50th anniversary of the Interzonal in Palma de Mallorca

by Alfonso Romero Holmes
11/10/2020 – Yesterday, November 9, was the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Interzonal Tournament played in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The best players in the world participated, including four giants of the chess world hailing from the Soviet Union: Vasily Smyslov, Efim Geller, Mark Taimanov and Lev Polugaevsky. | Photo: Chessy Publishing House

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50 years ago

Bobby Fischer’s last tournament

German grandmaster Robert Hübner, who surprised the chess world by finishing fourthth and qualifying to the Candidates matches, declared once the tournament was over: “Due to the great success of Bobby Fischer, this tournament will not be forgotten”. And it should not be forgotten that Fischer scored seven victories in a row in the last seven games of the tournament — simply an astounding performance, which came before his 13 consecutive victories in the three Candidates’ matches against Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian. 

It was one of the most important events held in Spain in those years. On November 9, 1970 the tournament officially began, and on the same morning the drawing of lots took place in the Town Hall, with the presence of the municipal authorities and the participants. An official tournament within the cycle for the World Championship, which was to designate the candidates to fight for the world title against Boris Spassky. In the end, American star Bobby Fischer gained the right to challenge the Soviet representative and reigning champion.

Bobby Fischer | Foto: Levy

Bobby Fischer | Photo: David Levy

It was Bobby Fischer’s last tournament appearance, as he would only play five more head-to-head matches first among the Candidates and then against the champion. Professional chess gained relevance thanks to Fischer, as prize funds increased notably thanks to his popularity.

This Interzonal Tournament is considered to be the strongest in chess history. A mythical tournament played in Spain, one that was stronger — in my opinion — than those played in Linares later on. 

 Foto: Levy

Photo: David Levy

Another very curious detail is that Bobby Fischer (who was semi-retired) had not participated in the last U.S. Championship, which served as a qualifeer for the Interzonal, so the U.S. Federation needed to make a diplomatic effort to get the approval of the International Chess Federation for him to participate. Paul Benko gave up his sport in order for Fischer to play.

Bobby Fischer

Noticia en el periódico

Chessy, a Spanish publishing house, put out a very special and complete book about this tournament, with press clippings depicting the relevance of the event, an album with photographs of the tournament, daily chronicles, and most of the games with analysis and commentary.

Portada del especial, publicado por la Editorial Chessy 

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Alfonso Romero Holmes was born in Barcelona on 28 May 1965. He is a grandmaster, journalist and editor at Chessy Publishing House.

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