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Boris Spassky

Boris Spassky

Boris Spassky

Boris Vasilievich Spassky (also Spasski) (Бори́с Васи́льевич Спа́сский) (born January 30, 1937) is a Russian chess player and former world champion.

He was born in Leningrad and learned to play chess at the age of five.

At age 18 he won the World Junior Chess Championship held at Antwerp, Belgium, and became a grandmaster.

Spassky was considered an all-rounder on the chess board, and his "universal style" was a distinct advantage in beating many top Grandmasters. For instance, in his Candidates Final match (the match which determines who will challenge the reigning world champion for the title) against Mikhail Tal the legendary tactician (Tbilisi, 1965) Spassky managed to steer play into quiet positions, avoiding Tal's tactical strength. This led to his first World Champion match against Tigran Petrosian in 1966. Spassky lost the match with 3 wins against Petrosian's 4 wins, with the two sharing 17 draws. In the next two years, his playing success again gained the right to challenge Petrosian. Spassky's flexibility of style was the key to his eventual victory over Petrosian by two points in the 1969 World Championship—by adopting Petrosian's negative style.

Spassky's reign as a world champion only lasted for three years, as he lost to Bobby Fischer of the United States in 1972 in the "Match of the Century". The contest took place in Reykjavík, Iceland, at the height of the Cold War and consequently was seen as symbolic of the political confrontation between the two superpowers. Fischer won and Spassky returned home to the U.S.S.R. in disgrace. Spassky continued to play, winning several championships including the 1973 Soviet championship.

In the 1974 Candidates matches, Spassky lost to the up and coming Anatoly Karpov in Leningrad, +1 -4. Karpov had publicly acknowledged that Spassky was superior, but after several games, Karpov garnered enough points to take the match.

Spassky's later years showed a reluctance to totally devote himself to chess. He relied on his natural talent for the game, and sometimes would rather play a game of tennis than work hard at the board. The 1972 World Championship and the 1974 Candidates match against Karpov were the pinnacle of his success. Victor Korchnoi also overtook him. Since 1976, Spassky has been happily settled in France with his third wife; he became a French citizen in 1978.

In 1992, Fischer, after a 20 year hiatus from chess, re-emerged to arrange a "Revenge Match of the 20th century" against Spassky in Montenegro and Belgrade—a re-enactment of the 1972 World Championship. At the time, Spassky was rated 106th in the FIDE rankings, and Fischer didn't appear on the list at all (owing to his 20 year inactivity). This match was essentially Spassky's last major challenge. Spassky lost the match with a score of +5 -10 =15.

Further reading

  • World chess champions by Edward G. Winter, editor. 1981 ISBN 0080249041
  • Twelve Great Chess Players and Their Best Games by Irving Chernev; Dover; August 1995. ISBN 0486286746
  • No Regrets: Fischer-Spassky by Yasser Seirawan; International Chess Enterprises; March 1997. ISBN 1879479095
  • Bobby Fischer goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds and John Eidinow; Ecco, 2004.
Preceded by:
Tigran Petrosian
World Chess Champion
Succeeded by:
Bobby Fischer

External links