There were two
Boris Spasskys in this match: the one in the first lap and the one in the
stretch. After leading by two points in the first two games (one by forfeit)
Spassky came unglued. He lost five and drew three in the next eight games. Not
only was he trailing by three points, but Fischer had evened their lifetime
score. In game 11, however, the Russian demolished a risky poison pawn grab in
the Sicilian Defense, cutting Bobby's lead to two points.
From there on, in
the remaining 10 games, Spassky was a tougher, fresher, more determined
opponent. He lost two and drew eight, but these were for the most part
hard-fought, exciting contests. Fischer was not just playing safe to inch in.
He was trying desperately to widen his lead to prove the first half of the
match was no fluke. If anything, Bobby was on the defensive as Boris
continually pressed the initiative. Spassky sparkled with energy.
champion's preparation for the match, though extensive, was largely for a
Fischer he never met in Reykjavik. Instead of clinging to a narrow range of pet
lines, as in the past, Bobby broadened his repertoire delightfully. In the
elimination matches last year against Mark Taimanov, Bent Larsen and Tigran
Petrosian, Bobby played the king's pawn opening exclusively with white.
however, he played everything under the sun, often from necessity. As black in
11 encounters he essayed four Sicilians, two Alekhines, two Nimzo-Indians, one
Benoni, one Pirc and one Queen's Gambit Declined. Not one King's Indian. In
game six he transposed into a Queen's Gambit Declined for the first time in his
career, smashing a pet line Spassky had never before lost with.
opportunities canceled out. In game one Bobby was too daring, trying to win a
dead draw. In game seven he played too fast, carelessly allowing the Russian to
escape with a draw. In game 13 Boris botched a drawn ending on move 69 in the
eighth hour of play. Spassky drew games 14 and 15, which should have been
routine wins. Bobby's mistakes seemed to stem from overconfidence, whereas
Spassky suffered from curious lapses in concentration.
For the moment
Fischer's crown is secure. But now that he has demonstrated that the West can
produce a champion, other nations are eyeing his throne. In Brazil, Grand
Master Henrique Mecking, 20, is subsidized to dedicate himself totally to
chess. President Medici said, " Brazil won the world [soccer] championship
with the feet. And now we must win with the head, too." Many young players
are coming up fast, especially with the new money in the game, and the next
challenger may be someone unheard of.
In addition to
Spassky, another Soviet threat is Grand Master Anatoly Karpov, 21, who recently
won super-strong tournaments in Moscow and Hastings. The most likely challenge
will issue from Russia simply because chess there is a high art and the country
has been producing great players for decades. If the Russians were getting a
bit complacent, they now have a target. The government undoubtedly will
redouble its effort to produce new grand masters on every level: schools,
factories and youth groups. With four million registered chess players Russia
may yet create more quality out of quantity. But with the increased interest in
chess worldwide, no one can predict the direction the current surge will
What can be seen
clearly is its source—the 29-year-old world champion whose antics at their
worst cannot detract from his genius. During the height of the preliminary
skirmishing in Reykjavik this summer, Boris Spassky summed it up better than
most. "The world," said Spassky, "would be a dull place without