Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (8)

by Frederic Friedel
8/9/2017 – After ten games in the World Championship match in Reykjavik, 1972, the score was 6½-3½ for Challenger Bobby Fischer. The match seemed virtually over – in the last eight games Boris Spassky had only managed to score 1½ points. "If it had been the best of 12 games, as in the Candidates matches, Spassky would already have been on his way home..." wrote Garry Kasparov in his Great Predessors book. In game 11 Boris took on the Poisoned Pawn variation of the Najdorf Sicilian, even though he had obtained a lost position in game seven. Take a look at what happened.

Fighting back

All black & white photos from the Icelandic Chess Federation Skáksamband Íslands.

Game 11 – Spassky takes on the Poisoned Pawn

After ten games the score was now 6½-3½ for Fischer. The champion had not won since the first game, and of the last eight points had only scored 1½ points – from three draws. In Garry Kasparov On My Great Predecessors, Part 4 the 13th World Champion writes:

"It is interesting that no one, in my opinion, has drawn attention to a staggering coincidence: at that point the match score was 6½-3½ – if Fischer's zero for his default in the second game is discarded, we have the final result of his match with Petrosian! Thus if it had been the best of 12 games, as in the Candidates matches, Spassky would already have been on his way home ...

However, from this moment in the match the play took an even course. The champion calmed down and began fighting with the desperation of the doomed: he sensationally crushed his opponent in the 11th game (the only occasion where Fischer risked repeating a variation that had occurred earlier: the 7th game was also a Sicilian with ...Qxb2) and then he confidendy gained a draw in the 12th."

In the magazine New in Chess vol 6/2012, pp.60-68, GM Lubomir Kavalek, who was in Reykjavik for the Match of the Century, both as a journalist and, in the second half, as one of Fischer’s seconds, wrote:

"The [eleventh] game brought back memories of my first game against Fischer from the 1967 Sousse Interzonal, which he famously left after he was in the lead. He allowed his opposition only three draws, winning seven games. We played the Poisoned Pawn variation of the Sicilian Najdorf to which, faced by Fischer’s novelty, I added a poisoned knight. It started a new trend and the knight has been sacrificed in many different ways ever since. Bobby grabbed the horse with gusto, but made one single slip and had to find a difficult escape from the slippery slope to make a draw. ‘You added a colossal brick to the opening theory’, Larsen commented on the game.

But I also saw two different sides of Fischer. During the game Bobby requested more lights and eventually we moved to a different table, closer to the window. It felt like we were playing in a TV studio, but it was not enough for him. Two more lamps were brought in, and it was like playing chess on the beach in the midday sun."

In the October 1972 issue of Chess Life & Review, which today has become the official magazine of the US Chess Federation Chess Life, GM Robert Byrne reporting from Reykjavik after game ten, wrote:

Now three points down, Boris fought back at once, again taking on the "poisoned pawn" variation of the Najdorf Sicilian, with which he had obtained a lost position in round 7, drawing only through Fischers careless endgame play. This time he improved by 10 BxN and 11 B-K2, leading to a far more preferable system than the 10 B-Q3 of game 7. But it was his spectacular 14 N-NI that made the game. Gligoric, who decked it out with seven exclamation points (His annotations in the match bulletins give the move only two.—Ed.], came running into the press room declaring "It turns the entire 'poisoned pawn' variation upside down. Fantastic! There's nothing to do about it." Nevertheless, the dust hasn't settled on it yet. Bent Larsen and Fridrik Olafsson are not convinced that it deserved the success it achieved.

Bobby went wildly astray against it, however, sacrificing a pawn, the acceptance of which gave Spassky an overwhelming position immediately. Realizing that there was no long-range way to fix up his game, Fischer swung into a desperate, unsound attack which Boris brushed off effortlessly, winning a Queen for a minor piece and making short shrift of what remained of Fischer's position.

[Event "Reykjavik World Championship (11)"] [Site "?"] [Date "1972.08.06"] [Round "?"] [White "Spassky, Boris V"] [Black "Fischer, Robert James"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B97"] [WhiteElo "2660"] [BlackElo "2785"] [Annotator "ChessBase"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "1972.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 { The Poisoned Pawn Variation, an old favorite of Bobby.} 8. Qd2 Qxb2 9. Nb3 { threatening 10.a3 and 11.Ra2 trapping the queen} (9. Rb1 {is the main line.}) 9... Qa3 10. Bxf6 ({In the 7th game of the Match Spassky played} 10. Bd3 Be7 11. O-O h6 12. Bh4 $2 {and Black had the upper hand after} ({In the years that followed this game the other line was tested:} 12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. e5 dxe5 14. Ne4 Nd7 15. f5 exf5 16. Rxf5 Be7 17. Qf2 Nf6 18. Nxf6+ Bxf6 19. Rxf6 $5 gxf6 20. Qxf6 Rg8 $17 {as in Tseitlin-Psakhis, Tel-Aviv 1999.}) 12... Nxe4 13. Nxe4 Bxh4 14. f5 exf5 15. Bb5+ axb5 16. Nxd6+ Kf8 17. Nxc8 Nc6 18. Nd6 Rd8 19. Nxb5 Qe7 $17 {The game was drawn after some careless play by Fischer.}) 10... gxf6 11. Be2 h5 {This move prevents Bh5 and also creates threats of his own once White castles on the kingside.} ({Years later Bh5 was no more seen as a threat and players took to smooth development.} 11... Nc6 12. O-O Bd7 13. Kh1 Rc8 { with chances for both sides.}) 12. O-O Nc6 (12... Nd7 $5 {followed by 13... Nc5 and ...Bd7 deserves attention.}) 13. Kh1 Bd7 ({Gligoric's suggestion} 13... Na5 {is met by} 14. e5 $1 fxe5 15. fxe5 Nc6 16. Ne4 Nxe5 17. Qg5 $16) {Here Spassky thought for half an hour and played} 14. Nb1 $1 {A paradoxical retreat that nearly traps the queen.} Qb4 (14... Qa4 15. Nc3 ({Timman's suggestion} 15. a3 {is met by} Ne7 ({not} 15... Qxe4 $2 16. Bd3 Qd5 17. c4 $18) 16. Nc3 Qc6 $15 ) 15... Qa3 $11) (14... Qb2 15. a4 (15. a3 Rc8 $17) (15. Nc3 Qa3 16. Nb1 { leads to draw by repetition of moves.}) 15... d5 16. exd5 Nb4 $11) 15. Qe3 $1 { blocking the queen's escape via b6} d5 $2 ({not} 15... O-O-O $4 16. a3 Qa4 17. Nc3 $18) (15... Ne7 $1 {is an improvement. After} 16. c4 (16. a3 Qa4 17. Nc3 Qc6 $13 {with chances for both sides deserves attention}) ({So does Gligoric's suggestion} 16. N1d2 $5 {that may be followed up with} Rc8 17. c4 {Black may counter with...f5,...Bg7 and h5-h4.}) 16... f5 17. a3 Qa4 18. Nc3 Qc6 {White was outplayed in the game, Qui Jingxuan-Karpov, Hanover 1983.}) 16. exd5 { White has recovered his pawn with continuing threats to Black's king and queen. } Ne7 17. c4 $1 ({better than} 17. dxe6 fxe6 $11) 17... Nf5 ({If} 17... Ng6 18. Nc3 O-O-O 19. a3 {followed by Rfb1 and Qa7 is decisive.}) 18. Qd3 h4 { Threatening a mating attack with 19...Ng3+. But this is easily parried.} ({If} 18... b5 19. c5 $16 {Black cannot afford to take the c-pawn.} Bxc5 $2 20. a3 $1 $18) ({On} 18... exd5 {Timman gives} 19. Nc3 $1 dxc4 20. Qe4+ Be6 21. Nd5 Qd6 22. Nxf6+ Ke7 23. Rad1 $18) ({After} 18... O-O-O {Black survives for the time being, though White has the upper hand with} 19. Nc3 $16) ({If} 18... Rc8 19. N1d2 {(a Gligoric suggestion)} (19. Nc3 {needlessly gives Black chances after} b5) 19... exd5 20. a3 Qe7 21. Rfe1 dxc4 22. Nxc4 $14) 19. Bg4 $1 ({On a careless move like} 19. Nc3 $4 {there follows} Ng3+ $1 20. Kg1 (20. hxg3 $4 hxg3+ 21. Kg1 Bc5+ 22. Nd4 e5 23. fxe5 fxe5 24. Rab1 Qa5 25. Qxg3 Bxd4+ $19) 20... Nxf1 21. Kxf1 f5 $17) 19... Nd6 ({Now on} 19... Ng3+ $2 20. hxg3 hxg3+ { White has} 21. Bh3 {and Black has nothing to show for the sacrificed piece (Robert Byrne).}) 20. N1d2 f5 21. a3 Qb6 ({If} 21... Qa4 22. Nc5 Qa5 23. Nxd7 fxg4 ({or} 23... Kxd7 24. dxe6+ fxe6 25. Nb3 Qc7 26. c5 fxg4 27. cxd6 Qxd6 28. Qe4 $18) 24. dxe6 fxe6 25. Nxf8 Rxf8 26. Qxd6 Rd8 $4 27. Qxe6# {[#]A picturesque position!}) 22. c5 Qb5 23. Qc3 fxg4 ({He could have saved the queen with} 23... Rg8 24. a4 Bg7 {and still lost the game after} 25. Nd4 Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Qa5 27. Bf3 $18) 24. a4 h3 {Continuing to play. Bobby's pride comes in the way of resigning.} (24... Qe2 25. Rae1 $18 {is no worse.}) 25. axb5 hxg2+ 26. Kxg2 Rh3 27. Qf6 Nf5 28. c6 Bc8 29. dxe6 fxe6 30. Rfe1 Be7 31. Rxe6 1-0

Byrne: "Before this game, Boris had gone nine straight rounds without taking a single point over the board. Will this win build up his morale so that he can make a serious bid to get back into the match? We'll soon know."

Game 12 — A reluctant draw

In the November 1972 issue of Chess Life & Review, p.683, GM Robert Byrne wrote:

Rebounding from the thumping defeat his poisoned-pawn Najdorf suffered at Spassky's hands in the 11th game, Fischer made a stubborn attempt to recover the point in the 12th. Once again his 1 P-QB4 developed into a Queen's Gambit Declined as in the 6th encounter, but Spassky, mindful of the catastrophe his Tartakower Variation met with, diverted at the 7th move into the Old Orthodox Defense, hardly seen since Capablanca and Stahlberg fought over its fine points more than 40 years ago.

Although Bobby obtained a small advantage in the early middle game he found no way to press it, even with the two Bishops. After omitting the Strong 25 Q-K2, he began to get into difficulties, compounded by a mistake on move 35. However, Boris overlooked a powerful chance to play for a win, replying routinely to maintain an approximately level position. Shortly after adjournment Boris's exact defense destroyed whatever opportunities there might have been to make any progress and the game could have been agreed a draw. Nevertheless, Fischer obstinately continued until he lost a pawn in a dead drawn position with Bishops of opposite colors. That finally convinced him the game really was a draw.

In the following commentary, as in his game summaries above, we retain the descriptive notation that Byrne (like everyone in the English world at the time) was wont to use. It is good practice to follow his remarks in this archaic form.

[Event "Reykjavik World Championship (12)"] [Site "Reykjavik"] [Date "1972.08.08"] [Round "12"] [White "Fischer, Robert James"] [Black "Spassky, Boris Vasilievich"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D66"] [WhiteElo "2785"] [BlackElo "2660"] [Annotator "Byrne,Robert"] [PlyCount "110"] [EventDate "1972.07.11"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "21"] [EventCountry "ISL"] [SourceTitle "MainBase"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 Nbd7 { Up to here the moves have been the same as in game 6, which continued with Tartakower's 7...P-QN3. The text move puts the game into the channels of the old Orthodox Defense.} 8. Rc1 {Onlooker Bent Larsen observed that this would have been a good moment to enter the Exchange Variation with PxP. I agree, well aware of Bobby's low opinion of that line.} c6 9. Bd3 {Suppose it be granted that Spassky's followup to this move is entirely sufficient, would it not be one tempo better to play 8...P-R3?} dxc4 10. Bxc4 b5 {This old line favored by the late Swedish Grandmaster Gideon Stahlberg is more active than Capablanca's ...N-Q4, which doesn't work quite as it should here since White can avoid the exchange of Bishops by 11 B-KN3. The position now resembles the Queen's Gambit Accepted or the Meran, wherein Black gives up the center in order to counterattack it, aiming for a free development for pieces.} 11. Bd3 a6 12. a4 {If White does not take immediate action, Black will get in ...P-B4 with no problems.} bxa4 ({Spassky correctly adheres to the Stahlberg recipe, for} 12... b4 13. Bxf6 Nxf6 14. Ne4 {with a powerful grip on the position.}) 13. Nxa4 Qa5+ 14. Nd2 Bb4 15. Nc3 {The Knight must retreat, relinquishing its grip on the QB5 square, since Black threatened BxNch winning a piece. That gives him the chance to rid himself of the backward QBP on the next move.} c5 16. Nb3 Qd8 {There is no better square for the Queen:} (16... Qb6 {will lose a tempo on a later N-R4,}) (16... Qc7 {facing the enemy Rook is unwise,}) ({and} 16... Qa2 17. O-O Qxb2 $4 18. Na4 Qa2 19. Ra1 {wins the queen.}) 17. O-O cxd4 18. Nxd4 Bb7 19. Be4 $1 {The only way for White to try for something is to work against the QB6 square, the one "soft" point in the Black position.} Qb8 ( {If} 19... Bxe4 20. Nxe4 {Black would be in trouble, lacking a defense to N-B6. }) 20. Bg3 Qa7 (20... e5 {would only loosen the Black position.}) 21. Nc6 Bxc6 (21... Qb6 22. Na4 Qb5 23. Bd3 Qd5 24. e4 $1 Nxe4 25. Nxb4 {wins a piece for White.}) 22. Bxc6 {Fischer's two Bishops give him the edge now.} Rac8 {[#]} 23. Na4 $1 {This is necessary to maintain any chances} ({for} 23. Ne4 {is answered exactly by} Qb6) ({while} 23. Bf3 Nc5 {leads nowhere.}) 23... Rfd8 (23... Nc5 $6 24. Nxc5 Rxc6 ({if} 24... Bxc5 25. Qf3 Qb6 26. Bb7 Rcd8 27. Be5 {White is also minutely better.}) 25. Nd7 Rxc1 26. Nxf6+ gxf6 27. Qxc1 {gives White some chance to exploit the Kingside weaknesses}) 24. Bf3 a5 {Making additional room for the Queen is a good idea,} ({while} 24... Nc5 25. Qc2 Nxa4 26. Qxa4 { is perhaps playable too.}) ({However} 24... Ne5 $4 25. Bxe5 Rxd1 26. Rxc8+ Kh7 27. Rxd1 {simply loses a piece.}) 25. Rc6 $6 ({Correct was} 25. Qe2 {although it is not clear that White can get anywhere after} Nc5) 25... Rxc6 26. Bxc6 Rc8 27. Bf3 Qa6 {Now that the Queen enters active play and the Rook occupies the important QB file, Black can be perfectly satisfied with his position.} 28. h3 Qb5 29. Be2 Qc6 30. Bf3 Qb5 31. b3 {This creates a slight weakness of the Queenside squares, and there was no reason to avoid the draw by repetition. Now Fischer gets into trouble.} Be7 32. Be2 Qb4 33. Ba6 Rc6 34. Bd3 Nc5 35. Qf3 $2 ({Instead of this careless move, Bobby had to play} 35. Nxc5 Rxc5 36. Qb1 { although Spassky has the initiative well in hand after} Nd5) 35... Rc8 $2 ({ Boris misses} 35... Nce4 $1 {which would threaten ...NxB and ...QxP, or ...N-Q7 after the Rook gets out of the pin. I see nothing better for Bobby than} 36. Ra1 Rc8 37. Bxe4 Nxe4 38. Nb6 Rd8 39. Nc4 Nxg3 40. fxg3 Qxb3 41. Nxa5 Qc3 42. Ra4 {which leaves the White pieces in dangerously awkward positions, while the White Kingside is weak and invites attack. [But:} Qc1+ 43. Kh2 Rd1 {wins easily for Black. –ed.]}) 36. Nxc5 Bxc5 (36... Rxc5 $2 {loses to} 37. Qa8+ Bf8 38. Bd6) ({while} 36... Qxc5 {is answered by} 37. Qb7) 37. Rc1 Rd8 (37... Qxb3 $4 38. Rxc5 {wins at once.}) 38. Bc4 Qd2 39. Rf1 Bb4 40. Bc7 Rd7 41. Qc6 Qc2 $1 {Spassky plans the strong counterattack ...R-Q7 and ...N-K5 to take advantage of the thinly defended KB7 square.} 42. Be5 (42. Qa8+ Kh7 43. Bxa5 $2 {loses a piece after} Qa2) 42... Rd2 43. Qa8+ Kh7 44. Bxf6 gxf6 45. Qf3 f5 46. g4 Qe4 47. Kg2 {There is, of course, nothing to play for, except that Fischer is unable to offer a draw.} Kg6 48. Rc1 Ba3 49. Ra1 Bb4 50. Rc1 Be7 51. gxf5+ exf5 52. Re1 {Rather than take a passive position by R-KB1, Fischer allows the little combination which follows, resulting in such a dead draw that even he cannot dispute it.} Rxf2+ 53. Kxf2 Bh4+ 54. Ke2 Qxf3+ 55. Kxf3 Bxe1 1/2-1/2

On August 9th 1972, exactly 45 years ago, the 12th game adjournament ended with a draw. The score has now narrowed to 7.0-5.0 for Fischer. Spassky appears to be fighting back and the match has turned more exciting.

Move times and adjournments

Here are the times for the two games, as recorded by Lawrence Stevens, who visited the match in Reykjavik and jotted them down from the video screens:

Game 11, August 6th, 1972

Spassky Fischer
White Black
(ar) (-0:01)
1. e4 (0:00) (ar) (0:03)
1. ... c5 (0:04)
(When Fischer arrived, Spassky had already made his move and disappeared, not returning until 6 minutes after Fischer made his first move.)
2. Nf3 (0:06) d6 (0:05)
3. d4 (0:06) cxd4 (0:05)
4. Nxd4 (0:06) Nf6 (0:05)
5. Nc3 (0:06) a6 (0:05)
6. Bg5 (0:06) e6 (0:06)
7. f4 (0:07) Qb6 (0:08)
8. Qd2 (0:08) Qxb2 (0:08)
9. Nb3 (0:08) Qa3 (0:08)
10. Bxf6 (0:08) gxf6 (0:08)
11. Be2 (0:08) h5 (0:20)
12. 0-0 (0:09) Nc6 (0:21)
13. Kh1 (0:13) Bd7 (0:24)
14. Nb1 (0:43) Qb4 (0:38)
15. Qe3 (0:45) d5 (0:44)
16. exd5 (0:48) Ne7 (0:44)
17. c4 (0:53) Nf5 (0:53)
18. Qd3 (0:54) h4 (1:20)
19. Bg4 (0:59) Nd6 (1:27)
20. N1d2 (1:08) f5 (1:27)
21. a3 (1:13) Qb6 (1:28)
22. c5 (1:16) Qb5 (1:28)
23. Qc3 (1:27) fxg4 (1:29)
24. a4 (1:28) h3 (1:35)
25. axb5 (1:31) hxg2+ (1:35)
26. Kxg2 (1:31) Rh3 (1:35)
27. Qf6 (1:38) Nf5 (1:38)
28. c6 (1:42) Bc8 (1:38)
29. dxe6 (1:44) fxe6 (1:41)
30. Rfe1 (1:46) Be7 (1:44)
31. Rxe6 (1:47) 1-0 (1:45)

(ar) indicates a player's arrival

At the close of the game, people were applauding Spassky, but he gestured in a way that he wished the applause to be reduced.

As we were about to leave the hall, a young chess prodigy, staring at the final position on the projection screen, exclamed, “That was sick!”, probably thinking of the loss of the queen and the number of moves made afterward before resigning. The friend I was with laughed, and observed, “Everyone’s a critic!”

This was Bobby’s first and only loss with the Poison Pawn variation of the Najdorf. One time, I reviewed Fischer’s adventures with the Sicilian Defense by looking at his chronological results. His point percentage against 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 jumped up sharply when he switched to 7...Qb6, starting with his game against Parma at Bled, 1961.

Game 12, August 8-9, 1972

Fischer Spassky
White Black
(ar) (0:09)
1. c4 (0:10)
(Spassky arrived 30 seconds after Fischer's clock was started and then disappeared until five minutes after Fischer made his move.)
1. ... e6 (0:05)
2. Nf3 (0:11) d5 (0:06)
3. d4 (0:11) Nf6 (0:06)
4. Nc3 (0:11) Be7 (0:06)
5. Bg5 (0:11) h6 (0:06)
6. Bh4 (0:12) 0-0 (0:06)
7. e3 (0:12) Nbd7 (0:06)
8. Rc1 (0:17) c6 (0:09)
9. Bd3 (0:20) dxc4 (0:09)
10. Bxc4 (0:20) b5 (0:10)
11. Bd3 (0:21) a6 (0:11)
12. a4 (0:40) bxa4 (0:12)
13. Nxa4 (0:49) Qa5+ (0:12)
14. Nd2 (0:51) Bb4 (0:16)
15. Nc3 (0:54) c5 (0:20)
16. Nb3 (1:01) Qd8 (0:45)
17. 0-0 (1:03) cxd4 (0:47)
18. Nxd4 (1:03) Bb7 (0:48)
19. Be4 (1:13) Qb8 (0:53)
20. Bg3 (1:21) Qa7 (0:54)
21. Nc6 (1:21) Bxc6 (0:55)
22. Bxc6 (1:21) Rac8 (0:59)
23. Na4 (1:23) Rfd8 (1:14)
24. Bf3 (1:32) a5 (1:20)
25. Rc6 (1:42) Rxc6 (1:25)
26. Bxc6 (1:43) Rc8 (1:26)
27. Bf3 (1:44) Qa6 (1:36)
28. h3 (1:46) Qb5 (1:38)
29. Be2 (1:47) Qc6 (1:42)
30. Bf3 (1:48) Qb5 (1:43)
31. b3 (1:53) Be7 (1:48)
32. Be2 (1:54) Qb4 (1:51)
33. Ba6 (1:58) Rc6 (1:53)
34. Bd3 (2:02) Nc5 (2:06)
35. Qf3 (2:09) Rc8 (2:07)
36. Nxc5 (2:13) Bxc5 (2:09)
37. Rc1 (2:15) Rd8 (2:12)
38. Bc4 (2:17) Qd2 (2:19)
39. Rf1 (2:17) Bb4 (2:22)
40. Bc7 (2:20) Rd7 (2:29)
41. Qc6(s) (2:38) Qc2
42. Be5 Rd2 (2:29)
43. Qa8+ (2:40) Kh7 (2:30)
44. Bxf6 (2:41) gxf6 (2:30)
45. Qf3 (2:42) f5 (2:31)
46. g4 (2:54) Qe4 (2:38)
47. Kg2 (2:58) Kg6 (2:45)
48. Rc1 (3:03) Ba3 (2:45)
49. Ra1 (3:04) Bb4 (2:48)
50. Rc1 (3:09) Be7 (3:08)
51. gxf5+ exf5
52. Re1 (3:16) Rxf2+ (3:17)
53. Kxf2 (3:16) Bh4+ (3:17)
54. Ke2 (3:16) Qxf3+
55. Kxf3 Bxe1

Previous articles

Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (1)
In the final week of June 1972 the chess world was in turmoil. The match between World Champion Boris Spassky and his challenger Bobby Fischer was scheduled to begin, in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, on July 1st. But there was no sign of Fischer. The opening ceremony took place without him, and the first game, scheduled for July 2nd, was postponed. Then finally, in the early hours of July 4th, Fischer arrived. Frederic Friedel narrates.

Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (2)
The legendary Match of the Century between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer was staged in the Laugardalshöllin in Reykjavik. This is Iceland’s largest sporting arena, seating 5,500, but also the site for concerts – Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie all played there. 45 years after the Spassky-Fischer spectacle Frederic Friedel visited Laugardalshöllin and discovered some treasures there.

Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (3)
On July 11, 1992 the legendary Match of the Century between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer finally began. Fischer arrived late, due to heavy traffic. To everybody's surprise he played a Nimzo instead of his normal Gruenfeld or King's Indian. The game developed along uninspired lines and most experts were predicting a draw. And then, on move twenty-nine, Fischer engaged in one of the most dangerous gambles of his career. "One move, and we hit every front page in the world!" said a blissful organiser.

Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (4)
7/16/2017 – The challenger, tormented by the cameras installed in the playing hall, traumatically lost the first game of his match against World Champion Boris Spassky. He continued his vigorous protest, and when his demands were not met Fischer did not turn up for game two. He was forfeited and the score was 0-2. Bobby booked a flight back to New York, but practically at the very last moment decided to play game three – in an isolated ping-pong room!

Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (5)
7/21/2017 – After three games in the Match of the Century the score was 2:1 for the reigning World Champion. In game four Spassky played a well-prepared Sicilian and obtained a raging attack. Fischer defended tenaciously and the game was drawn. Then came a key game, about which the 1972 US Champion and New York Times and Chess Life correspondent GM Robert Byrne filed reports. In Reykjavik chess fan Lawrence Stevens from California did something extraordinary: he manually recorded the times both players had spent on each move.

Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (6)
7/26/2017 – In the sixth installment of our series we offer readers a glimpse of what had been happening behind the scenes of “The Match of The Century”, especially in the Russian camp. A tense Boris Spassky, cajoled by seconds Efim Geller and Nikolai Krogius, nevertheless failed to perform to the dismay of his friends and admirers. It’s also the story of a gamble that could have hurtled Bobby down the precipice in that fateful Game 6 of the match. A cautionary tale and object lesson for aspiring players.

Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (7)
8/4/2017 – After the first two traumatic games World Champion Boris Spassky was leading 2-0 in the Match of the Century. But then Fischer started to play and struck back: in the next eight games he scored 6½ points, chalking up a 6.5-3.5 lead. Games 8, 9 and 10 were quite spectacular, and are the subject of today's report. Younger players will also learn about "adjournments" and how exactly "sealed moves" were handled. Some were born after these practices were abandoned.


Editor-in-Chief of the ChessBase News Page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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Not registered yet? Register 8/9/2017 07:42
Notes to game 11:

I talked to Spassky at the Western States Open in Reno Nevada in 2005 (he was a special guest), and I asked him specifically about this game. Spassky said that after he played 14. Nb1, had Fischer played 14...Qb2, he (Spassky) would have simply repeated the position by playing 15. Nc3. Spassky went on to say the Fischer's Achilles's heel was to try for too much in a position that didn't call for it.
In Byrne's 15. a4 line (after 14...Qb2), after 15...d5 16. ed Nb4 17. d6 Nc2 18. Nc3 Qb3 19. Rab1 Qa3 20. Ne4 Bg7 21. Rb7 looks good for White (if 21...O-O, then 22. Rd7, if 21...Rd8 22. Qc2).

In his book on Fischer's games, GM Mednis recommended 15...f5 16. ef Ne7 17. fe fe 18. f5 (this is a blunder, 18. c3 Nf5 19. Qf2 Qa4 20. N1d2 looks better for White) Bh6 with advantage to Black. White is also better in this line after 16. N1d2 Bg7 17. Rad1.

The real losing move is 18...h4?? where Fischer became obsessed with an obvious cheap mating attack. In Timman's 18...ed line, after 19. Nc3 dc 20. Qe4, 20...Be6 is a horrible blunder. Better is 20...Ne7 21. Nd5 Qd6 22. Bc4 Bf5 when White is still better but Black is still in the game.
koko48 koko48 8/9/2017 08:06
Fischer's first loss with the Poisoned Pawn, but this poison was particularly strong and bitter. It retired one of his favorite defenses, he never played another Poisoned Pawn variation again 8/9/2017 08:10
Notes to game 12: It is interesting that 23 years later, in 1995, GM Kamsky and GM Salov played a game that followed this line until move 20. Kamsky varied with 20. Nc6. After 20...Bc6 21. Bc6 Ra7 22. Bg3 Ne5 23. Qd4 (Qe2 is also good) Bd6 24. Ne4 Nc6? (24...Ne4 25. Be4 Rd8 26. Rfd1 is only slightly better for White) 25 Nf6 White went on to win. 8/9/2017 09:06
Notes on game 12:
At move 35 Byrne recommends 35. Nc5 Rc5 36. Qb1 Nd5 and Black's better. But White should play 36. Qf3. Black has 3 reasonable tries:
(1) 36...Nd5 but 37. Rb1 or Qe4 looks equal (2) 36...Rc3 37. Rd1 Qb3 38. Rb1 (38. Qa8 Bf8 39. Be2 looks equal) Qd5 39. Rb8 Bf8 40. Qd5 Nd5 41. Bd6 Rd3 42. Rf8 Kh7 43. Rf7 Ne3 44. Be5 Kg6 45. Ra7 Nc4 46. Bg7 looks like a draw. (3) 36...Bf8 37. Qa8 Rc3 38. Rd1 transposes to the 38. Qa8 line in (2).

35...Nce4 really was Spassky's only chance in this game. In Byrne's line after 36. Ra1 Rc8, better is 37. Be5 Nd2 38. Qd1 Nb3 39. Rb1 Qa4 40. Rb3. Black is a pawn up, but White is still in the game. White could try 36. Be5 Rc8 37. Qd1 Nd2 38. Ba6 Nf1 39. Bc8 Nd2 40. Bc3 Qb3 41. Qb3 Nb3 42. Bb7, again Black is up a pawn but Black can fight for a draw. 8/9/2017 09:37
Notes to game 11:

I would like to reply to GM Kavalek's comment in this article: "We played the Poisoned Pawn variation of the Sicilian Najdorf (in 1967 at Sousse) to which, faced by Fischer’s novelty, I added a poisoned knight. It started a new trend and the knight has been sacrificed in many different ways ever since. Bobby grabbed the horse with gusto, but made one single slip and had to find a difficult escape from the slippery slope to make a draw."

The game went 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2 Qb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. f5 Nc6 11. fe fe 12. Nc6 bc 13. e5 de 14. Bf6 gf 15. Ne4 Be7 16. Be2 h5 17. Rb3 Qa4 18. c4 f5 19. O-O (offering the Knight, 19. Nd6 is sounder but after 19...Bd6 20. Qd6 Qa5 21. Kf2 Ra7 or Kf7 is better for Black) fe 20. Qc3 Qa2 21. Bd1 Rf8? (I believe this is the slip Kavalek is referring to, more later). After 22. Bh5+ the game was drawn after 22...Kd8 23. Rd1 Bd7 24. Qe3 Qa5 25. Rb7 Bc5 26. Rdd7 Kc8 27. Rdc7 Kd8.

But what GM Kavalek doesn't mention is that after both 21...Bc5+ 22. Kh1 Rf8 23. Bh5+ Kd8 24. Rd1+ Bd7 25. Rb2 (if 25. Qg3 Bd4 wins) Qa4 (25...Qa3 26. Qe5 Bd6 wins) 26. Rbd2 Bd4 and 21...Rg8 22. Bh5+ Kd8 23. Rd1+ Bd7 24. Rb2 Qa3 25. Rb7 Qc5+ seem to win for Black.

So the Knight was not "poisoned" after all.
IGMMURAT IGMMURAT 8/10/2017 02:23
The series is superb
Logos Logos 8/10/2017 03:23
I am curious why the French flag is displayed next to Spassky's name at the top of the page? The match took place in 1972, when Spassky was a citizen of the USSR.