Fischer - Spassky 

 GM Robert J. Fischer  (2750) - GM Boris Spassky  (2675) 
  The Chess World's Championship Match;  
 ReykjavikIceland;  (Game # 6) 

 [A.J. Goldsby I] 

One of the greatest all-time games from World Championship play. 
(Go to my  web site,  then go to the  "Best Games,"  page  ...  and read the long write-up that I have written about this game.) 

My annotations here are based primarily (but not solely) on  GM Yasser Seirawan's  excellent book, 
 "Winning Chess Brilliancies."
  ( 1995 Yasser Seirawan & Microsoft Press.) 

A nice page ... with good analysis ... and lots of related links as well. (Click HERE to watch my video of this game.)  

1.c4!?, (Maybe - '!') 
Many writers gave this an exclam, mainly for surprise value. 

Having been burned in game # 4, Fischer is not anxious to see what new "TN's" ... (theoretical novelties) the Russians have prepared for him. 
(In his more normal lines.) 

     [ A more standard move order is: 1.d4 d5; 2.c4 e6; 3.Nc3 Nf6; 4.Bg5, ("+/=") {Diagram?}
        etc. Then White will be playing the 'main line' of the Q.G.D. ].  

Spassky almost always responded this way to the English, most of the time he would try to transpose to a "Queen's Gambit Declined." 

I think this is a weakness of Spassky's that he did  NOT  have a more varied approach to meeting the English. 
(Spassky nearly always responded to the English this way, trying to force White into a Q.G.D.)  

     [ 1...Nf6!? ].  


2.Nf3 d53.d4, ('!')  
White has transposed to a Q.G.D.  (A "Queen's Gambit Declined.")  
This is - in itself - a HUGE surprise, (!!!)  as Fischer had NEVER  (before)  played this opening from the White side in his whole, entire career! 
(He always had said the  "Queen's Gambit"  was "boring ... and a draw.") 

Now the only question is why didn't Fischer simply play 1.d4?  Probably because Spassky could play virtually any opening in response to a Queen Pawn's opening on the first move. 

Fischer probably did not care to see a King's Indian Defense, (a Fischer favorite); or even a Nimzo-Indian Defense
(Which Fischer had just used to win as Black in Game # 5.) 

     [ 3.b3!? (Reti.) ]

Both sides now continue to develop. 
3...Nf64.Nc3 Be75.Bg5 0-06.e3 h6!
A common move in several different variations of the Queen's Gambit Declined. ("The Lasker's Defense," for example.) 

This move is thought to give Black more options from this position. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [ The more trodden path here is the main lines with:  6...Nbd7; 7.Rc1 c6; 8.Bd3 dxc4
        9.Bxc4, "+/=" 
{Diagram?}  and White retains a small advantage. 
        (See any good reference book, or any book on the Queen's Gambit Declined.  --->  I probably have close to 50 books on the variations that arise from the Q.G.D.) 

        [ See MCO-14; pages 391-397.] ].  

Easily the most accurate move. 

     [ 7.Bxf6!?, "~" ].  

7...b6!?; ('!')  
This is Spassky's favorite line. (Or at least his favorite, classical defense to the QP opening.) 
("The Tartakower-Makoganov-Bondarevsky Variation,"  or some books refer to it simply as, "The T.M.B. System.") 

The main idea of this system is to solve the problem of Black's bad QB by placing this piece (a fianchetto) on the long diagonal. 

The buzz was that Spassky had played this line many, many, many times. 
(Two World Championship matches, dozens of candidate matches and many games in the annual Soviet Championships - and also many international tournaments.) 
  And supposedly he had never lost a key game in this line.   

(Several annotators gave this move an exclam - I guess for Spassky's courage - possibly for trying it in the face of Fischer's onslaught.)

But Fischer has come armed with several improvements, ... ... ... and a few new moves he wants to try on Spassky. 

     [ The 'main lines' of  "The Lasker Defence"  is:  7...Ne4; {Diagram?} This is former World 
       Champion, Emmanuel Lasker's move. The idea is to free Black's position as quickly as possible. 

       Of all major GM's of the last 30 years, only  R. Huebner  and  A. Yusupov  have been 
       consistent practitioners of this line. 

       8.Bxe7 Qxe7; 9.Rc1!?, "+/="  {Diagram?} White keeps a small advantage. 
       [ See MCO-14; page # 403, and column # 33. ]  Click HERE to see Topalov-Anand, WCS Match/game #12, 2010. ].  

8.cxd5!?, (Maybe - '!')   
With a Black Bishop possibly going to b7,  White naturally wants to fix a pawn on d5.

(Several different annotators gave this move an exclam here.) 

     [  The other main choice here is the logical move: 8.Be2, "+/="  with a small advantage for White. ].  

Black wishes to free his position by a few exchanges. 

     [ Slightly worse (for Black) is:  8...exd5; 9.Bd3, "+/="  {Diagram?} and White is slightly better. ].  

This is probably best, because White weakens Black's dark squares ... and avoids any loss of time involved in a retreat. 

     [ Another line that was briefly popular is: 9.Bg3!? "=" ].  

The best recapture according to several books,  GM Seirawan  gives this move an exclam. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [ 9...Nxe7!? ].  

10.Nxd5!?, (Best, maybe - '!')  
The same strategy. (See the note after White's eighth move.)  

     [ 10.Bd3  ].  

This is - of course - forced. 

11.Rc1!?(Maybe - '!')  
White grabs the c-file and pressures Black's possibly weak QBP. (Several annotators also awarded this move an exclam as well.) 

     [ 11.Bd3 ].  

The best square for the Bishop, there is no point in going to b7 now. 

(GM Y. Seirawan gives this move an exclam as well.)

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.   

     [  Definitely bad for Black is: 11...Qb4+?!; 12.Qd2 Qxd2+; 13.Kxd2! c6[]
Bb7; 15.b4, "+/="  {Diagram?} and Black's Q-side is crippled. 
        - GM Yasser Seirawan.  ].  

White immediately pressures the Black position, this move is given an exclam by GM Y. Seirawan. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [ A more routine course for White is: 12.Bd3 c5; 13.0-0,"~"  ("+/=") {Diagram?} 
        with the first player probably still having a small edge. ]

The most energetic move by Black, this is also given an exclam by Seirawan. (Black activates his pawn majority.)

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.  

     [ Worse for Black is:  12...Nd7?!; 13.Rxc7, "+/="  ].  

Here we get to see the point of White's play, he now sets up a debilitating pin on the a3-f8 diagonal. 
(Gligoric - in his book on the match - gave the move Qa3, an exclam.)
13.Qa3 Rc8
Forced, to defend the c-pawn.  

This was considered a huge improvement - at the time it was played. 

(Many writers thought this was a "TN," but it was actually an idea of GM Furman's. His analysis had already been published in several Soviet chess magazines.) 

(GM Y. Seirawan also gives this move an exclam - as did GM Robert Byrne in his excellent book, "Both Sides of The ChessBoard.") 

The main idea is to prevent the Black Knight from developing to d7. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.   

     [  A more modern treatment of this opening is: 14.Be2 Kf8!?; {Diagram?} 
        This artificial-looking move is supposedly the latest word in this particular line. 
bxc5; {Diagram?} This is positionally forced, otherwise Black will be left with
        an isolated QP. 16.0-0 a5!?; {Diagram?} Supposedly best, but I have some grave reservations. 
          (Or 16...Nd7; 17.Rfd1, "+/=" )    17.Rc3!?,  {Diagram?}  It is natural for White to want to 
        double his Rooks on the weak Black c-pawn.   ( Maybe 17.Qc3!?, "+/="  
        17...Nd7; 18.Rb3, "~" {Diagram?} This position is fairly unbalanced.  
        So far this is the game,  Winants - GM G. KasparovBrussels, 1987. 
        "Now  18...a4;  is equal." - GM Garry Kasparov
        [ See MCO-14; pg. # 408, column # 48, and note # (bb.). ]  ].   

14...a6!?;  (hmmm)   
The book move at the time, and also thought to be best at the time this game was played. (Black threatens ...Ra7!)  

Several different annotators gave this move an exclam as well. 

     [ Black could also have played: >=  14...Qf8!, "="  with a good game. 

       Or 14...Kf8!?, "~"  with a fair position for Black. 

       Black could even try: 14...a5!?, "~" as I saw in an ICC/Dos Hermanos,  
       Internet blitz game ... between two titled players. ].  

White immediately gives Black the  "hanging pawns"  type of structure. (GM Y. Seirawan gives this an exclam as well.)

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [ 15.b3!? ].  

This is forced.  

     [  A blunder is: 15...axb5??; 16.Qxa8, "+/-"  {Diagram?} and White is winning. 

         Bad is: 15...Rxc5?!; 16.0-0!, "+/="  {Diagram?} as Black has been left with an isolated QP. ].  

A very good move. White simply castles  ...  as the (Black) QRP is pinned and cannot capture his Bishop on b5.  

     [ 16.Be2 ].  

16...Ra7!?(Maybe dubious?)   
Black wishes to relieve the pin and force White Bishop on b5 to move.

But Seirawan criticizes this move, and recommends instead ...Qa7! 

I personally think his criticisms are a little harsh - it is not easy to play Black's position at this point! 

     [ Maybe better is:  16...Qa7; 17.Bd3, "+/=" ].  

Now the Bishop has to retreat, as the Black Queen guards the Black Rook on a7. Thus Black now finally threatens ...Pawn takes Bishop.

The best square for the Bishop, now White can play a later Bishop-to-f3. (If the position should require it.)  

(More than one annotator gave this move an exclam.) 

     [ The move 17.Bd3!?, invites Black to play a later ...c4!? ].  

Black has to get this piece into the game sooner or later. 

     [ An oversight would be: 17...Nc6?; 18.Qxc5, "+/"  {Diagram?} 
        and White wins a pawn. ].  

An excellent move, and one that was given an exclam by  GM Yasser Seirawan

White wins the advantage of the long-range Bishop vs. a Knight with very limited movement. This will become a big factor later when the position begins to open up. 

What most annotators do  NOT  tell you is that this move was considered a  MISTAKE  by the Russians at the time it was played. (Why give up a good Knight for a seemingly useless Bishop?)  

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.    '!' - FM Graham Burgess.  

     [ 18.Rfd1 ].  

An inferior (bad) move, mainly because Black will lose a later tempo when he is forced to move the Queen again. 

  '?' - GM Yasser Seirawan.     '?' - GM Robert Byrne

     [  Maybe just a little better was: >= 18...Nf6; 19.Nb3!?, {Diagram?}  Hmmm, I am not sure 
        about this.   ( Maybe better is: 19.Nxe6, "+/=" with a position very similar to the game. )  
        19...c420.Qxe7 Rxe721.Nd4 Rb722.Rc2 a523.Rfc1, "+/=" {Diagram?} 
        GM J. Timman  says this position is equal, deep computer analysis reveals the position is 
        just a little better for White.  (GM Seirawan gives this same line, but stops after Nd4.) ].  

White's next move seems to actually strengthen Black's bad pawns. (This might have been why Spassky might have dismissed it.) 
White gains the advantage of greater mobility with this move. 

(GM Y. Seirawan gives this an exclam as well.)  

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.    '!' - FM Graham Burgess. 

     [ 19.Qc3!? ].  

This is completely forced, of course. 

     [ 19...Qe7??20.Nf4, "+/-"  ].  

White immediately begins to work on the Black Pawns, ... and the light squares as well. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.     '!!' - FM Graham Burgess. 

(This move was universally praised.)  

White's advantage is growing with every one of his super-accurate moves. 

     [  In the year 2000, I tested this game extensively against computer programs of the time. 
        One thinks for 30 minutes, and plays the move: 20.Rfd1!?, "~"  which only gives White 
        an extremely limited advantage ... if any. ].  

The consensus is that this move is positionally forced. 

GM Seirawan humorously calls this, ... "a sad decision." (Black's light-squares are permanently compromised.)  

[Some authors give this move a question mark, ('?') but that is clearly incorrect. Black's mistakes were made much earlier.]  
  - A.J. Goldsby I; March, 2006. 

     [ After the very gross:  20...dxe4?; {D?} Black has more pawn clusters than 
       a Caribbean Island chain. White simply plays: 21.Qh3, "+/="  and  Nimzo 8.0  
       says White is already better in this position. ].  

White immediately mobilizes his pawns on the K-side and gains some space as well. Additionally, the pawns threaten to advance, ripping Black's King position to shreds. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [ 21.b3?! ]

An admission that his 18th move was simply a loss of time. 

     [ 21...Rc6!?; 22.Bc4, "+/="  ].  

Another good move, which confounded the entire Soviet contingent. 
(The main idea is to fix Black's e-pawn and prevent the second player from playing ...e5. Then White can pile up on the e6-square, as he did in the actual game. 
 But the Russians felt certain it was too early for this move.)  

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.   '!' - FM Graham Burgess. 

     [ 22.f5?! exf5; "~" ].  

Black was concerned about stopping White from playing a later b4. But this seems a little extraneous to me. 

  '?!' - GM Y. Seirawan

     [  Supposedly a big improvement is: >= 22...Nb6!; - GM Yasser Seirawan. But now 
        23.f5!, "+/="  {Diagram?} White has a small, but clear advantage in this position. {A.J.G.} ].  

White begins to pile up on the sensitive e6-square. 

   '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [ One Class 'B' Internet student suggested the move: 23.g4!?,  here. 
        But that is not nearly as good as Fischer's move. ].  

This is forced, as otherwise the pawn advance f5 by White could be decisive. 

     [  Bad for Black is: 23...Rab7?!; 24.b3! Rb6; 25.f5 Nxe5; 26.Bxe6+ Kh8;  
         27.Rxc5; "+/"  {Diagram?} White is clearly better. ].  

An immediate change of direction. 
(This move - once again - came as a shock to the small army of Soviet players trying to analyze this game.) 

The Queen, having finished her work on the Q-side, zips over to the other side of the board ... 
 - to wreak havoc there. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.    '!' - FM Graham Burgess. 

     [ Also good was: 24.Rf2!?, "+/="  {Diagram?} White has a clear advantage. ].  

According to all the pundits, this is completely forced. 

"Now that the attack has shifted to the King-side, Black is lost anyway."  - GM Robert Byrne

     [ Bad for Black is: 24...Rxb2?!; ('?') 25.Bxe6 Nf8; 26.Bc4 Qb7!?; 27.f5, "+/="  {Diag?} 
        The advancing White duo of Pawns will rip Black's position to pieces. ].  

25.b3(Maybe - '!')   
"Slamming the door on the Black Rook on the b8-square."  - GM Yasser Seirawan

(Several annotators gave this move an exclam, but I  don't  think you can give all of White's move an exclam! {A.J.G.})  

     [ 25.Rc2 ].  

25...a5; {Box?}  
Black wants to move his QR, but does not want to worry about dropping his QRP. (The a-pawn.) 

     [ 25...Rd726.Qg4, "+/=" ].  

A really good move, that pries open several key lines, including the f-file; in this position.

   '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.    '!' - GM Robert Byrne

(Several GM's in the analysis room were predicting White would play a4 here ... to keep Black from getting rid of his weak a-pawn here by playing  ...a5-to-a4.) 

      [ Also good for White was:  26.Qf3!? Rd7; 27.f5,  "+/"   
         with a very distinct advantage for the first player here.  ].  

No choice for the 2nd player here. 

"Black is forced to capture. White cannot be allowed to play either f5xe6, or f5-f6; which would give him the win at once."  - GM Yasser Seirawan

     [ Bad for Black is: 26...Rc7?; 27.f6!, "+/" {Diagram?} and White is close to winning. ].  

27.Rxf5 Nh728.Rcf1!,  
"Continuing to build up the pressure. White reintroduces the threat of R/f5- to-f7. Black can't stop this threat by playing 28...Rf8;  to contest the f-file because  
 29. Rxf8+,  Nxf8;  30.Qc8!  would pin the f8-Knight, winning it on the very next move."  - GM Yasser Seirawan

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.    '!' - FM Graham Burgess.  

     [ 28.Qd3!? ].  

White re-deploys his Queen to a slightly better square. 

     [ 29.a4!? ]

Now the Black Knight on h7 has virtually no squares to move to. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.    '!' - FM Graham Burgess.  

     [ 30.Kh1!? ]

Black's position has deteriorated to the point where he has no good moves, and can only move back and forth ... awaiting the fall of the executioner's axe. 

(Black hopes to prevent White from playing Rf7 here.) 

     [ 30...a4 ].  

With just one move, White does the following: 

  1. He gains space;  

  2. He advances his passed pawn;  

  3. He releases the power of his Queen and gains the e5-square for his most powerful piece; 

  4. White now threatens in some variations, to play Rf7, gaining a devastating passed pawn. 

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.   '!' - FM Graham Burgess. 

GM Y. Geller initially thought this move was premature. 

     [ 31.Kh1!? ].  

Just shifting wood. 

     [ The same is: 31...Ra7].  

"Overwhelming centralization - now all of White's pieces radiate their maximum influence."  - GM Yasser Seirawan.

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan.    '!' - FM Graham Burgess.  

     [ Many programs still choose the move: 32.Rd5!?, "+/" {Diagram?} in this position. ].  

Black is just marking time. - GM Y. Seirawan. 

33.a4(Nearly - '!')  {Diagram?} 
White prevents Black from advancing - and liquidating - his weak Queen's Rook-Pawn. 

 (Several annotators gave this move an exclam here.) 

     [ 33.g4!? ]

Over the next few moves: Fischer now slowly improves his position and reduces Spassky to almost complete zugzwang. 
33...Qd834.R1f2 Qe835.R2f3 Qd836.Bd3!,  
White begins the final movement to this wonderful symphony. 

   '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [  In the year 2000, all the computers want to play the move: 36.Rf7!?, "+/"  {Diagram?}
         with a clear advantage for White. (IM Ivo Nei, in the book: "Both Sides of The Chessboard," 
         also points out Rf7 here.)  ].  

"Black attacks the e-pawn and also prevents R@f5-to-f7." - GM Yasser Seirawan

     [ 36...Qg8 ]

37.Qe4,  (Maybe - '!')   
White forms a very dangerous battery against the Black King. 

White now threatens Rf8+, Nxf8; Rxf8+, Qxf8; Qh7 mate. 

(Several annotators have given this move an exclam as well.)  

     [ 37.Rf7!?, "+/-" ].  

This is forced, in view of White's threat of Rf8+. 

     [ Much worse was: 37...Ra7?; 38.Rf8+! Nxf8; 39.Rxf8+ Qxf8; 40.Qh7# ].  

Ripping the pawn shield away from in front of the Black King. 
(The two exclamation points are more for White's patient build-up and forcing this whole course of events. And not so much for finding a difficult move.)  

GM Y. Seirawan notes that Fischer was preparing this sacrifice for many, many moves. 

(GM Yasser Seirawan also greatly praises this move.)  

 '!' - FM Graham Burgess. 

     [  38.Qf4!?, "+/="  ].  

This is forced. (Black cannot lose a Knight for nothing, and White threatens Rf8+ as well.) 

39.Rxf6 Kg8
Insuring the safety of the e-pawn, and also threatening e6-e7+ in some variations. 

   '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan. 

     [ 40.Qf4!? ].  

Another unhappy move. (Seirawan) 

41.Qf4!,  "+/-"  Black Resigns, 1 - 0.  (White threatens Rf7 and also a capture on h6.)  

"The final deadly move." - GM Yasser Seirawan

  '!' - GM Yasser Seirawan

     [  White wins with: 41.Qe5!? Kh7; 42.Bb5, "+/-"  {Diagram?} with a win. 

        The best line is: 
        41.Qf4! Kg8; 42.Qxh6 Rg7;   (42...d3; 43.Rg6+ Rg7; 44.e7+, ("+/-") - GM Seirawan.) 
        43.e7+ Qf7; 44.e8R#.  The Rook is for g&g ... a Queen would have worked just as well.  ].  

This game - one of the prettiest and best ever played in a World Championship match - gave Fischer the lead for the first time in this contest. It was a lead he was never to relinquish. 

The psychological impact of seeing his favorite defense to the QP destroyed in such a manner, must surely have been a tremendous (negative) psychological blow to the great Boris Spassky. 

A great triumph for Bobby Fischer. Chess artistry at the very highest level. 

(Several GM's have personally told me that this is one of the most beautiful games of chess of the last 50-75 years!!) 

Copyright (c), A.J. Goldsby I; 2002. 


I have literally many, many books on Fischer and his games. I also have like 10 books on the 1972  Fischer vs. Spassky  match. 

But the three most important books I have consulted in annotating this game are:  
# 1.) "Winning Chess Brilliancies,"  by  GM Yasser Seirawan.  
          Copyright (c) 1995. 

# 2.) "Both Sides of The Chessboard,"  by  GM R. Byrne  and  IM Ivo Nei.  
          Copyright (c) 1974. 
# 3.)  "Chess Highlights of The 20th Century,"
by  FM Graham Burgess
          Copyright (c) 1999. 


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        Click  HERE  to download an updated version of this game. (This is a "star-dot-cbv" CB file ... that has been zipped.)     

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 Game posted on my web-site: Monday / August 12th, 2002. 
  (Updated on: 08/06/2012 .)  


This game is a GREATLY shortened version of the game as I originally did it in my "cb" files. This is because that version, (the long one) - with a diagram after  every  move, and plenty of analysis diagrams to boot - runs more than fifty pages! (I actually had to wipe the slate clean and start over. This version of the game was developed just for my web pages.)


If I get enough requests for it, I could later add a complete TEXT-SCORE of this game. That way, if you are interested, you can see how detailed the notes are; and maybe better appreciate just what a great game this really is. (Saturday; July 18th, 2009: I just finished updating my CB copy of this game, and this web page. E-mail me for a copy of this work, or click on the link above.)  

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