Fischer-Spassky board fetches record sum

4/5/2011 – The third game of the 1972 "Match of the Century" was played in a backroom of the Laugardalshöll theatre in Reykjavik, after Fischer had complained about disturbances in the main hall and not turned up for the second game. The board used in game three was subsequently given to one of the organisers, who has now sold it in a New York auction. It fetched a record price of US $76,275.

An autographed chessboard and the chessmen which were used in the third game of the “Match of the Century” between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Reykjavík in 1972 were sold at a Philip Weiss Auction auction in New York on Saturday. The price paid by the new owner, who remained anonymous, was US $76,275 (ISK 7.7 million, EUR 48,000).


The auctioned board. The photo is from Philip Weiss Auctions – i.e. it was of course not us that
mispositioned the kings and the queens.

The board and pieces were sold by Gudmundur G. Thórarinsson, who was president of the Icelandic Chess Federation at the time of the duel. Our readers will remember from a recent article he wrote on the Lewis Chessmen. Gudmundur told journalists that he decided to sell the set because of his tight financial situation; he has a loan in foreign currency which grew after the crisis hit.

The Icelandic Chess Federation had decided to present Thórarinsson with the chess set as a gift on his birthday the year after the 1972 Reykjavík duel because of his part in organizing it. The decision was controversial at the time; some people argued these objects belonged at the National Museum.

“The chessboard and chessmen which they used in Laugardalshöll are of course in the National Museum but these chessmen have a very interesting history,” Thórarinsson said. He explained that Fischer didn’t want to continue to play inside the sports arena after the first chess game because he thought the cameras were disturbing. He therefore gave up the second match and the duel was in a state of upheaval. “People managed to convince him to play the third game in a backroom of Laugardalshöll and this is when these chessmen were used. This game is often called ‘The Legendary Third Game’ because it saved the duel.”

A postcard from Reykjavík

While we are on the subject we would like to share a postcard we recently received with our readers. It came from our Icelandic friend and colleague Einar S. Einarsson, who also featured in the articles on the Lewis Chessmen.

The postcard with a famous and very poignant picture of Fischer during his final years in Iceland

The postcard had two Bobby Fischer stamps issued by the Icelandic postal department

Detail of the stamps, which chess playing philatelists will treasure

Copyright ChessBase


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