Classic Game – Fischer – Spassky WCh 1972 – Game 1 – Super-Blooper

A super blooper from RJF!

More super blooper than trouper...

This is the first and already decisive game from the Fischer - Spassky 1972 match.

Despite showing absolute resolve to take out Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian in the candidates easily (6-0, 6-0, 6.5-2.5 (it was Petrosian)), Fischer quite remarkably lost all composure in a dead level ending to award Spassky this game.

The Game

[Event "World Championship 28th"] [Site "Reykjavik"] [Date "1972.07.11"] [Round "1"] [White "Spassky, Boris V"] [Black "Fischer, Robert James"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E56"] [WhiteElo "2660"] [BlackElo "2785"] [PlyCount "111"] [EventDate "1972.07.11"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "21"] [EventCountry "ISL"] [Source "ChessBase"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. e3 O-O 6. Bd3 c5 {standard opening play so far, both sides are staking a claim in the centre. As in game 5 (link below), Fischer sticks to the plan of pinning white's c3 knight and undermining the centre} 7. O-O Nc6 8. a3 Ba5 (8...Bc3 9. bxc3 Qa5 {gives white a good centre and a lot more flexibility than game 5, since the doubled c pawn can be eliminated at will} 10. cxd5 {for example}) 9. Ne2 dxc4 10. Bxc4 Bb6 11. dxc5 Qxd1 {The game now heads for complete equality, neither side has anything to shout about (no strong centre, no development advantage, both kings are safe...)} 12. Rxd1 Bxc5 13. b4 Be7 14. Bb2 Bd7 15. Rac1 Rfd8 16. Ned4 Nxd4 {Further exchanges heighten the drawing margin significantly} 17. Nxd4 Ba4 18. Bb3 Bxb3 19. Nxb3 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Rc8 21. Kf1 Kf8 22. Ke2 Ne4 {threatening 23...Rc2 and 24. Rd2 drops to Nxd2 but it's easily parried} 23. Rc1 Rxc1 24. Bxc1 f6 {same colour bishops, symmetrical pawn islands, knight and bishop each. For two super GMs, they would shake hands now} 25. Na5 Nd6 26. Kd3 Bd8 27. Nc4 Bc7 28. Nxd6 Bxd6 29. b5 Bxh2?? {this is just a blunder - Fischer has miscalculated} (29...a6 {is perfectly fine, putting all pawns on light squares is generally a good plan against a dark bishop})(29...Ke7 {also looks good}) 30. g3 h5 31. Ke2 h4 {up to here, it even looks like black is fine but for one thing...the Bc1 controls e3, so whilst the king will not reach g2 immediately, the h2 bishop is in complete limbo and is a sitting duck} 32. Kf3 Ke7 33. Kg2 hxg3 34. fxg3 Bxg3 {Fischer swallows as much as possible to compensate for the lost clergyman} 35. Kxg3 Kd6 36. a4 Kd5 37. Ba3 Ke4 38. Bc5 a6 39. b6 f5 40. Kh4 f4 41. exf4 Kxf4 42. Kh5 Kf5 (42...e5!? 43. Kg6 e4 44. Kxg7 e3 45. Bb4! {make black do the running} Kf3 46. Kf7 Kf2 47. Ke7 e2 48. Kd7 e1=Q 49.Bxe1 Kxe1 50. Kc7 {is an easy win}) 43. Be3 Ke4 44. Bf2 Kf5 45. Bh4 e5 46. Bg5 e4 47. Be3 Kf6 {He cannot hold g7 and e4. The rest is technique for Spassky} 48. Kg4 Ke5 49. Kg5 Kd5 50. Kf5 a5 51. Bf2 g5 52. Kxg5 Kc4 53. Kf5 Kb4 54. Kxe4 Kxa4 55. Kd5 Kb5 56. Kd6 {Fischer resigns. Ending is simple - put Kc7, bishop gobbles a pawn and Kxb7 will come with zugswang in time:} 56...Ka6 57. Kc7 a4 58. Bc5 a3 59. Bxa3 Kb5 60. Kxb7 1-0

Key Lessons from the Game?

We would like to focus on three particular ideas from this game which are quite instructive:
  1. We all make mistakes
  2. Play good moves, not flashy ones
  3. Make your opponent make the error

We all make mistaks

Fischer is widely regarded as one of the best (if not the best and most original) chess player of his time.

In this game, he miscalculated, showing us that even the very best are not infallible.

It still took good endgame skill from Spassky to exploit it to the full point, as Fischer worked hard to push for a draw.

Play good moves, not flashy ones

After 29. b5, Spassky must have been delighted seeing 29...Bxh2??
  • 29...Ke7 would develop black's worst piece
  • 29...a6 would have created a barrier on b5,c5 which the white king couldn't have crossed and the pawn on a6 would be untouchable from any bishop attentions
  • 29...Bxh2 would have worked had it not been for Bc1 covering e3, yet the devil is in the detail!

Make your opponent make the error

Spassky didn't play anything clever in this game; his strategy was slow and steady improvement, holding his own throughout. It was Bobby's blunder which cost the game! This put the score at 1-0 to Spassky

Other Games from the 1972 World Championships

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