What chess players think about during a game is incommunicable, particularly in matches like this, when every move they make is being pondered by thousands around the world. Fischer gave one small glimpse of what went on in his mind as he took his place on the stage for the eighth game when he admitted (after the match) that he was still not confident of winning. He played carefully, coldly, logically, trying no bold ventures or brilliant forays, slowly building up a minute advantage in position until he was able to launch an attack of overwhelming power. " Petrosian's spirit is broken," said a Russian grand master, Yuri Auerbach, when Petrosian resigned at the 40th move. "You can't play chess after you are 40 years old. Spas-sky will be stronger."
So the stage was set for the ninth game, same scene, same setting, except that the characters looked drawn and the crowd spilled out of the theater into the street. Playing the white, Fischer advanced his queen pawn on the second move, and it all seemed to have happened before, a static drama endlessly repeated. But now Fischer seemed to be more mature. He watched Petrosian hesitate over his opening, saw him spend nine minutes on his seventh move, and two moves later, when Petrosian wasted another five minutes on a weak response, Fischer knew he was going to win.
At that point Fischer may have been the only one who did. But then, chess masters see farther ahead than ordinary chess players. Petrosian sacrificed material to set up a mating net on the king side. To the layman's eye (and even to some experts), Petrosian's web looked lethal, and although Fischer slowly worked his king to safety, picking up pawns as he did so, his position seemed hopeless. But Petrosian failed, and on the 44th move had only his king, a knight and a single pawn; Fischer had his king, rook and six pawns.
"Six pawns!" said Herman Pilnick, the commentator on the games. "Do you know what that means? There are only eight to begin with." Two moves later Petrosian resigned. By any standard, even those of the rankest amateur, he should have resigned long before. But he went on playing like an automaton, until he literally had nothing left to lose.
Fischer's recent record raises the distinct possibility that he has made a breakthrough in modern chess theory. His response to Petrosian's elaborately plotted 11th move in the first game is an example: Russian experts had worked on the variation for weeks, yet when it was thrown at Fischer suddenly, he faced its consequences alone and won by applying simple, classic principles. Masters like Petrosian may have become prisoners of the past.
In the moment after winning, Fischer started to step forward on the stage to acknowledge the cheers. Then he changed his mind and disappeared through a rear exit while Petrosian threaded his way slowly through the screaming mob in the lobby, nodding his thanks to applause. Fischer and Quinteros ran down the dark back street, pursued by a crowd of excited youngsters. Finally at Uruguay Street they found an empty cab, made a brief appearance at the television studio to discuss the match, and then drove to a bowling alley in a suburb in north Buenos Aires where the two of them bowled steadily until 3:30 in the morning.
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