On this day in 1972, Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky 12½-8½ in Reykjavík to become the 11th world chess champion. : chess

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On this day in 1972, Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky 12½-8½ in Reykjavík to become the 11th world chess champion. : chess


From The New York Times: Champion Fischer

Bobby Fischer finally became world chess champion yesterday. He won the title fairly after summer‐long combat across the chess board against his predecessor, Boris Spassky. Even to get to the championship table, Fischer had to defeat the world’s other top chess players in a series of crushing matches where his brilliant performances plainly foreshadowed the outcome at Reykjavik. Boris Spassky is a great chess player, but the last eight weeks demonstrated that he was no match for Bobby Fischer. Some grandmasters insist Bobby is the greatest chess player of all time, a proposition inherently impossible of proof. What is beyond debate is that Fischer is the greatest living chess player, and that no one now visible on the chess horizon seems close to his level.

Fischer has done more, however, than simply win the world title he has so long, even so obsessively, considered his, right. He has transformed the image and status of chess in the minds of millions, suddenly multiplying manifold both the audience for chess as a sport and the number of people actually playing the game. In retrospect, it is permissible to wonder whether his eccentric behavior in the early stages of the match was not a calculated public‐relations ploy designed to stimulate chess interest far beyond the ranks of those normally concerned with the game. Undoubtedly the Fischer tactics were motivated in considerable measure by his own desire for economic rewards more nearly comparable those enjoyed by champions in other sports. Yet the long-term result is likely to be major gains in both earnings and prestige for all great chess players, a group that has too long—outside the Soviet Union—had to be content with miserly rewards.

From a wider perspective, the Fischer‐Spassky match had a unique political importance. Except for one unfortunate lapse by a Spassky second presumably acting under instructions from Moscow, it did not touch off nationalistic rivalry of the kind many had feared. Instead, Spassky had many supporters in the United States from among those who were irked by Fischer’s mode of psychological warfare. In the Soviet Union, conversely, many hoped for a Fischer victory, not least because they admired his assertiveness and his refusal to be bound by over-restrictive rules. The result was an atmosphere that, for all its tenseness, contributed to improving the broader ambience of Soviet‐American relations. The best man clearly won in Reykjavik, and Russians and Americans joined in applause along with millions from the rest of the world.



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