Endgame riddle: Fischer vs Spassky - Game 3

by Karsten Müller
1/25/2024 – Game 3 of the 1972 match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky has been analysed countless times. But there are still many open questions and new discoveries to be made. Karsten Müller invites you to help him solve the riddles emerging from this fascinating, historic encounter.

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Endlessly alluring

Boris SpasskyThe “Match of the Century” between World Champion Boris Spassky [pictured] and his challenger Bobby Fischer was due to start in the first days of July 1972 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Spassky, who had the backing of the mighty Soviet chess machine behind him (the title of World Chess Champion had been held by USSR citizens for twenty-four years), had arrived in the Icelandic capital well on time. But his opponent, the maverick US grandmaster Fischer, who was working essentially all on his own, sat in New York, unsatisfied with the conditions.

The Championship was to be a 24-game match in which the reigning champion had draw odds: if the match ended in a 12-12 tie, the title would remain with Spassky. Fischer’s Elo rating was 2785, 125 points higher than Spassky’s (2660). The prize fund was $125,000 – 5/8ths to the winner, 3/8ths to the loser.

After two traumatic games for Fischer at the outset, World Champion Spassky was leading 2-0 in the match. But then Fischer started to play and struck back: in the next eight games he scored 6½ points, chalking up a 6½-3½ lead. Games 8, 9 and 10 were quite spectacular.

Most chess enthusiasts know the outcome of the confrontation. In the end, Fischer became world champion after beating his Soviet rival by a 12½-8½ score.

Relive the match with a fantastic 14-part narration by Frederic Friedel: Part 1 ... Part 14

Fischer’s first win of the match

Charles Sullivan shared the following reflection about the third game of the game: “What do we remember about Fischer’s famous Game 3 win over Spassky in 1972? My memory is that Fischer made a bold foray (11...Nh5 and 14...Qh4), Spassky responded weakly, and Fischer pressed his advantage until he sealed ‘a crusher’ at move 41”.

Can you help us analyse the game in depth? Which mistakes did Fischer make, and how could Spassky have saved himself?

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.


Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.


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