Understanding before Moving 177: Chess history in a nutshell (58)

by ChessBase
5/12/2024 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books on chess training and strategy. In the 177th episode of his ChessBase show "Understanding before moving" Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell" and continues to take a look at the career and games of Bobby Fischer, World Champion from 1972 to 1975. | Photo: Pascal Simon

Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2 Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2

In this two-part course the emphasis will be on typical pawn-structures.


Bobby Fischer (3)

The World Championship Match in Reykjavik 1972 between reigning World Champion Boris Spassky and challenger Bobby Fischer earned its place in history as the "Match of the Century," largely due to the backdrop of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Could one American overturn the Soviet dominance that had lasted for decades (24 years to be exact) within chess? Especially considering Fischer's poor track record against Spassky, that prospect seemed improbable. Furthermore, Spassky had assembled an entire team of assistants in Reykjavik, including a cook, a doctor, a physiotherapist, a psychologist, and a fitness coach, along with skilled chess players as seconds (Efim Geller, Nikolai Krogius, and Iivo Nei). Such support was unprecedented at the time, and even in contemporary terms, it remains remarkable. It's difficult to fathom in today's context, but games were adjourned after 40 moves, allowing for analysis and resumption later. Fischer essentially operated alone!

Before the match commenced, Fischer exhibited recalcitrant behavior, making exorbitant demands that suggested he might never play. The prize money had to be significantly increased. Initially, the agreed-upon payout was $125,000 (with 5/8 going to the winner), a staggering sum for the time. However, Fischer failed to appear on the opening day; only when a British investor (Jim Slater) doubled the prize money did Fischer finally board a plane to Reykjavik. Max Euwe, the Dutchman then serving as FIDE president, granted Fischer an additional two days to appear at the board. Ultimately, the first game took place on July 11th!

In a crucial moment during the first game of the match, Fischer made a daring move in an equal endgame with bishops of the same color, capturing the so-called "poisoned pawn" on h2 with his bishop, which led to his bishop becoming trapped by g2-g3, costing him the piece and the game though subsequent analysis showed that Fischer could have saved a draw with best play.

He then did not show up for the second game and lost without play. Fischer's refusal to play was partly because new demands he had made were not met, such as his insistence that the cameras, which had been agreed upon by the sponsors, be removed. A phone call from the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, persuaded Fischer to return to the board for the third game, despite trailing 2-0. Playing with Black, Fischer employed the sharp Benoni defense, surprising Spassky with the novelty 11...Nh5, which eventually led to a victory for Fischer in grand style. Following a draw in the fourth game, Fischer went on to decisively win the fifth and sixth games, seizing the lead in the match. After eight games he had a clear lead and in the end he won 12½ - 9½. Fischer's solitary triumph against the formidable Soviet team stands as a remarkable achievement!

Among Fischer's notable victories was the sixth game, a strategic brilliancy where he outplayed Spassky with ingenious positional play. In the diagram position below, he came up with a remarkable concept that would later become common strategy among strong players. Can you find with which strong concept he led his opponent to the brink of destruction?

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.

This week’s show (for Premium Members only)


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