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World Chess Championship 1972

Bobby Fischer in 1972 Boris Spassky

The World Chess Championship 1972 was a match between challenger Bobby Fischer of the United States and defending champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union for the World Chess Championship. The match took place in the Laugardalshöll arena in Reykjavík, Iceland and has been dubbed the Match of the Century. Fischer became the first American born in the United States to win the World Championship and the second American overall to win the title (Wilhelm Steinitz, the first world champion, became a naturalized American citizen in 1888). Fischer's win also ended, for a short time, 24 years of Soviet domination of the World Championship.

The first game started on July 11, 1972. The last game began on August 31 and was adjourned after 40 moves. Spassky resigned the next day without resuming play. Fischer won the match 12½-8½, becoming the eleventh undisputed World Champion.

Background

The match was played during the Cold War, but during a period of increasing détente. The Soviet Chess School had long held a monopoly on the game at the highest level. Spassky was the latest in an uninterrupted chain of Soviet world chess champions, stretching back to the 1948 championship.

Fischer, an eccentric 29-year-old American, was a vocal critic of the Soviet domination of chess, because he believed that Soviet players gained an unfair advantage by agreeing to short draws among themselves in tournaments. In August 1962 Sports Illustrated, and then in October the German magazine Der Spiegel, published a famous article by Fischer "The Russians Have Fixed World Chess" in which he expounded this view. Fischer himself rarely agreed to early draws in unclear positions.

The expectations on Spassky were enormous because for the Soviets, chess was part of the political system. While Fischer was often famously critical of his home country ("Americans want to plunk in front of a TV and don't want to open a book ..."), he too carried the burden of expectation because of the political significance of the match. No American had achieved the world championship since the first champion, Wilhelm Steinitz, became a naturalized American citizen in 1888. The excitement surrounding the match was such that it was called the "Match of the Century", even though the same term had been applied to the USSR vs. Rest of the World match just two years before.

Spassky, the champion, had lost the world championship match against Tigran Petrosian in 1966. In 1968, he won matches against Efim Geller, Bent Larsen, and Viktor Korchnoi to again win the right to challenge Petrosian for the title. This time Spassky triumphed, winning 12½-10½. He is often said to have (had) a "universal style", "involving an ability to play the most varied types of positions". However, Garry Kasparov notes that "from childhood he clearly had a leaning toward sharp, attacking play, and possessed a splendid feel for the initiative." Before the match, Fischer had played five games against Spassky, with two draws and Spassky winning three.

However, in the Candidates matches en route to becoming the challenger, Fischer had demolished world-class grandmasters Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen, each by a perfect score of 6-0, a feat no one else had ever accomplished in any Candidates match. After that, Fischer had split the first five games of his match against former World Champion Tigran Petrosian, then closed out the match by winning the last four games. "No bare statement conveys the magnitude and impact of these results. ... Fischer sowed devastation." From the last seven rounds of the Interzonal until the first game against Petrosian, Fischer won 20 consecutive games, nearly all of which were against top grandmasters.

Fischer also had a much higher Elo rating than Spassky. On the July 1972 FIDE rating list, Fischer's 2785 was a record 125 points ahead of the number two player - Spassky, whose rating was 2660. Fischer's recent results and record Elo rating made him the pre-match favorite. Other observers, however, noted that Fischer had never won a game against Spassky.

Spassky's seconds for the match were Efim Geller, Nikolai Krogius and Iivo Nei. Fischer's second was William Lombardy. His entourage also included lawyer Paul Marshall, who would play a significant role in the events surrounding the match, and USCF representative Fred Cramer. The match referee was Lothar Schmid.

For some time, it was doubtful that the match would be played at all. Shortly before the match, Fischer demanded that the players receive, in addition to the agreed-upon prize fund of $125,000 (5/8 to the winner, 3/8 to the loser) and 30% of the proceeds from television and film rights, 30% of the box-office receipts. He failed to arrive in Iceland for the opening ceremony on July 1. Fischer's behavior was seemingly full of contradictions, as it had been throughout his career. He finally flew to Iceland and agreed to play after a two-day postponement of the match by FIDE President Max Euwe, a surprise doubling of the prize fund by British investment banker Jim Slater, and much persuasion, including a phone call by Henry Kissinger to Fischer. Many commentators, particularly from the USSR, have suggested that all this (and his continuing demands and unreasonableness) was part of Fischer's plan to "psych out" Spassky. Fischer's supporters say that winning the World Championship was the mission of his life, that he simply wanted the setting to be perfect for it when he took the stage, and that his behavior was the same as it had always been.

World-class match play (i.e., a series of games between the same two opponents) often involves one or both players preparing one or two openings very deeply, and playing them repeatedly during the match. Preparation for such a match also involves analysis of those opening lines known to be played by the opponent. Fischer had been famous for his unusually narrow opening repertoire: for example, almost invariably playing 1.e4 as White, and almost always playing the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence as Black against 1.e4. He surprised Spassky by repeatedly switching openings, and by playing openings that he had never, or only rarely, played before (such as 1.c4 as White, and Alekhine's Defence, the Pirc Defence, and the Paulsen Sicilian as Black). Even in openings that Fischer had played before in the match, he continually deviated from the variations he had previously played, almost never repeating the same line twice in the match.

1970 Interzonal tournament

The Interzonal tournament was held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain in November and December 1970. The top six (in bold) qualified for the Candidates Tournament. Bobby Fischer was originally unqualified to play in this event, as he had not participated in the 1969 US Championship (Zonal). However, Benko (and the reserve Lombardy) gave up his spot, and FIDE President Max Euwe controversially allowed Fischer to participate instead. A large compensation (US$2000, or 50000 dollars today) was paid to Benko for this to occur.

1970 Interzonal Tournament
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Total Tie break
1 Bobby Fischer (United States) - 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 18½
2 Bent Larsen (Denmark) 1 - ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 15 167.50
3 Efim Geller (Soviet Union) 0 ½ - 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 15 167.00
4 Robert Hübner (West Germany) ½ ½ 0 - ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 15 155.25
5 Mark Taimanov (Soviet Union) 0 1 ½ ½ - ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 14 146.50
6 Wolfgang Uhlmann (East Germany) 0 0 0 0 ½ - 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 14 141.50
7 Lajos Portisch (Hungary) ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 - ½ 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 0 13½ 149.75
8 Vasily Smyslov (Soviet Union) 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ - 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 13½ 141.00
9 Lev Polugaevsky (Soviet Union) ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 - ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 13 146.75
10 Svetozar Gligorić (Yugoslavia) 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ - 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 13 135.50
11 Oscar Panno (Argentina) 0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 - ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 12½ 130.75
12 Henrique Mecking (Brazil) 0 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ - 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 12½ 130.00
13 Vlastimil Hort (Czechoslovakia) 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 - 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 11½
14 Borislav Ivkov (Yugoslavia) 0 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 - ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 10½
15 Duncan Suttles (Canada) 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ - 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 10 105.75
16 Dragoljub Minić (Yugoslavia) 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 - 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 10 96.00
17 Samuel Reshevsky (United States) 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 - ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1
18 Milan Matulović (Yugoslavia) ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ - ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 9 98.50
19 William Addison (United States) 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ - ½ 0 0 1 1 9 95.25
20 Miroslav Filip (Czechoslovakia) 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ - ½ 1 ½ 0 91.50
21 Renato Naranja (Philippines) ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 1 1 1 ½ - 0 0 1 88.75
22 Tudev Ujtumen (Mongolia) ½ ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 1 1 0 1 - 1 ½ 85.25
23 Jorge Rubinetti (Argentina) 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 0 - 1 6
24 Eleazar Jiménez (Cuba) ½ ½ ½ 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 0 -

Portisch and Smyslov contested a six-game playoff in Portorož, Yugoslavia in early 1971 for the reserve position for the Candidates Tournament. The match ended 3-3; Portisch was declared the winner because of a better tie-break score in the main tournament.

1971 Candidates Tournament

Petrosian as the loser of the last championship match and Korchnoi as runner-up of the previous Candidates final were seeded directly into the tournament and joined by the top six from the Interzonal.

  1st Round
Semifinals
Final
                           
  Vancouver, May 1971
    Bobby Fischer 6  
    Mark Taimanov 0     Denver, July 1971
      Bobby Fischer 6  
Las Palmas, May-June 1971     Bent Larsen 0  
    Bent Larsen
    Wolfgang Uhlmann     Buenos Aires, Sep-Oct 1971
      Bobby Fischer
  Moscow, May 1971       Tigran Petrosian
    Viktor Korchnoi  
    Efim Geller     Moscow, July 1971
      Viktor Korchnoi
Seville, May 1971     Tigran Petrosian  
    Tigran Petrosian 4
    Robert Hübner (forfeit) 3  

Fischer's victory earned him the right to challenge reigning champion Spassky for the title.

1972 World Championship match

Schedule and results

The match was played as the best of 24 games, with wins counting 1 point and draws counting ½ point, and would end when one of the players scored 12½ points. If the match ended in a 12-12 tie, the defending champion (Spassky) would retain the title. The first time control was 40 moves in 2½ hours. Three games per week were scheduled. Each player was entitled to three postponements for medical reasons during the match. Games were scheduled to start on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. If a game was adjourned, it was to be continued the next day. Saturday was a rest day.

Fischer insisted that a Staunton chess set from Jaques of London be used. The chessboard had to be remade at Fischer's request. The match was covered throughout the world. Fischer became a worldwide celebrity, described as the Einstein or Hitler of chess. His hotel received dozens of calls each day from women attracted to him, and Fischer enjoyed reading the numerous letters and telegrams that arrived with compliments or criticisms. Excitement grew as the match was postponed and people questioned whether Fischer would appear. Previously, he had come to the airport and, surrounded by reporters, left. The combination of "Will he play?" and "American versus Russian" created excitement throughout the world.

World Chess Championship Match 1972
Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Points
Boris Spassky (USSR) 2660 1 1 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0
Bobby Fischer (USA) 2785 0 0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 12½

Games

Game 1: Spassky 1 Fischer 0 (Nimzo-Indian)

The opening was a placid Nimzo-Indian Defence, and after 17...Ba4 the game was even (Filip). After a series of piece exchanges the position in the diagram was reached after 29.b5. It appeared to be a dead-drawn ending, and no one would have been remotely surprised if the players had agreed to a draw here.

Spassky-Fischer, game 1
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8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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Fischer played 29...Bxh2?

Remarkably, Fischer blundered with 29...Bxh2?, a move that few players above master level would have played in light of the obvious 30.g3 and the fact that the h-pawn cannot save the bishop, trapping the bishop. In exchange for the lost bishop, Black is only able to obtain two pawns (see chess piece relative value). According to Garry Kasparov, Fischer probably planned 30...h5 31.Ke2 h4 32.Kf3 h3 33.Kg4 Bg1, but overlooked that 34.Kxh3 Bxf2 35.Bd2 keeps the bishop trapped. Svetozar Gligorić reports that Fischer made the move very quickly and thinks that he simply overlooked the intermediate move 35.Bd2, which prevents the black bishop from escaping via the e1-square. Anatoly Karpov suggested that Spassky was afraid of Fischer and wanted to show that he could draw with the white pieces, while Fischer wanted to disprove that as the game headed for a stale draw. Owing to unusual features in the position, Fischer had good drawing chances despite having only two pawns for the bishop. However, the position became hopeless after he made at least one more bad move before the adjournment, which took place after move 40. Fischer could still have drawn the game with the correct 39th or 40th move. He resigned on move 56.

Spassky-Fischer, game 1; Nimzo-Indian Defence, Main Variation (ECO E56)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.e3 0-0 6.Bd3 c5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.a3 Ba5 9.Ne2 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Bb6 11.dxc5 Qxd1 12.Rxd1 Bxc5 13.b4 Be7 14.Bb2 Bd7 15.Rac1 Rfd8 16.Ned4 Nxd4 17.Nxd4 Ba4 18.Bb3 Bxb3 19.Nxb3 Rxd1+ 20.Rxd1 Rc8 21.Kf1 Kf8 22.Ke2 Ne4 23.Rc1 Rxc1 24.Bxc1 f6 25.Na5 Nd6 26.Kd3 Bd8 27.Nc4 Bc7 28.Nxd6 Bxd6 29.b5 (diagram) Bxh2 30.g3 h5 31.Ke2 h4 32.Kf3 Ke7 33.Kg2 hxg3 34.fxg3 Bxg3 35.Kxg3 Kd6 36.a4 Kd5 37.Ba3 Ke4 38.Bc5 a6 39.b6 f5 40.Kh4 f4 41.exf4 Kxf4 42.Kh5 Kf5 43.Be3 Ke4 44.Bf2 Kf5 45.Bh4 e5 46.Bg5 e4 47.Be3 Kf6 48.Kg4 Ke5 49.Kg5 Kd5 50.Kf5 a5 51.Bf2 g5 52.Kxg5 Kc4 53.Kf5 Kb4 54.Kxe4 Kxa4 55.Kd5 Kb5 56.Kd6 1-0

Game 2: Fischer forfeits

Following his loss Fischer made further demands on the organizers, including that all cameras be removed. When they were not, he refused to appear for game 2, giving a default win to Spassky. His appeal was rejected. Karpov speculates that this forfeited game was actually a masterstroke on Fischer's part, a move designed specifically to upset Spassky's equanimity.

With the score now 2-0 in favor of Spassky, many observers believed that the match was over and Fischer would leave Iceland, and, indeed, Fischer looked to board the next plane out of Iceland, only to be dissuaded by his second, William Lombardy. His decision to stay in the match was attributed by some to another phone call from Kissinger and a deluge of cablegrams to Fischer. Spassky, owing to his sporting spirit and respect and sympathy for Fischer, agreed to play the third game in a small room backstage, out of sight of the spectators. According to Pal Benko and Burt Hochberg, this concession was a psychological mistake by Spassky.

Spassky-Fischer, game 3
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
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Fischer played 11...Nh5!?

Game 3: Spassky 0 Fischer 1 (Modern Benoni)

This game proved to be the turning point of the match. After 11.Qc2 (diagram), Fischer demonstrated his acute intuitive feel for the position with 11...Nh5!? - a seemingly antipositional move allowing White to shatter Black's kingside pawn structure, but Fischer's assessment that his kingside attack created significant counterplay proved correct. Surprised by Fischer's novelty, Spassky did not react in the best way. Instead of 15.Bd2, 15.Ne2!? was possible (Zaitsev), or 15.f3 to prevent ...Ng4. In particular, Spassky's 18th move, weakening the light squares, was a mistake. The game was adjourned, and Spassky resigned the next day upon seeing that Fischer had sealed the best move, 41...Bd3+! The win was Fischer's first victory over Spassky in Fischer's chess career.

Spassky-Fischer, game 3; Modern Benoni Defence, Classical Main Line (ECO A77)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.Nd2 Nbd7 8.e4 Bg7 9.Be2 0-0 10.0-0 Re8 11.Qc2 (diagram) Nh5 12.Bxh5 gxh5 13.Nc4 Ne5 14.Ne3 Qh4 15.Bd2 Ng4 16.Nxg4 hxg4 17.Bf4 Qf6 18.g3 Bd7 19.a4 b6 20.Rfe1 a6 21.Re2 b5 22.Rae1 Qg6 23.b3 Re7 24.Qd3 Rb8 25.axb5 axb5 26.b4 c4 27.Qd2 Rbe8 28.Re3 h5 29.R3e2 Kh7 30.Re3 Kg8 31.R3e2 Bxc3 32.Qxc3 Rxe4 33.Rxe4 Rxe4 34.Rxe4 Qxe4 35.Bh6 Qg6 36.Bc1 Qb1 37.Kf1 Bf5 38.Ke2 Qe4+ 39.Qe3 Qc2+ 40.Qd2 Qb3 41.Qd4 Bd3+ 0-1

Fischer-Spassky, game 4
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8
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
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Position after 29.Nd4

Game 4: Fischer ½ Spassky ½ (Sicilian Sozin)

Fischer as White played the Sozin Attack against Spassky's Sicilian Defence. Spassky sacrificed a pawn, and after 17...Bxc5+ had a slight advantage (Nunn). Spassky developed a strong kingside attack, but failed to convert it into a win, the game ending in a draw.

Fischer-Spassky, game 4; Sicilian Defence, Sozin Attack (ECO B88)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.0-0 a6 10.f4 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5 12.a3 Bb7 13.Qd3 a5 14.e5 dxe5 15.fxe5 Nd7 16.Nxb5 Nc5 17.Bxc5 Bxc5+ 18.Kh1 Qg5 19.Qe2 Rad8 20.Rad1 Rxd1 21.Rxd1 h5 22.Nd6 Ba8 23.Bc4 h4 24.h3 Be3 25.Qg4 Qxe5 26.Qxh4 g5 27.Qg4 Bc5 28.Nb5 Kg7 29.Nd4 (diagram) Rh8 30.Nf3 Bxf3 31.Qxf3 Bd6 32.Qc3 Qxc3 33.bxc3 Be5 34.Rd7 Kf6 35.Kg1 Bxc3 36.Be2 Be5 37.Kf1 Rc8 38.Bh5 Rc7 39.Rxc7 Bxc7 40.a4 Ke7 41.Ke2 f5 42.Kd3 Be5 43.c4 Kd6 44.Bf7 Bg3 45.c5+ ½-½

Spassky-Fischer, game 5
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Spassky played 27.Qc2??

Game 5: Spassky 0 Fischer 1 (Nimzo-Indian)

Another Nimzo-Indian, this time the Hübner Variation: 4.Nf3 c5 5.e3 Nc6 6.Bd3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6. Fischer rebuffed Spassky's attempt to attack; after 15...0-0 the game was even (Adorján). Fischer obtained a blocked position where Spassky was saddled with weak pawns and his bishop pair had no prospects. After 26 moves, Spassky faced the position in the diagram, in which he blundered with 27.Qc2??, and resigned after Fischer's 27...Bxa4! After 28.Qxa4 Qxe4, Black's dual threats of 29...Qxg2# and 29...Qxe1# would decide; alternatively, 28.Qd2 (or 28.Qb1) Bxd1 29.Qxd1 Qxe4 30.Qd2 a4 wins.

Spassky-Fischer, game 5; Nimzo-Indian Defence, Hübner Variation (ECO E41)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 c5 5.e3 Nc6 6.Bd3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6 8.e4 e5 9.d5 Ne7 10.Nh4 h6 11.f4 Ng6 12.Nxg6 fxg6 13.fxe5 dxe5 14.Be3 b6 15.0-0 0-0 16.a4 a5 17.Rb1 Bd7 18.Rb2 Rb8 19.Rbf2 Qe7 20.Bc2 g5 21.Bd2 Qe8 22.Be1 Qg6 23.Qd3 Nh5 24.Rxf8+ Rxf8 25.Rxf8+ Kxf8 26.Bd1 Nf4 (diagram) 27.Qc2 Bxa4 0-1

Thus Fischer had drawn level (the score was now 2½-2½), although FIDE rules stipulated that the champion retained the title if after 24 games the match ended in a tie.

After game 5, Fischer hinted to Lombardy about a surprise he had in store for game 6.

Game 6: Fischer 1 Spassky 0 (QGD Tartakower)

Fischer-Spassky, game 6
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Position after 20.e4!

Before the match began, the Soviet team that had been training Spassky debated about whether Fischer might play an opening move different from his usual 1.e4. "But when the question was raised as to whether 1 d4 or 1 c4 could be expected of Fischer, Spassky replied: 'Let's not bother with such nonsense - I'll play the [Tartakower] Defence. What can he achieve?...'"

Fischer played 1.c4 (instead of 1.e4) for only the third time in a serious game. With 3.d4 the game transposed to the Queen's Gambit, surprising many who had never seen Fischer play the White side of that opening. In fact, he had previously openly condemned it.

Spassky played Tartakower's Defense (7...b6), his favorite choice in many tournaments and a line with which he had never lost. After 14.Bb5!? (introduced in Furman-Geller, Moscow 1970), Spassky responded with 14...a6?!. Geller had previously shown Spassky 14...Qb7!, the move with which he later beat Jan Timman at Hilversum 1973, but Spassky apparently forgot about it. After 21.f4 Fischer had the upper hand (Hort). After 26.f5, White had a crushing attack.

Fischer-Spassky, game 6; Queen's Gambit Declined, Tartakower Defense (ECO D59)
1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 0-0 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 b6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Rc1 Be6 12.Qa4 c5 13.Qa3 Rc8 14.Bb5 a6 15.dxc5 bxc5 16.0-0 Ra7 17.Be2 Nd7 18.Nd4 Qf8 19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.e4 (diagram) d4 21.f4 Qe7 22.e5 Rb8 23.Bc4 Kh8 24.Qh3 Nf8 25.b3 a5 26.f5 exf5 27.Rxf5 Nh7 28.Rcf1 Qd8 29.Qg3 Re7 30.h4 Rbb7 31.e6 Rbc7 32.Qe5 Qe8 33.a4 Qd8 34.R1f2 Qe8 35.R2f3 Qd8 36.Bd3 Qe8 37.Qe4 Nf6 38.Rxf6 gxf6 39.Rxf6 Kg8 40.Bc4 Kh8 41.Qf4 1-0

After this game, Spassky joined the audience in applauding Fischer's win. This astounded Fischer, who called his opponent "a true sportsman".

"Lombardy was ecstatic: '"Bobby has played a steady, fluent game, and just watched Spassky make horrendous moves. Spassky has not met a player of Bobby's genius and caliber before, who fights for every piece on the board; he doesn't give in and agree to draws like the Russian grandmasters. This is a shock to Spassky'".

According to C.H.O'D. Alexander:

This game was notable for two things. First, Fischer played the Queen's Gambit for the first time in his life in a serious game; second, he played it to perfection, the game indeed casting doubt on Black's whole opening system.

The win gave Fischer the lead (3½-2½) for the first time in the match.

Spassky-Fischer, game 7
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8
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6 6
5 5
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2 2
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Final position after 49.Kg1

Game 7: Spassky ½ Fischer ½ (Sicilian Najdorf)

Spassky played 1.e4 for the first time in the match. Fischer defended aggressively with his favorite Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Najdorf Sicilian, and after 17...Nc6 had the upper hand (Gipslis). He consolidated his extra pawn and reached a winning endgame, but then played carelessly, allowing Spassky to salvage a draw. In the final position, Fischer had two extra pawns but had to execute a draw by perpetual check in order to escape being checkmated by Spassky's two rooks and knight.

Spassky-Fischer, game 7; Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation, Poisoned Pawn Variation (ECO B97)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Nb3 Qa3 10.Bd3 Be7 11.0-0 h6 12.Bh4 Nxe4 13.Nxe4 Bxh4 14.f5 exf5 15.Bb5+ axb5 16.Nxd6+ Kf8 17.Nxc8 Nc6 18.Nd6 Rd8 19.Nxb5 Qe7 20.Qf4 g6 21.a4 Bg5 22.Qc4 Be3+ 23.Kh1 f4 24.g3 g5 25.Rae1 Qb4 26.Qxb4+ Nxb4 27.Re2 Kg7 28.Na5 b6 29.Nc4 Nd5 30.Ncd6 Bc5 31.Nb7 Rc8 32.c4 Ne3 33.Rf3 Nxc4 34.gxf4 g4 35.Rd3 h5 36.h3 Na5 37.N7d6 Bxd6 38.Nxd6 Rc1+ 39.Kg2 Nc4 40.Ne8+ Kg6 41.h4 f6 42.Re6 Rc2+ 43.Kg1 Kf5 44.Ng7+ Kxf4 45.Rd4+ Kg3 46.Nf5+ Kf3 47.Ree4 Rc1+ 48.Kh2 Rc2+ 49.Kg1 ½-½

Fischer-Spassky, game 8
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8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Spassky played 19...Nd7??

Game 8: Fischer 1 Spassky 0 (English Symmetrical)

Fischer again played 1.c4; the game remained an English Opening rather than transposing to another opening as in game 6. After 14...a6 the game was even. Spassky gave up an exchange with 15...b5? for little compensation in the way of a positional advantage, and it is unclear whether it was a sacrifice or a blunder. Fischer won, putting him ahead 5-3.

Fischer-Spassky, game 8; English Opening, Symmetrical Defense (ECO A39)
1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0-0 0-0 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 d6 10.Bg5 Be6 11.Qf4 Qa5 12.Rac1 Rab8 13.b3 Rfc8 14.Qd2 a6 15.Be3 b5 16.Ba7 bxc4 17.Bxb8 Rxb8 18.bxc4 Bxc4 19.Rfd1 (diagram) Nd7 20.Nd5 Qxd2 21.Nxe7+ Kf8 22.Rxd2 Kxe7 23.Rxc4 Rb1+ 24.Bf1 Nc5 25.Kg2 a5 26.e4 Ba1 27.f4 f6 28.Re2 Ke6 29.Rec2 Bb2 30.Be2 h5 31.Rd2 Ba3 32.f5+ gxf5 33.exf5+ Ke5 34.Rcd4 Kxf5 35.Rd5+ Ke6 36.Rxd6+ Ke7 37.Rc6 1-0

Spassky-Fischer, game 9
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Fischer's new move 9...b5!

Game 9: Spassky ½ Fischer ½ (QGD Semi-Tarrasch)

The game was delayed when Spassky took time off (pleading illness). The opening was the Semi-Tarrasch Defense of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Fischer played a theoretical novelty on the ninth move. After 13...0-0 the game was even (Parma), and the game ended in a quiet draw after just 29 moves.

Spassky-Fischer, game 9; Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch Defense (ECO D41)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nc6 9.Bc4 b5 (diagram) 10.Bd3 Bb4+ 11.Bd2 Bxd2+ 12.Qxd2 a6 13.a4 0-0 14.Qc3 Bb7 15.axb5 axb5 16.0-0 Qb6 17.Rab1 b4 18.Qd2 Nxd4 19.Nxd4 Qxd4 20.Rxb4 Qd7 21.Qe3 Rfd8 22.Rfb1 Qxd3 23.Qxd3 Rxd3 24.Rxb7 g5 25.Rb8+ Rxb8 26.Rxb8+ Kg7 27.f3 Rd2 28.h4 h6 29.hxg5 ½-½

Fischer-Spassky, game 10
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 25...Qxa5?! 26.Bb3!

Game 10: Fischer 1 Spassky 0 (Ruy Lopez Breyer)

Fischer played the Ruy Lopez, an opening on which he was a great expert. After 25...Qxa5?! (25...axb5!? 26.Rxb5 Ba6 gives Spassky a better chance; Gligorić), Fischer obtained the upper hand by initiating a dangerous attack on Spassky's king with 26.Bb3! (Matanović), suddenly placing Black in a critical situation. Spassky sacrificed the exchange for a pawn, reaching a sharp endgame where his two connected passed pawns gave almost sufficient compensation for Fischer's small material advantage. Spassky had drawing chances, but played inexactly, and Fischer won the game with precise play.

Fischer-Spassky, game 10; Ruy Lopez, Breyer Variation (ECO C95)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.b4 Bf8 14.a4 Nb6 15.a5 Nbd7 16.Bb2 Qb8 17.Rb1 c5 18.bxc5 dxc5 19.dxe5 Nxe5 20.Nxe5 Qxe5 21.c4 Qf4 22.Bxf6 Qxf6 23.cxb5 Red8 24.Qc1 Qc3 25.Nf3 Qxa5 26.Bb3 (diagram) axb5 27.Qf4 Rd7 28.Ne5 Qc7 29.Rbd1 Re7 30.Bxf7+ Rxf7 31.Qxf7+ Qxf7 32.Nxf7 Bxe4 33.Rxe4 Kxf7 34.Rd7+ Kf6 35.Rb7 Ra1+ 36.Kh2 Bd6+ 37.g3 b4 38.Kg2 h5 39.Rb6 Rd1 40.Kf3 Kf7 41.Ke2 Rd5 42.f4 g6 43.g4 hxg4 44.hxg4 g5 45.f5 Be5 46.Rb5 Kf6 47.Rexb4 Bd4 48.Rb6+ Ke5 49.Kf3 Rd8 50.Rb8 Rd7 51.R4b7 Rd6 52.Rb6 Rd7 53.Rg6 Kd5 54.Rxg5 Be5 55.f6 Kd4 56.Rb1 1-0

Spassky-Fischer, game 11
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Spassky played the extraordinary 14.Nb1!?

Game 11: Spassky 1 Fischer 0 (Sicilian Najdorf)

This game was a dramatic win for Spassky, his first since games 1 and 2. As in game 7, Fischer essayed his favorite Poisoned Pawn Variation; Spassky surprised him with the startling 14.Nb1 (given !! by many annotators at the time), retreating the knight to its starting position. Although later analysis showed that the move was only sufficient for equality if Black responded correctly, Fischer did not. If 15...Ne7!? by Black then 16.N1d2!? and the game is unclear (Gipslis). After inferior defense by Fischer, Spassky trapped Fischer's queen and handed him his only defeat ever as Black in the Poisoned Pawn.

Spassky-Fischer, game 11; Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation, Poisoned Pawn Variation (ECO B97)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Nb3 Qa3 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Be2 h5 12.0-0 Nc6 13.Kh1 Bd7 (diagram) 14.Nb1 Qb4 15.Qe3 d5 16.exd5 Ne7 17.c4 Nf5 18.Qd3 h4 19.Bg4 Nd6 20.N1d2 f5 21.a3 Qb6 22.c5 Qb5 23.Qc3 fxg4 24.a4 h3 25.axb5 hxg2+ 26.Kxg2 Rh3 27.Qf6 Nf5 28.c6 Bc8 29.dxe6 fxe6 30.Rfe1 Be7 31.Rxe6 1-0

Fischer-Spassky, game 12
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 19.Be4! Qb8!

Game 12: Fischer ½ Spassky ½ (QGD Orthodox)

A quiet Queen's Gambit Declined. After 19.Be4!, Fischer had a slight advantage (Yudovich), and after 24...a5 the game was even (Polugaevsky). The game ended in an opposite-colored bishops endgame draw after 55 moves.

Fischer-Spassky, game 12; Queen's Gambit Declined, Orthodox Defence (ECO D66)
1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 Nbd7 8.Rc1 c6 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 b5 11.Bd3 a6 12.a4 bxa4 13.Nxa4 Qa5 14.Nd2 Bb4 15.Nc3 c5 16.Nb3 Qd8 17.0-0 cxd4 18.Nxd4 Bb7 19.Be4 Qb8 (diagram) 20.Bg3 Qa7 21.Nc6 Bxc6 22.Bxc6 Rac8 23.Na4 Rfd8 24.Bf3 a5 25.Rc6 Rxc6 26.Bxc6 Rc8 27.Bf3 Qa6 28.h3 Qb5 29.Be2 Qc6 30.Bf3 Qb5 31.b3 Be7 32.Be2 Qb4 33.Ba6 Rc6 34.Bd3 Nc5 35.Qf3 Rc8 36.Nxc5 Bxc5 37.Rc1 Rd8 38.Bc4 Qd2 39.Rf1 Bb4 40.Bc7 Rd7 41.Qc6 Qc2 42.Be5 Rd2 43.Qa8+ Kh7 44.Bxf6 gxf6 45.Qf3 f5 46.g4 Qe4 47.Kg2 Kg6 48.Rc1 Ba3 49.Ra1 Bb4 50.Rc1 Be7 51.gxf5+ exf5 52.Re1 Rxf2+ 53.Kxf2 Bh4+ 54.Ke2 Qxf3+ 55.Kxf3 Bxe1 ½-½

Game 13: Spassky 0 Fischer 1 (Alekhine's Defence)

Fischer avoided the Sicilian Defence, with which he had lost game 11, instead preferring Alekhine's Defence. After 8...a5! 9.a4? (9.c3!? and Black is only slightly better; Gligorić) dxe5 10.dxe5 Na6! 11.0-0 Nc5, Fischer had the upper hand (Bagirov). The game swung one way, then another, and was finally adjourned at move 42 with Fischer having an edge in a sharp position but no clear win. The Soviet team's analysis convinced them that the position was drawn. Fischer stayed up until 8 a.m. the following morning analyzing it (the resumption being at 2:30 p.m.). He had not found a win either. Amazingly, he managed to set traps for Spassky, who fell into them and lost. Spassky's seconds were stunned, and Spassky himself refused to leave the board for a long time after the game was over, unable to believe the result. He remarked, "It is very strange. How can one lose with the opponent's only rook locked in completely at g8?"

Lombardy noted the shock that Spassky was in after he resigned:

While Fischer dashed for his car, Spassky remained glued to his seat. A sympathetic Lothar Schmid came over, and the two shifted the pieces about with Boris demonstrating his careless mistakes. The two were left wondering how Bobby could have squeezed a win from a position which a night of competent analysis by a renowned Soviet team had showed to be a guaranteed draw.

Spassky-Fischer, game 13
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 61.Bf8

Former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik said that this game made a particularly strong impression on him. He called it "the highest creative achievement of Fischer". He resolved a drawish opposite-colored bishops endgame by sacrificing his bishop and trapping his own rook. "Then five passed pawns struggled with the white rook. Nothing similar had been seen before in chess".

David Bronstein said "Of all the games from the match, the 13th appeals to me most of all. When I play through the game I still cannot grasp the innermost motive behind this or that plan or even individual move. Like an enigma, it still teases my imagination."

Spassky-Fischer, game 13; Alekhine's Defence, Modern Variation (ECO B04)
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 Bg7 7.Nbd2 0-0 8.h3 a5 9.a4 dxe5 10.dxe5 Na6 11.0-0 Nc5 12.Qe2 Qe8 13.Ne4 Nbxa4 14.Bxa4 Nxa4 15.Re1 Nb6 16.Bd2 a4 17.Bg5 h6 18.Bh4 Bf5 19.g4 Be6 20.Nd4 Bc4 21.Qd2 Qd7 22.Rad1 Rfe8 23.f4 Bd5 24.Nc5 Qc8 25.Qc3 e6 26.Kh2 Nd7 27.Nd3 c5 28.Nb5 Qc6 29.Nd6 Qxd6 30.exd6 Bxc3 31.bxc3 f6 32.g5 hxg5 33.fxg5 f5 34.Bg3 Kf7 35.Ne5+ Nxe5 36.Bxe5 b5 37.Rf1 Rh8 38.Bf6 a3 39.Rf4 a2 40.c4 Bxc4 41.d7 Bd5 42.Kg3 Ra3+ 43.c3 Rha8 44.Rh4 e5 45.Rh7+ Ke6 46.Re7+ Kd6 47.Rxe5 Rxc3+ 48.Kf2 Rc2+ 49.Ke1 Kxd7 50.Rexd5+ Kc6 51.Rd6+ Kb7 52.Rd7+ Ka6 53.R7d2 Rxd2 54.Kxd2 b4 55.h4 Kb5 56.h5 c4 57.Ra1 gxh5 58.g6 h4 59.g7 h3 60.Be7 Rg8 61.Bf8 (diagram) h2 62.Kc2 Kc6 63.Rd1 b3+ 64.Kc3 h1=Q 65.Rxh1 Kd5 66.Kb2 f4 67.Rd1+ Ke4 68.Rc1 Kd3 69.Rd1+ Ke2 70.Rc1 f3 71.Bc5 Rxg7 72.Rxc4 Rd7 73.Re4+ Kf1 74.Bd4 f2 0-1

When Spassky and Fischer shook hands, many in the audience thought that they had agreed to a draw, thinking that 75.Rf4 draws. But 75...Rxd4! 76.Rxd4 Ke2 wins; 75.Be5 Rd1 76.Kxb3 Re1 also wins for Black.

The next seven games (games 14 through 20) were drawn. Fischer was unable to get the initiative. Spassky was choosing lines that Fischer was unable to break. With a three-point lead, Fischer was content to inch towards the title, and Spassky seemed resigned to his fate. The off-the-board antics continued, including a lawsuit against Fischer for damages by Chester Fox, who had filming rights to the match (Fischer had objected to what he said were noticeable camera noises, and the Icelandic hosts had reluctantly - they were to share in film revenues along with the two contestants - removed the television cameras), a Fischer demand to remove the first seven rows of spectators (eventually, three rows were cleared), and Soviet claims that Fischer was using electronic and chemical devices to 'control' Spassky, resulting in an Icelandic police sweep of the hall.

Fischer-Spassky, game 14
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Fischer played 21.Bb5?

Game 14: Fischer ½ Spassky ½ (QGD Harrwitz)

The game was postponed at Spassky's request. Fischer was again White in a Queen's Gambit Declined. After 18.Be5? (18.Nxb6 Qxb6 19.Be5 and Fischer keeps a slight advantage; Gligorić) Bxa4! 19.Qxa4 Nc6! Spassky had the upper hand (Karpov). Fischer played carelessly and lost a pawn on move 21. Spassky blundered it back on move 27, however, and the game settled into a 40-move draw.

Fischer-Spassky, game 14; Queen's Gambit Declined, Harrwitz Attack (ECO D37)
1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Nc6 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Be2 Bxc5 10.0-0 Be6 11.Rc1 Rc8 12.a3 h6 13.Bg3 Bb6 14.Ne5 Ne7 15.Na4 Ne4 16.Rxc8 Bxc8 17.Nf3 Bd7 18.Be5 Bxa4 19.Qxa4 Nc6 20.Bf4 Qf6 (diagram) 21.Bb5 Qxb2 22.Bxc6 Nc3 23.Qb4 Qxb4 24.axb4 bxc6 25.Be5 Nb5 26.Rc1 Rc8 27.Nd4 f6 28.Bxf6 Bxd4 29.Bxd4 Nxd4 30.exd4 Rb8 31.Rxc6 Rxb4 32.Kf1 Rxd4 33.Ra6 Kf7 34.Rxa7+ Kf6 35.Rd7 h5 36.Ke2 g5 37.Ke3 Re4+ 38.Kd3 Ke6 39.Rg7 Kf6 40.Rd7 Ke6 ½-½

Spassky-Fischer, game 15
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Final position after 43...Qa1+

Game 15: Spassky ½ Fischer ½ (Sicilian Najdorf)

Fischer returned to the Najdorf Sicilian, but played the main line rather than the Poisoned Pawn Variation with which he had lost game 11. At move 13, Fischer sacrificed a pawn for counterplay, which Spassky accepted. After 19.c3, Spassky had the upper hand (Gipslis). After 28...Rd7 the game was even, but when Spassky took a second pawn with 29.Qxh5?! it allowed Fischer a very strong attack. Spassky, on the brink of disaster, "found miraculous replies while in time pressure" and Fischer was only able to achieve a draw by threefold repetition after 43 moves. Two years later, Yugoslav grandmaster Dragoljub Velimirović improved on Spassky's play with the piece sacrifice 14.Bxb5!?, winning a crushing victory in Velimirović-Al Kazzaz, Nice Olympiad 1974. Black in turn later improved on Fischer's 12...0-0-0 with 12...b4.

Spassky-Fischer, game 15; Sicilian Defence, Najdorf Variation, Classical Main line (ECO B99)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.Bd3 b5 11.Rhe1 Bb7 12.Qg3 0-0-0 13.Bxf6 Nxf6 14.Qxg7 Rdf8 15.Qg3 b4 16.Na4 Rhg8 17.Qf2 Nd7 18.Kb1 Kb8 19.c3 Nc5 20.Bc2 bxc3 21.Nxc3 Bf6 22.g3 h5 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 Bh8 25.Nf3 Rd8 26.Rxd8+ Rxd8 27.Ng5 Bxe5 28.Qxf7 Rd7 29.Qxh5 Bxc3 30.bxc3 Qb6+ 31.Kc1 Qa5 32.Qh8+ Ka7 33.a4 Nd3+ 34.Bxd3 Rxd3 35.Kc2 Rd5 36.Re4 Rd8 37.Qg7 Qf5 38.Kb3 Qd5+ 39.Ka3 Qd2 40.Rb4 Qc1+ 41.Rb2 Qa1+ 42.Ra2 Qc1+ 43.Rb2 Qa1+ ½-½

Fischer-Spassky, game 16
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Play continued 22...Rxb2! 23.Kf3!

Game 16: Fischer ½ Spassky ½ (Ruy Lopez Exchange)

Fischer played the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez, a favorite line of his. After 17...Rfe8 the game was equal (Gipslis). Spassky defended well, and after a tactical flurry in the endgame, ended up with the nominal advantage of an extra pawn in a rook ending known to be an easy book draw. Although a draw could have been agreed after move 34, Spassky "used his symbolic material advantage for a little psychological torture", prolonging the game until move 60 before agreeing to a draw.

Fischer-Spassky, game 16; Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation (ECO C69)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0-0 f6 6.d4 Bg4 7.dxe5 Qxd1 8.Rxd1 fxe5 9.Rd3 Bd6 10.Nbd2 Nf6 11.Nc4 Nxe4 12.Ncxe5 Bxf3 13.Nxf3 0-0 14.Be3 b5 15.c4 Rab8 16.Rc1 bxc4 17.Rd4 Rfe8 18.Nd2 Nxd2 19.Rxd2 Re4 20.g3 Be5 21.Rcc2 Kf7 22.Kg2 (diagram) Rxb2 23.Kf3 c3 24.Kxe4 cxd2 25.Rxd2 Rb5 26.Rc2 Bd6 27.Rxc6 Ra5 28.Bf4 Ra4+ 29.Kf3 Ra3+ 30.Ke4 Rxa2 31.Bxd6 cxd6 32.Rxd6 Rxf2 33.Rxa6 Rxh2 34.Kf3 Rd2 35.Ra7+ Kf6 36.Ra6+ Ke7 37.Ra7+ Rd7 38.Ra2 Ke6 39.Kg2 Re7 40.Kh3 Kf6 41.Ra6+ Re6 42.Ra5 h6 43.Ra2 Kf5 44.Rf2+ Kg5 45.Rf7 g6 46.Rf4 h5 47.Rf3 Rf6 48.Ra3 Re6 49.Rf3 Re4 50.Ra3 Kh6 51.Ra6 Re5 52.Kh4 Re4+ 53.Kh3 Re7 54.Kh4 Re5 55.Rb6 Kg7 56.Rb4 Kh6 57.Rb6 Re1 58.Kh3 Rh1+ 59.Kg2 Ra1 60.Kh3 Ra4 ½-½

Spassky-Fischer, game 17
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 15.f5! Nf6!

Game 17: Spassky ½ Fischer ½ (Pirc Defence)

Fischer played the Pirc Defence for the first time in his career. After 18...Qc7 the game was unclear (Parma). The game ended in a draw by the threefold repetition rule.

Spassky-Fischer, game 17; Pirc Defence, Austrian Attack (ECO B09)
1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Bd3 Qxc5 8.Qe2 0-0 9.Be3 Qa5 10.0-0 Bg4 11.Rad1 Nc6 12.Bc4 Nh5 13.Bb3 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Qxc3 15.f5 Nf6 (diagram) 16.h3 Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Na5 18.Rd3 Qc7 19.Bh6 Nxb3 20.cxb3 Qc5+ 21.Kh1 Qe5 22.Bxf8 Rxf8 23.Re3 Rc8 24.fxg6 hxg6 25.Qf4 Qxf4 26.Rxf4 Nd7 27.Rf2 Ne5 28.Kh2 Rc1 29.Ree2 Nc6 30.Rc2 Re1 31.Rfe2 Ra1 32.Kg3 Kg7 33.Rcd2 Rf1 34.Rf2 Re1 35.Rfe2 Rf1 36.Re3 a6 37.Rc3 Re1 38.Rc4 Rf1 39.Rdc2 Ra1 40.Rf2 Re1 41.Rfc2 g5 42.Rc1 Re2 43.R1c2 Re1 44.Rc1 Re2 45.R1c2 ½-½

Fischer-Spassky, game 18
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 31.Rf2

Game 18: Fischer ½ Spassky ½ (Sicilian Rauzer)

The game opened with a Richter-Rauzer Attack. After 19...Ne5 the game was equal (Matanović, Ugrinović). Like game 17, the game ended in a draw by threefold repetition.

Fischer-Spassky, game 18; Sicilian Defence, Richter-Rauzer Attack (ECO B69)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Nf3 b5 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Bd3 Qa5 13.Kb1 b4 14.Ne2 Qc5 15.f5 a5 16.Nf4 a4 17.Rc1 Rb8 18.c3 b3 19.a3 Ne5 20.Rhf1 Nc4 21.Bxc4 Qxc4 22.Rce1 Kd8 23.Ka1 Rb5 24.Nd4 Ra5 25.Nd3 Kc7 26.Nb4 h5 27.g3 Re5 28.Nd3 Rb8 29.Qe2 Ra5 30.fxe6 fxe6 31.Rf2 (diagram) e5 32.Nf5 Bxf5 33.Rxf5 d5 34.exd5 Qxd5 35.Nb4 Qd7 36.Rxh5 Bxb4 37.cxb4 Rd5 38.Rc1+ Kb7 39.Qe4 Rc8 40.Rb1 Kb6 41.Rh7 Rd4 42.Qg6 Qc6 43.Rf7 Rd6 44.Qh6 Qf3 45.Qh7 Qc6 46.Qh6 Qf3 47.Qh7 Qc6 ½-½

Spassky-Fischer, game 19
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after 18.Nxd5! Bg5!

Game 19: Spassky ½ Fischer ½ (Alekhine's Defence)

The second Alekhine's Defence of the match, the game ended in a draw after 40 moves. After 18...Bg5!, Gligorić commented "a queer situation has arisen with many tactical possibilities for both sides." After 19.Bh5 the position was unclear (Bagirov). After 37...a6, C.H.O'D. Alexander wrote: "A miracle; after all the excitements - two piece sacrifices by White and the counter-sacrifice of a rook by Black - the players have reached a completely equal endgame with no chances for either side."

Spassky-Fischer, game 19; Alekhine's Defence, Modern Variation (ECO B05)
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 e6 6.0-0 Be7 7.h3 Bh5 8.c4 Nb6 9.Nc3 0-0 10.Be3 d5 11.c5 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Nc4 13.b3 Nxe3 14.fxe3 b6 15.e4 c6 16.b4 bxc5 17.bxc5 Qa5 18.Nxd5 Bg5 (diagram) 19.Bh5 cxd5 20.Bxf7+ Rxf7 21.Rxf7 Qd2 22.Qxd2 Bxd2 23.Raf1 Nc6 24.exd5 exd5 25.Rd7 Be3+ 26.Kh1 Bxd4 27.e6 Be5 28.Rxd5 Re8 29.Re1 Rxe6 30.Rd6 Kf7 31.Rxc6 Rxc6 32.Rxe5 Kf6 33.Rd5 Ke6 34.Rh5 h6 35.Kh2 Ra6 36.c6 Rxc6 37.Ra5 a6 38.Kg3 Kf6 39.Kf3 Rc3+ 40.Kf2 Rc2+ ½-½

Fischer-Spassky, game 20
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Final position after 54...Nd4

Game 20: Fischer ½ Spassky ½ (Sicilian Rauzer)

Another Richter-Rauzer, after 13...Nxd2 the game was equal (Matanović, Ugrinović). Fischer was unable to make progress and Spassky got a better position. Fischer headed for a drawish endgame but Spassky twice avoided a draw by threefold repetition. After 54 moves, Fischer made an incorrect claim of threefold repetition, but Spassky agreed to a draw anyway. See Fischer versus Spassky.

Fischer-Spassky, game 20; Sicilian Defence, Richter-Rauzer Attack (ECO B68)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.f4 Be7 10.Be2 0-0 11.Bf3 h6 12.Bh4 Nxe4 13.Bxe7 Nxd2 14.Bxd8 Nxf3 15.Nxf3 Rfxd8 16.Rxd6 Kf8 17.Rhd1 Ke7 18.Na4 Be8 19.Rxd8 Rxd8 20.Nc5 Rb8 21.Rd3 a5 22.Rb3 b5 23.a3 a4 24.Rc3 Rd8 25.Nd3 f6 26.Rc5 Rb8 27.Rc3 g5 28.g3 Kd6 29.Nc5 g4 30.Ne4+ Ke7 31.Ne1 Rd8 32.Nd3 Rd4 33.Nef2 h5 34.Rc5 Rd5 35.Rc3 Nd4 36.Rc7+ Rd7 37.Rxd7+ Bxd7 38.Ne1 e5 39.fxe5 fxe5 40.Kd2 Bf5 41.Nd1 Kd6 42.Ne3 Be6 43.Kd3 Bf7 44.Kc3 Kc6 45.Kd3 Kc5 46.Ke4 Kd6 47.Kd3 Bg6+ 48.Kc3 Kc5 49.Nd3+ Kd6 50.Ne1 Kc6 51.Kd2 Kc5 52.Nd3+ Kd6 53.Ne1 Ne6 54.Kc3 Nd4 ½-½

Game 21: Spassky 0 Fischer 1 (Sicilian Taimanov)

Spassky-Fischer, game 21
a b c d e f g h
8
8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Final match position after 41.Bd7?

This game turned out to be the last game. Fischer used a line of the Sicilian that he had never before played as Black, and further surprised Spassky with a novelty on move eight. After 14...Qxf6 the game was equal (Taimanov). Spassky played badly in the endgame and the game was adjourned with a big advantage for Fischer. However, Fischer's 40th move was not the best; he should have played 40...Kg4! before ...h5 (his actual 40th move). Had Spassky sealed 41.Kh3! (preventing ...Kg4), he would have had drawing chances. However, his 41.Bd7? would have allowed Black to win with 41...Kg4 followed by pushing his h-pawn. On September 1, the day scheduled for resumption of the game, arbiter Lothar Schmid informed Fischer and the audience that Spassky had resigned the game by telephone, making Fischer the winner of the match.

Spassky-Fischer, game 21; Sicilian Defence, Taimanov Variation (ECO B46)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bd3 d5 8.exd5 exd5 9.0-0 Bd6 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bd4 0-0 12.Qf3 Be6 13.Rfe1 c5 14.Bxf6 Qxf6 15.Qxf6 gxf6 16.Rad1 Rfd8 17.Be2 Rab8 18.b3 c4 19.Nxd5 Bxd5 20.Rxd5 Bxh2+ 21.Kxh2 Rxd5 22.Bxc4 Rd2 23.Bxa6 Rxc2 24.Re2 Rxe2 25.Bxe2 Rd8 26.a4 Rd2 27.Bc4 Ra2 28.Kg3 Kf8 29.Kf3 Ke7 30.g4 f5 31.gxf5 f6 32.Bg8 h6 33.Kg3 Kd6 34.Kf3 Ra1 35.Kg2 Ke5 36.Be6 Kf4 37.Bd7 Rb1 38.Be6 Rb2 39.Bc4 Ra2 40.Be6 h5 41.Bd7 0-1

The final score was 12½-8½ in favor of Fischer, making him the eleventh World Champion. Spassky won three games (including the forfeit in game 2), Fischer won seven games, and there were eleven draws. The controversial grandmaster Jan Donner criticized Spassky's telephone resignation in print, although Fischer had outright forfeited a game earlier in the match.

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