Although multiple volumes have been written about Bobby Fischer, relatively little has been written about Boris Spassky, the man who lost his world title to Fischer. Spassky had been living in France apparently peacefully, but in August of last year, the news broke that he had suddenly disappeared to Russia and there was talk that he had been abducted. All this reporting turned the spotlight back on Spassky and a series of interviews have divulged a lot about his experience as world champion and the aftermath of his loss of the crown.
Spassky was the world champion after eking out a 12.5-10.5 win against Tigran Petrosian in 1969. He had lost to Petrosian in 1966. As for Spassky’s performance, his critics had always said that he neglected preparation and was lazy. His answer was that it was true that he did not study openings in detail, but that he knew his lines well and that he felt very assured in the middle game. There was no doubt that Spassky worked hard during his games.
Playing Fischer was a difficult problem for Spassky. In the face of Fischer’s frantic, ambivalent acrobatics, Spassky could have forfeited him, but felt obliged to play. Oddly, Spassky was the underdog in this match, the target of a bright spotlight on the Cold War. He probably thought he could beat Fischer but later candidly admitted that Fischer was the better player. During the negotiations, Spassky acted courteously and was never offensive.
Following the loss, he fell from grace in his home country, but wished to get out of Russia. He married his third wife, Marina Shcherbacheva, who worked at the French embassy and who managed to get them to France for a permanent residence. Spassky was a very normal and popular champion, and post-Fischer he charmed the world with chess commentary. After the first Fischer match, Spassky’s star had gradually dimmed as Anatoly Karpov dominated world chess. He appeared many times in the United States as a commentator, where he was enthusiastically received. He was also a bon vivant, but was very careful about it, as we personally observed.
His relations with Fischer were completely friendly. Spassky simply calmed Fischer down throughout their relationship, leading to the second match, which restored badly needed funds.
The latest news is that Spassky suffered a stroke, somehow felt he was a prisoner, and disappeared to Moscow. His sister thought he was abducted, but Spassky said no and has confessed there is a woman involved in his disappearance. He has appeared on crutches in Russia at a chess tournament. He is apparently very ill but his situation is still as mysterious as the game that he celebrated.
Brevity: V.Tseshkovsky v. S. Lputian (1977) 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ndf3 Qa5 8.Be3 b5 9.a3 Qb6 10.Bd3 a5 11.Ne2 Ba6 12.0–0 b4 13.axb4 axb4 14.f5 c4 15.fxe6 fxe6 16.Bb1 Be7 17.Nf4 Nf8 18.Ng5 Kd7 19.Ngxe6 Nxe6 20.Bf5; 1-0.
Winners: 3d Spiegel Scholastic Qualifier: 14 & under: 1st, Alvin Tan, 3.5-5, 11 & under: 1st, Eric Feng, 4-0; 8 & under: Daniel Wang, 3.5-0.5; Western Mass. Mid-Winter Classic; 1st-2d, John Curdo and Matthew Meredith, 3-0.
Coming events: 37th N.H. Queen City Open, Jan. 26-27, Comfort Inn. 298 Queen City Ave., Manchester, N.H., 03102, halterrie@comcast
.net; Providence College Open, Jan. 26, (Slavin Center 64 Hall). 549 River Ave., Providence. To enter: R.I. Chess Association, PO Box 40604, Providence, RI, 02940