Boris Spassky[ edit ]

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

He was born in Leningrad to a Jewish mother 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" became 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 Tals tactical strength. This led to his first World Champion match against Tigran Petrosian in 1966. Spassky lost the match by one point, but earned the right to challenge Petrosian again three years later. Again, Spasskys flexibility of style was the key to his eventual victory over Petrosian by two points in the 1969 World Championship—by adopting Petrosians negative style.

Spasskys 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 Reykjavk, Iceland, at the height of the Cold War and consequently was seen as symbolic of the political confrontation. 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 publicly acknowledged that Spassky was superior, but after a series of superb games, Karpov garnered enough points to take the match.

Spasskys later years showed a reluctance to totally devote himself to chess. He relied on a superb natural talent for the game, and sometimes would rather play a game of tennis, rather than work hard at the board. In effect, the 1972 World Championship and the 1974 Candidates match against Karpov signalled the end of Spasskys pinnacle of success. Victor Korchnoi also overtook him. Spassky married a French woman in the 1970s and 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 didnt appear on the list at all (owing to his 20 year inactivity). This match was essentially Spasskys last major challenge, and unfortunately health problems prevented him from putting up a credible performance except in a few games -- the result was +5 -10 =15.

Against Garry Kasparov, Spassky has fared much better. Although he is 26 years older than Kasparov, he has an even record with him. He even beat Kasparov twice with black pieces. Here is one of his wins in Niksic in 1983 (moves given in Algebraic chess notation):

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 Nc6 6.Be3 a6 7.Nge2 Rb8 8.Qd2 O-O 9.h4 b5 10.h5 bxc4 11.g4 Bxg4 12.fxg4 Nxg4 13.O-O-O Nxe3 14.Qxe3 e6 15.hxg6 hxg6 16.Rd2 Re8 17.Ng1 d5 18.Nf3 a5 19.e5 Ne7 20.Bh3 c5 21.dxc5 Qc7 22.Qf4 Nc6 23.Re1 d4 24.Rxd4 Nxd4 25.Nxd4 Qxc5 26.Nf3 Red8 27.Ng5 Qe7 28.Qh4 Rd3 29.Qh7+ Kf8 30.Nxe6+ fxe6 31.Rf1+ Ke8 32.Qg8+ Bf8 33.Qxg6+ Kd8 0-1

  • "When I am in form, my style is a little bit stubborn, almost brutal. Sometimes I feel a great spirit of fight which drives me on." – Boris Spassky
  • "We were like bishops of opposite color." – Boris Spassky (on the breakup of his first marriage)
  • "After I won the title, I was confronted with the real world. People do not behave naturally anymore - hypocrisy is everywhere." – Boris Spassky
  • "In my country, at that time, being a champion of chess was like being a King. At that time I was a King … and when you are King you feel a lot of responsibility, but there is nobody there to help you." – Boris Spassky
  • "I don’t want ever to be champion again." – Boris Spassky
  • "I enjoy life, sometimes with a good bottle of wine! But dont count on me in tournaments that demand a lot of nervous energy, like the French championship. I am empty; these are not for me anymore." – Boris Spassky
  • "I believe that judged by his style of play, Spassky is much closer to Alekhine and Tal than to Smyslov, Botvinnik, or Petrosian. This is probably why, when Spassky was in his best form, neither Tal nor Korchnoi could really put up much resistance against him. Spassky could read their play (especially that of Tal) like an open book." – Garry Kasparov
  • "The universal chess style, characterized by the ability to play quite different types of chess positions, is considered by many to derive from that of Boris Spassky. But I think that the general idea that Spassky has a universal style overlooks the fact that from an early age, Spassky had a bent for sharp, attacking play and a good eye for the initiative." – Garry Kasparov
  • "It is characteristic that Spassky has never in his life started a game with 1.Nf3. He must have considered it a semi-move, real moves being only those that lead to an immediate fight. All of those notorious opening peculiarities (such as avoiding this, that, and the other and preventing the other that and this) seemed repulsive to him." – Garry Kasparov
  • "Spassky was the first great chess player to use both 1.e4 and 1.d4 with equal success. He managed to employ these moves more harmoniously than any other world champion." – Garry Kasparov
  • "He was less concerned about the position’s evaluation than about the character of the arising struggle. If he liked the character of the battle, he felt absolutely at home and, as a rule, didn’t fail to outplay his opponents." – Garry Kasparov
  • "One of the soundest attacking players ever, Spassky nonetheless took very few chances. Totally dominant until he lost to the irresistible juggernaut known as Bobby Fischer. After that loss, he was never the same." – Bruce Pandolfini
  • "Its sad, misleading, and grossly unfair that Spassky is best known as the guy who lost to Fischer. There was so much more to the man and the player. He simply had the misfortune to be mayor of Tokyo when Godzilla rose from the sea." – Kelly Atkins
  • "There are more pictures of Spassky standing before audiences of chess enthusiasts, who are rocking backwards in their chairs with delighted laughter, than there are of him sitting at a chessboard. He can act the clown while maintaining a dignified reserve - a gift unique among the humorless lot in the chess world." – Larry Parr
  • "The Cary Grant of the 64 Squares." – Larry Parr
  • "At a strictly personal level, if not to the manor born, Spassky was certainly to the gracious manner born." – Larry Parr
  • "Highly cultured with interests in all fields of human knowledge, a man of impeccable comportment, great modesty ... one of the favorites of all chessplayers." – Max Euwe
  • "Spassky sacrifices his pieces with the utmost imperturbability. He can blunder away a piece, and you are never sure whether its a blunder or a fantastically deep sacrifice. He sits at the board with the same dead expression whether hes mating or being mated. – Bobby Fischer

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

categories: myChess-Wiki | Chess players | Boris Spassky
article No 750 / last change on 2005-06-30, 05:13pm

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