Fischer – Spassky 1972 – Game 4 – Draw – Fischer-Sozin Attack

Game 4 - Sozin 6. Bc4

Wheels in motion

The game is annotated in detail below:

After a successful fight back in game 3, going into this round, the score stood at 2-1 to Spassky. Fischer needed to get to 12.5 points to take the title from Spassky. A 12-12 would have ensured the Russian kept the title. In short, Fischer needed to keep winning.

The Game

The Fischer-Sozin attack, so named with Bobby's surname due to the ubiquity of use in his games. 6. Bc4 is a very uncompromising stance against the 2...d6 and 5...Nc6 Classical Sicilian set-up.

White develops his minor pieces to very good squares quickly and sets to undermine black's defence quickly, often through a series of sacrifices or using the f4-f5 lever.

Black's position is very solid however and white must always be on his guard against the slow but solid counterplay. If black gets into an ending, the additional central pawn (after 2...cxd4), can often mean Black has a minute but enduring plus.


Spassky didn't just cling on, he countered Fischer's attack well

[Event "Fischer - Spassky World Championship Match"] [Site "Reykjavik ISL"] [Date "1972.07.18"] [EventDate "?"] [Round "4"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [White "Fischer, Robert James"] [Black "Spassky, Boris"] [ECO "B88"] [WhiteElo "?"] [BlackElo "?"] [PlyCount "89"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O 9. O-O a6 10. f4 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 b5 12. a3 Bb7 13. Qd3 a5!? 14. e5 (14. Qb5 Ba6)(14. Nb5 Be4) dxe5 15. fxe5 Nd7 16. Nxb5 Nc5 17. Bxc5 Bxc5+ 18. Kh1 Qg5 19. Qe2 Rad8 20. Rad1 Rxd1 21. Rxd1 h5 22. Nd6 Ba8 23. Bc4 h4 24. h3 Be3 25. Qg4 Qxe5 26. Qxh4 g5 27. Qg4 Bc5 28. Nb5 Kg7 29. Nd4 Rh8 30. Nf3 Bxf3 31. Qxf3 Bd6 32. Qc3 Qxc3 33. bxc3 Be5 34. Rd7 Kf6 35. Kg1 Bxc3 36. Be2 Be5 37. Kf1 Rc8 38. Bh5 Rc7 39. Rxc7 Bxc7 40. a4 Ke7 41. Ke2 f5 42. Kd3 Be5 43. c4 Kd6 44. Bf7 Bg3 45. c5+ 1/2-1/2

What can we learn from this game?


Staying calm in the face of a ferocious attack is important

  • Good development is important but so is a solid defence
  • Isolated pawns are rarely a huge asset
  • Opposite colour bishops increase the drawing chances significantly

Good development is important but so is a solid defence

Spassky, playing in line with well established theory combined calm defensive pawn moves with a slow and steady development of his minor pieces. After 6. Bc4 e6, black has taken away the potential of the bishop hitting f7, as well as the d5 square against annoying knight jumps.

Spassky also used some nice wing attacks with a6-b5 and the h5 thrust to undermine some of Bobby's control and created some good counterplay

Isolated pawns are rarely a huge asset

After Fischer's 14. e5, it is actually white who is more hemmed in - the bishop on b3 needs a lot to change before it can become strong and the bishop on d4 is a big pawn defending the lonely e5. Perhaps 14. f5 was better to undermine e6, though after 14...e5 black has little to fear.

The e5 also became an annoying weakness which Fischer eventually had to give up to save his king. Note the activity of the b7 bishop also once the a8-h1 diagonal is opened up.

Opposite colour bishops increase the drawing chances significantly

The game feels like two stories - in the first part, black had to hold off a decent attack from white relying on a strong pawn structure to keep white's pieces at bay.

After the 14.e5 thrust, it was black with more initiative. In the highest level, players often mitigate risk by exchanging and going into an opposite colour bishop ending which is notoriously drawish! The final position is a dead draw. Neither side can hope to force through a pawn, since their opponent's bishop will cover the advanced squares.

Note how white keeps his pawns on light squares and black on dark squares, so the opposition has a much harder time getting to them!

This made the score 1.5-2.5. Spassky held his lead but the last two games had been 1.5-0.5 to Fischer - had the tide started to turn?

All Games from the 1972 World Championship

Re-live the drama of Reykjavik! The entire 1972 game collection is available here.