40 Years Ago Today: Chess Rivals Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky Meet in the ‘Match of the Century’

They called it the “Match of the Cen­tu­ry.” The eccen­tric Amer­i­can chess mas­ter Bob­by Fis­ch­er and the reign­ing world cham­pi­on Boris Spassky of the Sovi­et Union faced off against one anoth­er 40 years ago today in Reyk­javik, Ice­land. As the world looked on, the Cold War strug­gle between two super­pow­ers was played out in proxy, on a chess board.

The tense atmos­phere and enor­mous fan­fare sur­round­ing the event are cap­tured in this excerpt from the 2006 GSN doc­u­men­tary Any­thing to Win: The Mad Genius of Bob­by Fis­ch­er. Spassky won the first game, on July 11, 1972, when Fis­ch­er made a sur­pris­ing blun­der. Game two went to Spassky when Fis­ch­er refused to play because the tele­vi­sion cam­eras were both­er­ing him. Before the start of game three, Fis­ch­er went around the room inspect­ing TV equip­ment for sources of noise. The entire sequence of events was per­haps an elab­o­rate game of psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare. When Fis­ch­er final­ly sat down to play, Spassky’s equa­nim­i­ty was shat­tered: The third game went to Fis­ch­er, and the tide had turned. When the match final­ly con­clud­ed on Sep­tem­ber 1, the score was Fis­ch­er 12½, Spassky 8½. To learn more about the match, and Fis­cher’s extra­or­di­nary life, you can watch the entire one-hour GSN doc­u­men­tary here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Famous Chess Match from 1910 Reen­act­ed with Clay­ma­tion

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  • sebastian says:

    Great post — I thought I might men­tion that for all those years that every­one was “search­ing” for Bob­by Fis­ch­er — he was liv­ing in a con­vert­ed garage at his sis­ter’s house in Palo Alto — she taught chess to local school kids. A close friend bought the house in the ear­ly 80’s — when I walked in I asked why there were sky­lights in the garage and access hall­way and she told me the sto­ry from Bob­by Fis­cher’s sis­ter who sold her the place. Pret­ty cool bit of lore for your read­ers.

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