemy King, but Fischer parried
skillfully and the Russian could not break through, though he
missed a good chance at one point. In the adjourned position it
looked as though Fischer would win, but now Spassky held the
line and both sides, respectful of the other's abilities, agreed to
a draw in a still complicated position.

WHITE: Fischer BLACJC : Spassky

Sicilian Defense

1 P-K4 P-QB4
Again a Sicilian, with which he had secured such a powerful
position in the fourth game.
2 N-KB3 P-Q3
8 N-B3
Permitting P-K4.
3 N-QB3
He declines the invitation.
4 P-Q4 PxP
5 NxP N-B3
6 B-KN5 P-K3
7 Q-Q2 P-QR3
To prevent N-N5 at some appropriate point. Fischer himself
has often played this line with Black with good results, which
may be why Spassky adopted it.
8 0-0-0 B-Q2
A gambit kind of line. More usual is 8 . P-R3 to force the
White Bishop to declare itself. If then 9 B-K3, N-KN5; 10 NxN,
PxN; 11 B-B51, B-N2; 12 P-KR3, PxB; 13 QxQch, RxQ; 14 RxRch,
KxR; 15 PxN, B-Q3 White has a better endgame, but not enough
258 The Games

to win ( Smyslov-Botvinnik, 2nd match game, 1957 ) . Since Spassky

wants to win, he chooses an enterprising but rather risky line.
9 P-B4 B-K2

10 N-B3!
Keeps Black cramped.
10 P-QN4
11 BxN PxB
Some theoreticians have recommended the Pawn sacrilice
11 BxB; 12 QxP, R-R2, but after 13 P-K5, B-K2; 14 Q-Q2,
Q-R4; 15 K-Nl, B-N5; 16 N-Q4 White has the better of it.
Evidently Spassky had had the text line prepared.
12 B-Q3
Another line for White is P-B5, followed by P-KN3 and B-R3.
Since this is the usual continuation, Fischer, pursuing his usual
cautious procedure of avoiding prepared variations, varies.
12 Q-R4
13 K-Nl P-N5
14 N-K2 Q-QB4
Two Dead Flies 259

Black's plan is now clear: to attack on the Queen's side without

15 P-B5
The standard counter-attack, which keeps Blc's pieces rela-
tively inunobile. It also virtually rules out 0-0 because of
M . QM
It is striking how Spassky boldly pursues the_ attack without
caring about his King.
To take the Pawn of course would be fatal:. 15 PxP?;
16 PxP, BxP; 17 BxB, QxB; 18 N ( 2 ) -Q4, NxN; 19 NxN, Q-Q2;
20 KR-Kl, K-Ql; 21 QxP with an overwhelming position for
16 N-B4 P-R5
17 R-QBl
260 The Games

Hoping to be able to open up the position on the Q-side. Since

Black is unable to castle, any opening of the position at this point
would be favorable to White.
17 R-QNl
Preparing to close the Q-side. It is not easy for Black to con
tinue the attack, but more logical than the text was 17 B-Ql
and if then 18 P-B3, B-R4! e.g. 19 PxNP, QxNP; 20 QxQ, NxQ;
21 B-B4, K-K2; 22 PxP ( if at once 22 N-Q4 Black has 22 P
K4 ) , PxP; .23 P-QR3, N-R3; and if now 24 N-Q4, N-B4, with much
the better of it.
18 P-B3 P-N6
If now 18 NPxP?; 19 RxP, Q-R4; 20 KR-QBl gives White
all the play.
19 P-QR3
19 N-K4
Still there is no good way to break in. He may threaten to win
a Pawn with 20 PxP; 21 PxP, NxB.
20 KR-Bl?
Two Dead Flies 261

To build up some play along the KB file. For Black to take the
Pawn here would be anti-positional: after 20 PxP; 21 PxP,
NxB; 22 NxN, QxKBP; 23 N-Q4, Q-N3; 24 QR-Kl, K-Ql; 25
R-B3 White has all the play.
However, White had a better line in 20 N-Q41, with threats

against the Black KP.

20 N-1351
If instead 20 K-Ql at once; 21 N-Q4 is too strong.
21 BxN
Virtually forced, for if 21 Q-K2?, NxPchl; 22 PxN, P-N7; 23
R-B2, QxRP; 24 RxP and now 24 0-0 with a strong attack.
21 QxB
22 QR-Kl
Now 22 N-Q4? is met by P-K4.
22 K-Ql
Castling ''by hand."
28 K-Rl
A waiting move that loses time, but it is not clear what he can
do. A better possibility seems 23 P-N4 and eventually N-R5 and
28 R-N4
Again the Pawn is taboo: if 23 PxP?; 24 PxP, BxP; 25
N-Q51, B-K3; 26 NxB, KxN; 27 N-Q4 and Black's position is
untenable, e.g. 27 R-N3; 28 Q-B4.
262 The Games

24 N-Q4
Combinations galore in this fascinating middle game. White
gets his Knight to Q4 with a tempo.
24 R-R4
25 N-Q3
Taking the sting out of . . . P-K4 and protecting the KBP.
25 K-B2
If instead 25 P-K4; 26 N-B3, P-Q4?; 27 N ( B3 ) xP, PxN;
28 NxP is decisive.
26 N-N4
Again preventing both 26 P-K4 ( because of the hole at
Q5 ) and 26 P-Q4 because of 27 KPxP, BxN; 28 BPxB,
Rx:P and now 29 R-Bl pins the Black Queen.
26 P-R4
A surprising defense: White was suddenly threatening Q-R6.
27 P-N3
Still maneuvering for time. 27 R-B3 was more aggressive.
27 R-K4
Two Dead Flies 263

In a seemingly bad position Spassky defends himself with great

ingenuity. The text threatens nothing in particular, but holds
open the possibility of a freeing P-Q4.
28 N-Q3 R-QNll
A bold sacrifice: if 29 NxR?, QPxN; 30 N-B$, PxP; 31 PxP,
BxRPI; 32 PxB, P-N7ch and wins, for 33 K-Nl?. is met by
29 Q-K2!
Which is wisely refused. Now he does threate:n 30 NxR, since
once the Queens are off Black does not have the same counterplay.

29 R-R4
80 PxP?
264 The Games

Apparently influenced by the score he decides to take no

chances. But 30 QxPI wins, with two main variations:
I. 30 QxN ( 6 ) ; 31 QxP, R-Kl; 32 PxP, B-N4; 33 NxBch,
QxN; 34 R-B5.
II. 30 P-K41; 31 N-N41, PxN; 32 PxP, K-N2; 33 R-Bl,
Q-N4; 34 QxP, R-Kl ( or 34 B-Ql; 35 N-B6 ) ; 35 N-Q5, B-Ql;
36 NxP, BxN ( if 36 R-K2; 37 Q-B8 ) ; 37 QxB, RxP; 38 QxP,
B-B3; 39 P-B6 and Black can resign.
30 PxP
31 R-B2
To see what Spassky will do, but Fischer is oblivious of the
danger. 31 N-N4 was necessary, though it frees Black's game.
31 P-K41
32 N-KB5
On 32 N-B3, P-Q41 is again strong.
32 BxN
33 RxB P-Q4!
34 PxP
Forced: if 34 RxRP, PxP; 35 QxP, QxQ; 36 RxQ, R-Q4 is too

34 QxQP?
One of the many positions in the match where Spassky, after
brilliant strategical maneuvering, misses an easy tactical oppor-
Two Dead Flies 265

tunity, again by an unnecessary retreat Correct was 34

R-Ql!, when it is hard to find a good defense for White: if
35 N-N4, QxQ; 36 RxQ, BxN; 37 BPxB, R( 4 ) xP and suddenly
White cannot get out of the mating net. After 35 N-Bl ( best ) ,
QxQ; 36 RxQ, R(4)xP; 37 R-Bl, R-Q8; 38 R ( 4 ) -Kl, RxR; 39
RxR, R-Q7 and White is lost.
Naturally, in the diagrammed position, if at once 34 RxP?;
35 N-B4!, QxQ, the in-between move 36 NxRch wins.
35 N-N4
Gaining a vital tempo.
35 Q-Q2

86 RxRP?
Oblivious of the danger. Correct was 36 QxPI, which still wins,
for if then 36 BxN; 37 BPxB, R-Q4, as in the game, 38
RxBPI and now the Ql square is still covered, while White is
threatening R-B7. If here 38 R-KRl?; 39 R-Blchl and
40 QxR.
87 BPxB R-Q4
Now there are potentially dangerous threats, so that White
does not have time for something else like 38 Q-R6 ( 38
R-Q8ch ) .
38 R-Blch
266 The Games

Or 38 Q-B4ch, K-N3! ( not 38 K-N2?; 39 R-R71 ) .

38 K-N2
39 Q-K4
Pinning the Rook and allowing R-R7. Bobby may have mis
calculated by thinking that this position was an easy win.
39 R-QBll
Holds everything. If now 40 RxR?, KxR; 41 R-R8ch, K-B2!;
42 R-R7, R-Q8ch wins.
4-0 R-QNl
So this is forced, giving Black time to get out.
4-0 K-N31
Which he does.

41 R-R7?
The last mistake, which finally lets him off the hook. With
41 R-B5! he still should win, for if then 41 R-Q8; 42 RxPch
and Black has no good move: 42 K-R2; 43 Q-K3ch, K-N2;
44 Q-B3ch. After 41 R-B5, R-B3 is best, when White has 42
R(5 )-Bl followed by the advance of the KRP.
41 R-QSI
This defense he probably overlooked.
42 Q-N6
In the ending after 42 RxQ, RxQ; 43 R-Q6ch, R-B3; 44 RxRch.
Two Dead Flies 'll37

KxR; 45 R-KBl, K-N21 Black has at least a draw because of the

threats on the eighth rank.
The game was adjourned here and Spassky sealed.
42 Q-B31
Another fine reply.
48 R-KB7 R-Q3
44 Q-R6
It is surprising that White does not have a win here, but he
does not. If 44 P-R4, Q-B7! (threatening R-Q8 ) ; 45 P-R5
( 45 Q-N4, P-K51 ) , QxQ; 46 PxQ, R-KNl; 47 P-N7, P-B4; 48
R-QBl, P-K5 and White may even lose if he plays carelessly, but
he has the draw with 49 RxP, RxP; 50 R-K5, RxP; 51 RxP, R-N4.

44 Q-KB6!
Another ingenious reply; he keeps open the possibility of
45 Q-R7
Satisfied with the draw. The winning try of 45 P-R4 fails
against 45 P-K5; 46 P-R5, P-K6 and now Black niay well
45 Q-B3
46 Q-R6
It is too dangerous to allow P-K5, e.g. 46 P-R4, P-K5;
268 The Games

47 R-K7, R-Q811; 48 QxP ( or 48 R-N7ch, QxR ) , QxQ; 49 RxQ,

R ( l ) -B8 and White will be mated.
46 Q-KB6
47 Q-R7 Q-B3
GA M E 1 9 .

The Shape of Things to Come

August 27, 1972

Those who have wondered what Fischer will play like once he
is champion are given a preview in this game. Bobby once more
taunts his opponent, submits to a seemingly irresistible attack
and then comes out with flying colors. In spite of Bobby's in
genuity Spassky's brilliant attack should have carried the day,
but again he falters with victory in his grasp.
This is the sixth draw in a row; of these Spassky in top form
might well have won five ( all but the sixteenth) , which does not
speak well for the level of play in a world championship match.

WlllTE : Spassky BLACK: Fischer

Alekhine's Defense
1 P-K4 N-KB31?
Again this risky defense, reminiscent of the bloody 13th game.
Before this match Bobby had never dared to play Alekhine's
Defense against top-Hight opposition.
2 P-K5 N-Q4
3 P-Q4 P-Q3
4 N-KB3 B.:N5
Varying from the dubious 4 P-KN3 of the 13th game,
270 The Games

but the line chosen is also dubious. A more solid move is 4

5 B-K2 P-K3
6 0-0 B-K2
7 P-KR3

So that if now 7 BxN; 8 BxB, N-QB3 ( 8 PxP; 9

P-B4 ) ; 9 BxN, PxB; 10 P-KB4 with a strong attack.
7 B-R4
8 P-B4 N-N3
9 N-B3 0..0
If he tries to free himself with 9 PxP; 10 NxP, BxB;
11 QxB, QxP; 12 R-Ql, Q-B4; 13 P-R3 and Black remains very
10 B-K3
Spassky seems to have all the better of the opening; what will
Bobby do?
10 P-Q41?
An anti-positional move, yet-he gets away with it. But the
alternative 10 N-B3; 11 PxP, PxP; 12 P-QN3, P-Q4; 13 P-B5,
N-Q2; 14 P-R3 is not particularly attractive.
11 P-B5
On 11 P-QN3?, PxP; 12 PxP, N-B3 Black already threatens

BxN and if BxB, NxBP.

The Shape of Things to Come 271

11 BxN
Consistent. 11 N ( 3 ) -Q2?; 12 P-QN4 is obviously bad. And
if 11 N-B5 at once, 12 BxN, PxB ; 13 Q-R4 and the Pawn
can safely be taken.
12 BxB
He must have considered 12 PxB, N ( 3 )-Q2; 13 P-B4, P-KN3,
but White's doubled Pawns impede his own attack.
12 N-B5
13 P-QN3
Playing for the attack. If instead 13 B-Bl, P-QN3; . 14 P-QN3,
N-R4; 15 P-QN4, N-B5; 16 P-R3, P-QR4; 17 R-Nl, RPxP; 18
RPxP, PxP; 19 NPxP, N-B3 Black is out of the woodS. In a later
game, Geller-Hecht, Budapest, 1973, Geller played 13 B-B4,
securing a better position after 13 . . . N-B3; 14 P-QN3, N ( 5)-R4;
15 Q-Q2.
13 NxB
14 PxN P-QN31
Leading to a sharp struggle. If insad 14 . P-QB3; 15
P-QN4, N-Q2; 16 Q-R4, White has strong play on the Q-side.
15 P-K41
Seizing the opportunity to open the game. The move is more
dynamic than 15 P-QN4, P-QR4; 15 P-R3, RPxP; 16 RPxP, RxR;
17 QxR, PxP; 18 NPxP, B-N4!! with counterplay.
272 The Games

15 P-QB3
After this logical move he gets into trouble. Yet the alternative
15 . . . PxBP; 16 KPxP, KPxP; 17 NxP, P-QB3; 18 NxBch, QxN
is riskier, for after 19 P-Q5, QxP; 20 PxP, Q-B2; 21 Q-Q5 and
Black still cannot develop properly.
16 P-QN4 NPxP
If now 16 P-QR4; 17 P-R3, RPxP; 18 RPxP, RxR; 19 QxR,
NPxP; 20 NPxP the Black Q-side is weak. However here too
Black gets out all right with 20 B-N4 and if 21 PxP, KPxP;
22 Q-R4, P-B3.
17 NPxP Q-R4?
Probably overlooking the reply. 17 B-N4 first was more
precise. The move is again one on the edge.

18 NxPI
A brilliant coup which initiates a :6.erce tactical struggle.
18 B-N41
Now he comes to life and :6.nds a dynamic defense. The Knight
was immune to capture: after 18 BPxN; 19 PxP, N-Q2 ( or
19 PxP; 20 BxP ) ; 20 PxP, PxP; 21 BxR, RxB; 22 Q-B3 is
overwhelming ( if 22 R-KBl; 23 Q-QB6 ) . Or here 18
KPxN; 19 PxP, Q-R3; 20 P-Q6, B-N4; 21 Q-N3 and if 21
N-Q2; 22 P-K6 is too strong.
The Shape of Things to Come 273

19 B-R51
A startling move which meets with a difficult refutation, when
once more Spassky, with a win practically scored, lets it slip out
of his fingers.
An easier alternative for White is not to be found in this posi
tion. The best try is 19 Q-N3, KPxN; 20 PxP, N-R3; 21 PxP,
QR-Ql! with many counter-threats, e.g. 22 QR-Ql, NxP; 23 PxN,
QxPch; 24 K-Rl, RxR; 25 RxR, QxKP and Black has mating
threats to compensate for the advanced White BP.
And if 19 Q-Q3 equally 19 KPxN; 20 PxP, N-R3; 21 PxP,
QR-Ql with counterplay, 'e.g. 22 Q-K4, Q-Q7.
19 . BPxNI
A cold-blooded reply: if instead 19 . P-N3??; 20 N-B6ch!,
BxN; 21 PxB and the Bishop is immune, for if 21 PxB;
22 QxP, K-Rl; 23 R-B41, Q-Q7 ( 01: 23 N-Q2; 24 R-R4,
NxKBP; 25 Q-K5, Q-Ql; 26 R-KBl, K-N2; 27 R-N4ch ) ; 24 R-R4,
P-KR3; 25 R-Ql!, Q-K6ch; 26 K-R2, N-Q2; 27 R-Q3, Q-B8; 28
R-KN3 and Black is still in a mating net.
20 BxPchl RxB
Best. If 20 K-Rl?; 22 BxP, N-B3; 23 BxP and White has
four Pawns for his piece, in addition to' his powerful attack.
21 RxR
274 The Games

The attack now seems overwhelming, for if 21 KxR; 22

Q-R5ch, K-Bl; 23 R-Blch, or 21 B-K6ch; 22 K-Rl, KxR;
23 Q-B3ch, K-K2; 24 R-KBl, N-Q2 ( or 24 . . N-B3; 25 Q-B7ch,
K-Ql; 26 QxNP, or even 26 QxKP ) ; 25 Q-B7ch, K-Ql; 26 P-B6
and Black is defenseless.
21 Q-Q71!
The startling reply. White is now forced into an undesirable
exchange of Queens which breaks the back of the attack-yet
22 QxQ
Spassky must have been heartbroken to be unable to find any
thing better. But if 22 Q-R5, QxQPch; 23 K-R2, QxPch and the
White QR is captured with check.
22 BxQ
23 QR-KBl
Best, though 23 R-B7 also had to be considered. The threat
then is R-B8ch followed by R-KBI and QR-KB8. So 23 N-R3
is forced. Then could follow 24 R-B6, N-N5 ( 24 B-K6ch is
also sufficient, but not so strong ) ; 25 RxP, PxP!; 26 R-Ql, P-K6
and White is in trouble because of the passed Black Pawn, for
if 27 K-Bl, R-Blch; 28 K-K2?, R-B7 mate.
m N3

24 PxP?
T"he Shape of Things to Come 275

But now he begins to go astray. With the obvious 24 R-B7, to

double Rooks on the seventh rank he could still have won. The
main variations are:
I. 24 NxQP; 25 R( 1 )-B7, B-R3 ( after 25 PxP; 26
RxPch, K-Bl; 27 RxKRP, K-Nl; 28 R ( B7 )-N7ch, K-Bl; 29 R-N4
White emerges with Rook and four Pawns for two pieces, and
should win without any trouble: 29 P-K6; 30 R-R8ch, K-B2;
31 RxR, P-K7; 32 R-K4 ) ; 26 P-N4, P-N3 ( if 26 PxP; 27 P-N5,
N-B6ch; 28 RxN, PxR; 29 PxB, PxP; 30 P-B6 and wins, e.g.
30 R-Nl; 31 R-Q7, R-N8ch; 32 K-B2, R-BB; 33 P-B7 and
34 R-QBch ) ; 27 RxQRP and should win with Rook and two Pawns,
plus command of the seventh rank, for two pieces.
II. 24 PxPI; 25 RxN, P-K6; 26 RxPI, P-K7 ( there is noth-
ing better) ; 27 K-B21, PxR=Qch; 28 KxQ, B-K6; 29 R-Q6 and the
three connected passed Pawns will be decisive.
III. 24 N-Ql ( best, paradoxically.) ; 25 PxP, PxP; 26
R-Q7, B-K6ch; 27 K-Rl, BxP; 28 RxQP. Now White is a vital
tempo ahead of the game variation, which allows him to hold on
to both Pawns. E.g. 28 N-K3; 29 P-B6, RQBl; 30 R-Q6,
R-Kl ; 31 P-B71 and wins, for if 31 BxP; 32 RxN!
24 PxP
25 R-Q7
Now it is too late for 25 R-B7 to be effective, for after 25
NxQP; 26 R( l ) -B7, N-K3; 27 RxP, R-QBl! holds everything,
since 28 R ( B7 ) -K7? is met by 28 B-K6ch and 29 BxP,
while on other moves Black can consolidate.
25 B-K6ch
26 K-Rl BxP
Eliminating the greatest danger, for if now 27 R( 1 )-B7, BxKP
holds everything.
Z1 P-K6 B-K4
Of course not 27 BxP?; 28 R-QB7.
28 RxQP
276 The Games

Now there is nothing better, for if 28 R( l ) -B7, simply 28

R-Kl and if 29 R-Q6, BxR; 30 PxB, RxP is good enough.
28 R-Kl
29 R-Kl RxP
Forces the draw.

30 R-Q6 K-B2
Naturally not 30 RxR; 31 PxR, BxP; 32 R-K6.
81 RxN RxR
32 RxB K-B3
83 R-Q5 K-K3
34 R-R5 P-KR3
White's extra Pawn has no meaning. They could have agreed
to a draw here.
35 K-R2 R-R3
36 P-B6 RxBP
Avoiding the last trap: if 36 RxRP??; 37 R-QB5 wins.
The Shape of Things to Corr,ie 277

37 R-R5 P-R3
38 K-N3 K-B3
39 K-B3 R-B6ch
40 K-B2 R-B7ch
GA M E 20 .

The Seventh Draw

August 29, 1972

Today's game, in which neiter side had any real winning
chances, is the seventh draw in a row. Many commentators ex
pressed surprise at such a tum of events in a Fischer match. It
only shows that Bobby is. canny enough to play the board realis
tically, rather than try to live up to the myth of the invincible
Superman which he has in part helped to create.
Apart from the play, one important news item today was that
the Icelandic government was going to introduce a special bill
at the next meeting of Parliament to exempt both players from
taxes in Iceland, "in the faith that other governments will follow
suit." But no indication was available that either the U.S. or the
U .S.S.R. would do anything of the kind.
For the chess world even more important was the announce
ment that Fischer had agreed to a return match with Spassky in
one year, subject to the proviso that the winner would then play
the regular match for the title with the challenger emerging from
the elimination contests in 1975. According to one report this was
promptly denied by Fischer.

WlllTE : Fischer BLACK : Spassky

0 According to later reports, in the spring of 1973, Las Vegas offered a
purse of $1,400,000 for a return match, which Fischer declined, demanding
instead a purse of $10,000,0001 Apparently the next Fischer Gambit is
already at play.

The Seventh Draw 279

Sicilian Defense
1 P-K4 P-QB4
The third time around for Spassky with the Sicilian; in both
previous games ( 4 and 18 ) he missed a win.
2 N-KB3 N-QB3
3 P-Q4 PxP
4 NxP N-B3
5 N-QB3 P-Q3
6 B-KN5
This attack ( originally known as the Rauzer, later the Richter
Rauzer ) has virtually replaced the older 6 N-N3. Yet that older
line was considered so strong in the 1930's that few first-class
masters ventured forth with the Sicilian, except against weak
opposition. Fashions change.
6 P-K3 .
7 Q-Q2
The immediate development of the Black Knights prevents the
formation with P-B4 and Q-B3, as in this match in the fifteenth
game, for if now 7 P-B4?, Q-N3 is too strong.
7 P-QR3
8 0-0-0 B-Q2
9 P-B4 B-K2
280 The Games

10 B-K2
Varying from the eighteenth game, even though he should
have won it. That continued 10 N-B3, P-N4; 11 BxN, with
advantage to White. But Bobby is now cautious enough to avoid
previously played lines.
10 0-0
Preparing an eventual attack on the Q-side.
11 B-B3
He cannot play 11 BxN?, BxB; 12 NxN, QBxN; 13 QxP because
of 13 QxQ; 14 RxQ, BxN; 15 PxB, BxP. But now that the
KP is protected, BxN becomes a possibility. An alternative is to
keep the complications going with 11 N-B3, or 11 N-N3, threaten
ing P-K5 under suitable circumstances. This time Bobby plays
it safe.
11 P-R31
Daring him to try. Indeed, if 12 BxN?, BxBI; 13 NxN, QBxN;
14 QxP?, Q-R4; 15 P-K5, KR-Ql; 16 Q-R3, QxQ; 17 PxQ, B-K2
White's extra Pawn is hardly worth anything.
12 B-R4

12 NxPI?
A strong move, which simplifies nicely. Excellent in ordinary
tournament chess, it is surprising that he chooses such a line
when he is three points behind in a match.
The Seventh Draw 281

13 BxB
There is an alternative in 13 QNxN, BxB; 14 NxQP, but after
14 Q-N3!; 15 N-N3, KR-Ql and B-KB3 Black builds
up the kind of attack he is looking for. Bobby is right-there is
no reason to let himself in for such a continuation.
18 NxQ
14 BxQ NxKB
Not 14 NxN?; 15 BxP, QRxB; 16 RxN, P-K4; 17 BxP and
White is a healthy Pawn ahead.
15 NxN ( 3 ) KRxB
16 RxP K-Bl

After all the exchanges the game is exactly even. One would
have expected a quick draw here, but both sides like the feel
of the pieces.
17 KR-Ql K-K2
18 N-QR4?
Not exactly bad, but Bobby now begins to dawdle meaning
lessly until he drifts into a slightly inferior position. The natural
move here was 18 N-K4.
18 BKl
19 RxR RxR
20 N-B5
282 The Games

And here the more natural line was 20 RxR. Perhaps he feared
20 NxR; 21 N-B5, B-B3, when 22 N-Kl is virtually forced,
but after 22 K-Q3; 23 P-QN4 Black has nothing.
20 R-Nl
Hoping for something.
21 R-Q3
Again the more natural line is 21 P-QR4 and if 21 P-QR4;
22 P-QN3.
21 P-QR4
22 R-N3 P-QN41
Now he suddenly has possibilities of counterplay, e.g. 23 P
KR3?, P-R5; 24 R-B3, N-N5; 25 K-Nl, N-Q4 and Black wins a

23 P-QR3 P-R5
Black's Pawn formation on the Q-side is now slightly superior.
24 R-B3 R-Ql
Spassky does not have anything, but-he's hoping.
25 N-Q3 P-B3
26 R-B5 R-Nl
2:1 R-B3
Bobby does not show much energy. The more logical line was
27 N-N4 and if 27 K-Q3; 28 R-B3, N-R4; 29 N-Q4, for 29
N-B5? is then met by 30 P-QN31 with advantage to White.
The Seventh Draw 283

To break on the K-side.
28 P-KN3 K-Q3
Now Black has a slightly freer game, though it could hardly
be expected to win against a Fischer.
29 N-B5 P'-KN5
80 N-K4ch K-K2
31 N-Kl R-Ql
32 N-Q3 R-Q5
83 N ( 4 )-B2 P-R4
34 R-B5 R-Q4

35 R-B3?
Incomprehensible, unless he is just toying with his opponent.
After 35 RxR, PxR; 36 N-N4, forcing another exchange, is easy
enough. After 36 K-Q3; 37 NxN, BxN; 38 K-Q2, P-Q5?
would lose to 39 K-Q3, K-B4; 40 N-K4ch!, BxNch; 41 KxB, K-B5;
42 P-B51 ( 42 K-B5 is also good ) , K-B4; 43 P-N3 and the QP goes.
35 N-Q5
36 R-B7ch R-Q2
37 RxRch BxR
38 N-Kl
To prevent N-B6.
38 P-K4
284 The Games

39 PxP PxP
40 K-Q2 B-B4
41 N-Ql

The adjourned position. Black has some slight initiative, but

a draw can be expected. After 41 N-B6ch; 42 NxN, PxN;
43 N-K3, B-K3 neither side can make any headway.
41 K-Q3
42 N-K3 B-K3
So Black has not come out of the interim adjournment analysis
with any clear-cut plan. A draw could have been agreed upon
here, but they have to keep on, perhaps with an eye on the
43 K-Q3 B-B2
Setting a trap: if 44 K-K4?, B-N3ch wins a piece.
44 K-B3 K-B3
45 K-Q3
On the more aggressive 45 K-N4, Black counters with 45
P-K5 and White has to return to the K-side with his King anyhow.
45 K-B4
46 K-K4 K-Q3
The Seventh Draw 285

Giving Bobby a chance to try for a win with 47 N-B5ch, NxN;

48 KxN, but after 48 K-Q4; 49 N-Q3, P-K5; 50 N-B4ch,
K-Q5; 51 K-B6, B-Kl; 52 K-K7, B-B3; 53 NxP, P-K6; 54 N-B4,
B-B6 Black should win.
47 K-Q3 B-N3ch
Apart from traps, Black has no winning plan; so a quick draw
can be expected.
48 K-B3 K-B4
49 N-Q3ch K-Q3
After 49 BxN; 50 KxB, N-B6; 51 K-K'.4, NxP; 52 KxP,
N-B6ch; 53 K-K4 Black still has nothing, since his RP will soon
fall, e.g. 53 N-Q7ch; 54 K-K5, N-B5ch??; 55 NxN, KxN;
56 K-B4, K-Q5; 57 K-N5, K-K6; 58 KxP, K-B6; 59 K-R4 and
White wins.
50 N-Kl K-B3
51 K-Q2 K-B4
52 N-Q3ch K-Q3
58 N-Kl N-K3
54 K-B3 N-Q5
GA M E 2 1 .

Grand Finau

September 1, 1972
In this last game Spassky had to win to have a chance to retain
his title. At first he had the better of the opening, as so often.
Then a careless move gave his wily opponent a chance for a
dangerous counter-attack, which he promptly seized. The Russian
could have drawn in several ways, but faced by the need to win
he entered upon a dubious sacrifice. Towards the end he simply
blundered in a drawn position; but by that time a draw to him
was the equivalent of a loss.
And so, after seven straight draws, Bobby clinched the title
with a victory.

WinTE: Spassky BLACK : Fischer

Sicilian Defense
1 P-K4 P-QB4
Another Sicilian: the seventh in the match.
2 N-KB3 P-K3
3 P-Q4 PxP
4 NxP P-QR3

Grand Finale 287

The Paulsen Variation, recently rebaptized the Taimanov.

Black prevents N-N5, and preserves his freedom of action. The
drawback is that it permits the cramping P-QB4.
5 N-QB3?
This deserves a question mark not because it is bad per se
but because, since he is under a compulsion to win, he must
choose more aggressive lines. Theory recommends 5 P-QB4 here
and if 5 N-KB3; 6 B-Q3. In the seventh match game
Fischer-Petrosian, Buenos Aires, 1971, Bobby continued 5 B-Q3
and after 5 N-QB3; 6 NxN, NPxN; 1 0-0, P-Q4; 8 P-QB4!,
improving upon Spassky's 8 N-Q2 which had only led to a draw
against Petrosian, Bobby won brilliantly. It wold be interesting
to know how Bobby would have proceeded against his own line.
5 NQB3
6 B-K3 N-B3
7 B-Q3 P-Q41?
An innovation: he is prepared to accept the isolated QP. On
the more routine 7 P-Q3; 8 0-0, B-K2, 9 P-B4, 0-0 Black has
a more difficult but playable game.
Playing for development. H instead 8 N; 9 N( 4 ) xN,
PxN; 10 B-Q2 and Black's Pawn structure is weak.
9 0-0 B-Q3
288 The Games

10 NxN
To concentrate on the weak Q-side Pawns, but the timing is
poor. More consistent was 10 P-KR3, 0-0; 11 R-Kl, or even here
11 NxN, PxN; 12 Q-B3, to be followed by N-R4.
10 PxN
1 1 B-Q4
The idea is of course to occupy QB5. But if 11 N-R4 at once,
Q-B2; 12 P-KR3, 0-0; 13 B-QB5, N-Q2 and White must exchange.
11 0-0
12 Q-B3 B-K3
He avoids the trap 12 B-KN5?; 13 BxN and White wins a
13 KR-Kl
Another strategic error, since this Rook later turns out to be
badly misplaced. The precautionary 13 P-KR3 would have left
him more alternatives.
13 P-B41
Played almost instantaneously, so the whole line was probbly
prepared by Bobby.
14 BxN
Leads to a deep trap. A good alternative was 14 B-K5, BxB;
15 RxB, P-Q5; 16 N-R4, P-B5, 17 B-Bl and Black's advanced
Pawns are very weak, while White's K-position is secure.
Grand Finale 289

14 QxB
15 QxQ
Now of course there is nothing better.
16 QR-Ql

A most remarkable position. Black's Pawns are scattered and

weak, but the two Bishops exert so much pressure that White
does not have time to consolidate. If he did have time, as with
N-R4, P-QN3, B-K2-B3 he would have a virtually won endgame.
17 B-K2 QR-Nll
And suddenly Spassky, who may have been congratulating
himself up to this point, finds himself in terrible trouble. The
whole variation looks like a great positional trap on Bobby's part,
since at first sight it does not look as if White is so badly off.
But-look again and it is hard to find a good move.
18 P-QN3
Naturally not 18 NxP, BxN; 19 RxB, BxPch and 20 RxR.
On 18 BxP, RxP Black's position is obviously superior,
18 PB51
Threatening B-QN5 and White has no good defense.
290 The Games

19 NxP
A desperate sacrifice, yielding two passed Pawns for the Ex
change on the Q-side---n -e ough to draw, but not to win. The
alternatives are:
I. 19 B-B3, B-QN5; 20 R-K3, P-Q5.
II. 19 N-R4, B-KB4; 20 P-QB3 ( 20 R-Q2, B-BS ), PxP; 21 PxP,
B-B7, with the advantage.
19 BxN
20 RxB BxPch
Slightly more accurate was 20 PxP first.
21 KxB RxR
22 BxP R-Q7
23 BxP
The more aggressive 23 R-K7 is met by 23 RxQBP, for if
24 BxPch, K-Bl; 25 R-R7, RxRP; 26 B-B4, RxBP the seventh rank
is of little real value to White.
23 RxQBP
24 R-K2
Hoping for some play with the two passed Pawns.
24 RxR
25 BxR
Grand Finale 291

25 : R-Ql!
Scotching his plan. The game is now a fairly easy draw, but
since Spassky feels constrained to win, as sual he loses.
26 P-R4 R-Q7
27 B-B4 R-R7!
Properly cautious. After 27 RxP?; 28 P-R5, R-R7; 29 P-R6,
K-Bl; 30 P-N41, R-R5; 31 P-N51, White does indeed have a
won endgame because the Pawns are so far advanced. The text
prevents any progress.
28 K-N3
Now White can draw easily enough by moving his King back
and forth-but he has to try something.
28 K-Bl
29 K-B3 K-K2
He must prevent the White King from marching in to the
30 P-KN4?
It is not clear how he expected to win with this move; the only
effect is to give Black an unexpected winning chance.
80 P-B41
31 PxP P-B3
Now he has a passed KRP.
292 The Games

32 B-NB P-R3
38 K-N3 K-Q3
34 K-B3
Seemingly giving up hope. At least he could have tried 34 P-B4
so that if 34 K-B4?; 35 P-N4chl wins the Rook.
84 R-RB
35 K-N2 K-K4
36 B-K6 K-B5
37 B-Q7
Threatening P-N4.
87 R-NB
38 B-K6 R-N7
89 B-B4
To play P-R5.
39 R-R7
Which is promptly stopped.
4-0 B-K6 P-R4
Slightly more accurate was 40 . . . K-N5 at once,
Grand Finale 293

For White now has an apparent draw with 41 K-R31, with two
main variations :
I. 41 RxBP; 42 P-R5, R-R7; 43 P-R6, RxP; 44 K-R4 and
Black cannot break through.
II. 41 K-N4; 42 P-B3, K-B5; 43 B-B7, KxP( 4 ) ; 44 K-R4,
R-R7ch; 45 K-N3, R-N7; 46 P-R5, R-QR7; 47 P-N4, R-R5; 48 BxP,
RxP; 49 B-N4ch, K-N4; 50 B-B8, P-B4; 51 P-R6, P-B5ch; 52 K-B2
and Black still has a fight on his hands.
But, as R. Byrne showed in his analysis in Chess Life & Review
after 41 K-R3 Black can still win with:
III. 41 RxBP; 42 P-R5, P-R51, the sharpest line then
being 43 P-N4, K-N4; 44 B-Q5!, R-Q7; 45 B-N7, R-Q6ch; 46 K-N2,
P-R6ch; 47 K-B2, R-R6; 48 P-N5, P-R7 and wins, for 49 P-N6
is refuted by 49 . . . RxP.
Here Spassky sealed his move. The next day he telephoned in
his resignation, unwilling to appear in person to congratulate his
opponent. Bobby at first demanded the resignation in writing,
then was persuaded that he had really won and was now in fact
In the adjourned position Spassky reportedly sealed 41 B-Q7,
which loses against 41 K-N5; 42 P-N4, P-R5; 43 P-R5,
P-R6ch; 44 K-Nl, R-R8ch; 45 K-R2, R-KB8. After capturing the
KBP Black has White in a mating net.
294 The Games

Instead of 41 B-Q7, the only defensive chance was to keep the

Bishop at Q5, ready to play B-B3ch whenever the Black King
goes to KN5. Black wins then by first capturing the less advanced
KBP, then sacrificing the KRP for the other White KBP. White
can then sacrifice one of his Pawns to establish the other on the
seventh rank. Then the Black KBP, helped by the mobile Rook,
is decisive. A typical variation could be: 41 B-Q5, KxP; 42 B-B7,
P-R5, 43 B-Q5, K-N5, 44 B-B3ch, K-B5 45 B-Q5, P-B4, 46 B-B6
, ,

R-N7; 47 B-Q5, P-R6ch; 48 KxP, RxBP; 49 P-N4, R-QN7; 50

P-N5, R-N5; 51 B-B6, RxRP; 52 P-N6, R-N5; 53 P-N7, K-K6;
54 K-N2, P-B5; 55 B-Q5, R-N7ch; 56 K-R3, P-B6 and Black pre

This ending is somewhat similar to one which dates back to

1856---it can be found in my book Basic Chess Endings ( No. 485,
p. 479 ) .