Exceptional chess memorabilia
To mark the 40th anniversary of the greatest chess match in history, Bruun
Rasmussen will be offering the chessboard etc. used during the match between
Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Iceland in 1972. Please note, that the documentary
”Bobby Fischer against the world” will be shown in the auction room
on the day of the sale, June 14th, from 1 pm to 2.30 pm. The chess memorabilia
will be at auction at 5 pm as the first lot on the evening sale.
40th anniversary of the chess match of the 20th century
The greatest chess match in history took place in the summer of 1972, when
the reigning Russian World Champion Boris Spassky (1937-) was challenged by
the American Bobby Fischer (1943-2008). The venue was Arena Laugardalshöll
in Reykjavik, Iceland, midway between Moscow and Washington, at the peak of
the Cold War. Thus the match became a symbol of the political confrontation
between the two superpowers. Bobby Fischer won the dramatic, hyper-exposed showdown
in Reykjavik, making him the first American to win this prestigious title after
W. Steinitz in 1886 (The 1st World Chess Champion).
Auction of the fabled chessboard
To mark the 40th anniversary of the world famous chess match, Bruun Rasmussen
Auctioneers in Copenhagen will be offering the chessboard used during the legendary
chess match in Iceland in 1972.
In addition, the original contemporary Staunton pieces from the match equipment
and Garde chess clock (same brand as used in the match), are also up for auction.
The chess table itself, with its two matching side tables, was designed by Icelandic
furniture designer Gunnar Magnússon and made by cabinetmaker Ragnar Haraldsson,
and its design and beautiful execution caused quite a stir. Two extra tables
were made after the famous chess match. They are identical to the table used
during the actual tournament. The chess table up for auction is one of the two,
and has since been used, among other things, at the World Championships candidate
match between Boris Spassky and Vlastimil Hort in Reykjavik in 1977.
The chess lot up for auction
The lot up for auction consists of board, table, chess pieces and clock:
Chessboard: This wooden chessboard was the very one chosen
by the representatives of the two competitors and accepted by the players
themselves to be the one replacing the initial stone board. The change of
the chessboard took place early in the match and hence it became the battlefield
from the 7th game and onwards until the 21st game. After the match it was
signed by Fischer and Spassky.
Chess table: Designed by Icelandic furniture designer
Gunnar Magnússon and produced by cabinetmaker Ragnar Haraldsson.
Two extra and identical tables were made after the famous chess match. The
chess table up for auction is one of the two, and has been used at the World
Championships candidate match between Boris Spassky and Vlastimil Hort in
Reykjavik in 1977.
Chess pieces: Original contemporary set of Staunton pieces,
a reserve set from the 1972 Match.
Chess clock: Original Garde chess clock. Same brand as
used in the match.
For further information, please visit the Bruun
Rasmussen web site, or contact Peter Christmas-Møller
director of sales and estimates: Tel: +45 6035 1004, Email: email@example.com.
Those were the days – when chess made international headlines
A little background on the auction at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen
By Einar S. Einarsson
Never in the history of chess has the royal game received as much international
media coverage as it did in 1972, when the “Match of the Century”,
the world championship match between challenger Bobby Fischer of the United
States and defending champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union took place in
Reykjavík, Iceland, in the cold war era. At first the name given to it
sounded overambitious, but now, 40 years later, this great encounter is publicly
recognized as “The Match of All Time”.
Memorabilia from Reykjavik 1972 on display at Bruun Rasmussen
The Icelandic Chess Federation (ICF), as chief organizer of the match, endeavoured
in many ways to finance the project both via sponsorship, filming rights (which
came to nothing), but mostly by the producing and selling various artefacts
and all kind of memorabilia – medals, drawings, postmarks and souvenirs
– to cover the organizing expenses apart from gate fees.
During the match a total of 15 wooden chess boards were made, in addition to
four stone boards. Most of those chess boards were made for sale, but many of
them were handed out to the energetic board members and other volunteers who
had work tirelessly to accomplish the match, as a recognition for their contribution.
The chess table that was used in the Spassky-Fischer match in 1972
Although the ICF managed miraculously to make ends meet, soon after the match
there were speculations to order for export as many as 1000 replicas of the
picturesque and skilfully made chess table, exactly like the one the contestants
had played on. But Gunnar Magnússon, the interior designer and maker
of the table, was not in favour of this business idea. He did, however, agree
in 1974 to have two original replicas custom built, exactly of the same design,
wood and quality as the original one, under his supervision. At the same time
an agreement was made between the ICF and him that there would never be any
more tables of this specific design produced. In the History of the ICL
70 years (1995) by. T. Gudmundsson, page 136-137 it says:
“It was decided to have two chess tables constructed after G. Magnússon's
design of the famous Match table, which the ICF had presented to the National
Museum. The plan was to sell the tables off to the highest bidder for a huge
amount of money for fund raising. This had been suggested by Mr. S. Kristinsson,
real estate manager, who financed the project. He endeavoured enthusiastically
to market the tables, and the ICF was to provide a certificate confirming
that Fischer and Spassky had played on one of the chess boards inlaid in the
tables, which is correct and a matter of fact.
I recollect that the tables were offered for sale to Mr. Campomanes, Mr.
Slater in England and the chief arbiter Mr. Lother Schmid. But the most likely
buyer was perhaps the Emperor of Iran who, however, was dethroned before the
deal was concluded.“
Neither those in the ICF's leadership or any others realised in fact at that
time, almost four decades ago, that the match they had just witnessed would
become such a historic event. People believed that history would repeat itself
and that soon there would be another similar world chess championship match
with a new challenger. Perhaps those replicas of the fabled chess table could
be sold off for a fortune to the Emperor of Iran, or even to the Philippines,
which had already offered five million dollars as a prize fund for the potential
next match between the new contender Anatoly Karpov, who would challenge Bobby
Fischer for the chess crown. But it didn’t happen, the match never took
Opening ceremony for the chess memorabilia sale at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen
It is quite clear from my point of view, after reading the history of the ICF
and seeing other documents and contracts, that the items which are now on auction
at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen, were the same that were offered for sale in
1974 by the ICF to many parties abroad – like his Imperial Majesty, the
Shah-in-Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Emperor of Iran, to F. Campomanes, then
very close to President Marco of the Philippeans, Mr. Slater of England, GM
Lother Schmid, and many famous museums, like the Metropolitan Museum, the British
Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian and more.
Offer to the Shah (click to enlarge),
who was considering staging the next World Championship in Iran
A original copy of the letter to the Emperor of Iran has now been published
with its remarkable content and sales description as the ultimate proof of what
went on 38 years ago, and proof that the wooden chess board on which the majority
of the games were played on was in fact included in the sale. But this big potential
enterprise came to nothing.
The original board and the offer made to the Shah of Iran
Later Pall G. Jónsson, an Icelandic businessman, stepped in to help
the ICF financially and bought both the sets for a reasonable high price. The
first was the one with the precious chess board on which games 7-21 had been
played, from Mr. Kristinsson, estate manager, who had financed the project.
The other was purchased directly from the ICF. That set had in the mean time
been presented as a main lottery prize in the ICF’s 50 year anniversary
lottery 1975, but happily for the ICF it was not drawn. The undersigned was
its treasurer that year.
It is well known that Pal Jónsson has repeatedly tried to sell these
items domestically for decades. He met with some serious interest from many
companies, but nothing more. Now, in his late eighties, he has decided to auction
them off internationally. This is a slightly delicate matter and has created
some controversy in Iceland, as many would like this memorabilia items to be
preserved as a national treasure.
But it has to be remembered that right after the closing of the 1972 historic
match Gudmundur Thorarinsson, who was the chairman of the OC, presented the
National Museum of Iceland on behalf of the ICF the original chess table with
the stone chessboard, on which games 1, (2), 4-6 were played, plus the original
chess pieces and clock. This items were surprisingly stored away as nothing
remarkable for years, but are now happily on show again as part of the 40th
Anniversary celebration of the Match.
IA Einar S. Einarsson is a retired Icelandic banker and entrepreneur.
He has been most active in the Icelandic, Nordic and International chess for
almost four decades, as a leader and organizer of several tournaments and matches.
He has received several honors for his contribution to the good of chess and
is Honorary Member of FIDE and the ICF.