Herceg Novi 1970 and the Fischer Papers

by André Schulz
4/8/2020 – 50 years ago today, on April 8, 1970, Herceg Novi in Yugoslavia hosted a blitz tournament that might well be the best blitz tournament of all time. Twelve of the world's best players competed in a double round-robin. Bobby Fischer won with 19 out of 22. | Photo: Chess Life

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Fischer dominates

24 of the world's best players had come to Belgrade to take part in the "Match of the Century" (USSR vs Rest of the World) in 1970. Some stayed in Yugoslavia after the match was over and accepted an invitation to a blitz tournament in Herceg Novi.

The first official FIDE Blitz World Championship of FIDE was not held until 2006. Before that there had been a strong blitz  tournament with world championship character in 1988 in St. John which was won by Mikhail Tal. But due to the strength of the field the blitz tournament in Herceg Novi in 1970 also went down in history as a kind of unofficial early Blitz World Championship.

Each player had five minutes for the whole game, the usual time-limit for blitz before the introduction of electronic clocks.

In the absence of World Champion Boris Spassky, many experts considered Tigran Petrosian, Spassky's predecessor as favourite. Tal and Viktor Kortchnoi also enjoyed a reputation as powerful blitz-players. Bobby Fischer, at that time the number one in the world, was not known as a particularly strong blitz player – until then.

But Fischer won the tournament in impressive fashion. He scored 19/22, distancing runner-up Tal by 4.5 points. Fischer lost only one game, against Korchnoi, and quickly established a big time advantage in all of his games. According to contemporary reports, Fischer never used more than 2.5 minutes of his time in any game and outclassed the five Soviet grandmasters with 8.5-1.5. Fischer defeated Smyslov, Tal and Petrosian 2-0 each. For this dominating performance Fischer 400 USD as prize-money.

Hundreds of spectators had followed the tournament. In a room next door a football match between Yugoslavia and Austria was shown on television but attracted only ten spectators.

Final standings:

Rk Player Rtg Pts
1  Bobby Fischer (USA) 2720 19
2  Mikhail Tal (URS) 2590 14½
3  Viktor Kortschnoj (URS) 2670 14
4  Tigran Petrosian (URS) 2650 13½
5  David Bronstein (URS) 2570 13
6  Vlastimil Hort (CSR) 2610 12
7  Milan Matulović (YUG) 2560 10½
8  Vasily Smyslov (URS) 2620
9  Samuel Reshevsky (USA) 2590
10  Wolfgang Uhlmann (GDR) 2570 8
11  Borislav Ivkov (YUG) 2570
12  Predrag Ostojić (YUG) NR

Selected games


Today a large number of blitz games are automatically recorded, usually by DGT-boards or online. However, in 1970 blitz games usually did not survive. But some of the games in Herceg-Novi were recorded and Fischer even made handwritten notes of his games after the tournament, sometimes adding annotations.

The gallery (see above) shows more scans of the notes by Fischer.

Replay the game


Probably Fischer wrote down the games from memory after the tournament and annotated some of them afterwards. Later Fischer and the Yugoslavian journalist Bjelica published a book about the tournament that contains 60 selected games.

Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Bobby Fischer. On this DVD, a team of experts shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion.

Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenco delves into Fischer’s openings, and retraces the development of his repertoire. What variations did Fischer play, and what sources did he use to arm himself against the best Soviet players? Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s particular style and his special strategic talent in annotated games against Spassky, Taimanov and other greats. Karsten Müller is not just a leading international endgame expert, but also a true Fischer connoisseur.

Fischer's handwritten notes, 36 sheets, were in the possession of Slobodan Bodo Stojnic, the organizer of the Herceg Novi tournament, until 2012. He was good friends with many top players and they liked to visit him in his house in Sarajevo. Stojnic was director of the publishing house "Zavod za Izdavanje Udzbenika SR BiH", which provided the prize fund for the blitz tournament.

After Stojnic's death, Fischer's notes were auctioned off for USD 28,000.

In 2009 Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield had bought Bobby Fischer's chess library at an auction for 61,000 USD. The chess set with which Fischer and Spassky had played their World Champion match in Reykjavik 1972 had been sold for 76,000 USD in 2011.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

Auction of the Fischer Papers...

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


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