This article contains links to the times for the moves of games 3-21 of the 1972 Fischer – Spassky World Chess Championship match. In addition, there are some notes on the match and how these times came to be recorded.
Click here for information on the 2008 Anand – Kramnik World Chess Championship Match.
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The match schedule:
According to the program, games were scheduled from 5 PM to 10 PM on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Adjournments were scheduled from 5 PM to 11 PM Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 2:30 PM to 6:30 PM on Fridays. Fischer observed the sabbath from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset.
After the first game started on Tuesday, July 11th, Spassky took time outs on Sunday, July 30th and Sunday, August 13th, after losses in games 8 and 13. Fischer took no time outs.
On keeping notes of the times of the players:
The player’s clocks could be seen, from time to time, on the closed-circuit black and white TV system in the hall. It served the lobby, the cafeteria, and the playing hall, and displayed a view of what looked like a wallboard with the pieces perfectly aligned, showing the current position. In addition there were other cameras which showed various views of the players and the board. You could read the clock times on some of them. These views sometimes were briefly substituted for the board position on the TV monitors. The result was that you could follow the moves in the lobby, the cafeteria, and the hall at all times, but the clock times were readable only every few moves.
When the TV did show the clock, I could compute, by totaling the two times, the time of the start of the match. After that, when a player moved, I could figure the total game time from my watch, subtract the time of the opponent, and the difference would be the time of the player who just moved. Then, when the opponent moved a few minutes later, I would repeat the procedure using his opponent’s time, as recorded in my notebook.
When the TV showed the chess clock the next time, I could correct, if necessary, my notes for times taken by the player who was not on the move. After about 6 moves without seeing the clock, my time for a player might be 1 minute off, since I did not record minutes and seconds.
If I was one minute too short for a player, and it was 6 moves since the previous correction, I would add one minute to the three most recent time entries and leave the other 3 entries alone.
In game 3, however, I came upon an error, early in the game, of 9 minutes for Fischer’s time. An explanation was not arrived at until recently, and is noted in the article on the times for that game.
I used a small 24-game scorebook, which I bought at the hall. The small pamphlet sold for 100 Icelandic Kronur, which was a bit more than one US dollar at the match. It had the word “Skak” on the cover, which is the Icelandic word for chess.
Here is the first page of game 3; this was when we still used English Descriptive Notation:
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On getting to the big match:
I was in California in the summer of 1972, and had decided to go. I had already obtained a ticket for all the games, which cost, if memory serves, about $60, and had contacted a travel agent to arrange for transportation to Iceland. However, due to the uncertainty of Fischer’s appearance, I decided to wait before booking the flights.
Then, on the news that Fischer had gone to Iceland and had started game 1, I called my travel agent to book tickets for the next day. What could go wrong with the match now?
On the day of travel, the newspapers covered the first session of play, and Fischer’s big mistake of Bxh2. I bought these papers and flew from LAX and arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York. Soon I was on the Icelandic Airlines flight to Iceland and arrived there the next morning.
I took a bus to Reykjavik, and booked a room with bed and breakfast with a family there, since the hotels were filled. When I arrived, they told me about Fischer’s loss in the adjournment session and his protest about the film cameras. I tried to get some sleep about 10 am.
I was a bit late walking to the hall for Thursday’s game 2, scheduled for 5 PM. As I arrived, I saw the closed circuit TV with the starting position. I bought some souvenirs and went to the balcony and sat down.
After a while, Lothar Schmidt, the arbiter, came out and announced that Fischer had forfeited the game.
I had come all this way, and Bobby Fischer had never backed down on any problem before, and I was sure that the organizers would not back down either. Bobby had just gone way too far, and now the match was absolutely over.
I started to think about going to England, since I already came this far, and I didn’t just want to go home right away. In the meantime, I got to know some of the other chess fans. After all, we were all in the same boat.
Still, there was no reason not to go to the hall for Sunday’s game 3. I had a ticket, after all.
So I went there fully expecting to see another forfeit, and was truly amazed when Fischer appeared on the closed circuit TV and started playing.
I could not believe it.
Soon, I started taking notes on the times taken for the moves, as I had seen in the book on the 1963 World Chess Championship Match by R. G. Wade, ARCO Publishing, 1964. It was for my own use; I assumed that some day the real times would be published, as in the Wade book.
But, as far as I know, in the 36 years since the big match, the move times have been unavailable to the public.
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The Garde Chess Clock was used in this match.
Having attended the match, I bought every book I could find. Of them all, two stand out by far, and are just superb.
Another favorite book is How Fischer Won, by C. J. S. Purdy.
It is in print today as part of Extreme Chess, which also covers the two Alekhine-Euwe matches.
What makes this book so enjoyable is the way Purdy instructs us amateurs. He teaches throughout. The most memorable example was from game 17, a Pirc Defense with Fischer as Black. Spassky won the Exchange for a Pawn, but did not try for a win at the adjournment. Purdy titled the chapter, “The Overrated Exchange,” and used the game as a reminder that we are often incorrect when we feel that we are entitled to a full point when we have this material advantage. I also liked his quotes from Shakespeare and other classic writers to characterize each game.
I found it at a book shop in Sydney, Australia, in June 1978. A week later, I came back to the shop. As I approached the counter to buy a book, the lady at the shop was conversing quietly with a man to the right. They stopped as I was paying, and I told her how much I enjoyed the Fischer – Spassky book that I had purchased the previous week.
She replied, “Well, you can tell the author yourself if you like; here is Mr. Purdy.”
My jaw probably dropped to the floor, and I gushed about how I had attended the match, how I had bought every book on the match I saw, and about how I enjoyed his book the most. I rushed back to the chess section and fortunately, there was another copy. As he autographed it, I added that I especially liked the Shakespearean quotes for each game. He quite modestly replied that it was a bit of sugar coating. He was very mild mannered and quiet; I don’t think he even smiled.