Confrontations during the cold war (2): dispute and compromise

The Candidate tournament in 1971 was the ideal tournament for Fischer. No one had thought that he would win the tournament so miraculously. He defeated Taimanov and Larsen with the identical perfect score 6-0, and defeated the previous world champion Petrosian in the final with an overwhelming advantage of 6.5-2.5. And now, the whole Soviet Union felt nervous; Fischer had become the first non-Soviet to shake the throne of the world champion.

The settlement of the match between Fischer and Spassky for the world champion was a tortuous process; it was a long debate between the United States and the Soviet Union about where the match should be held. From the eight possible venues, Spassky favored Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, because the cold weather there would remind him of his hometown Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg); while Fischer preferred Buenos Aires the best. Obviously, the Soviet Union could not agree on playing on the other side of the Atlantic; plus Buenos Aires could not provide enough bonuses for both players. In fact, Reykjavik was not a bad choice for Fischer, but Fischer stick to his principle of not accepting his opponent’s proposal. So from the rest of the venues, Fischer chose Belgrade, Yugoslavia. This is because Belgrade was able to offer the highest prize funds for both players.

Cool summer in Reykjavik vs. long hot summer in Belgrade

Euwe, the previous world champion and the president of FIDE, suggested dividing the match into two halves, twelve games in Reykjavik and the other twelve in Belgrade. But the Soviet Union made a sharp protest against this proposal, because the long hot summer in Belgrade was beyond Spassky’s endurance. Fisher also hated this solution, for he felt like playing in two sites with the crowd moving around seemed like a “road show.”

As the debate going, the match was delayed from March of 1972 to July. Finally, the United States compromised, in fear that the match would be cancelled and Americans would miss the chance to outmatch the Soviets. But Fischer was reluctant to compromise. When the opening ceremony took place in Reykjavik on July 1st, Fischer was still in New York, complaining that the prize fund was too low. It is possible that the prize fund was only an excuse, but rather, Fischer hoped to gain more time to prepare for his games, or just intended to make the Soviets annoyed and obtained psychological advantage. Again, Euwe showed up and decided to delay the first rounds for some days. The British chess sponsor Jim Slater also offered an additional 50000 pounds as prize fund and urged Fischer to show up. At last, Fischer appeared in Iceland on July 4th.

Fishcer vs. Spassky

The tense atmosphere of the match had reached its peak. This was not only a match between two players, but a battle between two superpowers. Everything in the playing hall, including chairs of the players, was checked thoroughly, in order to prevent the disturbance of hidden chemicals such as spraying hypnagogue. The match itself was not stressful for Spassky, but under the pressure of the Soviet government, Spassky felt very nervous; while Fischer was concentrated and aimed at winning the world championship title, with millions of American supporters. Chess, not commonly played throughout the world before, became widely known to a lot of places, especially to the Soviets and the Americans. Listening to the broadcast about the world championship between Fischer and Spassky became a daily agenda for many people.


-Gligorić, Svetozar (2012) [1972]. Fischer vs. Spassky: World Chess Championship Match 1972.

-Kasparov, Garry (2004). My Great Predecessors, Volume IV.

-Reuben Fine (1971) The Final Candidates Match Buenos Aires, 1971: Fischer vs Petrosian, Hostel Chess Association.



Young and active tournament player with excellent results including a 1st place at the BSSZ Aranytiz International Master, 1st place at the Chinese Youth Chess Championship G16, and part of the top 10 contenders in two World Chess Championships for girls G16 and G18.

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