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Monday, September 2, 2013

Guardian Chess Archives: The Day Fischer Won the World Chess Championship 1972

Alexandra Kosteniuk's Chess Blog for Daily Chess News and Trivia (c) 2013

Hi everyone, 

Here is the article from the Guardian archives from 1972 when Bobby Fischer won the World Chess Championship. 
Bobby Fischer in 1972. Photograph: KPA/Zuma / Rex Features

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that Iceland went wild when Bobby Fischer finally won the world chess championship here today. True, he got a standing ovation in the face of which he positively bolted and there was pandemonium outside as his car tried to force its way through a struggling mass of police, children and cameramen. It was the nearest to a chess riot one could ever hope for.

But the strongest feeling in Reykjavik, a feeling so strong it almost vaporised, was sympathy with Boris Spassky, the gentle Russian who has lost his title and, who knows, all the trappings of his privileged position in Soviet society.

We knew something was afoot when neither player turned up on time. Spassky had sealed his next move last night and the referee, Herr Lothar Schmid, should have played it. He had not played it and he had not started Fischer's clock.

After 27 minutes Herr Schmid brought Fischer on stage in his mulberry coloured suit and announced that Spassky had telephoned him at 12.50 and resigned.

"It is the correct and traditional way," he said, as if declaring a ritual suicide. "Fischer wins the match."

Fischer returned to his hotel studying the Icelandic Chess Federation's report of the last game, and preparing for his sabbath which will last until tomorrow evening. He is expected to stay there for another week and will probably turn up to collect his championship medal. No one had any idea where Spassky was.

It is a cliche to say that world chess will never be the same again. Outside the hall Dr Max Euwe, President of the International Chess Federation, who threw away the rule book at the start to accommodate Fischer's delaying tactics, made it clear that the rules would have to be changed.

"Arrangements made 30 or 40 years ago cannot be expected to last forever. There are many regulations, but no penalties. So there will be penalties. Players will be fined for regularly disturbing their opponent for one thing," he said.

Perhaps the only other person who has suffered so much from this gruelling championship, apart from Spassky, is the referee, Herr Schmid, "I think he has had a very difficult time," said Dr Euwe. "He is sick of this match. I think if he had to referee another in six months' time he would say 'no' but if we waited a year he might have forgotten it all."

There is, indeed, a strong likelihood that Fischer will want to start making the championship pay off by offering Spassky a return match next year. Dr Euwe said he was bound by the rules to defend himself every three years - "I think he will stay champion for 10 years" - but if he chose to play sooner it could rate as a championship match.

Herr Schmid, meanwhile, didn't want to talk. Like everyone else involved he just stood about silently, signing autographs. Every one was signing autographs.

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