Returning to the 'scene of the crime'

by ChessBase
11/30/2004 – Twelve years ago Boris Spassky played a match against Bobby Fischer in Yugoslavia. That got Fischer into a lot of trouble, while for Spassky, a French citizen, there were no repercussions. Now the tenth world champion returned to Belgrade to open the Belgrade Chess Trophy. Quick interview...

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Spassky in Belgrade

By Josip Asik

Back to place of the crime! Twelve years ago, Belgrade and Sveti Stefan were places where the second match between Robert James Fisher and Boris Spassky were hosted. Bobby is now in jail for playing in that match, because at that time the former Yugoslavia was under United Nations sanctions. Spassky, the tenth World Champion, did not have problems with it.

10th world champion Boris Spassky and Nikolaj Ananijev arrive at Belgrade Airport. On the left is Dragan Kotevski, the Secretary of the Belgrade Chess Union.

Now he returned, together with Nikolaj Ananijev, the vice president of the Russian Chess Federation, to promote the “Belgrade Chess Trophy”, an open tournament that was held from November 22 to 30 in Obrenovac, near Belgrade.

A waitress at the airport recognises Spassky and asks him for his autograph

”Belgrade is a town of my youth, I played here in the famous match “USSR vs. the Rest of the World”, in the Candidates Match against Viktor Kortchnoi, and for the last time in my match with Fischer”, Spassky reminded us at Belgrade airport. We did a quick interview with the great man.

Spassky during the interview

Question: You sent an open letter to the President of USA, Mr. Bush, asking him to pardon Bobby Fisher. Also, you said that since you committed the same "crime" as Fisher you wanted to join him in a jail. What happened, and what do you think about Fisher’s funny reaction? He said that he doesn’t need you in jail with him, he would prefer to the company of some beautiful girl!

Boris Spassky: I didn’t have illusions that I would get the answer from Mr. Bush. What I wanted was to provoke reactions in the chess world. And I think my letter did it in some ways. Also, I knew that Bobby wouldn’t like my idea, because it is not in his nature to ask anyone to show mercy. So his reaction was to be expected. But I think that now things have become a little better, and there are chances for Bobby to stay in Japan, and not to be extradited to the US.

Question: When you look back and see the consequences of the second match against Fischer, do you think that maybe it was mistake to go through with it?

Spassky: Bobby Fisher came back to chess! It was a miracle! I could never have missed it. No way! I didn’t have any information at the time that the President of France, Mr. Mitterand, would have something against my participation. But even if he had objected I would not have been ready to give up of the match.

Spassky officially opened the tournament together with his close friend, best Serbian and Yugoslav player ever, grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric.

Gligoric, Spassky and Ananijev at the opening ceremony

Posing with young chess players from Serbia and Montenegro

Boris executes the first move on board one of the Open

Chess legends Gligoric and Spassky

Josip Asik is a FIDE Master and sports editor of Television Politika in Belgrade, as well as chess columnist of newspaper Vecernje Novosti. Pictures by courtesy of Vecernje Novosti.


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