This was the setting for the crucial face-off between the U.S. and Russia, and the game of Fischer vs. Spassky. Before the game, Spassky was so keyed up that he was visibly trembling, chain-smoking and refusing to give autographs. Fischer seemed calmer, but away from the tournament he was as embattled as ever. One day he was discovered loping through the hotel hallways in his pajamas. It turned out he was searching for the source of some music that had awakened him at noon. "I'd like to rip all those hotel radios out of the wall," he said.
Spassky had the advantage of the white men, which is roughly the equivalent of the serve in tennis. But Fischer pressed with a Gruenfeld Defense and rapidly assumed the initiative. Meanwhile, on the second board the game of Reshevsky and Petrosian was quickly drawn. On the third board I used a classical Slav Defense and had Lev Polugaevsky in trouble, but the Russian found a saving resource in a difficult rook-and-pawn ending and split the point. And on the fourth board Russia's Ewfim Geller spurned a safe draw with Lombardy. The game became a comedy of errors with both sides blundering in a wild time scramble. Lombardy emerged with a winning position, but miscalculated and allowed the Russian to escape with a draw.
At the top board, Fischer decided to go all out to win. He rejected several drawing lines, but overreached himself in the process. Spassky, now nerveless, was unshaken, and on the 39th move Fischer resigned. This meant Russia had won the match 2�-1�. The remaining rounds were an anticlimax. Russia inched into the lead, winding up in first place with 27� points, followed by Hungary (26�), Yugoslavia (26), U.S. (24�), Czechoslovakia (23�), West Germany (22), Argentina (21�), Bulgaria (21�), East Germany (19), Rumania (18�), Canada (17�), Spain (16). "Our team played badly." Spassky said grimly.
Fischer, who in all had won seven games, drawn five and lost one, was undisturbed. "Spassky was lucky," he said. "Wait till next time." If anyone else had said it the remark would have gone unnoticed, but for Fischer to speak of a next time in a U.S. team match was an unprecedented commitment to the future. His presence this year was not quite enough to end Russia's dominance of the chess Olympics. But it could be most important in terms of what it means to the future of Fischer himself.