Confrontations during the cold war (3): struggle to subvert the order

Spassky won the first game. In the second round, Fischer did not come. Spassky played the first move and waited for one hour. In this weird fashion Fischer lost another game.

Fischer protested against the disturbance of TV cameras and refused to show up. For Fischer, any noise during the game could be detrimental. He needed to be highly focused and completely immersed his thought into chess, and could not bear any noise, even the stare of the cameras or the crowd.

Many Icelanders were unhappy. They gathered in front of American embassy and threatened the United States that if Fischer did not appear, Iceland would take the U.S. military base back. The United States Secretary of State Kissinger was anxious. He begged Fischer to continue the match and fight for the benefit of the United States.

The president of FIDE Euwe was angry with Fischer for his rude behavior of disrespecting his opponent. He told Spassky that if he wanted, the match would end and he would successfully defend his world championship title. Of course, this was also what the Soviet Union wanted Spassky to do. But Spassky agreed to continue the match. This is because Spassky liked Fischer for his frank, child-like temper and his insane behavior when it came to chess. How could he get angry with a crazy kid!

Fischer also liked Spassky. Just as Spassky said, Fischer was made of paradoxes. He hated the Jewish people even he was a Jew by his mother’s side. He hated the Soviets but he treated Spassky warmly. Spassky once asked Fischer, “Bobby, I’m Russian – why are you friendly with me?” Fischer said nothing. It is probably because Spassky considered Fischer as a friend while other Soviets treated him as a madman and an enemy; plus, unlike many Soviet players who liked to play tricks on the games against Fischer, Spassky was candid.

Fischer and Spassky finally reached an agreement to continue the match. TV cameras were removed; the match was moved into a backstage room, where the audience was not allowed to watch the games. This time, Fischer performed excellent. He won five games in the next eight games. He lost the 11th game, but defeated Spassky in the 13th game and was 3 points ahead. Spassky recollected that Fischer was supported by an ideologue named Lombardy, who kept Spassky under constant psychological pressure and severely hindered his performance.

In the 14th round, Spassky proved to FIDE that he was ill, and the rest of the tournament was postponed for a week. The Soviet government became anxious, and ordered Spassky to stop the match by filing a protest against Fischer’s horrible behavior. But Spassky persisted. He was not afraid of losing the match. But after the match, he regretted, as he realized that the match was bigger than his individual interests.

The match continued a week later. This time, Fischer changed his style of playing aggressively for win but played quite solid, and drew the next 7 games without giving Spassky any chance. Fischer won the next game and became the 11th world champion.

Caricature: Fischer takes the crown from Spassky

This is the first time the United States defeated the Soviet Union in the combat of chess during the Cold War. Fischer became the hero of the United States. He appeared on the cover of the American magazine Sports Illustrated and TV shows. A Bobby Fischer Day was even held to celebrate his victory. Influenced by Fischer, more and more Americans began to play chess.

When it came to Spassky, he did not feel pity of losing the world champion title, but rather, he felt that he “had thrown off a very strong burden and breathed freely.” He was released of the responsibility of defending the world champion title for the Soviet Union. He was no longer the celebrity of the Soviet Union, and he could live like normal people. But the Soviet authorities were very disappointed. Not only Spassky, but a lot of chess players, were under attack of the Soviet government. Chess players no longer possessed privilege in the Soviet society, but they were forced to give part of their prizes to the state.



-Alexander, C. H. O’D. (1972). Fischer v. Spassky. Vintage.




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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