Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (9)

by Frederic Friedel
8/11/2017 – In game eleven of the World Championship match in Reykjavik, 1972, Boris Spassky had comprehensively outplayed the challenger in his favourite poisoned pawn variation of the Sicilian Defence. In game 12 he made a confident draw with black and Fischer realized his opponent was gaining ground. In the 13th game he abandoned the Sicilian and, to the chagrin of Spassky, played, for the first time in a top-level game – the Alekhine Defence. It turned into one of the most exciting battles of the match, and is beautifully annotated by GM Robert Byrne.

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Fischer plays the Alekhine

On August 9th 1972, 45 years ago, the score in the Match of the Century was 7.0-5.0 for Bobby Fischer. Boris Spassky had fought back and won the 11th game, making the battle more exciting. The 12th encounter was a comfortable draw for him as Black.

One of the most exciting endgames in Championship history

In the magazine New in Chess vol 6/2012, 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, describes what happened in the next game [we quote with kind permission of the author]:

"Game 13 puzzled many players even after it was finished. It was an epic battle and, according to Mikhail Botvinnik, the patriarch of Soviet chess, Fischer’s greatest achievement in the match. ‘Nothing like this had previously happened in chess,’ Botvinnik said. His former world championship challenger, David Bronstein, played the game over many times and it was an enigma to him. ‘Like a mysterious sphinx, it still teases my imagination,’ he said.

It was during this game that I started working with Bobby on the adjournment games after he sent his official second, Bill Lombardy, away from his suite. Bobby and Bill were a great pair, but during that night they turned into two strong personalities with two different opinions. The tension was resolved by Lombardy’s sneeze. ‘I don’t want to get your cold, Bill,’ Bobby said and added he wanted to work with me. Bill left quietly.

Fischer's second in Reykjavik: the Reverend William Lombardy [photo: Icelandic Chess Federation Skáksamband Íslands]

From that moment on, I analysed just with Bobby till the end of the match. Although we had never worked together before, I had Bobby’s trust. Earlier in the year I had finished first at the U.S. championship, becoming the second highest-rated player in the country after him. As long as he won the world crown it didn’t matter who helped him. It was his choice.

The game had an unlucky number and it had all the drama of a swing game. With a win, Spassky would shrink Bobby’s lead to a single point. Although Bobby had the edge, the adjourned position was a minefield, requiring utmost care. One line emerged as the most practical in our analysis. The play was straightforward, but there were a few roundabouts. We reached the position with Bobby’s rook arrested on g8 by White’s pawn and bishop. Spassky’s rook had to cope with Fischer’s five pawns, but it seemed that Boris would be able to do it. The black king could be cut off from crossing the d-file. Did we hit a snag?

‘Bobby...’ I began. He got the whiff of what I was about to say and intercepted me: ‘Don’t worry,’ he said confidently, ‘I just push the h-pawn and get in with the king. Anyway, we are too far.’ We had already strayed some 20 moves away from the adjourned position and there were many branches and trees of variations we had not covered. So we looked back and checked as much as we could. It was daylight when I went back to my room.

There was one thing I noticed. No matter how deep the analyses, Bobby committed everything to memory. No written notes.

Bobby was 21 minutes late for the adjournment. The game resumed and everything went as we had analysed. Boris imprisoned the black rook on g8 and the moment to sacrifice the h-pawn arrived. It was Bobby’s only chance, but he was not moving. After some 45 minutes everybody was puzzled. What is he looking at? Is there a win? Larsen, having stopped in Iceland on the way to the U.S. Open, was entertaining the crowd in the press room, commenting on the adjournment. He was in danger of missing his flight to New York.

Bent Larsen (right) with Robert Byrne and Frank Brady in Reykjavik 1972 [photo: Icelandic Chess Federation Skáksamband Íslands]

Bobby was still sitting at the board. He had realized that he was going nowhere. The long think somehow affected Spassky’s concentration. Shortly after Bobby sacrificed the pawn, Boris made a few forced moves and blundered. The game went Fischer’s way. He turned Game 13 into a lucky number and was up three points in the match. And Larsen made it to Keflavik airport on time.

Bobby was happy about the win. ‘What’s the idea of chess?’ he laughed. ‘It’s winning, isn’t it.’ The loss was devastating for Spassky and instead of playing the next game, he took a time-out. Fischer didn’t mind, although before the match he had a different idea. ‘Taking time-outs had been misused,’ he said. ‘The Russians did it during their matches. When they decided to get a little rest, almost always after they lost a game, they claimed to be sick. I think one should play, unless you are so sick you can’t physically make it. It’s part of chess to be in good physical condition. If you are not, you can only complain to yourself. I don’t believe in time-outs every time the weather slightly changes.’"

The above picture of Bobby Fischer, Lubomir Kavalek and Florencio Campomanes is from the opening ceremony of the 1973 Manila tournament. Bobby was invited by Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos, made nine moves in ceremonial game with him, collected $20,000 and later flew to Japan (where he met his future wife Miyoko Watai for the first time).


In Garry Kasparov On My Great Predecessors, Part 4 the 13th World Champion described the situation after the first twelve games: the champion had not won since the first game, and of the last eight points had only scored 1½ points – from three draws. Then he "calmed down and began fighting with the desperation of the doomed: he sensationally crushed his opponent in the 11th game."

After the the confident draw by Spassky in the 12th game "Fischer realised that obstinacy was not a good thing and he decided temporarily to give up the Sicilian. For the first time in the match he employed the Alekhine Defence, which was another unpleasant surprise for Spassky.

'I will say frankly: no serious analysis of the variations for White in this opening had been made. This happened, because a number of experts, including Spassky himself, were convinced that Fischer was extremely constant in his opening tastes and that against 1 e4 he was unlikely to play anything except the Sicilian Defence.' (Krogius)"

Nikolai Krogius (right), assistant to Boris Spassky in his World Championship matches against Petrosian in 1969, and Fischer in 1972 [photo: Skáksamband Íslands]

In the November 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, wrote:

Game 13 was a rousing battle. Fischer sprang a surprise Alekhine Defense, rapidly seizing the initiative and snatching a pawn. Since Spassky did not like the looks of the position he would be forced into if he played to retake the pawn, he sacrificed it permanently going all out for a Kingside attack. An inaccuracy by Fischer fueled the onslaught to alarming proportions but at the crucial point the champion vacillated, drifting into a pawn-down endgame.

That might, perhaps, have been the end of the story, except that Bobby took matters too lightly and blew the win a few moves before adjournment. When the game was resumed he put an incredible effort into the endgame, sacrificing a Bishop, allowing his Rook to be imprisoned and, in effect, going for a win with King and five pawns against King and Rook. Spassky's draw was there but he was worn down after so many hours of play—he blundered' at the 69th move and lost.

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 – to get you started translations are provided for the first ten moves. I urge you to replay the entire game carefully – maximize the board, start an engine and enjoy the moves. And learn from them. I certainly did so myself, in the hours I spent transcribing Byrne's wonderfully lucid annotations.

[Event "Reykjavik World Championship (13)"] [Site "Reykjavik"] [Date "1972.08.10"] [Round "13"] [White "Spassky, Boris Vasilievich"] [Black "Fischer, Robert James"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B04"] [WhiteElo "2660"] [BlackElo "2785"] [Annotator "Byrne,Robert"] [PlyCount "152"] [EventDate "1972.07.11"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "21"] [EventCountry "ISL"] [SourceTitle "MainBase"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. e4 Nf6 {Because of the bomb-out of his favorite "poisoned pawn" Najdorf Sicilian in game 11, Fischer had had to go to one of his rare second string defenses.} 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 {This quiet line has been one of the most popular in the last few years...} 4. Nf3 ({... but the sharp} 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 { may be necessary if White wishes to get the advantage against Alekhine's Defense.}) 4... g6 {A comparatively new idea, this may be a more promising way to put the White center under pressure than the older ...B-N5 [...Bg4].} 5. Bc4 Nb6 {5...P-QB3 [5...c6] is solid and defensive, but the text move, more ambitious in keeping the QBP [c-pawn] free for a later break by ...P-QB4 [... c5], allows Black to play aggressively.} 6. Bb3 Bg7 7. Nbd2 ({The sharper} 7. Ng5 {comes into question, for} O-O {is answered by} ({However} 7... d5 8. f4 e6 9. Nf3 O-O {seems quite playable.}) 8. e6 {with advantage to White.}) 7... O-O 8. h3 $6 {The reason for this time-wasting, superfluous precaution is not clear. Is ...B-N5 [...Bg4] and ...BxN [...Bxf3] really something to worry about?} a5 9. a4 $6 {Spassky should have realized that he was getting outplayed in this opening and made an attempt to hang tight by 9 P-B3 [9.c3].} dxe5 10. dxe5 Na6 11. O-O Nc5 {The Black pieces now have excellent mobility while White has weak pawns at K5 and QR4, which constantly need tending.} 12. Qe2 Qe8 {Only a dozen moves have been played and Bobby is already winning a pawn in broad daylight.} 13. Ne4 (13. Qb5 Qxb5 14. axb5 Bf5 $1 {sets up the winning ...P-R5 [...a4].}) 13... Nbxa4 14. Bxa4 Nxa4 15. Re1 {Boris banks all on the chance for a Kingside attack.} (15. Qc4 {would regain the pawn, but after} Bd7 16. Qxc7 Qc8 17. Qxc8 Rfxc8 {Black has convincing positional superiority.}) 15... Nb6 16. Bd2 a4 17. Bg5 h6 18. Bh4 Bf5 $6 {Why give White a tempo for the attack?} ({The immediate} 18... Be6 {was correct,}) ({while} 18... Ra5 $5 {may be strong too.}) 19. g4 Be6 (19... Bxe4 {has been widely recommended, but} 20. Qxe4 Rb8 21. Qb4 $1 g5 22. Bg3 e6 23. h4 {still gives White attacking opportunities against the weakened Kingside.}) 20. Nd4 Bc4 21. Qd2 Qd7 ({Whether} 21... Bxe5 {is a better defense is a question.} 22. Qxh6 Bg7 (22... Bxd4 {is impossible because of} 23. Ng5 {and mate}) 23. Qd2 Qd8 24. c3 f6 25. f4 {seems also to leave White some attacking chances.}) 22. Rad1 Rfe8 23. f4 {Spassky's attack, although without a specific target as yet, is building to menacing proportions.} Bd5 24. Nc5 Qc8 {[#]} 25. Qc3 $2 {If there is no better than this, White's attack is a total failure.} ({The main question is why Spassky declined to play} 25. e6 {If} Nc4 26. Qe2 $1 Nxb2 27. Nf5 $3 Nxd1 ({However, the draw can still be saved by} 27... Bc4 $1 28. exf7+ Kxf7 29. Qxe7+ $1 Rxe7 30. Rxe7+ Kf8 31. Nd7+ $1 Qxd7 (31... Kg8 $4 32. Rxg7+ Kh8 33. Bf6 gxf5 34. Ne5 $1 Qe8 35. Rdd7 {and mate cannot be stopped.}) 32. Rdxd7 Bc3 $3 33. Nxh6 a3 34. Rf7+ Bxf7 35. Rxf7+ Ke8 36. Re7+ Kf8 {etc.}) 28. Nxg7 Kxg7 29. Qe5+ f6 30. Qxd5 Nb2 31. g5 $1 {White has a terrific onslaught.}) 25... e6 26. Kh2 Nd7 27. Nd3 (27. Nb5 {doesn't get anywhere either –} Nxc5 28. Qxc5 Ra5 29. c4 Bc6 30. Qb4 b6 {keeps the pawn advantage.}) 27... c5 28. Nb5 Qc6 29. Nd6 ({Since} 29. Na3 b5 {drives White back further, the text move virtually forces a safe pawn-ahead endgame.}) 29... Qxd6 30. exd6 Bxc3 31. bxc3 f6 32. g5 hxg5 $6 ({Instead of allowing a long fight with Bishops of opposite colors, Smyslov recommended} 32... c4 33. Nb4 hxg5 34. fxg5 f5 {as the easiest way to win. It looks awfully good, because winning the pawn back by} 35. Nxd5 { would leave White with no means of coping with the passed RP. In the next stage of the game, Fischer once again takes things too easy, as he did in game 7, giving Spassky chances he should never have had.}) 33. fxg5 f5 34. Bg3 Kf7 35. Ne5+ Nxe5 36. Bxe5 b5 37. Rf1 $1 {Spassky reveals his counterplay, R-B4-R4-R7ch.} Rh8 $2 {Playing superficially, Bobby succeeds in making the ending very difficult, if not impossible. The point is that nothing compels White to take the Exchange, which would only permit Black to win the QP for an effortless finish.} ({The correct plan, as pointed out by Bill Lombardy, was} 37... Rg8 38. Rf4 Ke8 39. Rh4 Ra7 {and there is nothing to be done about ... R-KB2 followed by ...K-Q2-B3 and the march of the QRP.}) 38. Bf6 $1 {Now Black is nicely tied up and the win is gone.} a3 39. Rf4 a2 {[#]} 40. c4 $1 {It is necessary to use the Bishop to stop the passed pawn.} ({If} 40. d7 $2 a1=Q 41. Rxa1 Rxa1 42. Bxh8 Ke7 43. Rh4 (43. c4 Rh1+ 44. Kg3 Rg1+ 45. Kf2 Rg2+ 46. Ke1 bxc4 {gives White no chance of a defense.}) 43... Kxd7 44. Kg3 ({Not} 44. Rh6 $4 f4 {and mate.}) 44... Kd6 45. Rh6 Be4 {Black wins without trouble since} 46. Rxg6 $4 f4+ {grabs a Rook.}) ({If} 40. Ra1 $2 e5 $1 41. Bxe5 Rhe8 42. Bf6 Re2+ 43. Kg1 Ke6 {wins.}) 40... Bxc4 41. d7 Bd5 {[#]} 42. Kg3 $1 {Spassky took 25 minutes to come up with this accurate sealed move, which even threatens to win by 43 R-KR4.} Ra3+ $1 {Both players conspire to produce one of the most exciting endgames ever seen in a championship match.} 43. c3 ({Spassky cannot reply} 43. Kf2 {because} Raxh3 44. d8=Q Rxd8 45. Bxd8 e5 {traps the Rook and wins after} 46. Bf6 Ke6 47. Re1 a1=Q 48. Rxa1 exf4) ({And} 43. Rd3 {permits} a1=Q) 43... Rha8 ({Boris was all ready for} 43... a1=Q 44. Rxa1 Rxa1 45. Rh4 $3 Raa8 ({Taking two Rooks for the Queen doesn't help Fischer at all, since the only way to stave off the mating net his King finds itself in is the perpetual check:} 45... Rg1+ 46. Kf2 Rg2+ 47. Kf1 Rxh4 48. d8=Q Rf4+ 49. Ke1 Re4+ 50. Kf1 {etc.} ({Here} 50. Kd1 $4 Bb3+ {is mate in two.})) 46. Bxh8 Rd8 47. Bf6 Rxd7 48. Rh7+ Ke8 49. Rh8+ {with perpetual check.}) 44. Rh4 e5 $3 {Still not content with the draw, Fischer must give up a piece to escape the perpetual check and get his King into the game.} 45. Rh7+ Ke6 46. Re7+ Kd6 47. Rxe5 Rxc3+ $1 (47... a1=Q {loses to} 48. Rexd5+ Kc6 49. Rxa1 {coming out a piece ahead.}) 48. Kf2 ({Of course not} 48. Kh4 $4 Ra4+ {and mate in two.}) 48... Rc2+ 49. Ke1 Kxd7 50. Rexd5+ Kc6 51. Rd6+ Kb7 52. Rd7+ Ka6 53. R7d2 Rxd2 54. Kxd2 b4 55. h4 $1 {Passive defense against Fischer's connected passed pawns cannot succeed, but Spassky gets his own just in time.} Kb5 56. h5 c4 57. Ra1 {The only move} ( {because} 57. h6 c3+ 58. Kd3 a1=Q 59. Rxa1 Rxa1 60. h7 Rd1+ $1 61. Kc2 Rh1 62. h8=Q Rxh8 63. Bxh8 Kc4 {wins easily for Black.}) 57... gxh5 58. g6 h4 $1 59. g7 ({Fischer's point is that} 59. Bxh4 Rg8 {gives him a won ending.}) 59... h3 60. Be7 Rg8 {[#]} 61. Bf8 {Trapping Bobby's Rook is the only move to draw.} (61. Bf6 h2 62. Kc1 {[Probably Kc2 was meant: Byrne's "62 K-B1" allows 62...h1Q with mate to follow – ed.]} f4 63. Kb2 c3+ 64. Kxa2 Ra8+ 65. Kb3 Rxa1 66. g8=Q Rb1+ 67. Kc2 Rb2+ 68. Kd3 Rd2+ 69. Ke4 h1=Q+ {wins.}) 61... h2 62. Kc2 Kc6 63. Rd1 $1 {Just in time to stop Fischer's King from getting to the Kingside where it would guide a pawn in to cost Spassky's Rook.} b3+ 64. Kc3 $6 { This is sufficient to draw,} ({but the simplest was} 64. Kb2 h1=Q 65. Rxh1 Kd5 66. Rd1+ Ke4 67. Rc1 Kd3 68. Rd1+ Ke2 69. Rc1 f4 70. Rxc4 f3 71. Rc1 f2 72. Kxb3 f1=Q 73. Rxf1 Kxf1 74. Kxa2) 64... h1=Q $1 {There is one last chance to make things difficult for Boris and Fischer is going to try it! By deflecting the Rook, he hopes to cross over with his King to support the KBP.} 65. Rxh1 Kd5 66. Kb2 f4 67. Rd1+ (67. Rh8 {loses after} c3+ 68. Ka1 f3 69. Rxg8 f2 { mating.}) 67... Ke4 68. Rc1 Kd3 {[#]} 69. Rd1+ $4 {After all his brilliant defense, Boris throws the game away with this blunder!} ({The way to draw was} 69. Rc3+ Kd4 70. Rf3 c3+ 71. Ka1 (71. Rxc3 $3 a1=Q+ {wins the Rook.}) 71... c2 72. Rxf4+ $1 Kc3 73. Rf3+ $1 ({It should be noted that the exact order of moves is required. If, for example,} 73. Bb4+ Kd3 74. Ba3 Rxg7 75. Rf3+ Kc4 76. Rf4+ Kd5 77. Rf1 Rd7 $1 78. Bc1 Ke6 $3 79. Kb2 Rd1 {and when the Rook moves, there is nothing White can do about ...RxB.}) 73... Kd2 ({If Black plays} 73... Kc4 {then} 74. Rf1 {certifies the half point.}) 74. Ba3 {and every last pawn will be annihilated.}) 69... Ke2 70. Rc1 f3 71. Bc5 ({There is now no time for } 71. Rxc4 f2 72. Rc1 f1=Q 73. Rxf1 Kxf1 {and White cannot get the remaining Black pawns.}) 71... Rxg7 72. Rxc4 Rd7 $1 {This most exact move of Bobby's threatens R-Q8 as well as R-Q7ch.} 73. Re4+ Kf1 74. Bd4 f2 {White resigned.} ( 74... f2) 75. Rf4 {is met by} Rxd4 76. Rxd4 Ke2 {while a Bishop move allows ... R-Q8.} 0-1

On August 11th 1972, exactly 45 years ago, the 13th game adjournament session ended and Fischer had restored his three-point lead.

Move times and adjournments

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

Game 13, August 10-11, 1972

Spassky Fischer
White Black
(ar) (-0:02) (ar) (0:06)
1. e4 (0:00) Nf6 (0:07)
(Spassky left when he made his move and returned 2 minutes after Fischer made his move)
2. e5 (0:02) Nd5 (0:07)
3. d4 (0:02) d6 (0:07)
4. Nf3 (0:03) g6 (0:08)
5. Bc4 (0:05) Nb6 (0:08)
6. Bb3 (0:06) Bg7 (0:08)
7. Nbd2 (0:23) 0-0 (0:14)
8. h3 (0:25) a5 (0:22)
9. a4 (0:33) dxe5 (0:25)
10. dxe5 (0:33) Na6 (0:26)
11. 0-0 (0:47) Nc5 (0:35)
12. Qe2 (0:50) Qe8 (0:51)
13. Ne4 (0:58) Nbxa4 (0:54)
14. Bxa4 (1:04) Nxa4 (0:56)
15. Re1 (1:08) Nb6 (0:58)
16. Bd2 (1:12) a4 (0:59)
17. Bg5 (1:14) h6 (1:06)
18. Bh4 (1:26) Bf5 (1:16)
19. g4 (1:29) Be6 (1:16)
20. Nd4 (1:31) Bc4 (1:17)
21. Qd2 (1:35) Qd7 (1:19)
22. Rad1 (1:37) Rfe8 (1:23)
23. f4 (1:38) Bd5 (1:30)
24. Nc5 (1:40) Qc8 (1:31)
25. Qc3 (1:51) e6 (1:38)
26. Kh2 (1:57) Nd7 (1:40)
27. Nd3 (2:00) c5 (1:41)
28. Nb5 (2:00) Qc6 (1:42)
29. Nd6 (2:04) Qxd6
30. exd6 Bxc3 (1:42)
31. bxc3 (2:04) f6 (1:46)
32. g5 (2:05) hxg5 (1:47)
33. fxg5 (2:05) f5 (1:47)
34. Bg3 (2:06) Kf7 (1:50)
35. Ne5+ (2:07) Nxe5 (1:50)
36. Bxe5 (2:07) b5 (1:56)
37. Rf1 (2:08) Rh8 (2:02)
38. Bf6 (2:12) a3 (2:04)
39. Rf4 (2:22) a2 (2:08)
40. c4 (2:27) Bxc4 (2:09)
41. d7 (2:36) Bd5 (2:16)
42. Kg3(s) (3:08)

 

 
 
(Fischer was 25 minutes late for the second session. This was a 4 hour Friday adjournment session which started at 2:30 PM. The next two time controls were at move 56 with 3:30 and move 72 with 4:30)
(ar) (2:41)
42. ... Ra3+ (2:42)
43. c3 (3:08) Rha8 (2:42)
44. Rh4 (3:10) e5 (2:42)
45. Rh7+ (3:11) Ke6 (2:42)
46. Re7+ Kd6
47. Rxe5 (3:12) Rxc3+
48. Kf2 (3:13) Rc2+
49. Ke1 (3:13) Kxd7
50. Rexd5+ (3:14) Kc6
51. Rd6+ (3:16) Kb7 (2:43)
52. Rd7+ (3:20) Ka6 (2:44)
53. R7d2 (3:23) Rxd2
54. Kxd2 (3:25) b4
55. h4 (3:26) Kb5
56. h5 (3:26) c4 (2:45)
57. Ra1 (3:37) gxh5 (2:48)
58. g6 (3:39) h4 (2:49)
59. g7 (3:50) h3 (2:50)
60. Be7 (4:08) Rg8 (3:11)
61. Bf8 (4:11) h2 (3:49)
62. Kc2 (4:11) Kc6 (3:51)
63. Rd1 (4:13) b3+ (3:57)
64. Kc3 (4:15) h1Q (4:02)
65. Rxh1 (4:15) Kd5 (4:02)
66. Kb2 (4:18) f4 (4:03)
67. Rd1+ (4:19) Ke4 (4:05)
68. Rc1 (4:23) Kd3 (4:06)
69. Rd1+ (4:26) Ke2 (4:07)
70. Rc1 (4:27) f3 (4:08)
71. Bc5 (4:27) Rxg7 (4:11)
72. Rxc4 (4:28) Rd7 (4:14)
73. Re4+ (4:45) Kf1 (4:15)
74. Bd4 (4:49) f2
0-1

(ar) indicates the player’s arrival.
(s) indicates a sealed move.

Although Fischer was 25 minutes late for the second session, he still had 45 extra minutes to use at the second time control on move 56. Fischer took 38 minutes for his 61st move, which was the longest of the match for him. And he had spent 21 minutes on the previous move that allowed his Rook to be imprisoned. He had played the first 18 moves of the adjournment quite rapidly, until Spassky’s 60. Be7.

The four-hour playing session had not been exhausted, since Spassky took 32 minutes for his sealed move in the first session, making that session 5 hours 24 minutes long. After he resigned, Spassky immediately analyzed the last few moves at the board, seeing that at move 69, he would have drawn with Rc3 instead of Rd1. He said something to Lothar Schmidt, but he was busy with the official paperwork. Fischer had already left.

This was one amazing game to watch. I could not believe it when Fischer’s Rook was incarcerated on g8 by Spassky’s Bishop and Pawn.


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.


Bobby Fischer in Iceland – 45 years ago (8)
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.

_REPLACE_BY_ADV_1



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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ketchuplover ketchuplover 8/27/2017 11:53
I wonder if Spassky considered 6.Bxf7 check Kxf7 7.Ng5 check
Queenslander Queenslander 8/16/2017 01:18
Hi Frederic (and KevinC), Sorry I didn't come back to this page again until now. My apologies for not being more tactful in my initial post. I certainly greatly appreciate all the time and effort you have put into this wonderful project. I can still remember back in 1972 playing over the moves as a nine year old. It was almost the only time I can remember when chess moves were in our local newspaper almost every day. I agree with PeterFrost that the extra insights that history has given us are fascinating. One conclusion that hadn't occurred to me before is that Spassky deserves a huge amount of credit for ensuring the match continued. He had multiple opportunities to walk away and keep his title but - fortunately for legions of fans - he had too much respect for our beloved game.
marc.steinhebel@yahoo.com marc.steinhebel@yahoo.com 8/15/2017 09:00
Notes to game 13:

At move 18, a possibility for Black not mentioned by the GM annotators I have seen is 18...g5 19. Bg3 Qc6. If 20. Nd4 Qc4 21. Qe3 (21. c3 Qe2 22. Re2 Nd5 looks -+) Nd5 looks really good for Black. If 20. c3 Qc4 21. Qd1 c5 or Bf5 looks good for Black.

In Byrne's analysis of 21...Be5 22. Qh6 Bg7 23. Qd2, better seems 23...Qd7 24. Rad1 (24. c3 Rfe8 looks good for Black) a3 looks good for Black.

At move 23 Houdini likes 23. b3 If 23...Ba6 24. e6 fe 25. Qc1 Qd5 26. Nf5! with advantage to White! Better are 23...ab or c5 with chances for both sides.

Move 25 was key moment in game. In Byrne's analysis of 25. e6 Nc4 26. Qe2 Nb2 27. Nf5 Nd1 28. Ng7 Kg7 29. Qe5 f6 30. Qd5 better seems 30...Nc3 31. Qc4 b6 (31...g5 32. fg hg 33. Bg5 fg 34. Qc3 or Re5 then Kh6 looks like dynamically equal) 32. Nd7 Nb5 33. Qb5 a3 34. Nf6 ef 35. Bf6 Kf6 36. Qe5 with a draw. In the line after 27... Bc4, Kasparov has shown that with 33. Re3 (instead of 33. Nh6) White gets the advantage. Also after 25. e6, Kasparov has pointed at the 25...a3 may be Black's best leading to an unclear position.

If 27. Nd7 Qd7 28. Qd3 b5 (instead of Kasparov's b6) is fine for Black.

Smyslov pointed out that 34...a3 35. Ne5 Ne5 36. Be5 Red8 37. Rf1 Ra4 gives Black excellent winning chances.

In the 37...Rg8 line, Kasparov pointed out that 39. c4 (instead of Rh4) is slightly better for White. It also seems that 38...Ra7 (instead of 38...Ke8) may be better for Black. Houdini seems to like 37...Red8 (not mentioned by any annotator I have seen) 38. Rf4 Ke8
39. Rh4 Kd7 40. Rh7 Kc6 41. Rc7 Kb6 42. Rg7 a3 or Rg8 with a wild position probably better for Black.

Kasparov has pointed out that 41...e5 leads to a win for Black.

I agree with @peterfrost, I've never seen most of the annotations by Byrne and some of the comments by Kavalek. This is a real treat.
peterfrost peterfrost 8/13/2017 06:57
This series is magnificent. Having read three books on the match, I had thought I knew all there was to know about the 'background' to it, but each article tells me something new...today it was 'I don't want to get your cold Bill'. It's almost as if we have been placed in a time machine and dropped into their very rooms to hear private conversations previously unreported on. Many thanks Frederic.
Frederic Frederic 8/12/2017 06:03
@Queenslander: I suppose I was using sarcasm -- a habit I adopted from early youth. But probably a general remark like "Some errors in notations for side lines of game 13" provoked it: what should I do, spend six more hours checking my PGN translation of the game to find the error you are complaining about? Also, as mentioned (and now supported by KevinC) I am interested in faithfully documenting what was published at the time. Full analysis is available in Mega -- and that is to be upgraded in the next edition by a very illustrious historian. But for you, after your elucidation, I have added an editorial note to the move 62.Kc1 in the PGN. BTW You can check the original Chess Life & Review scan of the variation here: http://en.chessbase.com/Portals/All/2017/_eng/ff/byrne13-m62.jpg.
KevinC KevinC 8/12/2017 03:44
Queenslander, the point of these articles, and I am loving them, is to give a feel for what was actually going on during the match. That includes the actual published analyses of the games as they were seen back then. If you want an in-depth computer analysis of the games, I am sure you can find that easily, or do it yourself. Or take up checkers.
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 8/12/2017 12:41
Computer computer computer
no brain no brain no brain
Well I take my pill that is using my brain
Yeah Im wrong well guess what I like it!
Queenslander Queenslander 8/12/2017 11:11
Frederic, if you are are being sarcastic or suggesting I must have used a computer to find obscure errors, no there's just some simple errors. I noticed two while playing through the game on the interactive board. The one I remember is the note to Whites' 61st move which gives 61.Bf6 h2 62.Kc1?? f4?? but of course 62...h1Q wins instantly.
turok turok 8/12/2017 08:22
What i really love about these way after analysis of these great games is the 2nd guessing with people especially nowadays with computers etc. The great part of the game of chess especially back before computers is it is the moves at the MOMENT! Meaning it is easy to say Fischer had a bad move to lose his win and then Spassky gave it back to him but that is easier said than done when you are in the battle and stressed under pressure. You see although it can be a sing or weakness of Fischer always trying to go for the W it also forced players to play to the final end and they knew when would a mistake be made and Babby would squash them. That is the presence of greatness by his play. His mere presence on that board caused people concerns because even when losing he may get you and even in draws it is ONLY a draw if you follow thru on the moves and Bobby made you prove it. All those who analyze even todays games are peoplke with computers in hand and not close to being a world champion yet criticism abounds. Great stuff.
Frederic Frederic 8/12/2017 07:38
You mean I should have _corrected_ Byrne, Queenslander? This is intended as a historical document. Byrne was using an early version of Komodo -- wait a minute, no engine at all. At the time computers had barely been invented! And he was working under pressure. I'm trying to document what went during the match. Incidentally can you imagine how Fischer would have felt if some spectator had said to him after the game: "Bobby, tower to H8 was stoopid, you could have won by moving that man to G8!"
Queenslander Queenslander 8/12/2017 03:27
Some errors in notations for side lines of game 13. Not hard to computer check before publishing?
Mr TambourineMan Mr TambourineMan 8/12/2017 12:49
In my opinion the game has everything except an FRC starting pos.
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