Belgrade, Round 2: Fischer beats Petrosian, Spassky crushes Larsen

by André Schulz
4/1/2020 – The second round of the "Match of the Century" in Belgrade brought amazing games. Robert "Bobby" Fischer won with Black again former World Champion Tigran Petrosian but the game of the day was World Champion Boris Spassky's spectacular win against Bent Larsen. After 17(!) moves Larsen resigned. But in these 17 moves Spassky had managed to sacrifice a rook and to queen his h-pawn. After two rounds the Soviet Union now leads 11.5-8.5.

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USSR vs Rest of the World, Round 2

Currently, chess is all the rage in Belgrade and the fans avidly follow the match between the USSR and the "Rest of the World". The big hall in the Dom Sindikat is designed for 2000 people but Grandmaster Vlastimil Hort, with whom I had a short talk yesterday, said that every day at least more than 3,000 spectators come.

The players live up to the event and show exciting chess. In the first of four rounds the "Rest of the World" narrowly lost 4.5:5.5. However, if the Hungarian grandmaster Lajos Portisch had used his chances against Viktor Kortschnoi the match would have been tied after round 1.

But Bobby Fischer won against former World Champion Tigran Petrosian. The ease with which the former prodigy from the US – who now is already 27 years old – outplayed Petrosian who is famous for his solid and careful play, is truly impressive. If Fischer manages to get his moods and his temper under control he indeed has good chances to become World Champion soon.

Having said that, it is a big surprise that Fischer plays at all in Belgrade. In the 18 months before the USSR vs Rest of the World match Fischer has played only one single game but in Belgrade he even agreed to play on board two behind the Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen. Though Fischer, according to the current world ranking list that is based on the Elo system developed by Dr. Arpad Elo, currently is indeed the world's number one.

Here's the list:

 1 Fischer, Robert James g USA 2720
 2 Korchnoi, Viktor g URS 2670
 2 Spassky, Boris V. g URS 2670
 4 Geller, Efim P. g URS 2660
 5 Larsen, Bent g DEN 2650
 5 Petrosian, Tigran g URS 2650
 7 Botvinnik, Mikhail g URS 2640
 7 Polugaevsky, Lev g URS 2640
 9 Portisch, Lajos g HUN 2630
10 Smyslov, Vassily g URS 2620
10 Stein, Leonid g URS 2620
12 Hort, Vlastimil g CSR 2610
13 Keres, Paul g URS 2600
13 Taimanov, Mark E. g URS 2600
15 Krogius, Nikolai V. g URS 2590
15 Tal, Mikhail N. g URS 2590
15 Reshevsky, Samuel H. g USA 2590
18 Gipslis, Aivars g URS 2580
18 Gligoric, Svetozar g YUG 2580
20 Najdorf, Miguel g ARG 2570
20 Uhlmann, Wolfgang g GDR 2570
20 Bronstein, David I. g URS 2570
20 Furman, Semyen A. g URS 2570
20 Ivkov, Borislav g YUG 2570
25 Olafsson, Fridrik g ISL 2560
25 Kholmov, Ratmir D. g URS 2560
25 Savon, Vladimir A. m URS 2560
25 Evans, Larry M. g USA 2560
25 Matulovic, Milan g YUG 2560
30 Darga, Klaus g GER 2550

In round two Fischer again justified his claim to be the world's best player by outplaying Petrosian for the second time in a row, this time with Black.


When a white pawn appeared on c5 Fischer followed a simple plan, and tried to win this pawn. Which he managed to do.

A few moves later the following position was on the board:


22... Nxc5 23.Nxc5 Rxc5 24.Rxc5 Bxc5 25.Nd3 Bxd3 26.Qxd3 Rd8 and Black had a solid extra-pawn. Petrosian managed to regain his pawn but wound up in a lost endgame. Fischer's technique is amazingly precise and he had no trouble to convert his advantage.


53... Kd6 54.f4 Nd7 55.Bb1 Nc5 56.f5 Na6 57.g4 Nb4 58.fxg6 hxg6 59.h5 gxh5 60.gxh5 Ke6 61.Kd2 Kf6 62.Kc3 a2 63.Bxa2 Nxa2+ 64.Kb2 Sb4 65.Kc3 Nc6 66.Kc4 Nd4 0-1

A fine performance by Fischer who now leads 2-0. Petrosian still has to find a way to cope with Fischer's seemingly simple but precise and energetic play.

Spassky and Larsen | Archive

But as impressive as Fischer's play might have been, World Champion Boris Spassky still managed to do one better. Spassky was playing with Black against Bent Larsen who experimented in the opening but had a high price to pay for his courage.


An amazing win by Spassky. 

Unfortunately, Larsen was not the only player of the "Rest of the World" team who suffered a loss. Reshevsky lost to Smyslov and Taimanov scored his second win against Uhlmann. And Keres defeated Ivkov. But Najdorf could win against Tal and thus the Soviets only won narrowly.

There are rumours that Tal who throughout his career has suffered from illness is not in top shape. In general, the mood in the Soviet team does not seem to be good and one of the Soviet players told me in quiet that one half of the Soviet team would not talk to the other half.

Paul Keres

Nevertheless, after two rounds the "Rest of the World" is trailing 8.5-11.5 and has to gain ground in the second part of the match.



Translation from German: Johannes Fischer



André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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